A Viennese New Year
Tuesday, January 1, 2019 at 2:00PM
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Program Notes by Chris Morrison
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K. 136 (1772, 13 minutes)
This Divertimento is one of three works, K. 136-138, sometimes referred to as the “Salzburg Symphonies.” Mozart wrote quite a number of pieces titled Divertimento, but they were usually works of six movements or more. Likewise, his symphonies were typically in four movements, and composed for an orchestra including winds, not strings alone as in K. 136-138. Mozart and his father made three trips to Italy during the years 1769 through 1773, They departed for the third in October 1772, and scholars speculate that these three Divertimenti, in the three-movement form then standard in Italy, were composed for possible performance during that sojourn. K. 136’s sparkling opening Allegro is followed by a lovely slow movement. Contrapuntal textures are a highlight of the fast-paced finale.
Brahms: Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52 (1868, 25 minutes)
No one knows exactly why Brahms wrote the Liebeslieder (Love Song) Waltzes. They may be a reflection of the composer’s love for Clara Schumann, wife of Robert. They were probably also to some degree Brahms’s homage to Franz Schubert, whose twenty Ländler for piano Brahms had recently edited for publication, and to Johann Strauss Jr., the “Waltz King,” whose works Brahms admired. Originally written for small choir and piano four-hands, the Waltzes feature texts drawn from Georg Friedrich Daumer’s Polydora, a collection of folk songs described by the publisher as dealing “with aspects of love, serious, humorous, ironical, sincere.” Brahms probably designed the Waltzes to be performed in an informal home setting, and assumed that performers would pick and choose from, and re-order, the eighteen selections as they wished. Friedrich Hermann’s arrangement for strings, heard in this performance, dates from 1889.
Beethoven: Triple Concerto in C major, Op. 56 – first movement (1803-4, 18 minutes)
In preparing the Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello for printing, Beethoven wrote to his publisher that the work was “really something new.” While there had been works for multiple soloists before – the concerto grosso of the Baroque era, and the sinfonia concertante in the decades between then and Beethoven’s time – they had seldom been on the scale of Beethoven’s work. This arrangement of the Concerto’s first movement for trio without orchestra was made by Carl Reinecke. The movement begins on a note of quiet portent that soon builds into an extroverted first theme. The second theme, more lyrical but still with some underlying anxiety in the accompaniment, is followed by another playful idea. As the leisurely development section proceeds, the music turns grand and fiery. All the melodies are then recapitulated before the movement’s end.
Kreisler: Liebesleid and Liebesfreud (c. 1910, 8 minutes)
The Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler, a prodigy who won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome gold medal at age twelve, was one of the most beloved musicians of the twentieth century, famous for his sweet instrumental tone, vibrato, and expressive phrasing as heard in a multitude of live appearances, broadcasts, and recordings. Among the most popular of his compositions are Liebesleid (“Love’s Sorrow”) and its companion Liebesfreud (“Love’s Joy”), written sometime during the first decade of the twentieth century. They are tuneful, just a little sentimental, and remain audience favorites.
Schubert: Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 “Trout” (1819, 36 minutes)
In the summer of 1819, Schubert and his friend Johann Michael Vogl, a baritone at the Vienna Court Opera, took a holiday trip to northern Austria. At the river town of Steyr, Vogl introduced Schubert to the local musical luminaries. Among them was Sylvester Paumgartner, a mining executive and amateur cellist. As guests at the Paumgartner home, Schubert and Vogl performed a sampling of Schubert’s songs. Paumgartner’s favorite was “Die Forelle” (The Trout), which tells the tale of a fish captured by a wily fisherman. Paumgartner asked Schubert to write a chamber work based on the melody of “Die Forelle,” employing a rather unusual ensemble (piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass) that Paumgartner had encountered in a work by Johann Hummel. Schubert quickly produced the “Trout” Quintet, which, although not published until the year after his death, became his best-known chamber work and one of his most popular compositions.
The lively opening movement accounts for around one-third of the Quintet’s total length. An ascending figure in the piano becomes one of the main ideas, all of which are worked out at generous, melodic length. The lyrical second movement features three melodies that are not so much developed as recast in different keys and arrangements. The shortest of the work’s five movements, the central Scherzo is lively and rhythmic. Then we move to “Die Forelle,” as Schubert opens the fourth movement with the song’s main theme, followed by six variations. In the first three, the melody isn’t changed much. By Variation 4, it has evolved quite a lot. At the end the tune reappears in its original guise. The final movement is lengthy but, again, melodically generous, with an occasional “gypsy” feeling and light, constantly-evolving textures.