(1943 - )
Imaginary Variations, op. 114 (2010)
(First performances; written for Janet Packer)
(1898 - 1994)
Rondo Variato, F Major (1945)
Allegro con spirito
(1862 - 1918)
Sonata, G (1917)
Intermède: Fantasque et léger
Finale: Très animé
(1863 - 1937)
Sonata, D Major, op. 36 (1900)
Andante non troppo - Allegretto un poco agitato
The four works on this evening’s program span 110 years, beginning with an eloquent composition completed less than two years ago, and concluding with a radiant work of late 19th-century Romanticism. Between these we hear a sparkling gem of 20th-century neo-classicism and one of the late masterpieces of Claude Debussy.
Imaginary Variations was composed in 2010 for Janet Packer by one of Europe’s foremost living composers, Krzysztof Meyer. Commissioned by Ms. Packer through Pro Violino Foundation, Imaginary Variations is a 20-minute work inspired by the wide range of timbres and dynamics possible between violin and piano. We are privileged to hear this deeply expressive and powerfully moving work of our own time in one of its premiere performances.
Composed 62 years earlier, the six-minute Rondo Variato of Vittorio Rieti was the composer’s favorite of his violin-and-piano compositions. Its ebullient melodic lines are often supported by poignant harmonies, creating an atmosphere of good humor tempered by occasional wistfulness. A true cosmopolitan, Vittorio Rieti was born in Egypt in 1898 into an Italian-Jewish family, lived in Paris between the World Wars, and immigrated to New York City in 1940. In his later years he was a close friend of Janet Packer, for whom he wrote a violin concerto at the age of 93.
Claude Debussy’s beloved Sonata for Violin and Piano provides an exhilarating conclusion to the first half of the program. The master’s final composition, it is also the last work he performed in public, just six months before his death in March 1918. Debussy’s titles for the three movements - Lively, Fantastic, and Animated – indicate that, though terminally ill, his spirit remained vibrant and life-affirming.
A single work comprises the second half of tonight’s program, Gabriel Pierné’s marvelous and rarely heard Sonata for Piano and Violin, completed just days before the close of the 19th century. Only 23 minutes in length, the music is passionate while evoking a French suavity both earnest and appealing. The second movement, not truly a slow movement, has the innocent charm of a folk melody, while the outer movements abound in rhythmic energy and élan.
Krzysztof Meyer: Imaginary Variations, op. 114 (2010)
Notes by Krzysztof Meyer
Vittorio Rieti: Rondo Variato, F (1945)
Notes by Samuel Rechtoris
Claude Debussy: Sonata, G (1917)
Notes by Joel Sheveloff
Gabriel Pierné: Sonata, D, op. 36 (1900)
Notes by Gail Woldu
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
(1770 - 1827)
Sonata, C Minor, Op. 30 No. 2 (1802)
Allegro con brio
(1914 - 1962)
Moderato - Allegro moderato, giusto
Lento con moto
(1797 - 1828)
Fantasie, C Major, D. 934, op. 159 (1827)
Andante molto – Allegretto
Tempo I – Allegro vivace – Allegretto – Presto
Two masterworks of the piano-violin repertoire form the pillars of this program. Though completed within twenty-five years of each other, when Beethoven and Schubert were each barely over 30 years of age and residing in Vienna, each work displays the unique stylistic and temperamental qualities of its composer.
The four movements of Beethoven’s familiar Sonata in C Minor, op. 30 no. 2, which opens the program, could not be more contrasting. The first movement’s mystery and excitement are followed by a tender slow movement, a witty Scherzo, and a robust finale with a whirlwind ending. The sublime second movement is in the richly resonant key of A-flat major, the same key Schubert chooses for the variations of his Fantasie, to be heard later in this program.
Listeners may be surprised to hear similarities between the Beethoven sonata and the next work on the program, composed in Boston 144 years later, the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1946) of Irving Fine. With its clear articulation, buoyant motives tossed between violin and piano, and rhythmically driving, yet varied, accentual patterns, this youthful neo-classical work acknowledges a debt to Beethoven while reminding today’s listener of the composer’s mentors, Stravinsky and Copland.
Schubert’s remarkable C-major Fantasie fills the entire second half of the program. Ever popular, exquisitely beautiful, yet an incredibly difficult tour de force for both performers, it lures us back into a more intimate world where we appreciate subtle shadings of dynamics and nuances of time. In four sections played without interruption, we are led through an ethereal four-minute opening of shimmering piano tremolos and silken violin lines, followed by a spirited minor-key section, a leisurely theme with increasingly virtuosic variations based on Schubert’s popular song “Sei mir gegrusst,” and a rousing finale. How magical is the return of the gentle song theme just before the fireworks of the conclusion!
As Schubert’s Fantasie comes to an end, we realize that our evening, which began with the turbulent drama of Beethoven in C Minor, has concluded with the triumphant radiance of Schubert in C Major.