presents

Lilya Zilberstein

Saturday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m.

 

Program

 

Rondo No.1 in C minor, Op.1 (1825)                                                                                    Frédéric Chopin                                                                                                                                                             (1810-1849)

The early “Rondo in C minor” was the first piece by Chopin given an opus number. It was composed by a 15 year-old Chopin in 1825 while still in Warsaw. In the foreground, we hear an effective piano movement, something with which Chopin became familiar from the virtuoso schools of Nepomuk Hummel and other contemporaries. Within the expansive, still somewhat textbook form, the secondary theme intones a graceful note of longing, which points to the later creator of magical piano sounds that Chopin would become.

 

Brilliant Variations in B-flat major Op. 12 (1833)


Eight years after that first rondo Op. 1, he composed the also rarely heard “Brilliant Variations” in B major, Op. 12. Its core theme is the aria “Je vends des scapulaires ” from the opera “Ludovic” by the French composer Ferdinand Hérald, who died the same year Chopin composed the piece. As one would expect in a variation by Chopin, the composition's attraction, already evident in the introduction, is in the delicate way in which he plays with the theme; the following variations, beginning with the scherzo are, however, quite free variations on the music's character. With colorful harmony and tender stylistics, one already hears the expressive world of the later nocturnes in the slow D-flat minor variation ( lento ); a skillfully sublimated, dance-like spirit forms the brilliant finale.

 

Sonata No.1 in C minor, Op.4 (1827)

          1. Allegro maestoso

          2. Menuetto

          3. Larghetto

          4. Finale: Presto

The first piano sonata Op. 4 came about in 1827, but was not printed until two years after Chopin's death. It, too, has not been played in concert nearly as much as his later famous sonatas in B-flat minor and B minor.

 

Indeed, this piece by the still learning, 18 year-old Chopin shows the imprint of Joseph Xaver Elsners, the only teacher Chopin actually acknowledged. Particularly each framing movement mirrors the influence of Elsner's school: the heavy opening movement ( Allegro maestoso ) is shaped by the classically stern form and the tone style, but it lacks the kind of lyrical secondary theme that would later come to typify the special charm of Chopin's sonatas. The rondo finale , too, seems a bit forced with its fulfillment of the rules of form and its effusive figuration, yet its secondary theme also enchants with its harmonic brightness.

 

More so than both of these movements, the virtuosic minuet of the second movement is far more convincing overall with its stylized echoes of the mazurka and the waltz as well as the dance-like larghetto : this tender, third movement reminds one of Slavic folk music with its enticing, veiled rhythm in an unsymmetrical 4/5 beat. One can detect the magical sound of the famous nocturnes in the delicate elegance of the melodic incorporation of this dance music.

 

 

Prelude and Fugue G-sharp minor Op. 29 (1910)                                                             Sergei Taneyev

                                                                                                                                                            (1856-1915)

Sergei Taneyev, Peter Tchaikovsky's most important student, began his studies at the then recently founded Moscow Conservatorium in 1866. In 1875 he completed the course of study in composition and piano (under Nikolai Rubenstein) earning a Gold Medallion, which was awarded for the very first time. In 1878 he began working as an instructor at the same institution.

 

As one of the most significant pianists of his generation, Taneyev premiered Tchaikovsky's entire collection of concert piano pieces. Additionally, he proved himself to be one of his country's most important pre-revolutionary composers through his own compositions, particularly in the area of chamber music.

 

Stylistically he represented the uncompromising demand for the development of a Russian national music using contrapuntal modification of folkloric melodies. He also was known as the “Russian Brahms” because of the characteristic derivation and constant transformation of his themes—although Taneyev himself decisively rejected the Romantic song element of Brahms' themes. Among Tanayev's most famous students are Sergei Rachmaninov and Alexander Scriabin, at whose funeral Taneyev tragically developed a fatal case of pneumonia.

 

Curiously, his piano oeuvre is less extensive than his chamber music creations. And he only gave one of his piano compositions an opus number: namely, the later “Prelude and Fugue in G-sharp minor Op. 29.” The inspiration for it was the death of his former nanny and housekeeper, Pelageya Vasilievna Cizova. A masterful synthesis of strict counterpoint and bold chromatics, it is a typical piece of music from his mature period and counts as one of his most significant piano compositions. The melancholic expressiveness of the introductory prelude reflects Taneyev's shock over the death of the dedicatee and is simultaneously a reference to the nocturnes of Chopin, whom Teneyev so admired. The ardent fugue that follows is, in contrast, a masterpiece of complex polyphony and provides glowing proof of why Taneyev has earned his status in this musical discipline.

