× Emotion Unbound features music by three of the greatest composers of the Romantic generation: Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, and Robert Schumann. In the works of these masters, Beethoven’s legacy of artistic individualism and personal expression continues in a heightened sense of humanity and subjectivity in the music itself. The result of this subjectivity is clearly heard in Schubert’s Violin Sonatina, Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte, and Schumann’s Piano Quartet: a spectrum of new emotional extremes, from the highest ecstasy to the most bittersweet melancholy, and often into the deepest despair.
× New Dimensions explores the increasingly diverse musical languages at the turn of the twentieth century, an era often referred to as the Age of Modernism. It is a difficult era to define, precisely because composers rendered such a wide spectrum of new innovations. Igor Stravinsky looked back to the music of earlier generations to express himself, while Arnold Schoenberg discovered a distinctly new way of writing—the twelve-tone technique—and never looked back. In the meantime, through the innovative efforts of Charles Ives, the U.S. slowly awoke to the world of so-called “art music.” The strongest—and perhaps only—artistic impetus shared by the composers of this time was their consciousness of their place in history. As different as their musical languages grew to be, each felt a creative impulse to move forward and to make music that reflected their time.
× The Age of Grandeur features composers from France, Italy, and Germany, the three countries where the Baroque style most fully thrived. Couperin’s Concert Royal no. 4, composed for the court of Louis XIV, evokes the splendor of 1720s Versailles. Two works illustrate the era’s little-known lighter side: Telemann’s Gulliver Suite, which depicts Jonathan Swift’s satiric novel Gulliver’s Travels, and Marin Marais’outrageous Portrait of an Abdominal Operation. The two greatest masters of the Baroque are present as well: Vivaldi’s La Pastorella stands among the finest of the Venetian composer’s 500 concerti, and the magnificent Brandenburg Concerti of Johann Sebastian Bach (the second and fifth of which appear here) remain among the most widely beloved works in the repertoire today.
× The Age of Reason offers three outstanding chamber works from the Classical period that reflect the era’s meticulous attention to melody, balance, and form. Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio for clarinet, viola, and piano—amazingly composed, according to legend, during a game of skittles—demonstrates the composer’s complete understanding of instrumental color, while his Oboe Quartet delicately balances a virtuosic concertante oboe part with an intimate dialogue in the strings. Beethoven’s towering Archduke Trio reflects the transposed the virtues of the Classical period to a grander plane, inventing an imposing, magnificent, and ingeniously constructed work from a minimal amount of musical material.
× Voices of Our Time features five of today’s most prominent composers. The works by U.S. composers John Corigliano and John Harbison look to composers of previous generations for inspiration: Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air departs from the Cello Suites of J.S. Bach, while Harbison’s November 19, 1828 is a “tombeau” to Franz Schubert. Bright Sheng’s Four Movements for Piano Trio and Osvaldo Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk illustrate the global expansion of the chamber music literature to include the influences of the music of other cultures, while Ned Rorem’s powerful Aftermath, a song cycle written to commemorate September 11, 2001, reflects on the changes and challenges facing humanity at the dawn of the 21st century.
× Music@Menlo LIVE’s Origin/Essence series commemorates the festival’s second season, an exploration of the chamber repertoire of five distinct musical cultures. This six-disc set takes listeners on a journey through the music of Italy, France, Vienna, Eastern Europe, and Russia. (Individual discs from this set are also available for purchase.)
× Music@Menlo 2004’s French program offers a selection of chamber works by four of that country’s most deliciously stylish composers. Claude Debussy’s Petite Pièce and Première Rhapsodie employ a rich kaleidoscope of harmonic colors, as does the early Sonatina for Flute and Piano of Henri Dutilleux, which betrays the influence of such Impressionist composers as Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Francis Poulenc’s devilishly stylish Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano has rightfully remained among the composer’s most popular chamber works. Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet in c minor, though the earliest work on the program, nevertheless bears the hallmarks of French music: lush, sensual harmonies, freely flowing and deeply felt melodies, and an expressive and communicative immediacy.
× The season’s first concert featured the music of Italy, whose golden age took place during the Baroque era. Such early 18th-century composers as Tomaso Albinoni, Giovanni Benedetto Platti, Agostino Steffani, and, most importantly, Antonio Vivaldi, left a wealth of ravishing works. The lyrical melodies and flourishes of virtuosity found in the sonatas, concerti, and operas of these composers demonstrate a characteristically Italian sense of romance and love of life. Complementing these Baroque masters are Italy’s most prominent composers from the late 19th century. Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, though primarily known for their operas, also wrote works for smaller forces with great success.
× The 2004 season ended with programs of works by composers from Eastern Europe and Russia: languages often marginalized in discussions of Bach and Beethoven, but that nevertheless produced a tremendous treasury of chamber music. Russian composer Anton Arensky incorporates folk tunes and Orthodox plainchant melodies from his native country into his Cello Quartet, while the songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov set the texts of Russian poets with a keen ear for the Russian language. Czech composer Bedrich Smetana created his Piano Trio in g minor in memoriam, following the death of his 4-year-old daughter. While such programmatic writing was reserved for large-scale orchestral works in Western Europe, the composers of Eastern Europe often used smaller forces to illustrate a story.
× The 2004 season ended with programs of works by composers from Eastern Europe and Russia: languages often marginalized in discussions of Bach and Beethoven, but that nevertheless produced a tremendous treasury of chamber music. Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs and Piano Quartet both incorporate melodies and folk dances evocative of the Eastern European countryside. Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok lend bleak musical settings to texts by one of Russia’s greatest poets.
× The 2004 season ended with programs of works by composers from Eastern Europe and Russia: languages often marginalized in discussions of Bach and Beethoven, but that nevertheless produced a tremendous treasury of chamber music. Bartók’s Contrasts, written for the Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti and clarinetist Benny Goodman, seamlessly incorporates Hungarian folk dances with American jazz stylings. Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin offer listeners a taste of one of Easter Europe’s lesser-known but most individual musical voices. Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir of Florence, though begun while the Russian composer visited Italy, is unmistakably Russian from its first measure. A tour de force for string sextet, the work shows off the composer’s innate melodic gift.
× To represent Vienna, Music@Menlo 2004 featured the music of that great musical capital’s first native son, Franz Schubert. This program of Schubert’s chamber works and songs joins in the tradition of the Schubertiade, the intimate drawing concert setting in which much of the composer’s music was first heard. A selection of songs, from the famous “Erlkönig” to the great song cycle “Die Schöne Müllerin,” illustrate Schubert’s greatest legacy: his more than 600 lieder. Both these works and his charming miniatures for four-hand piano lent themselves perfectly to the Schubertiade setting. The so-called “Trout” Quintet, one of Schubert’s most enduring chamber works, likewise received its world premiere at a private performance among the composer’s friends and peers, despite the grand scale on which the work is conceived.
× Disc 1 of the series frames Beethoven in the context of his Classical predecessors. Franz Joseph Haydn, the father of the Classical style, served as Beethoven’s teacher upon the younger composer’s move to Vienna. But while it was Haydn’s tutelage that directly influenced him, Beethoven’s true spiritual mentor was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg’s wunderkind who died shortly before Beethoven left Bonn. Haydn’s Piano Trio and Mozart’s Horn Quintet illustrate the Classical values of balance and form, which Beethoven took to new heights with such chamber works from the first decade of the 19th century as his Piano Trio in E-flat Major, op. 70, no. 2.
