(1923 – 1983)
Sonata Concertante (1956)
(1875 – 1937)
Perpetuum mobile: Allegro
(1863 – 1937)
Sonata, E Minor, op. 27 (1918)
Bewegt, mit Empfindung (Allegro espressivo)
Sehr breit und ausdrucksvoll (Adagio,
Ausserst schwungvoll und feurig
Tonight’s concert offers a unique opportunity to hear three works of extremely diverse musical styles composed within a span of 38 years, from 1918 to 1956, by an American, a German, and a Frenchman.
Peter Mennin’s music has been described as embodying the rising cultural confidence of the United States following World War II. One of America’s leading music administrators, Mennin was President of the Juilliard School from 1962 until 1983, guiding it through a period of unprecedented growth while continuing to compose music of the highest quality. Hisunjustly neglected Sonata Concertante, written as a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in 1956, combines powerful sonorities and rhythmic vitality with affecting lyricism.
Maurice Ravel’s late Sonata (1923-27), sensual and ardent in mood, speaks to us through the purity of its masterful counterpoint. Written after his experiences in World War I, the jazz elements in the second movement, “Blues,” may be Ravel’s gesture of appreciation to the United States for saving France. The ebullient perpetual-motion finale brings the work, and the first half of the concert, to a breathtaking conclusion.
Hans Pfitzner’s Sonata, composed in 1918, retains a German Romantic expressionism recast into twentieth-century harmonic language. The Sonata’s first movement, “Turbulent, with feeling,” is a vast canvas of emotions -- anguish, yearning, rebellion and acceptance. The second movement, “Very broad and expressive,” is deeply reflective, while the third movement, “Extremely spirited and fiery,” contrasts light, vivacious passages with statements of ever-increasing intensity that drive to a powerful culmination.
(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.