 

 

Consolations (1849)                                                                                                                         Franz Liszt

                                                                                                                                                            (1811-1876)

The group of Liszt's six “Consolations” was inspired by the poetry collection of the same name by the French poet Charles Augustin Saite-Beuve (1830). Liszt maintained simplicity in his piano phrasing—a tendency of his at the time towards musical intimacy that rejected superficial virtuosity.

 

With E major and D-flat major, the “Consolations” certainly maintain keys that Liszt generally chooses when putting music to ecstatic lyrical love poetry. And although there is no actual text, there is usually implicit in the simple, song-like melody the sound of imaginary “Songs without Words.” Within this intimate artistic expression, one can see Liszt's unmistakable handwriting, particularly in the emotional Number 3 ( Lento placido ). In a nocturne-like movement we first hear one voice, then, as passionate repetition in octaves, the voices of both “lovers” through an eighth note of the tenor voice and a satirical bass line.

 

The rest of the pieces in the collection have a calmer character. The yearning Andante con moto of the first piece implies a solemn choir movement. The Un poco piu molto of Number 2 is also choral-like; its melodic line in the second “strophe” is distributed in high and middle range. The medieval melody is beguiling because the somber fourth piece ( Quasi adagio ) has “religious solemnity.” And after the restrained Number 5 ( Andantino ) with its monodical bass theme, the last piece of the cycle ( Allegretto sempre cantabile ) conveys once again a tender nocturne atmosphere, which feeds into a hymnal final song.

 

Fantasy and Fugue about the Theme B-A-C-H (1855/1870)

 

Liszt originally conceived his Fantasy and Fugue on the name BACH for organ, which is his most important composition inspired by a Bach theme, along with his Prelude after a theme from Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen ("Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing") by J.S. Bach (1860). Though he reworked it again in 1870, it is difficult to structure for the piano. Daring harmonic progressions shape the introductory fantasy as well as the masterfully executed fugue—a brilliant work that takes the spirit of Bach and rethinks it into the modern Romantic.

 

Program notes by Eva Katharna Klein (translated by Dr . Scott G. Williams)

 

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Distinguished Artist Recital Series

presents

Chamber Music Concert

Tuesday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

Cello Sonata (1915) Claude Debussy

          1.  Prologue: Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto                                                          (1862 –1918)

          2.  Sérénade: Modérément animé

          3.  Final: Animé, léger et nerveux

 

“I believe,” wrote Debussy “that music has until now rested on false principles. We search for ideas in ourselves when we ought to search for them in the world around us. We combine, construct and imagine themes which attempt to convey ideas, we develop them or modify them when they collide with other themes representing other ideas. In this manner we create a metaphysic, we do not create music. We do not listen to the thousands of natural sounds which surround us; we are not sufficiently on the look-out for the varied music which nature so abundantly offers. Nature envelops us, yet we live in her midst without perceiving her… It is more useful for a composer to watch a sunrise than for him to hear Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.” There you have it – the whole aesthetic manifesto of Debussy. No doubt the environmentalists of today love it and no doubt the abstract-serialists of today hate it.

 

The Cello Sonata is the first of the six sonatas Debussy planned to compose for various instruments or combination of instruments. Only three were completed before his death. It was composed in 1915, during the First World War, when Debussy continuously fought his depression over the suffering of the French people and simultaneously battled with his colon cancer that ultimately was the cause of his death.

 

Those of you in the audience who are familiar with the most often played works of Debussy, such as his piano compositions or his orchestral “An Afternoon of the Faun” will find this cello sonata very different in style and mood This brief work harkens back to the 18 th century. As a sonata it resembles in clarity and conciseness the works of Rameau and the other baroque masters of that period. The mood of the work is melancholy and at times ironic. The second movement has a prologue and the closing Serenade conjures up the image of a plucked guitar or lute.

 

 

Piano Quintet No.2 in A major , Op.81 (1887)                                                                     Antonín Dvořák
          1. A llegro, ma non tanto                                                                                                     (1841-1904)
          2. Dumka: Andante con moto

          3. Scherzo (Furiant): Molto vivace

          4. Finale: Allegro

 

Composed in 1887, biographers often describe Dvorak's only piano quintet as a self-portrait. Dvorak's best friends maintained that this quintet was a virtually life-like picture of the composer. Possibly, but more to the point, it epitomizes his unique style more than just about anything else he wrote. The juxtaposition of quick-changing moods of the melancholy and the joyful and the infinite variety of the heartfelt melodies dominate this large scale, four-movement composition that is universally recognized as one of the true masterworks of this genre.