× Disc 2 of the series juxtaposes Beethoven with Felix Mendelssohn, one of the great Romantic composers for whom Beethoven served as both inspiration and intimidation. Though Beethoven was initially very pleased with his Septet for Winds and Strings, he scorned the work later in life for its failure to depart from the Classical language of Haydn and Mozart. The new path he would forge in his music of the early 18th century gave birth to the Romantic generation, as characterized by such emotionally wrought works as Mendelssohn’s Opus 87 Viola Quintet.
× Disc 3 begins with the last of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, the transcendent Opus 111 Sonata in c minor. This work takes both the piano sonata genre and the instrument itself to new heights. Similarly, the Piano Quintet in f minor of Johannes Brahms—one of Beethoven’s most prominent musical heirs—pushed the boundaries of the piano quintet genre. Though employing just a five instruments, the thematic material and emotive breadth of this work are truly symphonic in scale.
× Such works as Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio, op. 70, no. 1, represent what the composer himself identified as a “new path” in his compositional language. This “new path” paved the way for the Romantic generation to emerge. Carl Maria von Weber, Beethoven’s contemporary, is often considered the first true Romantic. His Clarinet Quintet, though more reflective of the genteel Viennese salon than Beethoven’s impassioned “Ghost” Trio, nevertheless extends the Classical language of Haydn and Mozart into a more extroverted, operatic style. Robert Schumann’s famous Dichterliebe song cycle, which sets the poetry of Heinrich Heine, demonstrates the sturm und drang aesthetic of the Romantic generation with its tragic hero’s fits of manic ecstasy and depression.
× Music@Menlo LIVE’s Returning to Mozart series commemorates the festival’s fourth season, a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This seven-disc set invites listeners to experience the transformative quality of Mozart’s music in a unique and innovative way. (Individual discs from this set are also available for purchase.)
× The fascinating Third Cello Suite of Britten—the last of six important works composed for the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (to whom the Suite’s Russian themes pay homage)—testifies to the endless inventiveness of one of the great creative minds of the twentieth century. Like this work, the Quintet for Piano and Winds, K. 452, of Mozart, which concludes Disc Six, is a singular masterpiece. At the time of its creation, Mozart himself regarded it as “the best work I have ever composed.&rdquo
× In addition to being the 250th anniversary of the birth year of Mozart, 2006 marks the centennial of Shostakovich’s birth. Few composers have pursued their art under more disparate circumstances than these two creative geniuses. While each showed great promise at an early age, Shostakovich struggled under an oppressive Soviet regime, while Salzburg’s promising wunderkind traveled Europe freely and enjoyed the life of a cultural celebrity. Stalin’s stifling cultural mandates and the grave social circumstances of the time served as impetus for many of Shostakovich’s most disturbing and powerful works. The dolorous Piano Trio no. 2, composed as an elegy for the young Russian intellectual (and Stalin’s public scapegoat) Ivan Sollertinsky, traces the writer’s path from youthful vigor to untimely death. Mozart’s Piano Quartet in g minor ends the program, blossoming from its famous brusque opening motif to strains of ecstatic joy.
× While Janáček’s buoyant Mládí (Youth) of 1924 parlays an effervescence reminiscent of Mozart’s youthful chamber works, Brahms’s forbidding Piano Quartet expresses the German Romantic’s characteristic severity. Brahms wrote to his publisher, “You may place a picture on the title page, namely a head—with a pistol in front of it. This will give you some idea of the music. I shall send you a photograph of myself for the purpose.” Mozart’s Serenade for Winds hints at none of the domestic (or career) anxieties that plagued him during the early 1780s; though sharing the dark key of c minor with the Brahms quartet, the Serenade ends on an idyllic note, unmistakable of Mozart.
× The first half of Disc Seven features one of the modern era’s great masterpieces, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, composed within the confines of a Nazi prison camp. Messiaen wrote of this work, “It was directly inspired by this quotation from the Apocalypse. Its musical language is essentially immaterial, spiritual, catholic. The modes . . . transport the listener towards eternity in space or infinity. Unique rhythms, completely out of measure, contribute to the banishment of the temporal.” Mozart’s miraculous Clarinet Quintet, completed near the end of the composer’s life, answers the elysian meditation of Messiaen’s Quartet. In celebrating the redemptive quality of Mozart’s music, no work more fully speaks to a vision of utopian bliss.
× On this second disc, Schubert’s haunting Piano Fantasy and Dvořák’s melancholy “Dumky” Trio preface an exquisite selection from Mozart’s vast catalogue of piano music, which has held a definitive place in the keyboard literature since Mozart’s time. The influence of Mozart’s piano works is apparent in the characteristic color and lyricism of Schubert’s and Dvořák’s piano writing. Schubert’s f minor Fantasy displays the four-hand tradition virtually invented by Mozart for performances with his sister. On the disc’s closing work, Mozart’s keyboard fluency emerges in the composer’s chamber arrangement of his Piano Concerto in E-flat Major.
× From sonata to symphony to opera, Mozart conquered every musical medium of the day, and his string quartets rank among the finest in the literature. Disc Three opens with Mozart’s homage to Bach: quartet arrangements of fugues from the Baroque master’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Mozart’s own Adagio and Fugue evinces the Baroque style of Bach, and the Quartet in E-flat Major plainly reveals Mozart’s supreme craft at work in this sublime tribute to Haydn, the “father” of the string quartet. The C Major String Quintet, which ends the disc, adds a second viola to expand on the quartet’s sonic and expressive possibilities.
× Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring—presented here in the composer’s own arrangement for four-hand piano—has remained the twentieth century’s most notorious and consequential work since its premiere met with scandal in 1913. The sinuous dissonance of Stravinsky’s score finds solace in Mozart’s elegant Four-Hand Piano Sonata, K. 521, likely composed for an intimate salon audience of the composer’s closest friends. The disc ends with Mozart’s charming Flute Quartet, whose joyful reverie should dispel the oft-cited myth of Mozart’s distaste for the flute.
× Music@Menlo LIVE's six-disc Bridging the Ages series celebrates the festival's landmark fifth anniversary season. These recordings, engineered by Grammy Award–winning producer Da-Hong Seetoo using state-of-the-art recording technology, document the 2007 season's exciting performances of works by composers distanced by both geography and history but compelled by like ideas and creative inspirations. (Individual discs from this set are also available for purchase.)
× Disc 2 comprises three dolorous piano trios courtesy of two Russian Romantics and an American maverick. Rachmaninov's Trio élégiaque recalls the mournful tone and lyrical intensity of his countryman and idol Tchaikovsky, who dedicated his own monumental Piano Trio “to the memory of a great artist,” the pianist and conductor Nikolay Rubinstein. In between comes Aaron Copland's Vitebsk, which dresses a Russian Jewish folk melody in the composer's inventive musical language.
× This disc captures in microcosm the delicious eclecticism of Music@Menlo's 2007 festival season, beginning with Alfred Schnittke's Moz-Art for Two Violins, a humorous tip of the hat to the great Classical master from Salzburg. Ravel's Violin Sonata, composed half a century earlier, combines the lush sounds of French Impressionism with the seductive strains of American blues and jazz. Nearly half a century earlier still, the young Johannes Brahms set Classical Vienna afire with his Piano Quartet in g minor, whose rollicking Rondo alla Zingarese—the famous Gypsy rondo—continues to bring audiences to their feet.
