Five consummate musicians deliver 19th century gems from Beethoven, Schubert and Bottesini before combining forces for Schubert's “Trout Quintet,” one of the most popular works in the chamber repertory. The program begins with Beethoven’s variations on Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” for cello and piano; Schubert’s Sonata in A-minor for viola and piano; and Bottesini’s Gran duo concertante for violin, bass and piano.
The Chamber Music Society’s annual schedule includes a full performance season in New York, a full season of national and international touring, nationally televised broadcasts on PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center and regular broadcasts on SiriusXM and American Public Media’s Performance Today.
Classics in Context 7:15-7:45pm | Robert Adam Room
Join us for a preconcert discussion led by Linda Pohly, Professor of Music History and Musicology at Ball State University. Complimentary for ticketholders, this lecture provides attendees an insider’s perspective on the works being performed at our classical performances.
Orion Weiss, piano
Paul Huang, violin
Paul Neubauer, viola
Keith Robinson, cello
Xavier Foley, bass
Ludwig van Beethoven: Variations on “Bei Mannern, welche Liebe Fuhlen” from “The Magic Flute” for cello and piano.
Theme: Andante Variation I Variation II Variation III Variation IV Variation V: Si prenda il tempo un poco più vivace Variation VI: Adagio Variation VII: Allegro ma non troppo
Franz Schubert: Sonata in A-minor, Viola and Piano, D. 821, “Arpeggione”
Giovanni Bottesini: Gran duo concertante for Violin, Bass and Piano
Franz Schubert: Quintet in A-Major for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass, D. 667, Op. 114, “Trout”
III. Scherzo: Presto
Andantino – Allegretto
Artist’s Management: DAVID ROWE ARTISTS; www.davidroweartists.com
Notes on the Program by DR. RICHARD E. RODDA
Variations on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” from Die Zauberflöte for Cello and Piano, WoO 46
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born December 16, 1770 in Bonn.
Died March 26, 1827 in Vienna.
Composed in 1801.
In 1795, Beethoven appeared publicly as a pianist for the first time in Vienna, an event which gained sufficient notice that the following year he was invited to give concerts in Prague, Nuremberg, Dresden, and Berlin. In the Prussian capital, he was introduced to the music-loving King Friedrich Wilhelm II, a capable amateur cellist who had warmly received Mozart and Boccherini at his court and graciously accepted the dedication of Haydn’s Op. 50 Quartets. While he was in Berlin in 1796, Beethoven also met Friedrich’s eminent French cello virtuoso, Jean-Louis Duport, and he was inspired by his playing to compose a pair of sonatas for his instrument and piano, which were published together the following year as Op. 5 with a dedication to the King. In recognition, Beethoven received a magnificent snuffbox “like those given to the ambassadors,” he reported, filled with gold louis d’or. In 1796, Beethoven also created sets of variations for cello and piano on themes by Handel (“See the Conquering Hero Comes” from Judas Maccabaeus, WoO 45) and Mozart (“Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from The Magic Flute, published in 1797 with the indefensibly high opus number of 66). In 1801, Beethoven again mined Mozart’s Masonic masterpiece for the theme for another cello and piano work, a set of seven variations on the duet of Pamina and Papageno, “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” (A Man Who Feels the Pangs of Love). The occasion and performer that inspired the piece are unknown, but the score was dedicated to Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus, an important patron of Beethoven during his early years in Vienna.
When Beethoven first broached the cello and piano medium in 1796, the cello was only just completing its metamorphosis from a Baroque continuo instrument to equal companion with the higher strings. The two early sonatas are modeled in their form on the Classical piano sonata with violin accompaniment, but are distinctively progressive in the way they accord almost equal importance to both instruments. A similar partnership of cello and piano marks the Variations on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen.” The first five variations are largely figural in nature, preserving the tempo and structure of the original theme, but the sixth variation, an expressive Adagio stanza, lends the composition a depth of feeling that sets it apart from many of the earlier Classical works in the form. The final variation is bounding in rhythm and outgoing in spirit, and reaches its closing measures by way of some harmonic peregrinations not attributable to Mozart’s original melody.
