All performances, except where noted, are held at:
|September 11 In Remembrance
CHOPIN Marche Funèbre Op. 72 No. 2 ▪ 1827
Some years later, in 1837, the “Funeral March” emerged as the heart of his Piano Sonata No. 2. The iconic piece has been played at funerals throughout history, most notably at the graveside during Chopin’s own burial at Père Lachaise Cemetery, in Henri Reber’s instrumentation. And it has been been played at the funerals of many famous musicians, from the interment of legendary Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim to the memorial service of Sir Edward Elgar, and at state funerals of dignitaries—among them, John F. Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Joseph Stalin.
Giacomo PUCCINI Crisantemi “Chrysanthemums” ▪ 1890
The Tuscan-born opera composer wrote the elegy in a single night in response to the untimely death of his friend at age 44—Amadeo di Savoia, the Duke of Aosta (the abdicated King Amadeo I of Spain). The piece was named after the flower of mourning and heroism in Italian tradition. Puccini later reused his two liquid melodic ideas in the last act of Manon Lescaut in 1893.
Antoine REICHA Adagio in D minor “pour le cor anglais” ▪ 1817-1819
Reicha (1770–1836)—known as the “Father of the Wind Quintet”—was born in Prague and later became naturalized French. His father, a town piper, died when he was 10 months old, leaving him in the custody of his mother who had no interest in educating him. Young Anton ran away from home when only ten years old, and was subsequently adopted and educated in music by his uncle Josef Reicha. In 1785 they moved to Bonn, where he played the flute and violin in the court orchestra alongside young Beethoven on viola. He studied composition secretly, against his uncle’s wishes, and entered the University of Bonn in 1789 and met Haydn in the early 1790s. When Bonn was captured by the French in 1794 Reicha fled to Hamburg, where he made a living teaching piano, harmony, and composition. He also composed and studied mathematics and philosophy. Hoping to gain recognition as an opera composer, he went Paris in 1799, but did not succeed. In 1801 he moved on to Vienna, where he visited Haydn, renewed his friendship with Beethoven, studied with Salieri and Albrechtsberger, and produced his first important works while reading mathematics and philosophy, and reflecting seriously upon pedagogy. He was an accomplished theorist, and wrote several treatises on various aspects of composition. His treatises are known to have influenced Giacomo Meyerbeer, Schumann, and Smetana. (Schumann once noted, “his often peculiar ideas about fugue should not be ignored.”) His life was once again affected by war in 1808, prompting him to leave Vienna, which was occupied by the French under Napoleon, for Paris, where he spent the rest of his life teaching composition and, in 1818, was appointed professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Conservatoire. His pupils included Franck, Liszt, Berlioz, and Gounod.
Maurice RAVEL Le Tombeau de Couperin ▪ 1917
After a stint of active duty in World War I, Ravel, haunted by memories, returned to work on Le Tombeau. What had begun as an homage to François Couperin and the golden age of 18th century French music became a memorial in honor of the dead—each of six movements dedicated to a friend who had died on the front. Ravel began the piano version in 1914, completing it in 1917. In 1919 he chose 4 movements to orchestrate, and the brilliant, stylish suite premiered in Paris on 28 February 1920. Using the forms of the Baroque dance suite, Ravel wrote a graceful Prélude, a somewhat dissonant Forlane (a Northern Italian dance), a Menuet, and a Rigaudon (an old dance from Provence).
Jacques OFFENBACH Deux âmes au ciel, élégie Op. 25 ▪ 1843
Offenbach, an influential master of the operetta, was called “our Mozart of the Champs-Elysées” by Rossini. He was born in 1819, the son of a cantor at the Cologne Synagogue. After learning to play the violin, he took up the cello at the age of 9. In 1833, he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire, but left after a year’s study. Offenbach then made a living playing in orchestras as well as solo and chamber music concerts; he played with Friedrich von Flotow in Paris salons, performing jointly composed pieces for cello and piano. During the 1840s he continued his career as a virtuoso cellist touring in Europe—he appeared in Paris in 1841 with Anton Rubinstein and in Cologne in 1843 with Liszt. Among the several pieces he wrote for cello, intended for the recital hall, was Deux âmes au ciel. In 1844 he converted to Catholicism, and went on to compose nearly 100 operettas in the 1850s through the 1870s. The success of his operettas made him wealthy but the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–1871 marked a shift in popular taste that eventually left him bankrupt. He died in 1880 during rehearsals for the premiere of The Tales of Hoffmann, regarded by many as his greatest work. He was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.
César FRANCK Piano Quintet in F minor ▪ 1878–1879
Camille Saint-Saëns, the pianist for the Quintet’s première in 1880, however, “hated every bit of it and stalked off the stage, refusing to return for the applause. He even left the manuscript on the piano, although it was dedicated to him, but one of Franck’s pupils rescued it.”
Born in Liège, Belgium, Franck (1822–1890) did not become a naturalized French citizen until 1873. His family moved to Paris in 1835, and at age 15 he was sent to the Paris Conservatoire and studied with Anton Reicha. After a promising start upon his graduation, he sank into obscurity. However, when he switched from piano to organ at age 30, he became the greatest improviser of his time; and after the 1880s he composed most of the music by which he is known. In the view of Schonberg, “Franck was the dominating musical force of the period in France, both as a composer and as teacher, and he gathered unto himself a group of pupils who did everything but put a halo over him and worship. There was something in the man that encouraged worship. …he was kind to the point of saintliness, serene, otherworldly. Never did a harsh word pass his lips, never a derogatory remark. He was not interested in honors or in money, and a stained-glass aura (reflected in his music) emanated from him. One of his greatest delights was to sit and improvise at the organ of Ste.-Clothilde in a religious ecstasy…. People compared him with Fra Angelico. It was to Franck that the younger generation turned.” His two most famous pupils were Chausson and Vincent d’Indy, who remarked, “Everything in Franck sings, and sings all the time.”
|September 18 Quite English
The English composers on this program looked to the past in their revival of English music. They had various relationships with one another and differing viewpoints in their disparate renascence efforts. Benjamin Britten was known for his disdain of other British composers, particularly his contemporaries and near-contemporaries—namely Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams, both of whom had ended the idea that the final great English composer was Henry Purcell, whom Britten admired. In 1931, Britten had said, “I am absolutely incapable of enjoying Elgar for more than two minutes,” and 4 years later, he reiterated, “Certainly the best way to make me like Elgar is to listen to him after Vaughan Williams.” Ouch. Vaughan Williams, who made the English “sound” distinctive, was also influenced by the modal harmonies of Renaissance composers such as Purcell, as well as by Tudor and later folk songs. As it turned out, Vaughan Williams was buried right next to Purcell in Westminster Abbey. At Vaughan Williams’s death, Britten’s attitude had mellowed enough for him to say, “We will miss him sadly—above all, his wonderful, uncompromising courage for fighting for all those things he believed in.” Although Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst were the closest of lifelong friends, Britten reserved special admiration for Holst. From Britten’s perspective, Holst had a much wider outlook than his contemporaries. Although Holst used folk songs prominently in his music, he looked way beyond England for inspiration, as far as India and Japan—something Britten also did on visits to Bali and Japan. Vaughan Williams and Elgar never shared a pint at the pub. About 1900 Vaughan Williams asked Elgar for lessons and was politely refused. So he studied Elgar’s works on his own, virtually teaching himself orchestration by trial and error, and he continued to attend performances of Elgar’s works though Elgar never received him with any cordiality. Thomas Dunhill, Vaughan Williams, and Holst were all pupils of Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music in the late 1890s. Dunhill made no bones about his championship of tradition and the established order; he later admitted hating Vaughan Williams’s 4th Symphony!
Henry PURCELL Chacony in G minor ▪ 1678
In his short life of 36 years, Purcell (1659‒1695) composed in virtually every genre and left a uniquely English form of Baroque music as his legacy. On his 18th birthday he became composer of the court violin band known as the Twenty-Four Violins; the Chacony was probably written soon after. “It is a magnificent example of the baroque mastery of...ostinato variations, which grow in power and magic with each repetition of the same eight-measure phrase [Phillip Huscher, program annotator for the Chicago Symphony].” Britten enriched the textures of the music and added expressive dynamics and articulation in his arrangement of the Chacony. He once stated, “One of my chief aims is to try to restore to the musical setting of the English Language a brilliance, freedom and vitality that have been curiously rare since the death of Purcell.” It was also Britten who resurrected, through Purcell, such archaic forms as the chaconne and passacaglia.
Edward ELGAR Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit Op. 15 ▪ 1899 and 1897
After his unsuccessful efforts in London to make his musical fortune in the 1880s, Elgar retreated to Malvern, from where he wrote to his friend and advocate August Jaeger, a senior editor at the music publisher Novello, bemoaning his precarious financial circumstances. Within 10 days, he sent Jaeger a piece for violin and piano called “Evensong,” suggesting the name could be changed to “Vespers.” In the end, Novello called it “Chanson de Nuit,” believing that French titles would attract better sales. Two years later, Elgar claimed to have rediscovered the “Chanson de Matin.” He made orchestral versions of both pieces at the end of 1900. Jaeger was immortalized as “Nimrod” in the Enigma Variations, which Elgar completed in 1899.
Elgar, the first English composer of international stature since Purcell, liberated England’s music from its insularity. Born in Broadheath in 1857, he was the son of an organist and music dealer. After leaving school at age 15 and abandoning his job as a clerk, he played the bassoon, taught and played the violin, and worked as a bandmaster and church organist in Worcester. There, he honed his music skills, making arrangements of pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn for the unconventional band. Although he hoped to study at the Leipzig Conservatory, his father could not afford this luxury. After his marriage in 1889, Elgar moved to London, but in 1891, they returned to Malvern, where he met his wife, and began to establish a reputation as a composer. Throughout the 1880s and the 1890s his experience grew and his style matured as he conducted and composed for local musical organizations. When he died 1934, “He left to younger composers the rich harmonic resources of late Romanticism and stimulated the subsequent national school of English music. His own idiom was cosmopolitan, yet his interest in the oratorio is grounded in the English musical tradition. Especially in England, Elgar is esteemed both for his own music and for his role in heralding the 20th-century English musical renascence [Encyclopedia Britannica].”
Thomas DUNHILL Phantasy Trio Op. 36 ▪ 1911
Dunhill embraced the one-movement fantasy form with his Phantasy Trio, dedicated to William Wilson Cobbett, who had created and endowed the Cobbett Competitions to encourage younger British composers to write chamber music. The rules provided an alternate format to the traditional 4-movement work which had developed from Haydn onwards—the old phantasy genre from the time of Purcell.
Dunhill came from the family that developed the Dunhill tobacco empire under his brothers Alfred and Herbert. Born in 1877, Thomas was raised in North London. Having no interest in business, he began piano studies at the Royal College of Music in 1893, then composition with Charles Villiers Stanford. From 1899 to 1908 he was assistant music master at Eton College, concurrently teaching harmony and counterpoint at the Royal College. He was especially fond of chamber music. In 1907 he founded a pioneering series of chamber music concerts to revive chamber pieces by young British composers. These were held at the Queen’s Small Hall, later at Steinway Hall, and subsequently at Bechstein Hall. Over the course of his lifetime, Dunhill wrote a variety of orchestral works which have since been forgotten, and remain largely unpublished. A total of 10 works were given 14 performances between 1903 and 1934, conducted by Dunhill himself. His wife was the grandniece of the poet Matthew Arnold; he died in 1946.
Gustav HOLST Sextet in E minor ▪ circa 1896–1900
Music writer Michael Cookson heard an impressive Sextet: “It is a glorious, rewarding and extremely agreeable work. The generous and warm opening Moderato is heartfelt. It is followed by the infectious dance rhythms of a high spirited Scherzo. Next comes an introspective Adagio imbued with melancholy that feels like a lament for a loved one. The delightful closing movement is a theme and variations.” Written in his early 20s, the Sextet was found in the archives of the British Library by Helge Bartholomäus around the turn of the last century.
As stated by the British Library, “Gustav Holst was one of the most original composers of his generation, drawing influences both from the English madrigal and folksong traditions and from Hindu philosophy. Born in Cheltenham in 1874, Holst is remembered today principally for his popular orchestral work The Planets, though his considerable output encompassed opera, ballet and other stage works, as well as choral, orchestral, chamber music and songs. Much of this music was neglected after his death. From 1895 Holst studied composition and the trombone at the Royal College of Music, where his teachers included Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry. Like many of his contemporaries, Holst was powerfully drawn to the music of the German composer Richard Wagner, and much of his early music betrays Wagner’s influence. Perhaps his most important musical influence in terms of his later development as a composer, however, was Ralph Vaughan Williams, a fellow student at the RCM who would become a close friend. In the 1890s he also developed an interest for Hindu literature and philosophy and took lessons in Sanskrit at University College London, gaining sufficient understanding of the language to allow him to set Sanskrit texts to music.” Holst died after stomach surgery at age 59 in 1934.
Vaughan Williams and Holst were fast friends. They met in 1895 while students at the Royal College of Music; it was the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship of almost 40 years. They played their compositions to each other while they were still working on them. They critiqued one another’s work, even though their music was quite different. Vaughan Williams called Holst “the greatest influence on my music,” and dedicated his Mass in G minor to him. Sometimes they would walk along Chiswick Mall or by the river with other college friends, discussing the poetry of Walt Whitman or the socialist works of William Morris. Vaughan Williams revealed in the Dictionary of National Biography that “we discussed every subject under the sun from the lowest note of the double bassoon to the philosophy of Jude the Obscure.” After Holst’s death, Vaughan Williams wrote, “My only thought is now that which ever way I turn, what are we to do without him—everything seems to have turned back to him—what would Gustav think or advise to do?”
