Spoleto Festival USA Chamber Music
Saturday, March 6, 2004
Spoleto Festival USA
Wendy Chen, piano
Andrés Díaz, cello
Todd Palmer, clarinet
Charles Wadsworth, piano and artistic director
Charles Wadsworth created the Mid-Day Chamber
Music Series at Italy’s Festival of Two Worlds, popularly known as the Spoleto
Festival, in 1960. The daily
concerts grouped accomplished soloists into chamber groups for inspired music
making. Wadsworth carried the
tradition on to Spoleto/USA in Charleston, South Carolina, when this sibling
festival was founded in 1977. As
host, Wadsworth has been weaving informal and informative remarks into Spoleto
concerts for four decades. The
Spoleto Festival USA Chamber Music ensemble made its first tour of the United
States in 1997, was previously presented by CMColumbus in February 2000, and
comes to Columbus as part of its current U.S. tour.
Wadsworth himself is a recent recipient of the Chamber Music America
Award, and was the founder in 1969 of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln
Chee-Yun is the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant (1990) and a winner of
the Young Concert Artists International Auditions (1989).
In 1993, she returned to Korea to receive that nation’s highest musical
honor, the “Nan Pa” award.
Wendy Chen won the 1997 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and the
Bruce Hungerford Prize. When she
was seventeen, Ms. Chen won First Prize in the National Chopin Competition and
an Irving S. Gilmore Young Artists Award, and was named a Presidential Scholar
by the National Foundation for the Arts.
Andrés Díaz won first prize at the 1986 Naumburg International Cello
Competition, as well as a 1998 Avery Fisher Career Grant and a grant from the
Susan W. Rose Fund for Music. Born
in Santiago, Chile in 1964, he is currently Artist-in-Residence at Brevard Music
Center in Brevard, North Carolina.
Palmer won the 1990 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and has served
as principal clarinetist of Wyoming’s Grand Teton Festival and the Minnesota
Orchestra. He was the first wind player to receive the Grand Prize at
the Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition, allowing him to make his concerto debut
with the Houston Symphony.
Festival USA Chamber Music appears through arrangement with ICM Artists, Ltd.,
40 West 57th Street, New York, New York 10019.
Sonata no. 1 in D minor, for violin and
piano, op. 75 (composed 1855)
Wendy Chen, piano
Considering how prolific a
composer Camille Saint-Saëns was in virtually every musical genre and how
popular several of his works have been (the opera Samson et Dalila, the symphonic poem Danse Macabre, the "Organ"
Symphony, the "zoological fantasy" Le Carnaval des Animaux, and the Cello Concerto in A minor, to name a few), it is surprising how
little else of his output is heard nowadays.
Especially with the "new consonance" of our own time, one might
expect a revival of interest in this neo-classic composer, pianist, and
organist, whose music tends to be both refined and restrained.
Born in Paris, Saint-Saëns was
composing by the age of six and entered the Paris Conservatoire at thirteen.
Twice he competed for the prestigious Prix de Rome, without success:
first in 1852, when his youth helped defeat him; again in 1864, when he
was considered too well-known to benefit from the prize.
A classicist in a romantic age, Saint-Saëns lived to hear the musical
revolution of the early 20th century, though his own music never acknowledged
modernism of any stripe.
Chamber music constitutes a
sizeable chunk of his oeuvre, including two string quartets, a piano quartet, a
piano quintet, two piano trios, and about two dozen works for piano and one
other instrument. Within this final
category are two sonatas, two elegies, and a few other miscellaneous pieces for
violin and piano.
Saint Saëns wrote his Sonata
no. 1 in D minor, for violin and piano, op. 75 in 1885.
Legend has it that novelist Marcel Proust used this sonata as the rough
model for the fictional sonata by Vinteuil that served as the “national
anthem” of Swann’s love for Odette in the monumental Remembrance
of Things Past. The very real
Saint-Saëns Sonata no. 1, however,
was dedicated to the Belgian violinist Martin Marsick, the composer’s friend
and frequent performing partner. The
sonata employs a favorite Saint-Saëns device, that of pairing the first two and
the last two movements, just as he would do most famously a year later in the “Organ”
tense, brooding opening of the Allegro
agitato skitters among different time signatures and rhythms, then settles
into a more lyrical second theme. This
eventually serves as the transition to the linked Adagio, a rhapsodic violin-piano conversation.
After a pause comes the Allegro moderato, a minor-mode scherzo with a trio section where the
violin concentrates on a long theme with brisk piano ornamentation.
