From C to Shining C

One might easily wonder what could possibly bring together in one program works from composers as different as those by Mendelssohn, Kodály and Fauré in our February concert? Each piece appeared among its composer’s earliest published works, rich in youthful vigor and promise, has withstood the tests of time within its respective canon and among works written for the same combinations of instruments ever since.

In his Sonata in C minor for Viola and Piano, written at age 15—one year before his greatest youthful triumph, the Octet for Strings—Felix Mendelssohn rushes in and succeed in writing for viola where Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert—violists all—feared to tread. In its choice of key, energy, and design it shows a keen awareness of Beethovenian melodic drama, playfulness, and the use of variation movement like those common in the fifteen sonatas for violin and piano, and cello and piano.

Zoltan Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7, takes us deep into the land of Hungarian folklore, image, and song. The melodic story and closely imitative texture are compelling enough to distract the listener from the difficulties the two players must surmount darting seamlessly between background and foreground to support each other’s solo turns.

Piano Quartet no. 1 Op. 15 by Gabriel Fauré brings together both duos to conclude our program in a return to C minor in one of his most popular works. It is the first of two pieces for this combination, both in minor key, that bring nobility and spaciousness rather than darkness to the use of minor mode. Along with those by Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann, it is one of the most popular works in the piano quartet literature.

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