January 30/31, 2022
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Sonata No. 18 in G Major, K. 301
Soliloquy for Solo Cello – Cincinnati Premiere
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Piano Quintet in C Minor
Piano Quintet in A Major, D. 667, “The Trout”
Abound with poetic lyricism, this program offers the opportunity to experience a treasured work by Schubert, explore an unknown gem by Vaughan Williams, encounter an evolutionary sonata by Mozart, and discover a moving new work by emerging composer, Nathaniel Heyder. This quintet ensemble features the return of esteemed Linton artists, including Artistic Directors, Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo. Scroll down to read more about this program.
Nathaniel Heyder, composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Violin Sonata No. 18 in G Major, K. 301
At age 21, Mozart resigned his post in Salzburg and set out in search of new employment on a journey that took him to Mannheim, Paris, and Munich. Almost immediately he began drawing inspiration from new music he discovered, and, in September 1777, he sent a letter to his father and sister, along with the scores of Joseph Schuster’s Six Duets for Keyboard and Violin, writing that they were very popular and that he would like to compose something “of the same style.” The G Major sonata is the first of six sonatas in this new style that emphasizes a balanced partnership between the violin and piano, and it remains one of Mozart’s warmest, most recognizable violin pieces.
The Sonata opens with amiable melody presented in the violin with keyboard accompaniment, but, after a brief intrusion, Mozart establishes the equality of the instruments by having the performers trade roles, with the piano playing the melody and the violin accompanying. The graceful second movement is driven by similar exchanges. Its lilting theme recurs between varied episodes in rondo form before closing with an energetic coda.
Nathaniel Heyder (1998 – )
Soliloquy for Solo Cello
Like much of my work, the content of Soliloquy is very much representative of my personal thoughts on matters of life, and in this case, my thoughts on the unfortunate occurrences, and re-occurrences, of racial injustice. Soliloquy is intended to encourage a sense of introspection in the listener, as they consider the frequency with which racial injustice occurs, particularly instances where it leads to violence and fatality.
The piece opens and closes with a similar gesture that is meant to represent this fact: racial injustice, no matter the attention it receives in the media or elsewhere, always seems to puncture its way back into our lives. The middle material is about our reactions to these events, and the mix of emotions that come with it. However somber this is, I do believe that it’s an important reality to point out. It’s a testament to how deeply ingrained racial prejudice is in this world.
Soliloquy is a representation of the way I see the current state of things, but it is by no means a submission to it.
Notes by the composer
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958)
Piano Quintet in C Minor
Ralph Vaughan Williams was, among many other things, a perfectionist. He took time to develop his voice as a composer, and was very deliberate about what works received public performance and shaped his reputation. The C Minor Quintet, surprisingly, is one of the works that did not make the final cut. Vaughan Williams composed the quintet in 1903, but continued editing it for another two years before its premiere in London’s Aeolian Hall. It continued to be performed until 1918 when the composer returned from World War I with a growing reputation as an orchestral composer and proceeded to purge his catalogue of several earlier transitional works, including the Quintet. Removed from publication, the Quintet sat dormant for more than 80 years before Vaughan Williams’ widow, Ursula, gave permission for a performance of the work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death and subsequently allowed it to re-enter publication. For this, the musical landscape is all the better, as even uncharacteristic, transitional Vaughan Williams is still very good.
Musically the Quintet is unique in its instrumentation: opiano with a string quartet of violin, viola, cello, and double bass –- (a feature it shares with Schubert’s “Trout“ Quintet. The Quintet opens on four fiery falling chords that immediately become inverted and expand into a viola melody. This idea is transformed by the rest of the ensemble into a powerful statement over a sustained pedal note in the double bass. The opening four-note motif returns in the second movement in the form of echoes in the piano over a hymn-like melody in the quartet. This motif continues into the fantasia finale that is, structurally, a theme and variations, but brings to mind an Elizabethan fantasy for viols.
Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)
Quintet for Piano & Strings in A Major, D. 667, “The Trout”
In the summer of 1819, a 22-year-old Franz Schubert headed west from Vienna for the “inconceivably lovely” town of Steyr, some 90 miles away. Here Schubert met Sylvester Paumgartner, a wealthy amateur cellist and fan of Schubert’s songs whose home functioned as a center of musical activity in town. It was Paumgartner who commissioned the composer to write a quintet to include variations on one of his favorite Schubert songs, the popular Die Forelle, “The Trout.” Schubert set to work immediately, but he only completed the score later that autumn, after returning to Vienna.
The Trout Quintet, with its interesting instrumentation, displays Schubert’s youthful genius throughout – from its ebullient opening themes to its infectious variations of the celebrated fourth movement. The triplet motif that accompanies the Trout variations can be found in four of the work’s five movements, including the opening measures, where the rippling upward gesture gives lift to the slower-moving string melody. To that motif Schubert then adds a rapid rocking accompaniment that further propels the movement forward, although the triplet motif remains nearly omni-present throughout the opening Allegro vivace.
The Andante is cast in two symmetrical units. The movement opens with a gentle theme ushered in immediately by the piano, alternating phrases with the violin and set over a casual viola accompaniment. This soon gives way to a poignant theme in the piano that relegates both the violin and piano to the background. Increased rhythmic activity brings the first section to a close before abruptly returning to the opening ideas. Schubert’s inclusion of a brisk Scherzo betrays the influence of Beethoven. The primary theme, composed of a series of three upward lunges again incorporating the triplet gesture, is pure Schubert. Yet the spirit of Beethoven is never far away, as evidenced by the movement’s sudden dynamics and off-beat stresses.
The Andantino theme and variations are the crown jewel of the Quintet, as Schubert freshly reinvents his original setting of Die Forelle. Schubert keeps the melody more or less intact throughout each of the variations, coloring it with melodic decoration or placing it within a changing framework. Each instrument, in turn explores the theme as the accompaniment becomes increasingly active. As the movement draws to a close, Schubert increases the tempo to Allegretto for a spirited version of the theme that nevertheless brings the movement full circle, closing as quietly as it began.
The light-hearted Allegro giusto is, like the second movement, built of two large sections. The first has an unmistakable folksy quality about it, in no small part a consequence of the sustained drone heard at its start. This material gives way to a contrasting section featuring a warm, expansive theme shared by the strings, underscored by the triplet figure which becomes increasingly present. The movement offers a kaleidoscope of characters—charming, moving and energetic—providing a brilliant conclusion to one of the gems of the chamber music repertoire.
By Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart
|In einem Bächlein helle,|
Da schoss in froher Eil’
Die launische Forelle
Vorueber wie ein Pfeil.
Ich stand an dem Gestade
Und sah in süsser Ruh’
Des muntern Fishleins Bade
Im klaren Bächlein zu.Ein Fischer mit der Rute
Wohl an dem Ufer stand,
Und sah’s mit kaltem Blute
Wie sich das Fischlein wand.
So lang dem Wasser helle
So dacht’ ich, nicht gebricht,
So fängt er die Forelle
Mit seiner Angel nicht.Doch endlich ward dem Diebe
Die Zeit zu lang.
Er macht das Bächlein tückisch trübe,
Und eh’ ich es gedacht
So zuckte seine Rute
Das Fischlein zappelt dran,
Und ich mit regem Blute
Sah die Betrog’ne an.
|In a clear little brook,|
There darted, about in happy haste,
The moody trout
Dashing everywhere like an arrow.
I stood on the bank
And watched, in sweet peace,
The fish’s bath
In the clear little brook.A fisherman with his gear
Came to stand on the bank
And watched with cold blood
As the little fish weaved here and there.
But as long as the water remains clear,
I thought, no worry,
He’ll never catch the trout
With his hook.But finally, for the thief,
Time seemed to pass too slowly.
He made the little brook murky,
And before I thought it could be,
So his line twitched.
There thrashed the fish,
And I, with raging blood,
Gazed on the betrayed one.