All performances, except where noted, are held at:
|September 12 Radiance from Vienna
HAYDN Sonata in Bb Major Hob. VI:3 • published 1775
The original title, “Solo per il Violino,” which Haydn gave these sonatas in his “Entwurf-Katalog”—the handwritten catalog he maintained of his own works—indicates that only the violin is given the solo role, with accompaniment by the viola. He may have written these “soli” for himself; or for Luigi Tomasini, the first violinist at Esterházy’s court from 1761.
Carl FRÜHLING Trio in A minor Op. 40 • circa 1925
British cellist Steven Isserlis, upon first playing the Trio, said, “I loved it: I loved the unpretentious warmth, the humour, the gentle charm of the style.” Isserlis is now a champion of Frühling’s music.
Born in Lemberg (Lviv in Ukraine, a largely Jewish town), the Austrian composer is best known as a chamber music pianist who collaborated with Bronislaw Huberman, Pablo de Sarasate, Leo Slezak, and the Rosé Quartet, the foremost string quartet in Vienna. However, Frühling stated (in a biographical note in his own hand dating from 1929) that his birthplace is Vienna so as to deflect any notion that he is Jewish, and he even converted to Christianity in 1907. After the Great War, which wreaked economic havoc in Vienna, he lived in poverty and obscurity.
BRAHMS Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Major Op. 26 • 1861
After Brahms had played the premiere in Vienna on 29 November 1862 with members of the Hellmesberger Quartet, he wrote to his parents, “Yesterday brought me great joy, my concert went quite splendidly, much better than I had hoped…. I believe there was real enthusiasm in the hall…. I played as freely as I’d been at home with friends—but of course this audience stimulates you very differently from ours. You should see how attentive they are and hear their applause!” Clara Schumann had initially felt that the piece would “grow on the listener once he knows it perfectly and has often heard it.” Brahms’s friend and legendary violinist Joseph Joachim wrote to Schumann after a hasty perusal that he had “grown more and more favorable towards the A major Quartet. The tone of great intimacy and delicacy alternates beautifully with a fresh love of life.”
|September 19 Helping Hands
SCHUMANN Märchenerzählungen “Fairy Tales” Op. 132 • 1853
Schumann described them to his publisher as “predominantly cheery pieces, written with a light heart.” Clara Schumann was particularly enthusiastic about her husband’s unusual choice of instruments. “He feels that this combination will have a very Romantic effect,” she wrote in her diary. “I feel the same myself. What an inexhaustible genius!” Schumann heard it played privately at home with Clara at the piano, the clarinetist Johann Kochner, and Joseph Joachim on viola. He dedicated the work to a young Düsseldorf conductor, Albert Dietrich, who, along with a young Brahms, had brought new friendship and fresh inspiration during the final weeks of his artistic productivity, before his attempted suicide and move to an asylum, where he spent the last tragic years of his life.
Schumann and Mendelssohn had a close professional and personal friendship. They first met on 31 August 1835, when Schumann was studying law in Leipzig and Mendelssohn was already director at the Gewandhaus. Schumann said, “I knew all his compositions well; he responded with something quite modest. The first impression was of an unforgettable man.” Mendelssohn conducted Schumann’s music and employed him as professor of composition, score reading, and piano at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1843. The two friends played chamber music together, discussed music and philosophy in the transitional years after Beethoven’s death, and enjoyed playing chess and billiards. Schumann believed Mendelssohn was “the first contemporary musician.” He was devastated when Mendelssohn died on 4 November 1847 after a series of strokes.
Carl REINECKE Piano Quintet in A Major Op. 83 • 1866
Not only did Mendelssohn help Schumann, he helped Reinecke, too. Mendelssohn had arranged for Reinecke to make his debut at the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 16 November 1843—as the pianist performing with the orchestra in Mendelssohn’s Serenade und Allegro giojoso (on the same concert, the 12-year-old Joseph Joachim played Heinrich Ernst’s Fantaisie on Rossini’s Othello).
Schumann and Reinecke also helped each other considerably, which strengthened their close relationship. In 1844, Reinecke finally met Robert Schumann in person at a soirée of the Leipzig music publisher Friedrich Hofmeister [Reinecke, Memories of Robert Schumann]. 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. On 18 May 1851, Reinecke performed Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in the 10th subscription concert of the Düsseldorf General Music Society, directed by Schumann, and conducted the premiere of his Overture in D minor. 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. In 1907, Reinecke recorded two piano works by Schumann on piano rolls: No. 3 from Fantasia Pieces, Op. 12, and No. 6 from Kreisleriana, Op. 16. Reinecke was, indeed, an ardent advocate of the music of Schumann, as well as of Mendelssohn and Brahms.
Reinecke was born in 1824 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, made his first public appearance as a pianist at age 11, and was a top-notch orchestral violinist as well. 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, Sinding, Svendsen, Janáček, Weingartner, Albeníz, Delius, Arthur Sullivan, Ethel Smyth, 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].”
MENDELSSOHN Rondo Capriccioso in E Major Op. 14 • 1830
The Rondo’s interesting origins are explained by the Mendelssohn scholar R. Larry Todd. It began as an Étude in E minor composed in 1824 “in his trademark elfin style, with delicate points of imitation and scurrying passagework, but also powerful martellato passages. Then, in 1830, he found a special occasion to revive the work. While visiting Munich en route to Italy and the beginning of his Grand Tour that led him as far south as Paestum, he encountered the talented pianist Delphine von Schauroth (1814–1887), whom he described as ‘slim, blond, blue-eyed, with white hands, and somewhat aristocratic.’ The daughter of a noble but impoverished family, Schauroth’s intrusion into Mendelssohn’s life prompted his sisters to begin speculating about her being a potential sister-in-law, and his mother to inquire discreetly about the Schauroths. In Munich the two made a musical exchange: Schauroth penned a lyrical—and Mendelssohnian—Lied ohne Worte in E major, and Mendelssohn reciprocated by adding to his Étude a lyrical and Lied ohne Worte-like Andante, also in E major, with a brief transition to the former Étude. Covering up all traces of the recomposition, he described the process as adding ‘sauce and mushrooms.’ The finished product appeared later in 1830 in England and 1831 in a German edition as the Rondo capriccioso, and became a favorite virtuoso concert piece of the nineteenth century.”
Joachim RAFF String Octet in C Major Op. 176 • 1873
The Octet premiered in Leipzig in March 1873, with performances in Dresden and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus later that year.
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.
| October 3 Great Russians
TCHAIKOVSKY Allegro moderato in D Major • 1863–1864
Anton RUBINSTEIN Viola Sonata in F minor Op. 49 • 1855/revised 1883
Anton Rubinstein (1829–1894) was an exceptionally prolific composer, conductor, teacher, and Russia’s first great pianist, whose virtuosity rivaled that of Liszt. He was also an influential, if controversial, figure in Russian musical circles. In 1859, under the patronage of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, he founded the Russian Music Society and later became conductor of its orchestral concerts. In 1862 he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory and served as its first director until 1867, and then again from 1887 to 1891. Meanwhile, in 1866 his brother Nikolay founded the Moscow Conservatory, and remained its director until his death in 1881. From 1871 to 1872 Anton Rubinstein directed the Vienna Philharmonic concerts, and in 1872 he toured the United States. Michael Ray for Edition Silvertrust further notes that his “efforts in developing Russian musical talent were perhaps the greatest of any single individual. Not only did he introduce European educational methods but he also established standards that were as rigorous as any conservatory in Europe.”
RACHMANINOFF Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor Op. 9 • 1893
Dedicated ‘To the memory of a great artist,’ the Trio is as worthy a memorial to Tchaikovsky as Tchaikovsky’s A minor Piano Trio was to Nikolay Rubinstein in 1881. The connections between these memorial trios run deeper. Structurally, Rachmaninoff’s work is strongly based on Tchaikovsky’s—to the extent of having a set of variations as the second movement, and the thematic likeness of both variation themes implies that Rachmaninoff based his on Tchaikovsky’s. Completed in December 1893, just a month after Tchaikovsky’s death, it was first performed the following month in Moscow, with Rachmaninoff playing the piano part.
|October 17 Société Nationale de Musique
The Société Nationale de Musique was established by Camille Saint-Saëns and his circle in 1871 to encourage and promote contemporary French music. It was motivated by patriotism. Early members included César Franck, Gabriel Fauré, and Paul Taffanel; Ernest Chausson became a full-fledged member in 1886 and served as its secretary till his death. French music, at the time, was largely dominated by opera; Société members thus aspired to rehabilitate the neglected genres of the symphony, chamber music, and song. They succeeded spectacularly—the number of major works produced in France during this period was phenomenal.
Paul TAFFANEL Wind Quintet in G minor • 1876
The Quintet won a gold medal and 300 francs in a competition for wind quintets sponsored by the Société des Compositeurs, and was well received at its premiere at the Salle Pleyel on 3 May 1878. It was dedicated to Henri Reber—Taffanel's composition teacher—who himself was a student of Anton Reicha.
Taffanel (1844–1908) is regarded as the father of the modern French school of flute playing. Born in Bordeaux, he studied flute and composition at the Paris Conservatoire and enjoyed a brilliant multi-faceted career. In 1879 he founded the Société de Musique de Chambre pour Instruments à Vent, reviving the wind ensemble music of Mozart and Beethoven. He would direct this society for 15 years until, in the 1890s, he became conductor of the Paris Opéra, giving French premieres of major operas by Verdi and Wagner. He advocated for the Boehm flute, which became the standard concert flute. He also was an inspiring professor at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was instrumental in revising its curriculum. The music scholar Jackson Harmeyer found that “With his pupil, Philippe Gaubert, he wrote the Méthode complète de flûte which…is still taught today. Taffanel also pushed for flute repertoire which was more subtle and refined than many of the virtuosic showpieces.… In his hands, the flute was shown to be an expressive and colorful soloist. Though Tchaikovsky never completed the flute concerto he had planned for Taffanel, the great French composers of the era, including Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Debussy, were inspired by his playing and drawn to the flute. Taffanel not only performed and arranged existing works by these composers and others, he also commissioned new works. Likewise, he helped revive interest in earlier flute music by Bach and Rameau.” In addition, he toured internationally as a soloist. “His performing style was pure and devoid of all meretricious effects such as excessive use of vibrato [New Grove Dictionary].” In each of these many fields, Taffanel’s influence has been immense and lasting.
Gabriel FAURÉ La bonne chanson Op. 61 • 1898
Among his most masterful compositions, much of the cycle (originally for voice and piano) was written in the summers of 1892 and 1893, when Fauré was staying in Bougival as a guest of the banker Sigismond Bardac and his wife, the soprano Emma Bardac. Fauré fell in love with Emma, the inspiration for the spontaneity of the cycle, its joyful virility, and optimism. Emma, who later married Debussy, sang the newly-composed material for Fauré each day. A private premiere was held at the home of Countess de Saussine on 25 April 1894 with the lyric tenor Maurice Bagès, and its first public performance a year later was sung by Jeanne Remacle with Fauré at the piano. La bonne chanson was received poorly, and Saint-Saëns thought Fauré (his pupil) had gone nuts by writing music with such exhaustingly quick key changes.
Ernest CHAUSSON Chanson perpétuelle Op. 37 • 1898
Chausson (1855–1899) earned a law degree upon his father’s insistence before he studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where his teachers were Jules Massenet and César Franck. He also visited Germany to hear Wagner. As stated in the New Grove Dictionary, “Although he absorbed traditional harmony as taught at the Conservatoire, Chausson was clearly influenced by Wagner and ‘Franckism’.... Indeed, Chausson was to become...one of the most prominent and influential members of the Franck circle...[and a] Wagnerian....” He later developed his own sumptuous late Romantic style, which influenced Claude Debussy and Fauré, among others. Born in Paris to an affluent bourgeois family, Chausson died tragically from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident while staying in Limay at one of his country retreats. He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
César FRANCK Trio concertant in F-sharp minor Op. 1 No. 1 • 1840
Franck’s Op. 1 comprised a set of 3 trios composed over 3 years while a student at the Paris Conservatoire, and published in the spring of 1843. The trios were well received by his contemporaries. Mendelssohn praised them; Liszt offered constructive criticism and encouragement, and introduced them on the concert stages of Germany. Among other prominent admirers were Daniel Auber, Chopin, Gaetano Donizetti, Fromental Halévy, Giacomo Meyerbeer, and Ambroise Thomas. The first Trio was recorded by the great pianist Sviatoslav Richter, Oleg Kagan, and Natalia Gutman in 1983.