× Following its celebrated performances of Beethoven's “Razumovsky” Quartets at Music@Menlo 2005, the Miami String Quartet made its celebrated return to the festival in 2007 to perform a pair of macabre works: Schubert's harrowing “Death and the Maiden,” composed only four years before the Viennese Romantic's untimely death, and “Whispers of Mortality” by contemporary American composer (and Music@Menlo Encounter leader) Bruce Adolphe. While Schubert's quartet takes but a sideways glance at the subject of death—its second movement draws from a lied depicting Death's visitation on a young girl—Adolphe's work, a cathartic grappling with a loved one's life-threatening illness, confronts death head on.
× The 2007 festival season marked the Music@Menlo debuts of a number of exciting young artists. The Escher String Quartet collaborated with guitarist Jason Vieaux to present the irresistible “Fandango” Guitar Quintet of the Italian (by way of Spain) composer Luigi Boccherini; on the same program, the quartet played supporting cast as two young virtuosi, violinist Erin Keefe and double bassist DaXun Zhang, dueled in Bottesini's riveting Gran duo concertante. The Escher Quartet took center stage in Mendelssohn's masterful Second String Quartet, a precocious homage to Beethoven composed in the young prodigy's eighteenth year.
× Composers throughout history have drawn on music foreign to their heritage to enrich their own language and build musical bridges between lands and peoples. This disc begins with sets of songs by two composers separated by more than one and a half centuries but united in this common inspiration. Ludwig van Beethoven, the quintessential composer bridging German Classicism and Romanticism, arranged British folksongs throughout more than a decade of his career, while the American composer Marc Neikrug honored Native American culture with his Pueblo Children's Songs, composed in 1995. (Both performances feature the renowned soprano Heidi Grant Murphy in her festival debut.) The disc closes with the magnificent Suite for Two Violins, Cello, and Piano by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a work borne of the piano's limitless sonic possibilities and in which the pianist—here, the inimitable Gary Graffman—uses only the left hand.
× Having traversed an expansive musical landscape through its first five years, in 2008 Music@Menlo renewed the journey begun in the festival's inaugural season with fresh inspiration, optimism, and enthusiasm. Expanding on the scope of the 2003 season's chronological survey of the chamber music literature, The Unfolding of Music II showcases a musical tour of the last five centuries, from the early Baroque to the music of our time. The 2008 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE offers five newly assembled programs of the summer's unforgettable performances, with each recording presenting a microcosm of the rich historical journey taken over the course of the festival's sixth season. (Individual discs from this set are also available for purchase.)
× Disc I brings together masterworks by four of Western music’s foremost creative minds, beginning at the very summit of the Baroque period with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto. Nearly 150 years later, Johannes Brahms completed his Opus 40 Horn Trio, a work with deep pathos that captures the quintessence of nineteenth-century Romanticism. Igor Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet reflect the maelstrom of the early twentieth-century avant-garde, combining cubism, Russian folk tradition, and other elements under the rubric of the composer’s supreme sophistication. The disc ends with the powerful Elegy: Snow in June for cello and percussion quartet, written by Chinese composer Tan Dun to memorialize the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
× Disc II offers an irresistible study in fantasy from the late seventeenth century to the age of modernism. Henry Purcell’s Fantasia upon One Note, Robert Schumann’s Opus 73 Fantasy Pieces, and Benjamin Britten’s Phantasy for oboe quartet represent markedly disparate musical eras, but are united in their wide-eyed imagination and breadth of invention. The optimistic “Sunrise” Quartet of Joseph Haydn, the Classical Viennese wit similarly prone to musical fantasy, bridges the journey from the Baroque period to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The final work on this recording, Kenneth Frazelle’s vividly colored Piano Trio—commissioned by Music@Menlo and heard here in its world premiere recording—arrives at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The Frazelle Piano Trio marks Music@Menlo’s first commission and received its first performances at the 2008 festival season.
× Disc III journeys from Baroque concerti grossi to Prokofiev and Louis Gruenberg, promising a marvelously scenic route. Following the Concerto Grosso in D Major of the great Italian composer and violin virtuoso Arcangelo Corelli and the piquant Oboe Concerto of his lesser known compatriot Benedetto Marcello (a composer greatly admired by J.S. Bach), Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in e minor firmly establishes eighteenth-century Classicism. Composed in 1789—two years before Mozart’s untimely death—the e minor Trio demonstrates the innovations of musical form and expression crystallized by the composer known as the father of the Classical style. Antonín Dvořák’s lovely Opus 74 Terzetto is among the hallmarks of a subsequent generation: the breathless melodies and harmonic richness of the Romantic composers. Quick on the heels of the Western Classical and Romantic traditions, Sergey Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes and Louis Gruenberg’s Four Diversions for String Quartet—both composed between the First and Second World Wars—bring the listener into a decidedly new world, with a brave new array of musical languages to match.
× Disc IV presents a broad palette of musical colors and expressive designs from the Baroque to the early twentieth-century avant garde. Giovanni Legrenzi’s “La Foscari” marks one of the 2008 season’s earliest offerings: composed in the mid-seventeenth century, the sonata demonstrates the musical stylings of a composer whose dramatic instincts pointed the way for Vivaldi, Bach, and other subsequent Baroque masters. Hugo Wolf offers a musical window on Italy two centuries later. Though himself Austrian, Wolf harbored a special penchant for Italy, to which he paid homage with his effervescent Italian Serenade. Dmitry Shostakovich’s Prelude and Scherzo for string octet whisks ahead to the 1920s, engulfing the listener in the dissonant intensity of post-revolution Russia. Another work for eight, the Octet of Franz Schubert, provides the emotional centerpiece of this disc. Rooted in Viennese Classicism, yet prophetic of the Romantic style, the Octet represents a late masterpiece from Schubert’s tragically abbreviated career.
× This final disc of the festival’s 2008 season presents a zesty potpourri of musical flavors. The delicious repartee between dueling violin virtuosi in Salamone Rossi’s Sonata sopra l’aria dei Ruggiero bespeaks the instrumental panache that defines the early Italian Baroque. Robert Schumann’s Opus 44 Piano Quintet exudes a dramatically different flair, befitting the exuberant abandon of nineteenth-century German Romanticism. The Impressionist language of Claude Debussy inhabits a singular musical plane, as distinctly heard in the Violin Sonata, the composer’s final work. Finally, among the festival season’s highlights was the West Coast premiere of selections from Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea, an ongoing cycle whose aesthetic reflects the multicultural heritage of one of today’s most innovative compositional voices, Gabriela Lena Frank.
× No composer exercised a more formative influence on Mendelssohn than Johann Sebastian Bach, whose musical integration of formal perfection and expressive ideal would guide Mendelssohn throughout his creative life. Of especial importance to the young Mendelssohn was the discovery and rigorous study of Bach’s masterful fugues. Disc I traces the illustrious musical lineage from Bach, through Mozart, to Mendelssohn, who deeply absorbed the lessons from his musical forebears. The disc culminates in the Mendelssohn Sextet, the beginning of the young composer’s journey into the Romantic era.
× Disc II features two quintessential works from Mendelssohn’s oeuvre. Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream endures among the composer’s most beloved creations; the Octet, composed when Mendelssohn was only sixteen years old, testifies to the miraculous precocity of the young prodigy. In between these comes the Opus 18 Number 6 String Quartet by Beethoven, who served as one of Mendelssohn’s lifelong artistic models. Beethoven’s groundbreaking Opus 18 quartets, with which the young firebrand from Bonn first announced himself to Vienna’s musical community, pushed the boundaries of Classicism and predicted the Romantic age.
