20-concert series: Mondays at 2pm and 7:30pm
|September 14 Judge Brahms
Antonín DVORÁK Bagatelles Op. 47 ▪ 1878
Composed in 12 days for his friend, the cellist Josef Srb-Debrnov, who organized small chamber concerts at his home, its public premiere was performed in February 1879 with Dvořák playing the harmonium, which added an exotic touch with its distinct reedy tone.
In 1874 Antonín had submitted 15 compositions for the Austrian State Music Prize, which he won. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Brahms was one of the judges. His submissions in 1876 and 1877 also won first prize. After his third win Brahms revealed himself to Dvořák, offering his support by promoting the young composer’s music—he recommended Dvořák to his publisher Simrock and introduced him to luminaries, including Joseph Joachim.
Alexander ZEMLINSKY Trio in D minor Op. 3 ▪ 1896
Written for a competition sponsored by the Viennese Society of Musicians, the Trio won 3rd prize and impressed Brahms, who recommended it to his publisher, Simrock. Zemlinsky became a close friend of Arnold Schoenberg in 1895, and in 1901 he had a relationship with his composition pupil, Alma Schindler, who later rejected him and married Gustav Mahler.
To read about Zemlinsky and his importance see: orelfoundation.org/composers/article/alexander_zemlinsky
BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major Op. 8 ▪ 1854, revised 1890
The Trio is the first piece of Brahms’s works that was performed in the United States—in New York on 17 November 1855, six weeks after its premiere in Danzig, Prussia. The revised version (the one now usually performed) premiered on 10 January 1890 in Budapest with Brahms at the piano, violinist Jenö Hubay, and cellist David Popper.
| September 21 Trophies
SCHUBERT String Trio in Bb Major D. 581 ▪ 1817
At the age of 20 Schubert was already quite accomplished, having written an astonishing amount of music—more than 300 songs, five symphonies, four masses, and seven string quartets, among many other pieces.
Carl Maria von WEBER Grande Duo Concertante in Eb Major Op. 48 ▪ 1816
In the summer of 1815 Weber wrote the Andante and Rondo movements first, possibly for Johann Simon Hermstedt (among the noted clarinetists of the 19th century), but he performed it in this 2-movement version on a tour of southern Germany with his friend Heinrich Baermann, the great clarinetist of Munich. Weber then added a first movement, marked Allegro con fuoco, in 1816, thus creating a rambunctious opening for the duo, now in sonata form.
Ludwig THUILLE Trio in Eb Major Op. posth.
The Austrian composer of Savoyard ancestry was born in 1861 in the then Austrian town of Bozen in South Tyrol (now in Italy and called Bolzano). He befriended Richard Strauss when he was 10 and they remained friends for the rest of Thuille's life. When he was orphaned at age 11, he went to live with his step-uncle in Kremsmünster. There, he sang in the Benedictine Abbey and studied the organ, piano, and violin. In 1879 he began his studies, steeped in Viennese Classicism, with Rheinberger at the Königliche Musikschule in Munich. He graduated with honors in 1882. “However, a decisive change suddenly occurred in his style through his association with Alexander Ritter, a forceful figure who converted him and his boyhood friend Richard Strauss into rich orchestral colourists in the late Romantic vein. Ritter diverted Thuille’s attention to opera of Wagnerian proportions and encouraged the young composer to cultivate bold harmonic ideas.” During the last part of his life, Thuille was a music professor and composer, achieving considerable fame for his operas. He also founded the New Munich School of composition. Among his many pupils was Ernst Bloch. Before his untimely death at the age of 45, he made one other contribution: his Harmonielehre—a treatise on harmony that survived into the 1930s.
| October 5 English Worthies
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Clarinet Quintet in F# minor Op. 10 ▪ 1895
The post-Romantic Quintet, written at age 20, was played by none other than Richard Mühlfeld, for whom Brahms wrote his Clarinet Trio and Clarinet Quintet.
The “Black Mahler”—son of a Sierra Leonean Creole father and English mother—was named Samuel after the poet, and in 1890 at age 15 he entered the Royal College of Music as a violin student. When he switched to studying composition with Charles Villiers Stanford, his tutor challenged him to write a clarinet quintet without any inkling of the influence of his favorite composer, Brahms. The Clarinet Quintet is a testament to his success. Much admired in his day, his greatest hit was the cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. Coleridge-Taylor was proud to be “an Englishman” even though he suffered intense racism. On several occasions he visited the United States, where he was warmly received; he met Booker T. Washington and President Theodore Roosevelt, who invited him to the White House. He was an ardent supporter of the Pan African Movement, and was intent on establishing “the dignity of the Black man.” In 1912, he contracted double pneumonia and died at the age of 37. He left two children, Hiawatha and Gwendolyn, both of whom had distinguished careers as conductors and composers.
Cyril SCOTT Piano Quartet in E minor Op. 16 ▪ 1899
Premiered in April 1902 at a Classical Chamber Concert in Liverpool, the Quartet made its London debut on 12 February 1902 at a Broadwood Concert at St. James Hall, with violinist Fritz Kreisler, Emil Kreuz on viola, cellist Ludwig Lebell, and Scott at the piano.
The son of a Greek scholar, Scott (1879–1970) was sent to the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt at age 12 to study music with Engelbert Humperdinck and Lazzaro Uzielli, one of Germany’s finest piano pedagogues. His English classmates there included Percy Grainger, who remained a close friend. He also befriended the poet Stefan George, whose work he later translated. After he left Frankfurt in 1898, he taught piano and gave recitals in Liverpool. In 1905 Scott wrote Lotus Land, a mystically atmospheric parlor piece that became a huge commercial hit. By the 1920s, his music gravitated toward neoclassicism. He also became absorbed with theosophy and the occult sciences and wrote successfully on these and other topics, publishing no less than 40 books, of which only 4 are on music. During World War II Scott suffered a health crisis that evolved into a creative spurt, first with the help of Grainger and then, in 1963, when a group of friends formed a “Cyril Scott Society” to help promote his music.
Frank BRIDGE Piano Quintet in D minor ▪ 1912
First written when Bridge was in his mid-20s, the Quintet was radically revised just after he turned 30. The refined version premiered on 29 May 1912 with pianist Harold Samuel and the English String Quartet. Bridge studied composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music, where he also studied violin. He played the viola in string quartets (most notably the English String Quartet), conducted and taught, before devoting himself to composing. Bridge was the private tutor of Benjamin Britten, who later championed his teacher’s music and paid homage to him in Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge.
| October 19 American Ingenuity
Randall THOMPSON Suite for Oboe, Clarinet, and Viola ▪ 1940
Born in New York City, Thompson earned his doctorate at the Eastman School of Music and taught at the Curtis Institute, the University of Virginia, and Harvard University. He is best known for his choral works.
Marion BAUER Concertino Op. 32b ▪ 1943
Born in Walla Walla, Washington, Bauer was Nadia Boulanger’s first American pupil. They traded lessons—English for music, and vice versa. She taught and lectured widely, including at Juilliard, and was the first woman faculty member at New York University. Most importantly, Bauer was a tireless promoter and supporter of American and modern music, exerting great influence in the development of American music in the first half of the 20th century.
