Wednesday October 19, 2016
Knox United Church, Parksville. Concert at 7 pm, doors open at 6:30 pm
With a repertoire ranging from Baroque, Romantic and Classical, through to the 21st Century, the Poulenc Trio has been called “virtuosos of classical and contemporary chamber music.” Founded in 2003, they have premiered 22 new works for oboe, bassoon and piano. The New York Times praised the trio for its “elegant rendition” of Piazolla’s Tangos. The Washington Post described the trio’s performance as “ intriguing and beautifully played… with convincing elegance, near effortless lightness and grace.” The highly acclaimed trio have played in 45 U.S. states and in festivals around the world.
The trio… Irina Kaplan, Piano*; Bryan Young, Bassoon; James Austin Smith, Oboe…will welcome guests artists Francois Houle, Clarinet; Paolo Bortolussi, Flute; Lauren Spencer, Horn. * Due to illness, Ms. Kaplan will be unable to attend this concert and Ms. Choo Choo Hu will perform in her place.
The Poulenc Trio’s program will include works by Mikhail Glinka (hailed as “Father of Russian Music” by his compatriot Balakirev), Dimitre Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke (perhaps the most important Russian composer since Shostakovich), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Igor Stravinsky and Francis Poulenc.
The Poulenc Trio is the most active touring piano-wind chamber music ensemble in the world. Since its founding in 2003, the trio has performed in 45 U.S. states and at music festivals around the world, including the Ravello Festival in Italy, the San Miguel de Allende Festival in Mexico, and the White Nights Festival in Russia, where the group toured and premiered two new works with violinist Hilary Hahn.
In a recent review, the New York Times praised the trio for its “elegant rendition” of Piazzolla’s Tangos. The Washington Post said the trio “does its namesake proud” in “an intriguing and beautifully played program” with “convincing elegance, near effortless lightness and grace.” A recent performance in Florida – for which the Palm Beach Post praised the group’s “polished loveliness” and the Palm Beach Daily News said the “potent combination” of oboe, bassoon and piano had “captured the magic of chamber music” — was rebroadcast on American Public Media’s nationally syndicated radio program, Performance Today. The trio has garnered positive attention in recent full-length profiles by Chamber Music magazine, and by the Double Reed Journal. The group has been called “virtuosos of classical and contemporary chamber music” in one profile for Russian television.
The Poulenc Trio has a strong commitment to commissioning, performing and recording new works from living composers. Since its founding, the trio has greatly expanded the repertoire available for the oboe, bassoon and piano, with no fewer than 22 new works written for and premiered by the group, including three triple concertos for the trio and full orchestra.
The Poulenc Trio launched a pioneering concert series called Music at the Museum, in which musical performances are paired with museum exhibitions, with special appearances from guest artists and curators. As part of the series, the trio has collaborated with the National Gallery in Washington DC, the Walters Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Hermitage State Museum in Russia.
The trio is deeply engaged in musical and educational outreach programs, including “Pizza and Poulenc,” an informal performance and residency series for younger audiences. The trio regularly conducts masterclasses, most recently the University of Ohio, San Francisco State University, Florida State University and the University of Colima in Mexico.
James Austin Smith has been praised for his “virtuosic,” “dazzling” and “brilliant” performances (New York Times) and his “bold, keen sound” (The New Yorker). He is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Talea Ensemble and Cygnus as well as co-Artistic Director of Decoda, the Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall. He is on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase. Festival appearances include Marlboro, Spoleto USA, Chamber Music Northwest and numerous others in the USA and Europe. James received his Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music and his Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) and Bachelor of Music degrees from Northwestern University.
Bryan Young, a Washington, DC native, has been praised for his “voluptuous sound” by the Double Reed Journal. A prizewinner of the 2002 Gillet International Bassoon Competition, he has appeared as soloist with the National Symphony and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, as well as in recitals across the United States and around the world. The Washington Post wrote, “Young’s music dances with a lightness and grace uncommon for his instrument.” Bryan is principal bassoonist of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and performs regularly with the IRIS Chamber Orchestra in Memphis. He trained at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and at Yale University.
Pianist Irina Kaplan is a graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. Winner of the Baltimore Chamber Music Award and the Montpelier Recital Competition, Irina has appeared in series including the Yale Gordon Concert Series, the Bachanalia Recital Series and the New York Times Young Performers Series. Concerts abroad in Russia, Italy, England, Germany and the Caribbean have led to critical praise of her “beauty and brilliance of sound, astonishing flexibility and penetrating interpretation.” Fanfare Magazine hails her as “a strong pianist who doesn’t settle for an accompanying role.” Irina is on the piano faculty at the Peabody Institute.