Sonata in A minor for Viola and Piano, D. 821, “Arpeggione”
Born January 31, 1797 in Vienna.
Died there on November 19, 1828.
Composed in 1824.
The guitar player Vincenz Schuster was among the regular participants in the evening musical salons that Ignaz Sonnleithner held at his Viennese townhouse during the 1820s. It was there that Schuster met Franz Schubert, whose compositions and piano playing were the chief attractions of those convivial soirées. When Schubert returned to Vienna in September 1824 after spending the summer as music master to a branch of the Esterházy family in Zseliz, Schuster pestered him to write a piece for a new instrument, a curious hybrid of guitar, cello, and viola da gamba called an arpeggione, that a local inventor, Georg Staufer, had devised the year before. The arpeggione was about the size of a modern cello, but had a smooth waist, a series of some two-dozen frets fixed to the fingerboard (like a guitar), six strings tuned in fourths, and an elaborately carved scroll (like the old gamba). The instrument could either be bowed or strummed. Schuster had become one of its first exponents, and he must have envisioned a future for the instrument because he not only cajoled Schubert into composing his “Arpeggione” Sonata, but also wrote a tutorial for it. Schuster’s faith quickly proved to be misplaced, however, and the arpeggione became extinct within a decade. Schubert’s piece, dedicated to Schuster, is the only one known to have been composed for the instrument. When the score of the sonata was first published in 1871 as part of the collected edition of Schubert’s works, it was issued in a version for cello, the form in which it has become the best-known of his few compositions for solo instrument and piano, though practitioners of violin, viola, flute, double bass, and clarinet have also appropriated it for their repertories. In 1930, the Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassadó arranged the piece as a concerto for cello, a transformation he similarly visited upon a horn concerto by Mozart and a clarinet concerto by Weber.
The “Arpeggione” Sonata is a friendly and ingratiating specimen of Biedermeier Hausmusik, exactly the tuneful and easily likeable sort of creation that makes us regret not having been around to participate in the composer’s Schubertiads. The opening movement, more wistful than dramatic, is one of the most compact realizations of sonata form Schubert devised during his later years, eschewing the glorious prolixity—the “heavenly length” that Schumann attributed to the C major Symphony—that marked the quartets, piano sonatas, and symphonies from 1822 to the end of his life. The Adagio is a song of sweetness and simplicity that leads without pause to the A major finale, constructed in a sectional design buttressed by the returns of the lyrical main theme.
Grand duo concertante for Violin, Double Bass, and Piano
Born December 24, 1821 in Crema, Italy.
Died July 7, 1889 in Parma.
Composed in 1880.
Premiered in Paris in 1880.
Giovanni Bottesini, composer, conductor, and the preeminent double bass virtuoso of the mid-19th century, was born on December 24, 1821 in the small town of Crema, in the northern Italian province of Lombardy. His father, Pietro, a clarinetist and composer, early taught his son the rudiments of music, and before he was 11, young Giovanni had sung in several choirs, played timpani in the local theater orchestra, and studied violin with one of the town’s leading performers. Bottesini’s father took his precocious son to Milan in 1835 with hope of enrolling him in the conservatory, but they learned upon their arrival that scholarships remained only for players of bassoon and double bass. Giovanni applied himself with such vigor to the latter instrument that he was accepted into the school only a few weeks later. He left the conservatory after four years, having obtained a graduation prize for his solo playing. With his winnings, Bottesini acquired a fine instrument made by the old Milanese master Giuseppe Testore that, legend has it, the young musician found beneath a pile of rubbish in a puppet theater.
During the decade after 1839, Bottesini lived as a freelance musician, a period that included a residence in Havana in 1846 as principal bassist of the orchestra of the Teatro Tacon, the production there of his first opera (based, appropriately, on the subject of Cristoforo Colombo), and a sensational tour of the United States. Bottesini returned to Europe, and he was so successful in his concert debut in Crema in 1849 that he was soon in demand as a soloist across the Continent and in England. Bottesini’s playing, with its extraordinary agility, purity of tone, precision of intonation, and exquisite phrasing, continued to astound audiences for more than four decades—he was universally known as the “Paganini of the Double Bass.” In addition to his performing engagements, Bottesini also held several important conducting assignments—the high point of his podium career came when he conducted the premiere of Verdi’s Aida on Christmas Eve 1871 in Cairo to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. The last months before his death, on July 7, 1889, were spent as director of the Parma Conservatory.
