February 11, 2018

1718 The Debuts of Elena Urioste & Tom Poster

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Artists

Elena Urioste, violin
Tom Poster, piano
 

Program

Kreisler

C. Schumann

Dvořák

Grieg

Beach

Gershwin/Heifetz

Miniatures

Three Romances

Sonata for Violin & Piano in F Major

Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 2 in G Major

Romance

Selections from Porgy and Bess


As a thank you, Linton Subscribers will receive a complimentary ticket to this Subscriber Bonus Concert featuring the debuts of Elena Urioste, hailed by the Washington Post as “a drop-dead beauty who plays with equal parts passion, sensuality, brains, and humor” and prize-winning, British pianist Tom Poster. With a reputation for featuring exceptional artists that light up the Linton stage, this bonus program has become a popular event!

This concert will take place at the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati.

Program Notes

Fritz Kreisler (1875 – 1962) – Miniatures

Fritz Kreisler’s career as a musician took shape as a result of one of his most profound professional disappointments. After studying violin and composition at the Vienna Conservatory, he travelled to Paris to continue his education. When he returned home to audition for the Vienna Philharmonic with its legendary conductor Arnold Rosé, he was turned down because his playing sounded too distinctly Parisian. In his disappointment, Kreisler considered other career options before ultimately opting to pursue a career as a concert soloist. That decision proved wise as his performing career quickly took off. By 1910 Edward Elgar dedicated his Violin Concerto to Kreisler. He then spent the rest of his career touring Europe and North America with a solo career that was only briefly interrupted by service in World War I.

Kreisler’s successful performing career was also influenced by his training as a composer. Many of the works he performed were either original compositions – as demonstrated today by his Caprice Viennois – arrangement of existing songs – Songs My Mother Taught Me and Midnight Bells – or a combination of the two – Preghiera in the style of Martini. It is this final group that set Kreisler apart historically.

Though composed by Kreisler, the Preghiera was attributed to 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Martini for virtually the entirety of Kreisler’s career. The same was true for a number of the miniatures Kreisler performed throughout his career. He distinguished himself by frequently performing “newly-discovered” works of old composers which had only recently been found in dusty old libraries and monasteries. It wasn’t until his 60th birthday in 1935 that Kreisler admitted to New York Times music critic Olin Downes that, in an elaborate hoax he had orchestrated throughout his entire career, Kreisler himself had composed all of these “lost classics.” While this revelation caused a stir in the music world at the time, it also helped demonstrate that Kreisler was equally talented at composing in a variety of styles as he was performing in them.

 

Clara Schumann (1819 – 1896) – Three Romances, Op. 22

In nineteenth-century Germany, the term “romance” was often somewhat vague; generally referring to a short piece for piano or for a solo instrument with piano accompaniment. This short form became one of Clara Schumann’s favorite musical genres, and the Three Romances, Op. 22 are often held up as one of the most representative samples of her works. This set was among the last pieces Clara ever wrote before largely abandoning composition in favor of keeping her husband’s music alive through touring and editing after Robert’s death.

The first romance opens with a brief yet beautiful piano passage which is soon partnered with the violin’s songlike tune. A brief central episode counters the mood with energetic arpeggios in the piano interspersed throughout gentler passage work. The Andante molto then closes with a final lyrical section similar to the work’s opening, but which also references the main theme of Robert Schumann’s first violin sonata.

The second romance transforms Schumann’s lyrical themes into something more wistful and energetic. A relatively plaintive opening theme quickly gives way to energetic leaps and arpeggios in both instruments before ultimately returning to a more embellished version of the opening theme. The final romance, while similar to the first, clocks in at almost the same length as its two predecessors combined. The finale opens rhapsodically with the violin melody soaring over rolling arpeggios on the piano. The following variations retain the engagingly lyrical quality that defines the work as the violin remains seemingly lighter-than-air as it plays above the bubbling piano accompaniment.

 

Antonín Dvořák (1841 – 1904) – Sonata for Violin & Piano in F Major, Op. 57

The Sonata for Violin & Piano in F Major is Dvořák’s only surviving work with the designation “sonata.” Though he is known to have previously composed sonatas for both violin and cello, the whereabouts of these works is unknown today. This lone example of his foray into the sonata form was written over the course of only fifteen days in March 1880 while Dvořák was also completing edits on his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor. Naturally the two are often considered together as complementary explorations of the instrument’s range. Here we see Dvořák’s Bhramsian exploration of the violin’s more intimate and lyrical character.

