East Wing at Beth El Temple
Thursday, October 24 at 8pm
General Admission: $15 per person
(no senior/student discounts. This concert is not a part of the upcoming BEMA season)
Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Ave., West Hartford, Connecticut.
open to the public
Beth El Temple is proud to present a special musical event featuring two of the most distinguished musicians of our time, violinist Rolf Schulte with award-winning pianist James Winn performing some of the most stunning repertoire of all time in “… a mixture of technical fireworks, emotional heat, and intellectual command…composers should always be so lucky.” — Donal Henahan, The New York Times
Hosted by Cantor Joseph Ness with the Beth El Music & Arts Committee (BEMA).
Beethoven’s Sonata op.30 No.3
The year 1802 was a pivotal one in Beethoven's life: not only did he write the infamous Heiligenstädter Testament, but also the two sets of three Violin Sonatas op.30 and three Piano Sonatas op.31 (started a year before), which alone take gigantic steps in establishing the middle period style. Both have their central works in minor keys, the great c-minor op.30/2, and the d- minor op.31/2, sometimes called "the Tempest", after Shakespeare's late drama.
Both the first Sonatas in each set are Italianate in character, with ornate Ariosi for slow movements, and the third composition in each set brims with exuberance and rollicking abandon – also neither of them has a slow movement: the op.30/3 middle movement is marked Tempo di Minuetto, remarkably akin to the Menuetto in op.31/3, both in E flat, the former really a repetitive Rondeau with a stunning, brief Minore.
The final Allegro vivace is also a Rondo with a fugato culminating in a Dominant 7th, after which the Coda proceeds in the flat VI, Bartók's favorite spot in the piece, when he performed it with Josef Szigeti !
Schönberg’s Pierrot lunaire, scored for vocal Sprechstimme, violin, cello, flute, clarinet and piano, is possibly his most widely played work. Of the 21 movements (7 in each of 3 parts) the second, “Colombine” features the violin in its most lyrical fashion, with capricious flourishes – in this arrangement, we have eliminated the vocal part, save for a little recitative: Darius Milhaud always wanted to hear Pierrot without the voice, to better hear the instrumental counterpoint… It is rare that one gets to record a piece twice, as I did with Schönberg’s Serenade, Op. 24. Ever since, I have felt that the lovely, almost innocent “Lied (ohne Worte)”, strategically placed between the raucous “Tanzscene” and the repeat of the opening “Marsch”, would lend itself to a violin/piano transcription. When I mentioned it to my good friend Randa Kirshbaum, an experienced arranger and composer, she was immediately enthusiastic, and proceeded to do a fine job, not an easy task considering the incorporation of guitar, mandolin, bass clarinet, and cello lines, while the violin part is almost entirely untouched.
Much has been written about Anton Webern’s Vier Stücke op.7 for violin and piano from 1910. Premiered in Vienna in 1911 by Fritz Brunner, a violinist in the Philharmonic, with Webern at the piano, followed by a performance in 1912 with Arnold Rosé, their concertmaster under Mahler (whose quartet had premiered Schönberg's first and second String Quartets), and Webern again, the pieces caused derision and uproar! Before publication by Universal in 1922 he made several revisions, completely rewriting the fourth. The manuscript can be seen at the Morgan Library & Museum on Madison Avenue. Theodor W. Adorno writes about Webern’s ostinati, as heard in the first and third pieces, that the “low rumblings sounded like the distant canons on the front during the First World War”. Schönberg, in his preface to Webern’s 6 Bagatelles op.9 writes: “consider what abstinence is required to be so concise! Every glance extends into a poem, every sigh into a novel. But to express a novel through a sole gesture, bliss through a singular sigh: such concentration can only be found where self-pity is proportionally absent! May their stillness reverberate!”
When Donald Martino died suddenly on a cruise ship in the Carribean in 2005, the US lost one of its finest composers! Born in 1931 in New Jersey, he studied with Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt at Princeton University, but almost more importantly with Luigi Dallapiccola in Florence on a Fullbright (1954 – 56). He has taught at Princeton, Yale, Brandeis and Harvard Universities, and was the head of the Composition Department at the New England Conservatory. His Notturno won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize.
After finishing his Violin Concerto (which I premiered with the New Hampshire Symphony in 1997 and has, to my knowledge, not been performed since…) I approached him to write a solo piece for a three-year residency at Harvard – at first he graciously declined, having “put everything into the Concerto”, but after hearing me play the “Melodia” from Bartók’s Solo Sonata on the first of those concerts, I received a package with the Romanza as a “Christmas gift”, just in time for the following year’s second concert. Not unlike the Bartók, a piece he cherished, it is supremely lyrical, introducing the novel counterpoint between arco and pizzicato notes in the animated middle section.
Throughout his life, Béla Bartók’s music was inextricably linked with the important violinists of his time, from his youthful infatuation with Stefi Geyer for whom he wrote his Violin Concerto No. 1 (Op. post.) to Josef Szigeti with whom Bartók made the legendary recording of the Second Sonata at the Library of Congress in 1940 and to whom the First Rhapsody and Contrasts are dedicated, Zoltán Székely, the leader of the Hungarian Quartet, to whom the Violin Concerto No. 2 is dedicated, and Yehudi Menuhin, tireless interpreter of the First Sonata and the Concerto No. 2, who commissioned the Solo Sonata (1944). Both Violin Sonatas (1921 and ’22) were written for Jelly d’Arányi, a grand-niece of Joseph Joachim, whose improvising at a reception in Paris after the second performance of the First Sonata so impressed Maurice Ravel, that he wrote his concert rhapsody, Tzigane for her; she was later instrumental in unearthing the Schumann Violin Concerto.
The two Violin Sonatas form an important part in Bartók’s evolution as a composer. If Robert Schumann, upon discovering Schubert’s two Piano Trios, Op. 99 and 100, called the first feminine in temperament, and the second masculine, the opposite can be said about these Sonatas: the first, in three sprawling movements, is as close to Schönberg’s Expressionism, as Bartók gets, while the second, in two idiomatic Hungarian folk-style movements is harmonically much more indebted to Debussy.
One of the great openings in the violin repertoire, the First Sonata’s Allegro appassionato starts with a sweeping tune over roiling piano arpeggios and ends with a flourish that climbs up to a high Eb, followed by wide leaps akin to Schönberg’s Herzgewächse Op.20 or to the soprano writing in his Second String Quartet Op.10. An extended tranquillo section follows, playing with the frisson of the open strings (A, D or E) against the same, regular-fingered pitch, reminiscent of the first movement’s cadenza in the Second Violin Concerto — also of the last of Karol Szymanowski's 3 Mythes op.30 (1915), Dryads et Pan, a piece that Bartók requested their common publisher, Universal, to send him, and which he performed in Budapest with Székely on 12 November 1921.
The Adagio starts as a long soliloquy for the violin, eventually joined by widely-spaced parallel chords in the piano à la Cathédral Engloutie by Debussy. Eventually the mood gets more agitated, with insistent piano chords and their gloomy responses in the violin. This culminates in a cadenza, before closing, after heart-rending arabesques (reminiscent of his Bluebeard’s Castle), in quiet resignation– this is some of Bartók’s very finest music! The last movement is a Czardas in 2/4 meter in an expansive rondo/sonata form with development sections (which may be a bit long…). It ends, like the Second Sonata and Contrasts, in multiple, ever more virtuosic codas again with a climactic (accompanied) violin cadenza.
With special guests