 

Fifteen years earlier Dvorak wrote a piano quintet but shortly after its premier performance destroyed it. Later, regretting his rash action, he retrieved a copy from a friend and set to revise it. Ultimately he put this youthful work aside and decided to compose a completely new quintet, the Op.81. After fifteen years of maturing, experimentation and immersion in the Bohemian folk idiom, Dvorak created this magnum opus of chamber music. It should not be a surprise that the unashamed, free-flowing Romanticism of this Quintet is beloved by audiences everywhere.

 

The Quintet opens with a wonderfully lyrical theme for the cello that sets the mood. This large scale, sonata form opening movement is full of lovely tunes and rich harmonies. The secondary theme for the viola (Dvorak's own instrument) is tinged with a bit of sadness and the dialogue between these two themes dominates the movement. The second movement “Dumka,” an old folk-ballad form, centers on a pensive melody that returns repeatedly but is interrupted three times by fast, happier interludes. The A-B-A-C-A-B-A form, characteristic of old Slavonic ballads is ideal to create the mood changes so beloved by the composer. The third movement is a furious Waltz with a meditative middle section and the last movement is a peasant dance, spiced with a humorous folk melody. It is a most effective closing statement, full of kaleidoscopic variety. It includes even a fugato and a closing chorale, and it sparkles with brilliant exuberance.

 

 

Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34 (1864)                                                                         Johannes Brahms
          1. A llegro non troppo                                                                                                          (1833-1897)
          2. Andante un poco adagio

          3. Scherzo; Allegro

          4. Finale: Poco sostenuto-Allegro non troppo-Presto non troppo

 

The birth of this Quintet is characteristic of Brahms' slow, careful and self-critical manner in which he created his masterworks. The story goes that someone asked Brahms one evening how he spent his day: “I composed all day. In the morning I added one measure; in the afternoon I took it out” he replied. True or false, this exemplifies the manner in which he composed.

 

The Quintet was no exception. It appeared first, in 1862, as a string quintet, with two cellos. Joseph Joachim, the famous violinist and Brahms' friend, liked the piece until he and his group started rehearsing it. Then he told Brahms that in this format it lacks charm and that some of the passages are too harsh. So Brahms made revisions but still no cigar. The next year Brahms transformed the entire work into a sonata for two pianos and performed it with Carl Tausig, the famous wunderkind student of Franz Liszt. The critics noted that this version lacked the warmth that only string instruments can provide. Brahms agreed - so here we go again. He set to work and in the summer of 1864 rewrote it into its final form, adding a piano part to the conventional string quartet instruments. Finally he was satisfied and allowed it to be published in 1865. Indeed, one would have to search far and wide to find a musician today, who would not consider this quintet the most significant chamber music work of Brahms.

 

The Quintet contains four movements. The technical difficulties of the piano score are legendary but the string players do not have a picnic either. To achieve the necessary unity and blending of voices of the strings with an essentially incompatible instrument such as the piano requires not only many rehearsals but players with complete mastery of their instrument.

 

The first movement is massive. It is dramatic with tragic overtones. The second is serene and tender; a pure song, recalling the spirit of Schubert. The third is a rugged, virtuoso, intensely rhythmic scherzo , with a trio that only Brahms could have written. The “Finale” opens with a somewhat foreboding phrase, then the cello presents a fast, jolly melody and the clouds disperse. A whirlwind coda brings this magnificent work to a triumphant conclusion.

 

Program notes by Stephen Seleny

 

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presents

José Feghali

Saturday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m.

 

Program

Impromptu in G-flat major, D.899 ( Op.90) No.3 (1827)                                                    Franz Schubert

                                                                                                                                                            (1797-1878)

Schubert wrote two sets of “Impromptus,” each containing four – the Op. 90 and the Op. 94. Both sets were composed during the last years of the composer, along with such monumental works as the String Quintet, the C-Major Symphony and the three last monumental Sonatas for the piano. The publisher offered 60 ducats for the first set of four Impromptus and when Schubert asked 60 for each of the four, he received not even a reply. They were published in 1827, but the second set only some twenty years after the composer's death. The term “Impromptu” was coined by the publisher, and if it implies improvisation, it is thoroughly misleading. These compositions are meticulously organized and perfectly formed – most of them in an A-B-A format – and it is obvious even at cursory examination that Schubert chiseled them into their present shape with great care.

