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Muse: Halida Dinova returns to Santa Cruz this weekend to perform a piece composed in her honor by Cabrillo instructor Josef Sekon.

To Russia, With Love

A Santa Cruz composer's tribute to Russian pianist Halida Dinova was inspired by his poet wife.

By Scott MacClelland

Thanks to John Orlando and the Cabrillo College Distinguished Artists series, the internationally acclaimed concert and recording artist Halida Dinova returns to the College Theater this Saturday to survey celebrated keyboard works of Bach, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn and Liszt. In addition, she will give the U.S. premiere of Santa Cruz composer Josef Sekon's Dodecaphonically, a 15-minute kaleidoscopic refraction inspired by a verse of the same name by Brazil-born poet Maria Davico and dedicated to Dinova. (Composed in 2007, it had its world premiere in Brazil last September.) Sekon says the work is "extremely colorful, with many facets, abstract, at times tonal and beautiful, and alludes to sound images in the poem." He adds, "I tried to get into colors that I found attractive, to get inside of the poem musically."

A glimpse at the verse itself fires the imagination:

If I dared to break angles and
violating images in counterpoint To turn
anew the theme in dissonances and consonances,
forged in anarchistic language.

If I dared to trace equivalences
and lengthily dismembered
To include silent temporality
on the ideal score of pure colors.

Such atonal work would arouse
the link of multiple semitones
punctuating space.
Birds would fly under abundant
flora, where cloistered color
precedes the rhythm of dawn

The poet also fired the composer's ardor. Having met originally at university, they reconnected years later at a music festival in South America and soon thereafter were married. Both continue to pursue their respective muses. Dodecaphonically--which in music commonly means 12-tone style--eventually became one panel of a triptych, the others titled (in Portuguese) Clepsydra and Grafite.

Sekon took his formal musical education first at Kent State University, where a particular professor, Fred Coulter, so inspired him that another career path was no longer an option. From there, he studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana. His works have been performed in North and South America. He served a teaching stint at Cabrillo from 1980 to 1987 and has been on the music faculty there since 1999. He describes his approach to teaching composition as "midwifing," guiding his students by raising questions and holding them responsible to come up with the answers. He also raves about the "piano phenomenon" to whom he dedicated his work on this program, calling her "among the rarest of the rare" in the world of top pianists.

HALIDA DINOVA performs Josef Sekon's 'Dodecaphonically' this Saturday, Feb. 7, at 8pm at Cabrillo College Theater, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos. Tickets are $14-$25, available at or 831.656.9507.

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