JANUARY 9, 2022
Ludwig van Beethoven
Subscribers are given a complimentary voucher to be redeemed for our annual subscriber bonus program. Seating will be limited for this special concert featuring works by Ravel, Stravinsky, Julián Fueyo, and Beethoven performed by rising stars of the classical music world, Shannon Lee & Melivia Raharjo. You must make a reservation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (513) 381-6868 to redeem your subscriber voucher to this special performance at the First Unitarian Church.
Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor, M. 12, posthume
Rather than being one of the his final works, only published after his death, Ravel’s “posthumous” sonata is actually the composer’s earliest attempt at a sonata for violin and piano, which he never published during his lifetime. Written in 1897, the single-movement sonata received its premiere in Gabriel Fauré’s composition class with Georges Enescu performing on violin and Ravel himself on piano. This early origin is perhaps most evident in the sonata’s form which is, for Ravel, surprisingly straightforward. The single-movement exposition-development-recapitulation-coda sonata form is strikingly different from the composer’s later, boundary pushing sonata in G major.
And yet, Ravel is still Ravel. While the structure of the sonata sheds little light on the composer he would become, frequent metric shifts and harmonic vagueness land the work firmly in the style of French Impressionism and hint at the broad range of musical interests that define Ravel’s compositions. The triplet-driven melody is explorative, but frequently descends into repetition, and Ravel’s unique melodic palette is already on display. Technically, the sonata shows the composer’s strong working understanding of violin technique but falls short of true mastery. There could be any number of reasons Ravel ultimately chose never to publish the work, and yet it nevertheless remains a beguiling piece of music that sheds light on Ravel’s raw talent as he was still developing his voice as a composer.
Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)
Stravinsky’s output for chamber ensemble is relatively limited, and his works for piano and strings are even more so. The composer himself explained the reason for this saying, “For many years I had taken no pleasure in the blend of strings struck in the piano with strings set in vibration with the bow. In order to reconcile myself to this instrumental combination I was compelled to turn to the minimum of instruments, that is to say, only two, in which I saw the possibility of solving the instrumental and acoustic problem.” The urge to solve this problem stemmed from the composer’s collaboration with violinist Samuel Dushkin who premiered the work as well as Stravinksy’s Violin Concerto. As the two prepared for a tour of the United States, the Duo Concertant’s “concerto without orchestra” style ultimately provided the solution to not only the composer’s musical concerns but a technical challenge as well by allowing Stravinsky’s works to be performed even in smaller cities whose orchestras could not handle his standard idiom.
Musically, the work was inspired by Stravinsky’s interest in Greek lyrical poetry with the Eclogue and Dithyramb movements taken as explicit references to the genre. In fact, of the work’s movement titles, the Gigue is the only purely musical reference. Beyond the movement titles, this lyrical focus is not immediately evident as the opening Cantilène, focuses on unsettled piano part and spiky figurations for the violin. As these figures begin to alternate with longer-breathed lines for the violin, the movement begins to hint at the more relaxed nature of the first Eglogue, where the violinist plays a drone over a propulsive accompaniment.
Stravinsky’s lyricism is fully realized in the second Eglogue. The violin spins out a chaste melody over an elegantly ornamented piano part, conjuring the shades of many a slow movement from the 18th-century baroque concerto. It ends without warning, giving way to a high-spirited Gigue. The closing Dithyrambe returns to the decidedly gentler mood with an even more austere atmosphere than the second Eglogue. Here, the lyricism Stravinsky strove for in the Duo is abundantly and quite beautifully realized.
Julián Fueyo (1996 – )
‘Zafiro’ (Spanish for sapphire) is a blue, aluminum-oxide composite and a variety of corundum. It is often used to graze diamonds due to its extraordinary hardness. The composer drew inspiration from one sapphire stone in particular: the Star of India. According to the National Museum of Natural History, “at 563 carats, the Star of India is the world’s largest gem-quality blue star sapphire. Some two billion years old, it is also one of the most well-known objects in the world. Rutile, a mineral in the Star of India, gives the gem its milky quality and star effect.
Tiny fibers of rutile in a three-fold pattern reflect incoming light in the star pattern. This effect, called asterism, makes this gem a true star.” Abruptly opening with a variation of the central figure, Zafiro has been designed to feature #G A #C A across a modal spectrum from beginning to end. Harmonies derived from the asymmetric division of the scale are utilized to give the piece its blue and solemn nature. Violin techniques such as ponticello and flautato help illustrate the majestic and starry-like essence of the gem. Finally, the piece is full of subito dynamics and tempo changes that mimic the reflexes and highlights in the jewel.
Notes by the composer
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, “Kreutzer”
Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” sonata came about as the result of a somewhat meandering process. Originally written in collaboration with virtuoso violinist George Bridgetower, the composition was completed only shortly before its premiere. So shortly before, in fact, that Bridgetower performed the second movement reading the composer’s manuscript as there was no time to create a violin part. Yet, despite this close relationship, a personal falling out between the two men led Beethoven to dedicate the sonata to the French violinist Rudolph’s Kreutzer even though Kreutzer was reportedly not a fan of the piece; going so far as to call it unintelligible. Nevertheless, this sonata helped Beethoven push the boundaries of what a violin sonata could be; earning it a place as a beloved staple of the canon, and helping to usher in Beethoven’s heroic middle period.
The sonata opens with a famously dissonant introduction. Beethoven highlights the full range of both the violin and piano in a technically demanding series of key changes before finally setting into its home key of A major during the movement’s development. This tumultuous opening gives way to an equally broad Andante con variazioni that is the longest movement in any of Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas. Its main theme is lofty and elegant, and its beautiful simplicity stands in stark contrast to the technical fireworks of the sonata’s opening. The presto finale is bright and quick; presenting a much lighter character than the rest of the sonata. This final movement is based on the continuous long-short-long-short rhythmic pattern of a tarantella that creates a sense of perpetual motion throughout.