Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City
February 3, 2003
GRANADOS “El Amor y la Muerte” from “Goyescas”
HAYDN Sonata in C minor, Hoboken XVI:20
Andante con moto
– INTERMISSION –
MEDTNER “Canzona Matinata” and “Sonata Tragica”from “Forgotten Melodies,” Op. 39, Nos. 4 and 5
ROCHBERG Three Pieces from “Carnival Music”
Fanfares and March
CHOPIN Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35
Grave – Doppio movimento
Notes on the program by Dr. Richard E. Rodda
El Amor y la Muerte from Goyescas (1909-1911) — Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
“I have fallen in love with Goya, with his palette,” Enrique Granados wrote to the pianist Joaquín Malats in 1896, during the 150th anniversary celebration of the great Spanish painter’s birth. “With him, with the Duchess of Alba; his mistresses, his models, his quarrels. That rose-white of the cheeks contrasting with the light and dark velvet trimmings; those supple waists, hands of mother-of-pearl and jasmine resting on black marble — they intrigue me. I would like to combine the sentimental, the amorous, the passionate, the dramatic and the tragic, as Goya did.” Several years later, between 1909 and 1911, Granados wrote a set of piano pieces collectively titled Goyescas that were inspired by the paintings and tapestry cartoons of Goya. Goyescas comprises six movements that evoke both Goya’s world and the subtilized idioms of Spain’s indigenous music. “In Goyescas, I intended to give a personal note,” wrote Granados, “a mixture of bitterness and grace … rhythm, color and life that are typically Spanish; a sentiment suddenly amorous and passionate, dramatic and tragic, such as is seen in the works of Goya.” The set’s subtitle — Los Majos Enamorados (“The Majos in Love”) — and the movements’ contents and sequence imply a narrative about love and death, which served as the basis for the subsequent opera’s story. The dramatic El Amor y la Muerte (“Love and Death”), the suite’s penultimate movement, ends tragically for the maiden in a passage that Granados marked to be played “very expressively, as though happy in experiencing pain.”
Sonata in C minor, Hoboken XVI:20 (1771) — Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
From his earliest clavichord divertimentos to his last set of three piano sonatas written in London, Haydn composed more than sixty solo keyboard sonatas, mostly for students and friends, though some were intended for performing virtuosos. Among the most important such compositions were six sonatas (H. XVI:35-39, 20) published in Vienna in 1780 by Artaria, the first issue by that company of music by Haydn, who remained a client of the firm for the rest of his life. Haydn inscribed the collection to the sisters Caterina and Marianne Auenbrugger of Graz, a talented pair of pianists who, Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s father, said, “play extraordinarily well and are thoroughly musical.” Reflecting the changing tastes of the time, the title page of the Auenbrugger sonatas noted that they could be played on either “clavicembalo [harpsichord] or forte piano,” though their dynamic range, ornamentation and general style suggest that they were intended for the latter rather than the former. According to the date on the manuscript, the C minor Sonata (H. XVI:20) was composed in 1771, suggesting that Haydn included it in the 1780 set to round out the six pieces expected in such a publication by music lovers of that time. The Sonata is thoroughly imbued with the turbulent, proto-Romantic expression of the Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress”) style that Haydn had learned from his study of the keyboard works of C.P.E. Bach, Johann Sebastian’s Son No. 2. Each of the composition’s three movements (Allegro moderato — Andante con moto — Allegro) follows the essential progress of traditional sonata form, but the attenuated emotion and sense of tragic heroism were exceptional for the time of the work’s creation, and are yet another evidence of Haydn’s remarkable invention and stylistic daring.
Canzona Matinata and Sonata Tragica from Forgotten Melodies, Op. 39, Nos. 4 and 5 (1919-1920) — Nicolas Medtner (1880-1951)
Nicolas Medtner’s musical style, like that of his countrymen Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, is rooted in the Russian romantic tradition, though he lacked the innate lyricism and overt passion of the former and the mysticism and harmonic daring of the latter. He wrote songs, a piano quintet and a few works for violin and piano, but the bulk and essence of his creative output rests in his compositions for solo piano: three concertos, a dozen sonatas and nearly a hundred smaller pieces. The three cycles of Forgotten Melodies (Opp. 38-40), based on ideas that Medtner habitually jotted into his notebooks throughout his life, were composed in 1919-1920 at a friend’s country dacha in Bugry, some sixty miles southwest of Moscow, where he had taken refuge in the difficult days following the Bolshevik uprisings and the end of the war. Each of the nineteen movements was given a descriptive title, and a number within each cycle are linked thematically, including the Canzona Matinata and Sonata Tragica that close Op. 39, which the composer insisted should be played together. The Canzona Matinata (“Morning Song”) is youthful and buoyant in its outer sections, but wistful and a bit melancholy at its center. A powerful, hammered main theme sets the fateful mood of the Sonata Tragica. Some consolation is provided by the subsidiary subject, though it is given an ironic implication by its derivation from the opening theme and by the tempestuous manner in which it is worked up as a climax to the exposition. The development recalls the Canzona Matinata before the hammered opening motive returns as the gateway to the recapitulation, in which the second theme and its transitory consolation are little in evidence.