 

The G-flat “Impromptu” is a beautiful song without words. The incomparable melody floats over gently undulating broken triads. The harmonic surprises are stunning even in a world of special magic that only Schubert could create.

 

Sonata in A major, D.959 (1828)

               1.  Allegro

               2.  Andantino

               3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace

               4. Allegretto

 

Schubert belonged to a "school of good pianists whose fingers do not crash down upon the poor keys with the swoop of the hawk" wrote one of his friends. The piano was not a special instrument for him, just another means of expressing his musical ideas. If he ever owned a piano, which is doubtful, it was a five-octave antique, inherited from his father in 1814. The good instruments were in the homes of the aristocracy, where he was an infrequent guest. He composed his music without the aid of his fingers. His piano scores are generally not very "pianistic", they do not exploit the potential of the piano like his contemporaries - Weber or Hummel, not to mention Beethoven - have done. The last years of his life were a feverish race, as if he sensed that death was near. The great C major symphony, the string quintet, and the last three piano sonatas were all composed in 1828. They are the crowning glory of his oeuvre, the summing up of his art. They also point to new horizons. The last sonatas especially demonstrate how freely Schubert used the classical forms, such as the sonata form. The dialectic, concise forms of Beethoven never suited Schubert's temperament. His music evolves as free flowing dream-like prose, searching for “liberated time.” It rolls forward, from moment to moment, without arriving at, or even aiming to reach a definite conclusion or resolution. The intimate beauties of his most heartwarming melodies are not suited for development. They are exquisite as they reappear again and again, clothed in shifting harmonies and in new levitating key relationships.

 

The A-major sonata is a lyrical work. It begins with a declamatory chord sequence but quickly the tone changes. The remarkable development section of the first movement is a quasi-improvisation on a tiny phrase - almost insignificant at first hearing - that blossoms into wonderfully poetic writing. The second movement is a gentle, placid song that sings the solitude of the composer and the boldly original storm passage that interrupts, depicts the turmoil in Schubert's soul. The third movement scherzo dances by quickly with untroubled gaiety. The finale borrows its theme from a much earlier work and endows it with new richness. It is closely modeled on the last movement of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 31 No.1, though here, Schubert's magic surely overshadows its model.

                      

Nocturne in C- sharp minor, Op.27 No.1 (1835)                                                               Frédéric Chopin

Nocturne in C minor, Op.48 No.1                                                                                                 (1810-1849)

 

Chopin was the master of the small form, and more than anyone, found the soul of the piano. His harmonies, his forms, his melodies embellished with silver-garland ornamentations recollect a dream-world that only Chopin, the poet of the piano, could create. He wrote almost exclusively for the piano, yet the mere catalogue of Chopin formats brings to mind the varied moods and the exquisitely refined sensitivity of his personality. He wrote 21 Nocturnes and these compositions are so strongly associated with Chopin's name that even cognoscenti of music tend to forget that he did not invent this particular format. Music, evocative of night, existed as far back as the 17 th century, but it was John Field, a pianist and composer of some distinction who wrote 18 evocative Nocturnes before he died of acute alcoholism in 1837. Chopin heard him perform some of them, shortly after his arrival to Paris and was so impressed, not only by the compositions but also by Field's playing that he did not mind when later, after he achieved considerable fame, some people mistook him for a John Field student. Of course Nocturnes in Chopin's hand were transformed into music of such intimacy and profundity that historical antecedents are only of passing interest. For Chopin's contemporaries his Nocturnes were the most characteristic and significant part of his entire oeuvre. It is hard to argue with this assessment

 

The Op. 27 contains two Nocturnes, the first in c-sharp minor, the second in d-flat major. Both are written in tri-partite – ABA + Coda - form, the usual frame for most if not all of the Nocturnes. In the first of these two Nocturnes, which is on tonight's program, Chopin places an explosive drama scene between the two almost mystical A sections. The long-sustained melody of this Nocturne is supported by widely placed harmonic accompaniment, giving it a rich, enlarged sonority.

