Archive for April, 2017

Rimsky-Korsakov, Piano Trio in C Minor, (finished by Maximilian Steinberg)

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1844-1908

Piano Trio in C Minor, 1879 (finished by Maximilian Steinberg in 1939)

Nikolai Rimsky-KorsakovRimsky-Korsakov was a highly significant musical figure within late 19th century Russia whose influence would reverberate westward making a strong impression on Debussy, Ravel and other 20th century composers. He is celebrated for his brilliant and original orchestration in such classics as Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and Scheherazade that expanded the orchestral palette along with a new exotic “Orientalisim” that ultimately become inspiration for the French impressionists. Rimsky-Korsakov is often regarded as the chief “architect” of Russian Nationalism during an age when composers across Europe were seeking to express their native cultures, a diversity of “otherness” rising against the fundamentally Austro-Germanic aesthetic of the classical canon. Perhaps the most vivid expression of Nationalism was opera with its natural ability to leverage the mother tongue as well as indigenous folklore traditions. Rimsky-Korsakov thought of himself primarily as an opera composer producing a rich oeuvre comprising at least 15 operas, a further source orchestral suites and extracts associated with his fame. It is therefore somewhat surprising to learn that he composed chamber music, particularly considering some additional details of his historical and cultural context. (more…)

Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68, (1944)

Dmitri ShostakovichSince the latter part of the 20th century following his death in 1975, the string quartet cycle of Dmitri Shostakovich has come to be regarded as extraordinarily significant. While his fifteen symphonies command attention and demonstrate his creative and prodigious career, they were large spectacles staged for grand public expression subject to broad scrutiny by a totalitarian regime, subject, as well, to the changing complex public image Shostakovich chose, or was forced, to display. The string quartets are different. They are private, personal, intimate and true. They embody music Shostakovich wrote for colleagues, friends, family and himself. And it is particularly this dichotomous context that makes the fifteen string quartets so compelling. Within the music, one finds startling and original music of profound, visceral affect, ample creative genius, but also something of the actual life of Shostakovich: a personal diary of poignant reactions, reflections and dark visions. As the (incomplete) cycle spans some thirty-six years of his life, from the age of thirty-two to less than a year before his death, one can follow the quartets and thereby follow Shostakovich, an immensely creative and sensitive Soviet citizen weathering the myriad personal and global devastations of the 20th century. (more…)

Prokofiev, String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92 (on Kabardinian themes)

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Sergei Prokofiev, 1891-1953

String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92 (on Kabardinian themes), 1941

Sergei ProkofievSergei Prokofiev came of age in the 20th century and has remained both a popular and critical favorite of the period especially as a Russian / Soviet composer along with the elder Stravinsky and the younger Shostakovich. A child prodigy, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory at the age of 13 and soon caused a sensation with his intensely percussive piano playing with a startlingly modern rhythmic vitality that would characterize much of his mature work. Prokofiev launched a career as concert pianist, composer and conductor and, shortly after the revolution, left Russia for several years living the United States and then Paris where a combination of misfortunes including lukewarm reception and a worldwide economic depression left Prokofiev feeling unfulfilled and unappreciated. He returned to the Soviet Union in 1936 where, despite some newfound success, he would eventually experience WWII and then, just following the war, the devastating state censure accusing him (along with several prominent composers) of degenerate formalism. (more…)

Jon Nakamatsu, Solo Recital in Carmel

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Rondo in D Major, K. 485 (1786)
Fantasy in D Minor, K. 397 / 385g (1782)

Jon NakamatsuMr. Nakamatsu’s recital begins with two works by Mozart who was among the first great composers to write explicitly for the piano vs. the harpsichord. In addition to his masterful concertante and chamber works featuring the “new fangled” instrument, Mozart composed 17 piano sonatas and numerous single-movement pieces: variation sets, rondos and fantasies, etc. The pair of works presented here might well be titled “Mozart light and dark”, so effective is their contrast in exploring Mozart’s emotional range.

The Rondo in D Major, K. 485 is bright, sparkling and utterly classical sporting a simple, main theme with a rhythmic lilt due to what is often called a “Scottish snap.” The formal structure of the piece is actually a crystal clear sonata form (with multiple themes, key change, development and recap), but the lively, motto theme is deployed in such a way that it recurs throughout the structure like the main refrain of a rondo. Like a witty game, the merry rondo theme plays hide and seek, changing keys, moving from the right to the left hand, making digressions, taking on disguises and generally confounding expectations. (more…)

Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 117

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 117, (1964)

Dmitri ShostakovichSince the latter part of the 20th century following his death in 1975, the string quartet cycle of Dmitri Shostakovich has come to be regarded as extraordinarily significant. While his fifteen symphonies command attention and demonstrate his creative and prodigious career, they were large spectacles staged for grand public expression subject to broad scrutiny by a totalitarian regime, subject, as well, to the changing complex public image Shostakovich chose, or was forced, to display. The string quartets are different. They are private, personal, intimate and true. They embody music Shostakovich wrote for colleagues, friends, family and himself. And it is particularly this dichotomous context that makes the fifteen string quartets so compelling. Within the music, one finds startling and original music of profound, visceral affect, ample creative genius, but also something of the actual life of Shostakovich: a personal diary of poignant reactions, reflections and dark visions. As the (incomplete) cycle spans some thirty-six years of his life, from the age of thirty-two to less than a year before his death, one can follow the quartets and thereby follow Shostakovich, an immensely creative and sensitive Soviet citizen weathering the myriad personal and global devastations of the 20th century. (more…)