Charles Griffes became her close friend after they met in 1917. Although their friendship was short (he died in 1920), their mutual respect and influence ran deep. After Griffes’s death, Bauer programmed his music on numerous lecture-recitals and helped to organize concerts of his music. She wrote that he “was one of the first to put into American piano music something of the elusive charm and color of French Impressionism.”
Charles GRIFFES 2 Fantasy Pieces ▪ 1918
Howard HANSON Concerto da Camera in C minor Op. 7 ▪ 1917
Born in Wahoo, Nebraska, to Swedish parents, Hanson was Director of the Eastman School of Music for 40 years. During his tenure, he presented over 1,500 different compositions by more than 700 composers. John Gladney Proffitt notes that he “was the leading practitioner of American musical Romanticism.... Hanson dedicated his professional life to the encouragement, creation and preservation of beauty in music, believing it to be an art form possessing unique power to ennoble both performer and listener and, by extension, mankind.”
We give thanks to The Howard Hanson Collection, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester for their gift of the music.
Charles Wakefield CADMAN Piano Trio in D Major Op. 56 ▪ 1914
Cadman did not teach. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he was for a time the music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, and became a foremost expert on American Indian music. After he moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s, he helped found the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and wrote film scores, earning a reputation as one of Hollywood’s top film composers of the period.
| October 26 Jens’s 89th Birthday
Johann RUFINATSCHA Piano Quartet Ab Major ▪ 1870
Born in 1812 in Mais (now in the Italian province of South Tyrol), Rufinatscha left home at age 14 to study piano, violin, and composition at the Innsbruck Music Society. After graduating in 1832, he taught at his alma mater for 3 years before heading to Vienna to study with Simon Sechter, whose pupils included Vieuxtemps, Lachner, Béla Kéler, and Bruckner; he also gave Schubert one lesson in counterpoint. Rufinatscha’s earliest compositions were written in the 1830s, when he began to build his reputation as a composer and became a most prominent teacher of piano and harmony in Vienna. Over the next 3 decades his symphonies and other works were performed to acclaim at prestigious venues in Vienna. In the 1860s he met young Brahms when they were members of the “Roundtable of Professors” that met at a Viennese restaurant to discuss the musical events of the day. However, he faded into obscurity when his music fell out of fashion—influenced by Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, his music was eclipsed by the Romanticism of Wagner, Liszt, and Brahms—and his passive personality led to his withdrawal from public life and impoverishment, accelerated by the financial Panic of 1873. He died in 1893 in Vienna. Fortuitously, Rufinatscha had the foresight to donate his musical manuscripts to the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck in 1887. We are grateful to the Museum for a copy of the music.
BRAHMS String Quintet in F minor ▪ 1862
| November 9 Enchanteur
Maurice RAVEL–Carlos SALZEDO Sonatine en trio ▪ 1905
Ravel wrote the Sonatine in response to a notice for a competition posted in the Paris Weekly Critical Review. The notice appeared in three March 1903 issues. The original manuscript submitted by Ravel reveals that he had submitted the piece under the pseudynym “par Verla”—an anagram of his name, which he crossed out and replaced with “par Maurice Ravel.” Salzedo was principal harp of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and founded the harp department at the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924.
Claude DEBUSSY Première rhapsodie ▪ 1909
When this piece was first performed at the exam on 14 July 1910, Debussy sat on the jury to hear 11 candidates. The report to his editor Jacques Durand reflected his satisfaction: “The clarinet competition went extremely well and, to judge by the expressions on the faces of my colleagues, the rhapsody was a success.” Its official premiere took place on 16 January 1911 at the Salle Gaveau in Paris with Prosper Mimart, the dedicatee, as solo clarinet. Debussy, thrilled with Mimart’s interpretation, commented that this was one of the most charming pieces he had ever written.
Jacques IBERT Deux Interludes ▪ 1946
Ibert (1890–1962), a native of Paris, studied at the Paris Conservatoire and won various prizes including the Prix de Rome. The New Grove Dictionary states, “Except for oratorio, Ibert made important contributions in all genres of composition. As a whole his work is stylistically difficult to define because the elements are, like the output itself, extremely diverse. ‘All systems are valid,’ he said, ‘provided that one derives music from them.’ He wished to be free from compulsive influences, and was never interested in passing fashions. Inspiration was a vital spark...’”
Ferruccio BUSONI Chamber Fantasie on Bizet’s Carmen ▪ 1920
Camille SAINT-SAËNS Fantaisie in A Major Op. 124 ▪ 1907
The Fantaisie was written in Bordighera on the Italian Riviera, where Saint-Saëns unwound after overseeing the first production in 30 years of his opera Le timbre d’argent (The Silver Bell) in nearby Monte Carlo. It was dedicated to the prominent Eissler sisters, violinist Marianne and harpist Clara.
Maurice RAVEL Piano Trio in A minor ▪ 1914
|November 23 Russian Romantics
Ella ADAYEVSKAYA Sonata Greca in C minor ▪ 1881
Adayevskaya (1846–1926) was born Elisabeth von Schultz in St. Petersburg, the daughter of Georg Julius von Schultz, a prominent Estophile of Baltic German heritage. Between 1862 and 1866 she attended the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where her teachers included Adolf von Henselt and Anton Rubinstein. She then toured as a concert pianist in Russia and Europe, and started composing about 1870, beginning with choruses for the Imperial Chapel Choir. Her operas include Neprigozhaya (The Homely Girl), Doch’ boyarina (The Boyar’s Daughter), and Zarya svobodi (The Dawn of Freedom), which she dedicated to Alexander II, but the censor rejected it because of a scene about a peasant uprising. Her interest in Slavonic folk songs, the music of ancient Greece, and the Greek Church inspired her to write Sonata Greca. In 1891 she moved to Venice, and in 1911, she again moved, this time to Germany with her friend Baroness von Loë. They became part of the artistic circle around the poet Carmen Sylva (the literary name of Elisabeth, Queen of Romania). Adayevskaya’s interest and research in folk music also deepened and she published widely, which earned her a place among the pioneers of modern ethnomusicology. She died in Bonn. Adayevskaya is her pseudonym, said to be based on the notes A, D, and A, played by the kettledrum in Mikhail Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Ludmila.
Alexander GEDIKE aka GOEDICKE Piano Trio No. 1 in G minor Op. 14 ▪ 1902
Born into a family of musicians in Moscow, Gedike was first taught by his father Fyodor, an organist and pianist at the Bolshoi Theater. He then studied piano with Anatoly Galli, Pavel Pabst, and Vasily Safonov at the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1898. Although he had no formal training in composition, he benefited from the advice of Sergei Taneyev. In 1900 he won the Rubinstein Competition for Composition in Vienna. Tours as a concert pianist followed in Russia and abroad. In 1909 he was appointed professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatory, and from 1919 he taught classes in chamber music and organ. The New Grove Dictionary notes that “His music is notable for its use of polyphony; he was in fact regarded as the guardian of strict classical traditions in Russian music.” He also influenced an entire generation of organists in the Soviet Union. Gedike was Nikolai Medtner’s first cousin (his father Fyodor was the brother of Medtner’s mother).
Adrien François SERVAIS Fantaisie sur deux Airs Russes Op. 13 ▪ 1839
Composed during his first visit to Russia at the beginning of 1839, it was dedicated to the composer Count Mikhail Vielgorsky. Mikhail and his brother, cellist Matwey, were friends of Servais. Upon hearing the Fantasia, Prince Vladimir Odoevsky, a Russian philosopher and music critic, wrote that it was “unanimously admired by both connoisseurs and music lovers.” Alyabyev and Varlamov were two of the founders of Russian art song.