 

The Op. 48 also contains two Nocturnes. The c-minor Nocturne must be counted among Chopin's greatest achievements in this genre. Full of compelling sonorities, bursting with emotional tension and surprising modulations, it requires the hand of a sensitive, virtuoso pianist of the first order. In size and conception this is a small scale ballade – a funeral march and a triumphal march connected by a choral and a virtuoso, double octave embellishment of the central choral, highlighting the contrast.

 

The c-sharp minor Nocturne was composed in 1835, the C minor in 1841.

 

 

Kinderszenen, Op.15 (1838)                                                                                             Robert Schumann

          Von fremden Ländern und Mensche (Of Foreign Lands and Peoples)                  (1810-1856)

          Kuriose Geschichte ( A Curious Story)

          Hasche-Mann ( Blind Man's Bluff)

          Bittendes Kind ( Pleading Child)

          Glückes genug ( Happy Enough)

          Wichtige Begebenheit ( An Important Event)

          Träumerei ( Dreaming)

          Am Kamin ( At the Fireside)

          Ritter vom Steckenpferd ( Knight of the Hobbyhorse)

          Fast zu Ernst ( Almost Too Serious)

          Fürchtenmachen ( Frightening)

          Kind im Einschlummern ( Child Falling Asleep)

          Der Dichter spricht ( The Poet Speaks)

 

Schumann composed the “Scenes from Childhood,” a set of twelve miniatures and a closing thought, titled "The Poet Speaks", during the year of 1838 when the father of Schumann's beloved Clara opposed their marriage plans. The two lovers were forced to communicate with each other mainly through letters and music. A remark by Clara that Robert seemed to her at times like a child inspired these thirteen gems. From one of Schumann's letters we know that indeed he was thinking of children - and as he so succinctly put it later, "the music is about children, not for children," - but the musical inspiration came first, the titles later. Still these titles are wonderfully descriptive.

 

One cannot miss the playfulness of the "Catch me if you can" although it lasts only for about 30 seconds. The sweet tears of the "Pleading Child", the quick shadows of "Frightening", the contentment of "At the Fireside", the dreaminess of the most famous "Traumerei" and the lullaby-like gentleness of the "Child Falling Asleep" are titles so beautifully descriptive that they had to come to Schumann almost simultaneously with the music. Ernst von Dohnanyi, one of the greatest pianists and musicians of the first half of the last century stated aptly, that it takes either a child-prodigy or the greatest artist to capture the spirit of this deceptively innocent music.

Program notes by Stephen Seleny

 

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presents

Armen Babakhanian

Thursday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m.

 

Program

 

 

12 Variations in C Major "Ah! Vous dira je. Maman"                                 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

                                                                                                                                                            (1756-1791)

“I would rather neglect the piano than composition; for me the piano is only a sideline, although thank God, a very good one”, wrote Mozart to his father in1778. It was not an accident that variations were the few of his piano compositions that were published in his lifetime. For at least the first half of his life, keyboard performances as much as composition represented a livelihood and the seventeen sets of variations, ingenious although somewhat standard workings out of popular or diplomatically advantageous themes, were ideal recital pieces for Mozart. Thus, his ambivalent attitude about piano and piano recitals in general, is quite understandable. For, although, by any measure these variations are not Mozart's most profound compositions, they are charming, imaginative and thoroughly entertaining.

This set of twelve variations, a set in c-major, are so familiar that you need to know but one thing only: It is based on the familiar melody, we know as “Twinkle, Twinkle little Star…” Contrasting little gems, essentially maintaining the shape of the melody, follow one another and one is as enjoyable as the other.

 

Sonata No.23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata”                                               Ludwig van Beethoven

                    1.  Allegro assai                                                                                                          (1770-1827)

                    2.  Andante con moto

                    3.  Allegro ma non troppo

 