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Piano Quintet in C minor ▪ 1903, revised 1905
A passionate first movement is followed by an expressive Andante that resembles his song “Silent Noon” (composed the same year), and concludes with a rhapsodic theme and variations Finale, contrasting in tempo, mood and tonality, and ending with a beautiful bell-like coda. The revision indicates that he followed Holst’s advice about rewriting the Quintet. Withdrawn by Vaughan Williams in 1918, it was finally allowed to be performed in 1999 for a concert celebrating the composer, only after his widow Ursula lifted the ban.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) is one of the most important composers of the 20th century—an intuitive composer with a career that spanned more than 6 decades. A major accomplishment was his revival of English music, drawing on the influences of English folk song and Tudor polyphony. Vaughan Williams studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at the Royal College of Music under Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry. In 1897–1898 he studied in Berlin under Max Bruch and in 1909 in Paris under Maurice Ravel. About 1903 he began to collect folk songs. “All assessments of Vaughan Williams have emphasized his Englishness. This is a matter of temperament and character no less than of musical style and may be felt to have permeated everything he did…. That he re-created an English musical vernacular, thereby enabling the next generation to take their nationality for granted, and did much to establish the symphony as a form of central significance for the English revival is historically important; but his illumination of the human condition, especially though not exclusively in his works commonly regarded as visionary, is a unique contribution” wrote Hugh Ottaway for the New Grove Dictionary.
| October 2 Poles to Extol
Ludomir RÓŻYCKI Rhapsodie for Piano Trio Op. 33 ▪ 1913
Now barely known outside of Poland, Różycki (1884–1953) held an important place in Polish artistic circles and is regarded as the most famous Polish opera composer after Stanisław Moniuszko. He composed predominantly dramatic works and programmatic orchestral music with great facility. After studies with Zygmunt Noskowski at the Warsaw Conservatory, he continued his education with Engelbert Humperdinck at the Berlin Academy. Upon his return to Poland, Różycki joined the Young Poland group of composers whose goal was to advance Polish music into the modern era, under the influence of Neoromanticism. In 1907 he was appointed opera conductor and piano teacher at the Lwów Conservatory. After another Berlin sojourn from 1914 to 1920, he became conductor of the Warsaw Opera. In 1926 Różycki helped found the Polish Composers Union and served as its first president, and in 1930 he was appointed professor at the Warsaw Conservatory. In 1945 he moved to Katowice, where he taught composition at the conservatory while writing widely on music. He won the State Prize in 1930 and the State Prize “first class” in 1952.
Witold LUTOSLAWSKI Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano ▪ 1954
The English critic Kenneth Dommett explained, “In the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, Poland’s musicians and film-makers suddenly blossomed in a remarkable resurgence of artistic independence. But the Communist regime demanded music that was ‘accessible’ and folkloristic, requirements that many Polish composers, Witold Lutosławski prominent among them, found restrictive, though they managed to conform without compromising their principles. The Dance Preludes are a product of that difficult period.” Based on Polish folk dance rhythms, if not actual folk tunes, the five short movements alternate between jerky dances and reflective moods. The piece premiered in Warsaw on 15 February 1955. Lutosławski subsequently rearranged it twice: in 1955 for orchestra and in 1959 for chamber ensemble.
Lutosławski (1913–1994) was an outstanding Polish composer of the 20th century. A native of Warsaw, he attempted to create a new musical language by incorporating elements of folk songs, 12-tone serialism, atonal counterpoint, and controlled improvisations reminiscent of aleatoric music (wherein some element is left to chance) while retaining elements of conventional harmony and melody. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Lutosławski studied mathematics at the University of Warsaw and received diplomas in piano (1936) and composition (1937) from the Warsaw Conservatory. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he performed in clandestine concerts that included proscribed music. His prewar works (most notably the Symphonic Variations, 1938) were primarily conventional neoclassical pieces, often infused with traditional folk tunes. When his Symphony No. 1 (begun in 1941) had its premiere in 1948, however, the new communist government denounced the piece as ‘formalist’ and banned Lutosławski’s increasingly avant-garde works from public performance. He earned a living writing children’s songs and scores for motion pictures until those restrictions were eased in the mid-1950s. He was honoured with the first of his many government prizes in 1955, soon after composing his Concerto for Orchestra, based on folk themes.”
Ignace PADEREWSKI “Moja Pieszczotka” (“My Sweet Maiden”) Op. 18 No. 3 ▪ 1887–1893
The songs were well-received by both audiences and critics in London when they were performed at a concert on 11 December 1893. The St James’s Gazette reported, “what attracted so large crowds of music lovers, filling the room to the brim, was the prospect of hearing six new songs by Paderewski, sung by Edward Lloyd, accompanied by Paderewski himself.” The reviewer thought the songs were “very beautiful, very Polish,” and reflected the spirit of the poems by Adam Miekiewicz, regarded as the national poet in Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus.
CHOPIN “Moja Pieszczotka” (“My Darling”) Op. 74 No. 12 ▪ 1837
Chopin “In mir klingt ein Lied” (“In me there sings a song”) ▪ 1832
Originally for solo piano, Ernst Marischka (the Austrian screenwriter and lyricist), added lyrics and transformed the Étude into a vocal piece for the German film Abschiedswalzer directed by Géza von Bolváry in 1934—a historical love story about Chopin. The beloved piece is regarded as a manifestation of Chopin’s love for his native Poland. Years after its composition, one of his pupils, Adolf Gutman, reported that while he was playing this piece during a class, Chopin broke down in tears, crying. “Oh my homeland!” Chopin had also said of the piece, “In my entire life, I have never written another melody as beautiful.” The original manuscript is deposited at New York’s Morgan Library.
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI Suite in G minor Op. 71 ▪ published in 1903
Of Polish-Jewish descent, the German composer was also a virtuoso pianist with a formidable technique. Ignacy Paderewski said, “After Chopin, Moszkowski best understands how to write for the piano, and his writing embraces the whole gamut of piano technique.” He became the most successful salon composer at the turn of the 20th century. His musical triumphs and his road to affluence began in 1873 when he made his debut as a pianist, and soon his reputation spread. He began teaching as well—from 1875 at the Berlin Conservatory, where his pupils included Frank Damrosch, Joaquín Nin, and Joaquín Turina. By the time he moved to Paris in 1897, he was rich and famous. Among his pupils there were Thomas Beecham, Josef Hofmann, Wanda Landowska, and, informally, Gaby Casadesus. Moszkowski, however, died in ill health and poverty, having lost everything when his investments in bonds and securities were rendered worthless at the outbreak of the Great War.
Ignacy Feliks DOBRZYŃSKI String Sextet in Eb Major Op. 39 ▪ 1841
The Sextet was performed to considerable acclaim by Ferdinand David, the Leipzig Gewandhaus concertmaster, and his colleagues in 1845. Its emotional heart is the third movement, Elegia—an homage to Thaddeus Kościuszko, the Polish military hero. The scoring is for 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos, and double bass
Dobrzyński (1807–1867) was born in Romanów, Volhynia—a historic region between Poland and Russia. He received his first music lessons from his father, the kapellmeister at Romanów, the family residence of Count Iliński. After 1825, he studied piano and composition with Józef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory, where Chopin was his classmate. He traveled to various cities in Germany from 1845 to 1847. In Warsaw he had an active career as a teacher, critic, impresario, pianist, and conductor, and he was also director of the Opera in 1852–1855. As a composer, Dobrzyński followed the Viennese Classical tradition, while incorporating elements of Polish folk music. His piano compositions show the influence of Chopin. In 1834 he won a prize in an international competition in Vienna for his Characteristic Symphony in the Spirit of Polish Music, which Mendelssohn conducted at the Leipzig Gewandhaus after it had been performed in other cities.
|October 16 Beethoven’s Circle
Carl CZERNY 2 Fugattos Op. 177 ▪ n.d.
Czerny (1791–1857)—the prolific Austrian composer, pianist, and teacher of Bohemian origin—studied with Beethoven for 3 years from the age of 10, and became his assistant and lifelong friend. He later taught Liszt and Beethoven’s nephew Karl. As one of Beethoven’s most notable pupils, Czerny had to compete with his master’s shadow. He was anointed by the public as Beethoven’s disciple, and was expected to continue Beethoven’s legacy and musical genius. Instead, Czerny was arguably the greatest pianist who never performed, and the most successful composer to have been consigned to oblivion—his compositions of over 800 opus numbers and mounds of unpublished manuscripts remain largely untapped. He recalled, “I composed every free minute I had, especially in the evening.” He often worked on three to four pieces simultaneously—“it explains easily how my opus numbers soon rose to 100, 200, 300, etc., without counting my equally numerous arrangements, which always remained unnumbered.” He is today remembered mostly for the technical etudes that are still inflicted on piano students some 175 years after his death.
In at least two instances, Beethoven changed the dedicatees of his compositions—Op. 5 and Op. 47. Before Beethoven and Jean-Louis Duport had performed his Op. 5 cello sonatas for the King of Prussia, he intended to dedicate the two sonatas to Duport, as documented in a letter, now lost: “Duport acknowledges the dedication to him of Beethoven’s two sonatas for piano and violoncello and expresses the wish to play them with the composer.” The sonatas, however, were instead dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm II. The dedicatee of Beethoven’s Op. 87 Violin Sonata was likewise replaced. He had originally dedicated his “Kreutzer” Sonata to the virtuoso George Bridgetower before changing the dedication to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer. These initial gestures, nevertheless, show an appreciation of the musicians Beethoven worked with, and an intent to acknowledge them.
Jean-Louis DUPORT Nouveau Nocturne No. 3 ▪ n.d.
A Parisian, Duport (1749–1819) was one of the pioneers of modern cello technique. He studied with his older brother Jean-Pierre. At the age of 18 he played a sonata on the Concert Spirituel series. The performance was reported by Le Mercure de France as “precise, brilliant, astonishing; the full, mellow, pleasing sounds and a sure, bold execution reveal the greatest talent…a virtuoso …. He was heard with admiration even by connoisseurs.” Voltaire, seduced by the sweetness and beauty of his tone, said to him, “You will make me believe in miracles, for I see that you can turn an ox into a nightingale.” Duport later performed with the violinist Giovanni Battista Viotti for Marie-Antoinette, and continued appearing at the Concert Spirituels and at concerts in Paris until the outbreak of the French Revolution. In 1790 he went to Prussia, where he became principal cellist at the court of Frederick William II. In 1796 he played Beethoven’s Op. 5 Cello Sonatas for the King, accompanied by the composer. In 1806 Duport returned to Paris, where his performances again met with acclaim. Financial circumstances then compelled him to take a post in the service of the dethroned Spanish king, Charles IV, in Marseilles from about 1808 to 1812, after which he again returned to Paris. From 1813 to 1 January 1816 he taught cello at the Paris Conservatoire. Duport is best known today for his seminal treatise The Art of Fingering and Bowing the Violincello, which remains the foundation of modern cello playing. Many of his compositions were written in virtuoso style, intended for his own performances. His 1711 Stradivari cello was acquired around 1800. It was allegedly dented by Napoleon, who had grabbed the instrument from his favorite cellist and asked, “How the devil do you hold this thing, Monsieur Duport?” The 19th century French instrument maker Jean Baptiste Vuillaume used the Duport Stradivarius as his model of choice. It was subsequently purchased by Auguste Franchomme in 1843, and was owned by Mstislav Rostropovich in 1974–2007.
Rodolphe KREUTZER Grand Quintetto in C Major ▪ between 1790 and 1799
Kreutzer (1766–1831) is recognized as one of the founders of the French school of violin playing, and among the foremost improvisers and conductors of his day. After lessons with his father, he was taught by the influential composer Anton Stamitz from 1778. Around 1782 he heard Viotti’s solo violin performances and was influenced by his style. In May 1784 Kreutzer performed his own First Violin Concerto at the Concert Spirituel. In 1788 he married Adélaïde-Charlotte Foucard, which provided financial security as the marriage involved a contract that gave him, in advance, an inheritance of 250,000 livres. His wife was the daughter of the valet de chambre of the Comte d’Artois, brother of the King and later King himself. By 1789 he was a leading virtuoso and moved from Versailles, where he was born, to Paris. He became one of the first professors of the Paris Conservatoire in 1795, and taught there for 30 years. In 1798 in Vienna, he met Beethoven who admired his playing above that of any other virtuoso, declaring, “I prefer his modesty and natural behavior to all the exterior without any interior, which is characteristic of most virtuosos.” Without Kreutzer’s knowledge, Beethoven dedicated to him his Op. 47 Sonata—now known as the “Kreutzer” Sonata—but he never played the work in public. Kreutzer also held solo violin positions at the Théâtre-Italien and the Paris Opéra and later was chamber musician to Napoleon and to Louis XVIII. However, his career as a soloist was cut short by a carriage accident that broke his arm in 1810. Together with violinists Pierre Baillot and Pierre Rode, they wrote Méthode du violon and formed the founding trinity of the French violin school—marked by brilliance of style, objectivity of approach, and lack of emphasis on expansive lyricism. Even more significant is Kreutzer’s 40 Études ou caprices. These studies are his most important musical contribution and are by far the most influential in violin history; they have never been out of print since their first publication in 1796—nearly every violinist has studied them. His oeuvre comprises about 40 operas, several ballets, 19 violin concerti, and many chamber works. He died in Geneva.
George BRIDGETOWER “Henry: a ballad” ▪ circa 1812
The anonymous song comprises 3 melodically strophic verses and a through-composed keyboard accompaniment with colorful flourishes. Published in London, the dedication is to “Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales” who was Charlotte Augusta, age 16 at the time. It was first performed by the “brilliant soprano” Elizabeth Feron. “Helen” is one of only two confirmed extant works by Bridgetower, the other being a set of piano exercises.
George Polgreen Bridgetower was the charismatic virtuoso violinist who gave the first performance of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata. A polyglot as well, he was fluent in English, German, French, Italian, and Polish. Bridgetower was born in Poland in 1778 to a West Indian or Barbadian father and German mother, who served in the court of Prince Radziwill and then in the household of Prince Esterházy—in a castle with its own opera house and puppet theatre, and where Haydn was in charge of the music. At the age of 10 he performed a concerto by Giovanni Giornovichi at the Concert Spirituel; a year later he began to tour Europe as a violin prodigy, and was marketed as the son of an “African Prince.” After his London debut, Bridgetower attracted the patronage of the Prince of Wales (later George IV), who funded his academic and musical education. He played over 50 concerts in famous London theaters—Drury Lane, Haymarket, and Covent Garden. At a concert in Bath in 1789, he was said to have been dressed in “Turkish attire.” In 1791 he played first violin in the orchestra of Salomon’s concerts—Haydn’s new London symphonies as well as concertos. Bridgetower’s meeting and falling out with Beethoven occurred in 1803. In 1807 he was elected into the Royal Society of Musicians, where he performed with the Royal Philharmonic Society Orchestra; King George III attended one of the concerts. After composing an anthem for choir and orchestra, he was awarded an honorary degree by Cambridge University in 1811. Little is known about Bridgetower’s later years—only that he lived in a home for the poor and was ill, suffering with very painful arthritis in his fingers. He died almost unknown in Peckham, South London in 1860, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. The journal Le Mercure de France wrote, “His talent is one of the best replies one can give to philosophers who wish to deprive people of his nation and color of the opportunity to distinguish themselves in the arts.”
