PROGRAM NOTES CONCERT VADIM GLUZMAN, JONATHAN FELDMAN (4/4/04)

Vadim Gluzman, Violinist
Jonathan Feldman, Pianist


"Suite in the Old Style" - for Violin and Piano
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)

Perhaps the most important Russian composer since Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke wrote in a variety of genres. He was a prolific composer of scores for the Soviet film industry. Thematic material from three film scores forms the basis for "Suite in the Old Style" - a charming pastiche with elements of neo-classicism. Originally composed for violin and piano, the score was first performed in Moscow in 1972 by violinist Mark Lubotsky and pianist Liubov Yedlina. Violist-conductor Vladimir Spivakov asked the composer to make an orchestral version, which he subsequently conducted with his renowned chamber orchestra the Moscow Virtuosi. (Several seasons ago Spivakov led Miami's New World Symphony in this version of the score.)

The Pastorale and Ballet movements are from a comedy film about a dentist's amorous adventures. The Pantomime and Minuet are from scores for animated children's films. The Fugue comes from a documentary about a sportsman's double life ("Sport, Sport, Sport"). The entire score reflects the varied sound world and fertile creative imagination of Alfred Schnittke.


"Sonata in A Major" for Violin and Piano, Opus 47 "Kreutzer"
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) 

Beethoven referred to his A Major violin sonata as a "Concerto-Sonata." The score has an almost orchestral grandeur and symphonic stature. With this score, the sonata genre was changed forever. Beethoven abandoned the intimacy of the salon for the majesty of the concert hall. The sonata was composed so rapidly, according to Beethoven's friend Ferdinand Ries, that, at the premiere on May 24, 1803 in Vienna, the mulatto violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower and Beethoven were sight-reading from sheets of music paper on which the ink was still wet. When the score was published in 1805, Beethoven dedicated the work to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer. Beethoven wrote to his publisher Simrock on October 4, 1804 "This able violinist is a dear good fellow who, while here, gave me great pleasure. I find his undemanding and natural behavior greatly preferable to the superficiality of most virtuosi." Kreutzer never played the work. Strangely his only legacy was Beethoven's immortalizing his name through this sonata.

The bold opening adagio and the furious Presto of the opening movement make clear Beethoven's symphonic intentions. This is music that tests the limits of instrumental technique. The second movement is a songful Andante in F - four variations on a syncopated theme. The Rondo-Finale was originally composed for the Violin Sonata, Opus 30, No.1. The tarantella like theme (in 6/8) has an inexorable sense of momentum. The entire score reaffirms the instrumental sonata in a bold, innovative manner. Beethoven's music continues to be Mount Olympus for violin virtuosi.


"Sonata No.3 in C Minor" for Violin and Piano, Opus 45
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Considering that his principal fame rested on his many piano vignettes and songs, Edvard Grieg showed remarkable sympathy for string instruments. His "Holberg Suite" and "Lyric Melodies" for string orchestra, the magnificent Cello Sonata, the excellent string quartets, and the violin sonatas attest to the his creative ingenuity. 

Grieg wrote the C Minor Violin Sonata in 1886-87. The second movement Allegretto expressivo alla Romanza is especially characterized by warmth and melodic inspiration. This music captures Grieg at his most emotionally expressive - pure romanticism. The concluding Allegro animato is inspired by Norwegian folk dances - quintessential Grieg.


"Nigun" from Suite from "Baal-Shem: Three Pictures of Hassidic Life"
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)

After studies in Brussels and Frankfurt, the Swiss born Ernest Bloch came to the USA in 1916. He would spend most of his creative career there and became an American citizen in 1924. He held teaching positions in Cleveland, San Francisco, and Berkeley. His early works showed the influences of Richard Strauss and Claude Debussy. Later he composed works on Jewish subjects - "Schelomo" (1916) and the large scale "Sacred Service" ("Avodath hakodesh" - 1933). 

Bloch's "Baal-Shem" Suite is composed of three miniatures based on Hassidic subjects. In 1924 Bloch transcribed one of the movements "Nigun" (I Believe) for violin and piano. This is deeply felt, highly reverent music - an emotional confession of faith. The expressive quality of the violin enhances the composer's strongly Judaic idiom. 


"Tzigane" - "Rhapsodie de Concert"
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Maurice Ravel's Hungarian scented virtuoso display piece was written for the violinist Jelly d'Aranyi, who the composer first heard in London in 1922 when she played Bartok's First Sonata with the composer at the piano. Later at a dinner with Bartok in Paris, Ravel decided to write his own Hungarian style pastiche. He had been inspired by Bartok's musicological research on Hungarian folk music and the gypsy style variations that Ms. d'Aranyi had performed. Ravel wrote to Bartok "You have inspired me to write a short piece of diabolical difficulty, conjuring up the Hungary of my dreams. Since it will be for violin, why don't we call it "Tzigane"?"

"Tzigane" was originally written for violin and piano - the version to be performed at this concert. Later Ravel transcribed it for violin and lutheal - one of Pleyel's inventions that combined plucked and struck strings to suggest the sound of the Hungarian cimbalom. Ravel orchestrated the work in July, 1924 and this final version had its premiere in November of that year - played by Jelly d'Aranyi with the composer Gabriel Pierne conducting.

The rhapsody is in two sections - a slow introductions (opening with a lengthy unaccompanied violin solo) and a fast section that challenges the violinist's technique. Double stops, harmonics, pizzicatos, and glissandos abound. To be sure this is a French view of Hungary and Gypsy music, but this showpiece is the work of a master craftsman. 


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