× Disc III brings together an unexpected trio of works that complement the essence of Mendelssohn’s musical language in different ways. György Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet recall the puckish character of Mendelssohn’s so-called Midsummer Night’s Dream style (after the composer’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s play, featured on Disc II), while the thrilling Piano Trio of the renowned American composer Pierre Jalbert gives voice in our own time to the Mendelssohnian ideal of expressive pathos combined with impeccable design. Johannes Brahms’s Opus 26 Piano Quartet represents the latter half of the Romantic journey begun by Beethoven and propelled by Mendelssohn.
× Disc IV pairs two composers of great significance to the life and art of Felix Mendelssohn. Beethoven catalyzed Western music’s transition from the Classical period into the Romantic era and served as an artistic model and inspiration for Mendelssohn throughout his career. Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, a landmark of the violin sonata literature, was a work that Mendelssohn—one of his generation’s most outstanding pianists—loved dearly and performed often. Louis Spohr was a close friend and valued colleague of Mendelssohn’s, renowned throughout the Western musical community as a violinist, conductor, and the composer of such colorful works as the Opus 31 \Gran Nonetto\"" for Winds and Strings.
× Disc V juxtaposes an early masterwork in Mendelssohn’s Opus 18 Quintet, composed when Mendelssohn was only seventeen, with a set of the composer’s exquisite Lieder ohne Worte for solo piano. Robert Schumann’s Opus 63 Piano Trio complements these works with that Romantic master’s characteristic passion and expressivity.
× In 1832, Felix Mendelssohn modestly uttered to his sister Fanny: I should like to compose a couple of good trios. The works that resulted went far beyond satisfying this yen. Disc VI features Mendelssohn’s two majestic piano trios, works that showcase the Romantic master at the height of his powers. These touchstones of the composer’s chamber music oeuvre have endured as perennial favorites among music lovers since their acclaimed premieres late in Mendelssohn’s life.
× To commemorate Felix Mendelssohn’s extraordinary life and artistic achievements on the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Music@Menlo's 2009 season, Being Mendelssohn, presented the composer’s greatest chamber works—acknowledged masterpieces and rediscovered gems alike. By presenting Mendelssohn’s music alongside works by his predecessors, contemporaries, and artistic heirs, the 2009 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE illuminates the composer’s deeply personal and richly nuanced art from multiple perspectives.
× Music@Menlo’s eighth season, Maps and Legends, explored a wide compass of times, places, and universal phenomena. The season’s offerings ranged from programs that celebrated a nation’s identity to music composed in response to the changing of the seasons and the trauma of war. The 2010 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE chronicles this fascinating journey, preserving for listeners the exceptional performances that made Maps and Legends such a memorable experience.
× In commemoration of beloved pianist Gilbert Kalish’s 75th birthday, this two-disc set pairs the complete Piano Quartets of Johannes Brahms with Franz Schubert’s Violin Sonatina in a minor, D. 385. The recordings on this set capture live performances given between 2003 and 2009 at Music@Menlo, where Gilbert Kalish has played an essential role in creating the premier chamber music festival that Music@Menlo is today. Gilbert Kalish has served as a key member of the artist-faculty of Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute; through performances such as these of the Brahms piano quartets, he continues to define a standard of excellence in interpretation and musical performance for generations of young artists.
× Disc 1 captures the magic of 2010’s opening-night program. The distinct interpretations of four virtuoso soloists combined for a uniquely dynamic reading of The Four Seasons of Antonio Vivaldi. In one of the festival’s most delightfully unorthodox turns, this perennially beloved Baroque masterpiece prefaced George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening, a mesmerizing soundscape for two amplified pianos and percussion composed more than 250 years later.
× Disc 2 spotlights the rebirth of England’s musical culture in the first half of the twentieth century. Following the death of Henry Purcell in 1695, England entered a long era of silence, becoming known for two centuries as “a land without music.” Sir Edward Elgar reawakened England’s composers to the richness of their musical heritage with his iconic Enigma Variations for orchestra in 1896. With Elgar leading the way, subsequent generations of English composers—including William Walton and Benjamin Britten—revitalized their country’s musical landscape.
× Disc 3 honors the great musical tradition of Vienna, the seat of Western music from the early eighteenth century to the dawn of the twentieth. Vienna was the crucible of the Classical and Romantic periods, fostering the innovations of Joseph Haydn—the father of the Classical style—and forward-looking statements like the Serioso Quartet of Ludwig van Beethoven, Haydn’s prize pupil. Beethoven’s vision for a new direction in music would be realized by the Romantic generation in such masterpieces as Johannes Brahms’s Opus 36 Sextet.
× Disc 4 brings together three of the twentieth century’s most commanding compositional voices. Dmitry Shostakovich’s name has become virtually synonymous with the intensity of his musical reaction to Stalinism, his work serving as a musical chronicle of the harsh conditions under Stalin’s regime. His countryman and contemporary Sergey Prokofiev fled Russia after the October Revolution of 1917 and ultimately settled in Paris, where he composed the Opus 39 Quintet, a work of razor-sharp wit and duplicitous charm. Arnold Schoenberg became the most notorious of the three as Western music’s first composer to abandon the tonal system. His audacious compositional language that so revolutionized music in the twentieth century remains as fresh and provocative at the dawn of the twenty-first.
× Disc 5 transports listeners to Paris of the 1920s: La Ville-Lumière, a cauldron of modern ideas stirred by the Western world’s visionary artists and thinkers—a time that marked the intersection of Fauré’s nineteenth-century elegance, Ravel’s Impressionist stylings, and the emerging avant-garde, epitomized by Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, and American expatriates Aaron Copland, George Antheil, and George Gershwin. The integration of classical and popular American styles pioneered by Gershwin’s An American in Paris continues today in the music of William Bolcom, whose cabaret songs round out this disc’s eclectic offerings. while Ravel’s Piano Trio recalls the folk dances of the composer’s own Basque ancestry. Joaquín Turina’s La oración del torero offers an example of Spain’s finest chamber music during this time.
× Disc 6 features performances from the festival season’s \Spanish Inspirations\"" program. Chamber music masterpieces by the foremost French composers of the early twentieth century, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, betray the influence of their Spanish counterparts. The hypnotic second movement of Debussy’s String Quartet evokes the sound of Spanish guitars
× Disc 7 celebrates Dvořák’s America. Universally renowned at the end of the nineteenth century as one of the supreme composers of his generation as well as the greatest champion of his native Czech music, Antonín Dvořák received an invitation in 1891 to lead the National Conservatory in New York and guide Americas composers in discovering their own musical language. With the help of the African American singer and composer Harry T. Burleigh, whose arrangements and performances of Negro spirituals Dvořák lovingly absorbed, the Czech master became fluent in the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic traits of American folk styles. During the summer of 1893, while living in the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa, Dvořák captured the essence of Americana in two classic chamber works: his Opus 96 String Quartet and Opus 97 String Quintet, both nicknamed American. The recording also illustrates the evolution of American song since Dvořáks time, featuring the great American composer Samuel Barbers Four Songs, op. 13.
× Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen made his sensational Music@Menlo debut with a program highlighting the theme-and-variations form. Bringing together music by Mozart, Grieg, Handel, and Brahms, Pohjonen’s thoughtfully curated recital explored how composers across the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras approached the same compositional technique to achieve a broad, expressive palette.
× Music@Menlo’s ninth season, Through Brahms, explored the artistry of a composer whose music combines the highest mastery of craft with the most profound depth of feeling. The season’s offerings included programs that highlighted Johannes Brahms’s most beloved chamber works, complemented by music by his most important influences, contemporaries, and artistic heirs. The 2011 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE captures the spirit of the festival’s remarkable ninth season.
