Danse de la Chevre
Duo Concertante Op. 87, no. 2 for two flutes
Originating from Perth, Western Australia, Adam Richardson is an up-and-coming orchestral flute and piccolo player. Moving to Melbourne in 2014, he has been studying a Bachelor of Music with Honours at the University of Melbourne. A popular orchestral musician, Adam has performed with many orchestras since his first in 2012. Some of these orchestras include the West Australian Charity Orchestra, the University of Western Australia Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra and the University of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Adam has studied with renowned Australian flute players, Neil Fisenden, Derek Jones, Mardi McSullea and Andrew Macleod. He has also participated in lessons and masterclasses with internationally acclaimed flutists and piccoloists such as Emmanuel Pahud, Michael Cox, Samuel Coles, Karen Jones, William Bennett, Ian Clarke, Paul Edmund-Davies, Lorna McGhee, Nicola Mazzanti, Peter Verhoyen, Michel Bellevance, Gareth McLearnon, Sarah Jackson, and Laurie Sokoloff.
It Ain’t Necessarily So
Blues, from Violin Sonata
The Daphnis Trio is an exciting ensemble comprising of three young and vibrant Melbourne musicians, Nathan Juriansz (violin), Belinda Liew (cello) and Christopher Nankervis (piano). Since launching in 2014 the trio has performed regularly throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria, presenting works ranging from the the great classics to the avant garde. Avid supporters of new music, the trio has collaborated with the Chroma Collective in premiering the works of young Australian composers. For this FOMS concert, they will indulge in some good ole’ Americana.
Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990)
I. Adagio non troppo—Più mosso—Allegro vivace
II. Tempo di Marcia
III. Largo—Allegro vivo et molto ritmico
Leonard Bernstein was only 19 in 1937, and a student at Harvard University, when he composed this piano trio. While better known for his work in musical theatre, both in film and on Broadway, this early trio—considered part of Bernstein’s juvenilia—shows hints of the distinctive style and ambition of his later, more mature works, and of his classical training. Bernstein went on to reuse some of the material in this trio in later works, including the melodic material at beginning of the second movement, which reappears in the musical On the Town—his first major compositional success, premiered in 1944.
The trio opens with a lengthy but restrained Adagio non troppo, which introduces the two string instruments’ lyrical yet angular melodies thoroughly, before the piano makes its entrance. The Allegro section, announced by pizzicato notes in the strings and running piano figures, makes use of fugal elements, where melodies between and within each of the instrumental parts are layered cleverly. (It has been suggested that this was Bernstein trying to ‘prove’ to his composition teacher that he was
capable of contrapuntal writing.) The sparkling piano passages and singing string melodies build together to an exciting climax of massed chords, before a restatement of the opening Adagio motif closes the movement.
The second movement, in a Tempo di Marcia, has a sprightly energy reminiscent of the classical scherzo form. This jazz and blues infused movement foreshadows Bernstein’s better-known, later works. Again making extensive use of the pizzicato string technique, accompanied by sharp staccatos in the piano and syncopated rhythms, this movement skilfully mixes classical forms with jazz modalities.
The final movement opens with a Largo introduction, a reminder of the work’s Adagio opening and in stark contrast to the vitality of the second movement. The Allegro vivo that follows is both harmonically and rhythmically powerful, alternating strongly syncopated melodies in the strings over a pounding piano accompaniment. The melodic passages have a folk-like quality, which some have suggested Bernstein drew from his Jewish heritage. In the final moments of the work the cello returns to a more expressive and singing melody, before the exuberant finale.
George Gershwin (1898–1937) arr. Jascha Heifetz (1901–1987)
‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ (Porgy and Bess)
Porgy and Bess, regarded as one of the most important operatic works of the twentieth century, was composed between 1933 and 1935, at the height of George Gershwin’s career. Set to a libretto by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward (the author of the original 1925 novel Porgy), the premiere of this work sparked extreme controversy due it its entirely African American cast and its reception was hindered by the racism of the era. The opera tells the story of Porgy, a disabled beggar from Charleston, South Carolina, attempting to save Bess from her abusive husband, Crown, and her drug dealer, Sportin’ Life. While composing the opera, Gershwin travelled to South Carolina to get a sense of the local musical culture. Describing his work as a ‘folk opera’, Gershwin did not use any pre-existing material, but wrote his own spirituals and folk songs in homage to the local style. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’—an aria sung by Sportin’ Life—details the character’s scepticism of the Bible. Interestingly, Gershwin chose to set the opening words of this song with the melody of a Hebrew blessing sung before reading from the Torah.
