April 17 & 18, 2016

Transcending Time

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Artists

Franklin Cohen, clarinet
Sharon Robinson, cello
Cho-Liang Lin, violin
Michael Chertock, piano

Program

Beethoven
Trio for Piano, Clarinet & Cello in B-flat Major
Debussy
Sonata for Cello & Piano
Debussy
Sonata for Violin & Piano
Messiaen
Quartet for the End of Time

Quartet for the End of Time is a work of spiritual renewal written in the darkest of times. The esteemed violinist, Cho-Liang Lin and Franklin Cohen, Principal Clarinet of The Cleveland Orchestra, join Linton’s own Michael Chertock and Sharon Robinson to perform this allegorical masterpiece.

Program Notes

Beethoven Trio for Piano, Clarinet & Cello in B-flat Major
Dedicated to Countess Maria von Thun in 1797, Beethoven's "Gassenhauer" trio was written at the request of Joseph Beer, a noted clarinetist of the time who may never have performed the work. The work was published in Vienna and is one of Beethoven's early chamber works. Woodwinds were used most likely due to the novelty and popularity of the instruments at that time. "The Weigl tune [the theme in the final movement] was all the rage in Vienna at the time, to the point where it was hummed and whistled in the city's streets; ergo the nickname for the trio of 'Gassenhauer' (street tune)." - Herbert Glass

The allegro con brio begins in unison, with a key change into the second theme. The development follows, unusually beginning with the second theme instead of the first. The adagio movement features the beautiful melodies of the cello and clarinet. Movement three, Tema con variazioni takes the famous Weigl theme and adds nine variations of the melody.

Many people have noted that this work does not sound like the traditional style written by the composer. It has been described as gentle, playful, light, and lyrical. It begs the question: if you didn't know it was Beethoven, would you know it was Beethoven?

Debussy Sonata for Cello & Piano
Written and performed first in 1915 by Joseph Salmon with Debussy at the piano, this sonata was one of three (out of six that were planned) that Debussy wrote before his death in 1918. About this sonata, Debussy wrote "The proportions and form of the Sonata were almost classical in the true sense of the word." While the piece feels like the classical style, Debussy gave his own take on the form and organization of the piece.

The piece begins and ends in D minor, while circling other related keys and even feeling modal at times. To ensure balance, Debussy wrote "the piano must not fight the cello, but accompany it." The first theme, descending in the cello which returns after the piano takes over for a section. The Serenade features many techniques for cello including glissando, pizzicato, flautando (like a flute), and sur la touche (bowing or plucking over the fingerboard to produce a warm, gentle tone) to create the atmosphere of a guitar or lute. The final movement showcases the "exuberant dialogue" between the cello and piano which work together to finish the piece.

Debussy Sonata for Violin & Piano
The third and final sonata written by Debussy before his death was dedicated to his daughter Emma Claude-Debussy, along with the other two sonatas in this set. Written in 1916, its first performance was given in Paris on May 5, 1917 with Gaston Poulet on violin and Debussy on piano. It was his last public performance. A patriotic Frenchman, Debussy was increasingly more depressed as his disease and World War I progressed. He noted "I only wrote this sonata to be rid of the thing…spurred on by my dear publisher. This sonata will be interesting from a documentary point of view and as an example of what may be produced by a sick man in time of war."

The Violin Sonata is different from other sonatas because instead of accompanying each other, the violin and piano both have strong, independent parts that allow them to sculpt and lead each other, ultimately creating artistic challenges that bring them together.

The piano's opening chords instantly take the listener to Debussy's sadness and melancholy. The movement varies in both tempo and key, but with a vigorous momentum. The second movement, fantastque et léger lives up to its name with light, impulse, and wispy passages mixed with sentimentality and passion. The finale, which was completed four months prior to the other two movements, showcases the violin's agility and full range "from the open G (lowest possible note) to a C- sharp at three octaves and a half step above the middle C." The pianist is also required to have exceptional speed and lightness of touch. "The final build up surely reflects Debussy's determination not to let his energies sag, whatever his bodily weakness." – LA Philharmonic

Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
Olivier Messiaen was a member of the French army at the start of World War II, was captured by the Germans in May 1940, and was taken to a prision camp in Germany. While in prison, Messiaen met three professional musicians, a clarinetist, cellist, and a violinist. Messiaen found some of the guards sympathetic, and was given paper and work space so he could compose. In the preface to the score, Messiaen wrote that the work was inspired by the Book of Revelation, specifically:

"And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire…and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth…and the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to haven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever…that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished." (Rev 10:1-2, 5-7)

The eight movements each describe a different part of the end of time: Crystal ligurgy, the awakening of birds in the morning to reflect "the harmonious silence of heaven;" Vocalise for the angel who announces the end of time; Abyss of Birds, the comparison between time (sad and weary) with birds (light and jubilant songs); Interlude; Praise to the eternity of Jesus, represents Jesus as the Word "whose time never runs out;" Dance of Fury, for the seven trumpets, shares the first six trumpets of the Apocalypse, various disasters, and the trumpet of the seventh angel; Tangle of Rainbows for the Angel who announces the end of time, the angel appears with the rainbow to symbolize peace; and finally Praise to the immortality of Jesus, which shares the transition from Jesus as the Word to Jesus the Man, the Word made flesh. "Messiaen's own words about the Quartet's concluding movement suggests how the composer contemplated his own mortality, and through is faith in God, transcended the prison walls." – Jesse Holstein

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Messaien, Quartet for the End of Time