Servais (1807–1866) switched from the violin to the cello after hearing a performance by Nicolas-Joseph Platel. He promptly enrolled at the Brussels Conservatory as Platel’s pupil, won a first prize a year later, and from 1829 became Platel’s teaching assistant. His first major success, in Paris in 1834, was followed by concerts of the Philharmonic Society in London in 1835, a return to his native Belgium for further study, and several tours through Europe and Russia, when he often performed his own compositions. In 1848 he succeeded Platel at the Conservatory, and was also named first cellist of the Royal Chapel. Servais, described by Berlioz as “Paganinian,” was probably the finest cello virtuoso of his day. He was praised for his intense pure sound, flawless intonation, and acrobatic technique. His enormous Stradivari, later inherited by his son, is still known as the “Servais” cello.
Anton ARENSKY String Quartet No. 2 in A minor Op. 35 ▪ 1894
A pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Arensky graduated with a gold medal, then became one of the youngest professors ever to teach at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was influenced by Tchaikovsky and Sergei Taneyev. Among his pupils were Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. He died at age 44 from tuberculosis, most likely exacerbated by his drinking.
| December 7 Teamwork
String Quartet on the Theme “B-la-F” ▪ 1886
The lumber millionaire, Mitrofan Petrovich Belaiev, was also an amateur violist with a passion for chamber music. Having made his fortune, he turned his efforts to the advancement of Russian music. In 1885 he founded the publishing firm bearing his name with the intent of promoting the works of promising Russian composers. Belaiev also held concerts every Friday, followed by banquets, at his mansion in St. Petersburg. These soirées were known as Les Vendredis. At his 50th birthday soirée on 23 November 1886, the 4 composers presented their String Quartet to Belaiev in appreciation of his largesse. Each of the four movements used the B-la-F theme with ingenuity. And since the viola was his favorite instrument, it is featured in the exposition of the main themes and solo passages.
Hexaméron Variations ▪ 1837–1838
The musical oddity was the brainchild of Princess Cristina Trivulzio Belgiojoso, the richest heiress in Italy. It was inspired by a previous event she had hosted—a heavyweight contest between Liszt and Thalberg to determine the greater pianist. For this charity concert, she put Liszt in charge. The word Hexaméron itself refers to the Biblical six days of creation. But it took somewhat longer for Liszt to round up his colleagues to write the variations on the march theme from Bellini’s last opera I puritani. The benefit, however, did not take place as Chopin was the spoiler—his variations arrived after the deadline! Liszt himself wrote the introduction and a variation, the interludes, and a finale. Haslinger of Vienna published it in 1839 with a dedication to the princess. Liszt played the work all over Europe as an encore piece, and also made a set of orchestral parts so that he could play it with orchestra.
FAE Sonata ▪ 1853
The autograph score bears the dedication in Schumann’s hand, F.A.E.: In Erwartung der Ankunft des verehrten und geliebten Freundes JOSEPH JOACHIM schrieben diese Sonate R.S., J.B., A.D. (“F.A.E.: In expectation of the arrival of their revered and beloved friend, Joseph Joachim, this sonata was written by R.S., J.B., A.D.”). The 3 friends presented the gift to Joachim upon his return from a European tour on 28 October at a soirée at the Schumann home in Düsseldorf, and challenged him to determine the composer of each movement. Joachim sight read the work that evening with Clara Schumann at the piano, instantly identifying the author of each movement.
| December 21 German Mavens
Louis SPOHR Duo in E minor Op. 13 ▪ 1808
Spohr was a dominant force in German music and as famous as Beethoven—he served in a number of court positions, he was the celebrated leading violin virtuoso, he was one of the most sought-after and prolific composers of the first half of the 19th century, and is considered a forerunner of early Romanticism. He was also an ideas man—he invented the chin rest, introduced the use of the baton and rehearsal numbers, developed the double quartet after Andreas Romberg first proposed the idea, and revived the music of Bach and Handel. In addition to his musical activities, he was a family man who enjoyed a happy social life and varied pursuits like swimming, ice-skating, hiking, gardening, and painting.
Alexis HOLLÄNDER 6 Charakterstücke Op. 53 ▪ published 1898
Born into a musical family in Silesia (southern Poland), the German conductor and composer studied piano, organ, and philosophy before taking a teaching position in piano and choral singing at Kullak’s Academy in 1861. He then founded and conducted the Konzertverein (later the Alexis Holländerscher Verein) which merged with the Cäcilienverein in 1870. While he conducted the combined forces till 1902, he also taught at the Victoria School, he was named the royal musical director in 1875 and professor in 1881, and from 1903 he lectured at the Humboldt Academy. As choral director of the Cäcilienverein for 32 years, Holländer was influential in the cultural life of Berlin—he performed for the first time in Berlin such works as Brahms’s German Requiem, Max Bruch’s Odysseus, Handel’s Semele, and Liszt’s Christus. His own compositions were influenced by Schumann.
Richard STRAUSS Liebesliedchen “Little Love Song” ▪ 1893
Completed on December 23 in Weimar, the waltz was composed as a gift for his favorite uncle Georg Pschorr, named in the dedication as Kommerzienrat (counsellor of commerce).
BEETHOVEN Piano Trio in D Major “Ghost” Op. 70 No. 1 ▪ 1808
Beethoven’s own notes reveal that he was sketching an opera about Macbeth at the time! The Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich states that “this is one of the first atmospheric ‘mood-pieces’ in music history, where elements of tone-color tend to blur the formal outline. The dark gloom of this Largo, which stands in such striking contrast to the brightness of the outer movements, is further enhanced by the frequent low rumblings on the piano.”
In 1808, Spohr rehearsed the “Ghost” with Beethoven at the latter’s home. He recounted that the piano was out of tune and that Beethoven’s playing was “harsh or careless.” The two men were friends, and Spohr admired Beethoven’s music, especially the early string quartets, which he usually played in most of his chamber concerts until the end of his performing career in 1858. Although Spohr did not understand or appreciate Beethoven’s later works he felt it his duty to promote his music by conducting it in orchestral concerts.
| January 11 Italian Beauties
Saverio MERCADANTE Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Cello ▪ circa 1810s
Mercadante (1795–1870) is considered to be an important reformer of Italian opera and was most famous in his day as a composer who produced almost 60 operas, but he also wrote an abundance of instrumental pieces. An illegitimate child born in Altamura near Bari, he learned to play the guitar and clarinet and in 1808, at age 11, he also studied flute, violin, singing, and composition at the Conservatorio di San Sebastiano in Naples. His instrumental pieces during this time include music for 3 ballets and a fine Flute Concerto in E minor. His first opera, L’apoteosi d’Ercole, written in 1819, was a success that launched a career spanning decades and led to tours in Vienna, Madrid, Cádiz, Lisbon, and Paris, where he met Giacomo Meyerbeer, whose operas influenced Mercadante to write more dramatically. From 1833 to 1840 he was maestro di cappella at Novara Cathedral, and from 1840 till his death, he served as head of the Naples Conservatory. The New Grove Dictionary contends that he is “the most important among those Italian opera composers contemporary with Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi whose works are no longer in the repertory.... After Mercadante’s death his reputation suffered a rapid decline. By the standards of his time his best work had been serious and thoughtful, producing its effect by technical skill and controlled vigour rather than by any very immediate lyrical impulse.... Mercadante clearly demands consideration as a composer in his own right.”
