Friday, October 12, 2012

Program Notes: Masterworks Opening Night, October 27

The VSO returns to the Flynn Center in Burlington for Masterworks Series Opening Night on Saturday, October 27 at 8 pm. Musically Speaking, our preconcert talks with guest artists, begins at 7 pm.

2012/2013 Masterworks Series 1
Saturday, October 27, 2012, 8:00 pm
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington

Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
Jaime Laredo, conductor and violin
Sharon Robinson, cello
Joseph Kalichstein, piano

BLOCH Concerto Grosso No. 1
STRAVINSKY Suite from Pulcinella
BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano

Keep reading for the program notes.

“It’s a rare luxury to hear music-making of such integrity and joy, and an equally rare privilege to be party to such an intimate musical conversation.” - American Record Guide

After thirty-six years of success the world over, including many award-winning recordings and newly commissioned works, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio continues to dazzle audiences and critics alike with its performances. Since making their debut at the White House for President Carter’s Inauguration in January 1977, pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson have set the standard for performance of the piano trio literature. As one of the only long-lived ensembles with all of its original members, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio balances the careers of three internationally-acclaimed soloists while making annual appearances at many of the world’s major concert halls, commissioning spectacular new works, and maintaining an active recording agenda.

Having celebrated their three-and-a-half decades together during the 2011-12 season, the Trio continues the celebration with anniversary-commissioned pieces by André Previn (Trio No. 2) and Stanley Silverman (Trio No. 2, "Reveille") along with pieces by Richard Danielpour and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, both of whom have written for the Trio in the past.

On the recording front, the Trio recently released the complete Schubert trios on the BRIDGE label. The Trio’s previous recording project, a 4-disc Brahms Cycle of the complete trios, was released in the fall of 2009. Their Arensky & Tchaikovsky disc was released in October 2006 to great acclaim. KOCH also re-released many of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio’s hallmark recordings, including chamber works of Maurice Ravel; A Child’s Reliquary (piano trio) and In the Arms of the Beloved (double concerto) by Richard Danielpour; the complete sonatas and trios of Shostakovich; trios by Pärt, Zwilich, Kirchner and Silverman written especially for the group; and their beloved collection of the complete Beethoven Trios. Other highlights of their vast discography include a critically acclaimed all-Haydn CD (Dorian), recordings of the complete Mendelssohn and Brahms Trios (Vox Cum Laude), as well as Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra (Chandos).

Musical America named the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio the “Ensemble of the Year” for 2002. The 2003-04 season was their first as “Chamber Ensemble in Residence” at the Kennedy Center, an honor which has continued to thrill the Trio throughout subsequent seasons. They were also awarded the first annual “Samuel Sanders Collaborative Artists Award” (2002) by the Foundation for Recorded Music as well as in 2011. The steady stream of honors marks the high esteem that the classical music field holds for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.

During their past seasons, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio has maintained a heavy touring schedule that has taken them across the globe. Memorable concerts over the years include the Trio’s performance on Carnegie Hall's Centennial Series; tours of Japan, New Zealand and Australia; a series with the Guarneri Quartet featuring Brahms’ entire literature for piano and strings; the Beethoven cycle on Lincoln Center's Great Performers Series (the first time the complete Beethoven piano trios were performed at Lincoln Center), premieres of Richard Danielpour’s piano quartet, Book of Hours, and performances across America and Europe of new concertos written exclusively for the Trio by David Ott and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Other performances include dates in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas, Cincinnati, Portland, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and the Tanglewood Music Festival.

In Europe, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio has performed in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Vienna, and Paris, as well as at major international music festivals in Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Granada, Helsinki, Highlands, South Bank, Stresa and Tivoli. They have toured the British Isles with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in performances of solo, double and triple concertos.

Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson both serve on the esteemed instrumental and chamber music faculty at The Cleveland Institute of Music, where they began teaching in 2012. Previously, both Mr. Laredo and Ms. Robinson were professors at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music since 2005, while Joseph Kalichstein continues as a long-revered teacher at the Juilliard School of Music.

The Trio is honored that the Chamber Music Society of Detroit has created the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award (KLRITA), an initiative with a two-fold purpose: to salute the Trio’s contribution to chamber music worldwide and to encourage and enhance the careers of promising young piano trios. The KLRITA, in which 20 major presenters nationwide participate, is awarded to a new ensemble every two years. The first ensemble was the exciting young American group, the Claremont Trio, the second award was presented to the Trio con Brio Copenhagen of Denmark, the third to the ATOS Trio of Germany and the current award to Morgenstern Trio of Germany.

In the words of The Washington Post (February 15, 2012), “Among the superstars of the chamber music world, few induce as much open-mouthed rapture as the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.”

Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra and Piano Obbligato

Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)

Yehudi Menuhin described Bloch as “a great composer without any narrowing qualifications whatever.” Born in Switzerland, Bloch spent his later years in America, where he founded the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1920 and also served as director of the San Francisco Conservatory. Although Bloch achieved his greatest fame with those of his works which reflected his Jewish origins, he carried out his musical studies in Brussels, Munich, and Paris, with the result that the structural procedures of the Franco-Belgian school are strong influences as well.

Bloch’s Concerto Grosso harks back to the baroque tradition of one or more solo instruments combined with orchestral strings. It marks a decided reaction against the grand soloistic concertos of the Romantic period. The piano part can be compared with the keyboard continuo in an eighteenth-century concerto grosso, although the piano exerts a much more prominent presence here.

