Tuesday, August 17 at 7:30 PM
Wednesday, August 18 at 5:30 PM
- Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
- Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
- Ballade No. 4 in F minor for solo piano, Op. 52
- Jon Kimura Parker piano
- In memory of longtime OICMF friend John Gorton
- Ballade No. 4 in F minor for solo piano, Op. 52
- Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
David and Amy Fulton
Tuesday, August 17 The Daniel and Margaret Carper Foundation
Wednesday, August 18 KCTS9
2021 Program Notes Montrose Trio
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) – Piano Trio in E Major, hob. XV:28
Soon after Haydn’s death, his more than 40 piano trios fell by the wayside. The main reason for this simply lies with the way in which he wrote them. Although they contain some of his finest music (and that’s saying a lot when speaking about this master of the symphony and string quartet) they are, to a large extent, accompanied piano sonatas. In most of them, the violin has sufficient independence to engage in dialogues with the piano, but the cellist is relegated primarily to doubling the piano’s bass line. Haydn (with two very fine cello concertos to his name) certainly could have written cello parts with greater independence, but this music – in its published form – was largely aimed at an amateur market where capable pianists and decent violinists were relatively easy to find, but cellists were a little “thinner on the ground.” So it made perfect sense to write music that was aimed at the skill levels of the performers involved. About 50 years ago, the celebrated Beaux Arts Trio undertook the quixotic (or so it seemed at the time) project of recording all of Haydn’s trios. Since then musicians have come to appreciate the high quality of the music and its level of sophistication.
This E-major trio is one of the better-known of the bunch. The opening movement begins with plucked strings and quasi-plucked piano, sounding a little like a guitar, but soon the movement explodes with brilliance – virtuosity, even – for the pianist. It proceeds in high spirits with plenty of Haydn’s wit in evidence. The Allegretto second movement is somewhat unsettling. A rather sinister “walking bass” accompanies a jumpy main theme. The movement is begun by the piano alone then joined by the strings. The unsettling nature of this movement becomes even stronger when Haydn moves the “walking bass” into the treble range and the jumpy theme to the bass. Although this movement functions as the “slow” movement of the trio, its tempo, intensity of mood, and complete lack of sentimentality make it one of the strangest “slow” movements he ever wrote. Where one might expect the mood of the first movement to return for the finale, Haydn gives it a distinctly different character of its own. The brilliance and humor are replaced by elegant amiability.
As a final thought, words of praise are due to those string players – and particularly cellists – who recognize that Haydn’s piano trios are great music and who set aside their own egos to provide this music the exposure it deserves.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) – Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 for solo piano
By the age of 18 or so, Chopin had found his musical voice. Thereafter, almost everything he wrote sounds like no one but Chopin – so much so that even many non-musicians can quickly recognize his music when they hear it. As a result, it can seem like his language didn’t change all that much, but a close examination of his music shows a gradual increase in the complexity of his use of harmony and texture over the 20 or so years of his mature career. Ballade No. 4 comes from 1842, by which time the complexity was much greater than is found in, for example, his early nocturnes. A few clearly identifiable themes are presented, either in semi-discrete “panels” or flowing smoothly from one to the next. Chopin varies and transforms his themes with a general movement from serenity to extreme agitation over the Ballade’s twelve-minute duration, until a series of quiet, organ-like chords bring the momentum to a halt. It proves to be a brief respite, though, before Chopin plunges into the coruscating rain of fire that brings this Ballade – widely considered to be one of his greatest pieces – to its tragic conclusion.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) – Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D. 898
Franz Schubert must have been one of the most lovable composers in the history of music. He was of low social status, perpetually impoverished and an unprepossessing figure (affectionately known among his acquaintances as Schwammerl, i.e., “little mushroom”). Nevertheless, such was his genius that he spontaneously gathered a circle of friends for whom he was the emotional and creative “glue.” The frequent social gatherings of Schubert’s circle often centered on first readings of his latest compositions, and so, naturally came to be known as “Schubertiades.” It was at the last Schubertiade before the composer’s death that the Piano Trio in B-flat was first played.
In the last two years of Schubert’s life his inspiration and craftsmanship reached new heights, resulting in a string of masterpieces including this trio – which is just one among many large-scale pieces from these two years. The first movement unfolds its opposing major and minor key themes on a leisurely scale, with a lengthy development and a recapitulation that begins in the wrong key before finding its way home. The second movement, beginning innocently enough, evolves into one of Schubert’s fantastic and far-ranging movements – on a par with those of the C Major string quintet and the A Major piano sonata – works that also come from the Schubert’s last two years. The Scherzo features gentle contrapuntal dialogue between all three instruments and a central section where humor is added by the piano’s oom-pah-pah accompaniment – the catch being that the “oom” is silent. The finale is a joyous Rondo with a skipping theme first heard from the violin. Two episodes in the movement create the illusion of a slower tempo before a Presto coda brings the trio to a lively conclusion.
One could disagree with Robert Schumann’s assessment of this trio as “passive, feminine, lyrical,” both for its musical inaccuracy and a kind of gender-profiling which we are still trying to evolve beyond. However, he came nearer the mark when he wrote “One glance at it and the troubles of our human existence disappear and the whole world is fresh and bright again.” It is astonishing that Schubert – in dire financial straits and his health already entering its final decline – could still produce such life-affirming music.
2021 Festival Artists Montrose Trio
Formed in 2013 by violinist Martin Beaver, cellist Clive Greensmith, and pianist Jon Kimura Parker, the Montrose Trio has performed to great acclaim in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. In 2015, the Washington Post declared that “they are poised to become one of the top piano trios in the world.” In 2021–22, the Montrose Trio performs at the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, across the US, and in Italy. For more information, please see montrosetrio.com.
SPONSOR Keiko Parker