Fantasy and Flair

Sunday, December 30, 2018 at 3:00PM

UNR Nightingale Concert Hall

Program Notes by Chris Morrison

The Trio No. 39 in G major, written toward the end of Franz Josef Haydn‘s second trip to England in 1794-5, was one of a set of three trios that Haydn wrote for, and dedicated to, Rebecca Schroeter. A widow, Schroeter seems to have fallen in love with the married Haydn, and the two spent much time together while Haydn was in England. The first movement of the Trio No. 39 is a set of variations on a simple theme that is initially presented by the piano and violin, and moves between major and minor as it is developed. The violin is highlighted in the central section of the lovely second movement. After two relatively slow movements, the third moves at breakneck speed. Haydn had experienced gypsy music at first hand during his decades working for the Eszterházy family at their Hungarian palace, and incorporates that style here in fiery music that has made this the most popular of Haydn’s 45 trios.

Carl Reinecke first gained notice as a pianist. He was a well-known recitalist throughout Europe, served as court pianist for King Christian VIII of Denmark, and was hired by Franz Liszt to be the piano teacher for his daughter Cosima (future wife of Richard Wagner). In 1860, Reinecke became a faculty member, and eventually director, at the Leipzig Conservatory, where his many famous students included Grieg, Janáček, Delius, and Arthur Sullivan. He was also conductor of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra for many years. After a slow introduction, the first movement of his Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 83 is bright and lively, rather Mendelssohn-like in its combination of Classical proportions and Romantic energy.

Along with his reputation as one of the greatest violinists of all time, Niccolò Paganini was a highly accomplished guitarist. As he once put it, “The violin is my mistress, but the guitar is my master.” Paganini wrote some 200 works that include guitar. Part of a collection of eighteen pieces called Centone di sonate, or “medley of sonatas,” Op. 64 includes the first six of those eighteen. In the Sonata in A major, Op. 64/4, an opening Adagio cantabile, which combines a sweet violin line and discreet guitar accompaniment, is followed by a charming Rondo.

Alberto Ginastera, one of South America’s most important composers, wrote his only guitar work, the 1976 Sonata, for Carlos Barbosa-Lima, who described its third movement Canto as “romantic,” beginning with “big, dramatic chords” and “a certain playful nature,” and the Finale as having “an overall feeling of a Baroque toccata” along with hints of Argentinian dance music.

A translation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the gangs and streets of New York, the 1957 musical (and 1961 film) West Side Story features some of Leonard Bernstein‘s best-known music. Two of its most famous songs are duets for Maria and Tony, “Somewhere” and “Tonight.”

Ennio Morricone is one of the most prolific of film composers, having provided scores for over 500 films and television programs. Some of his most iconic music was written for “spaghetti westerns” directed by Sergio Leone, including 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In this famous score, Morricone sets the mood in a variety of ways, employing a two-note phrase that has been likened to a coyote’s howl as well as whistling, cracking whips, even gunfire.

Written in just two days, the Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73 by Robert Schumann were originally conceived for clarinet and piano, although he indicated that the clarinet part could be taken by either viola or cello. The first piece, marked “delicately and with expression,” begins begins in a dreamy minor key, but manages to resolve itself in a somewhat more hopeful major mode. This leads into the energetic, playful second piece, which carries the designation “lively, light.” More frenetic is the third piece, “quick and with fire,” a brilliant conclusion to the set.

Perhaps inspired by Mozart’s Quintet for piano and winds from 1784, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote a work in the same key, E-flat major, and for the same instruments a dozen years later. Thinking of practical issues like performance possibilities and sheet music sales, Beethoven also rearranged the work as a Piano Quartet in E-flat major. After an emphatic slow introduction, the first movement speeds as the piano presents the main themes, with the strings subsequently taking each up. In the dramatic development of those themes, the busy piano accompanies a series of dialogues between the other instruments. Both the second and third movements employ rondo form, in which repetitions of a main theme are separated by contrasting episodes. In the slow second, the increasingly-elaborate main theme is introduced by the piano, with the other episodes featuring, respectively, a violin-cello duet and a viola solo. Perhaps inspired by the presence of the French horn in the original, Beethoven evokes the hunting horn in the lively bounce of the third movement’s main theme, which, aside from a brief minor key outburst, maintains its high spirits to the end.