CMS of Lincoln French Enchantment concert musicians

CMS of Lincoln Center – French Enchantment

January 7, 2020

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) promotes chamber music worldwide and offers concert experiences that have made it “an exploding star in the musical firmament” (Wall Street Journal).

Wu Han – Piano
Paul Huang – Violin
Matthew Lipman – Viola
Clive Greensmith – Cello

Pianist Wu Han, CMS Co-artistic director, is renowned internationally as a performer, recording artist, educator, arts administrator, and cultural entrepreneur. She performs extensively with her partner, cellist David Finckel, with whom she formed ArtistLed, the first musician-directed online classical recording company. She is Artistic Advisor for Chamber Music at the Barns (The Wolf Trap, Virginia), artistic director of Music@Menlo and special artist-in-residence at Montclair State University.

Recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists, violinist Paul Huang appears this season with the Mariinsky Orchestra (St. Petersburg), the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, and in the German premiere of Tan Dun’s Violin Concerto “Fire Ritual” with the Nuremberg Symphony. He recently stepped in for Anne-Sophie Mutter at Bravo! Vail and gave recital debuts at the Lucerne and Aspen Music Festivals.

Violist, Matthew Lipman is praised for his “rich tone and elegant phrasing” (New York Times). He performs with orchestras and at music festivals throughout North America, and in solo performances, currently at Aspen, Carnegie Hall, the New World Symphony (Miami), Kumho Art Hall (Seoul), and CMS’s Rose Studio. Recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and winner of numerous international viola competitions, he has featured on WFMT Chicago’s “30 Under 30” list of top classical musicians.

Clive Greensmith is recognized as a soloist, musician, and teacher. After a 15-year residency at Yale with the Tokyo String Quartet, he became Professor of Cello at the Colburn School (Los Angeles) in 2014. In 2019, he became artistic director of the Nevada Chamber Music Festival and director of master classes at the Chigiana International Summer Academy (Italy). He founded the Montrose Trio with pianist Jon Kimura Parker and violinist Martin Beaver.

We thank the Vancouver Recital Society for the loan of their piano for this concert.


CMS of Lincoln Center French Enchantment Programme

Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Opus 18           Camille SaintSaëns (1835 – 1921)

Allegro vivace
Scherzo: Presto

Written in 1863 when Saint-Saëns was still in his youth, Trio No.1 already reflects his mature style. He was passionate about chamber music in a world where opera seemingly ruled. As he later wrote, “He who does not take thorough pleasure in a simple chord progression, well-constructed, beautiful in its arrangement, does not love music; he who does not prefer a lovely folk tune to a series of dissonant and pretentious chords does not love music”. This well applies to the Trio, his first successful work, and his earliest still popular today.

In traditional sonata form, the graceful Allegro vivace opens with a gay cello theme, its subtle charm achieved through a fluid triple metre. Brilliant piano figurations, both showy and delicate, interrupt; nonetheless, the simple opening theme dominates. A more lyrical second theme follows, then a skillful development with an arching and sustained subsidiary melody.

The quiet, mysterious Andante recalls mediaeval French folk tunes. The piano’s solemn opening is intoned over a drone; the sound is that of a vieille (hurdy-gurdy). After a full presentation, the mood turns rhapsodic. A pianissimo melody, first on violin with cello response, recalls the vieille. The first theme returns with a new and gently percussive piano element. There is another dreamy episode, brief and faster, then the hurdy-gurdy effect again.

In similar style, the Scherzo is animated by strings of playful syncopations, alternating two ideas. The first is unusual, with pizzicato strings and off-beat piano. The second is less rhythmic and turns the off-beat accents into a rousing folk dance. Both ideas are expanded, with the piano adding a witty running bass to the first and flinging dazzling arpeggios into the second.

In the closing sonata-form Allegro, perfection is created from sparse material; the effect is an animated and cheerful elegance. The lovely first theme, played in duo by the strings, is loudly interrupted by abrupt piano arpeggios that turn into the vigorous second theme. The climax builds, with a final taste of the hurdy-gurdy just before the close.

Sonata for Violin and Cello                           Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)

Très vif
Vif, avec entrain

World War I drained Ravel physically, spiritually, and creatively. When he returned to composition with this Sonata, his music was fuelled by the profound changes and path-breaking composers of the post-war era. The work began as a single-movement violin and cello duo, written for a Debussy tribute. Ravel completed it with three more movements – actually four as he fully re-wrote the original scherzo. An audience favourite, it remains one of Ravel’s most challenging, enigmatic, least-known, and fascinating compositions.

The Allégro is a straightforward sonata. The main idea is a lyrical melody presented by the cello with arpeggiated violin accompaniment. Wide leaps introduced by the cello and a simple violin strain in even notes with syncopated accompaniment fill out the exposition. A new idea in the central development brings in motifs from the exposition before a full recapitulation.

The Très vif  is a quicksilver scherzo with a louche, jazzy ambiance. It is marked by juxtaposed duple and triple metres in exhilarating harmonic configurations.

With a symphonic sound, the Lent is largely contemplative in mood. The music rises to a climax of considerable dissonance at its midpoint.

The boisterous Vif  is thematically abundant, with a volatile Bohemian character.


 – Intermission –


Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor, Opus 15        Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)                                                          

Allegro molto moderato
Scherzo: Allegro vivo
Allegro molto

Fauré composed this quartet while undergoing great emotional turmoil after a failed romance. Despite the dark C minor key, the tone is predominantly positive. For an early work, it is notable for its instrumental colour, formal clarity, harmonic sophistication, and melodic richness. It has perhaps been Fauré’s most popular chamber music work since it premiered in 1880.

The Allegro molto moderato, a conventional sonata, is bold, sweeping, and powerfully rhythmic. It is defined by a vigorous first theme, with unison strings in dotted rhythms. This contrasts with a delicate second idea employing lightly stressed off-beats. Wide-ranging piano arpeggios lead to the complementary subject, a descending theme moving through the strings. The development masterfully reprises the main subject, climaxing with a brief but stormy passage of rising scales. The close is a gentle coda.

The lively Scherzo is one of Fauré’s masterpieces. Pizzicato string chords, in pianissimo, pave the way for a delightful piano theme which hovers between the tonic E flat and its relative C minor. Muted strings attempt to introduce sobriety in the central trio but are overcome by airy piano arpeggios.

The Adagio, the work’s emotional centre, has an air of sadness. It is in conventional ternary form with the main melody giving way to a lyrical central theme before returning for the close.

The lovely Allegro molto is based on two ideas; the first recalls earlier themes. The tonally ambiguous second theme is introduced by the viola and provides contrast. The work ends with a brilliant C major coda.


Click here for more information or to purchase a ticket to the concert on January 14, 2020.