Franck (1822–1890) was born in Liège, but 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. 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 the esteemed critic Harold 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 strain-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.”
|October 31 Heaven Breaks Loose
Charles IVES Hallowe’en • 1907
Ives intended the piece to be played multiple times, and suggested 2 ways of doing it, noting that “It has been observed by friends that three times around is quite enough, while others stood for the four—but as this piece was written for a hallowe’en party and not for a nice concert, the decision must be made by the players regardless of the feelings of the audience.” The inspiration for the piece came from his childhood memories, and was written while in Pine Mountain, possibly in 1907 (the $1 paper it was written on was only available from 1907) and revised in 1911. Its first formal performance on 22 April 1934 was played by an unidentified chamber orchestra at the Alvin Theater in New York City, conducted by Albert Stoessel. It was part of a concert of music and dance organized by Martha Graham and her group, sponsored by the Pan American Association of Composers. A second performance took place at the Community Playhouse in San Francisco, in a concert of music and dance organized by the Betty Horst Concert Dance Group. It was conducted by his admirer, the American composer Henry Cowell, and sponsored by the New Music Society of California.
Some years later, in his Memos from 1930 (p. 91), Ives further noted, “This [Halloween] was one of the best pieces (from the standpoint of workmanship) that I’ve ever done. The four strings play in four different and closely related keys ... I happened to get exactly the effect I had in mind ... Allie S. made some criticism implying that the workmanship was poor—the ‘four keys at once’ didn’t seem nice to him ... these Rollos are like the chicken fancier who had seen nothing but chickens all his nice lifetime, and had never seen a lion. And so, on seeing a lion enter, he says, ‘He’s built all wrong—no feathers, wrong color, too long, too many feet—he’s not like a chicken.’ ... You see above, Rollos, I rather seem to tend to compare my music to a lion, and the music you like to a chicken—which is quite all right, as the other way around would not be!” Ives used the term, Rollos, in particular, to stand for those music critics unable or unwilling to comprehend his music.
Johann Sebastian BACH Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565 • before 1708
Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924), born in Trieste of Italian-German parents, was already performing his own arrangements of Bach at the age of 10. From young, the prodigy earned an international reputation as an extraordinary pianist, one who combined great virtuoso technique with a profound and powerful musical intellect. He is especially renowned for his very popular and remarkable transcriptions of the music of Bach.
Camille SAINT-SAËNS Danse macabre Op. 40 • 1874
Franz LISZT Malédiction • 1833
One of the Hungarian composer’s earliest pieces for the combination of piano and strings, Liszt was experimenting with orchestration, balance, and harmony. Although the title can be translated as “under a curse,” subsequent markings provide momentary relief in the programmatic progression with scene, mood, and tempo shifts—orgueil (pride), pleurs–angoisse–songes (tears–anguish–dreams), and raillery (jesting). It is not known if Liszt ever heard a live performance of Malédiction, even in rehearsal.
SCHUBERT String Quartet No. 14 in D minor “Death and the Maiden” D. 810 • 1824
Schubert had contracted syphilis in late 1822 or early 1823; the following year he became ill. In a letter dated 31 March 1824 to a close friend, the painter Leopold Kupelwieser, he confided his anguish: “...I feel myself to be the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Think of a man whose health will never be right again, and who from despair over this always makes things worse instead of better; think of a man, I say, whose brightest hopes have come to nothing....” Remarkably, he also expressed hopes of completing a few songs, and writing two string quartets and an octet. Understandably, death’s shadow pervades this deeply melancholy masterpiece, Der Tod und das Mädchen. Its moniker comes from his famous song (written in 1817), which provides the theme and variations for the slow movement.
|November 14 In “Grand” Style
Helene LIEBMANN Grand Trio in A Major Op. 13 • circa 1816
In the Trio, “Liebmann clearly had poise and energy aplenty, and an excellent chamber music sense, with all three parts contributing to the musical conversation. The whole has a Haydnesque atmosphere. The opening Allegro is full of ideas, and the cello matches the violin with vivacious running semiquaver passages. The serene Andante offsets the Polonoise [sic] to great effect…. A polacca…makes persuasive use of the repetitive rhythmic figures.” The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung reviewer of her first piano sonatas had initially anticipated with dread finding “ladies” music a weak imitation of music written by men, “but immediately stated that the music warranted comparison with the early compositions of the great masters [OboeClassics].”
Helene Liebmann (1796–1835)—the Jewish German composer, pianist, and singer—was born in Berlin as Marie Helene Riese; she was also known as Helene Liebert. The second daughter of a wealthy banking family, she took piano lessons from an early age with the pianist and composer Wilhelm Schneider, Franz Lauska (Muzio Clementi’s pupil and teacher of Giacomo Meyerbeer) and the organist and conductor Joseph Gürrlich. In 1806, at age 10, she gave a concert that astonished the audience, and was acclaimed as a brilliant pianist. Two years later she performed her first piano concerto, and at only 15 she published her first Piano Sonata, Op. 1. Her concerts took place at the Konzerthaus Berlin (the Royal National Theater at the time, later the Schauspielhaus). Sometime around 1814, at age 18, she converted to Christianity and married the merchant John Joseph Liebmann, who also became a Christian. They moved to Vienna and then to London, where she studied composition with Ferdinand Ries (Beethoven’s pupil), who was living in London. After four years in London, the Liebmanns moved to Hamburg in 1818, and were registered under the name “Liebert”—the name she had used as a singer—most likely to avoid anti-Semitism. It is not known if she continued to compose after 1819. The couple left for Italy in 1828, traveling through Saxony and Austria. The next reference to her is recorded in the diary of Clara Wieck (the future Clara Schumann), stating that Liebmann was present at Clara’s concert in Hamburg in 1835, the year she died.
Friedrich DOTZAUER Grand Quatuor Concertant in Eb Major Op. 130 • 1833
Dotzauer (1783-1860) was born in the Thuringian village of Häselrieth, the third and youngest son of a Lutheran pastor who fostered his musical education. The boy learned to play the piano, violin, cello, double bass, clarinet, and horn; and sang in the school chorus. Although small in stature, he played the bass in church and for village dances—he was drawn to the controlling power of the bass line! In 1798, at the age of 15, he made his concerto debut with the court orchestra in Hildburghausen, then went to Meiningen the following year for cello lessons with Johann Jacob Kriegck, a pupil of Jean Louis Duport (whose Stradivarius Napoleon insisted on playing, and damaged). In 1801, the 17-year-old Dotzauer got his first job playing in the Meiningen court orchestra until 1805, when he moved on to the Leipzig municipal orchestra (later the Leipzig Gewandhaus) and stayed for 6 years. He absorbed a variety of fine music and made huge progress in mastering and performing the concerto and chamber music repertoire, having cofounded the Gewandhaus String Quartet. During a 6-month leave in 1806, he visited Berlin and was deeply influenced by Romberg after hearing him. Having honed his skills, Dotzauer was appointed to the Dresden court orchestra in 1811. He became a soloist in 1821 and remained with the orchestra till his retirement in 1850. Over the decades, his fine musicianship was enriched by exposure to composers such as Carl Maria von Weber, Heinrich Marschner, and Richard Wagner conducting their own works. He gave concert tours throughout Germany, in Vienna, and the Netherlands but declined an invitation to go to St Petersburg.
Dotzauer’s contributions were significant. As a prolific composer, he served the entertainment needs of the Biedermeier period. A contemporary wrote, “Dotzauer was an experienced hand at composition” and “was highly prized in almost every genre.” As an excellent teacher, he established the preeminence of Dresden for his instrument for a long time. In “Combining great musicianship with a technique advanced beyond contemporary standards, Dotzauer’s work represented a milestone in the development of cello performance. His teaching ability and didactic publications resulted in the so-called ‘Dresden School’ of playing, which influenced…[many of his pupils including] his own son Karl Ludwig [who played under Louis Spohr at the Kassel court], and through them…their pupils. Most of Dotzauer’s 178 or so compositions were quickly forgotten. However, the pedagogical works remain important teaching material, and extracts frequently appeared in later composers’ collections of exercises and studies. Dotzauer published an edition of Bach’s six cello suites [New Grove Dictionary].”
For more details on Dotzauer see https://www.eclassical.com/shop/17115/art43/5019543-0a9812-5060113444219.pdf
Richard STRAUSS Metamorphosen Op. 142 • 1945
The extraordinary work, written at age 80 under the weight of Germany in ruins in the final days of World War II, is his heart-rending reaction against the destruction of centuries-old German culture and heritage that included the bombing of his beloved opera house, the Hoftheater in Munich, and the destruction of several other venues in Dresden, Weimar, Berlin, and Vienna. The title comes from Goethe—in seeking refuge by rereading Goethe, Strauss was drawn to the poet’s use of the word “metamorphosis” in describing the perspectives and beliefs that change as one ages.
A sketch for septet—2 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, and double bass—bearing the date 31 March 1945 was found in Switzerland in 1990. Austrian cellist Rudolf Leopold then made a realization based on the short sketch and the later final score that Strauss wrote for 23 solo strings (completed on 12 April 1945).
|November 21 Schumann’s Fans
Johann Wenzel KALLIWODA Duet in C Major Op. 208 No. 1 • after 1854
Kalliwoda (1801–1866) was an esteemed Bohemian composer, conductor, and violin soloist during his lifetime. At the age of 10 the boy entered the newly-formed Prague Conservatory, graduating with distinction five years later in 1816, after which he joined the Stavovské Theatre orchestra under Weber. In December 1821 the orchestra gave a farewell concert of his compositions, before he departed on a tour of Germany, Switzerland, and Holland. While in Munich he met Prince Karl Egon II, who offered him the post of conductor in Donaueschingen. Leading virtuosos, including Liszt and Robert and Clara Schumann, performed at his symphony concerts. Schumann, among others, held a high opinion of his work. In the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, co-founded by Schumann, he praised Kalliwoda for the tenderness and sweep of his compositions. And he dedicated his Six Intermezzi Op. 4 to Kalliwoda. At the premiere of Bruch’s opera Die Loreley in 1863, Kalliwoda was among the eminent musicians in attendance. For almost 40 years, Kalliwoda directed and elevated the standard of Donaueschingen’s musical culture. In addition, he was offered posts in the most famous musical institutions of Leipzig, Cologne, Mannheim, Dessau, and Prague, and was made an honorary member of music societies in Prague, Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, and Sweden. His style is said to represent a link between Beethoven and Schumann.
Theodor KIRCHNER Piano Quartet in C minor Op. 84 • 1888
Essentially forgotten, Kirchner (1823–1903) was Brahms’s close friend, from their first meeting in 1865 until Brahms’s death in 1897. He was also Schumann’s protégé and loved his music, Mendelssohn’s pupil at the Leipzig Conservatory on a royal scholarship, Wagner’s accompanist, Dvorák’s arranger, dedicatee of Reger’s second Violin Sonata, Clara Schumann’s lover (a brief, discreet, unhappy liaison in the early 1860s), and the would-be lover of the poet and writer Mathilde Wesendonck, immortalized by Wagner’s “Wesendonck Songs.” Kirchner was universally admired as a marvelous musician—a celebrated pianist, organist, and composer in his own right—but he could not maintain a job or marriage, and his gambling addiction and spendthrift ways led to destitution in his later years, so much so that his publisher and friends, including Brahms, bailed him out of debt, as did Clara Schumann.
Max BRUCH 3 “Trio Pieces” Op. 83 Nos. 4, 5, 7 • 1910
Sir Donald Francis Tovey enthused, “it is not easy to write as beautifully as Max Bruch…it is really easy for Bruch to write beautifully, it is in fact instinctive for him.… Further, it is impossible to find in Max Bruch any lapses from the standard of beauty which he thus instinctively sets himself." The pieces were written in his autumnal years for his talented son, Max Felix (named after Mendelssohn), who was just beginning his career as a professional clarinetist at age 25. Bruch himself advised against playing all eight on a concert program.
Born in Cologne in 1838, Bruch wrote a symphony at age 14, and he conducted orchestral and choral societies in Mannheim, Koblenz, Sondershausen, Berlin, Bonn, Liverpool, Breslau, and Wraclaw. His importance as a composer and to German musical life was finally acknowledged in 1890 when given a professorship and a master class in composition at the Berlin Academy, where he taught until his retirement in 1910. He died in Friedenau (now part of Berlin) in 1920. Bruch is best remembered for his Scottish Fantasy, Kol Nidrei, and 3 violin concerti. His music fell out of favor because he rebuffed the New German School, defending Romanticism instead, and carrying the banner for Mendelssohn and Schumann. His early concert programs included works by Schumann, and during his 7 seasons at Breslau (1883–1890), when he offered a broad spectrum of composers, it was the Romantics that predominated, including Schumann. He wrote that Schumann’s Fourth Symphony is “a special favorite of mine.”