This sonata was composed in 1804/05. The publisher added the name "Appassionata," in 1834, after Beethoven's death. It is a destructive and creative tidal wave; it is a singular, stirring and cleansing emotion - it is as broadly impulsive and unbroken as if its movements were constructed by a single superhuman force. The entire vision of this sonata is built on the protean idea of the triad. The two-octave-encompassing, lightening main theme of the first movement; the shivering trill, the menacing knocking, first in the bass and then echoed in the treble, the ensuing windstorm and even the secondary theme which comes from the same red-hot forge, - they are all explanations and descriptions of the same protean genesis. Even the Andante theme of the middle movement is created from the same tense idea. It is a barely moving, almost shapeless harmonic succession, virtually devoid of melody, that settles on the tonic chord in twenty of its thirty-two measures. It never concludes but is linked directly to the terrifying whirlwind of the finale. This, the most demonic sonata movement of Beethoven, was born during a long walk to Dobling. Beethoven's pupil Ferdinand Ries wrote: "Throughout the whole of the long walk, during which we lost our way, the Master had been muttering and sometimes howling to himself, always up and down without singing any specific notes. When I asked what he was doing he replied: 'I have just thought of a theme of the final Allegro .' When we got indoors, he hurried to the piano without even removing his hat. Soon he had forgotten my presence and he thumped away for more than an hour at the new finale." Indeed, the story is not only credible but characteristic of the elemental nature of this music. It rages like a ceaseless tempest; there is not even a gleam of light, no respite. On the contrary, the prestissimo coda becomes an elemental catastrophe, an earthquake - an abyss that for Beethoven will never close again, but it led to his last sonatas that transcend music itself.

 

Fantasy in F minor, Op.49                                                                                                      Frédéric Chopin

                                                                                                                                                            (1810-1849)

The f-minor Fantasy” is a passionate large-scale work, essentially a sonata in one movement. The beginning resembles a funeral march but later it transforms into a triumphant mood and we hear a “love song jubilating with the unparalleled beauty of enraptured ecstasy.” A serene Trio section gives a bit of a respite to passion but the supercharged recapitulation leads to drama and bravura, ending after an enigmatic, brief recitative in the mediant (A-flat major).

 

"Spartacus" Symphonic Pictures for piano solo                                    Khachaturian - Babakhanian

                    Introduction and Entrance of Crassus                                   (1903-1978)
                    Scene of farewell (Spartacus and Frigia)
                    Gladiators Battle and Death of Gladiator

                    Introduction to 5 th Act (Appiev Road) 

                    Variation of Egina and Final Vakchanaly
                    Entrance of Spartacus, the Quarrel 

                    The Betrayal 

                    Execution and Death of Spartacus 

                    Requiem

 

The transcription was written in 2007. The main idea of making such transcription is to regenerate and keep alive the general structure and dramaturgical ideas of Aram Khachaturian's ballet, which were absolutely killed during Soviet Union time by art direction of Bolshoi Theater. Because of dancing purposes and political aspects there was enormous withdraw of main leitmotivs from the score. In this transcription all themes come in their right order as they were written by Khachaturian. Although the composition has got nine named numbers (just to indicate screenplay chapters), they were written  without any separation - all numbers come with attacca and gradually develop main leitmotivs and ideas of the ballet from beginning to the end which brings the listener at the end to a real catharsis of Spartacus Drama. Basically this is a "theater of one actor" with one exception- no words-just the sound of the piano which opens new symphonic and human perspectives of the instrument and enormous dramaturgical power of Khachaturian's music.

 

Synopsis of the Ballet:
The Roman consul Crassus returns to Rome from his latest conquests in a triumphal procession. Among his captives are the Thracian King Spartacus and his wife Phrygia. Spartacus laments his captivity and bids a bitter farewell to Phrygia, who is taken off to join Crassus' harem of concubines. To entertain Crassus and his entourage, Spartacus is sent into the gladiatorial ring and is forced to kill a close friend. Horrified at his deed, Spartacus incites his fellow captives to rebellion.

The escaped captives celebrate their freedom. Meanwhile, Crassus entertains the Roman patricians with lavish entertainment, including fights between blindfolded gladiators. The seductive Aegina incites a sexual orgy. Spartacus and his men disrupt the orgy and rescue the slave women, including Phrygia. The insulted Aegina insists that Crassus pursue the slave army immediately. The lovers celebrate their escape to the familiar “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia.”

Aegina discovers Spartacus' camp and observes the lovers emerging from their tent the next morning. Aegina sends word to Crassus, who sends his army in pursuit. Internecine struggles break out among Spartacus' forces. Finally, Crassus' forces discover Spartacus and impale him upon their spears. Spartacus' closest followers recover his body and carry it off while Phrygia mourns her loss.

Program notes by Stephen Seleny and Armen Babakhanian

 

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presents

Alexander Kobrin

Sunday, June 27 at 3:00 p.m.

