By Ellen Barcel
Le Petit Salon de Musique will present a concert titled Silken Rags with husband and wife duo, pianist Peter Winkler and violinist Dorothea Cook, on Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m. Ed Mikell, of the salon, noted that Winkler, a Setauket resident, is “a well-known and respected music professor,” who recently retired from Stony Brook University.
Although Setauket residents now, both Winkler and his wife come from the West Coast. “I grew up in California,” he noted having attended UC Berkley for undergraduate work, Princeton for graduate school and Harvard as a postgraduate. “Then I came to Stony Brook and have been here ever since,” having joined the faculty in 1971.
“I taught at Stony Brook for 42 years. I was there when the music department was just getting going. Now it’s turned into a world class music department.”
Winkler and Cook met while teaching at a music camp, continuing a long-distance romance before marrying in the 1980s. “Dorothea was a native of Seattle, when there was a big bloom in music. Her father taught in high school. One of his students was Quincy Jones . . . she grew up around these famous musicians.” Winkler and Cook’s musical collaboration began in 1987 and continues to this day.
In demand as a professional violinist, Cook continues to teach violin — she maintains a private violin studio and conducts classes in Dalcroze Eurhythmics at Stony Brook.
Winkler is not only a performer but a music composer, having written a symphony in 1979. It was performed that year at the university and “just this past year the Stony Brook Symphony performed it again. I feel so lucky. I wrote for faculty and students … it’s a lovely situation for a composer to be in.” Winkler also wrote an opera, “Fox Fables,” which was also performed at Stony Brook. The piece was the 2011 Contemporary Americana Festival competition winner.
Winkler and Cook perform together as Silken Rags. Where does the name come from? “I was always interested in ragtime,” Winkler noted. “I was classically trained and in the ‘70s [when there was a resurgence in ragtime, especially with the film “The Sting”] started composing my own ragtime. We wanted a name that combined the earthiness of ragtime with the elegance of classical or salon music.”
Winkler added, “This might be the last time we do a whole concert by ourselves,” noting the amount of work needed to put together such a performance. “We have performed at SBU a few times and (Cook) is active as a performer with the Stony Brook Baroque Ensemble. We’re members of the church [the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship] so we have also played for services there,” as well as special events such as the 1890s Fair.
The concert on Sunday will include “for the most part,” said Winkler, “my own compositions plus a few jazz standards.” How does Winkler describe his style? “Classical chamber music,” but, he added, “heavily influenced by folk and popular music. One reviewer called it ‘genre bending’ compositions.” Winker said, “Most of my music is inspired by my wife. In the jazz pieces [we perform] she does some improvisation, but the compositions are mostly mine.”
Another reviewer noted, “the music, for violin and piano, features the pair in rhythmically complex, harmonically rich music with influences extending from gospel and Caribbean to samba and tango — all performed here with remarkable flair and dash” (Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times).
Special guest performer at the upcoming concert will be guitarist Steve Salerno. “Steve is an amazingly versatile performer. He’s active in New York City and here [on Long Island] … He’s a world class performer, one of the top jazz performers, an extraordinary human being,” said Winkler adding, “I met him when he was a graduate student at Stony Brook University … a fine jazz guitarist, [he plays] classical, bluegrass, avant-garde — you name it and Steve will play it.”
Le Petit Salon de Musique, now in its sixth season bringing classical music to the community, is located at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 380 Nicolls Road, E. Setauket. The creator of Le Petit, Mikell, noted that “I enjoy bringing quality classical music to the area. People don’t have to travel to New York City.”
Tickets for Sunday’s performance are available at www.lepetitsalon.org for $15, online (adults). Adult tickets at the door are $20. Seniors 65 and over are $10 online and $15 at the door; students $5. In addition, Winkler and Cook will have copies of their album, “Silken Rags,” at the performance for purchase.