Archive for April, 2016

Mozart / Johann Anton André, Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 317d

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) / transcription by Johann Anton André (1775-1842)

Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 317d (arr. of Violin Sonata K. 378)

Johann Anton AndréAs with many musical genres of his era, Mozart made great contributions to the “classical” sonata for violin and piano with at least 32 known compositions, the very first dating from when he was around 8 years old. His father, Leopold Mozart, wrote a well-regarded treatise on violin technique and made sure that his son had mastered the violin as well as a variety of keyboard instruments. Of Mozart’s mature, celebrated sonatas there are around 16. While today we naturally tend to call them “violin sonatas”, at the time, the genre emerged from the so-called “accompanied sonatas”, that is, for keyboard (harpsichord and later piano) with accompaniment by violin. Earlier examples of the genre are just that: essentially piano sonatas where an optional violin part reinforces the melody line in the pianist’s right hand, an easy arrangement for domestic music making among amateurs. Mozart was the first great composer to elevate the violin part to the status of equal, independent partner and it is worth emphasizing that his sonatas are for violin and piano, not merely a showcase for one or the other of the instruments. Mozart composed the Violin Sonata, K. 378 in 1779 in Salzburg and it was the first to be included in a set published by Artaria in 1781. (more…)

Brahms, Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101 (1886)

In his excellent, comprehensive survey of the piano trio, Professor Basil Smallman summarizes the contribution of Brahms: “With the C major and C minor trios Brahms brought the genre, in its classical-romantic forms, to a splendid culmination in the late nineteenth century. Many successors and imitators sought to achieve a comparable excellence in their works, but none showed the same capacity for combining profuse melodic invention with a seemingly effortless mastery of technique.” It is likely that the ever self-critical and circumspect Brahms destroyed or withheld from publication numerous trios, but officially, he published three for the standard ensemble of violin, cello and piano. The first, the endearing Op.8 in B Major, was published in 1854, but Brahms famously revised it decades later after completing the pair of mature trios of which Smallman speaks. Brahms composed his final Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101 in the summer of 1886 when, at the peak of his powers, he produced an astonishing clutch of works including a cello sonata, two violin sonatas and some songs. Clara Schumann, whom Brahms frequently consulted for her keen musical assessments, left a revealing note in her diary concerning the scherzo: “No other work of Johannes has so entirely transported me; so tender is the flow of the second movement which is wonderfully poetic. I am happier tonight than I have been for a long time.” (more…)

Martinů, La Musique de chambre, No. 1

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Bohuslav Martinů ((1890-1959))

Chamber Music No. 1.(1959)

Bohuslav MartinůAfter Janáček, Bohuslav Martinů may well be the most significant Czech composer of the 20th century. He grew up in the small town of Polička in Bohemia close to the Moravian border, a place especially rich with musical tradition. Martinů moved to Prague where he did poorly at the conservatory but expanded his cultural awareness including the discovery of Debussy’s music that imparted a lasting influence. He began composing, teaching and playing with the Philharmonic until a government scholarship enabled him to move to Paris in 1923, in his early thirties. There, he studied with Roussel and encountered the intoxicating avant-garde trends that made Paris a hotbed in the 20’s including Stravinsky (another crucial influence), Les Six (Honegger, Poulenc, Milhaud, Tailleferre, Auric and Durey) and Jazz. Martinů would continue obsessive musical forays for the rest of his life, further absorbing a diversity of influences including the Baroque era, Medieval polyphony, folk music as a rather serious ethnomusicologist, as well as the Romantic music of his numerous noteworthy Czech forbears. (more…)

André Watts, Recital at the Broadstage

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Rondo in A minor, K. 511 (1787)

André WattsMozart composed his beguiling Rondo in A minor, K. 511 in the spring of 1787, in Vienna, and it was published later that year. By this time, Mozart had composed the majority of his finest orchestral and chamber music, successfully premiered The Marriage of Figaro and would soon turn to Don Giovanni and his final pair of symphonies. Mozart was at the towering heights of his powers and what is more, would, at the time, probably have been considered the greatest pianist of his age. In a sense, he was the first: the piano was just emerging to eclipse the harpsichord and Mozart, with his stunning series of concerti, had given the instrument its first epic masterpieces. He composed numerous variation sets, rondos and sonatas eventually leading to some few late works of extraordinary craft, expression and high classical poise. (more…)