Harold Martina
Wednesday, June18 at 8:00 pm
PepsiCo Recital Hall, TCU


Song without Words in D major, Op. 85 No. 4; in E-flat major, Op.85 No. 3; in C major, Op. 67 No. 4;
in A major, Op. 62 No. 6; in A major, Op. 19 No. 3

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Mendelssohn, a romantic by nature but welded strictly to the classical forms and traditions, recognized early that the winds of change demand a new approach to piano playing and composing. By age 19 he was composing masterpieces and gave his sister a “song without words”. Then he proceeded to compose eight volumes of such pieces (six in each) He said: “Even if, in one or other of them, I had a particular word or words in mind, I would not want to tell anyone…music is feeling that cannot be expressed in words”.

These pieces quickly became the household possession of every music lover and Clara Schumann became the most ardent popularizer of these little jewels. Short as most of them are, they are full of lovely melodies, and they have a wide variety of emotional content. Most have titles that may or may not have literary allusions. Whatever the case, they certainly depict Mendelssohn's mood of the moment. The titles of those performed tonight are, respectively: Elegy, Delirium, Spinning Song, Spring Song and Hunting Song.


Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

This set of monumental variations appeared in 1861 as a birthday gift to Clara Schumann. Brahms wrote nothing for solo piano for five years prior to its publication. It is a systematic summation of the mastery he has gained through many years of intensive study. It evokes not only the spirit of Bach and his Goldberg Variations but also of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, although in form it resembles more the Eroica Variations.

The little theme of Handel, in two four bar periods, is a model of harmonic and structural simplicity. The twenty-five variations follow rigorously the formal basis presented by the theme, and Brahms restricts himself to the B-flat major with occasional excursions into the tonic minor. Such a severe discipline would hinder a lesser composer, but Brahms uses it to establish iron-clad unity. He builds within this frame a structure that allows him to explore the widest emotional and intellectual range. Often the variations are paired, some are full of chromaticism, some are free canons, many are virtuoso, others are lyrical. One is a "music-box" and one resembles gypsy music with its free ornamentation. The last three build continuously up to the concluding monumental fugue. Although with demanding contrapuntal intricacy the theme reappears again and again, sometimes as inversion, augmentation or stretto, the fugue's conception is remarkably free. It builds, measure by measure with irresistible force into a chiming and pealing coda that crowns this monumental Michelangelo Statue, chiseled into music by the iron will and genius of Brahms.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Program notes by Stephen Seleny



The output of the eminent Colombian composer, pianist, organist, conductor, and teacher Gonzalo Vidal (1863–1946) influenced significantly the musical panorama of his country during the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. Although he was born in the southern city of Popayán and died in the capital, Bogotá, his long and productive career took place primarily in the city of Medellín , where his family settled since 1876. In 1928 his vision started a progressive deterioration causing him in 1941 to stop composing altogether due to his total blindness.

Vidal composed two piano Sonatas. Tonight you will hear the second one, which consists of the classical four movements, with a strong Romantic influx. The thematic material does not contain nationalistic elements.

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The Danza is generally considered to be the most exquisite and poetic form of 19 th century Caribbean art. It originated in Cuba at the end of the 18 th century. This can be assumed with virtual certainty, since the first danza ever was published in Havana in 1803. The enrichment of Hispano-Cuban culture with French colonial music at the end of the 18 th century was the spark that kindled the birth of the Caribbean danza.

Whereas Manuel Saumell (1817-1870) is the most prominent composer of mid-19 th century classical Cuban danzas and Ernesto Lecuona (1896 -1963) the brilliant representative of 20 th century piano music, Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905) is the foremost exponent of the Cuban late-romantic fin-de siècle. Louis Moreau Gottschalk heard Cervantes play when the latter was six years old and persuaded his father that the child should pursue a musical career. In 1865 he was accepted at the Conservatory in Paris where he studied piano under Antoine Marmontel and Charles Alkan. In 1870 Cervantes returned to Cuba where he was active as a concert pianist, composer, conductor and teacher. The part of his oeuvre that he tended to neglect, was that which would eventually lend him immortality: his intricate danzas, each a tiny micro-cosmos, cut like a diamond. The titles of the danzas on this program translate as follows: The Three Knocks; Farewell to Cuba ; Improvising; and The Dolls. Cervantes referred to his danzas as “musical smiles”.

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The years between 1890 and 1930 have been considered the golden age of the romantic Colombian song. As to the piano repertoire of these years, hundreds of pieces were written by the most renowned composers, such as: Emilio Murillo (1880-1941), Pedro Morales Pino (1863–1926), Fulgencio García (188 –1945), Carlos Escamilla (1879–1913), Luis Antonio Calvo (1882–1945) and Alejandro Wills (1882–1942). Luis A. Calvo stood out for his invaluable contribution to the development of the piano repertoire.

The momentum of his career in Bogotá was stopped short when he was medically declared a leper. In 1916 he was confined to Agua de Dios, then known as Ciudad Martirio (City of Martyrdom ), where he lived until his death. Each of his works is a secretly personalized musical poem. The piece on this program is a Pasillo (which means “small step”), a dance in ¾ meter, derived from the European Waltz. Its title means “The fortune-telling clover”.

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Venezuelan Composer Moisés Moleiro (1904-1979) studied piano with Salvador Narcisco and counterpoint with Vicente Emilio Sojo in Caracas . His compositional catalogue includes works for orchestra, chamber music, voice and solo instruments. His output was highly influenced by the Venezuelan works of the 19 th century. In 1982 the Teresa Carreño International Piano Competition selected Moleiro's Joropo as the obligatory piece. The Joropo is a folk dance in of the bordering plains of Venezuela and Colombia , performed with harp, cuatro (a four-stringed instrument), maracas and voice. Its meter alternates between 3/8 and 6/16.

Program notes by Harold Martina