Fauré, Piano Quartet No. 2 in G Minor

October 31, 2017

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45 (1886)

Gabriel Fauré It has been said that Gabriel Fauré was the most important French Composer between Berlioz and Debussy, particularly in the genre of instrumental music. Opera dominated the French music scene for much for much of the 19th century until Saint-Saëns, Franck and a whole generation of late-Romantic French composers turned to writing sonatas and quartets. Over time, they established a new emerging school of French chamber music culminating in Debussy and Ravel with the turn of the 20th century. Fauré may well have been the most important force in this history. Within France, he is highly regarded; beyond France, he is known for a handful of beautiful pieces, but is otherwise elusive, a less than major composer that slips through the cracks.

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Frank Martin, Trio on Irish Folk Tunes

October 24, 2017

Frank Martin, 1890-1974

Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandaises (Trio on Irish Folk Tunes), 1925

Frank MartinThe 20th century Swiss composer Frank Martin is not even mentioned in standard "listener's guides" to Classical music, chamber music or otherwise. A descendant of French Huguenots (devout Calvinists who fled persecution in France and resettled in various places including Geneva), Martin would turn to composing deeply religious choral and instrumental music in his final years producing some of the most highly regarded sacred vocal works of the 20th century. But his instrumental music is equally marvelous. Martin's most widely known work is the novel Petite symphonie concertante featuring piano, harpsichord, harp and two small string orchestras. Martin played piano and harpsichord and throughout all of his music he displays a great sensitivity to timbre and its combinations in dazzling ensemble textures. Even in a symphonic concerto, he displays a masterful chamber music sensibility.

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Beethoven, String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127

October 22, 2017

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127, 1824-1825

Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven's Op. 127 is the first of his legendary "late quartets," six string quartets that comprise Beethoven's final and perhaps greatest musical achievement. Besides some aborted sketches, he had not worked significantly in the genre for over a decade since the Op. 95 "Serioso" quartet of 1810. In the interim, Beethoven composed his final piano sonatas, the Missa Solemnis and the 9th Symphony, all magnificent works of a towering stature. The last piano sonatas, "late" in the same profound sense as the late quartets would be, inaugurated several of the stylistic traits of his final period: innovative forms bordering on fantasia, sublime beauty, deeply intimate emotion, epic lengths, superhuman virtuosity and a beautiful obsession with seemingly inexhaustible variation.

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Hindemith, String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22

October 22, 2017

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22, 1921

Paul HindemithThe chamber music of Paul Hindemith is rare on the concert stage these days. This is somewhat ironic, perhaps doubly so. For most of his life in the first half of the 20th century, Hindemith was considered one of Germany's greatest composers. In addition, one of his chief aesthetic concerns was Gebrauchsmusik, music for use in everyday life with a practical purpose. In opposition to the increasingly arcane and alienating music from a musical ivory tower pursing "art for art's sake," Hindemith hoped to engage the common man, fulfilling his need to make and enjoy music as a natural capacity. Nonetheless, after his death, Hindemith and his prolific output have seemed to largely elude both the avant-garde and the man on the street.

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Gold Coast Chamber Players, Family Business

September 23, 2017

Family Business

For a program by the Gold Coast Chamber Players

Fanny MendelssohnMusical genius can be found in musicians and composers from all kinds of circumstances, even against all odds. But history shows a vivid pattern of musical families, even dynasties. The latest research suggests that musical aptitude and talent is rooted in nature, in our genes to some extent, as well as nurture: how that musical proclivity is encouraged, supported and nourished. With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that music "runs" in families: a combination of genes and lifestyle. This marvelous program is inspired by musical families, the Bach's, the Mozart's, and the Mendelssohn's.