SCHUMANN Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor Op. 63 • 1847
While the Piano Trio belongs to “a time of gloomy moods” (Schumann’s own words), with a slow movement bearing the weight of one of his great tragic expressions, there is ample vitality and jubilance as well, conveyed through original ideas that were praised by his wife Clara in a letter: “It sounds as if composed by one from whom there is still much to expect, it is so strong and full of youthful energy and at the same time worked out so masterfully. The first movement is to my mind one of the loveliest that I know.” It was first played in a private performance with Clara at the piano on 13 December, her 28th birthday.
|December 5 Ties to Wagner
Richard STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks Op. 28 • 1895
The horn and clarinet play two themes representing Till: the horn’s lilting theme reaches a peak, falls downward, and ends in three long, loud notes, each progressively lower; the clarinet’s crafty and wheedling theme suggests a trickster at his trickiest. It has been suggested that while Strauss’s serious operas and tone poems clearly derive from Wagner’s compositional idiom, a lighter work with Strauss’s comic touch, as in Till Eulenspiegel, could be thought of as Strauss adding insouciant frivolity to Wagnerian drama.
Strauss is perhaps the one composer whose music is most influenced by Wagner. In 1874, young Richard first heard the operas Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Siegfried. At first, his father banned him from studying Wagner’s music, so it was not until the age of 16 that he was able to obtain a score of Tristan und Isolde. After he finished school in 1882, Strauss held an assistant conducting position in Meiningen, where he met the composer Alexander Ritter, the husband of one of Wagner’s nieces. It was Ritter who reinforced that admiration for Wagner’s music, which Strauss had previously nurtured in secret so as not to upset his father. Ritter urged Strauss to abandon classical forms and to begin writing tone poems as Liszt had done. He also introduced Strauss to Wagner’s essays. Wagner’s influence on Strauss was huge, and made a profound impact on his musical development, especially in the areas of instrumentation and the use of a symphonic approach to express drama and emotion of the stage action in the pit.
August KLUGHARDT String Quintet in G minor Op. 62 • 1894
Some of Klughardt’s chamber music was in the repertoire of the Joachim Quartet, including the Opp. 41 and 61 string quartets, the Op. 62 String Quintet, and his String Sextet, Op. 58. The Joachim Quartet was a Berlin institution from 1869 to 1907, led by Joseph Joachim and his hand-picked colleagues from the Berlin Hochschule für Musik.
Born in 1847, August Klughardt was one of the great composers of the 19th century, alongside Brahms and Bruckner, who made significant contributions to music history. Beginning at age 10 he studied at Cöthen, Dessau, and Dresden; held theater positions in Posen, Neustrelitz, and Lubeck; and in 1869 became court music director at Weimar, where he became friends with Liszt. It was the beginning of his enthusiasm for the Neudeutsche Schule (“New German School”). At the same time, he was loyal to the classical practice, and was influenced by Schumann and Brahms as well—his work was a synthesis of these dissimilar tendencies. In 1873, at the premiere of Liszt’s Christus, he met Wagner, who influenced a great deal of his music. He dedicated his symphonic poem Lenore to Wagner; his Symphony in F minor was written under the impact of hearing the Ring at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876; and in 1892 and 1893 he conducted Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Among his distinctions were an appointment to the Berlin Academy of Arts in 1898 and an honorary doctorate conferred by the University of Erlangen. When asked to direct the “Singakademie” in Berlin, he rejected this offer. Klughardt died suddenly in Roßlau at the age of 54.
Franz LISZT Liebestraum No. 3 “Dream of Love” • 1850
Originally conceived as lieder, Liszt composed and published his nocturnes in Weimar. They are an example of his program music, depicting themes of love and the loss of love. Number 3 is based on a poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath—O Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst (“Love as long as love you can”).
The relationship between Liszt and Wagner is summarized by Georg Predota: “When Franz Liszt met Richard Wagner in Paris for the first time in the spring 1840, they had little admiration for each other. Wagner, two years younger than Liszt, was neither successful nor financially secure. In fact, Wagner was actively looking for financial support from Liszt, asking him to become the publisher of his works. Liszt settled in Weimar in 1848, and he eventually staged several great Wagner festivals attracting national attention. In [one] event, Wagner participated in the failed Dresden Uprising and had to flee with a price on his head. He made his way to Liszt who sheltered him, arranged a loan of money and a forged passport to get Wagner out of Germany. For the next ten years Liszt supported Wagner in Swiss exile with money, gifts, and personal visits. Although Wagner was fulsome in his praise of Liszt, the relationship ran into trouble because of Wagner’s constant demand for money. Even more damaging was the fact that Liszt’s daughter Cosima [the illegitimate daughter with his Parisian socialite mistress, the Comtesse Marie d’Agoult] left her husband Hans von Bülow to live with Wagner. Liszt personally traveled to Lucerne to confront Wagner with the result that they did not speak to each other for five years. And Liszt would never forgive his daughter for marrying Wagner in 1870, and for turning Protestant shortly thereafter.”
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK Piano Quintet in G Major EHWV 37 • 1875
The Quintet, with a tender, yearning Adagio bearing an inscription to the memory of his sister Ernestine, who died at age 17, was written 5 years before he met Wagner.
Humperdinck (1854–1921) was a close friend of Wagner and Strauss. He studied at the Conservatory in Cologne from the spring of 1872, upon the advice of Ferdinand Hiller, who taught him harmony and composition. Many of his early compositions were destroyed by fire in 1874. In 1876 he won the Mozart Prize of Frankfurt am Main—his passport to the Royal Music School in Munich, where he studied counterpoint and fugue with Josef Rheinberger and had private composition lessons from Franz Lachner. Humperdinck joined the Wagner club “Orden vom Gral” in 1878, and after he won the Mendelssohn Prize of Berlin in 1879, he traveled to Italy, where he met Wagner in Naples on 9 March 1880. A close association followed. In 1881–1882, he was indispensable to Wagner, assisting in the preparations of the first performance of Parsifal at Bayreuth, among other tasks. In 1882 (after winning the Meyerbeer Prize of Berlin), he was asked by Wagner to go to Venice to prepare and conduct the latter’s early symphony and to take up an appointment at the conservatory (neither, however, materialized). After Wagner’s death in 1883, Humperdinck continued his friendship with the family. Cosima, Wagner’s widow, asked him to be the music tutor to their son, Siegfried. Humperdinck also regularly served as assistant conductor at the Bayreuth Festival where he met Strauss, who would conduct the world premiere of Hansel and Gretel in Weimar on 23 December 1893.
|December 19 Dvorák’s Sparks
Florence PRICE Fantasie No. 1 in G minor • 1933
In 1893, a year after arriving in the United States, Dvorák 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 Dvorák, reveal that she followed his advice. The music publisher Barbara Garvey Jackson has said that Price’s “methods are actually quite close to Dvorák’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.
For more on Price see http://afrovoices.com/florence-price-biography/
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Nonet in F minor Op. 2 • 1894
Composed for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, double bass, and piano, the Nonet’s first performance (and apparently the only one until recent times) was on a student concert at the Royal College of Music on 5 July 1894.
The “Black Mahler”—brilliant son of a Sierra Leonean Creole father and English mother—was named Samuel after the poet, and in 1890 at age 15 he entered the Royal College of Music as a violin student, then switched to studying composition with Charles Villiers Stanford. Much admired in his day, his greatest hit was the cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. Coleridge-Taylor was proud to be “an Englishman” even though he suffered intense racism. On several occasions he visited the United States, where he was warmly received; he met Booker T. Washington and President Theodore Roosevelt, who invited him to the White House. He was an ardent supporter of the Pan African Movement, and was intent on establishing “the dignity of the Black man.” In 1912, he contracted double pneumonia and died at the age of 37. He left two children, Hiawatha and Gwendolyn, both of whom had distinguished careers as conductors and composers.
Clara Anna KORN 2 Songs • 
Korn (1866–1940) was born in Berlin, emigrated with her family to the United States at age 3, and was raised in New Jersey. “Eventually she began a career as a concert pianist and had a measure of success. But she received a letter from Tchaikovsky, who had seen some manuscripts of her compositions when he was in New York, and he urged her to become a composer. At that point she turned her focus to composing. In 1891 she received a scholarship to the National Conservatory in New York, where Dvorak was among her instructors. After her studies she taught theory at the Conservatory…. She [also] founded the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Women’s Philharmonic Society, and the Manuscript Society of New York. She wrote for music journals. Clara was a strong believer that women should have more opportunities in music: ‘How can any woman produce a successful orchestral work under existing conditions? You write a song, and some accommodating singer will sing it for you and give you the chance to correct mistakes; the same with a solo piece or any other solo composition. But where is the orchestra that will ‘try’ a manuscript orchestral selection, especially if it is not at all certain that it is worth trying? (letter to the editor of Musical Courier, August 7, 1907) [Mary McVicker, Women Opera Composers].” Korn composed for voice, piano, the orchestra, and an opera.
Antonín DVORÁK Piano Quartet No. 1 in D Major Op. 23 • 1875
At age 34, Dvorák wrote this optimistic Quartet in just 18 days, after hearing the news that he had won the Austrian State Prize for poor, talented musicians. Apart from the much-needed award of 400 gulden, the Prize helped to build his career as the jury members included the music critic Eduard Hanslick, Johann Herbeck (director of the state opera), and Brahms, who was “visibly overcome” by the mastery and skill of the submitted works, which included the Quartet. Its premiere was held in Prague on 16 December 1875.
| January 9 Hungarian Doyens
Leó WEINER String Trio in G minor Op. 6 • 1908
Weiner (1885–1960), born in Budapest to a Jewish family, studied the piano on his own initiative before entering the Budapest Academy of Music (in 1901 at age 16), where his composition teacher was Hans von Koessler. His rise was meteoric. Widely regarded as a wunderkind, he won all the important Hungarian and Austrian competitions between 1903 and 1908. Weiner composed true Hungarian music, without using folk melodies, and made a stir with his new, captivating sound. From 1908 to 1949 he was a professor at the Budapest Academy. Almost all the world-famous Hungarian musicians of this period were his pupils, including Antal Doráti, Georg Solti, and János Starker.
Béla BARTÓK Contrasts • 1938
Jenő HUBAY Morceau de Concert Op.20 • 1888
In an issue of The Strad from 1904, the Morceau is deemed “A brilliant concert solo.” It is graded as “Very Difficult,” followed by a word of caution: “The difficulties are such that are at once recognized, and only require that assiduous practice is necessary to acquire sufficient technical skill for their attainment.” The piece was dedicated to Francois August Gaevaert, Director of the Brussels Conservatory, where Hubay was Professor of Violin.
Hubay (1858–1937) studied as a child with his father, a professor of violin at the Budapest Conservatory, and made a highly successful debut in a Viotti concerto at age 11. Two years later he was sent to the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, where he studied with Joseph Joachim for 5 years on a Hungarian state stipend. He then returned to Budapest and befriended Liszt; together, they performed Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 and Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, among other works. In 1878 he visited Paris, appeared at the Pasdeloup concerts, and became a close friend of Vieuxtemps, whose posthumous works he edited and, in some cases, completed. He succeeded Vieuxtemps as professor at the Brussels Conservatory in 1882, but returned to Budapest to take up his father’s old position in 1886. His pupils included Joseph Szigeti and the flamboyant Jelly d’Aranyi. Also in 1886, he and David Popper established the Budapest Quartet; Ernst von Dohnányi, Wilhelm Backhaus, Leopold Godowski, and Brahms played with them several times. As a performer, Hubay appeared in most European countries; his deeply and darkly expressive playing, on a very fine Amati, was unmistakably Hungarian. His compositions, too, reflect an interesting Magyar folk idiom. He married the countess Róza Cebrian and was knighted in 1907. From 1919 to 1934 he was director of the Budapest Academy, where, as a conservative, he came into conflict with Bartók. His numerous compositions include operas, orchestral works, concertos, and other pieces for the violin. Most popular among string players is his set of folk-inspired Scènes de la Csárda, written during the 1880s.
Ernst von DOHNÁNYI Piano Quintet in C minor Op. 1 • 1894
When Brahms heard the Romantic Quintet played by his house guests—the legendary conductor Arthur Nikisch and the Kneisel Quartet—he was so taken with it that he staged its premiere in Vienna in late 1895, this time with Dohnányi at the piano.