× Disc I magnifies Robert Schumann’s sentiment in describing Brahms’s early chamber works as “veiled symphonies.” The Opus 18 Sextet illustrates the sweeping grandeur of Brahms’s music as well as his reverence for the Baroque and Classical traditions. Vivaldi’s piquant variations on the ancient melody La Follia and Mozart’s Violin Sonata in e minor reflect this dimension of Brahms’s artistic identity. The disc also includes three lieder by Schumann, himself a key influence on Brahms in both life and art.
× Disc II highlights Brahms’s lifelong fascination with Gypsy folk music by presenting his lusty Hungarian Dances surrounded by other examples of composers drawing from Eastern European folk idioms, including the famous rondo “in the Gypsy style” from Haydn’s G Major Piano Trio and the Slavonic Dances by Brahms’s protégé Antonín Dvořák. Also included is the f minor Sonata for Two Pianos—a blueprint for Brahms’s seminal Opus 34 Piano Quintet—as well as three lieder by the master of nineteenth-century song composition, Franz Schubert.
× Disc III begins with the Trio Sonata from the Musical Offering of Johann Sebastian Bach, a composer from whom Brahms drew great inspiration throughout his career. The disc also explores Brahms’s Gypsy influences, featuring several virtuosic miniatures for solo violin and viola composed alla zingarese—in the Gypsy style—as well as Brahms’s seminal Opus 87 Piano Trio, whose plaintive second movement intones a traditional Hungarian folk lament.
× Disc IV highlights the strong vocal tradition Brahms inherited from Franz Schubert. The perennially beloved Liebeslieder Waltzes contain all the hallmarks of Brahms’s vocal oeuvre: warmth, intimacy, expressive nuance, and beguiling lyricism; the unique scoring of the Opus 91 Songs for Mezzo-Soprano, Viola, and Piano adds to these qualities an exquisite melancholy. Rachmaninov’s impassioned Vocalise echoes the Romantic lyricism of Brahms’s lieder, whereas Schubert’s Notturno in E-flat Major foreshadows these Romantic leanings. Schumann’s evocative Fairy Tales echoes the Lied ohne Worte (song without words) genre, innovated by another master of the nineteenth century, Felix Mendelssohn.
× Just as the music of his forebears was his guiding light, so did Brahms serve as the artistic conscience for several composers of the twentieth century. Disc V explores these influences, beginning with the composer whom Brahms revered above all others, Johann Sebastian Bach. Brahms obsessively pored over Bach’s manuscripts and was keenly aware of the Baroque master’s cello suites when composing his own forward-looking cello sonatas. In the twentieth century, the structural rigor of Schoenberg’s Opus 47 Phantasy extends the impeccable craftsmanship of Brahms’s final scores, while Ravel’s rhapsodic Tzigane draws inspiration from the Gypsy influences that had a marked impact on Brahms’s output. The disc closes with the Piano Quintet by the contemporary American composer John Harbison, a work audibly haunted by Brahms’s Opus 34 Piano Quintet.
× In 1853, at the encouragement of violinist Joseph Joachim, Brahms traveled to Düsseldorf to play his compositions for Robert and Clara Schumann. Robert and Clara would remain a key influence on Brahms, in both art and life, forging one of the most complex triangular relationships in Western art. Disc VI features works by both Schumanns, including Clara’s Piano Trio and Robert’s Spanische Liebslieder, the inspiration for Brahms’s own Liebeslieder Waltzes. The disc concludes with Brahms’s exuberant and joyful Opus 111 String Quintet.
× Johannes Brahms’s death in 1897 signaled the end of a musical era, one born of the Viennese Classical tradition of Haydn and Mozart; nurtured by Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann; and ultimately embodied by the uncompromising quality and ravishing expressivity of Brahms’s finest music. At the end of his life, Brahms grew poignantly aware of his music and his era fading into history as the cultural landscape gave way to ever more radical ideas. Disc VII explores the soulful timbres of the viola, the clarinet, and Brahms’s closest friend, the piano, where he found a voice for the bittersweet farewell of his final works.
× Music@Menlo’s tenth-anniversary season, Resonance, explored the many ways in which music resonates within the listener. Music has an immense capacity to nurture the mind, transport listeners to new places, and, ultimately, delight the ears and stir the hearts of all people. Each disc of the 2012 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE captures the essence of Resonance and the festival’s milestone season.
× Disc I presents two works by Franz Schubert, the Fantasy in C Major (1827) followed by Six German Dances (1824). Schubert wrote these pieces as he entered the final stages of his life, offering audiences holistic sustenance and strength. This theme is continued with Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat, one of the grandest essays of the composer’s Heroic period.
× Disc II explores music’s ability to transport audiences to places near and far. Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach depicts a picturesque English shoreline. Jean Sibelius’s brooding String Quartet in d minor enraptures listeners with the brutal winters and stark memories of his native Finland. Debussy delivers listeners to the Greek isle of Lesbos, while Albéniz conveys images of the Iberian Peninsula. The disc culminates in Gustav Mahler’s enchanting setting of a child’s vision of heaven.
× Charles Baudelaire once said, “Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals.” Disc III is an invitation to the dance, celebrating the marriage of movement and music. Beginning with the Second Orchestral Suite of Johann Sebastian Bach, a collection of traditional Baroque dance forms, the disc jumps ahead to Kaiserwalzer, written by the “Waltz King” Johann Strauss Jr., which leads listeners to Debussy’s magnificent Danse sacrée et danse profane. The disc concludes with Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, providing examples of polka and duple-meter Transylvanian dance, and Aaron Copland’siconic ballet Appalachian Spring.
× Disc IV speaks to music’s capacity to incite our most visceral emotions. Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Trio in f minor and Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet in g minor both reflect the passion and grand-scale emotions of the height of the Romantic period. Each of these masterpieces is characteristic of the Romantic musical idiom.
× Disc V explores the extremes of human emotions, extending from horror to joy. Psycho Suite for Strings, written to accompany the Hitchcock film Psycho, ushers listeners into the world of horror and cinema. Ottorino Respighi’s Il tramonto tells of a tragic episode of life, love, and death. In contrast, Mendelssohn’s Allegro brillant for Piano, Four Hands, and Moszkowski’s Suite for Two Violins showcase the virtuosity of each instrument and celebrate exuberance and joy. Disc V closes with Paul Schoenfield’s Clarinet Trio, which captures the jubilant festivities of a Hassidic gathering.
× Disc VI explores the human imagination, beginning with Robert Schumann’s Märchenbilder, an account of a child’s fanciful daydreams. The contrasting The Masque of the Red Death follows; it is a chilling setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of a foolish prince who attempts to avoid the plague, represented as a dark character who follows him in the shadows. The disc concludes with Ernest Chausson’s rousing, colorful, and evocative Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet.
× Music@Menlo’s eleventh season, From Bach, celebrated the timeless work of Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer whose profound legacy has shaped Western music over the two and a half centuries since his death. Each disc of the 2013 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE captures the spirit of the season.
× Johann Sebastian Bach was lauded in his own lifetime as a virtuoso organist, and his impeccable writing for keyboard distinguishes such masterpieces as his Concerto for Two Harpsichords. Schubert’s Rondo in A Major coaxes orchestral immensity from one keyboard, and Schumann’s Andante and Variations likewise exploits an alchemical ensemble of two pianos, two cellos, and horn to ravishing effect. Bartók’s pathbreaking Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion displays Bach’s tangible influence in the twentieth century.
