- Märchenerzählungen (Fairy Tales) for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Op. 132 (1853)
Lebhaft, nicht zu schnell
Lebhaft und sehr markiert
Ruhiges Tempo, mit zartem Ausdruck
Lebhaft, sehr markiert
Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet • Paul Neubauer, viola • Inon Barnatan, piano
— INTERMISSION (Q&A with the artist) —
- Escena andaluza for Viola, String Quartet, and Piano, Op. 7 (1912)
Crepuscule du Soir: Allegretto mosso—Serenata: Allegro
A La Fenetre: Andantino mosso
Paul Neubauer, viola • Ida Kavafian, violin • Daniel Phillips, violin • Richard O'Neill, viola • Paul Watkins, cello • Alessio Bax, piano
- Liebesleid for Three Violins, Viola, and Cello
Sean Lee, violin • Benjamin Beilman, violin • Danbi Um, violin • Paul Neubauer, viola • David Finckel, cello
It is a great pleasure to present some of my favorite works and performances in collaboration with so many friends and colleagues from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
We start with the beautiful Märchenerzählungen or Fairy Tales by Robert Schumann. The title is meant to invoke feelings of fantasy and youth which play out in the intimate melodies that permeate this work. Next we hear the music of the English composer Benjamin Dale. Dale wrote many works for the viola that he dedicated to the great violist Lionel Tertis. This gorgeous Romance from his three movement Suite was often played as a separate work in performances by Tertis as well as by the eminent violist William Primrose, and it is one of my absolute favorite works to perform. Our second half starts with the music of the Spanish composer Joaquín Turina, whose early music was influenced by the French Impressionist school. While studying in Paris, Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla encouraged Turina to turn to the music of Spain and Andalusia for inspiration, and as the title suggests, Escena andaluza abounds with the colors of Andalusia. The next work recalls that in 1976 at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, violist Walter Trampler and pianist Richard Goode gave the U.S. premiere of Shostakovich’s monumental Viola Sonata. It was my great privilege to perform the U.S. premiere of Shostakovich’s newly discovered Impromptu with Wu Han in this performance. Next comes the bittersweet Liebesleid or Love’s Sorrow, one of Fritz Kreisler’s most popular works. The Viennese charm that Kreisler imbued in his playing and compositions never fails to inspire me. The program ends with the charming American Vision by Georges Boulanger, who was quite possibly the greatest salon violinist of all time.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
These four FairyTales were some of Schumann’s last pieces; five months after he wrote them he attempted suicide and spent the rest of his life in an institution. Schumann was increasingly unstable by that time but these pieces don’t represent his inner turmoil. Instead they are an escape to another world. A world that is simple, innocent, perhaps even naïve. The straightforward harmonies and uncomplicated melodies belie the complicated emotions that the piece must have evoked for Schumann. He had been obsessed with childhood and he wrote many pieces—especially for his instrument, the piano—that evoke the simple joy, wonder, and curiosity of youth. The Fairy Tales go a step further, yearning for a far-off land that never existed. The first, second, and fourth movements have mostly upbeat, march-like melodies with simple accompaniments while the third movement is slower and more retrospective. The piece, however, never veers far from its calm, composed message of unruffled happiness—something that Schumann must have yearned for but never achieved.
Benjamin Dale (London, 1885 – London, 1943)
Benjamin Dale was part of a generation of English composers who came of age at the turn of the 20th century. His contemporary Edwin Evans quoted an unknown source in saying, “He has written fewer and better works than any English composer of his generation.” Dale indeed wrote a small number of carefully considered works. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music, enrolling the same year, 1900, that violist Lionel Tertis joined the faculty. Tertis’ championing of viola repertoire clearly rubbed off on Dale because he wrote three works for the viola—this one, a phantasy, and an Introduction and Andante for six violas for Tertis and some of his students. The first two works were popularized by Tertis. He liked the suite so much that he had the first two movements (including the Romance) orchestrated so he could play it at the Royal Philharmonic Society. The Romance is structured yet free, powerful yet sensitive, tuneful yet improvisatory.
