As a thank you, subscribers will receive a complimentary ticket to this performance featuring the combined talents of Grammy Award-Winning, violinist Augustin Hadelich and critically-acclaimed, pianist Ran Dank. Tickets will be limited to this special event featuring these exceptional artists. Please note: single tickets are currently not available for this special performance. If you would like to be placed on a waiting list for tickets, please email email@example.com or call (513) 381-6868.
*Linton is grateful to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for helping to make possible the appearance of Augustin Hadelich who performs with the CSO on March 15 & 16, 2019.
This concert will take place at the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati.
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100
Brahms rightfully earned his reputation as a legendarily prolific composer, and his Op. 100 is a prime example of how. In 1886, the composer vacationed in Thun, Switzerland, an area he described as “so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any.” Musically invigorated, Brahms composed three of his most beloved chamber works in just a matter of days – his second cello sonata, Op. 99, his Op. 101 C minor piano trio, and today’s work, the Op. 100 Sonata for Piano and Violin. This ordering of the instruments was intentional as Brahms followed the tradition set by Mozart and Beethoven of giving the keyboard top billing and treating the two performers as equals.
Brahms immediately reinforces this sentiment by opening the sonata with a direct and immediate theme, first presented by the piano and then taken up by the violin. The melody is sweet in its simplicity and powerful in spite of its lack of bombast. One theme flows directly to the next, and the two instruments engage in an intriguing, conversational interchange throughout. This lighter character stands in marked contrast to what follows, and ably sets up the drama of the sonata’s musical narrative.
The second movement can be separated into two alternating sections. Here, Brahms achieves a three-movement structure for the sonata by combining a slow movement and scherzo into one – the sweet and simple Andante tranquillo alternates with the fleet-footed and folk-like Vivace. The movement ends in a short, light blaze of excitement.
The finale, Allegretto grazioso, is, unusually, devoid of the usual bravura excitement in Romantic-period works. The graceful and elegant rondo begins with a soulful line expressed in sustained legato. Mid-movement, there is a rather sudden passionate outburst and emotional upheaval. However, the poignantly calm theme of the opening returns to end the work in an expression of triumphant dignity.
Leoš Janáček (1854 – 1928)
Leoš Janáček’s reputation has grown over the last several decades from that of a noteworthy minor composer to being recognized as one of the great composers of the early twentieth century. Given that Janáček was born only thirteen years after Dvořák, one could easily place him in the realm of late nineteenth-century romantics. Yet Janáček is best known for the slate of outstanding works he created after his 60th birthday, all of which fell well within the early twentieth century both historically and stylistically. Like many of his peers, Janáček drew inspiration from traditional folk music. His focus on the speech patterns and native dialects of Moravian folk traditions lent his music a raw, blunt, and brutal intensity. His violin sonata – composed in 1914 and premiered in 1922 – ably reflects both of these sentiments, blending beautiful lyricism with jarring runs and interjections in a way that nods to its Moravian influences and establishes a tone that sounds distinctly “modern” in the most early-twentieth-century meaning of the word.
The opening Con moto, begins with a jagged recitative for violin, which immediately plays the movement’s main subject. The flowing violin melody is consistently disturbed by aggressive, clanging tremolo figures in the piano. While musical motifs return throughout the opening movement, it does not follow any strict musical form. Instead the movement progresses as an almost continual development as, in following folk traditions, no phrase is ever repeated verbatim and each instance is lent its own characteristic interpretation. The first movement concludes with a brief recapitulation of sorts that leads directly to a quiet close and sets up a transition into the lyrical Balada. In this second movement, Janáček presents sustained lyricism as the violin line sails above the rippling piano. Here the interplay stands in stark contrast to the conflict of the opening movement, as both musicians progress freely towards the movement’s shimmering close.
The Allegretto sounds particularity folk-inspired, accented by short, repeated phrases. Here, the piano has the dancing main subject, accompanied by vigorous swirls from the violin. The opening material returns briefly in the trio section before leading to a cadence on harshly clipped chords. The sonata concludes, surprisingly, with a slow movement, and this Adagio is in many ways the most impressive movement of the sonata. The piano opens with a quiet chordal melody marked dolce, but the violin breaks in roughly with interjections that Janáček marks feroce: “wild, fierce.” A flowing second theme offers a glimpse of quiet beauty before the movement drives to an unexpected climax on the violin’s Maestoso declarations over tremolandi piano. The sonata comes to an eerie conclusion as this climax gradually falls away and the movement ends ambiguously on fierce interjections from the violins.
César Franck (1822 – 1890)
Sonata in A Major for Violin & Piano
Franck wrote his Violin Sonata in A Major as a wedding present for his friend, violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. The sonata received its first performance at the wedding breakfast on the day it was received, before having its public debut in Brussels later that year. This was the 63-year-old composer’s first violin sonata and may well be the product of decades of composition. 28 years before the sonata’s premiere, Franck had promised a violin sonata for Cosima von Bülow. Ultimately this promise went unfulfilled, but many speculate that the work that went into this earlier sonata was adapted into the piece we hear today.
Aside from its history, the sonata is noteworthy for two salient reasons. The first is the sheer difficulty of the piano part. Franck was not only a skilled pianist, but possessed huge hands, and the piano line includes multiple extreme extended figures, virtuoso runs, and leaps which demand profound physicality from the pianist in addition to virtuosity. Secondly, the sonata is perhaps the best example of Franck’s characteristic cyclic style of composition. Employing a technique, he adapted from Franz Liszt, Franck peppers common thematic threads throughout every movement and frequently revisits thematic material through transformations in subsequent movements. The effect of this cyclic composition is that the multi-movement work feels built around a single idea which we as the audience hear grow and transform without ever losing its central essence.
The opening theme begins with a three-note motif that permeates the work. This opening gesture and a second theme presented in the piano interludes form the basis for the opening movement as these two subjects alternate while passing through myriad keys. The presentation of the thematic material in this fashion and the lack of development give the movement the feel either of a prologue or of an inner movement.
Full-fledged sonata form is saved for the second movement, which revisits the opening motif and also introduces another theme that returns in the finale. The brilliance of this movement contrasts nicely with the first movement’s more introspective poetry and leads to the rhapsodic third movement. This Recitativo-Fantasia sounds improvisatory at the outset as Franck explores his opening motif. The final Fantasia section is dominated by another theme that will reappear in the finale and ends with an unexpected harmonic turn. The finale is instantly recognizable for the exact imitation between the violin and piano—one of the famous examples of canonic writing in the literature—which appears four times like a rondo refrain. The intervening episodes are based on the materials of the previous movements.