Archive for March, 2014

Recovered Voices, Part II

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Recovered Voices, Part II

The program this evening is a second installment of Recovered Voices, a project originally created by L.A. Opera music director James Conlon to help restore two generations of music by Jewish composers silenced by the Third Reich. Due to defamation, persecution and the dire conditions leading to the Holocaust, several important composers were forced to flee, abandoning homelands and native artistic contexts for strange new worlds where, compromised, their artistic creations were misunderstood, maligned and nearly consigned to oblivion. Though the efforts of Recovered Voices, many special treasures of early 20th century musical art are being resurrected and programmed once again, often for the very first time. Lost prodigies and erstwhile leaders of the avant-garde come to life again through the force and fascination of their reenacted music and thus a lost chapter of Jewish Viennese high art history is meaningfully restored. (more…)

Beethoven, String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59/2, “Rasumovsky”

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, “Rasumovsky”, 1806

When the Russian Ambassador Count Rasumovsky commissioned Beethoven for three string quartets in 1805, he catalyzed an explosion that expanded the tradition in every direction as Beethoven applied his middle period genius to make the genre his own. Composed in 1806, the Op. 59 quartets set a new standard making profound demands on the performer and listener alike with music that was complex and “difficult” on multiple levels. The timescale grows longer and the emotional compass much wider. Musicologist Arthur Cohn astutely points out that Op. 59 halves the number of quartets in a published set and, after this, all of Beethoven’s quartets are singletons. No longer nestled in a half-dozen stylish and rhetorical quartets, from this point on, each quartet is a complex entity of extraordinary individuality. Op. 59, No. 2 is literally the dark center of the triptych ruled by the key of E minor and a restless volatility of extremes. While two of the three quartets contain explicit Russian themes after Rasumovsky’s request, it seems that this particular quartet projects the strongest Russian bearing in a kind of pervasive exotic intensity. (more…)

Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 for cello and piano, 1849

Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Robert Schumann, 1810-1856
Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 for clarinet (or cello) and piano, 1849

The music of Robert Schuman is full of contrasts on many levels. He wrote massive, complex works for orchestra, chamber music and piano on one hand, and then intimate character pieces and art songs on the other, where, even in miniature proportions, he juxtaposed contrasts of mood and motion with wonderful spontaneity. Schumann’s penchant for favoring expression over “textbook” form emphasizes the romantic credo of personal subjectivity of which he was a prime innovator. Indeed, a tendency for “flights of fancy” finds Schuman frequently using the term “Fantasiestücke” or fantasy pieces suggesting short, free-form character studies almost as “in the moment” improvisations. (more…)