BEETHOVEN Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major “Kreutzer” Op. 47 ▪ 1803
The Sonata was originally composed for the prodigy George Bridgetower, known as the “African Prince” in London. In 1803 he met Beethoven in Vienna. Impressed with the virtuoso, Beethoven wrote the Sonata with Bridgetower’s artistry in mind. Both the composition and arrangements for the premiere on 24 May 1803 were done in great haste: Beethoven supposedly completed the piece at 4:30 AM, before the sun rose the morning of the premiere, but the copyist failed to complete the solo violin part in time for the most unusual early concert time of 8 AM. This meant that Bridgetower had to sightread most of the piece, and was forced to read the second movement of the score by looking over Beethoven’s shoulder at the piano! Nonetheless the premiere was a success, but their friendship was soon ruptured when Beethoven was offended by an unflattering remark that Bridgetower made about a woman Beethoven respected. Hence the dedication to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer shortly before its publication in 1805. Kreutzer abhorred Beethoven’s music, declared the Sonata “outrageously unintelligible,” and never performed it. Bridgetower, although embittered by the rededication, kept Beethoven’s gift of a tuning fork, now preserved in the British Library.
|October 30 Two Titans
MOZART Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in G minor K.404a ▪ 1782
On 10 April 1782, Mozart had written to his father, informing him that “Every Sunday at 12 o’clock I go to Baron van Swieten’s and nothing is played there but Bach and Handel. I am making a collection of Bach fugues—not only those of Sebastian, but also of Emanuel and Friedmann Bach.” The eminent musicologist Alfred Einstein declared that “Bach is the important event in Mozart’s life about 1782.” Bach’s music was unknown in Vienna at the time, but it was the King who directed van Swieten’s attention to Bach—the aristocrat served as Austrian envoy to the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin from 1770 to 1777, and is known to have brought back a number of Bach manuscripts to Vienna. “For Mozart the encounter with these compositions resulted in a revolution…in his creative activity…. Van Swieten induced Mozart to apply himself thoroughly to the music of Sebastian Bach. For his patron’s string trio he first arranged three fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier…[and] provided preludes in slow tempo….”
MOZART Piano Quintet in Eb K. 452 ▪ 1784
He added, in the same letter, “I wish you could have heard it, and how beautifully it was performed. To tell the truth, I grew tired from the mere playing at the end, and it reflects no small credit on me that my audience did not in any degree share my fatigue.” Mozart completed the work on 30 March 1784 and performed the glorious quintet two nights later at the Imperial National Court Theater in Vienna. In the view of John Burk, historian of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, “The magic lies in the extraordinarily perceptive mating of the instruments. As a concertante group from which individual voices emerge and combine, the score becomes one of the special jewels of the music for wind instruments, to be placed beside the ‘Gran partita’ (K. 361).” It also inspired Beethoven to write his Quintet for piano and winds.
BACH Goldberg Variations BWV 988 ▪ published in 1741
Long regarded as the most important set of Baroque variations, it was praised in 1774 as “the best variations” by one of Bach’s pupils, Johann Philipp Kirnberger, and in 1802 as “the model according to which all variations should be made” by Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Bach’s first biographer.
The Variations were named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who was 13 at the time of its composition. The little boy was already an exceptional and virtuosic keyboard player by the age of 10. He was a student of Bach’s son, Wilhelm Friedemann, in Dresden, and also studied with J. S. Bach in Leipzig.
Sitkovetsky—the Soviet-born violinist, composer, and arranger—has been called a renaissance man and a magnetic creative force. His arrangement of the Bach Variations was made to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, while under the spell of Glenn Gould’s revelatory 1981 recording of the keyboard original. It was dedicated to the memory of the eccentric pianist. Sitkovetsky described his work on the arrangement as “a labour of love.” The New York Times called it “robust, joyous and full of insight.” To date, he has made over 60 transcriptions, and said, “I love transcribing; that’s really my hobby.”
|November 13 Country Rambles
Ottorino RESPIGHI “Pastorale” ▪ 1908
A native of Bologna, Respighi (1879–1936) studied at the city’s Liceo Musicale—composition under Giuseppe Martucci and historical studies with the eminent early music scholar Luigi Torchi. In 1900, he studied composition for five months with Rimsky-Korsakov, while he was employed as first violinist in the orchestra of the Russian Imperial Theatre in Saint Petersburg during its season of Italian opera. From around 1906, Respighi made many arrangements and transcriptions of sonatas by 17th and 18th century composers, including Tartini. Most are for violin and piano, but his “Pastorale” was later transcribed for violin and orchestra in 1908. His lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov were a crucial influence on his orchestration.
Tartini, born in 1692 in Pirano on the Istrian peninsula (now Slovenia), was an Italian violinist, composer, and theorist who helped establish the modern style of violin bowing and formulated principles of musical ornamentation and harmony. Among his numerous compositions are many sonatas and concertos for the violin, written in a style characterized by Paul Brainard as “a peculiar blend of lyricism, pathos and virtuosity, its violinistically conceived mannerisms, frequent echo effects, occasional cadence formulae are not mistakable for the work of any other composer [New Grove Dictionary].” He studied at the University of Padua, and spent a good part of his life and work in Padua, dying there in 1770.
Antonín DVOŘÁK “Silent Woods” Op. 68 No. 5 ▪ 1883/1891
Initially for piano 4-hands, Dvořák arranged the 5th part of the cycle in two days during the Christmas holidays of 1891—he needed more pieces for a concert tour, in Bohemia and Moravia in early 1892, with violinist Ferdinand Lachner and cellist Hanus Wuhan. The tour was a farewell gesture before his departure to take up the appointment as Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. The original Czech title was “Klid,” meaning peace, serenity, calm; the published title in German is “Waldesruhe.” It was first performed in Prague on 24 March 1892. At the instigation of his publisher Simrock, Dvořák had settled on writing the cycle inspired by Šumava, a mountain range and forest in South Bohemia, which he occasionally liked to visit in the company of friends.
Stephen HELLER Dans les bois “In the Woods” Op. 136 No. 1 ▪ 1873
Heller was born in Pest in 1815 to parents of Jewish descent. He first studied with a regimental bandsman and then with Franz Brauer, with whom he played Dussek’s Concerto for 2 pianos at the Pest Theatre at the age of 9. After further studies in composition with “Cibulka” he was sent to Vienna to study with Carl Czerny, but soon could not afford the celebrated teacher’s high fees and became instead a pupil of Anton Halm (the recipient of a lock hair from Beethoven—it sold for £12,000 at auction in 2019). Through Halm, Heller met Schubert and Beethoven. In 1828 he made his debut, and its success prompted his father to arrange a concert tour through Hungary, Transylvania, Poland, and Germany. The 2-year tour ended in Augsburg with his collapse from nervous exhaustion. An intended stay of a few weeks for recovery turned into 8 years. In Augsburg, Heller composed with the encouragement and patronage of a count. He submitted some compositions to Schumann who reviewed them enthusiastically. Consequently, he became one of the favorites in Schumann’s “Davidsbünd” (his imaginary society of artists) and was invited to serve as the Ausburg correspondent of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. In 1838 Heller moved to Paris, where he remained till his death in 1888. Here, Heller eventually achieved distinction as a concert pianist and teacher. In 1849, and again in 1862, he visited London. On his second visit, he played Mozart’s Eb concerto for two pianos with Charles Hallé at the Crystal Palace. When his sight began to fail in 1883, it was his loyal friend Hallé, together with Robert Browning and Lord Leighton, who formed a trust fund for him. Berlioz was also one of his closest friends and staunchest supporters. Heller’s numerous compositions, all for solo piano, are in the transitional period between late German Romanticism and French Impressionism. They “are celebrated for their originality, grace, and elegance. …Heller was considered superior even to Mendelssohn; and his poetry of sentiment, pure and rich melody, and fertility of rhythmical invention place him among the very first composers of his genre [The Jewish Encyclopedia].”
LISZT Tristia ▪ 1880
The arrangement from the original for solo piano was by Liszt’s pupil, Edward Lassen (later conductor and composer), with edits by Liszt, and apparently Camille Saint-Saëns had a hand in it as well. Tristia depicts the emotions of Obermann, the hero of Étienne Pivert de Senancour’s epistolary novel written in 1804—disheartened by his misfortunes, Obermann had withdrawn to the country to seek solace. La Vallée d’Obermann is the sixth and longest in a piano cycle of 9 pieces inspired by Swiss scenes—Première année: Suisse (First Year: Switzerland), published in 1855, which draws on works from his earlier Album d’un Voyageur (published circa 1842). The Swiss set is the first of three suites.
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major “Pastoral” Op. 68 ▪ 1825
The alternate title—“Pastoral Symphony, or Recollections of Country Life”—is a declaration of Beethoven’s intent that the listener experience nature through the music. His affinity for nature and his love for walks through the country outside Vienna were captured in the Sixth, as well as in the notes scribbled on sketches of the Symphony.
Fischer (1773–1829) was a student of Johann Kittel (Bach’s favorite pupil) at Erfurt, and worked all his life there as a well-known organist in the two leading Protestant churches and as a teacher. As a composer, he wrote numerous works, including a large number of organ pieces, some fugues, 2 symphonies, choral works, and a chorale collection (1821).
|November 20 Mendelssohn & Friends
Niels GADE Fantasiestücke Op. 43 ▪ 1864
Gade (1817–1890) was the most important musical figure in Danish music and a major influence in Scandinavia. He was Mendelssohn’s friend and succeeded him in 1847, upon his death, as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. And it was Mendelssohn who enthusiastically performed his First Symphony in 1843 with great success. When the war between Prussia and Denmark erupted, Gade returned to Copenhagen, and in the fall of 1850 he was appointed conductor of the Musical Society, which had been languishing. Under his leadership, the Society began to flourish again. In addition, he established a permanent orchestra and choir. In regard to his compositions, Bo Marschner in the New Grove Dictionary concluded, “More than anything else…it was Gade’s individual combining of characteristic elements in contemporary music that effected his great influence on Danish musical life until the 1880s: the German Romantic musical language generally associated with Leipzig and the names of Mendelssohn and Schumann, and a certain Scandinavian coloring. The latter is not as prominent in the later compositions, as his music underwent a refining process through the influence of the Leipzig musical climate.”
Johannes VERHULST String Quartet No. 1 in D minor Op. 6 ▪ 1839
Verhulst (1816–1891) achieved fame in Holland, attested by his musical appointments in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Born in The Hague, he studied music theory and violin at the city’s Royal School of Music. In 1836 he met Mendelssohn, then studied with him in Leipzig in 1838, upon receiving a grant. During this time he met Schumann at his teacher’s house, and they became lifelong friends, going on walks and dining at Schumann’s table with musicians like Ferdinand Hiller, Ferdinand David, Ignaz Moscheles, and Moritz Hauptmann. Verhulst sang songs that Schumann had just composed and they played piano 4-hands together. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of Schumann and was responsible for the latter’s success in Holland. His music is influenced by Schumann and Mendelssohn.
Fanny HENSEL 4 Lieder for Piano Op. 6 ▪ between circa 1840 and 1846
No. 1—a seductive nocturne-like song
Fanny Hensel, the sister of Felix Mendelssohn, took an extended holiday in 1839–1840 with her husband Wilhelm and their young son Sebastian. Their travels included lengthy stays in Venice, Rome, and Naples, during which Fanny wrote several pieces for voice and solo piano. After returning to Berlin, the Hensels compiled a Reise-Album—a “Travel Album” comprising Fanny’s Italian compositions written on colored paper, with vignettes drawn by Wilhelm, a court painter. It was intended as a private keepsake, a souvenir of the treasured memories of their Italian trips. Fanny’s final works for piano—Vier Lieder Op. 6—include her favorites, 2 of which were conceived in Italy. The set was published in June 1847, just weeks after her death from a stroke at age 41. The entry for 7 February 1847 in her Tagebücher (diary) reveals much satisfaction: “I cannot deny that my pleasure I take in the publication of my music, also adds to my high spirits…and it is enticing to have this manner of success begin at an age when such pleasures, for women who experience them at all, are usually at an end.” Any aspirations she once had to pursue a career as a performer and composer like that of her brother were dashed as unacceptable for women. Her father Abraham’s letter of 1820 had even stated, “for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the basis of your being and doing.” Having a handful of her works published fulfilled her lifelong dream of being considered a serious composer.
MENDELSSOHN Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor Op. 49 ▪ 1839
Lyrical and driven, it premiered on 1 February 1840 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with violinist Ferdinand David, cellist Franz Karl Witmann, and Mendelssohn at the piano. Program annotator James Keller deemed the Trio “as great a masterpiece as Schumann proclaimed it to be. It offers abundant, arching melodies of Italianate, bel canto inspiration, proclaimed with luxuriant sonorities, often introduced in the tenorial tones of the cello. The minor mode provides a sense of depth that can be useful reigning in Mendelssohn’s native exuberance.… As one might expect, the piano part is brilliant.… After the premiere, Mendelssohn revised the piano part somewhat, incorporating certain new keyboard tricks associated with Chopin and Liszt.”
|December 4 Swiss Ties
Ferruccio BUSONI String Quartet No. 2 in D minor Op. 26 ▪ 1887
In the opinion of Gramophone, “It is a work full of continuous change and diverting surprise, so packed with resource that you once or twice think that Busoni is showing off, until you reflect that any 21-year-old with gifts like these may be permitted to show off a little. And very often his surprises are quiet ones, in any case, not flashy at all: the gentle shadows that fall across the rather Dvorakian slow movement; the hushed lyrical idea that several times fades to silence between the finale’s athletic bursts of counterpoint…it is a quartet of real stature whose neglect until now is inexplicable.”
Born in Empoli (near Florence) in 1866, the son of an Italian clarinetist and a pianist of German descent, Busoni was first taught by his mother, then completed his studies at the Vienna Conservatory and with Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. He had met Brahms and Anton Rubinstein at age 9, and upon the urging of Brahms in 1886, Busoni moved to Leipzig, where he also met Tchaikovsky, who took a keen interest in him. When he won the first Rubinstein competition, Tchaikovsky described the 24-year-old laureate as “remarkably interesting” and with a “brilliant mind,” who “will soon be talked about….” The second of his two important string quartets was written largely in his last year in Leipzig. He then taught in Helsinki, Moscow, and New York. In 1894 he lived in Berlin until his death, except for the years during World War I, when he sought refuge in Zurich, Switzerland. The Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig (inspiration for the film The Grand Budapest Hotel) observed that Busoni in Zurich was “shadowed by sadness,” haunted that his scattered students might be “shooting at each other right now.” Among his pupils was Kurt Weill who called him a “spiritual European of the future” and wrote after his death, “We did not lose a human being, but a value.” While best known in his day as a pianist of brilliance and intellectual power and an arranger of Bach and Liszt, he also composed and was the author of profound theoretical writings. As Helmut Wirth in the New Grove Dictionary summarized, “Always an artist in quest, Busoni saw it as the goal of his creative life to find his ‘own individual soul’. He was also a ‘worshipper of form’; for, despite all temptations and although German by choice, he ‘remained abundantly Latin.’” He is today regarded as one of the most interesting figures in the history of 20th century music.
