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Program Notes © 2017 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

Concert for the Friends of Maverick
Horszowski Trio

Jesse Mills, violin
Raman Ramakrishnan, cello
Rieko Aizawa, piano

 



Sunday, September 3, 2017, 4 pm

The Fifth of Seven Programs this Season Honoring the Composers Aaron Jay Kernis,
Johannes Brahms, and Antonín Dvořák



PROGRAM

Notturno in E-Flat Major, D. 897, Op. post. 148 (1828?)     Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Adagio

Piano Trio No. 2, “J’entends” (1986)     Daron Hagen (b. 1961)
Rondo in moto perpetuo
Interior — after Degas
Minute scherzo
Quodlibet

Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 (1839)     Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Molto allegro ed agitato
Andante con moto tranquillo
Scherzo
Finale: Allegro assai appassionato




NEXT WEEK

Saturday, September 9, 8 pm      |      Happy Traum and Friends

Sunday, September 10, 4 pm     |    Final concert of the Maverick season     |    Shanghai Quartet with Orion Weiss, piano
Music of Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, and Penderecki


The Yamaha DC7XE grand piano in the Maverick Concert Hall is
a generous loan from Yamaha Artists Services.



 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

When the members of the Horszowski Trio (Hor-SHOV-ski) played together for the first time, they immediately felt the spark of a unique connection. The players— Jesse Mills, Raman Ramakrishnan, and Rieko Aizawa—had been close friends for many years, and had created a deep trust, which in turn led to exhilarating expressive freedom.

Two-time Grammy-nominated violinist Jesse Mills first performed with Raman Ramakrishnan, founding cellist of the prize-winning Daedalus Quartet, when they were children at the Kinhaven Music School in Vermont. In New York City, they met pianist Rieko Aizawa, who, upon being discovered by the late violinist and conductor Alexander Schneider, had made her US debuts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Their musical bonds were strengthened at various schools and festivals around the world, including The Juilliard School and the Marlboro Festival. Ms. Aizawa was the last pupil of the legendary pianist Mieczysław Horszowski (1892-1993), at the Curtis Institute.

The Trio takes inspiration from Horszowski’s musicianship, integrity, and humanity. Like Horszowski, the Trio presents repertoire spanning the traditional and the contemporary. In addition, they seek to perform works from the trove of composers with whom Horszowski had personal contact, such as Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Martinu, Villa-Lobos, and Granados.

The Horszowski Trio’s busy concert schedule has included major chamber music programs around the US. They have appeared at numerous schools around the country, including Cornell University, UCLA, the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, the University at Buffalo, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond University, Duke University, the University of Las Vegas, and the University of Texas at Brownsville. Festival appearances in addition to Maverick Concerts include the Bard Music Festival, Caramoor, Princeton Summer Chamber Concerts, Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival, and Music in the Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley.

Internationally, the Horszowski Trio has toured extensively in Japan, and has performed at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and for Virtuosi Concerts in Winnipeg. The ensemble is scheduled to make its debut in Mexico at the Festival Internacional de Música de Cámara de San Miguel de Allende in 2018 and their Wigmore Hall debut in 2019. Their debut recording, an album of works by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, and D’Indy—all composers that Mieczysław Horszowski knew personally—was released by Bridge Records in the fall of 2014. The album was featured as a Recording of the Month by MusicWeb International.

The Horszowski Trio has particularly championed the music of Joan Tower, whose work For Daniel they have performed on stages across the US and overseas, and which they have recorded as part of a series of chamber music recordings released to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of Ms. Tower. They have also received commissions from composers Eric Moe and Andreia Pinto-Correia.

Based in New York City, the members of the Horszowski Trio teach at Columbia University and the Longy School of Music of Bard College.


ABOUT THE MUSIC

Franz Schubert was for the most part unrecognized in his lifetime, but greatly beloved of his friends, who supported him and held Schubertiaden (Schubert evenings) to play and enjoy his music. His life was full of despair and joy. Schubert’s music reflects both of these qualities—the gaiety of Viennese parties and the desperate straits of illness, poverty, and rejection.

In his mature years (remembering that he lived only to the age of 31), he wrote to convey his inner struggles. Like Beethoven, he felt that the purpose of musical composition was not entertainment (as it had been in the earlier Classical era), but rather self-expression. That purpose has basically remained the goal of composers ever since.