Giacomo PUCCINI Crisantemi “Chrysanthemums” ▪ 1890
Ottorino RESPIGHI Piano Quintet in F minor Op. 6 ▪ 1902
Born in Bologna into a musical family, Respighi is best known for his three orchestral tone poems—Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals. The Piano Quintet was first performed at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, with Respighi playing first violin.
Leone SINIGAGLIA Romanza for Horn and Piano ▪ 1899
From an early age Sinigaglia loved climbing mountains and spent many holidays in the hilly district of Cavoretto, possibly an inspiration for the Romanza.
Sinigaglia (1868–1944) was born into a prominent upper middle class family in Turin. After schooling at the Liceo Musicale he moved to Vienna in 1894 and became a pupil of Eusebius Mandyczewski, an esteemed Romanian composer and teacher. He also met Mahler and Goldmark, and got to know Brahms. In 1900 he became a close friend of Dvořák, who gave him private lessons in orchestration in Prague and at Vysoká (his summer residence) and kindled his interest in folk music. Returning to Turin the following year, he devoted his efforts, from 1902, to the collection and study of about 500 Piedmontese folksongs, many of which he arranged for voice and piano and for other instruments. His creativity, however, languished. During WWII, Sinigaglia died tragically. Being Jewish, he was persecuted by the Nazis who occupied Turin in 1944—at the moment of arrest, at age 75, he died from a heart attack. As a mountaineer, Sinigaglia made an impressive number of ascents in the Dolomites and has been described as “the first great Italian climber in the Dolomites.” Two of his most famous climbs were first ascents on Croda Da Lago and Monte Cristallo. His book, Climbing Reminiscences of the Dolomites, was published in English in 1896, shortly after the Italian edition, and is still regarded as a classic in climbing literature.
Sandro BLUMENTHAL Piano Quintet No. 2 in G Major Op. 4 ▪ 1899
Blumenthal has been described by Judith Kemp as “a versatile wanderer between the establishment and the avant-garde of the German musical and cultural landscape” around the turn of the last century. While virtually forgotten today, he made a name for himself as an important singer of cabaret lieder in Munich, a leading center for the arts and culture. He was born in Venice on 30 June 1874, son of Carlo Blumenthal, the Jewish banker connected with the management of lagoons. There, he studied piano, violin, viola, and composition at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory. From 1896, he continued his education for 3 years at the Royal Academy of Music in Munich, where Josef Rheinberger taught him composition. The results were chamber music pieces as well as works for large orchestra. Not only were his compositions performed at the Academy’s public concerts, but the press confirmed the young composer’s considerable talent, highlighting his “sure compositional technique,” “great appreciation for beautiful sounds,” and “natural and fresh feeling.” The premiere of the second quintet celebrated his graduation from the Academy. Blumenthal spent the last years of his life with his wife and 2 children in Berlin, where he died on 1 August 1919 at the age of 45.
| January 25 Hungarian Flair
BRAHMS Hungarian Dances ▪ 1879
In his youth Brahms discovered Central European folk music and was influenced by the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi, whom he heard in concert at age 17. Three years later he served as Reményi’s accompanist. It is thus not surprising that he composed these Hungarian-style pieces, which have enjoyed a phenomenal success.
Ernő DOHNÁNYI Sextet in C Major Op. 37 ▪ 1935
According to the New Grove Dictionary, “Next to Liszt he ranks as the most versatile Hungarian musician, whose influence reached generations in all spheres of musical life. He is considered one of the chief architects of Hungary’s musical culture in the 20th century.... As a pianist Dohnányi ranked among the greatest of all time.... As a master of chamber music he had few equals after Brahms.... As a conductor Dohnányi’s chief merit was the recognition of Bartók’s genius decades before others....” Born in Pozsony (now Bratislava) in 1877, he was first taught by his father. At age 17, he studied at the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest—piano with István Thomán (Liszt’s favorite pupil) and composition with Hans von Koessler (a devotee of Brahms). Both Liszt and Brahms swayed his piano playing and compositions, respectively.
Béla BARTÓK Piano Quintet in C Major ▪ 1903–1904
Seldom performed, the Quintet was written when Bartók was 23. His composing had taken a pause as he was discouraged from expressing his creativity while at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. Then he heard the premiere of Also sprach Zarathustra, met Strauss, and was inspired: “I was aroused as by a flash of lightning by the first Budapest performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra. It contained the seeds for a new life. I started composing again.” Refreshed, he composed the Quintet, a work that shows his early attempts to break from the traditional compositional standards of his contemporaries and to use folk elements. He performed its premiere with the Prill Quartet in Vienna.
| February 8 Classical Treats
HAYDN Sonata No. 1 in G Major Hob XVI:40 ▪ 1929
The sonatas were written for Princess Marie, the new bride of Prince Nicholas Esterházy, grandson of Haydn’s employer, Prince Nicholas I. Cramer’s Magazin der Musik, in its review in 1785, observed that they were “more difficult to perform than one initially believes. They demand the utmost precision, and much delicacy in performance.” In 2 contrasting movements, the pastoral Allegretto innocente is followed by a gleeful zany romp.
Conradin KREUTZER Quintet in A Major ▪ between 1810 and 1820
Born in Messkirch to a respected Swabian burgher, Kreutzer (1780–1849) is considered a minor master of the Biedermeier epoch. He studied law in Freiburg before turning entirely to music after his father died in 1800. In 1804 he went to Vienna, where he met Haydn and probably studied with Albrechtsberger, one of Beethoven’s teachers. His active career included tours in Europe and several posts in Vienna, Stuttgart, Cologne, and other German cities, all the while composing numerous operas. Some of his music is not entirely forgotten—his settings for male chorus to Ludwig Uhland’s poems long remained popular with German and Austrian choirs; Das Nachtlager in Granada used to be revived occasionally in Germany; and his score for Der Verschwender continues to be performed in Austria.
MOZART Piano Quartet No. 2 in Eb Major K. 493 ▪ 1786
Mozart was under contract with the publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister to write 3 piano quartets, a virtually new genre of his own invention. When the first (K. 478 in G minor) did not sell because of its difficulty for amateurs, Mozart was released from his obligation. Nine months later, which was two months after the completion of Le Nozze di Figaro, the second piano quartet (K. 493 in Eb Major) was published by Artaria. A little easier than the first, Alfred Einstein viewed it as “bright in color, but iridescent, with hints of darker shades.”
| February 22 Ties to Brahms
Robert KAHN Serenade in F minor Op. 73 ▪ 1923
Although Kahn studied with Rheinberger at the Berlin Musikhochschule, he was affected by Brahms, who was so impressed with Kahn he offered to give him composition lessons. The young man, however, was too overawed to accept. As Kahn explained in 1947, “From my early youth I felt a deep love and veneration for Brahms the musician. To that was added, now that he welcomed me so warmly in Vienna, a deep, even rapturous love for Brahms the man. It filled my entire heart, but I kept it carefully hidden from him in shyness and restraint.” After his early success as a composer, Kahn won respect as a performer and teacher as well until his vilification by the Nazis, who suppressed his work. In 1938 Wilhelm Kempff persuaded him to flee to England, where he lived in obscurity in Biddenden, Kent. His creativity unfettered, he continued to write over 1000 piano pieces. From a distinguished family of bankers and merchants, Kahn’s seven siblings included Otto Kahn, the financier and chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Opera; and Felix Kahn, a banker, director of Paramount Pictures, and noted violin collector.