Paul JUON Divertimento for Piano and Wind Quintet Op. 51 ▪ 1913
Juon (1872–1940) was a Muscovite, the grandson of a Swiss émigré. He studied composition with Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky at the Imperial Conservatory. Among his classmates were Nikolai Medtner and Rachmaninoff, who nicknamed him “The Russian Brahms.” He then went to Berlin for advanced studies with Woldemar Bargiel (half-brother of Clara Schumann) at the Hochschule für Musik, where he won the Mendelssohn Prize. Juon returned to Russia for a year to teach at the Baku Conservatory, then settled in Berlin in 1897, where he worked as a composer, arranger, and theoretician. In 1906 Joseph Joachim invited him to join the faculty at the Hochschule; he was named professor of composition in 1911. In 1934, ill health led him to retire to Vevey, Switzerland, where he lived out his life. His music was frequently performed throughout Europe during his lifetime; his output exceeded 100 works.
Joachim RAFF Grand Quintuor in A minor Op. 107 ▪ 1862
In the 1860s, Raff mostly wrote chamber music. He considered the Grand Quintuor as one of his most important works. While working on the piece, he wrote to his wife, “I can say that my compositional powers are growing all the time I am working on it—and they need to as well; you see, it’s more difficult than a symphony or a string quartet and I can quite see why even Beethoven didn’t attempt one and why there hasn’t been another one since Schumann’s only Piano Quintet.” The Grand Quintuor premiered on 22 March 1865 in Bremen.
Joseph Joachim Raff (1822–1882) was born in Lachen, on Lake Zurich. The first half of his life was afflicted by poverty and obscurity. His family was poor but his father gave him a basic education, furthered by studies at the Jesuit Seminary in Schwyz where he won prizes in German, Latin, and mathematics. While he struggled to make a living, his piano pieces opp. 2–6 were printed in Leipzig in 1844 at the recommendation of Mendelssohn who wrote, “The composition is elegant and faultless throughout and in the most modern style.” In 1845, Raff got a significant break when he made a pilgrimage to hear his idol Liszt perform in Basle, about 50 miles away. As recounted by music critic Mark Thomas, Raff could not afford the fare and “walked there from Zürich through driving rain. He arrived just as the concert was about to begin to find that all the tickets were sold. Luckily Liszt’s secretary Belloni noticed the dejected, disappointed Raff and told Liszt, who decided not only that Raff should be admitted, but insisted that he should sit on the stage with him amidst a widening pool of water from his wet clothes. ‘I sat there like a running fountain,’ Raff wrote later ‘oblivious to everything but my good fortune in seeing and hearing Liszt.’ Raff benefited from Liszt’s legendary generosity. His new mentor took him with him on the remainder of his tour through southern Germany and the Rhineland with Raff making the concert arrangements. When the tour ended, Liszt found Raff a job in Cologne.” Although he encountered other obstacles, opportunities arose as well, including a lifelong friendship with Hans von Bülow and a job in Hamburg (through Liszt) making arrangements for Shuberth, the music publisher. And from 1850, for almost 7 years, he slaved away for Liszt as his assistant and secretary.
After he freed himself from Liszt’s overbearance in 1856, the second half of Raff’s life was blessed with growing fame and public and critical recognition. He married Doris Genast in 1859 and became extremely productive as a composer in almost every genre. He also became highly esteemed as a teacher and administrator—as director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, a post he held until his death. He was as progressive an educator as he was a composer. He quickly persuaded Clara Schumann to teach piano, the only woman on the faculty; and soon found others to join her. He even oversaw the creation of a class for women composers—the first of its kind in Germany. In his day, Raff was regarded by his contemporaries as the peer of Brahms and Wagner.
|December 18 Romantic Beauties
Ferdinand DAVID Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Franz Schubert Op. 8 ▪ 1838
David (1810–1873) was a celebrated violinist who was born in Hamburg and studied with Louis Spohr in Kassel from 1823 to 1825. Moscheles wrote of him: “This worthy pupil of Spohr played his master’s music in a grand and noble style, his own bravuras with faultless power of execution, and his quartet playing at the soirées of Mori and Blagrove delighted everyone with any genuine artistic taste.” While working as a violinist at the Königstädter Theatre in Berlin in 1827 and 1828, he became friends with Mendelssohn. They frequently played in sonata and chamber concerts and gave regular quartet matinees. In 1836, David was appointed concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra (under Mendelssohn), a position he held till his sudden death from a heart attack in 1873 near Kloster, Switzerland, while on a mountain tour with his children. When the Leipzig Conservatory opened in 1843, David headed the violin department; Joseph Joachim was among his first pupils. In 1845 he performed the premiere of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Mendelssohn’s death in 1847 was a terrible blow to David, who served as a pall-bearer at the funeral. Mendelssohn’s brother Paul entrusted him (along with Moscheles, Hauptmann, and Julius Rietz) to edit the manuscripts for publication. It was largely due to David’s influence that Leipzig remained the center of violin playing in Europe after the death of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Gade. He was also a prolific composer.
SCHUMANN Märchenbilder “Fairy Tale Pictures” Op.113 ▪ 1851
Märchenbilder was composed in March 1851 for Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski, concertmaster of the Düsseldorf Orchestra, who later wrote the first definitive biography of Schumann. This was during Schumann’s brief and relatively unhappy tenure as conductor at Düsseldorf, just three years before his mental collapse. Its premiere was described by Wasielewski: “After Schumann had written his Märchenbilder, which to my great pleasure, he dedicated to me, he had his wife play them through while I took the viola accompaniment. He then said with a smile: ‘Childish pranks! There’s not much to them.’ By this he merely meant to imply that the pieces belong to the genre of Kleinkunst [small art]. He made no objection when I called them delightful.” Hardly “childish pranks” at all, the character pieces explore musical colors through subtle interplay between the two instruments. Schumann gave no hint of which fairy tales he had in mind, allowing the listener to guess as the music progresses in 4 strikingly different moods from dreamy to spritely, and ending gently.
Hugo WOLF 7 Mörike Lieder ▪ 1888
The selection includes Selbstgeständnis (a wry bit of psychological insight in which a spoiled only child, now grown up, reflects on the doting mother’s love he received and the beatings he didn’t in a merry pseudo-folksong, tempered by Wagnerian chromaticism), Bei einer Trauung (the loveless arranged marriage of the aristocracy is mocked in this comically horrible union with a grotesque wedding scene); Storchenbotschaft (a comic nonsense ballad about “Stork Tidings”), Gebet (devout harmonies for a beautiful devotional song), Denk es, o Seele (depicting all living things flourishing atop the graves of the dead, whom they will inevitably join), Der Feuerreiter (among the most virtuosic songs ever written—the supernatural “fire-rider,” Mörike’s symbol for the spectral spirit of anarchy, rampages throughout the countryside, destroying the mills which grind grain to make life-sustaining bread), and Abschied (“Farewell” to critics, sent tumbling down the stairs).
Wolf (1860–1903)—born in the small town of Windischgraz in Austria (now Slovenia)—was expelled from the Vienna Conservatory for his outspoken criticism of his masters, after which he taught himself composition. Under the spell of Wagner, whom he idolized, Wolf became a representative of the New German School in lieder, adhering to the expressive, chromatic, and other dramatic innovations of Wagner. He also championed Liszt, Chopin, and Schubert, and became a strong opponent of Brahms and the old guard. His mercurial temperament made it impossible for him to hold a steady position, but he managed to work for most of the rest of his life as a critic and music teacher in Vienna. As a composer, Wolf reached new heights in lieder and is regarded as the greatest master, after Schubert, of the art form. Like Schubert, Wolf died at age 43, of syphilis, which he contracted in the late 1870s. And, like Schumann, he suffered from a bipolar disorder and died in an insane asylum after a drowning attempt; he also composed in manic bursts of radiance and inspiration between periods of devastating depression.
Most of Wolf’s nearly 300 art songs were written the few years between 1888 and 1892. The 53 Mörike Lieder mark the beginning of his prolific mature period, composed while staying at the vacation home of family friends, the Werners, outside of Vienna. He wrote several songs a day—songs of consistently genius quality, created spontaneously. Wolf was 28 years old at the time and in an adulterous affair with Melanie Köchert, the wife of one of his patrons. Melanie, his lover since 1884, visited him in the asylum until his death in 1903, and killed herself three years later.
BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 4 in A Major Anh.4/5 • before 1865
American musicologist Kai Christiansen, for one, casts doubt. He explained that Bücken had “received a number of manuscripts from the estate of Dr. Erich Preiger of Bonn including an unsigned piano trio in A major, its cover missing along with the composer’s name. Bücken strongly argued that this copy from the 1860s, was in fact an unpublished work by Brahms, a lost, early trio most likely dating from 1853–1856, possibly a companion to the first published trio in B major. Around this time, Brahms mentioned in a letter to Schumann that he had written several trios. Could this be one of those that escaped his otherwise methodical destruction of unpublished compositions?… Whoever wrote this trio in A major produced a masterful work very much in the style of Brahms and generally in the manner of the great romantic trios of the 19th century with passing evocations of Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann and even a prescient hint of Dvořák. All four movements are broad and substantial, full of lyrical inspiration, skillful part-writing, taut development, thematic variation and sophisticated rhythms. Wonderful music throughout…. It difficult to pin point the details, but, repeated listening occasionally suggests that this trio might not be by Brahms…that something is not quite ‘right’ here. If Brahms composed this trio around 1853, it would have been a very early work…he certainly didn’t edit or publish it: he wasn’t finished. Finally, this would simply be ‘new’ Brahms for us.… If Brahms didn’t compose this wonderful trio, we are left with a rich, accomplished and substantial chamber work by a completely unknown composer who clearly wielded sophisticated musical powers, a contemporary of the young Brahms. The thought of such a lost composer is possibly more bewitching than a lost early work from one we know so well.”
| January 8 Stars & Stripes
John Philip SOUSA Liberty Bell March ▪ 1893
“Sousa and George Frederick Hinton, one of the band’s managers, were in Chicago witnessing a spectacle called America when a backdrop, with a huge painting of the Liberty Bell, was lowered. Hinton suggested that ‘The Liberty Bell’ would be a good title for Sousa’s new march. By coincidence, the next morning Sousa received a letter from his wife in which she told how their son had marched in his first parade in Philadelphia—a parade honoring the return of the Liberty Bell, which had been on tour. The new march was then christened ‘The Liberty Bell.’ It was one of the first marches Sousa sold to the John Church Company and was the first composition to bring Sousa a substantial financial reward. According to a story told by the Sousa Band’s first soprano, Marcella Lindh, she contributed one of the themes for the march. Sousa had heard her whistling a catchy tune of her own and had asked her permission to incorporate it into one of his marches. Several years later she heard ‘The Liberty Bell’ march being performed by a band in Europe and recognized her own melody in the march [from Jens Nygaard’s inscribed copy of Paul Bierley’s Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog].”
Charles IVES String Quartet No. 1 ▪ 1896
The influences on Ives’s compositions included the brilliant quirks of his bandmaster father, George Ives, and the church music of his composition teacher at Yale University, Horatio Parker. In the words of music critic Herbert Glass, “Among George’s predilections was the positioning of bands at the four corners of a Danbury park and having them march, each playing a different tune, to a central point, creating the most delectable cacophony and initiating Charles’ lifelong love affair with polytonality. Additionally, Papa Ives would have Charles sing, from an early age, identical tunes in different keys, to George’s piano accompaniment. He also gave the boy a thorough grounding in keyboard technique, which culminated in his becoming organist of the Danbury Baptist Church at the age of 14…. His interest in Protestant hymn tunes deepened there, too, until they became an essential part of his compositional style, nowhere more so than in his First String Quartet. Variously subtitled ‘A Revival Service’ and ‘From the Salvation Army,’ the Quartet begins with a movement written as a fugal exercise in 1896 while he was a Yale undergraduate and pupil of Horatio Parker, a deeply conservative, German-trained composer, who must have found Ives quite a handful. On weekends, Ives served as organist at a church in New Haven, where the second, third, and fourth movements of the present quartet were performed as part of a service, and whose minister admired Ives’s experimentation as an organist and composer, saying, ‘My opinion is that God gets awfully tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.’
“Among the hymn tunes incorporated in the quartet are ‘From Greenland’s Icy Mountains’ and ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,’ which dominate the majestic first movement, the most formal portion of the work…. In the lively second movement, Ives prominently uses the hymns ‘Beulah Land’ and ‘Shining Shore,’ with a snippet of ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’ for good measure. ‘Beulah Land’ returns in gentle conclusion, following a coda which gives us a little foretaste of the bad-boy harmonist Ives of later works. The meditative, lyrical third movement starts with a paraphrase of the hymn ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’…. The finale begins in lively fashion, quoting the hymns ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ and ‘Stand Up for Jesus.’ The contrasting lyrical section again quotes ‘Shining Shore,’ and for the movement’s climax, Ives superimposes ‘Shining Shore’ on ‘Stand Up for Jesus,’ each in different meter, creating the kind of chaos beloved of Ivesian fans and probably terrifying the congregation, before the triumphant, placating conclusion.”
Scott JOPLIN (1867–1917) “A Real Slow Drag” from Treemonisha ▪ 1911
“A Real Slow Drag”—a celebratory dance (and song)—captures Joplin’s unique style. He also provided choreography for the dance. The Slow Drag was first reported in New Orleans during the 1890s. As a social dance, it later became popular among the college set in the early 1900s and was considered a variation of the Two-Step. There is some evidence that the pre-tango danza was a strong influence in the original version.
Treemonisha is the only opera about the Reconstruction Era African-American experience, written by a black man who lived through it. The central character, the adopted daughter of former slaves Ned and Monisha, was named Treemonisha because she was found under a tree. Joplin’s score and libretto vividly portray the sounds of the “field hollers,” spirituals, fiddle tunes, revival hymns, and ancient African dances of his rural childhood, as well as the spoken dialects of his people. The opera “deals with the conflicts in African-American culture at the end of the 19th century—the desire to move into mainstream American society countered by the strange pull of the old African ways and superstitions. Treemonisha is kidnapped by the so-called ‘conjure men,’ but is rescued and returned home, where she becomes a leader among her community. The theme of the work—the importance of an education for both men and women—is powerfully set against music that borrows all of the elements of European opera and merges them with the unique rhythms of ragtime [Library of Congress].” Joplin was never able to raise the funds to produce Treemonisha, a factor that contributed to ill health at the end of his life. It was not staged until 1972, when it was presented under the auspices of Morehouse College in Atlanta, directed by Katherine Dunham and conducted by Robert Shaw. The orchestral score was reconstructed from Joplin’s self-published 1911 piano/vocal score.
Joplin’s original manuscripts were almost entirely destroyed in 1962. After Joplin’s widow’s death in 1953, the executor Wilbur Sweatman stored all the manuscripts until he died intestate in 1961. In the ensuing battle over Sweatman’s estate, the boxes containing Joplin’s manuscripts were lost. Sweatman’s sister had told the lawyer working on the court case to throw the boxes out after she had taken a few items. The lawyer, however, noticed 3 or 4 boxes with “Treemonisha” written on them. Intrigued by the word, he looked through the boxes and said he only found some dirty, water damaged pieces of manuscript paper, which he perceived as rubbish and took the boxes out to the trash.