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Mendelssohn, Piano Sextet, Op. 110

September 23, 2017

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Piano Sextet in D major, Op. 110

Felix Mendelssohn Moving forward a few decades, and from Vienna to Berlin, we encounter the Mendelssohn family. A distinguished upper-middle class family with ample nature and über nurture with the finest resources, luxuries and connections Europe could provide yielded perhaps the greatest musical prodigy of all time, Felix Mendelssohn. Felix was a very well educated and well-rounded musician who began composing serious masterworks by the time he was 14. To really grasp this extraordinary individual phenomenon, you need only listen to a short series of works spanning Felix’s meteoric rise to fame from aged 14 to 18: a string symphony, the piano sextet (on this program), the string octet, the overture to the Midsummer’s Night Dream, and his string quartet, Op. 13.

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Yinam Leef, Triptych (Homage to Oedeon Partos)

September 5, 2017

Yinam Leef (1953)

Triptych (Homage to Oedeon Partos) for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano (1997)

Yinam LeefThe recipient of numerous prestigious awards, Yinam Leef is an Israeli composer, born in Jerusalem, educated in Israel and the United States and currently the chairman of the Department of Composition, Conducting and Theory at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy and Dance. His composition teachers have included Mark Kopytman, Richard Wernick, George Rochberg, George Crumb and Luciano Berio. Leef's substantial output includes concerti, symphonies, choral works and a variety of chamber music including two string quartets. In his book, Twenty Israeli Composers (1997), Robert Fleisher summarizes that Leef's works are "characterized by his threefold commitment: to universal, Western-oriented post-serial composition; to local or locally echoing musical traditions of Jewish and Middle Eastern modality and timbre; and to the young Israeli ("Canaanite") search for musical identity."

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Stravinsky, Suite from L'Histoire du Soldat

September 5, 2017

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Suite from L'Histoire du Soldat (for violin, clarinet and piano), (1919)

Igor StravinskyBy 1919, just barely into his first decade as a professional composer, Stravinsky was well on his way towards becoming one of the most important and sensational new composers of the 20th century. His successful partnership with Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes in Paris yielded three stunning ballet scores for massive orchestra, the works for which Stravinsky is most famous today: The Firebird (1910), Petroushka (1911) and the Rite of Spring (1913). Despite his stunning achievements, 1919 found Stravinsky stranded in Lausanne, Switzerland in rather dire financial straits. WWI had made a desperate shambles of Europe sapping any hope for staging large concerts or obtaining new commissions while the Russian Revolution cut Stravinsky off from his family fortune as well as any hopes for ongoing royalty payments.

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Gypsy Music-River of Fire

July 27, 2017

I met Eugenia Moliner, flutist of the Cavatina Duo, at a chamber music conference in January, 2017. As we chatted, I was instantly struck by her vibrant passion for music and life, her "Mediterranean" emotional expressiveness. When Eugenia told me she and her husband, guitarist Denis Azabagic were planning a new project inspired by Gypsy music with its roots going all the way back to India, I asked Eugenia if she had heard of Latcho Drom, the seminal Gypsy music documentary by Tony Gatlif. Her eyes grew wide, and with a huge, electric smile, she exclaimed “Yes! I LOVE that movie!” In that moment, I felt we made a deep connection in sharing a love for this vividly unique culture. "Musical soul mates", I thought. But aren’t we all?

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Dohnányi, Piano Quintet in C Minor, Op. 1

May 27, 2017

Ernő Dohnányi [Ernst von Dohnanyi], 1877-1960

Piano Quintet in C Minor, Op. 1, 1895

Ernő DohnányiErnő Dohnányi is apt to be the greatest composer you have never heard. He is celebrated as the "greatest" Hungarian "musician" after Franz Liszt, great because his musicianship encompassed his diversity of profound gifts as a epic concert pianist, tireless conductor, superb composer, educator, administrator and ambassador that essentially encapsulated the entirely of Hungarian classical music culture for decades leading up to WWII. Likely owing to his international career and a bit of marketing, he often went by the more German version of his name, Ernst von Dohnanyi without the revealing accented characters.