Next to Liszt, Dohnányi is considered Hungary’s most versatile musician, whose tireless work reshaped the country’s musical life on a vast scale, and whose influence was far-reaching. As a pianist he ranked among the greatest of all time, and as a master chamber musician he had few equals after Brahms. Born in 1877 in Pressburg, young Ernst was first taught the piano by his father at age 6 and was composing by 7. At age 17, he studied at the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest—piano with István Thomán (Liszt’s favorite pupil) and composition with Hans von Koessler (a devotee of Brahms). Both Liszt and Brahms influenced his piano playing and compositions, respectively.
|January 23 Queue for Brits
Niccolò PAGANINI Variations on “God Save the King” • 1829
Nearly 140 composers have created musical adaptations of God Save the King; here is but one—by the first supervirtuoso violinist, and possibly the greatest of them all. These nail-biting variations, which include left-hand pizzicato, harmonics, and flying spiccato, give the violinist his moment to perform impossible stunts.
The ancient melody may have originated in an air, possibly derived from a folk tune. The many candidates for authorship include the English composer and organ builder John Bull, Thomas Ravenscroft, Henry Purcell, and Henry Carey. The origin of the words is equally obscure. The earliest copy of the words appeared in Gentleman’s Magazine in 1745; the tune appeared about the same time in an anthology, Thesaurus Musicus—in both instances without attribution.
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN String Quartet in D minor • 1858–1859
Sullivan (1842–1900), considered the leading British composer during his lifetime, is still known for his distinctive English style of operettas, written to poetical and satirical librettos by W. S. Gilbert. In July 1856, young Arthur became the first holder of the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. As an extension of the scholarship, he then studied from 1858 to 1861 at the Leipzig Conservatory, where his contemporaries included Grieg. According to the Museum Collection in Moscow, he studied “composition with Julius Ritz [sic] and Karl Reinecke, counterpoint with Moritz Hauptmann and Ernst Richter, and piano with Louis Plaidy and Ignaz Moscheles…. While in Leipzig, Sullivan wrote a string quartet, which was performed at the Conservatory in the presence of the outstanding German violinist, composer and conductor, Louis Spohr. He personally congratulated and praised the young composer after the concert.”
John Ernest MOERAN Fantasy Quartet • 1946
The Fantasy Quartet is dedicated to Léon Goosens, the influential oboe virtuoso who had asked Moeran to compose a piece for his instrument. While on holiday in Norfolk, Moeren wrote, “I board and lodge in this little pub overlooking Rockland Broad...in the evening I go out rowing on these ‘Lonely Waters’...this reedy neighbourhood seems to suggest oboe music.” The single movement recalls childhood memories and folk tunes, including “Sunday Come Seventeen” and “The Pretty Ploughboy.” Roderick McNeil perceived hearing “a wide range of moods, from the gentle to the pastoral to the robust and energetic [A critical study…of E. J. Moeran].” It has also been suggested that some of the rhythms in the middle and latter part of the Quartet may simulate a steam train, as Moeran was a passionate railway enthusiast. Goosens and the Carter String Quartet premiered the Fantasy Quartet at the Cambridge Theatre on 8 December 1946. It was performed again the next day by Goosens and the Aeolian Quartet at Cowdray Hall, both venues in London. Goosens was the father of modern oboe playing, whose principal contribution was to sweeten its sound, which brought new expressivity and brilliance.
Moeran (1894–1950), whose work was strongly influenced by English and Irish folk music, which he collected assiduously, was the son of an Anglican priest of Irish descent in the remote Norfolk Fen Country. As a child he took violin and piano lessons at Uppingham School and played in a string quartet. In 1913 he entered the Royal College of Music, but his studies (including composition with Charles Villiers Stanford) were interrupted when the Great War broke out. During his service as a front line junior officer in trench warfare, he sustained a severe head injury with embedded shrapnel that could not be removed. Surgery that fitted a metal plate to his skull affected him the rest of his life and contributed to his alcoholism. Discharged in 1920, he continued his studies under John Ireland at the Royal College. His compositions in the 1920s show the influence of Ireland and Frederick Delius, but from 1934 onwards he returned to his Celtic roots, his music drawing on his twin heritage and nature. He spent time mainly in the coastal town of Kenmare, where a hotel bar he frequented was named after him. Moeran died in Kenmare on 1 December 1950, having fallen into the Kenmare River after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.
Edward ELGAR Piano Quintet in A minor Op. 84 • 1918
George Bernard Shaw, upon hearing the Piano Quintet performed at Elgar’s home, wrote that the music “knocked me over at once.” On 18 March 1919 Elgar revealed in a letter to his friend, the organist Ivor Atkins, that it “runs gigantically and in a large mood.” The Elgar website discloses that “Lady Elgar hinted at a programmatic basis for the work, noting in her diary that the first movement represented a group of trees in Flexham Park near Brinkwells. According to legend, these trees comprised the remains of Spanish monks who had engaged in sacrilegious ceremonies in the park and were struck by lightning: ‘sad “dispossessed” trees and their dance and unstilled regret for their evil fate,’ as she speculated. According to Wulstan Atkins, the composer also implied that the same legend had been much in Elgar’s mind during the writing of the quintet.… In a letter of January 1919 to Ernest Newman, the Music Critic of the Manchester Guardian and the Quintet’s dedicatee, Elgar had described the first movement as ‘ghostly stuff.’ …whatever the factual basis for the legend, Elgar appears again to have drawn his inspiration from the natural beauty of the area surrounding the cottage at Brinkwells.” The premiere was performed on 21 May 1919 at Wigmore Hall by Billy Reed’s ensemble, led by Albert Sammons and with violist Raymond Jeremy, cellist Felix Salmond, and pianist William Murdoch.
|February 6 Go for Baroque
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE Trio Sonata in Bb Major BuxWV 273 • 
The Trio Sonata is one of 21 extant chamber works that were “the avant-garde of their day, written in the new stylus phantasticus with emphasis on expression, virtuosity and excitement, incorporating otherwise unusual progressions, hidden ornaments, ingenious turns and embellishments within the music [Francis Knights].” It offers a glimpse of the musical world of late 17th- and early 18th-century Lübeck and its talented pool of gifted amateur string players, as the considerable demands of the music suggest that they had to practice their violins and gambas seriously to achieve the required virtuosity.
Buxtehude (c1638–1707) is considered the greatest composer of the mid-Baroque period. Both his birth place (Denmark or Germany) and birth date are uncertain, and nothing is known of his early youth; but it is assumed that he was taught music by his father, who was an organist in Helsingborg and Helsingør. In 1688, Buxtehude was awarded the coveted position of organist at St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck, where his fame rose to such heights that musicians from northern Germany came to meet him and attend his concerts. Handel, at age 18, visited him in 1703, and in 1705 the 20-year-old Bach walked from Arnstadt some 250 miles to see him. Both young men hoped to succeed the master at Lübeck, but marriage to one of his daughters was a condition that was unacceptable to both. Handel stayed for only a day, Bach for 3 months “to comprehend one thing and another about his art.” Buxtehude’s official duties as organist were to provide chorales and other musical interludes for every service, and to act as treasurer, secretary, and business manager of the church. Beyond these obligations, he also composed for public occasions—festivals and for the marriages and funerals of the great merchant families of the city. One of his greatest contributions was his establishment of “Abendmusik” in 1673—late afternoon concerts of instrumental and vocal music at St Mary’s Church held annually the five Sundays before Christmas. They were said to be extraordinary and the pride of Lübeck; their tradition continued into the 19th century. Buxtahude wrote mostly organ music and vocal music, comprising chiefly of church cantatas in a variety of forms, as well as chamber music; most of his harpsichord music has been lost. The survival and preservation of Buxtehude’s works is thanks largely to his friend and colleague Gustav Düben, the organist and court music director in Stockholm, who compiled one of the most important collections of music manuscripts of the 17th century.
Johann Sebastian BACH 4 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 Huldigungskantaten (homage cantatas).
~ “Bete aber auch dabei” (“But you should also pray”) from the cantata Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit (“Prepare yourself, my soul”) BWV 115 • 1724
Composed during his second year in Leipzig for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, the Cantata was first performed on 5 November 1724. It is based on a hymn by Johann Burchard Freystein (1695), which expands a single theme related to the Gospel: be prepared by awareness and prayer for the arrival of the Lord.
~ “Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erden” (“The valuables of the world”) from the cantata Ich bin in mir vergnügt (“I am content in myself”) BWV 204 • 1726
The secular “moral” cantata was written for an unknown occasion. The text, adapted from a libretto by Christian Hunold, is one of the most subjective and introspective of any that Bach set. Bach and Hunold’s collaboration lasted from 1718 to 1720, the year before the librettist died, and well before the cantata appears to have been composed. The work looks inward within the human psyche, exploring notions of personal demeanor, attitudes, and the search for spiritual solace and inner peace.
~ “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.
~ “Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen” (“Even with subdued, weak voices“) from the cantata Schwingt freudig euch empor (“Soar joyfully on high”) BWV 36 • 1731
Composed for the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Lutheran church year, the music is drawn from 3 cantatas—BWV 36a, 36b, and 36c—for celebratory secular occasions (birthday and congratulatory). "Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen," the final aria—the best one—is a delicate little beauty
Giuseppe Antonio PAGANELLI Concerto for Chalumeau • 1733
Before this concerto, the chalumeau was used as one of the concertizing instruments in the genre of “concerto grosso”—two by Johann Valentin Rathgeber were published in 1728. Paganelli’s Concerto was written in Venice or Augsburg. In 1732–1733 and 1742–1743 he had staged 6 operas in Venice, making his debut as an opera composer with La casita di Leone, imperator d’Oriente. In 1733 he also appeared as harpsichordist with the opera troupe of Antonio Maria Peruzzi in Augsburg, displaying his skills as a virtuoso at musical gatherings there.
Born in Padua, Paganelli (1710–1763) came from a respectable family and presumably had a good education, having been called a “virtuoso dilettante di Padova.” Reports that he studied with Tartini have not been substantiated. He traveled widely as his operas took him to Prague, Rheinsberg, Brunswick, and elsewhere; and he worked at various German courts, including that of Margravin Wilhelmine of Bayreuth, where he was director of chamber music from 1737 to the end of 1738. He died in Madrid.
The chalumeau (forerunner of the clarinet) is variously called salamuri (in Venice), salamoni, salmò, salmoè (by Vivaldi), and clareto. The instrument was used in Germany, Italy, and England. The earliest evidence of the instrument in Germany is from an inventory record dated 1687 from the Hofkappelle of Duke Heinrich of Saxe-Römhild. It documents that a set of four chalumeaux were purchased from Nürnberg, where the woodwind maker Johann Christoph Denner had his workshop.
Johann Adolph HASSE Sinfonia in G minor Op. 5 No. 6 • published 
Hasse was the most admired composer of opera seria in Italy and Germany for several decades, and was the favorite composer of Metastasio, the leading Italian librettist of the period. François-Joseph Fétis (the Belgian musicologist and a most influential critic of the 19th century) observed that few composers have been as famous and hugely popular as Hasse and yet as quickly forgotten. He left a large body of work (operas, and sacred and instrumental music) gathering dust. His music’s main hallmarks are melodic beauty and formal balance, and his opera overtures influenced the development of the symphony, especially in northern Germany.
Johann Gottlieb GRAUN Concerto in C minor for Violin and Viola da Gamba WV A:XIII:3 • [mid-1700s]
Graun’s own playing and music was much admired in his day, although Charles Burney (the English music historian) reported that some sour voices complained of the length of each movement being “more immoderate than Christian patience can endure.” Musicologists today praise him as a great composer, albeit an unrecognized one. The New Grove Dictionary further states that “his concertos are a landmark in the history of that form between Bach and Mozart, unusually specific in distinguishing between ‘chamber’ and ‘full’ orchestral resources, and profiting especially from his thorough exploitation of the solo violin idiom.”
The most talented of 3 Graun brothers, Johann Gottlieb (1702 or 1703–1771) studied violin and composition and sang in the boys choir in the Kreuzschule in Dresden, from childhood through adolescence. He also studied with Vivaldi’s pupil Johann Georg Pisendel and, for a short time, with Giuseppe Tartini in Padua. Employed as concertmaster in Merseburg, he taught Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. In 1732, after other appointments, he joined the musical establishment of the future Frederick the Great, at Ruppin and then at Rheinsberg, before the latter’s accession to the Prussian throne in 1740. In Berlin, he was appointed concertmaster of the new opera orchestra, established by the King.