Pianist Choo Choo Hu, substituting for Irina Kaplan, was born in China and was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She began taking lessons at age 5 from pianist John (Yiqiang) Sun. By the time she was 16, Ms. Hu had accumulated top prizes at competitions throughout the U.S. For undergraduate and graduate studies in performance piano, Choo Choo enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore where she received the Albert and Rose Silverman Memorial Scholarship; the Yale Gordon Chamber Music Fellowship, and the Grace Clagett Ranney Prize in Chamber Music. Ms. Hu has performed internationally as a soloist, chamber musician and collaborative pianist and is on the collaborative piano faculty at the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Hailed as the “Father of Russian Music” by his younger compatriot Balakirev, Glinka pioneered a style of music derived from the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic idiosyncracies of the folk musics of Russia. In doing so, he pushed beyond the boundaries of musical convention that the most advanced European composers of his day were just beginning to expand, and created a personal style marked by daring harmonies, dynamic and flexible rhythm, and bright, pure orchestral colours.
In his late twenties, Glinka spent three years in Italy, partly to keep up his musical studies, but also to obtain the health benefits of the latest fashions in medical treatment. If the latter were more than a little doubtful in their efficacy (not to say counterproductive), his musical experiences were an important factor in a decisive change in his outlook as a composer. Glinka wrote in his memoirs “All the pieces written by me to please the inhabitants of Milan, and very nicely published by Giovanni Ricordi, only served to convince me that I was not following my own path, and that I could not sincerely be an Italian. A longing for my own country led me gradually to the idea of writing in a Russian manner”.
The “Trio Pathétique” dates from this pre-Russian-manner period in Italy. In its lyricism, its absorption of elements of the Italian operatic cantilena, it bears evidence of how congenial to his Romantic nature the young Glinka must have found the Italian operatic style. Originally scored for clarinet, bassoon and piano, a later adaptation for piano trio has probably ensured the work’s survival. Glinka wrote on the score “I have known love only by the pain it brings”, a fairly ironic inscription considering his unfailing popularity with members of the opposite sex, but the probable reason for the published score of this essentially genial and lyrical work bearing the somewhat misleading title ‘”Pathétique.”
Perhaps the most important Russian composer since Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke began his musical education in Vienna where his father, a journalist and translator, had been posted. In 1948 the family moved to Moscow, where Schnittke studied piano and received a diploma in choral conducting.
In 1985, Schnittke suffered the first of a series of serious strokes. Despite his physical frailty, however, Schnittke experienced no loss of creative imagination or productivity. Beginning in 1990, Schnittke resided in Hamburg, maintaining dual German-Russian citizenship. He died after suffering another stroke in 1998 in Hamburg.
Schnittke’s early music showed the strong influence of Shostakovich; later he was noted above all for his hallmark “polystylistic” idiom. Schnittke wrote in a wide range of genres and styles. He was a prolific composer of scores for the Soviet film industry, and thematic material from three of these scores forms the basis for Suite in the Old Style, a perfect example of his neo-classical style. Schnittke originally composed the suite for violin and piano, and later made a version for chamber orchestra which has been widely performed.
“Pastorale” and “Ballet” are from a comedy film about a dentist’s amorous adventures. “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.
In a musical career spanning half a century, Shostakovich engrossed himself with a staggeringly diverse range of genres and styles. Beyond the fifteen symphonies and fifteen string quartets, the lesser-known works of Shostakovich offer intrigue and interest likewise. With the reappraisal of Shostakovich in recent times, his light music is beginning to enjoy unprecedented popularity in concert halls and record catalogues.
“The Gadfly” (1955) is probably Shostakovich’s best-known film score. It is an orchestral suite of incidental music from the film, which was based on the novel of the same name by Ethel Lilian Voynich. Set in 1840s Italy under the dominance of Austria, a time of tumultuous revolt and uprisings, the story centers on the illegitimate son of a cardinal who joins the fight to unite Italy. When caught, he faces the firing squad as a willingly martyr. It is a story of faith, disillusionment, revolution, romance, and heroism.
“The Gadfly” was exceptionally popular in the Soviet Union, exerting a large cultural influence. It was compulsory reading in the Soviet Union and the top best seller, indeed by the time of Voynich’s death, “The Gadfly” is estimated to have sold 2,500,000 copies in the Soviet Union alone.
Shostakovich composed the score, known as “The Gadfly Suite,” for the film of the same name. Its most famous movement, the Romance, was used in the BBC/PBS TV series, “Reilly, Ace of Spies.”
“Moscow, Cheryomushki” (1958), one of Shostakovich’s longest pieces, is a three-act comic operetta in a bewildering variation of styles, from music in the Romantic idiom to the most vulgar popular songs. The satirical plot dealt with one of the most pressing concerns of urban Russians of the day: the chronic housing shortage and the difficulties of securing livable conditions. “Cheryomushki” translates to “bird-cherry trees,” the name of a real housing estate in southwest Moscow. “A Spin Through Moscow” is the first of the four dance-like movements of the orchestral suite from the operetta.
Stravinsky spent the years immediately following The Rite of Spring (1914-1920) exiled in Switzerland. The War had necessitated a temporary pause in the Paris operations of the Ballet Russes, the composer’s primary source of income, but he remained productive. He concentrated mainly on works for smaller ensembles and used the time to refine his compositional voice and delve more deeply into the language and folk heritage of his homeland.