Again without interruption, the finale (Allegro
molto) is a relentless burst of mutual virtuosity.
op. 68, no. 5 (composed 1883-1884)
Slavonic Dance in E minor, op.
72, no. 2 (composed 1886)
Slavonic Dance in C major, op.
46, no. 1 (composed 1878)
Wendy Chen, piano
Charles Wadsworth, piano
so many of his contemporaries, Antonín Dvořák was a pianist who neither performed widely nor
wrote many large-scale works for his own instrument. Rather, when he wrote for
the piano, he tended to concentrate on small character sketches and
folk-influences dance pieces. All three of these works, written for piano, four
hands, are probably better known in arrangements for other forces.
op. 68, no. 5 (“Silent Woods”) is from the set of six tone
pictures, Ze žumavy
(“From the Bohemian Forest”), composed in late 1883 and early 1884. As part
preparations for coming to the United States in 1892, he made a small Czech
farewell tour as a pianist with the violinist Ferdinand Lachner and cellist Hanuë
Wihan. Lacking an appropriate showcase for the cellist, Dvořák
arranged his Waldesruhe for cello and
piano, premiering it on January 3, 1892. Later still, he would create a version
for cello and orchestra. Clearly, he had a special affection for this work. A
quiet opening theme interacts subtly with a fragmentary countertheme. Tensions
arise in the middle section with a hunting-horn-like motif, followed by a return
to the calm of the opening.
first set of Slavonic Dances, op. 46
can claim Johannes Brahms as their godfather. In 1874, Dvořák began to apply regularly for the Austrian State
Stipendium, designed to help poor, young artists. Over the next few years he
received awards five times. Although the monetary encouragement was important,
the greater lasting effect was to bring Dvořák to the attention of several influential
authorities who would come to be some of his greatest champions, including
Brahms and the influential critic Eduard Hanslick. Impressed by what he saw of
emerging talent, Brahms wrote in late 1877 to Fritz Simrock, his own publisher,
recommending that he consider some of Dvořák’s works for publication. Simrock was
skeptical at first, preferring to gauge public reaction before committing to the
career of this unknown Bohemian.
such works as the Slavonic Dances, op. 46 (inspired by Brahms’ four sets of Hungarian
Dances) became runaway hits in both Europe and the United States, Simrock
wanted all the Dvořák
he could get his hands on. The publisher immediately began pestering Dvořák
for another set of such dances, but he held out. By the time he wrote his second
set of Slavonic Dances, op. 72, in the
summer of 1886, Dvořák
was world famous and received ten times the commission he got for the first set.
Again, both sets became even better known in their orchestral versions.
van Beethoven (1770-1827)
in B-flat, for clarinet, cello, and piano, op. 11 (composed 1797)
Pria ch’io L’impegno (Allegretto)
By the time
Beethoven wrote his Trio, op. 11,
Vienna knew him as both an ambitious, rising composer and a piano virtuoso
celebrated for his improvisational abilities.
It was at the first performance of the trio, in the home of his friend
and disciple Count Ferdinand Ries, that Beethoven was challenged by a rival
pianist and composer of the day, Daniel Steibelt (1765-1823).
Steibelt had listened disdainfully to the trio, in which the piano looms
prominently but not overwhelmingly, and figured that Beethoven was no threat.
later, the two met at the Count’s home. Following
a performance of a quintet of his, Steibelt began to improvise on the same theme
that forms the basis of the finale of Beethoven’s trio.
Pria ch’io l’impegno was a
currently popular tune from the opera
L’Amor Marinaro (The Corsair) by Joseph Weigl (1777-1846). Outraged, Beethoven grabbed the cello part to Steibelt’s
quintet, set it upside-down on the piano’s music stand, and began to pound out
one of its themes with a single finger. His
furious improvisations drove Steibelt from the room and the two remained bitter
adversaries until their deaths.
Weigl tune gave rise to the trio’s occasional nickname, the Gassenhauer
or Street Song trio.
It was variations on that tune that clarinetist Josef Beer (1744-1811)
had requested from Beethoven in the first place.
Having succumbed to popular opinion by appropriating this hit to further
his career, Beethoven always remained unsatisfied with that movement, though he
never penned a substitute. Another
sign of his ambition was the work’s dedication to Mozart’s former patron,
Countess Maria Wilhelmine von Thun, mother of his own friend and patron, Prince
unison statement of the first theme opens the Allegro
con brio (4/4); the second theme is introduced by a startling key change.
Continuing the tonal adventure, the development begins with the second
rather than the first theme. Con
espressione is the marking of the Adagio
(3/4), headed by the singing cello, then the clarinet.