A prolific composer, Graun’s works number nearly 100 symphonies, 80 concertos, trios, and solo sonatas. His interest in the viola da gamba probably began during his time at Merseburg in the 1720s, when he met the gambist and violinist Johann Christian Hertel. His attachment to the instrument, however, was sealed by the virtuoso Ludwig Christian Hesse, who played Graun’s concertos. Hesse became a leading figure in the musical entourage of the Berlin court, where he worked alongside Graun from 1740 until 1761, presumably the period from which the majority of the 27 known gamba works date.
|February 20 Women Pioneers
Elfrida ANDRÉE String Quartet in D minor • 1887
The Quartet was first performed in 1895 at the Women’s Exhibition from the Past and Present in Copenhagen—designed for women from Nordic countries to demonstrate their advancement in the arts and culture, education, and employment. Considered a great success, the expo was the first of its kind in Europe. Not only was the Quartet composed by a woman, it was performed by 4 women string players recruited from various parts of Scandinavia. In 1909, Andrée made a version to include a double bass, entitled Sommarminnen från Bjurslätt (“Summer memories from Bjurslätt”). The work could now be played as a string quartet, string quintet, or string orchestra.
Andrée (1841–1929) was given an excellent liberal arts and music education by her father, the town physician in Visby. She then studied composition with Ludwig Norman at the Royal Music Academy of Stockholm from 1859 to 1861, and later with Niels Gade in Copenhagen. An advocate for women’s rights, her motto to her dying day was “The elevation of womankind.” In the last years of her life she supported women’s suffrage, and composed the Suffrage Cantata for the women’s suffrage convention in Stockholm in 1911.
Andrée was a trailblazer and broke many barriers in her native country, attaining several firsts in Sweden as a woman. She was the first woman organist to graduate from the conservatory, and the first woman church organist. She and her father fought for 4 years to overturn a law prohibiting women from becoming church organists. Beginning in 1861 she played for two churches in Stockholm; and in 1867, at age 26, she won the post of organist at the Gothenburg Cathedral, surpassing 7 men in a unanimous vote. The position is one of the most prestigious music jobs in Sweden; she retained it till she died, shortly before her 88th birthday. She was, in fact, the first woman cathedral organist in Europe. Andrée also was the first woman composer. Her earliest extant compositions date from age 7. Currently, 135 works have been documented, including an opera, symphonies, cantatas, masses, chamber music, piano music, and lieder. Her music reflects diverse stylistic influences, from the ideals of the Leipzig school and the Scandinavian nationalism of her day (gleaned from her teachers Norman and Gade) to Wagner and Debussy. In 1879, Andrée gained another first with her induction into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. And when she became the first woman conductor, this was a consequence of just trying to get her own pieces performed well; regardless, her efforts were applauded by her colleagues and the press. In 1897, after she was put in charge of the Labor Institute’s popular concerts in Gothenburg, she organized over 800 concerts with low ticket prices, and often conducted the orchestra in the mixed programs.
Andrée surmounted other hurdles as a woman as well. One concerned publishing her music, which caused her sometimes to submit her work under the name Monsieur E. Andrée. Another involved orchestra and choir members attempting boycotts of rehearsals of her cantata Snöfrid. In addition, when her Second Symphony premiered in 1893, she was not permitted to acknowledge the standing ovation from the stage, and the conductor would not permit an encore. At the time of her music studies, when she took a course in telegraphy, she became the first woman certified telegraphist. Again, she and her father fought to change the law banning women from this occupation. What a woman to overcome all these challenges!
For further reading see https://www.swedishmusicalheritage.com/composers/andree-elfrida/
Louise FARRENC Nonet in Eb Major Op. 38 • 1849
A review of a recording by Gramophone regarded Farrenc as “an unfailingly inventive composer, and one of great wit and charm. … [The Nonet contains] brilliant part-writing and delightfully original combination of instruments.” Completed in February 1849, a private performance was played in the salons of Madam Sophie Pierson-Bodin in December. Its public premiere followed on 19 March 1850 during a soirée at the Salle Érard, featuring violinist Joseph Joachim, who was already famous at age 19. The hugely successful premiere gave rise to both Farrenc and the Nonet’s popularity, which she used as leverage in her successful request for equal pay for her teaching position at the Paris Conservatoire.
Farrenc (1804–1875) was a descendent of a long line of royal artists (including several women painters) and a sister of the award-winning sculptor Auguste Dumont. The piano prodigy studied with Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Ignaz Moscheles, who was Mendelssohn's teacher. At age 15, she added composition to her studies at the Paris Conservatoire—with Anton Reicha. Her early piano music, written in the 1820s and 1830s, was praised by Schumann. Of her Air russe varié, he felt that “one must fall under their charm, especially since a subtle aroma of romanticism hovers over them.” By 1842, having established a rock-solid reputation, she was appointed professor of piano at the Conservatoire, where she taught for 30 years. Farrenc was the only woman musician at the Conservatoire in the 19th century to hold a permanent chair of this rank and importance. Evidence of her excellent teaching is reflected in the high percentage of her pupils graduating with the Premier Prix. Her 30 Etudes also became compulsory study for all piano classes in 1845. The New Grove Dictionary concludes that “she merits recognition as a pioneering scholar and a forerunner of the French musical renaissance of the 1870s.”
Dora PEJAČEVIĆ Piano Trio in C Major Op. 29 • 1910
Pejačević (1885–1923) was a composer, violinist, pianist, actress, and patron of the arts. Born in Budapest, she descended paternally from a distinguished noble family. Her father was a “ban” (viceroy) and her mother, the Hungarian Countess Lilla Vay de Vaya, was her first piano teacher. Growing up in her parents’ castle in Našice, she received a comprehensive education through private lessons and was fluent in 6 languages, but was largely self-taught in music. She traveled to Germany, Bohemia, and other European countries, and met the leading artists and intellectuals of the day, including Rainer Maria Rilke whose poems she later set. Early in life, armed with a strong will, she rebelled against the constraints of aristocratic life, and nursed soldiers as a volunteer during World War I. The horrors of war reinforced her determination to live a simpler, more selfless life. She married a military officer in 1921, and died in 1923 at age 38 after giving birth to her son. True to her beliefs, she asked that others remember her after her death by making donations to musicians in need. She also refused to be buried in the family crypt and requested that her tombstone bear only her name “Dora” and the words “Rest now.” The film Countess Dora (1993), directed by Zvonimir Berković, is a fictionalized story of her life.
As to her thoughts on composing, Dora wrote: “When I’m floating off into this invisible world of my most personal and inner thoughts, only then do I become my real self. And then, in that heavenly, distant seclusion of the feelings, which is in itself some kind of ecstasy, comes a sense of liberation of a type that is realised when a composition is created. And that is how I should answer people who ask me: ‘What are you really doing when you are composing?’ But who would understand such an answer? It always seems to me that I betray my own soul when I reply to this pointless question like some average, realistic person should do. Sometimes I just say, ‘It’s hard to explain,’ which is perhaps the best answer.”
|March 6 Uniquely French
Jean FRANÇAIX String Trio in C Major • 1933
The Neoclassical composer, whose style was vibrant, witty, concise, and marked by lightness, attended the Paris Conservatoire and studied composition with Nadia Boulanger. He was influenced by Ravel, but wrote in his own very individual style—polished, ingenious, and fresh. The String Trio was recorded by Jascha Heifetz, Joseph de Pasquale, and Gregor Piatigorsky in 1964.
Cécile CHAMINADE Capriccio Op. 18 • 1890
Chaminade, born in Paris in 1857 to a prosperous family, is known chiefly for her character pieces for piano as well as salon songs—elegant, tuneful, and often witty. First taught by her mother, she was composing by the age of 7; two of her piano mazurkas appeared in print in a magazine around this time. Their neighbor, Georges Bizet, noticed her talent while visiting the Chaminades in August 1869, and dubbed her the “Petite Mozart.” As her father was against a music education at the Conservatoire, she studied privately at home. In 1875 she gave her first public recital, after which she performed numerous concert tours, particularly in England, where Queen Victoria became her fan. In the 1890s Chaminade visited Her Majesty at Windsor Castle several times, and one of her compositions, the song Reste, was dedicated to Princess Beatrice. While in London during Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (the 60th anniversary of her reign), Chaminade received a Jubilee Medal. And at Victoria’s funeral in January 1901, the ceremonies included a performance of her Prélude for organ. President Theodore Roosevelt also invited her to play at the White House. Before her star faded with the onset of the Great War, almost all her compositions sold well during her lifetime; and there were were some 200 Chaminade Clubs in the United States alone. In 1913 Chaminade was the first woman composer ever to be granted the Legion of Honor award. The composer Ambroise Thomas said, “This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman.” Yet she died a recluse in Monaco in 1944, her music nearly forgotten.
Augusta HOLMÈS Fantaisie • 1900
The Fantaisie was selected for the Paris Conservatoire’s annual competition, making it the first solo de concours for clarinet composed by a woman, who became widely acclaimed in France.
Augusta Holmès was born in Paris in 1847. Although she showed talent at the piano, her mother discouraged her musical aspirations. After her mother died she took lessons privately, starting at age 11. In 1869 she met Liszt for the first and only time in Munich, at a rehearsal for the premiere of Wagner’s Das Rheingold. Liszt already knew some of her songs because he had received a packet of her scores through his daughter Blandine. He regarded the music favorably, writing that some of her harmonies were on the same level as the most beautiful inspirations of Schubert. After their meeting, Liszt and Holmès began corresponding. Das Rheingold changed her perception of music, and Wagner would remain a dominant creative influence. In 1875 César Franck became her teacher, and Franck, too, influenced her greatly. Although a brilliant pianist, Holmès attained distinction entirely through her compositions. She thought big and composed grandiose works. She wrote “about epic themes on classical or mythological subjects. Her model was the large orchestra and even her songs seem orchestral.” Holmès was so admired that she was commissioned to write the Ode triomphale for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, the Paris World’s Fair that marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The Ode is a behemoth that requires 900 singers and a 300-piece orchestra. “She also liked dramatic symphonies and symphonic poems, but her greatest success was with choral works…. Probably best remembered for her songs (she wrote over 130), Holmès’ music had great breadth and vitality.… Describing her work, Ethel Smyth declared that it contained ‘jewels wrought by one who was evidently not among the giants, but for all that knew how to cut a gem.’ Holmès was a dominant figure in French musical circles as well as in literary salons. Beautiful and vivacious, she enjoyed the company of poets and musicians. ‘We were all in love with her,’ commented Saint-Saëns, who wanted to marry her, while Franck, Wagner, D’Indy, De l’Isle-Adam, and Mallarmé were among her many admirers [John Haag].” She died in 1903 in Paris at age 56.
Napoléon Henri REBER Piano Trio No. 4 in D Major “Sérénade” Op. 25 • 1862
The subtitle “Serenade” comes from the second movement—an Allegretto of great beauty and delicacy. It was the encore at a concert on 16 April 1863; and 3 weeks later, on 5 May, Johannes Weber reported in Le Temps that the Trio was performed at the Érard salons by violinist Achille Dien, cellist Alexandre Batta, and Saint-Saëns at the piano. Another critic wrote in 1862: “It is indeed difficult to resist the subdued lyricism of this Allegretto. Its discreet melancholy, hidden under the elegance of the dance, is like the whole trio, devoid of tragic accents. In the Andante of the finale…the alternation between the dotted rhythms of the tutti and the vehement singing of the strings darkens the atmosphere, but briefly and without showing any threat. If Reber places the whole of the Serenade under the sign of elegance and clarity, he avoids monochrome, because the rhythmic alacrity, the harmonic iridescences and the melodic arabesques passing from one instrument to another give wings to this work which twists the neck of eloquence, ‘without anything in it that weighs or poses.’”
Saint-Saëns, who knew Reber well, depicted him vividly: “With his predilection for the past and his exquisite courtesy of manner, he evoked a bygone age; his white hair looked as though it were powdered; his frock-coat had an air of period dress about it; he seemed like a forgotten man from the 18th century, wandering through the 19th as a contemporary of Mozart might have done, surprised and somewhat shocked by our music and our ways.”
Napoléon-Henri Reber (1807–1880) was named after Bonaparte, but went by Henri Reber for most of his life. Born in Mulhouse, he learned the piano, flute, and composing on his own before studying at the Paris Conservatoire at age 21—harmony with Anton Reicha and composition under Le Sueur. Although he was dismissed from their classes with an undistinguished record, he went on to develop a successful career. By 1851 he was appointed professor of harmony at the Conservatoire; and in 1853 he was elected to the prestigious Institut de France as George Onslow’s successor. In 1862 he became professor of composition at the Conservatoire; and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1855, and an Officier in 1870. Among his many pupils were Benjamin Godard, Jules Massenet, Pablo de Sarasate, and Władysław Żeleński. Other notables who frequently performed his piano trios were Chopin, Liszt, and Moscheles.
