Cellist Barbara Haffner and pianist David Schrader first met in the late 70s when both joined Music of the Baroque. Soon after, they found themselves in demand as performers in impromptu chamber recitals; later, they got together with two other top-notch (and busy) local free-lancers, Sandra and Robert Morgan, and farmed a professional ensemble called the Rembrandt Chamber Players. But as a duo Haffner and Schrader have not performed publicly until now–in this week’s free noontime concert at the Cultural Center. For their long-awaited debut the pair have chosen Beethoven’s first essay in the cello-sonata genre and a 1979 piece by a New York composer. The F-Major Cello Sonata by Beethoven is filled with youthful zeal punctuated by bouts of mock sorrow; the piano part, in fact, is flashier than the cello’s, perhaps betraying Beethoven’s instrumental allegiance. Brian Fennelly’s Scintilla Prisca, on the other hand, is really a moving elegy delivered by the cello, with the piano serving as a nervy, disoriented Greek chorus. The music holds deep personal meaning for the 55-year-old, Yale-trained Fennelly: he wrote it after the death of his first wife Priscilla. Her name, shortened to Prisca, explains the title and provides the hexachordal basis for the work. Haffner’s intense and focused playing is sure to bring out the feeling of loss and mournful contemplation. Wednesday, 12:15 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 744-6630 or 346-3278.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stuart-Rodgers-Reilly Photography.