ClefLogo  Concert 3 - Programme Notes

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Chloë Hanslip and Danny Driver Photo by Kaupo Kikkas    


Concert No 3

8pm Saturday 17th November 2018
at Holmes Chapel Leisure Centre


Chloë Hanslip (Violin)
and
Danny Driver (Piano)

Supported by the sale of CDs
donated by the late David Simmons


  "Hanslip’s poetic touch kept every note
alive and fresh"
- The Times


  "Hanslip seduces the senses with a compelling suppleness
of dynamic, phrasing and senza-vibrato purity"

- The Strad, June 2018


The programme notes for this concert are:

Violin Sonata No.21 in E minor K.304
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756 - 1791
      I: Allegro      II: Tempo di menuetto

Mozart composed nineteen sonatas for piano and violin. All of them except the E minor K.304 are straightforward, classical in nature, and each in a major key. The exception is this sonata which is written in the minor key, probably because it was composed under sombre circumstances.

During the concert season of 1777 - 1778, Mozart was engaged to play a tour of Paris with his sister, premièring many of his earlier violin sonatas, and certainly playing at least one of his concerti (composed about three years prior). These tours were of great importance not only to promote Mozart’s amazing virtuosity but also to raise much needed cash. The six sonatas K301-306 are referred to as the Paris-Mannheim sonatas, and they commenced a new chapter in Mozart’s maturity. During this particular tour, Mozart's mother, Anna Maria Pertl, was reported to have played the piano accompaniment for her children, even though she was not recognised for her abilities. In July of 1778, Frau Mozart died of fever, and Mozart immediately set to work composing this sonata for her and for his sister Maria Anna "Nannerl" to play. This sonata is therefore very significant in Mozart's maturing from adolescence to adulthood.

Though the two movements (Allegro and Tempo di Menuetto) are quite clearly classical in form, the sombreness and melancholic feelings pervading the work had rarely been heard from the talented composer, and they did not appear in his violin catalogue until the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, which was composed a year later.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts by Matthew Trusler and Martin Roscoe on 21st February 2015.

 

Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor Op.80
by Sergei Prokofiev 1891 – 1953
      I: Andante Assai      II: Allegro Brusco      III: Andante      IV: Allegrissimo

Sergei Prokofiev wrote relatively few works for the solo violin. In addition to the two concertos for violin and orchestra (1916-17 and 1935), he composed a sonata for two violins in 1932. Prokofiev had begun composition of his first violin-piano sonata in 1938, in the aftermath of Joseph Stalin’s “Great Terror,” which had taken many of the composer’s friends and colleagues. Arrested and never seen again, these “dissidents,” among whom were leading artists, writers, and musicians of the USSR, were shot to death in the massive pogrom. The second violin sonata was adapted from a flute and piano sonata which Prokofiev composed in 1943 and this was published as his Opus 94.

Prokofiev set aside the unfinished F-minor Violin Sonata during World War II, when he worked on other compositions. With his return from the countryside in late 1943, Prokofiev experienced the remainder of the war with his fellow Muscovites, sharing their war-time depravations, their anxieties, and their profound fear of Stalin’s assaults on his own citizens. By the end of the war, when Prokofiev took up his unfinished F minor Violin Sonata he was fully aware of the brutality and human loss that the years at war had inflicted. He completed the Sonata in 1946. David Oistrakh, to whom Prokofiev dedicated the work, gave the première performance with the pianist Lev Oborin in Moscow on October 23, 1946.

The F-minor Sonata exudes fearful anguish, frustration, and despondency. The opening theme, played slowly and steadily by the piano in low-octave unisons, is a deliberate statement that prominently features the interval of a descending fifth. As the piano continues its plodding theme, the violin adds its own punctuation, out of which it attempts a lyrical break from the piano’s insistence. The mood is dominated by the piano’s dark octaves until, magically, a chorale theme emerges high in the treble of the keyboard, while the violin plays rapid scales that range up and down over the strings. Prokofiev advised Oistrakh and Oborin that this passage should sound like “wind in a graveyard.” The movement ends with low Fs in the piano, and the violin’s gently plucked F/C.