Gabriel FAURÉ Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 45 • 1885–1886
Unique and beguiling, the elegant, emotional quartet bares the influence of the technical mastery of his teacher Saint-Saëns, as well as César Franck’s cyclic, mystical chromaticism, and Wagner’s bold Romanticism. As to the second movement, Fauré had remarked wistfully, “It is only briefly in the andante of the Second Quartet that I remember having translated, almost involuntarily, the far-off memory of a peal of bells that evening, at Montgauzy, coming from a village called Cadirac as the wind blew in from the west. Upon this ringing a vague daydream grew which, as in all vague daydreams, would be inexpressible in literary terms. Only isn’t it always that an exterior event numbs us like that in a train of thought that is so imprecise that in reality it isn’t thought at all, and yet it is something in which we bask? The desire for nonexistent things, perhaps; and it is here indeed that music holds sway.” Dedicated to the German virtuoso pianist and composer Hans von Bülow, the Quartet was first performed on 22 January 1887 in Paris at a concert presented by the Société Nationale de Musique Française.
|March 20 Freemasons I
At the age of 28, on 14 December 1784, Mozart was initiated in the bourgeoisie Lodge “Zur Wohltätigkeit” (Charity) in Vienna. Its 32 members comprised middle class intellectuals and quite a few Illuminati (Enlightened). Within 3 weeks he ascended to the position of “journeyman,” and by 1 February 1785 he became a “master.” He attended the Lodge frequently till his death.
With Mozart’s encouragement, Haydn joined the Lodge “Zur wahren Eintracht” (True Harmony) in the east of Vienna on 11 February 1785. Its members were the cream of the literati, arts, and science. Although Haydn was a highly respected member, scholars believe his participation was minimal. The only known composition he wrote for a Masonic lodge was not for the one in Vienna, but in Paris. In 1786, he received a lucrative commission to write six symphonies that were performed at the Paris “Concert de la Loge Olympique.” Haydn’s membership in Vienna was short-lived as the Lodge was shuttered on 11 December 1785 by Joseph II’s edict, Freimaurerpatent—an imperial decree in Austria in the wake of the Illuminati scandal.
Unlike Haydn, Mozart was an active Freemason. Among several works he wrote for Masons are the “Masonic Funeral Music,” which used Masonic symbolism; pieces for his musician friends who were also Masons, such as the Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet for Anton Stadler; Kleiner Freimaurerkantate (Little Masonic Cantata); and the opera The Magic Flute, which incorporates the number three, a particularly important number in Masonic symbology—this number and other symbols are found in the overture as well as the “March of the Priests” and the aria “O Isis und Osiris.”
HAYDN Piano Trio in F# minor Hob. XV:26 • 1795
The last in this set of 3 “London Trios” was written during his second successful trip to England, after his retirement from service to the Esterházys. The Trios were dedicated to the widow Rebecca Schroeter, who had asked for music lessons. They developed an intimate relationship, which is documented in her letters. Haydn also commented to his biographer Albert Christoph Dies that she was “a beautiful and lovable woman, whom I would very readily have married if I had been free then.” (Haydn, locked in a loveless marriage for 30 years, was not permitted a divorce by the Catholic Church). Haydn left London permanently in August 1795—before their publication by Longman and Broderip in October.
Louis SPOHR Quintet in C minor Op. 52 • 1820
Admired in its day, the Quintet for piano, flute, clarinet, horn, and bassoon was played by Moscheles, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Chopin, who regarded it as “most beautiful” but “intolerably difficult.” A reviewer for the Berliner Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung commented, “It is quite definitely one of the most beautiful of Spohr’s works, and that is to say one of the most beautiful pieces of instrumental music of our day altogether.”
Spohr (1784–1859), sometimes called “The Forgotten Master,” was a dominant force in German music—he served in a number of court positions, he was the celebrated leading violin virtuoso, and was one of the most sought-after and prolific composers of the first half of the 19th century. He was also an ideas man—he invented the chin rest, introduced the use of the baton and rehearsal numbers, developed the double quartet after Andreas Romberg first proposed the idea, and he revived the music of Bach and Handel. In addition to his musical activities, he was a family man who enjoyed a happy social life and varied pursuits like swimming, ice-skating, hiking, gardening, and painting.
In 1805, Spohr was appointed concertmaster for the court of Gotha. The next year, the Lodge in Gotha named "Ernst zum Kompass" (Ernest of the Compasses) was revived under the rule of Emil Leopold August, an enthusiast for cultural and intellectual pursuits. (The Lodge had been disbanded in 1793 when all Masonic lodges were suppressed throughout Germany.) Spohr’s interest in liberal politics led to his membership of the Gotha Lodge on 12 October 1807, and he became an active Freemason. As explained by his biographer Clive Brown, “Spohr’s independent character found a fertile soil for its development, his beliefs in essential human dignity, and in the supremacy of merit over privilege, of which the foundations had been laid in his parents’ house, were confirmed and strengthened during his time in Gotha. Spohr will have come into contact with the ideas of the Illuminati, who were certainly active again in Gotha between 1807 and 1812…and among his acquaintances in the Gotha Lodge was Rudolf Zacharias Becker…some of whose radical political views were later to be reflected in Spohr’s own political opinions.” Furthermore, Philippe Autexier’s research based on previously unknown letters and Masonic documents discovered “details about Spohr’s encounters with prominent Masons in the Gotha and Frankfurt lodges and on his travels, establishes the correct dates of his Masonic ceremonies, identifies the poet of the text for the hymn Der Kompass (WoO 89), and presents six Masonic texts Spohr is likely to have set, but for which no music seems to have survived.”
MOZART String Quintet in G minor K. 516 • 1787
The manuscript of the heartfelt Quintet bears the date 16 May 1787; it was written during the final illness of his father, Leopold Mozart, who died 12 days later in Salzburg.
| April 3 Freemasons II
Francesco GEMINIANI Cello Sonata in D minor Op. 5 No. 2 • 1746
The Sonatas, as discerned by liner notes for Linn Records, are “an intriguing and delicately balanced fusion of Italianate clarity and counterpoint and French lavishness of sonority and gesture.” They also “mark the beginning of the change from gamba to cello.”
Born in Lucca, Geminiani (1687–1762) was “one of the greatest violin virtuosos of his time, a composer of highly original and expressive music, and a teacher whose influence reached beyond his pupils to a wider public though his treatises [New Grove Dictionary].” He studied composition in Rome with Corelli and Scarlatti before traveling around Europe, spent 18 years in London beginning in 1714, and eventually settled in Ireland. His brilliant violin playing in London brought him immediate success. He received support from the aristocracy and leading figures at the Royal Court, and was invited to play the violin before George I, accompanied at the harpsichord by Handel himself. Among his aristocratic pupils was the Earl of Essex who, in 1728, tried to obtain for him the post of Master and Composer of the State Music of Ireland. The Earl also rescued him from prison for a debt arising from his addiction to art dealing and collecting. Geminiani then left London in 1733 for Dublin, where he rapidly gained a fine reputation as a teacher, performer, concert promoter, and musical theorist. That year, he opened a Concert Room in Spring Gardens, using the lower rooms for selling art. He shuttled between Dublin and London, but left England for good in 1759 and made Dublin his home.
Geminiani became a Freemason on 1 February 1725 in Lodge Philo-musicae et-architecturae societas Apollini (The Apollo Society for the Lovers of Music and Architecture) at the Queen’s Head Tavern in London. Soon after, he was active in setting up and running a lodge whose members shared a love for the performance of Italian instrumental music. Although the Lodge existed until only 1727, its minute book gives a glimpse into the world of middle class men’s amateur music making in early 18th-century London, their taste for the new, and their cultural aspirations. And as told by Andrew Pink, “No other English masonic lodge of the 18th century devoted so much of its resources to the performance of music for its own sake, and music that was contemporary, too. The minutes reveal a particular devotion to Italian music…. The…members and visitors…were all…eminently respectable and drawn from among city lawyers and merchants, government officials and the minor gentry. Their love of music was such that they were willing and able to patronize with confidence some of the best musicians in London, not least Francesco Geminiani….”
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL Septet No. 1 in D minor Op. 74 • 1816
After a performance of Hummel’s Septet for piano, strings, and winds in 1892 at Steinway Hall in London, the Musical Times wrote that it was “at one time enormously popular, but now rarely heard. It is, however, quite worthy of occasional revival…. Mendelssohn performed the Septet in London on 21 May 1832, and it was also Mendelssohn’s piece of choice when he began teaching classes at the Leipzig Konservatorium.” By all accounts, the Septet was regarded by many in the 19th century as his greatest work. Dedicated to the Archduchess Marie Louise, the knockout was premiered by Hummel on 28 January 1816 at a home concert.
Hummel (1778–1837) was born in Pressburg, Hungary, then a part of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. A pupil of Mozart, with whom he lived from the ages of 8 to 10, he also studied with Haydn, Salieri, and Albrechtsberger. Among his friends was Beethoven (in varying degrees), at whose funeral he was a pall bearer and for whose memorial concert he played the variations on the Prisoners’ Chorus from Fidelio, at Beethoven’s request. And he knew Schubert, who dedicated his last three piano sonatas to him. Hummel became one of Europe’s greatest composers and perhaps the greatest piano virtuoso in Europe for more than 2 decades (his art of improvisation is said to have been even better than Beethoven’s). In 1804 he succeeded Haydn as Konzertmeister and later as Kapellmeister at the court of Esterházy in Eisenstadt. Hummel died a rich man after a long and successful career, then faded into obscurity with the arrival of Romanticism.
Hummel’s music and thinking were influenced by his teachers Haydn and Mozart, who were Freemasons; and Hummel himself finally became a Freemason in 1820 at the age of 41. He joined the influential Amalia Lodge in Weimar, where he was appointed Kapellmeister of the court orchestra in 1819, a position he held until his death. As a Freemason, Hummel (like his fellow Austrian Catholics, Haydn and Mozart) alternated between Mass and Lodge meetings without discomfort to his conscience. Hummel and his friend Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) were lodge brothers. The Freimaurer Museum reveals that their joint work, Drey Gesänge von Göthe (“Three Songs by Goethe”), was created to mark the 50th anniversary of the entry into government of Grand Duke Karl August, member and protector of the Amalia Lodge, during the Lodge celebration on 3 September 1825. Paul Carus, in his book published in 1906, discussed Goethe’s interest in the immortality of the soul, as evidenced in the poem “An Interlude,” and noted, “This poem, which belongs to Goethe’s masonic verses, has been set to music by J. N. Hummel, and was sung as a quartette in the Lodge Amalia, at Weimar, September 3, 1825.” Liner notes for Naxos further reveal that Goethe wrote with Hummel the song Zur Logenfeier (“For a Lodge Festival”) and Lasstfahren hin das Allzuflüchtige (“Let go the all too fleeting”). Hummel (as did Mozart) bequeathed a considerable portion of his famous garden behind his Weimar residence to his masonic lodge.
BEETHOVEN String Quintet in Eb Major • published 1802
The Critical Reception of Beethoven’s Compositions by His German Contemporaries records a memorable episode: “When his Septet, arranged as a quintet by Hoffmeister, was played for him by a few dilettantes, he again took his place at the fortepiano and to the amazement of all present improvised on the theme of the first minuet almost for an entire hour. Only on the promise he left us, from a man who steadfastly keeps his word, will console us in our present loss of enjoyment. He departed with the respect of all who became closely acquainted with him.”
Later, when Beethoven heard of his Septet’s sensational reception in London in 1815, he snarled, “That damn work; I wish it could be burned!” For the poet Walt Whitman, however, it evoked thoughts of “Dainty abandon, sometimes as if Nature laughing on a hillside in the sunshine; serious and firm monotonies, as of winds; a horn sounding through the tangle of the forest, and the dying echoes; soothing floating of waves but presently rising in surges, angrily lashing, muttering, heavy; piercing peals of laughter, for interstices; now and then weird, as Nature herself is in certain moods—but mainly spontaneous, easy, careless…”
Hoffmeister, one of Beethoven’s music publishers, was a well-known Freemason and the recipient of Beethoven’s letters expressing dissident political views that are likely Masonic allusions.