× Bach’s lush writing for large ensemble set the course not only for the development of the concerto but similarly for the establishment of such genres as the modern piano quintet. Disc II features three staples of the chamber music literature: the virtuosic Rondo in A Major for Violin and String Quartet by Franz Schubert, written in the tradition of the concerto, bookended by two grand-scale piano quintets by Dmitry Shostakovich and César Franck.
× Disc III celebrates the exuberance of Bach’s music for solo instruments and the virtuosity of the soloist. Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe ingeniously pairs strings and wind instruments. Mozart’s Twelfth Piano Concerto, written soon after the death of Bach’s son, similarly treats the piano with virtuosic refinement. Mendelssohn, too, continues this hallowed tradition in his Double Concerto.
× Disc IV delves into the tradition of the prelude and fugue. More than an academic two-part structure, the prelude and fugue, in Bach’s hands, spoke to something deeply human. The prelude is an invitation into Bach’s fantastical imagination, and the fugue is an extension of the prelude’s expression into the formal complexity of Bach’s contrapuntal mindscape. Bach’s writing captivated Haydn and, two centuries later, the likes of Gershwin, Britten, and Shostakovich.
× Disc V features two works indebted to the legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach. His sonatas for violin and keyboard–typically performed with the cello augmenting the continuo–gave birth to an entirely new genre, after which Johannes Brahms would write his Piano Trio in c minor. Mozart’s Divertimento, a masterpiece as beguiling in character as it is epic in breadth, illuminates the splendor of the string trio ensemble, as first realized by Bach in works such as his Brandenburg Concerto no. 3.
× Bach is often considered the patriarch of a Germanic tradition. But equally vibrant in Bach’s language are the elegance, color, and romance that characterize the music of France more than a century later. Disc VI celebrates the bewitching spirit of Bach’s French Suites that surfaces in Saint-Saëns’s seductive Fantaisie, Debussy’s ethereal Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, and Tournier’s evocative Opus 34 Suite.
× The string quartet medium, the spinal column of the chamber music literature, did not exist in Bach’s lifetime. Yet even here, Bach’s legacy is inescapable. The fugues of his seminal The Well-Tempered Clavier inspired no less a genius than Mozart, who arranged them for string quartet. Bach’s architectural mastery permeates the ingenious Quinten Quartet of Joseph Haydn, the father of the modern string quartet. Disc VII concludes with Beethoven’s Opus 132 Quartet, recalling another Bachian signature: the Baroque master’s sacred chorales.
× Disc VIII explores the effervescence of Bach’s writing for string ensembles, as realized in the Baroque master’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, scored for trios of violins, violas, and cellos. Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue, which began its life as a piano duo, embraces this string tradition in its sonically aggressive timbre. The lush String Sextet from Richard Strauss’s Capriccio weaves an exquisite tapestry from one sinewy Romantic line to the next; Shostakovich’s Third String Quartet offers a more piquant perspective on the string literature.
× Disc I begins on a festive note, with Mozart’s delightful Serenata notturna prefacing Schubert’s virtuosic Rondo brillant for Piano and Violin. Following these two masters of Viennese Classicism, Bedřich Smetana’s Bohemian fantasie offers listeners a piquant taste of Central European nationalism. These rich dual traditions come together in the flowing lyricism, rhythmic flair, and singular accent of Antonín Dvořák, whose Bass Quintet represents the composer’s coming of age.
× Complementing the irresistible influence of his Czech musical heritage, Dvořák likewise aspired to write music of broader, more universal appeal. Disc II explores the foundation of Viennese Classicism that Dvořák drew upon, beginning with music by the father of the Classical style, Joseph Haydn, whose contributions to the piano trio literature elevated the genre from light salon music to chamber music of the highest sophistication. Franz Schubert inherited the tradition cultivated by Haydn and ushered it into the Romantic era. The tradition is further explored in Dvořák’s pastoral Opus 51 String Quartet, which realizes the potential of this new aesthetic.
× Members of the Lobkowicz family, one of the most prominent Bohemian noble lineages dating back to the fourteenth century, have ranked for generations among the Western world’s most significant arts patrons. The seventh Prince Lobkowicz, Joseph Franz Maximilian, was a benefactor to Haydn and Beethoven and was the dedicatee of Haydn’s Opus 77 string quartets, nicknamed the Lobkowicz Quartets. Beethoven, too, dedicated numerous works to the prince, including his Opus 18 (Disc V) and 74 quartets, the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte , and his Third, Fifth, and Sixth Symphonies. Disc III, comprising works dedicated to the seventh prince, celebrates the Lobkowicz family’s rich cultural legacy.
× Disc IV portrays the extraordinary richness of the Viennese musical tradition, exploring its different facets across broad aesthetic and historical spectra. Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds and Hummel’s Opus 74 Septet demonstrate the distinct musical voices of Vienna’s leading pianist-composers and ardent rivals at the turn of the nineteenth century. These bookend music by Anton Webern, a torchbearer for the Viennese tradition into the twentieth century: Webern’s Romantically expressive Two Pieces for Cello and Piano are juxtaposed with his Drei kleine Stücke, representing his ultimate departure from the world of tonality into one of intentional brevity and obsessive extremes of dynamics and sonic gesture.
× Disc V begins with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major, op. 18, no. 1, the first of what would be the quartet medium’s seminal cycle of sixteen and a harbinger of the young Beethoven’s powerful voice. Two similarly powerful musical documents, evocative of a wholly different world from nineteenth-century Vienna, follow: Erwin Schulhoff’s devastating String Sextet, composed in the wake of the First World War, and Bartók’s spirited Divertimento for Strings, composed as a means of profound catharsis with Europe on the brink of World War II.
× Having achieved great renown for cultivating a distinctly Czech musical idiom, Antonín Dvořák accepted an invitation in 1891 to lead the National Conservatory in New York and guide a rising generation of American composers. Upon arrival, he found exciting potential for a truly American voice through Native and African American melodies, rhythms, and harmonies. Seeking to lead by example, Dvořák composed his famous symphony From the New World and American-inspired chamber music including the Sonatina for Violin and Piano. Disc VI pairs Dvořák with American composers who fulfilled Dvořák’s vision of a genuinely American style: Charles Ives, whose songs lifted this unfolding folk idiom to new heights, and contemporary master George Crumb, whose kaleidoscopic ear reimagines America’s most popular folk music.
× Anton Reicha, a contemporary of Beethoven’s and a Czech forebear to Dvořák, achieved considerable renown in his lifetime as a composer, theorist, and pedagogue. Reicha’s Clarinet Quintet demonstrates a winning Classical sensibility and a keen melodic imagination worthy of his most prominent contemporaries. The curiously appealing Concertino, by Dvořák’s compatriot and contemporary Leoš Janáček, is followed by Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet, a celebration of the Romantic legacy of Brahms and Schumann and a descendant of the quintets of Schumann, Brahms, and Dvořák.
× Alongside Dvořák and his countrymen, who were fueled by their interest in Czech folk traditions, the composers of nearby Hungary likewise mined the richness of their own musical heritage. Disc VIII explores their aim of developing a distinctively Hungarian musical identity. Continuing Bartók’s development of Hungarian music, Dohnányi wedded the late Romantic tradition with his own singular voice while György Ligeti, one of the twentieth century’s most inventive enfants terribles, extended the legacy of Hungarian music with a daringly modern flair.
