MOLH (the Musicians of Lenox Hill) 2015 Chamber Music Concert on April 28th, 2015 at Temple Israel of the city of New York.
Music of Reflection, Renewal, and Romance
Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841)
Little Duo for Violin and Viola, Op. 13, No. 3
Alessandro Rolla was an Italian virtuoso violinist, violist, conductor and composer who made significant contributions to the development of technique for both the viola and the violin. Born in Pavia, Italy in 1757, just one year after Mozart and thirteen years before Beethoven, he made his debut on the world stage in 1772 at only 15 years old performing “the first viola concerto ever heard,” and continuing on to become the teacher of musical legend Niccolo Paganini. In 1802, Rolla accepted a position as orchestral director of La Scala Orchestra in Milan, where he remained until 1833. With La Scala, he conducted the first performances in Milan of Beethoven’s first symphonies and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Clemenza di Tito and Nozze di Figaro.
As a composer, Rolla wrote over 500 works, ranging in style from violin and viola concertos to sonatas, quartets, and symphonies. His love for opera—he conducted 18 operas during his time at La Scala, including those of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, whom he came to know personally—informed his compositions, which were published and performed throughout Europe. Known for using operatic themes as a basis for his quaint variations, Rolla was a daredevil technician on the viola himself. As the legend goes, he was prohibited from playing in public for a time; his technique was so fiendishly spectacular that members of the audience would faint!
This Duo for Violin and Viola exemplifies Rolla’s virtuosic and operatic style. The juxtaposition of melodic single character motifs rich with ornamentation with sweeping virtuosic lines typifies Rolla at his best.
Andre Previn (b.1929)
Peaches (ca. 1978)
Each year, the Musicians of Lenox Hill feature a piece by a composer of Jewish heritage. Andre Previn is a world-renowned Jewish pianist, conductor and composer who has received a multitude of awards for his musical accomplishments, including the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, and the Glenn Gould Prize. Born on April 6, 1929 in Berlin, Germany, Previn left his native land on the brink of World War II for Paris in 1938, and eventually settled in Los Angeles in 1940, becoming an American citizen in 1943. Previn is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center, the London Symphony Orchestra, and Gramophone Classic FM, and has also won several Grammy awards for recordings. This year, he was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy.
Previn’s richly lyrical compositional style reflects his love of the late Romantic and early 20th century masterpieces he often conducted. Composed around 1978, “Peaches” is a glowing, full-bodied work of golden warmth that echoes of prosperity and health following years of global economic and political turmoil. In art, the use of peaches as a theme was a symbolic effort to introduce Realism by many famous Impressionist painters; the display of candid representations of fruit maturation were a metaphor both for the natural processes of growth and decay, and for speaking the truth (the leaf) from one’s heart (the peach). Just as summer—the season of peaches—represents a time of vitality and, simultaneously, a transition between spring renewal and autumn reflection, so Previn’s “Peaches” depicts the closing of a chapter and the beginning of a new one, encapsulating both the joy of being fully alive in the moment and the fading memories of a rosy time.
Robert Aldridge (b. 1954)
Three Waltzes- Nos. 11, 14, 12
Robert Livingston Aldridge is an award-winning American composer whose works have been performed across the globe in orchestral, opera, musical theater, dance, voice, solo and chamber music settings. Hailed internationally by critics as a “rising star” of our time, Aldridge won two Grammy Awards in 2012 for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and Best Engineered Classical Recording for the Naxos recording of his opera “Elmer Gantry,” based on Sinclair Lewis’ 1926 satire of evangelism by the same name. The recording was also rated No. 1 in Opera News’ Best Opera Recordings of the Year, 2011.
Aldridge’s Waltzes for solo piano provide a satisfying and complete musical experience. Nostalgic and vibrantly lyrical, these ballad-like waltzes present contemporary renditions of Romantic charm rife with hints of Copland, Gershwin, and jazz. Waltz Nos. 11, 14, and 12 are part of a set of 14 Waltzes that were written from 2010-2014—some completed in only a day or two—that will be published by CF Peters in 2016, edited by Dr. Min Kwon. Waltz No. 14 was written for Dr. Kwon in 2012, inspired by her dazzling virtuosity.
Dr. Aldridge is currently Professor and Director of Music at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He received a Doctorate in Composition at Yale, Masters in Composition at NEC, and Bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Andrey Rubtsov (b. 1982)
Divertimento in E for Flute and String Quartet, written in 2013 by composer and oboist Andrey Rubtsov for current Metropolitan Opera Principal Flutist Denis Bouriakov, is a hauntingly beautiful three-movement work. Premiered at the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland, the Divertimento begins with an enchanting Intrada, characterized by an improvisatory style that combines distinct and animated rhythmical gestures with flowing, melodic passages for the flute echoed by string accompaniment. At once spirited, carefree and serenely thoughtful, the soaring Intrada is followed by a dirge-like and ethereal Intermezzo that echoes tones of Shostakovich in its haunting, chromatic beauty. Here, the strings provide movement to a flute line that is always searching; though the strings resolve in a sublime resonance after the final flute cadenza, the searching continues long past the end. In the third movement, the search concludes; after a sharp clashing pizzicato from the strings, iconic theme fragments from the Intrada are woven together in a fresh and celebratory In modo Finale, marked by a kaleidoscope of colors and characters that shift in hue and temperament at the turn of a moment. Luminous and vivid with a powerful inner drive, Divertimento in E is truly a celebration of both glittering agility and aesthetic achievement that culminates in an emphatic triumph.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
Robert Schumann was one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. After a hand injury ended his dream of becoming a virtuoso pianist, he shifted his musical energy to composing. Schumann composed primarily for the piano up until 1840, when he married Clara Wieck and began to write songs known for their expressivity and depth of emotion. After writing over 120 vocal pieces, he made his first serious move into the symphonic repertoire, eventually completing four symphonies in total. In 1842, Schumann narrowed his focus from the orchestral setting to chamber music, composing three string quartets, a piano quartet and quintet (composed simultaneously and in the same key), and a piano trio.
Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44 (1842) is considered one of Schumann’s finest compositions. The combination of string quartet with piano was revolutionary for its time and signified both the increasing technical capabilities of pianists of the era and the cultural importance the string quartet had acquired. The piece was dedicated to Clara but she was unable to perform the premiere due to illness, so Mendelssohn stepped in to play the piano part.
Full of charm and vitality, this famous Piano Quintet is composed of four movements arranged in the traditional fast—slow—scherzo—fast form. (Allegro—In modo duna Marcia—Scherzo—Allegro ma non troppo.) The seamless fusion of long, lyrical solo lines with lively, more orchestral interludes and musical quotations reminiscent of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”) create the effect of flowers bursting into bloom after a long, cold winter.
-Program notes by Elizabeth Stern