Although there is no Lodge record for Beethoven, there is evidence that he was a Freemason. Many of his friends and colleagues were Masons and there are several references to Masonry in his voluminous correspondence, Tagebuch (diary), and compositions. In addition, his presence at concerts given with full masonic rites is documented; presumably, a requirement for attendance would have been a Brotherhood membership. Beethoven scholar Maynard Solomon asserts that “there are substantial indications that Beethoven was favorably disposed toward Freemasonry, was familiar with its language, shared some of its main intellectual interests, and, on occasion, seemed to have identified himself as a Masonic sympathizer. Certainly many of his closest friends, teachers, patrons, and associates were connected with the Masonic movement, and many had formerly been actual members of Masonic organizations and especially of the Order of Illuminati…. In addition…there are a variety of linguistic expressions in Beethoven’s letters or notations on leaves of sketches that may have Masonic overtones. Foremost among these are numerous references to ‘fraternity’ and its cognates…. Thus, it may be meaningful that Beethoven used the salutation ‘Dear Brother’ or some variant of it in letters to Franz Anton Hoffmeister…. Viennese censors were expert in spotting potentially subversive ideas, yet they chose to allow the expression of Masonic or quasi-Masonic viewpoints—such as those that may be found in The Creation, Fidelio, and the Ninth Symphony—and to permit countless performances of [Mozart’s] Die Zauberflote despite its frankly Masonic text, imagery, and social perspectives. What this may suggest is that…they were often tolerant of the expression of rationalist ideas and Masonic symbols, for these could serve as an escape valve for a discontented populace…. In all likelihood, then, Freemasonry was an important stimulus to Beethoven’s way of thinking about universal issues of being and morality; aspects of its doctrines and ritual procedures contributed to the mental framework within which, in his fifth decade, he strove to reformulate his understanding of the self, the deity, and the world.… Freemasonry offered a vocabulary for the formulations of ideas of service, purification, and transcendence…. Taken as a whole, the Tagebuch gives evidence of a sea change in Beethoven’s way of experiencing the world.”
Hoffmeister (1754–1812) was a prominent Viennese publisher and friend of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. His passion, however, was composing; he was madly prolific, writing 66 symphonies, 100 flute quartets, and numerous quintets and other pieces popular in his day. As a composer he was highly respected by his contemporaries, as documented by a tribute published in Gerber’s Neues Lexikon der Tonkünstler in the year of his death: “If you were to take a glance at his many and varied works, then you would have to admire the diligence and the cleverness of this composer.... He earned for himself a well-deserved and widespread reputation through the original content of his works, which are not only rich in emotional expression but also distinguished by the interesting and suitable use of instruments and through good practicability. For this last trait we have to thank his knowledge of instruments, which is so evident that you might think that he was a virtuoso on all of the instruments for which he wrote.” Hoffmeister’s publishing business, begun in 1784, was sold, in part, to Artaria in 1795. He then had a partnership with Ambrosius Kühnel of Leipzig under a new firm, the Bureau de Musique, which was later taken over by C. F. Peters, one of the oldest publishing houses still surviving today.
|April 10 Mendelssohn’s Web
BACH Sonata No. 1 in B minor BWV 1014 • 1717-1723
In writing exactly what he wanted to accompany the violin melody, with both instruments in dialog as equal partners, Bach paved the way for the classic duo sonata. The amazing sonatas were written in Anhalt-Cöthen, where he flourished as conductor of the court orchestra and produced numerous other works, including orchestral pieces, and concertos.
Bach’s influence on Mendelssohn is widely known—his father’s favorite composer was Bach and his own idols included Bach. His love of counterpoint came from Bach and is evident in his disposition towards thick, contrapuntal textures and his inclination to write fugues and canons. His cantatas also show the influence of Bach’s choral works. Not least, he was instrumental in reviving Bach’s music—on 11 March 1829, at the Singakademie in Berlin, Mendelssohn conducted the first performance since Bach’s death of the St Matthew Passion, thus inaugurating the Bach revival of the 19th century.
Carl Maria von WEBER Piano Quartet in Bb Major J76 • 1809
The venerable critic Harold Schonberg called Weber “an authentic genius whose greatest tragedy was that he was born about thirty years ahead of his time.”
Weber made a deep impression on Mendelssohn. The boy had met Weber at an early age as the elder composer was a guest at the family home in Berlin. In 1821, when Mendelssohn (at age 12) attended the premiere of Weber’s supernatural opera Der Freischütz, he was swept away by the overnight sensation. Weber’s pupil Julius Benedict described their meeting in Berlin: “Weber…directed my attention to a boy…who, on perceiving the author of Freyschütz [sic], ran towards him, giving him a most hearty greeting. ‘Tis Felix Mendelssohn,’ said Weber, introducing me at once to the prodigious child, of whose marvelous talent and execution I had already heard so much at Dresden…. He would have it that we should go with him at once to his father’s house; but as Weber had to attend a rehearsal, he took me by the hand, and made me run a race till we reached his home.” In a second encounter, this one at the Mendelssohn home, Julius recalled, “…whilst I was lost in admiration and astonishment at beholding the work of a master written by the hand of a boy, all at once he sprang up from his seat, and, in his playful manner, ran to the pianoforte, performing note for note all the music from Freyschütz, which three or four days previously he had heard me play, and asking, ‘How do you like this chorus?’ ‘What do you think of this air?’ ‘Do you not admire this overture?’ and so on. Then forgetting quartets and Weber, down we went into the garden, he clearing high hedges with a leap, running, singing, or climbing trees like a squirrel, the very image of health.” In the 1820s, when Mendelssohn took a 7-year hiatus from composing concertos, he often performed Weber’s Konzertstück, which became part of his core repertoire. During his first London trip in 1829, he astounded the English by performing it from memory. When he returned to composing concertos in 1831, he was quite influenced by the Konzertstück. In 1829, as documented by George Marek in Gentle Genius, Mendelssohn found a full score of Weber’s grand opera Euryanthe while rummaging through a cabinet in the country house of his friend Sir Thomas Attwood in Surrey. “Attwood had obtained it in Germany years before and it had become quite a rarity. Felix was overjoyed to study the score; he wrote to Fanny, ‘It gives me a peculiar pleasure to examine Weber’s favorite work particularly here in England, where nobody knows this music.’”
Carl BAERMANN Duo Concertant Op. 33 • published 1873
Baermann (1810–1885) was the son of the famous clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Baermann, for whom Weber composed his clarinet works. As a child he was taught the clarinet and the basset horn by his father. He played occasionally in the Munich court orchestra when he was 14 years old, and was appointed its second clarinetist in 1832. When his father retired in 1834, Carl succeeded him as principal clarinetist, holding that position until he retired in 1880. During his tour in Europe with his father in 1833, they premiered their friend Mendelssohn’s Concert Pieces Opp. 113 and 114 to great acclaim. The Pieces were composed in exchange for a culinary treat of sweet dumplings and cheese strudel. Apart from their musical prowess, the Baermanns were renowned for their cooking. Even the royal house of Saxony craved their dumpling specialty made from flour, yeast, sugar, butter, and eggs and cooked in a wine sauce.
Carl Baermann shaped clarinet history through his pedagogical writings, editorial articles, compositions that were popular with clarinet virtuosos, and mechanical design of the clarinet—the Baermann-Ottensteiner key system, which he developed based on the widely-used Müller system in the late 19th century. Between 1864 and 1875 he wrote a clarinet manual on his concepts of tone production, technique, and clarinet equipment. He also “worked with publisher Robert Lienau to produce his versions of Weber’s clarinet works. He primarily employed his father’s performance notes of these works to produce the Baermann editions of the two Weber Concertos and Concertino. He sought to document his father’s performance practice by having all of his father’s additions such as articulations, flourishes, and cadenzas published in one edition [Kimberly Miller].”
MENDELSSOHN String Quintet No. 2 in Bb Major Op. 87 • 1845
|April 24 Norse Force
Peter RASMUSSEN Wind Quintet in F Major • 1896
Very little is known about Rasmussen, who was born in Hørsholm in 1838 and died in Copenhagen in 1913. He studied with the composer Gebauer, taught at the Royal Danish Conservatory (established by Niels Gade in 1867), and was organist at the Garrison Church in Copenhagen.
Johan SVENDSEN String Quintet in C Major Op. 5 • 1867
Although Svendsen (1840–1911) wrote all his chamber music while studying at the Leipzig Conservatory, they were not considered student works. He premiered the Quintet at a graduation concert in 1867, after which he went to Paris, where it was performed at musical soirées. Music writer Don Satz singled out the Theme with Variations movement as most impressive “as it is a compendium of the breadth of Svendsen’s artistry. …each variation is unique and memorable. …assuredly displays all his compositional gifts including the essential elements of contrast. The 3rd Variation is a hushed and fragile gem with absolutely gorgeous melodies and phrasing.”
Over time, Svendsen gradually turned his attention to conducting from composing. In 1867, he had conducted a concert of his works in Christiania (later Oslo), but the public showed little interest in spite of an anonymous, enthusiastic review by Grieg praising his freshness and originality as a composer, and his complete command of the orchestra. Svendsen returned to Christiania in 1872 to take the post of joint conductor (with Grieg) of the Music Society concerts, and from 1874, as sole conductor. Meanwhile, he married the American Sarah Levett, whom he divorced in 1901 to marry Juliette Vilhelmine Haase, a ballerina. He spent 3 years in Germany, Italy, England, and France; came back to Christiania to teach and conduct in 1880–1883; and was appointed conductor of the Royal Theater Orchestra in Copenhagen in 1883. On the podium, Svendsen was a majestic and commanding presence. When he retired in 1908, he was granted an honorary pension by the Danish government; not to be outdone, the Norwegian government restored his annual composer’s salary.
Wisconsin Public Radio tells the tragic tale about Svendsen’s Third Symphony, which he had written in the winter of 1883: “According to his friend John Paulsen, the handsome and charming composer was constantly pursued by admiring women who sent him letters and flowers. After one of his concerts, a celebrated Christiania beauty sent Svendsen a big bouquet of roses. Tucked among the pink blossoms was a love letter. The bouquet and the love letter fell into the hands of Svendsen’s American wife, Sally, who was not amused. From a desk drawer, she took the manuscript of Svendsen’s freshly finished Third Symphony and threw it into the fire. When Svendsen told Paulsen the story, his friend asked, “What did you do to her then? She deserved to be killed on the spot.” The composer stroked his black mustache as he recalled the scene. “Believe me,” he said. “I was firm.” Knowing how mild-mannered Svendsen was, Paulsen persisted. “So what did you do? Did you divorce her at once?” “No, not that,” Svendsen said. “But in a commanding voice, I did tell her, ‘On your knees!’” The story made its way around Christiania to Henrik Ibsen, who used a version of it for a key scene in his play Hedda Gabler. Svendsen was unable to respond so creatively to the crisis. Although he lived for another twenty-eight years, he was unable to compose more than a few scattered pieces of music.”
Christian August SINDING Piano Quintet in E minor Op. 5 • 1882–1884
After its premiere by the Brodsky Quartet with Ferruccio Busoni at the piano, the prestigious Musikalisches Wochenblatt of Leipzig reported that it “demonstrates in all four of its movements a simply astounding talent for invention and combination as well as a wonderful sense of sound effect. At the same time, the ideas are so masterfully executed and such a splendid contrast of themes is in evidence throughout, that one cannot cease to voice one’s admiration for this very important work which both is daring and individual.” Written in Munich, the Quintet created an immediate sensation, not only because it violated many established rules of composition (such as the use of parallel fifths) but also by virtue of its great originality and abundance of musical ideas. The Quintet received 30 performances in 19 cities on 2 continents over the next 3 years.
Born in Kongsberg in 1856, Sinding is the most important Norwegian Romantic composer (after Grieg), who enjoyed wide fame throughout his life. He began playing the violin when he was quite young. In 1874 he went to the Leipzig Conservatory to study violin, music theory, and composition, but soon gave up the violin to concentrate on composing. His output was prolific. According to the New Grove Dictionary, “He was most strongly influenced by Wagner, Liszt and Strauss; from them he quickly built an individual style which altered little with the years…. The independence and originality of his style are associated with an aggressive freshness and virility, which can at times seem bombastic, but in his best works, is supported by the impetus of a fertile musical ability; most of his finest works are among his earlier.” Sinding's critical success included an appointment at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, for the 1920–1921 academic year; and a number of grants from the Norwegian government to finance his work, even though he spent a considerable part of his life in Germany. He died in Oslo in 1941.