× Disc IX caps Music@Menlo LIVE 2014 with one of the most beloved works in the literature: Antonín Dvořák’s magnificent Piano Quintet. Alongside it are Zoltán Kodály’s exuberant Serenade for Two Violins and Viola and Franz Liszt’s Grand duo concertant, intensely expressive works by two Hungarian masters of fiercely independent spirit.
× Music@Menlo’s twelfth season, Around Dvořák, celebrated the timeless work of the Czech Romantic master Antonín Dvořák, one of the most universally beloved musical voices of his generation. This season not only offered audiences the opportunity to absorb the vibrant musical culture of Dvořák’s homeland and its neighboring regions but also delved into the far-reaching effects of his music, whose influence was felt as far afield as America, as well as throughout subsequent generations of composers. Each disc of the 2014 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE captures the vibrant spirit of the season.
× Music@Menlo’s thirteenth season, Schubert, celebrated one of history’s most profound and universally beloved musical voices. The festival offered an unprecedented chronological journey through Franz Schubert’s remarkable life, presenting virtually all of his greatest chamber music in the company of the astounding works that he composed like no other: his lieder. Each disc of the 2015 edition of Music@Menlo LIVE captures the vibrant spirit of the season.
× Disc 1 traces the blossoming of Schubert's compositional skill, from the Overture in c minor for String Quartet, D. 8a (1811), written when Schubert was just fourteen years old, through his first mature work in the genre, his unfinished Quartettsatz of 1820. During these years, Schubert brought the art of the lied to new heights. Included here is his famous song Die Forelle as well as two works inspired by the famous Trout Quintet and Liszt's transcription of this notable melody.
× Influenced by Mozart from an early age, Schubert sought out every opportunity to hear his works whenever they were performed in Vienna. Mozart’s String Quintet in c minor, K. 406, which Schubert heard performed on March 12, 1826, is paired here with Schubert’s transcendent String Quintet in C Major, composed just weeks before his death on November 19, 1828, at the age of thirty-one.
× The Schubertian figure of the lonely wanderer is central to Disc 3, which places Schubert’s lied Der Wanderer and his virtuosic “Wanderer” Fantasy for Solo Piano between works by his idols Haydn and Beethoven. Composed towards the end of each of their lives, Haydn’s elegant, unfinished String Quartet in d minor opens this recording, while Beethoven’s profound String Quartet in c-sharp minor, op. 131, offers a spellbinding conclusion.
× Clues to Schubert’s compositional aspirations are revealed by his deep admiration of Mozart and Beethoven. Mozart’s String Quartet in d minor, K. 421, the second of his six “Haydn” Quartets, is paired with Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat Major for Winds and Strings, op. 20, the genre-defying work known to have inspired Schubert’s Octet, composed in 1824 (Disc 6).
× Schubert’s transformative years of the early 1820s, when he contracted his eventually fatal illness, were filled with artistic and personal turmoil. Yet the masterpieces flowed. Disc 5 presents a pairing of Schubert’s crowning achievements in the string quartet medium: the achingly beautiful “Rosamunde” Quartet in a minor, D. 804, followed by the lyrical and majestic G Major Quartet, his final work composed in the genre.
× Schubert’s monumental Octet in F Major for Winds and Strings, op. posth. 166, D. 803, anchors works by Mendelssohn and Kreisler. Three selections from Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte and Kreisler’s Rosamunde Ballet Music, an arrangement of incidental ballet music from Schubert’s Rosamunde, Fürstin von Cypern, pay tribute to Schubert’s melodic genius.
× His magnificent accomplishments in virtually every other musical genre notwithstanding, Schubert’s lieder—which number more than six hundred and set texts by more than 150 poets—unquestionably represent his most significant contribution to the repertoire. While much of Schubert’s music went unrecognized during his lifetime, his songs for voice and piano were frequently performed—primarily at the Schubertiades, intimate affairs that centered on Schubert’s music—and were cherished by all who heard them. Schubert’s penetrating sensitivity to text is reflected not only in his melodic sensibility—which, of course, is one of his supreme gifts—but also in his imaginative piano accompaniments, how they interact with the vocal writing and relate to the text, illuminating or at times even contradicting the words being sung. Schubert’s innovations to the art song elevated the entire genre, transforming it from simple, domestic fare into a musical form of primary importance for composers of the Romantic generation and beyond. His songs are his legacy, rightly earning him the sobriquet the “Prince of Song.”
× Opening with Schubert’s expressive “Arpeggione” Sonata, performed here on viola, Disc VIII pays tribute to an array of distinguished composers whose works connect to Schubert in powerful ways—through lyricism, magical harmonies, drama, and, above all, a reverence for the vocal line as the most human element of music. In André Previn’s Vocalise, words were not even needed, and in Brahms’s Zwei Gesänge, op. 91, the addition of a singing viola part intensifies the vocal experience. John Harbison’s November 19, 1828 is a haunting evocation of Schubert’s last days and tells the poignant story of the composer, one week from his death, seeking to improve his art by taking a counterpoint lesson.
× The title of Music@Menlo’s 2016 festival season, Russian Reflections, captures a variety of perspectives on this season’s programming—including the ways in which Russian history is vividly reflected in its music, the parallels between Russian musical works and their Western European counterparts, and the compelling theme of self-reflection in Russian music, art, and literature. Through each disc of Music@Menlo LIVE’s 2016 edition, these and other perspectives cast Russia’s musical identity in sharp relief, while also revealing an essential character that transcends any cultural divide.
× As Russia marched towards revolution, her music was likewise headed for radical change. The Romantic spirit of Tchaikovsky—nowhere in greater evidence than in his magnificent Serenade for Strings—found its torchbearer a generation later in Sergei Rachmaninov. Meanwhile, Rachmaninov's boyhood schoolmate Aleksandr Scriabin developed a bold new language of his own, as audacious as it was fiercely expressive. Disc 1 follows the course of Russian music at the turn of the twentieth century, from Romanticism vers la flamme ("towards the flame").
× The compositional and emotional elements that distinguish Russian musical culture—its opulence, pathos, lyricism, and more—resonate far and wide. Disc 2 delves into one of these characteristically Russian elements and reveals it to be truly universal: dark passion permeates the music of Dmitry Shostakovich and Anton Arensky, whose respective first piano trios bookend the CD. Music by these composers’ Central European counterparts, Dohnányi and Mahler, echoes Shostakovich’s and Arensky’s turbulent strains.
× Disc 3 includes music by the acknowledged father of Russian classical music: Mikhail Glinka. His Variations on a Theme of Mozart pays homage to the composer whom Tchaikovsky, a generation later, would revere above all others. This collection also offers music by one of Mozart’s spiritual descendants, Felix Mendelssohn, whose String Quartet in D Major, op. 44, no. 1, is a perennial favorite from the quartet literature, and concludes with Tchaikovsky’s luminous First String Quartet.
× The element of romance may well be the soul of Russian music, as evident in the provocative verse of Aleksandr Blok set powerfully to music by Dmitry Shostakovich. Disc 4 places Shostakovich alongside the mercurial German Romantic Robert Schumann, the urbane Frenchman Gabriel Fauré, and the ardent Czech nationalist Antonín Dvo_ák.
× Composed in the same year as Tchaikovsky’s death and dedicated “to the memory of a great artist,” Sergei Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque captures an essential component of Russian musical identity. From Glinka to Shostakovich and beyond, Russia’s composers have depicted melancholia with both a dignified nobility and a devastating dolor. Yet through these composers’ empathy and perseverance, Russia’s musical lamentations likewise extol the indomitability of the human spirit, ultimately uplifting the listener from even the darkest despair. Evident in Mussorgsky’s chilling Songs and Dances of Death, these qualities likewise emerge in the music of Fauré and the Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch.