For details on Joplin and Treemonisha see https://nwr-site-liner-notes.s3.amazonaws.com/80720.pdf
George GERSHWIN Porgy and Bess ▪ 1935
Porgy and Bess, a dramatic folk opera with a libretto by DuBose Heyward, is considered to be the first great American opera—the most famous and the most successful, and at times the most controversial. After its premiere at the Alvin Theatre in New York City on 10 October 1935, it received mixed reviews and limited success, running for only 124 performances (small for a Gershwin show on Broadway, and a money loser). Jazz fans were not smitten by the work’s serious tone and opera fans by its saucy voice. At the time, some African American observers felt that the work stereotyped their culture, but others were pleased at finally being portrayed in a serious stage work of operatic scope. In the end, through almost 9 decades, Gershwin’s quintessential masterpiece has endured and thrived, and still resonates with audiences of all backgrounds.
Holcombe, as a musician, has worked with the Tommy Dorsey Band, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at their New York radio station, WMGM. As a composer, he has written music for several film scores.
Thomas “Blind Tom” WIGGINS “Rêve Charmant” ▪ n.d.
“Rêve Charmant” offers but a glimpse of the musical mind of the phenom who was born into slavery, exploited and manipulated by his owners his entire life, even as he reached stardom in a career that spanned over 5 decades. Wiggins, born blind in 1849 near Columbus, began composing at the age of 5, his music echoing everyday sounds. His public performances began at age 8 and he became the highest paid pianist and entertainer in the 19th century, touring the United States and in Europe, earning up to $100,000 a year (pocketed by his owners and, later, guardians). He could play anything he heard, and had a memorized repertoire of over 7,000 pieces, from popular to Classical. He was the first African American artist to perform at the White House when he played for President James Buchanan at age 11 in 1860, the year his first compositions were published. During his first European tour he was praised by Ignaz Moscheles and Charles Hallé; and he caught the attention of Mark Twain, who was witness to his act three nights in a row. When Wiggins died from a stroke in Hoboken in 1908, he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Brooklyn. His flute, made by one of the finest flute makers of the late 19th century, William R. Meinell, is now in the Smithsonian.
Amy BEACH Piano Quintet in A minor ▪ 1907
The review was of its premiere performance at Potter Hall in Boston on 27 February 1908 with the Hoffmann Quartet and Beach at the piano. “The audience was unusually large, drawn by interest in Beach’s later work,” and the critics, “in an instance of unanimity, greeted the work as an important contribution to the literature.” Today, the Quintet is regarded as an impressive successor to its great 19th-century models, notably the Brahms Piano Quintet which Beach had performed in 1900. After her husband’s death in 1910, she frequently performed her Quintet, including on tour with the Kneisel Quartet in 1916–1917.
Amy Beach (1867–1944) was the first successful woman composer in America, the first woman American composer to write a symphony, and the most performed composer of her generation. Born in Henniker, New Hampshire, her name was registered as Amy Marcy Cheney. She studied with well-known piano teachers, but was self-taught in composition. Her parents allowed her to make her debut at age 16 and to solo with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at age 18, but they opposed a professional career. That same year, in 1885, she married Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a prominent physician 24 years her senior, and was known as Mrs. H.H.A. Beach, as it was the custom in her day to take on her husband’s name. He limited her performances to one a year but encouraged her to compose. After Dr. Beach’s death, she toured in Europe as Amy Beach to revive her concert career and promote her compositions. Returning triumphantly to Boston in 1914, she devoted herself to concert tours, composing, and championing women composers. When Beach died in 1944 in New York City, almost all of her 300-plus works in all genres had been published and performed.
|January 22 Molto Bello
Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI Sonate Notturne Op. 7 ▪ circa 1760
Casella was the most influential figure in Italian music between the two world wars. Born in Turin in 1883 and died in Rome in 1947, he was a composer, piano virtuoso, conductor, and teacher whose cosmopolitan outlook permeated 20th-century Italian music. In 1896, following the advice of Martucci, his parents sent him to study at the Conservatoire in Paris, where he lived for the next 19 years. By 1915 he realized that to fulfill himself properly he had to return to Italy to create there “an art which could be not only Italian but also European in its position in the general cultural picture.” He took the decisive step when he accepted the position of professor of piano at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. In 1917 he founded the National Society of Music, soon renamed the Italian Society of Modern Music, and he also helped to revive interest in early Italian music. In addition, he published valuable editions of the keyboard works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. He was a prolific composer whose styles were eclectic and evolving, and included nationalistic, avant-garde, and neoclassical music.
Sammartini—a leading figure in the development of the Classical style—lived all of his life in Milan from 1700 or 1701 to 1775. By 1726 he was called “very famous” and by the end of his life he was maestro di cappella of 11 churches. As Milan’s most famous and most active composer, he wrote and conducted music for religious and state occasions, and was the first to compose symphonies for concert performance. The English historian and musicologist Charles Burney complimented a symphony he heard as “excellent.” As an organist, Burney praised him for having “a way peculiar to himself of touching that instrument which was truly masterly and pleasing.” As a composer, Burney approved of the skillful composition of the orchestral portions of a mass and the beautiful adagio aria in the motet; but in the mass he criticized an “excessive number” of fast movements and the extremely active violins. He observed that despite Sammartini’s advance age “his fire and invention still remain in their utmost vigor.” Sammartini was a prolific composer of possibly some 2,000 works. It is impossible, however, to determine whether certain works were composed by him or by his brother Giuseppe, or by one of the numerous forgers who profited from the popularity of his genuine works. As his music became known outside of Italy, he attracted pupils to Milan, among them Christoph Gluck, who probably studied with him in 1737–1741. The New Grove Dictionary states that “Sammartini’s music played a fundamental role in the formation of the Classical style. He was one of the most advanced and experimental composers of the early Classical period, and the first great master of the symphony, preserving his individuality despite the rise of the Viennese and Mannheim school.”
Luigi BOCCHERINI String Trio in A Major Op. 47 No. 1 (G. 107) ▪ 1793
One of 6 highly inventive, elegant, and graceful string trios, they were sent to King Frederick William of Prussia, a cellist, as a gift to win his patronage. The chamber music genre was so popular at the time that composers such as Hadyn and Mozart also wrote string trios. Boccherini wrote over 70 of them, mostly for two violins and cello rather than the more usual combination of violin, viola, and cello. The Op. 47 trios are on a smaller scale, with 2 movements, and are now considered among the best from this period for string trio.
Boccherini—a virtuoso cellist and one of the most prolific Italian composers of the 18th century—came from a family of considerable artistic gifts in Lucca. His father Leopoldo was a cello or double bass player, his brother Giovan Gastone was a poet and dancer who wrote librettos for Salieri and Haydn, and his sister Maria Ester had a distinguished career in Vienna as a ballet dancer. He spent some time in Vienna and Paris, and from 1769 lived and worked in Spain for the rest of his life. In the 1770s he flourished under the patronage of Don Luis, the Spanish Infante. He died in 1805. As an accomplished cellist, Boccherini could play much of the violin repertoire on the cello at pitch, a skill he learned when he substituted for a sick or absent violinist in the court orchestra during his time in Vienna.
Luigi BASSI Gran Duetto Concertato dell’ opera La Sonnambula ▪ n.d.
Bassi depicts the story of La Sonnambula (written in 1831) with embellished imagination, flaunting the range and agility of the 2 clarinets—a sleepwalking Swiss village maiden named Amina becomes engaged to a rich young landowner, Elvino. Count Rodolfo visits the village and stays at the inn. Amina sleepwalks though his window and lies on his bed. Discovered by the villagers and her fiancé, she is accused of unfaithfulness. Elvino breaks off the engagement until the Count explains the nature of somnambulism. The sleeping Amina is absolved when she provides a perilous demonstration—walking across a dilapidated bridge over the millstream.
The Italian composer and clarinetist was born in Cremona in 1833 and studied with Benedetto Carulli at the Milan Conservatory from 1846 to 1853. Bassi then played in the La Scala orchestra and became its principal clarinetist. His compositions include 27 pieces for clarinet and 15 operatic fantasies for clarinet. The most popular of his fantasies are based on themes from Bellini’s I Puritani and his Fantasie brillante on Verdi’s Rigoletto. He died in Milan in 1871.
Opera fantasies sprung from the immense popularity of operas in the 19th century. They enabled instrumentalists to bring operatic music to the public outside of the opera house. The instrumental works were based on themes from operas (usually Italian) that were paraphrased or parodied, or in variation form, often in a virtuoso manner. The instrumentalists also improvised. The genre had already existed in Mozart’s time and Beethoven himself composed a few such works for various instruments. The clarinet, being a relatively new instrument in the 19th century, lacked a large repertoire for solo performances. Thus, the ensuing demand resulted in numerous opera fantasies being written, including by Benedetto Carulli, Luigi Bassi, and Ernesto Cavallini. There are literally hundreds of these clarinet works in existence today, but only a handful are performed.
Riccardo Eugenio DRIGO Meditazione ▪ circa 1900
Drigo, who was born and died in Padua, 1846–1930, was one of ballet’s greatest composers. During his career in Russia spanning more than forty years, he was appointed conductor of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre orchestra in 1879, and wrote music for original works and revivals of ballets. His most well-known adaptation is of Tchaikovsky’s score for Swan Lake, prepared for the important revival of the choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. He then became conductor and composer to the Imperial Ballet, a post he held till 1917. Drigo worked with most of the leading dancers and choreographers, and conducted the premieres of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, as well as Glazunov’s Raymonda.
Giuseppe MARTUCCI Piano Quintet in C Major Op. 45 ▪ 1877, revised 1892
Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music devotes 4 pages to the Piano Quintet, calling it expressive, ingenious, massive, poetic, and high art. The Chamber Music Journal asserts that it belongs in concert halls, describing it as an absolutely first rate work from start to finish.
The son of a bandmaster, Martucci (1856–1909) was born in Capua, and was first taught piano by his father. At age 11, he studied at the Naples Conservatory, but his father pulled him out of school in 1871 so that he could start concertizing. He won praise from Liszt and Anton Rubinstein in 1874, and toured outside of Italy in 1875, visiting London and Dublin. In 1880 he stopped touring as he was appointed professor of piano at the Naples Conservatory. He also became the conductor of the Naples Symphony Orchestra and later the director of the Liceo Musicale in Bologna. Championed by Toscanini, Martucci was perhaps the most significant representative of Italian instrumental music in the second half of the 19th century, and he revived Italy’s interest in non-operatic music. His compositions are said to unite romantic sonorities with Parnassian elegance, as can be heard in the Piano Quintet.
|February 5 Halevy’s Pupils
Fromental Halévy (1799–1862) was the French composer whose five-act opera La Juive “The Jewess” was, with Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, the prototype of early French grand opera. He began teaching harmony at the Paris Conservatoire in 1827, then advanced to professor of counterpoint and composition. Among his pupils were Charles Gounod, Adolphe Blanc, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Georges Bizet. He also became chorus master at the Opéra, a member of the Institute of France, secretary to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and a chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Henryk WIENIAWSKI Fantaisie brillante Op. 20 ▪ 1865
The Faust theme was very popular in the 19th century, and at the time of Wieniawski’s composition (6 years after the opera was first staged in Paris, and a year after a successful production in St. Petersburg) Faust was at the peak of its popularity. The fantasia genre also was particularly popular among 19th century composer-virtuosos such as Pablo de Sarasate, Niccolò Paganini, Henri Vieuxtemps, and Wieniawski—it was the ideal vehicle for flaunting their skills, especially since the violin was viewed as the “devil’s instrument.”
Wieniawski, a Polish composer and violin virtuoso, was born in Lublin, which in 1835 was part of the Russian Empire. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire from the age of 9, and became a concert violinist at age 13. In 1860 he was appointed violin soloist to the tsar of Russia, taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1862 to 1869, and toured the United States with Anton Rubinstein from 1872 to 1874. He later replaced Vieuxtemps as professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatoire. He died in Moscow in 1880.
Adolphe BLANC Septet in E Major Op. 40 ▪ 1860
Awarded the 1862 Chartier Chamber Music Prize by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Septet is written in Blanc’s refined, elegant style in the Romantic Viennese tradition of hausmusik, that is, for private performance.
Blanc (1828–1885) was born in Manosque, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, but lived and worked in Paris. At the age of 13 he was sent to study violin at the Paris Conservatoire, where Halévy was his professor. He was a violinist in the orchestra of the Concert Society of the Paris Conservatorium; and from 1855 to 1860, he was conductor at the Théâtre Lyrique under the inventive and strong directorship of Léon Caravalho. Blanc wrote mostly chamber music, a genre that was peripheral to the musical life of Paris, which was centered on opera at the time. He dedicated his 4 Piano Quartets Op. 28 to Rossini who, charmed by the young composer’s gift for melody, had sponsored his concert début in 1857. The maestro’s intuition was confirmed by the Chartier Prize 5 years later. Written with great clarity, Blanc’s chamber music appealed to the amateur musicians who frequented the large conservative salons in Paris. He also wrote 2 two operettas and a one-act comic opera, Les Deux Billets, which was performed in 1868.
Camille SAINT-SAËNS Piano Quartet in Bb Major Op. 41 ▪ 1875
The year 1875 marked several momentous occasions in the life of Saint-Saëns: his ill-fated marriage to Marie-Laure Truffot, the birth of his son André, the composition of his biblical poem Le Déluge and the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the first performance of his symphonic poem Danse macabre. During the third quarter of the 19th century, when the French only seemed interested in opera, Saint-Saëns, almost single-handedly, attempted to make the case for chamber music, which so many of his countrymen continued to disdain as too German.
Saint-Saëns was born in Paris in 1835. Although he was frail and tubercular as a child, he lived till the age of 86, when he died in Algiers. The child prodigy was first taught the piano at the age of two and a half years old by his mother’s aunt. Following studies with other teachers, he entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1848. After attending organ classes and winning a second prix in 1849 and a brilliant premier prix in 1851, he began formal composition studies with Halévy, a protégé of Cherubini.
|February 19 Born in Vienna
SCHUBERT Violin Sonata in A Major D. 574 ▪ 1817
As Michael Parloff put it, “The entire work is an unbroken stream of graceful, beautifully crafted melody, reflecting his quintessential genius for song” with “a final Allegro vivace...as a whirling Viennese waltz.” Schubert was Viennese through and through. He was born in Himmelpfortgrund, a district of Vienna, he lived much of his life in the city, and he died there. When he was away from Vienna, he would soon miss it. He would pine for his beloved Vienna and its life, his friends, the theaters, and cafes.