Ferdinand HILLER String Trio in C Major Op. 207 ▪ published 1886 posthumously
A native of Frankfurt, Hiller (1811–1885) was one of Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s few pupils. Among the important artists drawn to his talent was Mendelssohn, who became his closest friend for more than 2 decades, and whom he succeeded as conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, but this led to a split between them. Other close friends were Berlioz, Chopin, Liszt (later estranged), the Schumanns (Robert and Clara), Brahms, and Wagner, to whom he was a confidant and whose advice he greatly valued. Besides composing and conducting, Hiller became Kapellmeister of Cologne in 1850 and also served as Professor and Director of the Cologne Conservatory for several decades. When a grave illness forced him to retire in 1884, Hiller recommended Brahms and his pupil Max Bruch as his successors. Hiller’s vast musical output (in virtually every genre) is more or less now forgotten.
Xaver SCHARWENKA Piano Trio No. 2 in A minor Op. 45 ▪ 1878
The Piano Trio brought Scharwenka praise in his day. The Musical Times pointed out on 19 June 1879 that in a performance at St James Hall “the eminent pianist fully justified the reputation which he has already gained on the Continent as a composer” exhibiting “distinct evidence of considerable talent.” A performance at Chickering Hall 18 years later on 14 December 1897 earned praise from the Musical Courier: “The composition is masterly in conception and is strong, masculine and full of variety in its construction. Scharwenka’s personality is magnetic, and this is reflected in his work.”
Born in Samter, Poland, Scharwenka (1850–1924) studied at Theodor Kullak’s New Academy of Music in Berlin, and made his debut at the Sing-Akademie in 1869. In December 1874, after his military service, he made the first of many concert tours all over Europe and to the United States and Canada. He also founded his own conservatory in Berlin. In 1891 he emigrated to the United States and opened a New York branch of his conservatory in October, but returned to Berlin after 7 years. His overseas tours, however, continued and by 1914 he had crossed the Atlantic 26 times. At his zenith, Scharwenka had financial security, the respect of his colleagues, official honors, and widespread fame as both composer and virtuoso pianist, renowned for his beautiful, sonorous, singing tone and as an interpreter of Chopin’s music. A handful of recordings cut around 1910 bear witness to this. His friends and collaborators included Brahms, Ferruccio Busoni, Max Bruch, Artur Nikisch, and Mahler. World War I, however, brought with it a Weimar era of disillusionment and nihilism that led to the demise of his music’s allure.
Scharwenka met Brahms through George Henschel in the summer of 1876, when the 3 were on holiday in Sassnitz on the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. In his memoirs Klänge aus meinem Leben (Sounds from my Life), he recalls this first meeting and their trip to catch flounder the next morning. His piano piece Romanzero, composed in Sassnitz, was dedicated to Brahms. Scharwenka’s memoirs also disclose that all his life he felt “completely German, a Protestant Christian,” brought up in the spirit of German Romanticism and the great piano tradition of Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.
| March 8 Polish Polish
Karol SZYMANOWSKI Paganini Caprice No. 24 Op. 40 ▪ 1807/1918
In the view of Francis Pott, a music scholar, “Szymanowski had rented an apartment in Vienna before the War, but had found Viennese cultural life enclosed and stifling.... The...Caprice here proves to be none other than ‘that’ tune yet again, subjected to grandly ironic display.”
Szymanowski (1882–1937) was the most celebrated composer of the early 20th century. He began to compose and play the piano at an early age. In 1901 he went to Warsaw for 3 years to study harmony, counterpoint, and composition privately. But finding the musical life in Warsaw limiting, he went to Berlin, where he organized the Young Polish Composers’ Publishing Co. (1905–1912) to issue new works by Poles. World War I then triggered his return to Poland. From 1914 to 1917, isolated from the European musical community, he composed profusely and studied Islamic culture and ancient Greek drama and philosophy. With the establishment of an independent Polish state in 1918, Szymanowski dug into the Polish folk idiom and tried to create a Polish national style, a task ignored since Chopin. And he became more conservative, abandoning atonalism. He also traveled widely, promoting his works in London, Paris, and the United States. In 1927 he settled back in Warsaw to assume the directorship of the Warsaw Conservatory for 5 years, aiming to improve music education in Poland. During the 1930s Szymanowski retreated from using folk music directly in his compositions although he continued to use folk music material; his forms and orchestration of this period recall those of his earlier works.
Stanisław MONIUSZKO String Quartet No. 1 in D minor ▪ 1839
Born into a family of Polish landowners in Ubiel, in today’s Belarus, Moniuszko (1819–1872) began piano lessons at age 9 when the family moved to Warsaw, and continued his studies at the Gymnasium in Minsk in 1830. He was then sent to the Sing-Akademie in Berlin in the fall of 1837 for further formal studies, including composition and choral conducting. In 1840 he returned to Poland and, after his marriage, obtained a post as organist at St John’s in Vilnius, taught piano, conducted the theater orchestra, and presented many concerts, introducing audiences to works of Mozart, Haydn, and Mendelssohn. Moniuszko was the soul of 19th century musical life in Vilnius and as his career flourished, he became known as the foremost 19th century composer of Polish song and was revered as the “Father of Polish National Opera.” Halka and The Haunted Manor are considered his best operas.
Franciszek LESSEL Grand Trio for Clarinet, Horn, & Piano Op. 4 ▪ 1806
Born in Warsaw, Lessel (1780–1838) was first taught by his father, Wincenty Ferdynand Lessel, a composer, pianist, and pedagogue of Czech descent. In December 1799 he left for Vienna to study composition under Joseph Haydn until Haydn’s death in 1809. Before leaving Vienna to return to Poland, Lessel performed as a pianist and in a string ensemble in Lwów with, among others, Karol Lipiński. Back in Poland, he gave piano recitals of his own works in Kraków and at the Warsaw National Theatre. He also played the glass harmonica, which was hugely popular at the time, taught music and, for some time, was director of the Warsaw Amateur Music Society. However, his musical activities ended in 1822 after a personal tragedy, although he continued to compose. In 1823 he was an agent of Duchess Maria of Württemberg’s estate in Pilica, and in the 1830s he managed the Poplawski estate in Pȩcice. In 1836 he was Inspector of the Marymont Institute of Farming, and the following year he was appointed Inspector of the regional Gymnasium in Piotrków Trybunalski, a tenure he held until his death. The New Grove Dictionary maintains that “His music displays mastery of the technical means of the Classics and the principles of polyphony, combined with a feeling for the new Romantic trends in music.”