× From the nationalist-minded autodidacticism of its beginnings, the modern tradition of Russian classical music bore the unmistakable stamp of its cultural heritage: Glinka and “the Five”—Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov— eschewed Western classicism in order to find their own, distinctly Russian, path. But nearing the turn of the twentieth century, as this tradition developed, a new generation of composers embraced the rigorous technical standards of Brahms and others of their Western counterparts, creating a powerful new repertoire: music as impeccably crafted as the most masterly German scores, yet with its Russian soul blazing more brightly than ever. Disc 6 celebrates the mastery of Russian music in the generation following Tchaikovsky, juxtaposing music by Taneyev with the Opus 88 Quintet of Johannes Brahms, whose craftsmanship remains unsurpassed over a century later.
× Disc 7 begins with the piquant pairing of Mozart, the paragon of the Classical period, whose String Quintet in D Major demonstrates his music’s characteristic elegance and beauty, and Prokofiev, the mischievous neoclassicist who channeled the aesthetic of a bygone era to create irrepressibly fresh music. The disc concludes with the magnificent Suite no. 2, op. 17, by Sergei Rachmaninov, Prokofiev’s compatriot who, similarly, looked Janus-like to the tradition of his forebears as his art marched inexorably into the new century.
× Disc 8 brings together a collection of souvenirs—musical remembrances of things past, faraway, and dear—all essential characteristics of the Russian musical spirit. Samuel Barber’s Souvenirs are delectable reminiscences of early twentieth-century New York City. Shostakovich’s Spanish Songs take listeners half a world away but cast an equally heartfelt gaze upon the object of their nostalgia. This collection comes to a thrilling close with Tchaikovsky’s exhilarating Souvenir de Florence, written after the composer spent three months in the birthplace of the Renaissance.
× Music@Menlo’s fifteenth-anniversary season examines the unfolding of music through the lens of an instrument whose makers, players, and composers shaped the evolution of music itself: The Glorious Violin. A miracle of technology that has not required an upgrade for over three hundred years, the violin has been a driving force in the flowering of musical art. Each and every disc of Music@Menlo
LIVE’s 2017 edition celebrates the synergies between the immortal composers and great violinists—from the innovative composer-performers of the Baroque period, through the technical wizards of the Romantic era, to the pioneers of instrumental expression in the twentieth century. This timeless set of recordings tells the incomparable story of a little wooden box, so beloved for so long and by so many all around the world.
× The Glorious Violin journey begins in the generation before J. S. Bach: through the ingenuity of such composer-virtuosi as Carlo Farina, Marco Uccellini, and Pietro Antonio Locatelli, the violin evolved from the modest fiddle of street musicians to the voice of musical nobility. These early violin innovators can fairly be viewed as forerunners to Arcangelo Corelli, a renowned violinist and composer who represents the birth of the tradition of instrumental excellence, and whose beloved Christmas Concerto concludes the disc. Next to the works of these early innovators, Disc I also features one of the iconic masterpieces of the instrument’s repertoire, Tartini’s famous Devil’s Trill Sonata.
× Laying the groundwork for the development of the Classical style, Vivaldi’s and Bach’s compositions simultaneously crowned a king of instruments and defined the Baroque era. As Haydn and Mozart in turn crystallized the Classical tradition, the performers of their day likewise developed ever more sophisticated instrumental techniques. Such violinists as Giovanni Battista Viotti fueled these great composers’ innovations, empowering them to create music of heretofore unimagined subtlety and complexity. Alongside Vivaldi, Bach, Haydn, and Mozart, Disc II spotlights Viotti, who played a seminal role in defining the instrument’s tradition in England and France, as well as one of his musical heirs, Rodolphe Kreutzer.
× The third disc of The Glorious Violin LIVE continues the musical journey from the Classical period into the nineteenth century. In the generation following Beethoven, Louis Spohr would become a standard-bearer for the German violin tradition, introducing expressive innovations such as those heard in his Double String Quartet that gave Romanticism its musical soul. The disc continues with music by Ferdinand David, Spohr’s prize pupil and muse to the German tradition’s most brilliant medium, Felix Mendelssohn, whose Opus 3 Piano Quartet concludes the disc.
× Drawing inspiration from the sheer brilliance of Mendelssohn’s musical achievements, Robert Schumann would in turn guide and inspire his disciple Johannes Brahms. Together, Schumann and Brahms represent the height of German Romanticism, and violinist Joseph Joachim, who was a catalyst to the artistic triumphs of these and other composers, equally towers as one of German Romanticism’s most influential figures. A protégé of Mendelssohn’s, Joachim would come to personify the German school of violin playing and served as muse to Schumann and Brahms in the creation of their greatest works for violin. Disc 4 surrounds Joachim with signature works by these composers, culminating in Brahms’s poetic Horn Trio.
× Disc 5 celebrates the diversity of nineteenth-century musical traditions across nations, uniting masterful works from the French, German, and Russian schools. Beethoven’s Opus 29 String Quintet, composed at the turn of the nineteenth century, can be understood as a bridge between the Classical style that the composer inherited as a youth and his later, heroically Romantic compositions that would have a seismic impact on the evolution of music. Debussy’s charming Petite Suite exemplifies the composer’s Impressionist and unmistakably Francophone musical language. The disc reaches a passionate conclusion with Borodin’s tender D Major String Quartet, a work of remarkably expressive depth and of uniquely Russian character.
× Influenced by the Italian Baroque innovators, generations of French violin virtuosi cultivated a distinct national style. Disc 6 begins with the Sonata in e minor for Two Violins by Jean-Marie Leclair, the first great violinist of the French school, who came to be celebrated as “the French Corelli.” Over a century later, the Belgian violinist, composer, and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe, who combined Joachim’s intellect with Paganini’s flair, would set listeners aflame with his intrepid approach to the instrument. In addition to composing his own masterpieces, Ysaÿe served as inspiration through his brilliant playing for composers from César Franck to Gabriel Fauré.
× The generation of virtuosi that emerged in the early twentieth century, headed by the preternaturally gifted Fritz Kreisler, charted new frontiers in the violin’s expressive potential. As the art of the violin was reimagined, so inevitably was the music written for it, as composers created music expressly for the soulful practitioners of the new style. Disc 7 features music by Respighi, Ysaÿe, and even Kreisler himself—works that illustrate the “Age of Expression’s” transformative effect on how composers would forever approach the instrument.
× The final disc of The Glorious Violin LIVE collection offers a colorful survey of violin playing across the Western world. The vitality of modern Bohemia is heard in Martinů’s ingenious duo, while the visceral influence of the great Russian school of string playing is evident in Shostakovich’s Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet, completed while the composer was still a teenager. Composer Ernő Dohnányi drew from his native Hungary’s folk traditions in his Ruralia hungarica, while American composer John Corigliano’s Red Violin Caprices glorify the instrument with a distinctly modern voice. The disc concludes with the thrilling String Octet by the Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, and conductor George Enescu.
× Music@Menlo LIVE announces the eagerly anticipated release of last summer’s performance of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, featuring baritone Nikolay Borchev and pianist Wu Han. Schubert’s innovations to the art song elevated the entire genre, transforming it from simple, domestic fare into a musical form of primary importance for composers of the Romantic generation and beyond. Winterreise, composed over roughly the final year and a half of Schubert’s life, not only stands as the crowning achievement of the composer’s oeuvre of lieder but also ranks among the greatest triumphs of the Western canon at large.