Gabriel Fauré CMS Piano Quartet

CMS Piano Quartet – Season 69

January 20, 2017

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Piano Quartet)
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Vancouver Playhouse 8:00 pm

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Piano Quartet)
Alessio Bax, piano
Ani Kavafian, violin
Yura Lee, viola
Paul Watkins, cello

Pianist Alessio Bax—a First Prize winner at the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions and a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient—has appeared as soloist with more than 100 orchestras worldwide, including the London Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Japan’s NHK Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Among his festival appearances are England’s International Piano Series and the Aldeburgh and Bath festivals, Switzerland’s Verbier Festival, the Risør Festival in Norway, Germany’s Ruhr Klavier-Festival and Beethovenfest, the U.S.’s Music@Menlo and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and Italy’s Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival, where he has been appointed artistic director for three years starting in 2017. His discography includes music by Mussorgsky, Scriabin, Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” and “Moonlight” Sonatas (Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”), and a disc featuring Stravinsky’s four-hand arrangement of Pétrouchka. A Steinway artist, he lives in New York City with his wife, pianist Lucille Chung, and their daughter.

Violinist Ani Kavafian is in demand as a chamber musician, recitalist, a soloist with orchestras, and a teacher. She has taught at the Mannes and Manhattan schools of music, Queens College, McGill, and Stony Brook universities. In 2006, she became a full professor of violin at Yale. As a soloist, she has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras, as well as the Los Angeles and Saint Paul chamber orchestras. She and her sister Ida perform frequently in recital. For over 25 years, she was co-artistic director of the Mostly Music series in New Jersey. She has performed with the Chamber Music Society since 1972 and continues to tour North America, Europe, and Asia with CMS. Ms. Kavafian was a 1979 recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, and has appeared at the White House on three occasions. Her recordings include Bach’s six sonatas with Kenneth Cooper, Mozart sonatas with pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, and Todd Machover’s concerto Forever and Ever with the Boston Modern Orchestra. Ms. Kavafian is concertmaster of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. Her instrument is the 1736 “Muir-McKenzie” Stradivarius.

Yura Lee is a soloist and a chamber musician, and one of the very few who is equally virtuosic in both instruments. She has performed with major orchestras including those of New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She has given recitals in London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, Salzburg’s Mozarteum, Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. At age 12, she became the youngest artist ever to receive the Debut Artist of the Year prize at the Performance Today awards given by National Public Radio. She is a recipient of the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the First Prize winner of the 2013 ARD Competition. She has received numerous other international prizes. Her CD Mozart in Paris with Reinhard Goebel and the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie, received a Diapason d’Or Award. As a chamber musician, she regularly takes part in the festivals of Marlboro, Salzburg, Verbier, and Caramoor. She is a former member of Chamber Music Society Two, as both violinist and violist, and has recently joined the Anso Quartet as first violinist.

Paul Watkins enjoys a varied and distinguished career as soloist, chamber musician, and conductor. Recent highlights as concerto soloist include performances with the Colorado Symphony, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Hong Kong Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, and the European Union Youth Orchestra under Bernard Haitink. He premiered a new concerto written for him by Mark Anthony Turnage, and was soloist with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in the premiere of Huw Watkins’ cello concerto at the BBC Proms. He was a member of the Nash Ensemble from 1997 until 2013, when he joined the Emerson String Quartet. A regular participant at international festivals and chamber music series, in 2014 he was appointed the artistic director of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. A Grammy-nominated conductor, he became the first ever music director of the English Chamber Orchestra in 2009, and was principal guest conductor of the Ulster Orchestra from 2009 to 2012. Since winning the 2002 Leeds Conducting Competition, he has conducted all the major British orchestras, the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Swedish and Vienna chamber orchestras, Prague Symphony, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, and the Queensland and Tokyo Metropolitan symphony orchestras. Mr. Watkins plays a cello made by Domenico Montagnana and Matteo Goffriller in Venice, c. 1730.


Scherzo for Violin & Piano, WoO 2, from “F-A-E Sonata”                                              

 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

In April 1853, Johannes Brahms first met violinist Joseph Joachim and the two struck up a friendship. After a longer visit that summer, Joachim gave Brahms letters of introduction, including one addressed to Robert and Clara Schumann. On September 30 that year, Brahms met the Schumanns for the first time. He stayed with the couple and was introduced to their circle in Düsseldorf, including conductor and composer Albert Dietrich.