Three Pieces from Carnival Music (1971) — George Rochberg (born in 1918)
George Rochberg is one of America’s most distinguished and frequently performed composers. Born in Paterson, New Jersey, on July 5, 1918, he studied piano as a youngster, and took up performing in jazz ensembles and writing popular and serious songs and keyboard pieces while still a teenager. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Montclair State Teachers’ College in 1939, he won a scholarship to the Mannes School in New York City, where he was a student of George Szell, Leopold Mannes and Hans Weisse in composition and counterpoint. After active combat duty in Europe during the War, he entered the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia to study with Rosario Scalero and Gian-Carlo Menotti, and joined that school’s faculty the year after his graduation in 1947. Rochberg’s music of those years, most notably the First Symphony, was heavily influenced by the works of Hindemith, Bartók and Stravinsky. While in Rome in 1950 on Fulbright and American Academy fellowships, he met the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola, and became a dedicated serialist whose works for the next fifteen years show the rigorous application of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone theory. On Rochberg’s return to Philadelphia in 1951, he was appointed music editor of the publishing firm of Theodore Presser, a post he held for nine years. He left Curtis in 1954, but re-entered the academic world as chairman of the music department at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960; he served as Annenberg Professor of the Humanities at the University from 1979 until his retirement in 1983. The shock of the death of his 20-year-old son from a brain tumor in 1964 caused Rochberg to re-examine the expressive potential of his art, and he chose to abandon serialism for a more traditional compositional style. “There can be no justification for music,” he wrote, “if it does not convey eloquently and elegantly the passions of the human heart.” His many compositions since that time have found much favor with both audiences and musicians for their evocative, eclectic blend of modern devices with conventional tonality and melody. Rochberg’s Carnival Music, a suite of virtuoso character pieces composed in 1971 for pianist Jerome Lowenthal, is imbued with the spirit and idioms of American vernacular music. The work’s opening movement juxtaposes a strident Fanfare reminiscent of the jeering signature motto of the puppet Petrushka in Stravinsky’s ballet and a swaggering, sometimes out-of-step March. Blues is a remarkable evocation of a jazz pianist in a smoky club on old 52nd Street. The scintillating Toccata-Rag contains reminiscences of the Fanfare and Blues.
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35 (1836-1839) — Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
In late 1836 or 1837, Chopin composed the Funeral March that came to serve as the third movement and expressive heart of his B-flat minor Sonata — the three complementary movements grew from the emotional substance and thematic implications of the Marche funèbre two years later. The Sonata’s movements, both internally and in relation to each other, circumscribe an enormous variety of moods and techniques, and Chopin was accused by no less an authority than Robert Schumann of “binding together four of his most unruly children.” Recent analysis, however, has refuted Schumann’s view by showing that the same motivic, harmonic and coloristic balances and relations that characterize the best of Chopin’s one-movement works are also operative here. Further, one scholar (Józef Chominski) has concluded that Chopin’s intent in the Sonata was less to create a tightly knit 19th-century realization of the Classical form than to have it serve as a synthesis-in-four-movements of his earlier achievements as a keyboard composer: the finale, written entirely in octaves with no chordal harmony at all until the very last measure, resembles the Etudes and Preludes in its epigrammatic brevity and uncontrasted motivic material; the Scherzo, related in its period structure to Chopin’s dance pieces and in its style and structure to his own independent Scherzos, uses as its central portion a dreamy song in the manner of a Nocturne; the familiar Marche funèbre, indebted in mood and technique to the slow movement of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, also enfolds a delicate Nocturne-like cantilena in its central section; the opening movement, after a tiny introductory gesture, fills its sonata form with a tightly woven main theme built from a springing motive and a grand subsidiary melody that would not have been out of place in a Ballade.
©2003 Dr. Richard E. Rodda