Władysław ŻELEŃSKI Piano Quartet in C minor Op. 61 ▪ 1907
Żeleński (1837–1921) is regarded as the most influential post-Romantic Polish composer. His early lessons were on the violin, but from 1854 he studied the piano and composition at Kraków’s Nowodworski School. By the age of 20, he had composed 2 string quartets, trios, and an overture, which he conducted at its premiere on 29 July 1857. In 1859 he entered the renowned Jagiellonian University of Prague, where he continued his studies in philosophy and music (piano, organ, and counterpoint), graduating with a doctorate in philosophy in 1862. His piano teacher there was Alexander Dreyschock, famous for his facile execution of double thirds, double sixths, octaves, and other fingerbusters (he played the left-hand arpeggios of Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude” in octaves). Żeleński then studied at the Paris Conservatoire from 1866 until 1871, when he returned to Poland. In 1872 he taught harmony and composition for 5 years at the Warsaw Music Institute, and in 1878 assumed the directorship of the city’s Musical Society. In 1881 he settled in Kraków and became director of the Kraków Music School, which he helped develop into a full-fledged conservatory, all the while teaching. Among his pupils was Zygmunt Stojowski, who headed the music department at New York’s Institute of Musical Art (later merged with Juilliard). Żeleński also is one of the important composers of songs that were popular in Polish salons. The New Grove Dictionary further asserts that he was “the foremost representative of dramatic music after Moniuszko.” Żeleński was buried in the family tomb at Rakowice Cemetery in Kraków.
| March 22 Known in Vienna
Michael HAYDN Divertimento in Eb Major MH 9 ▪ 1754–1757
Born in 1737 in Rohrau, Lower Austria, Joseph Haydn’s younger brother left home as a young boy of about 9 to become a chorister at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He is said to have had an unusually clear and angelic voice, with a range of 3 octaves. Soon after his voice broke he was dismissed from the Kapellhaus and spent the next few years, probably in Vienna, making a precarious living. The Divertimento was likely written during this insecure period or in 1757, when he was appointed Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein in Hungary (now Oradea, Romania).
Gustav JENNER Trio in Eb Major ▪ 1897
Jenner (1865–1920) was born on the German island of Sylt, the son of a doctor of Scottish ancestry and a mother from a family of fishermen. The poet Klaus Groth, friend of the self-taught Jenner, arranged for Jenner to study in Hamburg with Eduard Marxsen, whose most famous student was Brahms. In 1888 Marxsen, in turn, sent Jenner to Vienna to study with Brahms. With the support of patrons his studies continued till 1895, when Brahms recommended him for the music directorship of Marburg University, a post he held until his death. While his compositions bear the imprint of Brahms, they are also his own expressions and are finely wrought, melodious, and Romantic. He is a descendant of Edward Jenner, discoverer of the smallpox vaccine.
HANDEL-HALVORSEN Sarabande con variazioni ▪ 1900
Handel’s Suite HWV 437, composed for solo harpsichord in the baroque language between 1703 and 1706, was not published until 1733. His music was certainly heard in Vienna, where Mozart became acquainted with his works. Johan Halvorsen was among the most prominent Norwegian composers after Grieg. In his early years he was concertmaster for the Bergen Philharmonic and in Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1899 he was appointed conductor of the Kristiania National Theater, a post he held for 30 years, leading both stage and symphonic performances, often of his own works. He married Grieg’s daughter and orchestrated some of Grieg’s pieces.
Hermann GOETZ Piano Quintet in C minor Op. 16 ▪ 1874
The manuscript of this deeply moving, gorgeous work bears an anguished quote of suffering from Goethe, in awareness of the German composer’s rapidly deteriorating health from tuberculosis. He died four days before his 36th birthday in 1876.
Goetz’s life, in a nutshell, is told by Christopher Fifield: “Hermann Goetz was born in 1840 at Königsberg...the son of a brewer. He fulfilled his long-standing desire to become a musician at the age of twenty when he went to Berlin’s Stern Conservatoire in 1860. Of his teachers there, the most significant was the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, Liszt’s son-in-law. Three years later Goetz moved to Winterthur in Switzerland to work as a church organist and attempt to cure the tuberculosis he had contracted in childhood. Brahms visited in 1865, and they became uneasy friends (not uncommon in relationships with the greater man), but two years later Goetz enjoyed an annus mirabilis when he married, resumed contact with von Bülow and met [Joachim] Raff, who recommended him to the music publishers Breitkopf und Härtel.” His opera Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung was presented in Vienna, and his great admirers included the conductor Felix Weingartner and George Bernard Shaw. The New Grove Dictionary assesses Goetz’s music as “the expression of a sensitive and refined artistic personality, averse to any hint of vulgarity, yet the cordial judgments of generations of critics have not succeeded in establishing his works in their deserved permanent place in the standard repertory.” Jens Nygaard performed his Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb Major in 1999 at Good Shepherd Church.
| April 5 Berliners
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH Duet No. 2 in G Major for 2 Violas F. 61 (BR B8) ▪ 1775
The viola duo is from a set of 3 that are the most known viola duets from the second half of the 18th century and are unique within the Bach family—rich in imitative writing (the repetition of a motif or theme) and fugues. Sara Levy née Itzig—patron and salonnière, gifted musician, and collector of music—had a powerful impact on Prussian-Jewish life and the Enlightenment in Berlin. She studied the harpsichord with WF Bach, and commissioned music from both WF and his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. She also was a vital link in the transmission of the music of their father, Johann Sebastian Bach, and a catalyst of the Bach revival, which was led by her great-nephew Felix Mendelssohn (Sara was the sister of his grandmother Bella).
The oldest and favorite son of JS Bach, WF was an organ virtuoso whose improvisations equaled his father’s. After he matriculated at Leipzig University, he became the organist at the Church of St Sophia in Dresden in 1733 for 13 years. He then moved to Halle in 1746 and for 18 years he was the organist and music director at the Liebfrauenkirche. His remaining years until his death in 1784 were miserable. Unable to find another permanent position, he moved to Berlin in 1774 in deteriorating circumstances and poor health, and eked out an existence giving organ recitals, teaching, and composing.
MENDELSSOHN Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor ▪ 1796–1797
The great German poet told Mendelssohn’s teacher, Carl Friedrich Zelter, “What your pupil already accomplishes bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time, that the cultivated talk of a grown-up person does to the prattle of a child.” Few relationships were as important to Mendelssohn as his friendship with Goethe, whom he frequently visited, played for, and corresponded with. Born in Hamburg, Mendelssohn grew up in Berlin.
Waldemar von BAUSSNERN Serenade ▪ 1898
The trio was written for Richard Mühlfeld, the clarinetist whose awesome and moving interpretations inspired Brahms to compose again after he had quit in 1890.
Born in Berlin, Baussnern (1866–1931) studied with Friedrich Kiel and Woldemar Bargiel at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, after which he held positions as a director, administrator, and professor at music societies, academies, and conservatories in Mannheim, Dresden, Cologne, Weimar, Frankfurt, and Berlin. Baussnern was remarkably prolific and composed in almost every musical genre. While his music drew on Brahms in style and is rooted in German Romanticism, it is also independent in form that ranges from extremes of conventional tonality to frequently polyphonic chromaticism, although never atonality. The Serenade was popular until World War II.
Max BRUCH String Quintet in A minor ▪ 1918–1919
In a review, John Miller cites its discovery and merit: “Bruch’s String Quintet in A minor was long thought to be lost, but in 1988 a copy by Bruch’s daughter-in-law Gertrude Bruch was found in the BBC Music Library. It proves to be a masterly work, in no way reflecting Bruch’s age and disgruntled opinion of the state of music at the time. String Quintets are rather rare items in the chamber music world, and one of this quality deserves attention. Schubert preferred adding a second cello to his string quartet, while Bruch goes along with Mozart in adding another viola, giving the work great inner warmth.”