The minor-mode midsection, dominated by the piano, is followed by a
varied repeat of the first part.
the finale, Beethoven dismembers Weigl’s ditty and reconstructs it nine
different ways. First
is a piano solo; second an unaccompanied clarinet and cello duet; third, a
simple con fuoco trio.
Variations four and five are minor and major renditions, respectively, of
the theme. Six
finds Beethoven playing with the imitation between the piano on one hand and the
cello and clarinet on the other.
Minor returns in the march-like seventh variation but retreats in the
eighth, where jittery piano triplets sound under the melodic clarinet and cello.
In the final variation, the trilling piano takes charge of a small
dancing 6/8 Allegretto coda concludes
Première rapsodie, for
clarinet and piano (composed 1909-1910)
Todd Palmer, clarinet
Charles Wadsworth, piano
composers published as many works specifically labeled “first” without
following them up with a “second” as did Claude Debussy.
That happened in no fewer than four cases:
his 1879 Première trio, for
piano and strings; his 1883 Première
suite, for orchestra; his 1893 Première
quatuor (the String Quartet, op. 10);
and the present work, his Première
rapsodie, for clarinet and piano, written during December 1909 and January
Actually, there IS another “Rapsodie,”
written under considerable duress, for saxophone and piano, but it dates from
a member of the Supreme Council of the Music Section of the Paris Conservatoire,
Debussy had to compose two pieces for the performance exams of wind instrument
During December 1909 and January 1910, he wrote two brief clarinet and
The main test piece he entitled the Première
rapsodie, and the sight-reading exercise he would later publish as Petite
The former was dedicated to his fellow faculty member, the clarinet
professor Prosper Charles Mimart (“with feelings of sympathy”).
It earned a special place in the composer’s affections.
“Surely,” he once wrote, “this piece is one of the most pleasing I
have ever written.”
So much did he like it that he orchestrated the piano part in 1911.
Première rapsodie exploits the entire
range of the clarinet in a virtuoso but hardly frivolous manner.
In one long movement, the work begins with a section marked Rêveusement
lent (dreamily slow), which alternates with more lively scherzando passages.
Changing tempos and a variety of performance techniques pepper this
no. 1 in D minor, for violin, cello, and piano, op. 49 (composed 1839)
Molto allegro e agitato
Andante con molto tranquillo
Leggiero e vivace
Allegro assai appassionato
Wendy Chen, piano
friend Robert Schumann called Felix Mendelssohn "the Mozart of the 19th
century," not least because of the astounding number of works he produced
during his short lifetime: volumes
of works for piano and for organ; five symphonies; monumental choral pieces;
overtures and incidental music; songs and part-songs; and no fewer than two
dozen chamber works. Throughout
Europe, Mendelssohn was in demand as an organist, pianist, conductor, and
composer, spending his last decade as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in
Leipzig. There he championed
neglected works of the previous century, premiered his own compositions and
those of his contemporaries, and tried to raise the standards of both orchestral
performance and public taste.
an innovator, Mendelssohn strove to reconcile the classical heritage of the 18th
century with the romantic tenor of his own.
He spent a good deal of 1839 working on his First Piano Trio, beginning as early as February and still revising
it well into September. In fact,
even after its publication the text year, he continued to tinker with it, so
much so that a second version had to be brought out.
cello’s melancholy first theme opens the Molto
allegro e agitato and is expanded upon by the violin, highlighted by lovely
countermelodies. The second theme,
also introduced by the cello, lacks the contrast usually found in second themes.
The boundary between exposition and development is obscured by the early
return of the first theme, and the recap is notable for the extensive thematic
reworking that amounts to a second development before the coda.
the slow movement is in ABA form and in the lyrical spirit of Mendelssohn’s Songs
Without Words, there is again less contrast between the sections than one
might expect. The minor-mode mid-section with its triplet accompaniment
gives way to a newly ornamented return of the opening theme.
Staccato piano introduces the Scherzo:
Leggiero e vivace (“light and lively”), transporting listeners to
the elfin and evanescent world for which Mendelssohn is renowned.
A gypsy-like dance dominates the rondo-form finale, where the piano
presents nearly all the new ideas save for the violin and cello cantabile melody
in the middle.
notes by Jay Weitz, Consulting Database Specialist for music, OCLC Online
Computer Library Center, Dublin, Ohio. He
is a contributing performing arts critic for the weekly alternative newspaper Alive:
Music, Art, and Culture in Columbus (http://www.columbusalive.com).
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