This sonata was composed as a surprise for Joachim when he played a concert in Düsseldorf in October 1853. Schumann, Dietrich, and Brahms each contributed movements to a sonata for violin and piano, and then challenged Joachim to guess who had composed each movement. Dietrich was assigned the opening movement, Schumann wrote an intermezzo and finale, and Brahms composed the scherzo. They dubbed the project the “F-A-E” Sonata, after Joachim’s motto: Frei aber einsam (Free but alone). The composers assembled the movements into a performing edition, and inscribed it with a reversed-initial dedication: “In Expectation of the Arrival of an honored and beloved Friend.” Joachim was delighted with the gift, played the entire sonata through immediately with Clara at the keyboard, and correctly announced each movement’s composer without a moment of hesitation. He kept the score for the rest of his life. Only in 1906, a year before his death, did Joachim finally allow Brahms’ Scherzo to be published.

Brahms’ youthful Scherzo follows the traditional three-part scherzo form, with a rather stormy C minor segment at the beginning and end surrounding a more lyrical central trio.

Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor for Piano, Opus 45                                                                     

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Allegro molto moderato
Allegro molto
Adagio non troppo
Allegro molto

In 1883, while Fauré was revising the 1876 score of his first Piano Quartet in C minor, Opus 15, he seems to have become interested in providing it with a sequel. However, he did not finish the Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor until 1886, shortly after the death of his father. The quartet premiered on January 22, 1887 at the Société Nationale performed by violinist Guillaume Rémy, violist Louis van Waefelghem, cellist Jules Delsart, and Fauré himself as pianist. The score was published later that year with a dedication to the eminent German pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, a champion of Brahms, who had supported Fauré’s music in an open letter to the Parisian conductor, violinist, and impresario Édouard Colonne.

The Allegro molto moderato leads straight into a “forging” theme, whose rhythm derives from a childhood memory of the noise of an ironworks driven by water power from a mountain stream.

There follows a capricious, joyful Scherzo in which two themes of the preceding movement are used in modified form.

The death bell motive in the Adagio was written in memory of the composer’s father. Of the beautiful melody Fauré’s devoted pupil and biographer Charles Koechlin wrote, “The viola would have to be invented for it if the instrument didn’t already exist.”

The Finale is a passionate movement in which the fire that burns in the first movement is recaptured.

Joseph Wechberg wrote, “The Quartet is a radiant work and a fine example of Fauré’s musical thought, his feeling for taste and form, his linear neoclassicism, his sense of balance and solid technique. One of his biographers calls his music ‘the reflection of his mind in sound.’ It must have been a fine mind.”


Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Opus 26

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Allegro ma non troppo
Poco adagio
Scherzo: Poco allegro
Finale: Allegro

This sunny, appealing quartet figured in the public concert by which Brahms introduced himself to Vienna in 1862. The other performers were members of the Hellmesberger Quartet. It is full of the happiness of a young man who had found himself and been found by the musical world of Germany and Austria.

The first movement is exceedingly lyrical, even in the energetic passages. The simple opening theme is composed of four measures of detached notes followed by four bars of smoothly connected ones. Simultaneously, a rhythmic contrast is established and this is continued in the second theme when the lovely piano melody is played in duos against triplets in the other strings. The music reaches an intense emotional crescendo before the piano quietly begins the recapitulation. The coda returns to the opening melody and concludes with the strings imitating the piano melody one beat later.

The nocturne-like slow movement is one of Brahms’ most individual and haunting pieces. It is partly also an homage to his mentor and early champion, Robert Schumann. The main melody is given by the piano, and is beautifully embellished by the muted strings. Particularly striking is the passage at the end of the first theme, which appears again later when the piano ripples up and down an arpeggio, answered quietly by the cello, then more strongly by the cello and viola, and finally with forceful intensity by all three strings.

The Scherzo opens with a charming melody played by the strings followed by a playful little tune on the piano. A strong trio section in the subdominant is contrasted with a lyrical second melody.

The Finale complements the other movements by using a main theme of strongly marked rhythms and a plethora of contrasting other themes.


Both at the Vancouver Playhouse

Pražák Quartet
Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 8:00 pm

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Quartet in D major, K.499 “Hoffmeister”

Leoš Janáček
Quartet No. 2 “Intimate Letters”

Antonín Dvořák
Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Opus 51

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Centre
(Piano & Strings)
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Matinee at 3:00 pm

Jean-Marie Leclair
Concerto for violin, string quartet & continuo in E minor, Opus 10, No.5

Jean Françaix
Trio for strings

Maurice Ravel
Tzigane for violin & piano

Amédée-Ernest Chausson
Concerto for violin, piano & string quartet, Opus 21