Archive for April, 2008

Clara Schumann, Piano Trio in g minor

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Clara Schumann, 1819-1896

Piano Trio in g minor, 1846

I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?” – Clara Schumann, 1839

Clara SchumannWhile it was rare for a woman to become a significant composer in the European tradition of classical music before the 20th century, there are noteworthy examples. It is generally accepted that one of the very first composers distinguished from the anonymity of the early medieval period was in fact female: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), the “Sybil of the Rhine”, who left a significant legacy of over 80 pieces in a highly unique style. The Florentine Francesca Caccini (1587– c.1640) was an influential lutenist, singer, teacher and composer who became the first female to compose an opera. France produced at least two 19th century women composers of note, both of whom wrote chamber music: Louise Farrenc and Pauline Viardot. When Clara Schumann, at the tender age of 20, (more…)

Beethoven, Kakadu Variations

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827

Variations on Müller’s song “Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu”, Op. 121a, c.1803

Ludwig van BeethovenWorking in every major form of classical music, Beethoven wrote six main piano trios beginning with his very first opus number and culminating in the expansive, groundbreaking Archduke piano trio of his middle period. He also wrote several other pieces for the ensemble of violin, cello and piano including a very early lone piano trio (c.1791), two single movement Allegrettos, and two sets of variations. For completeness, there is also the lovely Op. 11 originally scored for clarinet, cello and piano that Beethoven transcribed for traditional piano trio. It is believed that the “Kakadu” variations were written around 1803, possibly revised in 1816 but not published until 1824 (hence the high opus number) making them the last of Beethoven’s published works for piano trio. (more…)

Martinů, Bergerettes

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Bohuslav Martinů 1890-1950

Bergerettes for violin, cello and piano, 1939

Bohuslav MartinůA short list of first-rank important Czech composers would include, in chronological order, Smetana, Dvořák, Janacek and Martinů. Bohuslav Martinů was an extraordinarily prolific composer across a full range of musical genres including dramatic music for stage and film with at least fifteen operas, several orchestral concerti and symphonies as well as choral music. A substantial catalog of chamber music for a variety of ensembles totals nearly one hundred works. While his mature music lies entirely within the 20th century, Martinů developed a fresh, personal style that is predominantly tonal and accessible, largely independent of the numerous schools, trends and “isms” that characterize the multi-faceted landscape of modern music through the mid-century. In additional to several duo sonatas, (more…)

Ravel, Piano Trio

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Maurice Ravel 1875-1937

Piano Trio, 1914

“I have written only one masterpiece. That is the Boléro. Unfortunately, it contains no music.” – Maurice Ravel

Maurice RavelBetween 1903 and 1914, Maurice Ravel produced three magnificent chamber music works that are among the finest in the repertoire of early modern music. With Debussy and Satie, Ravel defined a new revelatory style of French music that made a sharp break from the 19th century Romantic tradition overwhelmingly dominated by German angst. Drawing from such exotic inspirations as Asian culture, the French Symbolist poets, Spanish folk music and the Impressionist painters, entirely new sounds emerged in poetic piano miniatures and vast orchestral canvases of sumptuous color. In between lay a precious cache of chamber music works. Debussy wrote a stunning String Quartet and the otherworldly quintet for harp and strings, Danse sacrée et danse Profane. Ravel’s essential creations (more…)