August Emil Daniel Ferdinand Wilhelmj (1845‒1908) was a German child prodigy who had a career as a violinist and teacher. When Liszt heard him play, he wrote a letter of recommendation to the violin virtuoso and composer Ferdinand David, declaring, “Let me present you the future Paganini.”
Alexander ZEMLINSKY Trio in D minor Op. 3 ▪ 1896
Written for a competition sponsored by the Viennese Society of Musicians, the Trio won 3rd prize and impressed Brahms, who recommended it to his publisher, Simrock. Zemlinsky became a close friend of Arnold Schoenberg in 1895, and in 1901 he had a relationship with his composition pupil, Alma Schindler, who later rejected him and married Gustav Mahler.
Zemlinsky was born in 1871 of mixed Slovakian-Catholic and Balkan-Sephardic parentage. He studied piano and composition at the Vienna Conservatory, graduating with distinction in both disciplines. Soon after, he became an active member of the Tonkünstlerverein, where he appeared frequently in concerts as a solo pianist, accompanist, and conductor. (The Tonkünstlerverein was renowned in Vienna for its outstanding performances of chamber music.) From 1894 to 1896 he also conducted Polyhymnia, a group of young professionals and amateurs who met just for the pleasure of making music. In 1895 Arnold Schoenberg joined Polyhymnia as a cellist. He and Zemlinsky became lifelong close friends, and for some years they cultivated an informal teacher-pupil relationship. Schoenberg also married Zemlinsky’s sister, Mathilde. In 1933, after an active career at the Vienna Volksoper, in Prague, and in Berlin, he was compelled to return to Vienna due to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. In 1938, after the Anschluss, he immigrated to the United States. He died of pneumonia in Larchmont in 1942.
For details on Zemlinsky and his importance see http://orelfoundation.org/composers/article/alexander_zemlinsky
Arnold SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht “Transfigured Night” Op. 4 ▪ 1899
The Tonkünstlerverein initially rejected Verklärte Nacht for a “compositional error”—a dominant ninth chord in the fourth inversion which he was told “does not exist.” Schoenberg was speechless with rage. When the string sextet was finally performed at the Tonkünstlerverein on 18 March 1902, Schoenberg reported that “it was hissed and caused riots and fist fights.” Schoenberg, like Zemlinsky, was born in Vienna and died in the United States (in Los Angeles).
Based on a mystical poem of Richard Dehmel, the programmatic music (originally for string sextet) captures the despair, angst, love, nobility, and radiance of the story of a couple in love walking through the woods on a moonlit night, the woman’s confession that she is bearing the child of another man she never loved, and the man’s acceptance of both the woman and unborn child as his own, transforming all from darkness to light. Schoenberg, however, wanted the music to be appreciated as his expression of nature and human emotion.
Steuermann’s close relationship with Schoenberg was ironclad—he played the premiere of every Schoenberg work with a piano part (except Op. 48), and was honored with the ISCM’s highest award—the Schoenberg Medal—in 1952. Born in Poland in 1892, he studied with Busoni in Berlin. “He was to have studied composition with [Engelbert] Humperdinck, but was so shocked when asked whether he wanted to compose in the Brahmsian or the Wagnerian manner that he never went back. Busoni, therefore, sent him to Schoenberg…. He was the pianist for the Society for Private Musical Performances, founded in 1918 by Schoenberg, and introduced works by Skryabin and much new French music to Vienna…. [He played piano 4-hands with Ravel and Rudolf Serkin in the 1920s, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1938.] He was an illuminating interpreter of the standard repertory, and his Beethoven recitals in New York in the early 1950s were, with their structural clarity and pianistic beauty, among the most remarkable events of that time [New Grove Dictionary].” Steuermann also was a composer, and he taught at Juilliard from 1952 till his death from leukemia in 1964. Among his pupils was Alfred Brendel.
|March 4 Baroque Bliss
Antonio VIVALDI Chamber Concerto in G minor RV 107 ▪ 1716
Although the title indicates a “Concerto,” the short work is chamber music written in his perfected concerto form, wherein the individual instruments move between roles, solo display, accompaniment, and the secondary melody.
Venice in the 18th century was a musical mecca, and its magnet was Vivaldi (1678–1741). His innovations were influential (extending to Bach and beyond) and left a distinctive mark on the form of the concerto and on the late Baroque instrumental style. Trained for the priesthood and ordained in 1703, Vivaldi soon abandoned his priestly duties that year to teach at and compose for the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for foundling girls. Founded in 1336, the Ospedale accepted unwanted babies born in and out of wedlock to both the poor and rich, provided the infant was small enough to fit in the scaffetta, a sort of revolving drawer that could be accessed from both sides of the stone wall. To this day, a marble plaque set in the wall of Santa Maria della Pietà (the church affiliated with the Ospedale) invokes the warning of Pope Paul III in 1548 of dire consequences for parents abandoning children there if they could afford to raise them. The most talented were trained as singers and instrumentalists who became members of its celebrated choir and orchestra. One visitor recounted, “They sing like angels, play the violin, the recorder, the organ, the oboe, the cello, the bassoon; in fact, there is no instrument large enough to frighten them.” Visitors from near and afar flocked to the Pietà’s spectacular weekend concerts, drawn by the music’s energy, passion, lyricism, instrumental color, and simple dramatic effects. A prolific composer, Vivaldi wrote with incredible speed, week after week, producing more than 500 concertos for various solo instruments. The 1720s were the zenith of his career, which declined in the 1730s. In 1740 he traveled to Vienna, but he fell ill and died—the simplicity of his funeral on 28 July 1741 suggests he was in considerable poverty. His huge collection of musical manuscripts, comprising mainly autograph scores of his own works, was bound into 27 large volumes. They were acquired first by the Venetian bibliophile Jacopo Soranzo and later by Count Giacomo Durazzo, Christoph Gluck’s patron. The sensational discovery of the scores in Turin in 1926 eventually led to the Vivaldi Renaissance. In 1939 Alfredo Casella, the unwavering advocate of Italian New Music, organized a Vivaldi Week to “document all aspects of the towering musical figure dubbed “prete rosso” (he had red hair). With the intervention of World War II, the Vivaldi Renaissance did not regain momentum until 1950.
Johann Friedrich FASCH Sonata in D minor FaWV N:d3 ▪ circa 1750
Descended from Lutheran cantors and theologians, Fasch (1688–1758) was a boy soprano at the court chapel of the Duke of Weissenfels. He then studied with Johann Kuhnau in Leipzig at the Thomasschule, where he became friends with Telemann. While attending the university (like Telemann, he was a law student) he founded a collegium musicum (as did Telemann). It survived until 1756, and counted Bach as one of its leaders. Fasch took a series of jobs; among them, violinist in the orchestra in Bayreuth in 1714, organist in Greiz, and Kapellmeister to Count Morzin in the Bohemian town of Lukavec, where its accomplished chapel orchestra was praised by Vivaldi. In 1722 he was appointed Kapellmeister of the court at Zerbst, a post he held till his death. In his 36 years there, Fasch composed church cantatas and festival music for the count. Although his fame and his music spread throughout Germany, none of his music was published during his lifetime and a large percentage of the sacred music is lost, but most of the instrumental music survives. Held in high regard by his contemporaries (Bach made manuscript copies of a number of his pieces), he is today considered an important link between the Baroque and Classical periods. Gottfried Küntzel in the New Grove Dictionary concluded, “It is unlikely that Fasch, in his innovations, was influenced by his contemporaries; nor are his own works, produced in the isolation of his lifelong position in Zerbst, likely to have influenced other composers. His works are important primarily for their originality, for the creation of a musical vocabulary strikingly similar to the coming Classical idiom of Haydn and Mozart.”
Antonio VIVALDI L’estro armonico RV 310 ▪ 1711
L’estro armonico “Harmonic Fancy” was dedicated to Ferdinando de’ Medici of Florence, one of the distinguished patrons of the Ospedale della Pietà. The concertos would almost certainly have been first played by the girls and by Vivaldi himself at the orphanage. Audiences heard music which broke an established pattern with unexpected twists and turns. Choral director Bruce Lamott described Vivaldi’s ritornellos as generating “a series of thematic modules which are extended, elaborated, contrasted, and reassembled by soloist and ensemble alike…. Vivaldi also keeps the listener in suspense as to his ultimate destination; although he clearly differentiates major and minor harmonies, he freely moves between them, and his goals—both harmonic and melodic—are refreshingly unpredictable.”
The concertos are arguably the most influential instrumental works of the 18th century, and even affected Bach, who was 28 at the time, working in Weimar as organist and chamber musician to Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar. Bach was assimilating works by Italian masters such as Vivaldi and Marcello, and took the irresistible liberty of utilizing their qualities for his own transcriptions of 6 of the L’estro armonico concertos—transforming them into compositions of greater complexity and depth with inventive harmonic configuration and florid embellishments. It was Bach’s interest in Vivaldi (in particular, in the L’estro armonico concertos) that helped spur the Vivaldi revival in the early 20th century.
BACH 3 Arias
The Bach cantatas may be regarded as sacred offerings in sound. Most of the church cantatas date from his first years as Cantor at Leipzig’s St Thomas Church (1723–1729) and director of church music in Leipzig. The 200 or so surviving sacred cantatas were written at the punishing rate of almost one a week, recycling existing pieces and creating new ones. While they relate to liturgical texts mainly reminding the congregation of their mortality and earthly failings, Bach also offered the faithful a musical foretaste of the comfort and joy of eternal salvation. His earliest cantata was written in 1707 when he moved to Mühlhausen, and the last in 1745. In addition, Bach composed 50 or more cantatas—sacred cantatas for functions like weddings or Ratswahl (the inauguration of a new town council), music for academic functions of the University of Leipzig at the Paulinerkirche, and secular cantatas for anniversaries and entertainment for the nobility and society, some of them Glückwunschkantaten (congratulatory cantatas) and Huldigungs kantaten (homage cantatas).
“Ruhet hie, matte Töne” (“Rest here, weary tones”) from the cantata O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit (“Oh blessed day, long-awaited time”) BWV 210 • between 1738 and 1741
~The wedding cantata was composed possibly for a prominent Leipzig family during Bach’s last decade of his life. The music was adapted from an earlier cantata, O angenehme Melodie, BWV 210a, which was written in 1729 as an homage to a visiting nobleman. The text is by an unknown poet. The beautiful aria for soprano, oboe, violin, and continuo reflects on weak tones not being the appropriate remedy for a happy marriage.
“Meine Seele sei vergnügt” (May my soul be content”) from the cantata Ich bin in mir Vergnücht (“On Contentment”) BWV 204 • c1727
~Bach wrote the “moral” cantata while at St. Thomas Church during his very busy years in Leipzig. The occasion for which it was composed is unclear; it was possibly for a performance within Bach’s inner circle of family and colleagues with only a quartet—soprano, flute, and continuo. The libretto is from a text by Christian Friedrich Hunold. The aria—that true peace and happiness can only be found within oneself—features richly embroidered melodic figuration for both soprano and flute.
“Jesus soll mein erstes Wort” (“Jesus shall be my first word”) from the cantata Gott, wie dein Name, so ist auch dein Ruhm (“God, as Your name is, so is also Your praise”) BWV 171 • 1729
~ Written for New Year’s Day and the Feast of the Circumcision, the aria was most likely first performed the 1st of January. The librettist Picander fashioned his text from Luke 2:21, which refers to the naming of Jesus when he was circumcised. The music was taken from the secular cantata from 1725, Der zufriedengestelite Äolus—the text about the gods of classical antiquity suited New Year’s Day just as well. The energetic, beautiful aria has a lovely violin obbligato and florid accompaniment.
Jean-Marie LECLAIR Sonata in E minor for 2 violins Op. 3 No. 5 • pub. 1730
Leclair (1697–1794)—celebrated as the “French Corelli”—was the first great violinist of the French school. One of 6 siblings born in Lyons, he spent his 20s in Turin, where he had a career as a violinist and dancer, and where he absorbed the Italian influence, fueled by the popularity of Arcangelo Corelli’s trio sonatas. He found an effective way to combine the French and Italian styles, making him one of the most sought-after composers and violinists of his time. His innovations were recognized and admired, with one contemporary commenting in the 1720s, “Leclair is the first, without imitating anything, to have created beauty [and] newness, which he can say is his own.” The results were an amalgam of faster, rhythmic, bowing with more legato and generally more reflective tempi, as well as double-stopping. After the death of his first wife and divorce from his second wife (she engraved and published all his compositions), Leclair moved to a less desirable part of Paris. There, he was stabbed to death outside his home. His nephew, wife, and gardener were suspects, but the case remains unsolved.
For a more detailed account of Leclair see https://outhere-music.com/en/albums/jean-marie-leclair-six-sonatas-two-violins-op-3
Salamone ROSSI Sonata quarta sopra l’arie di Ruggiero ▪ 1613
The Ruggiero is a melodic-harmonic scheme used for singing poetry, instrumental variations, and dances, popular in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. Poet-singers would improvise melodic embellishments to the accompaniment of an instrument, usually a lute or viola da braccio. The Sonata was published in Il terzo libro de varie sonata, sinfonie, gagliarde, brandi, e corrente.
The Italian-Jewish composer was a transitional figure between late Italian Renaissance and early Baroque, and was the first composer known to compose original music set to Hebrew words in the style of the music of his time, and not in the traditional style of Jewish liturgical music. His “most important achievement is his contribution to the transformation of the instrumental canzona, with its homogeneous texture, into the trio sonata, with its prominent equal upper parts and supporting bass [New Grove Dictionary].” Rossi, mostly likely born in Mantua, circa 1570, had strong connections with the Vincenzo Gonzaga court between 1587 and 1628. Serving first as violist and then as concertmaster, “he entertained the ducal family and their esteemed guests with fashionable music for banquets, wedding feasts, theater productions, and chapel services, among other events. He composed and published volumes of secular Italian canzonettas…and serious madrigals, and, as a pioneer in the development of the trio sonata and the violin, four books of instrumental music…as well as a volume of Jewish sacred music (1623), the first collection of originally composed music for Hebrew psalms and prayers [earlymusicseattle].” Grove adds, “It seems likely for a variety of reasons that his principal professional connections were with one of the Jewish theatrical troupes that played such a significant role in Mantuan theatrical life, not only in the ghetto but also in the Christian community and at court.” Although anti-Semitism was widespread in Europe, including on the Italian peninsula, during Rossi’s time, he was well regarded by Vincenzo and excused by a ducal decree in 1606 from wearing of the yellow badge imposed on the Jewish community. Regardless, Rossi and his sister, Madama Europa, a virtuoso singer at the court, likely died either in the 1630 invasion of Austrian Imperial troops, which defeated the Gonzagas and sacked and destroyed the Jewish ghetto in Mantua, or in the subsequent plague that ravaged the area.
