Three movements from Petrushka Stravinsky
(1882 – 1971)
Following his great success of The Firebird, Igor Stravinsky completed the ballet Petrushkain 1911 for Diaghilev, and the Russian Ballet. Three Movements from Petrushkafor solo piano were composed ten years later for his friend, pianist Arthur Rubinstein, and are dedicated to him. Stravinsky is very explicit in stating that the movements are not transcriptions. He was not trying to reproduce the sound of the orchestra, but instead wished to compose a score which would be essentially pianistic even though its musical material was drawn directly from the ballet. Stravinsky also wanted to create a work which would encourage pianists to play his music, but it should be one in which they could display their technique, an objective he amply achieved.
Chaconne Bach arr. Busoni
(1685 – 1750) (1866 – 1924)
Although a world-famous pianist, piano teacher of renown, and composer, Ferrucio Benvenuto Busoni is today perhaps best known as a transcriber for piano of great works from earlier periods. This Chaconnecomes from the Partita number 2 in D minor for solo violin, written soon after the death of Bach’s first wife Barbara, and was played for us in 1998 by Stephen Bingham. Many have seen in this marvelous music deep mourning, and reconciliation. Busoni’s version goes far beyond the original, exploring to the utmost the sonority and resources of the grand piano, so that the piece is a re-imagination rather than a strict transcription.
Ballade no. 2 Chopin
Three Nocturnes op. 9 (1810 – 1849)
Andante Spianato and Polonaise Brillante
In 1830 Chopin had moved from his native Warsaw to Paris, where he established himself as pianist and composer. He was recognised for his originality and deep national feeling, given rein in the many mazurkas and polonaises which he produced, and became a notable figure in the musical life of the French capital of King Louis Phillipe.
Chopin may be credited as the inventor of the ballade, one of the favourite idioms of nineteenth century music. It seems the ultimate shape of the second Ballade, written in 1838, was conceived in Majorca, where Chopin was living with Georges Sand. The music contrasts a soft and tuneful sicilianawith the music of a demonic presto con fuoco. From a few years earlier, the three nocturnes – a form which has become synonymous with Chopin, though he was not the first to exploit it – were dedicated to Madame Camille Pleyel, the wife of the head of the Parisian firm of piano makers, to whose instruments with a singing tone and easy touch Chopin owed much. The Andante Spianato(spianato meaning even or smooth) and the Polonaise BrillanteChopin first performed in Paris in 1835, with the polonaise accompanied by orchestra, although the piano part is often played alone.
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Murray and Kathryn:
Fantasy in F minor D940 op. 103 Schubert
Allegro molto moderato (1797 – 1828)
Scherzo and trio: Allegro vivace
Finale: Allegro molto moderato
This Fantasy for four hands at one piano was written in the last year of Schubert’s life, and has been acclaimed as among his greatest and most original works for piano. Although in four inter-related movements, these are played without a break, and it thus forms a bridge between the traditional sonata form and the essentially free tone-poem. Schubert had recently heard Paganini play, and this is said to have inspired the slow movement. The piece was intended for Countess Karoline Esterhazy and was dedicated to her, though Schubert is reputed to have said that in reality all his work was dedicated to her, such was his (unrequited) love. Schubert himself played it with his friend Franz Lachner, to a delighted Eduard Bauernfeld, a librettist who was also a dear friend, though it was only published after Schubert’s death.
Rapsodie Espagnole Ravel
Prélude a la nuit (1875 – 1937)
Ravel was born in the French Pyrenees, and his mother was a Spanish-speaking Basque, so that although the family soon moved to Paris, it is not surprising that he drew so much on his Spanish background. The origins of the Rapsodie Espagnolelie in the Habanera, composed for two pianos in 1895, but the full orchestral version was written in 1907. Ravel, however, was such a consummate composer that each version seems as though it had originally been conceived for the given instrumentation. Prélude à la nuitis all atmosphere over a slow, soft, but persistent descending ostinato. Malagueñais based on a type of fandango danced in Malaga, in southern Spain. The Habanerais a slow Cuban dance which Bizet had imported to Seville for Carmen. The final Feriais a brilliant festival, complete with castanets.
All tonight’s music is a first performance for ACMC