Born in Cologne in 1838, Bruch wrote a symphony at age 14, and he conducted orchestral and choral societies in Mannheim, Koblenz, Sondershausen, Berlin, Bonn, Liverpool, Breslau, and Wraclaw. His importance as a composer and to German musical life was finally acknowledged in 1890 when given a professorship and a master class in composition at the Berlin Academy, where he taught until his retirement in 1910. He died in Friedenau (now part of Berlin) in 1920. Bruch is best remembered for his Scottish Fantasy, Kol Nidrei, and 3 violin concerti.
| April 12 Forgotten Women
Mathilde von KRALIK (1857–1944) Phantasie in E minor ▪ 1927
Born into a highly cultured upper-class Austrian family, Kralik studied counterpoint privately with Anton Bruckner before entering the Vienna Conservatory, where she became Bruckner’s prize pupil and met Mahler. She graduated first in her class of 10 in a mere 2 years in 1878 in an era when women’s creativity was largely scorned. An accomplished pianist and singer as well, she soon became a leading figure in Viennese artistic life. Kralik composed a large oeuvre of vocal, piano, instrumental, and organ works that included an opera, symphonies, and oratorios. Her songs reveal her ability to write a captivating melodic line and intricate accompaniment comparable to Mahler or Richard Strauss. As to her songs, she worked very closely with her like-minded older brother Richard, a noted poet, philosopher, and cultural historian. The siblings held regular musical and literary salons that consistently attracted the city’s intelligentsia and artistic elite. Even Eduard Hanslick, the notoriously vicious Viennese critic, found Kralik to be “a genuine, original talent which...holds great promise for the future.” She remained musically active throughout her long life, even though her deeply romantic style fell out of fashion as the 20th century advanced; her music has all but disappeared from the repertoire.
Luise Adolpha LE BEAU Three Pieces Op. 26 ▪ 1881
It has been reported that Le Beau could sing before she could speak. Born in Rastatt in 1850, the prodigy was fortunate to have supportive parents. Her father, especially, gave her the best education possible and even tutored her in subjects not offered to women in schools, and he also taught her the piano. Subsequently she studied composition with Johannn Kalliwoda and piano with Clara Schumann. In 1873 she sought the advice of Hans von Bülow, who urged her to move to a larger city to expand her artistic opportunities. Eventually she moved to Munich and studied composition with Josef Rheinberger and Franz Lachner. Her works won several prizes and were well regarded by Brahms, Liszt, Berlioz, Woldemar Bargiel, Joachim, and the critic Eduard Hanslick, among others. She died in 1927.
Le Beau once wrote, “Just do not limit, then, the training of girls. Rather, teach them the same things that are taught to boys. Grow accustomed to a system that has this same fundamental condition for every education, and then see what [girls] can do after acquiring technical skills and intellectual independence, rather than entrench yourselves against female capabilities by limiting the education of women!”
Rosalind Frances ELLICOTT (1857–1924) Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor ▪ 1891
Truly musical, Ellicott’s talent came from her mother, a singer who had a hand in the founding of London’s Handel Society and the Gloucester Philharmonic Society. At age 6 her “extraordinary facility in music, singing, and harmonising correctly by ear” was apparent; at age 12 she studied with Samuel Wesley, the cathedral organist, and started composing the following year. From 1874 to 1876 she studied the piano at the Royal Academy of Music, and from 1885 she studied composition with Thomas Wingham for 7 years. Ellicott wrote large-scale orchestral works, including the Dramatic Overture that premiered at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester in 1886 and her cantata Elysium in 1889, but she gradually turned to chamber music. She divulged that she wrote rapidly: “I get a whole movement in my head before I touch paper. I hardly ever alter my compositions.” Ellicott retreated from the music scene around 1900, moved to the south of England after World War One, and died in Seasalter. She is buried near her parents in Birchington-on-Sea in Kent.
Amanda MAIER Piano Quartet in C minor ▪ 1891
Maier was born in 1853 in the late-medieval town of Landskrona, across the sound from Copenhagen. From an early age her father gave her violin and piano lessons; and at age 16, she attended the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, expanding her knowledge with studies in the organ, cello, composition, and harmony. She continued her studies in composition and violin with Carl Reinecke and Richter in Leipzig, during which time she wrote the Piano Trio. Her subsequent violin studies with Engelbert Röntgen led to her marriage to his son, the German-Dutch composer and pianist, Julius Röntgen. They moved to Amsterdam in 1880; ten years later she contracted tuberculosis. In spite of recuperating in Nice and Davos, she died in 1894 in the Netherlands. Among several other compositions are a violin concerto, piano quartet, and violin sonata.
|April 26 Très Magnifique
Ignace PLEYEL Quintet in C Major ▪ 1780s
Pleyel was not only famous in his day as a piano builder and music publisher, he was equally acclaimed as a composer. Mozart praised the Austrian-born French composer’s merits in a letter to his father: “If you are not yet acquainted with Pleyel’s new quartets, it’s worth the effort. They are very well written and very pleasant. Perhaps one day Pleyel will be able to fill the place of our dear Haydn.” Initially a rival of Haydn’s, Pleyel made his peace with the older composer and for several years they enjoyed a close and fruitful relationship as teacher and prized pupil. In his heyday, Pleyel was all the rage in Europe, and there was even a Pleyel Society in Nantucket.
Camille SAINT-SAËNS String Quartet No. 2 in G Major Op. 153 ▪ 1919
Mary Nemet in a review for Strings felt that the Quartet was Saint-Saëns’s “effortless mastery of string textures and his sheer inventiveness. Continual surprises enliven the overall effect, with subtle harmonic, rhythmic, and emotional shifting of gears and dramatic changes of tone color. With a backward nod, there’s a sweet, serene Haydnesque opening Allegro, and then an evocative Molto adagio with hints of the composer’s many trips to North Africa. The playful finale concludes with brilliant, scurrying virtuoso phrases and short fugues that belie the composer’s advanced years. Refusing to be pigeon-holed, the prolific master craftsman retains his wit and charm to the end.”
Baron Fernand de LA TOMBELLE Piano Quartet in E minor Op. 24 ▪ 1893
Renowned in his day but now forgotten, La Tombelle (1854–1928) was a remarkable, cultivated Renaissance man—a composer, virtuoso pianist and organist, pedagogue and lecturer, poet and writer, folklorist and photographer, talented amateur painter, excellent cyclist, and he was keen on astronomy, archaeology, and gastronomy as well. Born in Paris, La Tombelle was first taught by his mother (a pupil of Thalberg and Liszt) and influenced by his teachers Alexandre Guilmant (the virtuoso organist) and Théodore Dubois, and his friend and advisor Camille Saint-Saëns. He was also a close friend of Jules Massenet. A prolific composer, his oeuvre of nearly 500 opus numbers encompasses every genre except opera. Among his masterpieces are his chamber music and choral music. His Fantaisie de concert was written for the inauguration of Chicago’s Auditorium Theater organ. Highlights of his career include his position as piano accompanist of the Trocadéro concerts at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878; an appointment as assistant organist at La Madeleine from 1885 to 1898; playing inaugural concerts on several instruments; and founding the Schola Cantorum in 1896 with Charles Bordes, Vincent d’Indy, and Guilmant. He also taught harmony there for about 10 years. Among his writings were theatrical fantasies, travelogues (he wrote about excursions around France as a member of the Automobile Club of Périgord), and a small culinary work, Les pâtés de Périgueux. After World War I he retired to Château de Fayrac in his native Perigord, devoting much effort to the music education of the lower classes and setting many popular regional themes to music.