The composer's daughter, Suzanne, wrote that everyone was skeptical when Bloch told them that it was possible to write original music with old-fashioned means. He had decided to compose his Concerto Grosso in response to complaints from students at the Cleveland Institute of Music about “the inadequacies of tonality in shaping the music for the next century.” When a student orchestra played it with obvious enthusiasm, Bloch shouted, “What do you think now?!” And so it is that we have today a work that demonstrates the vitality of traditional approaches while remaining unmistakably twentieth-century.

The piece is in four movements. Prelude is Handelian in style, strong and declamatory with alternating unisons and chords. Dirge is a solemn, haunting, and lyrical movement with several string solos, ending in a quiet and mysterious mood. Pastorale and Rustic Dances is full of song and dance rhythms as well as folk melodies reminiscent of Switzerland. Fugue is a sturdy, brilliant movement that provides a rousing rhythmic closing to this rich and powerful piece.

Pulcinella Suite

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

In 1909 the impresario Diaghilev requested Stravinsky's association with his new Ballets Russe. Stravinsky wrote The Firebird, Petrouchka and The Rite of Spring, bringing violent denunciation for forsaking tradition, and recognition as one of the most original creative musical forces to emerge since Debussy. In 1919 during a walk in Paris one spring afternoon, Diaghilev suggested that Stravinsky look at “some delightful eighteenth century music with the idea of orchestrating it for a ballet.” Finding the composer was Pergolesi, Stravinsky was initially unenthused, but he later recalled “I looked, and fell in love.”

Pulcinella reflects a turning point in Stravinsky’s work with its tendency toward economy and simplicity. Isolated from his Russian homeland by World War I and the Bolshevist Revolution, his move to Paris in 1919 paralleled a move away from the Russian romanticism of his previous works. With Pulcinella, Stravinsky for the first time consciously strived to work within certain historical conventions. Those who had previously criticized him for his iconoclasm now held his early works as his masterpieces, and were appalled by Stravinsky the neo-classicist. As Stravinsky recalled: “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late works became possible. It was a backward look, of course – the first of many love affairs in that direction – but it was a look in the mirror, too. No critic understood this at the time and I was therefore attacked for being a pasticheur, chided for composing ‘simple’ music, blamed for deserting ‘modernism’, accused of renouncing my 'true Russian heritage’”.

Pulcinella is a traditional character of early Neapolitan theater. In the ballet, all the girls are in love with him and their spurned suitors plot to kill Pulcinella, who wisely arranges a double to take their blows and feign death. Triumphant, the suitors all disguise themselves as Pulcinella and ardently woo their sweethearts. Meanwhile, the real Pulcinella dresses as a sorcerer and revives his double, but rather than spoil the suitors' conquests he arranges their marriages. He himself weds Pulcinella, receiving the blessing of his double who has donned the sorcerer's cape.

For the ballet's score, Stravinsky chose twenty excerpts attributed (some doubtfully) to Pergolesi, using a chamber orchestra (with strings divided into a solo quintet and a tutti) and a soprano, tenor and bass. The three singers sit in the orchestra pit and are not identified with any of the stage characters. From the twenty numbers of the ballet, Stravinsky arranged eleven for the eight-movement orchestral suite we hear tonight.

-- Hilary Hatch

Triple Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello in C Major, Op. 56

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven wrote most of the Triple Concerto in the astonishing winter of 1803-4, when he managed to compose a whole series of masterpieces. He had more or less finished his Third Symphony by November, at which time he must have begun the Triple Concerto, for the then unique combination of piano, violin, and cello. The Eroica proved a great liberator: in it Beethoven had broken away from the confines of the traditional half-hour symphony, and had discovered how to write with a new spaciousness.

This was the first of a number of works that Beethoven wrote for his young pupil, the Archduke Rudolph, who wanted it for performance by his private orchestra. The Archduke was a good pianist, and there can be little doubt that he himself took the piano part in the first performance. The cellist was Anton Kraft, who had been Haydn's leading cellist at Esterhaz; and it is obvious from Beethoven's score that either the Archduke asked him to give Kraft special prominence or that he did so on his own account because he so admired Kraft's playing.

The Triple Concerto begins with a mere thread of sound on cellos and double basses. Almost at once Beethoven builds into an old-fashioned "Mannheim" crescendo, followed by an ingratiatingly lovely theme. As in the later movements, the cello is the first of the solo instruments to be heard, and the minuscule discords with which it is accompanied are supremely satisfying. The soloists' exposition is magnificent, the themes expansively broad, the tonal scheme splendidly unconventional. There cannot easily be a cadenza with three soloists taking part, which no doubt explains its absence.

Beethoven followed his long first movement with one that is short but exquisite, in theme and variation form. The coda leads without a break into the finale, which is marked rondo alla polacca. By the 1790's, the popularity of the polonaise, a festive and ceremonial dance, had become widespread all over Europe. Its individuality lay in the combination of energetic movement with three slow beats to a bar. The second rondo episode is in the minor, and anticipates the mood of the noble polonaises Chopin was to write for the piano soon after Beethoven's death. The end of this movement seems casually written: perhaps Beethoven hurried to finish the work when the Archduke became impatient. Nevertheless, this concerto overall rewards attention most generously.