Bottesini’s compositions encompass a dozen Italian operas, a Requiem, an English-language oratorio (The Garden of Olivet) for the Norwich Festival, several short orchestral pieces, 11 string quartets and numerous other chamber works, and a large quantity of music for the double bass, including two solo concertos, the Grand duo concertante for violin and bass, virtuoso fantasies on operatic themes, and miscellaneous scores with the accompaniment of piano or orchestra. His works, like those of Verdi, are characterized by their emphasis on lyricism, plangent harmonies, and straightforward emotional appeal built with solid craftsmanship. The Grand duo concertante of 1880 is in a single large movement of several sections with more than ample opportunity for the virtuoso display that won Bottesini his principal fame.
Quintet in A major for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, D. 667, Op. 114, “Trout”
Composed in 1819.
Early in July 1819, Franz Schubert left the heat and dust of Vienna for a walking tour of Upper Austria with his friend, the baritone Johann Michael Vogl. The destination of the journey was Steyr, a small town in the foothills of the Austrian Alps south of Linz and some 80 miles west of Vienna where Vogl was born and to which he returned every summer. Schubert enjoyed the venture greatly, writing home to his brother, Ferdinand, that the countryside was “inconceivably beautiful.” In Steyr, Vogl introduced the composer to the village’s chief patron of the arts, Sylvester Paumgartner, a wealthy amateur cellist and an ardent admirer of Schubert’s music. Paumgartner’s home was the site of frequent local musical events—private musical parties were held in the first floor music room as well as in a large salon upstairs, decorated with musical emblems and portraits of composers, that also housed his considerable collection of instruments and scores. Albert Stadler, in his reminiscences of Schubert, reported that Paumgartner asked the composer for a new piece for his soirées, and stipulated that the instrumentation be the same as that of Hummel’s Grande Quintour of 1802 (piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass). The work, he insisted, must also include a movement based on one of his favorite songs, Schubert’s own Die Forelle (The Trout) of 1817. Schubert, undoubtedly flattered, welcomed the opportunity, and started sketching the work immediately. He completed the piece soon after returning to Vienna in mid-September, and sent the score to Paumgartner as soon as it was finished. There are no further records of the “Trout” Quintet until 1829, a year after the composer’s death, when Ferdinand sold his brother’s manuscript to the publisher Josef Czerny, who promptly issued the score with this statement: “We deem it our duty to draw the musical public’s attention to this work by the unforgettable composer.”
In his study of Schubert, Alfred Einstein wrote that the “Trout” Quintet is music “we cannot help but love.” It is a work brimming with good-natured, Biedermeier Gemütlichkeit, perfectly suited to the intimate nature of Paumgartner’s musical gatherings, closer in spirit to serenade than to sonata, and rarely hinting at the darker, Romantic emotions Schubert explored in his later instrumental works. The first of the quintet’s five movements is a richly lyrical and expansive sonata form whose recapitulation begins in the subdominant key, one of Schubert’s favorite instrumental techniques for extending the harmonic range and color of his music. The Andante is a two-part form, a sort of extended song comprising two large stanzas. Following the delightful Scherzo comes the set of variations on Die Forelle, which lent the quintet its sobriquet. Of Schubert’s use of his own song here, and in the “Wanderer” Fantasy and D minor Quartet (“Death and the Maiden”), Einstein wrote, “It was not for self-glorification, but merely the simple or naive knowledge of how good those melodies were and of the harmonic wealth they contained. He felt the need to spin out a concentrated musical idea which was [originally] fettered by the text to make it a plaything for his imagination, to demonstrate how far he could elaborate it.” The formal model for the movement was probably the variations in Haydn’s “Emperor” Quartet (Op. 76, No. 3); as in that work, the theme is presented once by each of the ensemble’s instruments, but its content is distinctly and characteristically Schubertian. A sonatina of decidedly Gypsy-like cast closes this deeply satisfying work.
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