Archive for February, 2010

Cassadó, Piano Trio

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Gaspar Cassadó (1897-1966)

Piano Trio (1924)

Gaspar CassadóThe Spanish cellist and composer Gaspar Cassadó was born just before the turn of the 20th century to a music family. His father Joaquin was a pianist, church musician and respected amateur composer while his brother Agustin was a talented violinist. In an effort to give them the best training, Joaquin moved the whole family to Paris in 1907. The gifted sons studied with the best imaginable teachers: Agustin with Jacques Thibaud and Gaspar with Pablo Casals. For a number of years, the father and sons performed as a successful piano trio. In Paris, Cassadó encountered some of the leading musical lights of the early 20th century: Debussy, Ravel and Satie. He studied composition with Ravel and with Manuel de Falla as well as befriending the composers Alfredo Casella, Joaquin Turina, and Isaac Albéniz. Each of these composers would write music inspired by the rhythms, harmonies, melodies and colors of Spanish folk music creating an instantly recognizable style of modern Spanish Nationalism. (more…)

Haydn, String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 33, No. 4

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809

String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 33, No. 4, 1782

Often, when discovering seminal works of a time-honored genre, we may at first experience a kind of disappointment: the work is quaint, perhaps a bit simple with a mannered, obvious drama. Likely, looking backward, the means were crude. Consider early film, literature, visual arts and music. Certainly, taken out of its context, its impact is surely less than it was when it was new. On first blush, these are plausible reactions to Haydn’s seminal Op. 33 quartets, a set of six published in 1782. Compared with the glories of Beethoven, Schubert etc., these are early, “modest” quartets. Historically they were just as important if not more as they were, essentially, sui generis. With even a moderate commitment to acknowledge this whiff of historicism and attend, with a fresh mind, to their subtleties, these quartets can come alive again. Full of vitality, wit and tender beauty, Haydn’s landmark quartets are robust yet delicate, clear as a bell yet infinitely subtle. (more…)

Samuel Barber, String Quartet, Op. 11 (with Adagio for Strings)

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Samuel Barber, 1910-1981

String Quartet, Op. 11, 1936

Samuel BarberSamuel Barber is regarded as one of the great American composers of the 20th century, the first century that produced truly great American classical music. Many of his works across all genres remain solidly in the repertoire. Barber’s musical vocabulary is tonal, lyrical, accessible and distinctively his own. With a gift and a propensity for vocal music that constitutes a good two-thirds of his output, Barber’s music sings, beguiling with its very human voice. This remains true of his eclectic and celebrated chamber works such as the cello sonata, the woodwind quintet “Summer Music”, and the chamber song “Dover Beach” for baritone and string quartet. (Barber himself was an accomplished baritone singer). Barber published two string quartets, an early serenade transcribed for orchestra and the astonishing Op. 11, the later from 1936 when Barber was a mere 26 years old. The centerpiece of the quartet is the famous monolithic and transcendent “Adagio” which has similarly been transcribed as an independent piece for string orchestra and, most revealing, as an a cappella choral mass. Even in the realm of pure instrumental music, Barber keenly evokes the human voice and our everlasting propensity for song. (more…)