Georg Philipp TELEMANN Sonata à 4 in D Major TWV 43:D7 ▪ circa 1720–1730
Essentially a concerto da camera—a type of concerto grosso (scaled down in this Sonata for 5 instruments) played at court—the oboe and flute/violin take the role of the ripieno strings, but with more prominence. The trumpet is silent in the third movement, a siciliano, as it is customary for brass instruments not to participate in slow movements.
If Vivaldi is brilliant and Bach profound, Telemann’s fecund imagination makes him unique among Baroque composers—his music is a bottomless pit of invention and delight. “A master of the principal styles of his time—German, Italian, and French—he could write with ease and fluency in any of them and often absorbed influences of Polish and English music. He composed equally as well for the church as for opera and concerts. His music was natural in melody, bold in harmonies, buoyant in rhythm, and beautifully orchestrated. Profound or witty, serious or light, it never lacked quality or variety” [Encyclopedia Brittanica].” Handel, his friend, would jokingly relate that Telemann “could write a church piece in eight parts with the same expedition another would write a letter.” Telemann (1681–1767) was largely self-taught in music. In 1701, at his mother’s insistence, he enrolled in the University of Leipzig as a law student, but soon realized that his passion was music. Within a year, he reorganized the collegium musicum (the student musical society) into an efficient amateur orchestra that gave public concerts, then a novelty. Telemann became not only the most prolific European composer of his time, he was also remarkably multi-talented. In addition to his long career as a composer, he was active as a music director of major courts and churches, and engraved and published his own music. And he traveled everywhere he could to learn about new music, even in his mid-80s—mostly in Germany, and a brief trip to France. He was also an avid gardener and exchanged bulbs and plants with the leading botanists of his time all across Europe. Telemann was the godfather of Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. He influenced a younger generation of galant composers such as C.P.E Bach, who would set the stage for the Classical period.
|March 18 Organ Virtuosos
Charles-Marie WIDOR Introduction and Rondo Op. 72 ▪ 1898
The Paris Conservatoire had asked Widor to compose a work for a solo de concours—a soloistic piece for competition.
Widor (1844–1937)—the preeminent organist in Paris at the turn of the 20th century and one of the most noted organ composers—was the son and grandson of organ builders. For 64 years he was the organist at Saint-Sulpice in Paris and he taught at the Conservatoire, succeeding César Franck as professor of organ in 1890 and Théodore Dubois as professor of composition in 1896. Among his organ pupils were Louis Vierne and Marcel Dupré, as well as Albert Schweizer, with whom he annotated an edition of the organ works of Bach. His composition pupils included Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud. While Widor’s oeuvre includes operas, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music, he is remembered mostly for his 10 symphonies for solo organ, a form he pioneered, and most especially for the ripping Toccata finale of his Organ Symphony No. 5.
Max REGER 3 Canons and Fugues in Old Style Op.131b ▪ 1914
In his life of only 43 years, Reger achieved prominence as a pianist, organist, conductor, teacher, and composer noted for his organ works. Born in Bavaria in 1873, his father made sure that Max learned to play the piano and string instruments. Together, they also rebuilt a scrapped school organ for use at home, and this was the instrument on which Reger first explored harmonic effects. He studied with Adalbert Lindner, the town organist of Weiden; and from 1890 to 1893, with Hugo Riemann in Sondershausen and Wiesbaden. About this time he became friends with Busoni, Eugen d’Albert, and Karl Straube, who was a devoted interpreter of his organ music. By 1901, despite strong opposition to his traditional methods from the Neudeutsche Schule, he established himself in Munich as a composer and pianist. Before long, he got tired of the bickering in Munich and accepted, in 1907, a post as professor of composition and director of music at Leipzig University, which brought him international renown. In 1911, Duke George II of Saxe-Meiningen appointed him conductor of the court orchestra at Meiningen. After returning from a tour in the Netherlands, he died from a heart attack at the hotel Hentschef in Leipzig in 1916. Reger’s prodigious output from his complex creative mind, produced in 26 years, is unparalleled among leading contemporaries. At once Baroque and Romantic, he was influenced by Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms most strongly; and Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Wagner impressed him as well. In turn, his music influenced Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Franz Schmidt, and Arnold Schoenberg. If you do not like Reger’s Duos, it’s best not to express your dissatisfaction at his grave. When he was once savaged by the Munich critic Rudolf Louis, he replied, “Sir, I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.”
Anton BRUCKNER String Quartet in C minor WAB 111 ▪ 1862
Impressed with Bruckner’s early works, Joseph Hellmesberger (director of the Vienna Conservatory and the first violinist of the influential Hellmesberger Quartet) asked Bruckner to write a string quartet. Such an invitation, with a premiere by the Hellmesberg Quartet, was quite an honor. The Quartet was discovered in a notebook only after his death, with an alternative concluding Rondo.
Bruckner (1824–1894), the Austrian composer known for his highly original and monumental symphonies, was trained as an organist and wrote sacred music. After his father’s death in 1837, he entered the St. Florian Monastery school as a choir boy, and in 1848 he became the principal organist of its abbey church. This stunning Baroque monastery, with its magnificent organ, was to remain Bruckner’s spiritual home, even when he won the post of cathedral organist in Linz in 1856. “Throughout his adult life Bruckner displayed an intense devotion to the spiritual life; an inexorable appetite for musical study, revision, and improvement; and a love of practice and improvisation at the organ [Encyclopedia Britannica].” In his mid-30s, Bruckner pursued studies in conducting, continued his lessons with Simon Sechter in advanced harmony and counterpoint, and was exposed to the music of Richard Wagner (he had previously been a devotee of Bach and to some extent the classical composers such as Mozart and Haydn). In 1862, at the age of 38, when he wrote his String Quartet in C minor, Bruckner was studying orchestration under Otto Kitzler. With the mastery of form and technique attained, it preceded his “Study Symphony” in F minor, completed the following year.
BACH Trio Sonata No. 6 in G Major BWV 530 ▪ circa 1727
The Trio Sonatas BWV 525–530 are masterpieces in their genre, and are considered to be among the most important and influential works of the Baroque era. The 2 solo voices and continuo are divided in 3 parts—the left hand, right hand, and pedal. Written in the Italian concerto grosso style, the two upper voices intertwine in intricate contrapuntal melodies, while the basso continuo provides harmonic support.
Most would agree that Johann Sebastian Bach is among the greatest of organ composers. In regard to Bartók, although his own musical language is remote from that of the 17th and early 18th centuries, he not only had an interest in early music, but was influenced by it. In 1926 and 1927 he made piano transcriptions of music for cembalo or organ by a number of these Renaissance and Baroque composers, including Girolamo Frescobaldi, Benedetto Marcello, Salamone Rossi, Domenico Zipoldi, and Bach.
Théodore DUBOIS Quintet in F Major ▪ published circa 1905
Born in the French town of Rosnay in 1837, Dubois became a composer, organist, and teacher, and was known for his influential theoretical works on harmony, counterpoint, and sight-reading. After early studies with the cathedral organist at Rheims, he studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where he won several prizes, culminating in the Prix de Rome in 1861. Among the many important positions he held during a long career was that of organist at the Chapelle des Invalides from 1855 to 1858; maître de chapelle at Sainte-Clotilde, succeeding Cèsar Franck in 1791; and maître organist of the Madeleine, then organist in 1877, succeeding Saint-Saëns. At the same time, he taught harmony and composition at the Conservatoire and became its director from 1896 to 1905. He was forced to retire early after a scandal erupted over the faculty’s attempt to rig the Prix de Rome competition to prevent the modernist, Maurice Ravel, from winning. Among his many students were Paul Dukas and Florent Schmitt. Dubois wrote a considerable amount of music in nearly every genre. Like Saint-Saëns, he wrote in the French Romantic tradition—characterized by fine melody, drama, and a refined sense of taste. He died in Paris in 1924.
| March 25 German Talent
SCHUMANN Fantasiestücke Op. 88 ▪ 1843
Schumann noted “its much more delicate...nature” when he wrote to his lifelong friend Johannes Verhulst, the Dutch composer and conductor. The Fantasy Pieces—his earliest in the piano trio genre—were written just after his happy marriage to Clara.
In 1844, Carl Reinecke met Schumann in person at a soirée of the Leipzig music publisher Friedrich Hofmeister. They became close friends and helped each other considerably. Not later than the 1840s, Reinecke promoted the distribution of Schumann’s works through his concerts and chamber music ensembles, and later in his position as Conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Schumann found in Reinecke a pianist who understood him musically, and interpreted and comprehended his works in the way Schumann had probably conceived them—he told him, in 1848, “this is because you understand me, like few others.” Schumann also appreciated Reinecke’s own compositions. When Reinecke moved to Cologne in 1851, he was able to meet Schumann in person more often due to the geographical proximity to Düsseldorf. Later, as director of the Gewandhaus, Reinecke presented the premieres of many works by Schumann. Furthermore, in 1878, Clara Schumann’s 50th anniversary as an artist was celebrated at the Gewandhaus with performances of Robert Schumann’s music. After Schumann’s death, Reinecke produced arrangements for four hands of Schumann’s Op. 22 Piano Sonata and Piano Quartet in Eb Major, and an orchestration of Pictures from the East, along with other arrangements and transcriptions. He is also the author of Memories of Robert Schumann.
Carl REINECKE String Quartet No. 3 in C Major Op. 132 ▪ 1874
In his very early years, Reinecke played first violin in his father’s string quartet and thus became acquainted with an extensive quartet repertoire. He was influenced by Mendelssohn and Schumann, as well as Brahms and Mozart, but by the time of his Third String Quartet, he was finding his own voice.
Reinecke (1824–1910) was among the most influential and versatile musicians of the 19th century. He was born near Hamburg in the town of Altona, then under the jurisdiction of Denmark (until 1864). Taught by his father Rudolf, a widely respected teacher and music theorist, he started composing at age 7, and at 11 he made his first public appearance as a pianist. He was also a top-notch orchestral violinist; and at age 18 he toured Sweden and Denmark as a pianist, being especially successful in Copenhagen. In 1846 he was appointed court pianist to the King of Denmark in Copenhagen, where he accompanied the violin virtuoso Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst and gave solo recitals. As a teacher of composition and piano he had few equals; and as the director of the Leipzig Conservatory, he transformed it into one of the most renowned in Europe. Among his many students were Grieg, Bruch, Janáček, Weingartner, Albeníz, Delius, Arthur Sullivan, and George Chadwick. As conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra he achieved a high level of virtuosity from his players. And not least, “As a composer Reinecke was best known for his numerous piano compositions, representing virtually every musical form of the time and stylistically nearer to Schumann than to Mendelssohn.... His chamber music is distinguished [New Grove Dictionary].” In 1871 the Musical Times expressed its preference of composers on a Mr Cohen’s Concerts of Modern Music at the Hanover Square Rooms in London: “Brahms and Reinecke are creative artists of whom we have a right to be proud, although the clear and musicianlike writing of the latter is in our judgement infinitely superior to the somewhat forced and exaggerated style of the former.” In addition, he was a gifted painter and poet.
Reinecke’s oeuvre comprised 288 opus numbers; and some of his 42 cadenzas for 19 piano concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Weber continue to be played (Bruno Walter chose Reinecke’s cadenza for his 1937 recording of Mozart’s D minor concerto K. 466). Reinecke is also the earliest-born musician ever to have made a recording of any kind. Between 1904 and 1907 he made some 27 piano rolls for Hupfeld (on their Triphonola label) and Welte-Mignon, 12 of which were of his own music. Two of these were piano pieces by Schumann, and 3 were duets with his wife. He subsequently made a further 14 rolls for Aeolian.
Carl Joseph BRAMBACH Piano Quartet No. 3 in G minor Op. 110 ▪ 1899
Carl Joseph Brambach lived most of his life in Bonn. He was born in 1833 in Oberdollendorf, a village directly across the Rhine River from Bonn. His father was his first music teacher, and by age 14, he played first violin at the Bonn Opera House. From 1851 to 1854 he studied as a private pupil of Ferdinand Hiller and Carl Reinecke at the Cologne Conservatory, where he won several awards for his chamber music and songs. He became a teacher in 1858, and in 1861 he was appointed Municipal Music Director of the City of Bonn, where he led performances of oratorios by Bach, Haydn, and Handel. From 1861 to 1869 he also conducted the Municipal Choral Society (now the Bonn Philharmonic Choir), and from 1862 to 1877 he led the men’s choir “Concordia.” From 1869 Brambach devoted himself to composing. His chamber music and songs were lauded and widely performed throughout Germany. Hans von Bülow praised, in particular, his Piano Concerto Op. 39. Clara Schumann was the dedicatee of his First Piano Quartet. His instrumental works have been described as post-Mendelssohnian in a rich, lyrical, cantabile, singing style. Brambach died at his home in Bonn in 1902; his funeral was accompanied by singers from all over Germany. A memorial was built above his grave at the Poppelsdorf Cemetery; it bears the inscription, “Dedicated to German Singers.” His obituaries also cted that he was one of the kindest and most unselfish men, whom no one will forget.
| April 8 Czech Specialities
Bedřich SMETANA Z domoviny “From the Homeland” JB 1:118 ▪ 1880
“They are genuinely national in character, but with my own melodies,” wrote the Czech composer of the showpieces, while living in pain and poverty. He was already deaf for two years and in failing health from advancing neurosyphilis, and subsisting on a meager and often delayed pension.
Bohuslav MARTINŮ Serenade H. 334 ▪ 1951
The Czech composer of Modern classical music was born and raised atop the bell tower of St. Jacob’s Church in the Czech-Moravian Highlands village of Polička, where his father was the fire watchman and tower keeper. There are 193 steps to the room of his birth where he lived till he was 11-and-a-half years old. It is said that for the first 6 years of his life he never came down to street level. No wonder, as he explained later in life, the objectivity of his music from this early experience was from the perspective of seeing people and places only from afar. From the age of 7 he attended school and took violin lessons with the local tailor, making rapid progress. In 1906 Martinů studied at the Prague Conservatory, but he was a hopeless pupil and was eventually dismissed in 1910 for “incorrigible negligence,” after which he continued to study on his own. He did, however, return to the Conservatory to study briefly with Josef Suk before going to Paris in 1923, living there until France capitulated to Nazi Germany in 1940, when he fled, first to the south of France and then to the United States in 1941, settling in New York with his French wife. He taught at Princeton University and also composition at Mannes College from 1948 to 1956, when he returned to Europe—to Paris, then Rome, and finally to Switzerland, where he died of stomach cancer in 1959.
