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Carla Trynchuk and Chi Yong Yun
November 3, 2012
Beethoven: Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 12, No. 2 | Chopin/Sarasate: Nocturne,Op. 9, No. 2 | Kreisler: Liebesleid (Love's Sorrow) | Brahms: Sonatensatz (Scherzo) | Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending | Fauré: Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 2 in A Major Op. 12, No. 2
Before embarking on his legendary march to the development of the symphony, Ludwig von Beethoven spent his early years in Vienna cultivating a path as a performer and composer of chamber music. The resulting creations served not only to be published for the use of others, but first and foremost for his own use. During this time Beethoven studied with Haydn, Albrechtsberger, and Salieri, the Hofkapellmeister of the Imperial Court. He also cultivated a circle of nobility who sponsored him and their palaces served as venues where he performed. By the end of the 18th century there was a long tradition of the genre of sonata for keyboard with “obligato violin” in France, Italy and Germany. Continuing that tradition Beethoven’s ten sonatas, composed between 1798 and 1812 took up a key position in the history of keyboard chamber music. There is no question that in his early sonatas he was influenced by the model of Mozart’s late violin sonatas, but, as Beethoven’s teachers complained, he was confident, even stubborn in his pursuit of originality. This was a time of the rising popularity of the piano and it was being strengthened with a larger range and a finer gradation of sonority. The construction of the violin also had undergone developments so that it had become a richer, more powerful instrument. While Beethoven’s first set of Sonatas for Piano and Violin, Op.12, dedicated to his teacher, Salieri, later came to be overshadowed by his later Spring and Kreutzer Sonatas, they demonstrate compositions firmly placed within the conventions of the classical style, but with enough individuality to provoke begrudging admiration coupled with bewilderment. The first critic to publish about Opus 12 complained that the pieces were “heavily laden with unusual difficulties” and that he felt as if he had “emerged tired and worn out after wandering through an alluring, thick forest.”
Each of the three sonatas falls in three movements with an allegro in sonata-allegro form, a full length slow movement and a rondo finale. With the composer being a brilliant pianist, having experience as a violinist and violist, and the fact that he counted as friends and colleagues the finest violinists of the day, his sonatas boast a true partnership between the two instruments. In Sonata No. 2 in A Major the piano leads off with a brilliant theme of a two note motif while the violin pulsates chords in the middle register. Throughout, the partners trade off each new figure and pattern that emerges. The second movement in A minor presents a starker more wistful landscape, but cheerfulness returns with the playful rondo of the finale with a simplicity, and full of surprises.
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2
Their lyrical style have made Fryderyk Chopin’s Nocturnes for the piano favorites for violinists to adapt for their instrument, the most vocal of instruments. Celebrated violinists that have transcribed various of the Nocturnes include: Kreisler, Milstein, Wilhelmj, Ricci, Heifetz, Auer, and Sarasate. Probably the most popular Nocturne, whether heard in the original piano rendition, or a transcription, is the one on tonight’s concert. It comes from a set of three composed between 1830-1832 and was dedicated to French pianist, teacher and composer, Madame Camille Pleyel. Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate has made this arrangement keeping the basic melody intact while exploring the richness and brilliance of the various registers of the violin. While he removed pianistic ornaments, Sarasate expanded treatment of Chopin’s cadenzas at cadence points (particularly the final one) turning Chopin’s piano piece into a truly idiomatic violin depiction of the magic of the night.