 

Program

 

 

Sonata in C major, Hob.16/48 (1789)                                                                                     Joseph Haydn

                 1. Andante con espressivo                                                                                         (1732-1809)

                 2. Rondo: Presto
The bounties of Haydn's oeuvre are astounding. He was the Father of the Symphony, but with equal justice we could call him the Father of the piano sonata form, and that of the String Quartet. His music is always on the highest plane and the quantity of masterworks he produced boggles the mind. He wrote 104 Symphonies, 52 (or 68) piano Sonatas, 23 Operas, 83 String Quartets, 12 Masses, 3 monumental oratorios (The Seven last Words of Christ, The Seasons and The Creation) and nearly endless number of other works.

 

Haydn showed musical talent very early but was not a “wunderkind”. His childhood was miserable, more beatings than bread as he remembered, and he never had a real music teacher. He learned by hearing the finest music of his time as a choirboy. At age eight he was accepted into the choir of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where he remained for nine years. He did not compose with the ease of Mozart, Schubert or Mendelssohn. Would he have died young like Mozart, he would be virtually unknown. Haydn developed slowly, methodically and with inevitable steadiness. After his dismissal from the Cathedral choir, he struggled through many meager years and fell into a very unhappy marriage. Then, in 1761 he entered into the service of Prince Eszterhazy and for the rest of his life, in one capacity or another he remained associated with this famous family. He gracefully accepted his role as a servant, and the Eszterhazys treated him as a prince of music.

 

Sonatas written before Haydn were usually short, one-movement pieces, and placed differing technical demands on the performer. Some were little character pieces, some were virtuoso etudes like the Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. A Sonata, as we refer to it today, is a multi movement composition built on contrasts and development of motives. The first Movement (almost always in “sonata form”, a technical term referring to the structure) contains an exposition section with two contrasting themes (some call them the masculine and the feminine elements) and a closing theme, followed by a development section, often much larger than the exposition, where only the taste and talent of the composer limits the development of the exposition's themes. Then, after the composer is satisfied that he explained fully the meaning of these themes, a recapitulation follows where the original themes reappear, more or less in their original form. The Second Movement is usually slow and lyrical, the Third is dance-like, and the Finale is fast and energetic. It would be false to say that Haydn invented all of this. No, he did not, but he was the one who pulled these diverse, already existing ideas into a unified arch, achieving equilibrium. Ever since, every composer who ever wrote a Sonata or Symphony (which is a Sonata for Orchestra) - be he a Classical, Romantic or Modern composer - owes a measure of debt to “Papa Haydn”.

 

The Piano Sonatas of Haydn fit into two categories: the “concert sonatas” of at least three movements requiring considerable virtuosity from the performer, and the “chamber sonatas” for amateur performances, usually of two movements only. The Sonata of this concert composed around or shortly before 1880, is certainly a concert sonata since it requires considerable virtuosity and fleet fingers. Haydn follows the “usual” forms in all of the three movements, which is not surprising since he invented them.

 

 

 

Fantasy in C minor, K.475 (1785)                                                                    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sonata in C minor, K. 457 (1784)                                                                                                (1756-1791)

               1. Molto allegro

               2. Adagio

               3. Allegro assai

The Fantasia was written in May 1785, the sonata seven months earlier, but Mozart sensed that these two agitated compositions complement each other and published the two together. He even wrote a letter of instruction (which is now lost) about their performance, to Theresa von Trattner to whom they are dedicated. The Fantasia "gives us the truest picture of Mozart's mighty power of improvisation - his ability to indulge in the greatest freedom and boldness of imagination, the most extreme contrast of ideas, the most uninhibited variety of lyric and virtuoso elements, while yet preserving structural logic - this work is so rich that it threatens to eclipse the sonata without actually doing so" (Alfred Einstein). The sonata in c-minor is Mozart's darkest work for the piano. In the other sonatas one does not find such gloom and darkness of passion. The sadness and tension of the first and last movements are relieved only momentarily by the second movement, in a "song of a wounded soul" and in "an elegy of yearning and silent grief". Possibly the movements of this sonata are disproportionate, considering the length of the slow movement, yet the explosiveness and conciseness of the two outer movements make this singularly tragic composition even more effective and gripping.