Schubert’s Nocturne is actually believed to be the slow movement (Adagio) from a piano trio. Some think it might be the discarded middle of his Piano Trio Op. 99, although it might also be from a different, unfinished trio. In either case, it was never published during Schubert’s lifetime, and became Op. post. (Opus posthumous) 148.

The movement starts with a gentle duet between the violin and cello in thirds, accompanied by softly sweeping chords in the piano. The melodic phrases are short, leaving room for the harmonic accompaniments to fill in the sound. When the piano takes up the melody, it is accompanied by sweet pizzicato (plucked) strings. Schubert modulates from E flat to E by having the instruments rise the half step and then announcing the new key with unisons and octaves in all three instruments. These repeated octaves crescendo with the new feeling, using a majestic double-dotted motif and piano runs that traverse the entire keyboard. The gentle legato returns, as does the key of E-flat, occasionally interrupted by emphatic development passages, finally ending with the tender feeling that opened the movement.

Daron Hagen studied music at the Curtis Institute and The Juilliard School (where his teachers included Leonard Bernstein and Ned Rorem). His opera Shining Brow, about Frank Lloyd Wright, received international acclaim. He has received most of the major musical composition awards, and has composed under commissions from the New York Philharmonic, the Curtis Institute, the King’s Singers, Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson, ASCAP, and many others. Hagen taught composition at Bard College from 1988 to 1997.

It is said that Nadia Boulanger’s last words were “J'entends une musique san commencement et sans fin.” (I hear a music without beginning and without end). Daron Hagen says that his Piano Trio No. 2, “J’entends” is a meditation on that statement. “In it, I am attempting to manipulate time the way that a visual artist manipulates space. Various musical ideas—each of which progresses at its own speed—are juxtaposed, overlapped as transparencies, and mixed as colors over a long, spun-out melody which is to the piece what a canvas is to a painting.”

The work’s main harmonic and melodic ideas are presented in the opening movement (Rondo in moto perpetuo). The second movement develops those ideas and overlays a visual ambience based on a painting by Degas (“Interior”). The Minute scherzo is a palindrome, in which the music sounds the same played forwards or backwards. Hagen says that the center point is a quotation from Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. The final movement, Quodlibet (Medley) makes a collage of musical materials from the other movements, at the same time moving towards what Hagen describes as “the unabashed melody, which has been present in various forms and struggling to come forward, since the beginning of the piece.”

Felix Mendelssohn was a man of many talents, including composing, conducting, and watercolor painting. He was fluent in many languages, and an accomplished writer in both German and English. He was a virtuoso pianist who included the masters—Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven—in his performances when others were focusing on contemporary composers whose names are today mostly forgotten. Mendelssohn was in large part responsible for the revival of interest in the music of J.S. Bach. “Felix” translated from the Latin means “happy” or “lucky,” and Mendelssohn’s life was indeed felicitous and successful up until the death of his beloved sister Fanny. After that, his health declined rapidly, and he died at the age of thirty-eight.

The Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49, was extremely well received in its time. Robert Schumann gave it a rave review, calling it the master trio of the day and dubbing its composer “the Mozart of the nineteenth century.” The opening movement (Molto allegro ed agitato) is based on two themes). The cello opens the movement by stating the theme in home key of D minor, and the instruments share its development. The warm and gracious second theme, in the dominant key of A major, is also introduced by the cello. Minor and major themes alternate and entwine, with the minor theme having the final word.

The slow movement (Andante con moto tranquillo) is one of Mendelssohn’s signature “songs without words.” After the piano sings the gentle tune, the violin takes it up in duet with the cello. Each instrument contributes an essential piece of the fabric of the song. The movement fades to a graceful pianissimo.

In the short Scherzo (Leggiero e vivace—Light and lively), the violin and piano are featured, playing in dialogue (one voice after the other) and duet (both voices together). Fast, tripping runs give the movement an airy and playful character. Although it is not a full Trio section as usually found in the ABA scherzo form, the central section does provide contrast with a lyrical melody. Rather than a full repeat of the opening section, the end is an elaboration of the tripping passages.

The Finale (Allegro assai appassionato) returns to the intensity of D minor, using a dactylic (long-short-short) meter. As in the first movement, the cello takes center stage to introduce the second theme, again a songlike passage, and again in major. Mendelssohn continues to play with modes and characters: we hear the song changed to the minor mode and, at the very end, the fast minor theme played in the major.




All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg.
It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy, publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at miriam@hvc.rr.com.

Program Notes © 2017 by Miriam Villchur Berg