In the second movement, Allegro Brusco, the piano takes up new means of insistence: pounding unisons, brash chords, and scorching dissonance, which inspire the violin to join in the angry protest. But for two sections of respite from the shouting, both instruments utilize to the fullest their capacity to express outrage. The sweet, airy Andante is particularly poignant in contrast to the preceding storm. Cast in a straightforward ABA form, with a coda, the movement expresses unremitting longing. The piano’s lacy filigrees and the violin’s nostalgic aria unite in a melancholy reverie. Jolted back to the present, the instruments join in a wild, angry chase in alternating bars of 5/8, 7/8, and 8/8 measure. A brief lyrical respite is followed by even more agitation in both instruments, which seem almost to lose control. The piano then plays a subdued chorale, and the work closes with a kind of benediction.

The irony that Prokofiev and Stalin died on the same day, March 5, 1953, gripped the community of artists and musicians in the USSR. The pompous and prolonged public funeral services for Stalin eclipsed the meagre attentions paid to the composer’s passing. All but unremarked was the fact that Oistrakh, with the pianist Samuel Feinberg, performed the first and third movements of the F-minor Violin Sonata at Prokofiev’s funeral.

First performance at HCMS concerts.

 

Violin Sonata No.9 in A major Op.47 Kreutzer
by Ludwig van Beethoven 1770 – 1827
i. Adagio sostenuto - Presto      ii. Andante con variazioni      iii. Finale: Presto

Beethoven wrote his first violin sonatas, a set of three (Op.12) in 1797- 98. Six more appeared by early 1803, making a fairly compressed time span for a medium in which Beethoven was to write just one more in 1812. All but the tenth were written before the composer was 32 years of age. Yet all of them, to varying degrees, show Beethoven straining at the reins that in his early years still tied him to the genteel world of eighteenth-century classicism.

Although we refer to these ten works as “violin sonatas,” in the original scores the music is invariably identified as being “for the fortepiano and a violin” (rather than the other way around). Such was usually the case with eighteenth-century works of this type, but it was hardly true with Beethoven, where we can see in even the first sonata the nearly equal partnership of the two instruments. In these ten sonatas, Beethoven explores the ways and means of combining two voices of unequal sound mass into a dramatic partnership and coherent unity.

Beethoven was renowned in Vienna for his prowess as a pianist, but he was also intimately familiar with the violin. He had taken lessons as a youth in Bonn, and later, at the age of 24, he sought further study with Ignaz Schupannzigh in Vienna. Hence, Beethoven was in an ideal position to explore the expressive potentialities and technical challenges of the violin as well as of the piano, some of which may sound “easy” to the casual listener, but which even today demand superior musicians to do them justice. Violins were undergoing changes in construction during Beethoven’s lifetime (longer neck, fingerboard and strings; higher bridge; greater tension on the strings), resulting in greater range and volume of tone. These did not go unnoticed by Beethoven, who made steadily increasing technical demands on the instrument.

The ninth of Beethoven’s ten sonatas for violin and piano is the grandest and most impressive of them all. It is by far the longest, is the most difficult, contains the richest textures, and to a greater extent than any other, puts both musicians on an absolutely equal footing throughout. Beethoven originally wrote his Kreutzer Sonata for a man named Bridgetower, but they had a falling out and Beethoven dedicated it instead to a certain Rodolphe Kreutzer, who never performed the work and even called it “outrageously unintelligible.”

Of the ten sonatas, only the Kreutzer has a slow introduction, a feature usually reserved for grand, imposing works. Throughout the opening movement the violinist is called upon to execute numerous chords in triple and quadruple stops (playing across three and four strings simultaneously). The theme of the Andante con variazioni, the longest movement in all ten sonatas, is lofty, elegant and noble in its simplicity. In the Finale, the rapid, nearly continuous rhythmic pattern of long-short-long-short belongs to the tarantella, a dance that originated in Italy and, according to legend, served to counteract the poisonous bite of the tarantula spider.

Previous performance at HCMS concerts by Matthew Trusler and Martin Roscoe on 21st February 2015.

© Programme notes by Dr Martin Hudson who acknowledges the Beethoven programme note from the Vancouver Recital Society Beethoven Project 2012.

 

 

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