May 3 Mozart’s Sway
BEETHOVEN String Trio in Eb Major Op. 3 ▪ circa 1794
Inspired by Mozart’s Divertimento K. 563, the String Trio was written at a time when Beethoven became famous as a piano virtuoso in Vienna, dazzling audiences with his skill and improvisations. He was studying with Haydn, Salieri, and Albrechtsberger, his strictest teacher, and seducing the aristocracy, including the dedicatee of the Trio, the Countess Anna Margarete von Browne, wife of his patron Count Johann Georg von Browne.
Von Browne was an officer of Irish descent in the Russian Imperial Service in Vienna. His wife was the daughter of an eminent member of the nobility under Catherine the Great, senator Otto Hermann von Vietinghoff-Scheel, who was considered the uncrowned king of Livonia. The Countess took piano lessons with Beethoven and, judging by the works dedicated to her, she was a pianist gifted with refinement and insight rather than virtuosity. Her husband was a generous patron of Beethoven’s between 1797 and 1803.
MOZART 2 Fragments for clarinet and string quartet
▪ Allegro in Bb Major K. Anh. 91 (K. 516c) ▪ 1787
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL Piano Concerto No. 2 in A minor Op. 85 ▪ 1816
The concerto’s premiere in Vienna featured Hummel as the virtuoso soloist. It does not disappoint with abundant runs (in thirds), leaps, and hand-crossings. If it’s any consolation to our pianist, Schumann told Hummel that he worked on the concerto for a full year in his lessons with Friedrich Wieck, his teacher and future father-in-law.
Hummel was born in Pressburg, Hungary, then a part of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. A pupil of Mozart, with whom he lived from the ages of 8 to 10, he also studied with Haydn, Salieri, and Albrechtsberger. Among his friends was Beethoven (in varying degrees), at whose funeral he was a pall bearer and for whose memorial concert he played the variations on the Prisoners’ Chorus from Fidelio, at Beethoven’s request. And he knew Schubert, who dedicated his last three piano sonatas to him. Hummel became one of Europe’s greatest composers and perhaps the greatest piano virtuoso in Europe for more than 2 decades (his art of improvisation is said to have been even better than Beethoven’s). In 1804 he succeeded Haydn as Konzertmeister and later as Kapellmeister at the court of Esterházy in Eisenstadt. Hummel died a rich man after a long and successful career, then faded into obscurity with the arrival of Romanticism.
| May 17 Roots
Henry Thacker “Harry” BURLEIGH 4 Southland Sketches ▪ 1785–1796
Described by Richard Rodda as not only “the finest kind of salon pieces, characterized by folk- and spiritual-inspired melodies, catchy rhythms, and appealing harmonies, but they also signify a seldom-remarked aspect of Burleigh’s legacy to American music—they were among the first works by an African American composer available to an international audience.”
Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, young Burleigh (1866–1949) sang in churches and synagogues without early training. His maternal grandfather, a partially blind former slave who worked as a town crier and lamplighter, exerted a strong influence on the boy by singing plantation songs to him. In 1892 Burleigh studied at the National Conservatory in New York where its director, Dvořák, befriended him. He sang Negro spirituals for Dvořák on many occasions, which inspired the Czech composer to write his now celebrated American works. Dvořák believed that “inspiration for truly national music might be derived from the Negro melodies or Indian chants.... The most potent as well as the most beautiful among them, according to my estimation, are certain of the so-called plantation melodies and slave songs, all of which are distinguished by unusual and subtle harmonies.” Before composing in earnest Burleigh sang many concerts as a baritone soloist, including at New York’s Temple Emanu-El. In 1911 he also became a music editor at Ricordi. As stated by the New Grove Dictionary, “His unique achievement was his pioneering role in writing artistic arrangements of Negro spirituals for solo performance on the concert state. His publication Jubilee Songs of the U.S.A....which includes the well-known Deep River, was a landmark.”
William Grant STILL Folk Suite No. 1 ▪ 1962
Still (1895–1978) was the first Black American to have a symphony played by a leading orchestra, the first to conduct a major orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by an important company, and among the first to write for radio, film, and television. Born in Woodville, Mississippi, his father was the town bandmaster. After his death the family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he began studying the violin, and where he and Florence Price were classmates in elementary school. He enrolled at Wilberforce College intending to study medicine but left without graduating as he turned to music instead and was influenced by Coleridge-Taylor. He worked with various music groups, including W. C. Handy’s band in 1916. He then went to Oberlin Conservatory, where his teachers encouraged him to compose, but WWI interrupted his studies. After his service in the navy, he returned to Oberlin, then worked for Handy’s publishing company in New York, played the oboe in theater orchestras, studied on a scholarship with Edgard Varèse, and began to write large-scale works in the early 1920s. In 1923 George Chadwick urged him to write American music; one result was his Afro-American Symphony, which the Rochester Philharmonic performed in 1931. “Still became best known for his nationalist works, employing negro and other American folk idioms. After a period of avant-garde experiment he turned in a neoromantic direction, with graceful melodies supported by conventional harmonies, rhythms and timbres; his music has a freshness and individuality that have brought enthusiastic response [New Grove Dictionary].”
Florence PRICE Five Folk Songs in Counterpoint
Price (1887–1953) was the first Black woman to have her work performed by major American orchestras. She was born into a middle class family in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was first taught music by her mother when white instructors refused to do so. Since women of color in the South were denied advanced training, after she completed high school in 1903 at age 16, her mother enrolled her at the New England Conservatory, where she studied the organ, piano pedagogy, and other music disciplines (her composition teacher was the director George Chadwick). Having earned 2 artist diplomas, Price began her career as an instructor at segregated schools in Arkansas, then as head of the music department at Clark University in Atlanta until 1912. Returning to Little Rock, she managed a private piano studio, composed pedagogical music for children, married, and raised 2 daughters until 1927, when a brutal lynching and financial difficulties spurred the family’s move to Chicago. This move resulted in a burst of creativity, competition wins, and widespread recognition for her work beginning in the 1930s. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E minor in 1933, and collaborations with Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price followed. The music publisher Barbara Garvey Jackson has said that Price’s “methods are actually quite close to Dvořák’s in the way she approaches the use of ethnic materials (both of the Old and the New Worlds).”
Antonín DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major Op. 81 ▪ 1887
The Quintet was written in just seven weeks at Dvořák’s country house on the edge of a forest park at Vysoká, a favorite place. The work of a fully mature composer, it is one of his most characteristic and idiomatic in its fusion of Czech nationalism and Austro-German traditions. Alex Robertson, a British scholar, viewed it as “simply one of the most perfect chamber music works in existence...the melodies are of the greatest beauty and freshness, and a joyous springtime happiness flows through the music.” The Quintet was dedicated to his admiring friend Dr. Bohdan Neureutter, a physician and generous patron of music. It premiered in Prague on 6 January 1888.
*All programs are subject to change.
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Last updated 4/7/21