Melodies presented in both instruments, even on this small scale, provides yet another example of Dvorak’s fine sense of instrumentation. Taken on the whole, the sonata can be seen as a continuing dialogue between the two instruments along a succession of shifting moods. The opening Allegro ma non troppo is in sonata form with the violin introducing the first subject. The piano, in turn, introduces the second subject. There are no great gestures or soaring climaxes, but rather the movement follows its course and the music dies out quietly. The second, Poco sostenuto, is even more relaxed. The violin follows the piano in the first statement of the gently descending melody. Piano chords introduce a secondary element, modulating to a passage of gradually increasing tension, before the main theme returns. The finale, Allegro molto, is a lively rondo dominated by folk tunes which frame episodes in contrasting keys and moods.

 

Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907) – Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 2 in G Major, Op. 13

The Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 2 was composed over the course of three weeks during Grieg’s honeymoon. Given this, it should be no surprise that the piece seems characteristically happy throughout almost the entirety of the sonata. Beyond the simple description of “happy,” there is perhaps no better descriptor for this sonata than simply Griegian. At this point in his career Grieg had become familiar enough with Norwegian folk styles that they are freely incorporated into his compositions and they are, indeed, present throughout the sonata. From this connection was also born the “Grieg motif” – a simple three-note motif common to folk melodies which Grieg had increasingly begun to incorporate into more formal styles and which forms the unifying element between all three of this sonatas movements.

Both outer movements contain elements of the Norwegian folk dance springar—though the first is introduced by a gloomy Lento doloroso before launching into a buoyant tune. The secondary theme—with the “Grieg motif” prominent—offers a harmonic contrast but is built on the same thematic material, leading to the third tune in the dominant, D major. After the generous exposition, Grieg keeps the development short, varies the material in the recapitulation, announces the coda in the grand manner and signs off with a confident flourish. The second movement is likewise in ABA form with the outer sections defined by the dotted four-note shape in the first bar. The finale maintains the formal evolution of the first movement: it is an individual amalgam of sonata-form and rondo, once again contrasting the rhythmic–melodic motivic interrelationships of the melodic material with more dramatic harmonic shifts.

 

Amy Beach (1867 – 1944) – Romance, Op. 23

Often acknowledged as America’s first successful female composer, Amy Beach began her career as a gifted pianist. After marrying a surgeon who was 24 years her senior, the then 18-year-old pianist was allowed to present only one public performance each year. In search of a new outlet for her creativity she turned to composition and soon became impressively prolific. During the 25-year span between her marriage and her husband’s death, Beach composed an astonishing number of new works of a quality considered equal to any of her contemporaries.

Composed while she was in her late 20s, Romance, Op. 23 was dedicated to the distinguished American violinist Maud Powell. The Arthur P. Schmidt Company published the work in 1893. Powell and the composer premiered the piece at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago the same year. Beach unfolds riveting melodic and harmonic ideas on conventional formal structures. She then maintains musical interest throughout the Romance with variations and reharmonizations of this introductory material.

 

George Gershwin (1898 – 1937) – Selections from Porgy and Bess, arr. Jascha Heifetz

There is little left to be said about George Gershwin or his influence on American music. In his short life Gershwin rose from a composer and arranger of popular songs to become one of America’s “elite” composers of classical music. His opera, Porgy and Bess, first performed in 1935 was an instant success and remains the best known and one of the finest operas of the twentieth century. The opera draws on almost every quintessentially American style including blues, spirituals, swing, jazz, and Broadway show tunes. The songs from Porgy and Bess have been performed on virtually every stage, and arranged, as we see today, for almost every instrument.

Jascha Heifetz was one of the great violin virtuosi of the twentieth century, known as much for his rich and sensitive musicality as for his show-stopping virtuosity. Heifetz and Gershwin were close friends, and often performed together. Because of this relationship, Heifetz often urged Gershwin to compose a violin concerto for him, but unfortunately died before the project got off the ground. The next best thing, therefore, are these transcriptions of songs from Porgy and Bess which not only brilliantly highlight Gershwin’s tunes but also showcase the electric virtuosity that made Heifetz famous.

By Tyler Roe