Joaquín Turina (Seville, 1882 – Madrid, 1949)
Escena andaluza was part of Turina’s first group of works after embracing a Spanish style. Turina spent his early years in his native Spain before moving to Paris to study and absorb the many influences of the artistic capital. His Piano Quintet, Op. 1, of 1907 came from his Parisian schooling—it was in the style of Vincent d’Indy’s Schola Cantorum under the late Romantic influence of César Franck. Afterward his Spanish compatriots Falla and Albéniz convinced him to write Spanish-sounding music and over the next few years his works took on a Spanish flair. Escena andaluza is for the same unusual instrumentation as Chausson’s Concert, Op. 21, except the main solo instrument is a viola rather than a violin. In the first movement, Twilight, the piano sets the stage before the viola takes over with a sultry serenade. A habanera sneaks into the middle of the movement. The second movement, At the Window, has an impassioned start that leads to a main section with two enticingly interdependent voices. The work is a colorful portrait of southern Spain for a composer who needed to travel far away to capture the flair of his homeland.
Dmitri Shostakovich (St. Petersburg, 1906 – Moscow, 1975)
This previously unknown work of Shostakovich was discovered by Russian musicologist Olga Digonskaya in 2017 in the collection of the Moscow Central State Archives. Shostakovich wrote it down on May 2, 1931 and dedicated it to Aleksandr Ryvkin, violist of the Glazunov Quartet, which would go on to premiere Shostakovich’s First Quartet seven years later. Ryvkin isn’t known to have performed the work and there’s no mention of it in any surviving correspondence. It was ignored or forgotten about (Shostakovich labeled it his Op. 33 but then reassigned that number to his film score for The Counterplan the following year) and somehow made its way to Vadim Borisovsky, violist of the Beethoven Quartet, which premiered all of Shostakovich’s quartets after the first. In 2003, 30 years after Borisovsky’s death, his widow donated some of his papers to the Moscow State Archive where they were catalogued incorrectly but eventually discovered by Digonskaya. This performance from May 20, 2018 was the US premiere of this undiscovered gem.
Fritz Kreisler (Vienna, 1875 – New York, 1962)
Austrian violin phenomenon Fritz Kreisler had an immeasurable impact on violin style and technique in the early part of the 20th century. He composed a number of short works that he used as encores. Also, always one for a good story, he pretended to discover many previously unknown works from composers of the past, associating himself with such historical figures as Vivaldi, Padre Martini, and Tartini. Liebesleid for Violin and Piano was published in 1905 as part of a set of works attributed to Joseph Lanner (1801-43), an Austrian dance music composer specializing in waltzes, who was a contemporary of Johann Strauss I and a precursor to waltz-king Johann Strauss II. Kreisler didn’t keep up the ruse for long, republishing the popular works in 1910 under his own name. Liebesleid (Love’s Sorrow) shows Kreisler’s charismatic style, idiomatic writing, inviting melodies, and effortless virtuosity.
Learn more about Fritz Kreisler in this Musical Heritage discussion.
“No one could sob so effusively on the violin, sigh so deeply, and break out of the darkest sorrow into almost screaming jubilation.”
Georges Boulanger (Tulcea, Romania, 1893 – Buenos Aires, 1958)
Georges Boulanger was a Romanian violinist famous for his salon music. No relation to Nadia Boulanger, Georges given name was Pantazi and Boulanger was a stage name that he and his father (also a musician) used. He studied under the great virtuoso Leopold Auer and then went to St. Petersburg, where he serenaded Russian aristocrats in cafés in the years before the Russian revolution. He spent the interwar period in Berlin where he found his greatest fame playing on the radio, writing music for publication, leading a light orchestra, and entertaining in some of the most fashionable venues of Weimar Berlin. He stayed in Germany during the Second World War and afterward he immigrated to South America. He died in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1958. His magnetic playing style was described by ensemble Prima Carezza, “No one could sob so effusively on the violin, sigh so deeply, and break out of the darkest sorrow into almost screaming jubilation.”
Program notes by Laura Keller, CMS Editorial Manager
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