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Liebesleid (Love's Sorrow)
Fritz Kreisler, Austrian-American violinist, was known for his brilliant technique, elegant bowing, and sweetness of tone. He also had a vast repertoire which he enhanced with his own compositions, some of which he passed off as “arrangements” or “discoveries” of other composers’ works. The Liebesleid is from a group of three Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen (Old Viennese Melodies) that he initially attributed to the pioneer of Viennese waltzes, Joseph Lanner, until he was called out by a Berlin critic. This forced him to publish the set in 1910 under his own name. Liebesleid, a favorite of violinists and audiences, is a nostalgic look at not only love’s sorrows, but also old Vienna.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Brahms’ Scherzo movement (Sonatensatz), his earliest surviving piece of chamber music, was actually a movement of a collaborative project dreamed up by his new friend Schumann to honor their mutual friend, violinist Joseph Joachim. The movements of a new violin sonata were to be based on the notes F.A.E. to represent Joachim’s motto “Frei, aber einsam” (Free but lonely), and Joachim would be quizzed on who was responsible for which movement. Brahms was assigned the third movement, the scherzo. Joachim read the work at sight with Clara Schumann at the piano, and is said to have had no difficulty identifying the composer of each movement. The dedication page reads: “In expectation of our honored and beloved friend’s arrival, this sonata was written by Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Albert Dietrich.” The Scherzo in ABA form is rhythmically pulsing with youthful impetuosity with a constant exchange of the themes between piano and violin.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
The Lark Ascending: Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) began work on his lyric tone poem, The Lark Ascending: Romance for Violin and Small Orchestra or Piano, in 1914. The war with Germany necessitated that the piece and his other compositions in progress be laid aside while he was serving with the British army in France. Returning from the horrors of war, Vaughan Williams experienced a hunger to express in music a deepened love of eternal and natural things. As a result, the postwar period yielded some of his quietest, most contemplative music, including a final revision of this piece. The work was written for the brilliant violinist Marie Hall, who gave the first performance with piano in Gloucestershire, December, 1920, and the London premiere for the British Music Society with an orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult in June 1921. George Meredith’s poem from the collection Poems and Lyrics of the Joys of Earth provides the inspiration for this transcendent reverie:
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake...
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes...
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13
Allegro quasi presto
French composer, organist, administrator, teacher, and music critic, Gabriel Fauré, is today known primarily for his contribution to the French song repertory and his Requiem. He did, however, write beautiful works in other genres. Dubbed by Debussy as “the master of charms,” Fauré was neither a romanticist nor an impressionist, but somewhere in between. His music exuded the art of understatement, simplicity, restraint, refinement, delicacy–qualities most successful in smaller forms such as the songs, piano and chamber music. At a young age the composer was sent to pursue his musical education at the Parisian Ecole Niedermeyer where he came under the tutelage of Saint-Säens who encouraged him in composition as well as his church music studies. In Fauré’s time chamber music was not much heard on public concerts, but was popular with amateurs and professionals and played in the salons which had become an institution, an activity of the upper and middle class bourgeoisie. Music for the salon most often would not be too demanding, either for the performers or the listeners. It was the establishment of the Société Nationale de Musique (founded in 1871 by Saint-Saëns) to encourage young composers and give opportunity to have their works heard that helped to raise the sophistication of French chamber music composition. Fauré’s first masterpiece was his Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 13 which he composed in 1875 having come to appreciate the expressive qualities of the violin. He had heard the great Pablo Sarasate for whom Saint-Säens had written his first concerto, and probably also heard Vieuxtemps, but it was his association with Vieuxtemps’ student, Belgian violinist Hubert Léonard, and his watchful care over the technical aspects of the creation of the sonata that was crucial in the endeavor. The dedication of the piece went to Paul Viardot, son of the singer Pauline Viardot and brother of the young lady that the composer was hoping to marry at the time. The sonata was premiered at the Société Nationale to great acclaim by violinist Marie Tayau with the composer at the piano. In ensuing years Fauré gave countless performances of it with the great violinists of his day including Ysaÿe, Thibaud, and Enesco, and today the work remains a favorite of performers and audiences alike.The composer’s skill as a song writer is immediately evident as the piano commences with the violin following in a variation of a pleasing melody, pure and full of energetic beauty and sweeping melodic expansion. From the outset it is clear that this duo is expected to perform in intense concerto style. For the andante in D minor, a 9/8 barcarolle, the performers are now required to combine in purpose in sharing two idyllic themes. The scherzo movement with its originality of brittle piano writing, pizzicato, wit, and flights of fancy again interspersed with soaring melodies, not surprisingly caused a stir and demand for encore at its first performance. The finale, returning to a sonata-allegro form, opens expressively, continuing alternating sweetness and passion that seems reminiscent of Schumann, a favorite of the composer. A sudden burst of virtuosity for the violin in the coda brings the work to a buoyant conclusion.
Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2012.
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