Clara Schumann: Romance from Piano Concerto, Op. 7 (1835) was written by Clara Wieck, better known as Clara Schumann after her later marriage to renowned composer Robert Schumann. This was her only complete piano concerto; she premiered the three-movement work at the age of 16 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. In a full performance, the concerto’s first movement segues into the second, called a Romance, which is written for piano and cello, without orchestra. The Romance begins with an extended solo piano passage; then the solo cello enters. At the end of the Romance a timpani drum roll segues into the concerto’s final movement.
Claude Debussy: Beau Soir ("Beautiful Evening") (1891) is a French art song set to a poem by Paul Bourget. The poem paints the picture of a lovely evening where rivers are turned rose-colored by the sunset and wheat fields are moved by a warm breeze. Debussy uses a gently flowing rhythm in the accompaniment, which contrasts with the beat that drives the light melody. Piano and voice (transcribed here for piano and cello by Canellakis) partner to create the sensation of peace that one might feel in nature, fitting the post-Romantic style. As any evening fades, however, so does the mood of the piece, and the song shifts key from E major to F-sharp minor. The music reaches its climax when the melody reaches a high F-sharp, paired in the song with the word "beau" about two-thirds through the piece, before entering its conclusion.
Edvard Grieg: Sonata in A Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 36 (1883) was commissioned by the Leipzig music publisher Peters, but Grieg found more personal motivation by dedicating it to his brother John, a keen amateur cellist. The Dresden premiere featured Edvard at the piano. Grieg usually gave traditional musical forms a wide berth, seeking to express himself in lyrical images and with rhapsodic freedom. This cello sonata marks Grieg’s return to composing, following a period when he had been preoccupied with his conducting duties at the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, as well as being beset by illness; it is one of Grieg's most full-blooded works. Yet instead of classical balance, Grieg aimed at seething emotional expression, reflected in extremes of tempo and radiant, singing themes based on folk song motifs.
Lukas Foss: Capriccio (1948). Born in Berlin, Germany, Lukas Fuchs was recognized early as a child prodigy and began piano and music theory lessons at the age of six. His family fled Nazi Germany when he was 15 and immigrated to Philadelphia, changing their name to Foss. There Lukas became close friends with Leonard Bernstein, his classmate at the Curtis Institute of Music, who later described Foss as an "authentic genius”. Capriccio is a short, virtuosic work that reflects the optimism of Foss’s new life in America. It was written for Gregor Piatigorsky, and presents an especially strenuous workout for the cellist. Foss fully utilizes the whole range of the instrument, and employs extended techniques to create new, non-traditional sounds. The piece at times sounds quite "American," as if it came from some Western film scene. Consider that Aaron Copland's Rodeo was written only six years earlier. Since Foss had only uprooted his life about ten years previously, it appears he was able to acclimate to American life and culture quite quickly.
Camille Saint-Saëns: Romance in F Major, Op. 36 (1874) was originally composed for one of the most respected French horn players of the time, Henri Garigue. Despite the illustrious recipient, the work is not a virtuosic showpiece, but a “song without words” that fully savors the typical romantic sound of the horn or, in this case, cello. Alongside the orchestral version, Saint-Saëns composed a piano accompaniment for chamber music performances.
Michael Stephen Brown: Spinning Song (2024) This performance is a world premiere.
Nicholas Canellakis: Romance à GF (2022)
Niccolò Paganini: Variations on a Theme by Rossini - “Moses in Egypt” (1818) is one of the composer's most famous and often-performed virtuoso displays. Theme-and-variation pieces occupied a large portion of Paganini’s compositional catalog. This particular set of variations was based on a stirring theme from Rossini’s tragic opera, in which the tune is sung by Moses on the shore of the Red Sea. He prays for deliverance from Pharaoh’s army; his prayer is triumphantly answered, and his pursuers meet their doom. Being the ultimate showman, Paganini prided himself in compositions completely beyond the capabilities of other string players of his day. One of his most famous concert entertainments was to intentionally break his three upper strings during the concert, and finish the concert with one piece entirely performed on the lowest string of the violin. In a curious historical note, no manuscript exists, as Paganini did not want any other virtuoso to steal this work. It was published posthumously and immediately became a sensation.
Don Ellis: Bulgarian Bulge (1969). Donald Johnson Ellis was an American jazz trumpeter, drummer, composer and bandleader best known for his extensive musical experimentation, particularly in the area of time signatures. Later in his life he worked as a film composer, contributing a score to The French Connection and The Seven-Ups.
In early 1969, the Don Ellis Orchestra recorded The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground, a collection of several pop songs (arranged by Ellis) and some Ellis originals. The album included the exciting Bulgarian Bulge, based on a Bulgarian folk tune in 33/16 time. It has been referred to as “an extraordinary assault-course of mixed meters”. Ellis himself rather glibly described it as “in 33 (time) and sometimes 36!”
SATURDAY, APRIL 6 @ 2:00 pm
Bethel United Methodist Church