The arrangement heard here, for violin and piano, was created by Gershwin’s long-time friend, the virtuoso violinist Jascha Hiefetz. Hiefetz had long tried to convince Gershwin to write him a violin concerto. Gershwin’s early death, however, meant such a work was never realised. Instead, ten years after Gershwin’s death, Heifetz transcribed this, and four other excerpts from Porgy and Bess, and often performed these songs as encores. Heifetz’s skill as an arranger is demonstrated in this work,
which makes deft use of the full range of both violin and piano. He skilfully highlights the vocal qualities of the violin. While the arrangement is certainly virtuosic, one is reminded throughout the performance that this is a song, intended to be sung.
Maurice Ravel (1875–1938)
Blues (Violin Sonata No. 2, second movement)
In the early 1920s, Ravel became fascinated by jazz—a genre that had only recently arrived in Paris. Ravel did not travel to the United States until 1928, where he experienced the American jazz scene first-hand, and met such greats as George Gershwin. His early interest in this genre, however, can be seen particularly in the second movement of his second violin sonata, composed over an extended period between 1923 and 1927. This movement—subtitled Blues—combines melodic and harmonic effects taken from jazz with the traditional European classical sonata form. The violin uses various techniques throughout in imitation of jazz instruments like the saxophone.
Ravel’s purpose in composing such a work for what he felt to be ‘two fundamentally incompatible instruments’ was, rather than ‘bringing their differences into equilibrium’, instead to emphasise ‘their irreconcilability through their independence’. As such, throughout the work the piano and violin, while playing at the same time, often sit awkwardly against one another. A remarkable example of this is the beginning of the second movement, as heard here. The violin begins with pizzicato chords,
almost mimicking a guitar. When the piano enters, Ravel makes use of a compositional technique called bitonality, where each instrument plays in a different key. The piano, jarringly out of tune with the violin, creates immediate harmonic instability and tension.
The violin’s opening melody—described by some as ‘cabaret-like’—features many expected jazz tropes, including highly syncopated rhythms and sliding notes. As the movement develops, the violin and piano exchange lively counter-melodies, before the piano assumes the more melodic role, and the violin the chordal accompaniment. The violin and piano alternate like this throughout the movement in an increasingly loud and frenzied manner. The piano maintains an unrelenting pulse throughout, against which the violin is given freedom to slide around. The work builds to a cacophonous climax,
before the gentler opening violin melody returns in an expressive ending.
Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947)
Born in Detroit, Michigan, composer Paul Schoenfield, is also an active concert pianist. While he is known particularly for his recordings of Bartok and for premiering many of his own compositions, it was his work as a freelance pianist in the 1980s that inspired Café Music. A commission by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra of Minnesota, first performed in 1987, Schoenfield described the background of the work:
“The idea to compose Café Music first came to me in 1985 after I sat in one night for the pianist at Murray’s Restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Murray’s employs a house trio, which plays entertaining dinner music in a wide variety of styles. My intention was to write a kind of high-class dinner music—music which could be played at a restaurant but might also (just barely) find its way into a concert hall. The work draws on many of the types of music played by the trio at Murray’s. For example, early twentieth-century American, Viennese, light classical, Gypsy, and Broadway styles are all represented.”
This infectiously good-natured work, combines humour and whimsy with some real emotional beauty. The first movement launches into a rollicking, gypsy infused theme. Though rhythmically buoyant, there are hints of sarcasm here. These are, however, interspersed with some brilliantly light moments that test the virtuosity of all three players. Building in both tension and energy as the work goes on, the boisterous recapitulation of the opening material towards the end of the work builds to a glorious climax, ending with a traditional classical cadence.
Programme Notes by Sarah Kirby.