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Shostakovich, 5 Pieces for 2 Violins

May 27, 2017

Dmitri Shostakovich, 1906-1975

5 Pieces for 2 Violins (arrangement)

Dmitri ShostakovichShostakovich is frankly a 20th century Beethoven. He wrote tons of symphonies, string quartets, film scores, piano music, operas and songs, and his music seems to speak so vividly to so many listeners. While much of his music is epic, intense, dark and rife with spiky modernisms, Shostakovich composed many beautiful, "classical" pieces full of lyricism, personality, fine craftsmanship and sheer musical delight. Among his incidental music, ballets and suites you will find many gems, the likes of which inspired Lev Atovmian, a student of Shostakovich, to arrange these five pieces for violin duo with piano accompaniment.

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Rimsky-Korsakov, Piano Trio in C Minor, (finished by Maximilian Steinberg)

April 30, 2017

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1844-1908

Piano Trio in C Minor, 1879 (finished by Maximilian Steinberg in 1939)

Nikolai Rimsky-KorsakovRimsky-Korsakov was a highly significant musical figure within late 19th century Russia whose influence would reverberate westward making a strong impression on Debussy, Ravel and other 20th century composers. He is celebrated for his brilliant and original orchestration in such classics as Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and Scheherazade that expanded the orchestral palette along with a new exotic "Orientalisim" that ultimately become inspiration for the French impressionists. Rimsky-Korsakov is often regarded as the chief "architect" of Russian Nationalism during an age when composers across Europe were seeking to express their native cultures, a diversity of "otherness" rising against the fundamentally Austro-Germanic aesthetic of the classical canon.

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Schubert, Notturno for Piano Trio

April 30, 2017

Franz Schubert, 1797-1828

Notturno in E-Flat Major, Op. 148, D. 897, 1827-1828

Franz Schubert Schubert’s extraordinary “final year” is a well-promoted fact of his short but immensely fruitful career as a composer with some noted commentaries calling it a great miracle of Western Art Music. Between 1827 and 1828, the apparently herculean Schubert produced a canon of masterworks comprising his final piano sonatas, the two massive piano trios and the ineffable string quintet among other things. In the chamber music in particular, Schubert expresses a truly grandiose conception of music that oscillates between extreme poles of euphoria and despair with both modes ennobled by sumptuous lyricism, perfection of ensemble and color laid out in epic proportions to be savored slowly and carefully. One literally thinks of Schubert’s final year as an exalted state of levitation.

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Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68

April 22, 2017

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68, (1944)

Dmitri ShostakovichSince the latter part of the 20th century following his death in 1975, the string quartet cycle of Dmitri Shostakovich has come to be regarded as extraordinarily significant. While his fifteen symphonies command attention and demonstrate his creative and prodigious career, they were large spectacles staged for grand public expression subject to broad scrutiny by a totalitarian regime, subject, as well, to the changing complex public image Shostakovich chose, or was forced, to display. The string quartets are different. They are private, personal, intimate and true. They embody music Shostakovich wrote for colleagues, friends, family and himself.

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Beethoven, Piano Trio No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 11, "Gassenhauer"

April 20, 2017

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Piano Trio in B-Flat Major, Op. 11 “Gassenhauer”, 1797-1798

Ludwig van Beethoven In October of 1797, a 26-year-old Beethoven was steadily gaining a reputation around Vienna as a fierce pianist with a gift for improvisation strengthened by successful performances of his first two piano concerti. Just three years earlier, he had published his very first opus, a set of three bold piano trios that had already expanded the genre in scope, virtuosity and expression particularly as four-movement works after the string quartet or symphony rather than the three-movement trios of Mozart or Haydn. 1797 also witnessed the debut of Joseph Weigl’s comic opera L’Amor Marinaro (The Corsair) featuring a popular tune Pria ch’io l’impegno (Before beginning this awesome task, I need a snack) that would eventually inspire numerous variation sets by composers such as Hummel and Paganini. But Beethoven would be first.