The two Suites performed today were orchestrated in 1921 and 1925 but date originally from Stravinsky’s Swiss period. The source material was from the two little-studied sets of piano duets Stravinsky wrote as “teaching pieces” for young musicians. Three Easy Pieces were completed in 1915 and each short movement includes an affectionate dedication to a colleague (composers Alfredo Casella and Erik Satie as well as Ballet Russes impresario Serge Diaghilev) which indicates the composer’s desire to also entertain adults with his delightful miniatures. The companion Five Easy Pieces (1917) were designed specifically for the education of Stravinsky’s two older children with simple melodies that were to be played by the youngsters and more difficult accompaniments meant for skilled hands, presumably the composer’s. It is tempting to view these eight duets as little more than the dashed-off curiosities of an extremely fertile musical mind, but closer scrutiny reveals much about what Stravinsky had become and would become as a composer. Beyond the obvious charm, wit and winning “personalization” of the included dance forms, what is offered here is a premonition of Stravinsky’s approaching Neo-Classical period. The leanness of the instrumentation, the infectious rhythmic drive and the always perfect instinct for dramatic timing–each a hallmark of the coming years–are all present in the music of the Suites. More than mere caricatures, these eight “Easy Pieces” are vintage Stravinsky, and nothing less. Source: Jeff Counts, Utah Symphony. http://utahsymphony.org
Mozart completed his Quintet in E flat major for Piano and Winds, K.452, on March 30, 1784, and it was premiered two days later in Vienna. Shortly after the premiere, Mozart wrote to his father that “I myself consider it to be the best thing I have written in my life.” It is scored for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon.
This structure closely resembles that of a typical sonata. The first movement is a sprightly sonata form Allegro, with themes being passed from instrument to instrument, usually with the piano introducing a theme and accompanying while the oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon play variations on it. The Larghetto movement is typical of the 2nd movement of other Mozart pieces: soft and gentle, yet still engaging. The Allegretto movement is a “sonata-rondo” of the kind Mozart used as the finale of many of the piano concertos he was writing at this period, and contains a written-out cadenza-like section toward the end.
This piece was allegedly the inspiration for the Quintet in E flat for Piano and Winds, Op. 16, by Beethoven, who composed this tribute in 1796. Both compositions use the same scoring.
“Above all, a composer should not aim to be fashionable. If you are not fashionable today, you may not be unfashionable tomorrow.” —Francis Poulenc
Poulenc was born in Paris on January 7, 1899 and attained both a distinct musical voice and success at an early age. During the 1920s, he was one of the leading spirits of the group of young French composers known as “Les Six.” Their music was often light, witty, satirical and urbane. They were in sympathy with and influenced by Stravinsky and “Neo-Classicism,” and in opposition to the cerebral music of Schoenberg and of what they considered to be the religio-musical excesses of their countryman Olivier Messiaen. Poulenc, in particular, often juxtaposes passages of wit and irony with lush, sentimental outpourings.
Poulenc composed orchestral, chamber music, ballets, concertos, film scores, and opera, as well as powerful choral and sacred music. He is an acknowledged master in the field of French art songs, with over 130 to his credit. Indeed, melody was the most important element to him. Norbert DuFourcq writes: ” . . . he found his way to a vast treasury of undiscovered tunes within an area that had, according to the most up-to-date musical maps, been surveyed, worked and exhausted.” Of his own work, he wrote, “I know perfectly well that I’m not one of those composers who have made harmonic innovations like Igor (Stravinsky), Ravel, or Debussy, but I think there’s room for ‘New’ music which doesn’t mind using other people’s chords. Wasn’t that the case with Mozart-Schubert?”
The Sextet for Wind Quintet and Piano dates from the period between the World Wars, when Poulenc was still kicking high in his Les Six mode even as his work was expanding to encompass other elements. Composers and critics of a conservative bent were prepared not to like it: composer and critic Florent Schmitt focused on its arbitrariness and vulgarity when he reviewed its premiere in Le Temps. But André George, in Les Nouvelles littéraires, heard it through ears steeped in nationalistic pride: “With Poulenc, all of France comes out of the windows he opens.” The piano joins a standard wind quintet, which Poulenc employs in a way that capitalizes on its acerbic potential, very much after the taste of Stravinsky in, say, his Octet of 1922-23. But the work is also anchored in the musical mainstream through various references. In the first movement, the opening scales sweep upward as if they were a curtain opening to reveal a busy stage, though the hustle-bustle does subside for moments of notable sweetness or, following the bassoon’s lead, haunting melancholy. Poulenc’s neoclassical tendencies are particularly evident in the Mozartean parody of the middle movement. The finale begins as “an Offenbachian gallop” (to quote the cultural historian Wilfred Mellers) and ends, surprisingly, in a coda of reflective solemnity and a touch of grandeur, with shades of Ravel. —James Keller