Archive for March, 2015

Halvorsen, Passacaglia (after Handel), 1894 (1720)

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Johan Halvorsen, 1864-1935

Passacaglia (after Handel),, 1894

The Passacaglia with its dual attribution to Handel and Halvorsen is a famous virtuoso piece for violin and cello (or violin and viola) published by Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen in 1894 and based on the finale movement from the harpsichord suite in G minor (HWV 432) published by German composer Georg Frideric Handel 1720.

Handel composed numerous harpsichord suites comprising dance movements, sometimes concluding with the traditional Baroque passacaglia, a term originally designating a Spanish “street dance” though the earliest extant examples are Italian. The essential feature of the passacaglia is short, resolved chord progression repeated over and over as a continuous harmonic bedrock for a series of improvisations or inventive variations. Numerous Baroque composers wrote such variation movements for harpsichord, organ, violin or ensemble using the nearly interchangeable terms passacaglia or chaconne with several celebrated examples from French and German composers especially J. S. Bach. (more…)

Dohnányi, Serenade for String Trio Op. 10

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Ernő Dohnányi, 1877-1960

Serenade for String Trio Op. 10, 1902

Ernő Dohnányi (who typically used the Germanic version of his name, Ernst von Dohnányi) was a Hungarian pianist, composer, conductor, administrator and educator who become a towering figure in Hungarian musical culture in the decades before WWII. One of Europe’s most brilliant pianists, Dohnányi single-handedly reconstituted musical life in Budapest over decades of concert programs he curated, conducted and performed. He was one of the first celebrity pianists to extensively perform chamber music and as a composer, Dohnányi produced a fine body of chamber music including his most famous works now part of the standard repertoire: the Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor and the Serenade for String Trio, Op. 10. Dohnányi also composed two outstanding symphonies as well as numerous concerti. While his style would be considered somewhat conservative for his time, often likened to Brahms, one of his admirers, Dohnányi’s musical voice was nonetheless distinctive and his compositions are now regarded as outstanding examples of late Romanticism though largely free of the Hungarian folk music influences found in his contemporary compatriots such as Bartók and Kodaly. (more…)

Roussel, Trio for Flute, Viola and Cello Op. 40

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Albert Roussel, 1869-1937

Trio for Flute, Viola and Cello Op. 40, 1929

Albert Roussel was a gifted French composer, just seven years younger than Claude Debussy, who found his mature, individual style in a series of highly regarded early 20th century works for stage, orchestra, voice, piano and chamber music. Though his musical gifts were evident from a young age, Roussel began casually composing only in his late twenties while completing his formal music studies when he was nearly forty. Roussel first pursued his interests in mathematics and then joined the French Navy serving as midshipman for several years. Once he resigned and turned to music as a new full time, Roussel quickly mastered the art, studying at the Scholara Cantorum with D’Indy and becoming a teacher of counterpoint with students including Erik Satie, Edgard Varèse and Bohuslav Martinů. As a composer, Roussel’s influences naturally include Debussy and the French “impressionists” but also Stravinsky, neo-classicalism and jazz. Roussel’s mature style became distinctly his own with his most admired works from the late twenties and thirties comprising ballets, symphonies and chamber music including the Trio for flute, viola and cello, Op. 40 of 1929. (more…)