May 1 Soviet Victims
Sergei PROKOFIEV “Die Montagues und Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet • 1935
The ballet’s tortured history is told by New York Times critic Joshua Barone: “In 1935, Sergei Prokofiev made a devil’s bargain: He moved to the Soviet Union, chasing a lucrative offer to write any opera or ballet he wanted and an opportunity to take command of the country’s music scene. He chose to compose a Romeo and Juliet ballet, which led to one of the most beloved dance works in the repertory and a series of famous orchestral suites…. But…It left Prokofiev broken and emerged from a period that left many of his colleagues dead…. When Prokofiev accepted the commission from the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Theater, he had lived outside Russia since 1918 and saw the offer as a kind of homecoming. It could also be his moment to dethrone Shostakovich following the disastrous premiere of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which was mocked by Stalin and denounced in the Communist newspaper Pravda…. With friends, Prokofiev came up with the idea for a ballet adaptation of Shakespeare…. Then he spent a summer at the artists’ retreat Polenovo, writing a complete annotated piano score in just four months…. In 1936, Prokofiev played the first three acts on piano for a small group that included the Shakespeare scholar Sergei Dinamov, who supported the unusual [happy] ending. The Bolshoi, under the leadership of Vladimir Mutnikh, acquired Romeo from the Kirov and planned to stage it during the 1936–37 season. Then the dominoes began to fall. Platon Kerzhentsev, chairman of the newly formed Committee on Arts Affairs, took charge of the Bolshoi and called for a state assessment of the repertory. Romeo was postponed, and Mutnikh was arrested as part of Stalin’s Great Purge, in which more than a million people were detained and at least 600,000 were executed…. [According to Professor Simon Morrison,] ‘With this increasingly paranoid cultural edifice, anything associated with Mutnikh…was essentially doomed…. The creative tumult of that period was absolutely staggering…. People in his apartment building were disappearing, he couldn’t leave and his ballet was effectively censored. I think at this moment something really did break in him.’ It was clear to Prokofiev that his return to Russia had been a colossal mistake. But he would remain there for the rest of his life.…”
Prokofiev, born in Ukraine in 1891, had a close relationship with the Bolsheviks before the Russian Revolution of 1917, but he went abroad, living in New York and Paris during most of the early years of the Soviet Union. By the time he returned in 1935 he found cultural life under monitor—the Composers Union was formed to police the likes of Prokofiev and his more outspoken contemporary Shostakovich for alleged “formalist tendencies,” considered to be intellectually elitist and anti-Soviet. Further, any freedom they may have had ended with the 1948 Zhdanov Decree, aimed at suppressing artistic self-expression. Prokofiev was now viewed as “anti-democratic” and much of his music was banned. Many concert and theater administrators refused to program his music, fearful of the consequences of supporting an artist denounced by the regime. He suffered censorship until his death in 1953.
Giya KANCHELI Ninna Nanna Per Anna • 2008
Musicologist Elena Dubinets depicted the music as unfolding slowly “through a very gradual blinking of major and minor keys in the pastel tones of nostalgia and half-forgotten memories.” The lyrical melodies and harmonies are gentle and brooding, punctuated by very occasional startling outbursts.
Kancheli (1935–2019) was born in Tbilisi and lived in exile in Western Europe since 1991. He was a relatively late starter. His initial intention to study geology was shelved after hearing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Instead, he studied at the Tbilisi Conservatoire for four years from 1959, at the age of 24. He joined the staff of the Conservatoire in 1970 and began a 20-year stint as director of the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi the following year. His obituary in The Guardian noted that his “earliest acknowledged compositions date from his student period, including a wind quintet and a concerto for orchestra both written in 1961. The latter drew criticism because of the composer’s keen interest in jazz, then regarded still as a dangerous and degenerate western art form by the Soviet cultural authorities. Nonetheless, Kancheli would later be honoured as a People’s Artist of the USSR.” When the Soviet Union collapsed and Georgia was beset by civil war, he emigrated and settled in Europe, first in Berlin, and then in Antwerp. But Kancheli’s beloved Georgia was never far from his compositional imagination.
Mieczysław WEINBERG String Trio Op. 48 • 1950
The conductor Kenneth Woods has delved deeper into the Trio, stating that “With his ability to seamlessly integrate folk material, fugal technique and post-tonal harmony, Weinberg in 1950 seems already quite far along in reconciling the old and new, as Penderecki, Kurtág and Schnittke would seek to do a half-generation later. The first movement opens with a gently melancholic tune in the cello and builds to a furious climax, before winding down in a more Klezmer-inflected restatement of the opening. The haunting second movement, an eerie fugue, is the one part of the Trio that is free of folk influence. The finale, on the other hand, is almost pure folk music: emerging over a long, slow-burning ostinato, it builds to a screaming climax of orchestral proportions, before dying away and ending in desolation. It is not known if the work was premiered publicly at the time it was written…it remained unpublished until 2007. Shortly after completing the piece, Weinberg was arrested by the KGB for ‘Zionist activities’ and was only released when Shostakovich interceded on his behalf. When the authorities let him out of prison a few days after Stalin’s death in March 1953, it was Shostakovich he rang first.
“Mieczyslaw Weinberg was born in Warsaw in 1919, where he completed his studies as a pianist at the Conservatory in 1939. He had hardly finished his education when he had to flee the German occupation of Warsaw. He managed to escape to the Russian border, but his parents and sister were captured and burned alive. During 1942, Weinberg was a refugee in Tashkent when the composer Israel Finkelstein, a colleague of Shostakovich, took an interest in him. Finkelstein showed Shostakovich Weinberg’s First Symphony, and Shostakovich was so impressed that he arranged for Weinberg to move to Moscow. The two composers forged a close friendship that remained central to both of their lives until Shostakovich’s death in 1975. Weinberg never forgot the role Shostakovich had played in saving his life and was clearly grateful for the inspiration he had taken from him, writing ‘although I never had lessons from him, I count myself as his pupil, as his flesh and blood.’ In exchange, Weinberg fostered Shostakovich’s abiding interest in Jewish folk music, and it is around the time of their emerging friendship that Shostakovich wrote his most important Jewish-themed works: the Second Piano Trio, the Fourth String Quartet and the song-cycle ‘From Jewish Poetry.’”
Myroslav SKORYK Melody in A minor for string quartet • 1982
Skoryk’s most well-known piece was composed for the Soviet war film Vysokyi Pereval (“The High Pass”). He said the music sought to convey his understanding of tragedy and profound sadness, something impossible to express in words.
Born to a musical family in Lviv, Skoryk (1938–2020) started to play the piano at the age of 6. When Soviet repressions intensified in 1948, the family was deported to a mining town in Siberia. He recalled, “They started to consider me a prodigy, and they drove me to the regional town of Kemerovo and showed everyone that whatever number of notes you press for him, he will name all of them at once.” After Stalin’s death, when he turned 16, Skoryk returned to Lviv and studied at the Conservatory from 1955 to 1960, then completed graduate studies at the Moscow Conservatory in 1964. Subsequently, he taught composition at the Lviv Conservatory and the Kyiv Conservatory. He also became artistic director of the National Opera of Ukraine in 2011. Skoryk composed in his unique and colorful language operas, ballets, symphonies, and music for Ukrainian cartoons and films, including Sergei Parajanov’s award-winning Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, based on a timeless Carpathian story. Apart from music, he is known for his prowess at football and is a knowledgeable mushroom picker in the Carpathian mountains.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Quintet in G minor Op. 57 • 1940
Shostakovich’s life during the Soviet regime is summarized in the Encyclopedia Britannica: “From 1928, when Joseph Stalin inaugurated his First Five-Year Plan, an iron hand fastened on Soviet culture, and in music a direct and popular style was demanded. Avant-garde music and jazz were officially banned in 1932, and for a while even the stylistically unproblematic Tchaikovsky was out of favour, owing to his quasi-official status in tsarist Russia. Shostakovich did not experience immediate official displeasure, but when it came it was devastating. It has been said that Stalin’s anger at what he heard when he attended a performance of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 1936 precipitated the official condemnation of the opera and of its creator. Shostakovich was bitterly attacked in the official press, and both the opera and his Symphony No. 4 were withdrawn. The composer’s next major work…Symphony No. 5…was described in the press as ‘a Soviet artist’s reply to just criticism’…serious, even sombre and elegiac music…. [This] was to contribute to Shostakovich’s second fall from official grace. When the Cold War began, the Soviet authorities sought to impose a firmer ideological control, demanding a more accessible musical language.… In Moscow in 1948, at a now notorious conference…the leading figures of Soviet music—including Shostakovich—were attacked and disgraced. As a result, the quality of Soviet composition slumped in the next few years. Shostakovich’s personal influence was reduced by the termination of his teaching activities at both the Moscow and Leningrad conservatories. Yet he was not completely intimidated…. After Prokofiev’s death in 1953, he was the undisputed head of Russian music.” In 1962 Shostakovich was officially censured by the authorities for the last time for his Symphony No.13, “Babi Yar,” whose condemnation of Soviet anti-Semitism (to words by Yevgeny Yevtushenko) the Soviet Premier Khrushchev found a little too close for comfort. In 1966, he had a heart attack, after which his music became increasingly inconsolable, as evident in the claustrophobic Symphony No. 14 and the dark despair of a series of six adagio movements—a direct response to the death of several close friends and the defection of his devoted colleague, the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, to the West. He died a broken man in 1975. “After his own death his music became the subject of furious contention between those upholding the Soviet view of the composer as a sincere Communist and those viewing him as a closet dissenter.”
|May 15 A Family Affair
Woldemar BARGIEL String Quartet No. 1 in E Major • 1848
Bargiel (1828–1897) is remembered as a half-brother of Clara Schumann, his mother having married Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, before marrying Adolph Bargiel, a respected piano and voice teacher in Berlin. Peter Avis, for Hyperion Records, described the relationships in the Bargiel-Schumann family and its circle: “Although nine years younger than his half-sister Clara, Woldemar was to develop a close and life-long relationship with her and subsequently with her husband…. In his early years the young Woldemar studied music at home with his parents…. Later he studied…with Siegfried Wilhelm Dehn…an editor of the works of Bach. When he was eighteen, on the recommendation of Felix Mendelssohn and with the support of Clara and Robert Schumann, Bargiel enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory…. Among his teachers there were Ignaz Moscheles, with whom he studied the piano, and Niels Gade and Julius Rietz, who taught him composition.” Returning to Berlin in 1850, he developed his reputation as a teacher and composer. “He was helped in this latter endeavour by the Schumanns, who arranged for some of his early works to be published, including his first piano trio, a piece which was to become very popular during his lifetime. In his famous article Neue Bahnen (‘New paths’), written in 1853, Robert Schumann spoke of many new and significant talents.… Schumann included among these ‘aspiring artists’ his half-brother-in-law Woldemar Bargiel. In time Schumann came to treasure his friendship with Bargiel and commissioned him to make piano-duet versions of some of his orchestral works.” In 1859 Bargiel became professor of theory at the Cologne Conservatory, and took a similar post in Rotterdam from 1865 to 1874, when Joseph Joachim appointed him professor of composition at the prestigious Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Among his pupils were Paul Juon and Leopold Godowsky. “In addition to his teaching and composing, Bargiel...worked with Johannes Brahms on the complete editions of the works of both Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin. [And his edition of Bach’s chorales was used well into the 20th century.] It was Brahms whom Schumann had singled out in his Neue Bahnen article as the only young musician who could ‘give expression to the times in the highest and most ideal manner’ and was, indeed, the chosen one, the man of destiny. Brahms and Bargiel would go on to become great friends, not least because of their mutual concern for Robert and Clara Schumann, and they very much enjoyed discussing, and sometimes criticizing, each other’s music.” Bargiel’s works were frequently performed during his lifetime.
BRAHMS Clarinet Quintet in B minor Op. 115 • 1891
Brahms was on holiday in Bad Ischl, a spa town near the Alps in the summer of 1891, when he wrote this Quintet—one of his last compositions. At its premiere by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld and the Joachim Quartet in Berlin on 12 December 1891, the audience applauded until the musicians repeated the Adagio as an encore.
The esteemed critic Harold Schonberg offers thoughts on Brahms’s last years, during which he “wrote a very tender, personal kind of music. …such works as…the Clarinet Quintet…have a kind of serenity unique in the works of any composer…. It is the twilight of romanticism, and the peculiar glow of this setting sun is hard to describe. It beams a steady, warm light, not flaring up…not looming big halfway over the horizon…not erupting with solar explosions…. It is the music of a creative mind completely sure of its materials, and it combines technique with a mellow, golden glow. In a day when the gigantic operas of Wagner dominated the opera house, when the shocking symphonic poems of Richard Strauss were the talk of Europe, the music of Brahms continued to represent in an intensified way what it had always represented—integrity, the spirit of Beethoven and Schumann, the attitude of the pure and serious musician interested only in creating a series of abstract sounds in forms best realized to enhance those sounds.”
Clara SCHUMANN Piece for solo piano
Robert SCHUMANN Piano Quartet in Eb Major Op. 47 • 1842
The ebullient Quartet, composed during his productive “year of chamber music,” premiered on 8 December 1844 in Leipzig, where the Schumanns were then living. The performers were Ferdinand David (the German violin virtuoso and composer for whom Mendelssohn had written his Violin Concerto), Neils Gade (the Danish violist, composer, and friend who was Mendelssohn’s assistant conductor with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra), Count Wielhorski (the Russian composer, amateur cellist, and patron who promoted Schumann’s concerts) and Clara Schumann at the piano.
*All programs are subject to change.
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