Current Listing |
The lives of the two sisters, Nadia Boulanger (b. 1887) and Lili Boulanger (b. 1893) were very different. Nadia originally composed
her Trois pièces (Three Pieces) for organ in 1911, and cellist Jonathan Golove thinks that the composer herself probably made the arrangement for cello and piano that he is playing on
this program. Nadia studied composition with Gabriel Fauré who believed she was mistaken to stop composing, which she did entirely after 1922, but she told him, "If there is one thing
of which I am certain, it is that I wrote useless music". The French conductor Mangeot had this to say about Nadia's conducting style: "She never uses a dynamic level louder than
mezzo-forte and she takes pleasure in veiled, murmuring sonorities, from which she nevertheless obtains great power of expression. She arranges her dynamic levels so as never to have
need of fortissimo..." Golove says "I find that her music is similarly delicate and expressive".
"Lili was a greater musical prodigy than her older sister" says Golove, "and
her talents were apparent by the age of two, when it was noticed, by Fauré, with whom she later studied, that she had perfect pitch. Lili accompanied her ten-year-old sister Nadia to
classes at the Paris Conservatoire before she was five. She won the Prix de Rome in 1913 at the age of 19 for her composition Faust et Hélène, the first woman composer to win the
prize. In fact, Nadia had given up entering the competition four times unsuccessfully, and she had focused her efforts upon her sister Lili, who had been her student".
the advent of war in Europe in 1914, Nadia had to put her performing and conducting on hold. She continued to teach privately and to assist at the Conservatoire. Nadia was drawn into
Lili's expanding war work, and by the end of the year, the sisters had organized a sizable charity that supplied food, clothing, money, and letters from home, to soldiers who had been
musicians before the war. Weakened by her work on the war, Lili began to suffer ill health. She died in March 1918 at the age of 24 and Nadia began to program Lili's music all the
more after her death. Lili's Nocturne, originally for violin and piano, was part of a set of two pieces from 1911/14 and the arrangement for cello is our own". Nadia went on to become
the most influential music pedagogue in France, teaching literally scores of musicians and composers, both American and French, who went on to very high profile careers, until her
death in 1979.
Like Tchaikovsky, French composer Ernest Chausson's father wanted him to get a law degree before he could study music and become a composer. Chausson was the
sole surviving child of a very wealthy building contractor who had made his fortune during Baron Haussmann's extensive decades-long redevelopment of Paris. He began his musical
studies at the age of 24 in 1879 and his teachers at the Paris Conservatoire included Massenet and Franck. Beginning in 1886 his wealth allowed the genial composer to create an
influential salon in his elegant Paris mansion which attracted composers like Fauré, Debussy and Isaac Albéniz, as well as Impressionist painters such as Degas and Manet and writers
like the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé and the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev.
An 1881 novella by Turgenev, "Le Chant de l'amour triomphant" provided Chausson with the
inspiration for Poème his 1886 lushly Romantic work for violin and orchestra, which he later arranged for violin and piano. A good case can be made that Turgenev, who had a lifelong
attachment to the celebrated mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, wrote his novella as a roman à clef about the failed engagement between Pauline Viardot's daughter Marianne, and the
composer Gabriel Fauré.
When the brilliant Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe asked Chausson to compose a violin concerto for him, he replied: "I hardly know where to begin
with a concerto, which is a huge undertaking, the devil's own task. But I can cope with a shorter work. It will be in very free form with several passages in which the violin plays
alone." The result was Poème, a freely rhapsodic work which successfully captures the mood of an unhappy love affair, even if its composer late changed the initial title of his work,
named after that of Turgenev's novella, first to Poème symphonique, and finally to simply Poème. Chausson dedicated the work to Ysaÿe, who gave the premiere in 1896, and who later
acknowledged that he wrote the sinuous double-stop passages in the work's exposition "over Chausson's framework". The overwhelming success of Poème, a first for Chausson, inspired him
to write some of his finest other works, before his untimely death in 1899 in a bicycling accident at the age of 44.
"Praxis as the manner in which
we are engaged in the world and with others has its own insight or understanding prior to any explicit formulation of that understanding..." - Calvin O. Schrag
composer Moshe Shulman wrote his new work, Praxis, for two very different instruments, the cello and the bandoneón, the Argentine accordion that has become inexplicably identified
with the music of the tango. "Praxis is a search of grounds of commonality through musical material as a common thread" says Shulman, "written for bandoneón and cello, instruments
that in so many ways are away from each other". Shulman observes, however, that "the first use of the bandoneón was to play religious and German folk music. I see the bandoneón as a
portable organ in this piece, which, along with cello, explores individuality versus commonality".
While both Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel composed their sole sonatas for
violin and piano in the key of G major, their works use very different materials and techniques. Ravel had earlier composed his only string quartet in 1904, and in some ways it was
influenced by, and is to a certain extent a homage to the string quartet, composed in 1890, by his good friend Debussy. While Ravel's quartet was generally well received, it was
sharply criticized in certain quarters. Debussy offered his unstinting support: "In the name of the gods of music, and in mine, do not touch a single note of what you have written in
your quartet." Unfortunately, continued public debate about the influence of Debussy's music on that of Ravel led to a sad cooling of their friendship, long before the death of
Debussy in 1918. On the other hand, Ravel's Violin Sonata No 2 in G major, composed between 1923 and 1927, is utterly different from that of Debussy's 1917 sonata for violin. About
his own compositions Ravel was fond of saying that "'personne n'avait fait ça" (nobody has done that before), and in the case of his violin sonata no one would begin to disagree. The
first "Allegretto" movement of the sonata starts off with a long melodic line in a seemingly Romantic manner, before being interrupted by a nervous, left hand snapping phrase.
Predating the composer's visit to America in 1928, the middle, "Blues" movement, marked "Moderato" elegantly captures Ravel's enthusiasm for American jazz idioms, with the violin
indulging in plaintive wailings against the implacable rhythm of the piano. Ravel revised the final "Allegro" movement, the first version of which he later found too lyrical,
replacing it with a fiery "Perpetuum mobile" movement, creating in the process a work that sounds just as fresh today as it did at its premiere.