Antonín DVOŘÁK Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor Op. 65 ▪ 1883
While the Trio reveals the influence of Brahms, Dvořák’s Bohemian soul is present nonetheless. The premiere was held on 27 October 1883 in Mladá Boleslav (a city north of Prague), performed by the composer himself, violinist Ferdinand Lachner (his companion on concert tours), and cellist Alois Neruda. Eduard Hanslick, the leading Austrian critic wrote in the Neue Freie Presse on 13 February 1884: “The most valuable gem brought to us amid the plethora of concerts in recent weeks is undeniably Dvořák’s new Piano Trio in F minor. It demonstrates that the composer finds himself at the pinnacle of his career.”
|April 15 Sinfonia Concertantes in chamber renderings
The symphonie concertante is defined by the New Grove Dictionary as a “concert genre of the late 18th and early 19th centuries for solo instruments—usually two, three or four, but on occasion as many as seven or even nine—with orchestra. The term implies ‘symphony with important and extended solo parts’, but the form is closer to concerto than symphony.” The earliest composers were from Mannheim and Paris, and the first symphonie concertante publishers were almost all French. The genre was popularized by composers such as Johann Christian Bach and the Mannheimer Carl Stamitz. In the 1780s Pleyel joined the crowded field, writing works in the genre, first for Paris and later for London.
As an appetizer to the 3 symphonies concertantes, a string quartet will play a quartetto concertante from the period contemporaneous with Haydn and Mozart.
Franz ASPLMAYR Quartetto concertante in D Major Op. 2 No. 2 ▪ 1769
Asplmayr, born in Linz in 1728 (4 years before Haydn) and died in Vienna in 1786 (5 years before Mozart), made significant contributions to the early Viennese instrumental style, and wrote the first melodrama in German—Pygmalion. He met Haydn in 1760 and Mozart in the 1780s. Asplmayr’s first job was as Secretarius to Count Morzin in 1759–1761 (the same time as Haydn’s service to Morzin). He later collaborated with the choreographer and dancer Noverre, and his successor Gasparo Angiolini. During the 1770s he wrote at least 10 major dramatic ballets, 9 of which survive; the most famous, Agamemnon vengé achieved international acclaim. He then wrote music for the theater, and played the violin at aristocratic gatherings. For a Christmas Day concert of Haydn quartets in 1781, he played second violin and received a lavish gift for his performance; Haydn’s gift was a gold box with diamonds! His works were known throughout Europe, and as a composer of Singspiels he ranks with early Haydn. Regrettably, his last years were financially tight. Asplmayr’s “chamber works mix elements of the Baroque and Classical styles and trace the gradual independence of chamber music from continuo practice…. Though conventional in melodic development and harmonic progression, it is consistently pleasant and charming” [Encyclopedia Britannica].”
HAYDN Sinfonia Concertante in Bb Major H. 1/105 • 1792
During the first of Haydn’s two visits to London, the symphonies concertantes of Ignaz Pleyel were amassing rave reviews, which prompted the impresario Johann Peter Salomon to ask Haydn to write one for his own subscription series. Not to be upstaged by his former pupil and the rival Professional Concert series, Haydn composed his Sinfonia Concertante between February and March 1792, and premiered it on 9 March with Salomon as the lead violinist. It was highly successful, and was not only encored the following week, it was performed again during Haydn’s second visit to London in 1794 with equal success. The Monday Herald commented, “The last performance at Salomon’s Concert deserves to be mentioned as one of the richest treats which the recent season has afforded. A new concertante from Haydn combined all the excellencies of music; it was profound, airy, affecting, and original, and the performance was in unison with the merit of the composition. Salomon particularly exerted himself…in doing justice to the music of his friend Haydn... The room had a very brilliant attendance.” Although Haydn had told Maria Anna von Genzinger in Vienna that “now a bloody harmonious war will commence between master and pupil,” before long he softened his tone, saying, “it seems to me that there will soon be an armistice, because my reputation is so firmly established. Pleyel behaved so modestly towards me on his arrival that he won my affection again.” Haydn and Pleyel remained friends.
MOZART Sinfonia Concertante in Eb Major K. 297b ▪ 1778
In presenting his view of the piece, Alfred Einstein wrote, “Now, this Sinfonia Concertante is not a symphony in which four wind instruments have prominent solo parts, nor is it quite a concerto for four wind instruments with orchestral accompaniment. It is between the two; it looks backward to the Salzburg Concertone of 1773, and forward to the Vienna Piano Quintet with winds of 1784. It is planned entirely for brilliance, breadth, and expansiveness….”
In 1778, Mozart was staying in Paris, where Joseph Legros, director of the Concert Spirituels had asked for a work for four of the leading wind players of the time. Mozart relayed to his father on 5 April, “I am about to compose a sinfonie concertante; flute, Wendling; oboe, Ramm; French horn, Punto; and bassoon, Ritter. Punto plays splendidly.” In another letter, he wrote that the 4 soloists were “in love with” the piece and that Legros had kept the score to have it copied. At the last minute, however, it was displaced from the concert program by one written by Giuseppe Cambini (he cranked out more than 80 symphonies concertantes with great rapidity). The Sinfonia Concertante was never performed and somehow got lost. Mozart suspected local intrigue. In 1869 Otto Jahn, who wrote the first scholarly biography of Mozart, obtained a copy of the score in an arrangement with the flute and oboe replaced by the oboe and clarinet; while never validated, it was published in 1886. To this day, there is no agreement as to the authenticity of the extant piece, which to the ears of almost all listeners sounds like Mozart.
Ludwig Wilhelm MAURER Sinfonia concertante for 4 violins in A Major Op. 55 ▪ 1838
Among his most successful works, the Concertante was first performed in Paris in 1838 by Maurer, Louis Spohr, Müller, and Wich; and it was often played in his lifetime by leading violinists, including Joseph Joachim. Even at age 13, Joachim’s prodigious talent was acknowledged by the greatest violinists of the day. On 25 November 1844, he played the Concertante with Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Antonio Bazzini, and Ferdinand David in a Gewandhaus concert in Leipzig for the benefit of the orchestra’s pension fund—the same work he had refused to play in London out of loyalty to Ernst. Alfred Dörffel, the German pianist and music publisher reported, “In the cadenzas, [Ernst and Bazzini] played out their highest trumps; but they were so charmingly and ingeniously out-conjured by Joachim, who had the third part, that Ernst involuntarily burst out with a loud ‘Bravo!’ and David, the fourth player, left out his cadenza completely. That was no doubt a unique occurrence.” This historic incident was not mentioned by the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, which reviewed the performance enthusiastically: “It would not be easy to find a performance by such excellent forces, executed with such perfection, as occurred this time. To see artists such as Ernst, Bazzini, David, and the talented young Joachim, united in one aim—to observe how one strove to surpass the other in tone and handling of the same instrument, and yet all subordinating their individuality to the total effect wherever there was an ensemble, provided a rare and great interest. The ensemble was indeed masterful; it was as if one instrument, one bowstroke set the full chords ringing, and with the alternate emergence of one or the other violinist, the innate individuality of tone and conception fascinated the listener no less than the consummate finish of the whole. Near the end, an elaborate cadenza, which afforded each violinist an opportunity to assert himself in his own way, incited the audience to stormy applause.”
Maurer (1789–1878), born in Potsdam, Germany, began his musical career as a violinist after studies with Karl Haack, Frederick the Great’s Konzertmeister. He left Germany for Russia in 1806 and worked in St. Petersburg and Moscow as a virtuoso violinist and conductor. He gave the Russian premiere of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and toured in Europe before returning to St. Peterburg in 1833, where he became director of the French opera and had various appointments that occupied his musical activities into old age. He composed a substantial body of work, including 4 operas, a symphony, 10 violin concerti and 6 string quartets. “Maurer’s violin style on the evidence of his compositions, was at times extremely virtuoso; although formed before Paganini, his technique included spiccato, multiple stopping and complex bowing [New Grove Dictionary].”
|April 29 Folk Roots
William Grant STILL Miniatures ▪ 1848
The unique suite of five miniatures is drawn from Afro, Anglo, Latino, and native musical styles, and was dedicated to the eminent conductor Sir John Barbirolli and his wife Lady Evelyn Barbirolli, as a souvenir of their visit to America. The movements are “I ride an old paint,” an American cowboy song; “Adolorido,” a Mexican folk song; “Jesus is a rock in the weary land,” an American spiritual; “Yaravi,” a Peruvian folk song; and “A frog went a-courtin’,” an American folk song.
Still (1895–1978) was the first Black American to have a symphony played by a leading orchestra, the first to conduct a major orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by an important company, and among the first to write for radio, film, and television. Born in Woodville, Mississippi, his father was the town bandmaster. After his death the family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he began studying the violin, and where he and Florence Price were classmates in elementary school. He enrolled at Wilberforce College intending to study medicine but left without graduating as he turned to music instead and was influenced by Coleridge-Taylor. He worked with various music groups, including W. C. Handy’s band in 1916. He then went to Oberlin Conservatory, where his teachers encouraged him to compose, but World War I interrupted his studies. After his service in the navy, he returned to Oberlin, then worked for Handy’s publishing company in New York, played the oboe in theater orchestras, studied on a scholarship with Edgard Varèse, and began to write large-scale works in the early 1920s. In 1923 George Chadwick urged him to write American music; one result was his Afro-American Symphony, which the Rochester Philharmonic performed in 1931. “Still became best known for his nationalist works, employing negro and other American folk idioms. After a period of avant-garde experiment he turned in a neoromantic direction, with graceful melodies supported by conventional harmonies, rhythms and timbres; his music has a freshness and individuality that have brought enthusiastic response [New Grove Dictionary].”
Florence PRICE Piano Quintet in A minor ▪ mid-1930s
In 1893, a year after arriving in the United States, Dvořák urged American composers to look to their own folk music for inspiration, advising through the New York Herald, “The future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.” Price was then only 6, but had already given her first public piano recital the year before. Her compositions, influenced by Dvořák, reveal that she followed his advice. The music publisher Barbara Garvey Jackson has said that Price’s “methods are actually quite close to Dvořák’s in the way she approaches the use of ethnic materials (both of the Old and the New Worlds).”
Price (1887–1953) was the first Black woman to have her work performed by major American orchestras. She was born into a middle class family in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was first taught music by her mother when white instructors refused to do so. Since women of color in the South were denied advanced training, after she completed high school in 1903 at age 16, her mother enrolled her at the New England Conservatory, where she studied the organ, piano, pedagogy, and other music disciplines (her composition teacher was the director George Chadwick). Having earned 2 artist diplomas, Price began her career as an instructor at segregated schools in Arkansas, then as head of the music department at Clark University in Atlanta until 1912. Returning to Little Rock, she managed a private piano studio, composed pedagogical music for children, married, and raised 2 daughters. However, in 1927, a brutal lynching and financial difficulties hastened the family’s move to Chicago. This move resulted in a burst of creativity, competition wins, and widespread recognition for her work beginning in the 1930s. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E minor in 1933, and collaborations with Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price followed.
Antonín DVOŘÁK String Quintet No. 2 in G Major Op. 77 ▪ 1875, revised 1888
Scored for string quartet and double bass, the luscious Quintet was written after he had rebuffed his youthful enthusiasm for Wagner and embraced Bohemian music. The masterwork won a prize at the Artistic Circle’s competition as well as lavish praise.
May 13 Russian Splendor
Theodor LESCHETIZKY Souvenir de Venise Op. 4 ▪ published 1851
Leschetizky (1830–1915) was the most influential piano teacher (along with Liszt) of his time. He studied with Carl Czerny (Beethoven’s pupil), and by age 14, he was already in great demand as a teacher. In 1852 he moved to St. Petersburg, where he soon attracted numerous students, and was invited to appear before the Tsar. He became a close friend of Anton Rubinstein, occasionally stepping in for him as teacher and conductor, and in 1862, at Rubinstein’s request he became director of piano studies at the Conservatory. In 1878 he returned to Vienna and private teaching. He also toured Russia, Poland, and Germany, and was regarded as one of the great pianists of the Romantic era; he had a formidable technique and an infallible ear. His teaching continued the school of Czerny, which he modified, stressing a thorough understanding of the music, absolutely sound technique, and, above all, beauty of tone. Among his most famous pupils were Paderewski, Artur Schnabel, and Ignaz Friedman. He had 4 wives (not at the same time).
Anton ARENSKY Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor Op. 73 ▪ 1905
A pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Arensky graduated with a gold medal in 1882. He then became one of the youngest professors ever to teach at the Moscow Conservatory—harmony and counterpoint. Among his pupils were Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. The move to Moscow brought him in close contact with Sergei Taneyev and Tchaikovsky, who gave him much practical encouragement. Both composers influenced Arensky’s compositions. One of his best-known pieces is the Variations for string orchestra on a theme from Tchaikovsky’s famous Legend; it is an arrangement of the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 2, which he dedicated to Tchaikovsky in his memory. His 6 Pieces Op. 5 were dedicated to Taneyev. Tchaikovsky’s correspondence also affirms the friendship of the 3 composers. A letter from late March or early April 1884, for example, summons Arensky “to descend from the majestic Kokorevskian and Arenskian heights to No. 14 on the lower floor of your dwelling on Saturday, the day after tomorrow, to the undersigned at 8 o’clock in the evening. 3 quartets by Mozart will be performed. The audience shall be Taneyev, Laroche, Huber, you, and P. Tchaikovsky.” At the time Tchaikovsky was living in room No. 14 on the ground floor of the Kokorevsky Courtyard Hotel, several floors below Arensky. Born in Novgorod in 1861, Arensky died from tuberculosis in 1906 in Terijoki, Finland (then part of the Russian Empire), most likely exacerbated by his drinking. He was only 44.
Sergey TANEYEV Canzona in F minor ▪ 1883
The Canzona was extremely popular in Russia, so much so that Taneyev arranged it for clarinet and piano, and for cello and piano, respectively. It became a favorite of Mstislav Rostropovich, who recorded it in 1964 with his pianist colleague Alexander Dedyukhin.
Taneyev (1856–1915) came from a cultured family with aristocratic connections. He was given his first piano lessons at age 5, and from the age of 9 to 18, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his teachers were Tchaikovsky (in composition) and Nikolai Rubinstein (in piano). He became a brilliant pianist, graduating in 1875 with a gold medal in composition and performance—the first in the history of the Conservatory to achieve this honor. Taneyev became close friends with Tchaikovsky and was held in such high regard that Tchaikovsky sought and appreciated his opinions and musical suggestions. He was trusted with giving the first Russian performance of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, as well as performing as soloist for the Russian premieres of Tchaikovsky’s other works for piano and orchestra. In 1878, upon Tchaikovsky’s resignation, Taneyev was persuaded to take his teacher’s place, but he consented only to teach the harmony and orchestration classes. In 1885 he reluctantly became the Conservatory’s director. Among his pupils were Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Glière. At his death from a heart attack in 1915, he left a large body of work including 4 symphonies, keyboard and choral works, and many chamber pieces. Taneyev has been called the “Russian Brahms” and he may also be a “Russian Bruckner.” Tchaikovsky had even dubbed him the “Russian Bach” as Bach was one of his early inspirations.
TCHAIKOVSKY Souvenir de Florence Op. 70 ▪ 1887–1892
*All programs are subject to change.
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