BMC Artist Faculty IV
Wednesday, August 2, 2017 @ 7:30 PM
Scott Concert Hall at the Porter Center
RACHMANINOFF Piano Trio No. 2
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Ida Gotkovsky (1933-)
The original version for fl ute and harp was premiered on January 7, 1970, in Geneva by fl utist Brigitte Buxtorf and harpist Eisenhoffer. This fi ve-movement work is musically and technically challenging, exploring the instruments’ whole range of expression—mostly within the context of the Aeolian mode. The term Eolienne, however, contains references beyond mode, including the Aeolian harp—as Patricia Surman has shown in her analysis of this work. The fi rst movement might explore that reference with a sense of tonal ambiguity, a characteristic feature of the Aeolian harp. The ensuing Intermezzo is titled nostalgique and conveys the rhythm and texture of a sentimental waltz. The third movement is in stark contrast to the previous two, containing no time signature or bar lines. In it Gotkovsky explores the Aeolian mode in A. One of Gotkovsky’s typical movement types is the Perpetuum Mobile, the title of the fourth movement. In this highly virtuosic movement, the composer explores some of Messiaen’s (her teacher) favorite techniques (listed here for the music nerd): the use of modes of limited transposition, rhythmic pedal, and additive rhythms. The work ends with a movement in declamatory style with free, open-ended melodic phrases, which are highly expressive.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Francis Poulenc was a composer of contrasts. Called “half monk, half rascal” and “a musical clown of the first order,” Poulenc knew how to deliver music that was witty and irreverent—yet at the same time profound and emotive. His Sextet perfectly contains all these elements. Poulenc began the work in 1932, calling it “an homage to the wind instruments.” It took seven years and serious revisions until the work found its final form in 1939. During this time, Poulenc faced a variety of circumstances that moved the “monk” part somewhat in the foreground and the “clown” became less overbearing.
On the surface the Sextet seems to be a typical three-movement neoclassical work. Yet none of the movements is what it seems. The first appears to be a frisky sonata form movement in the style of Les Six—until the beginning of development section, which turns out to be a contrasting slow section full of melancholy. The ensuing Divertissement showcases Poulenc’s ability to craft the most beautiful melodies—until the ensemble breaks out into dance. The last movement does what finales do, brings back some ideas from previous movements to draw things to a close—which in this case is a surprisingly and pensive ending.
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF (1874-1943)
Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor, Op. 9
Premiered on January 31, 1894, in Moscow with the composer at the piano.
In 1893, the 20-year-old Rachmaninoff was well on his way toward becoming the next great Russian composer and pianist. His C sharp minor Piano Prelude flew of the shelf and his opera Aleko was well received by the audience, which included an enthusiastic Tchaikovsky. In fact, Tchaikovsky took such an interest in the career of his young countryman that he offered to conduct Rachmaninoff’s newest orchestral fantasy The Rock. Shockingly, Tchaikovsky died soon after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony—a concert Rachmaninoff had to miss. The young composer wanted to give expression to his grief through music. So he chose to compose a Piano Trio—the same thing Tchaikovsky had done after his friend Nikolay Rubinstein’s death.
Trio Élégiaque represents early Rachmaninoff with an emphasis on virtuosic piano writing and a strong emphasis on melody. Just like Tchaikovsky’s Trio, he chose a three-movement design. And as was the case in Tchaikovsky’s work, the second movement is a set of variations, using a theme from The Rock, the work Tchaikovsky had promised to conduct. The last movement continues to follow the Tchaikovskian model by bringing back the material from the first movement, creating an overarching musical narrative.
- Siegwart Reichwald