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Prokofiev, String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92 (on Kabardinian themes)

April 9, 2017

Sergei Prokofiev, 1891-1953

String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92 (on Kabardinian themes), 1941

Sergei ProkofievSergei Prokofiev came of age in the 20th century and has remained both a popular and critical favorite of the period especially as a Russian / Soviet composer along with the elder Stravinsky and the younger Shostakovich. A child prodigy, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory at the age of 13 and soon caused a sensation with his intensely percussive piano playing with a startlingly modern rhythmic vitality that would characterize much of his mature work. Prokofiev launched a career as concert pianist, composer and conductor and, shortly after the revolution, left Russia for several years living the United States and then Paris where a combination of misfortunes including lukewarm reception and a worldwide economic depression left Prokofiev feeling unfulfilled and unappreciated.

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Jon Nakamatsu, Solo Recital in Carmel

April 8, 2017

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Rondo in D Major, K. 485 (1786)
Fantasy in D Minor, K. 397 / 385g (1782)

Jon NakamatsuMr. Nakamatsu's recital begins with two works by Mozart who was among the first great composers to write explicitly for the piano vs. the harpsichord. In addition to his masterful concertante and chamber works featuring the "new fangled" instrument, Mozart composed 17 piano sonatas and numerous single-movement pieces: variation sets, rondos and fantasies, etc. The pair of works presented here might well be titled "Mozart light and dark", so effective is their contrast in exploring Mozart's emotional range.

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Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 117

April 1, 2017

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 117, (1964)

Dmitri ShostakovichSince the latter part of the 20th century following his death in 1975, the string quartet cycle of Dmitri Shostakovich has come to be regarded as extraordinarily significant. While his fifteen symphonies command attention and demonstrate his creative and prodigious career, they were large spectacles staged for grand public expression subject to broad scrutiny by a totalitarian regime, subject, as well, to the changing complex public image Shostakovich chose, or was forced, to display. The string quartets are different. They are private, personal, intimate and true. They embody music Shostakovich wrote for colleagues, friends, family and himself. And it is particularly this dichotomous context that makes the fifteen string quartets so compelling.

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Schubert, String Quintet in C Major, Op. 163, D. 956

March 26, 2017

Franz Schubert, 1797-1828

String Quintet in C Major, Op. 163, D. 956, 1828

Franz SchubertThe British composer Benjamin Britten once commented that the few years encompassing Beethoven's late string quartets and Schubert's final works were likely the most fruitful in the entire history of Western music. For chamber music lovers, fours years in Vienna between 1824-1828 proved to be a watershed yielding what many would unequivocally regard as the finest chamber music ever, unsurpassed to this day. Schubert's "last year" was, alone, a miracle, perhaps especially catalyzed by Beethoven's death and Schubert's own serious illness, his clear impending fatality. Desperate to fill the void and make his own lasting mark in the realm of "serious" music, Schubert labored to produce two towering piano trios, three massive piano sonatas, his last song cycle Winterriese, and, finally, the exquisite string quintet.

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Mozart, String Quartet in D Major, K. 499, "Hoffmeister"

March 26, 2017

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791

String Quartet in D Major, K. 499, "Hoffmeister", 1786

Franz Anton HoffmeisterThough Haydn got a good head start on the game, Mozart's string quartets seem to eventually interleave with Haydn's later works as both Viennese composers evolved the classical string quartet together in a kind of interactive dialog. Historical reception has helped us by winnowing a bit of the wheat from the chaff to focus on the highlights. In Mozart's case, we tend to ignore the dozen or so early quartets focusing on the "Famous Ten" in a sequence beginning after Mozart's move to Vienna and his discovery of both Bach and Haydn's latest creations. First, there are Mozart's magnificent and meaty six quartets dedicated to Haydn, and, last, some years later, the three so-called "Prussian" quartets of a special "late", delicate and refined character. And in between, a singleton, a lone "one-off", bearing the nickname "Hoffmeister."

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