 

 

Moments musicaux, Op.16 (1896)                                                                            Sergei Rachmaninoff

               1. Andantino in B-flat minor                                                                                           (1873-1943)

               2. Allegretto in E-flat minor

               3. Andante cantabile in B minor

               4. Presto in E minor

 

Rachmaninov's music, if performed well, always has a mesmerizing intensity, just as his piano playing was intensely hypnotic. We should not forget that he was one of the greatest pianists of the last century. The writer of these notes will never forget one of his concerts, when after performing the Chopin Funeral March Sonata - although not the last piece on the printed program - he stopped, with the audience frozen, motionless. Nothing could have been performed after that last movement - characterized by Anton Rubinstein “the midnight wind over an abandoned cemetery” – Rachmaninov knew it and so did the audience. There was no applause, nobody dared to applaud and Rachmaninov understood why not. He left the stage quickly, like an apparition, leaving the impression that he was never there. The dark, red-hot, morbid intensity of that performance that conjured up the image of death itself may have been unique, but much of Rachmaninov's music bears the same dark, intense, humorless, mesmerizing quality.

 

Rachmaninov came from a musical family and his enormous talent manifested itself early. He won the Gold Medal of the Moscow Conservatory of Music at age 19. The six pieces included in this Suite were composed in 1896. Clearly, the then 23 years old Rachmaninov wrote these technically very demanding pieces for himself. He had an enormous hand with a span of an octave and five notes and the score of these six pieces indeed demand a large hand.

 

The set starts with a Nocturne, with the tempo marking of Andantino . It is modeled on Schubert's work of the same title. However, its melody is chromatic, winding and syncopated, typically Rachmaninov in style. The following Allegretto is a virtuoso Etude. The Andante cantabile third piece of the set is a “Russian” Funeral March, introspective and melancholy. The following Presto is a quasi homage to Chopin, a free improvisation on his G major Prelude and Revolutionary Etude. The following Adagio sostenuto is a barcarolle - a lilting song without words. The set closes with a complicated, dense-textured, virtuoso Maestoso , that evokes the full sonority of the piano.

 

 

Variations on a Theme by Corelli, Op.42 (1931)                                                     Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninov's Variations on a theme of Corelli was to be his last solo piano work, and it is indicative of the upheaval in his life that it was written some 14 years after his penultimate piano works (the second set of Ètudes Tableaux and the small pieces from 1917). What had happened? First and foremost, the Russian Revolution, that forced Rachmaninov to smuggle his family out of his beloved homeland to Sweden. With no money – at the age of 44 – he had to turn to performance to make his living, and at first his repertoire was rather small. He eventually made it to America and – you will often read – remained there the rest of his life. The truth is a little more complicated, as each year he always spent a number of months back in Europe (Paris, Dresden and, later, Switzerland) and he eventually settled into a pattern of giving about 25 – 30 concerts in America each season. After a number of years of this pattern, he felt the need to start composing again and produced his Fourth Piano concerto (1926), which was not a success in either its original or final revised version.

 

Five years later he revised his Second Piano Sonata and composed these Variations – not actually based on a theme by Corelli, because Corelli had himself borrowed the theme (it was a Portuguese dance called ‘La folia') for his own set of variations in his Violin Sonata, Op.5, No.12. Hearing the original Corelli Sonata alerted Rachmaninov to the possibilities of the theme. On his annual autumn trip to North America, Rachmaninov premiered his new work in Montreal on October 12, 1931. In a candid letter to his friend Medtner, to which he enclosed a copy of the variations, Rachmaninov wrote about the problems of audience noise (!): - “I have played [The Variations] here fifteen times, but only one of these was good…I have not played them in full once. I was guided by the coughing of the public. When the coughing increased, I would leave out the next variation. When there was no coughing, I would play them in order. In one concert (I don't remember where – a small town) the coughing was such that I played only ten variations. My record was eighteen (in New York). However, I hope that you will play them all and that you will not ‘cough'.”

 

The 16-bar theme, in its bare harmony, is as slow as it sounds archaic, but Rachmaninov's sure compositional hand allows it to sing more sonorously with the immediate introduction of a roving bass accompaniment. The ensuing 20 variations explore the possibilities of this theme and Rachmaninov creates wildly contrasting sets of variations of enormous technical difficulty. Structurally we encounter a direct line to the Intermezzo, inserted between the 13 th and 14 th Variations. Var. 14 (shifting from D minor to D flat major) and 15 are both a throwback to the simplicity of the theme, but also a typically Rachmaninovian response to it, first rather melancholic, then with the gentle moving accompaniment of the latter, wistfully nostalgic. Var. 16, starts the climactic set of four variations leading to Var. 19 which develops across the length and breadth of the keyboard, before ending in the bass with a repeated note, from which the still roving final Variation is allowed to rapidly lose pace and return the music to its quiet beginnings and, in the coda , die away gradually.

 

Program notes by Stephen Seleny

 

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