ABOUT THE ARTIST
Pianist Pedja Muzijevic has toured extensively as a soloist with orchestras and as a recitalist throughout eastern and western Europe, Great Britain, Canada, the United States, South America, Australia, and Asia. His artistic curiosity has led him to explore the music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on period instruments and the music of such contemporary composers as Knussen, Carter, Cage, Henze, Nancarrow, Crumb, Adès, and many others.
Mr. Muzijevic has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony, the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Shinsei Nihon Orchestra in Tokyo, Orquesta Sinfonica in Montevideo, Zagreb Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Greensboro Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Napa Valley Symphony, and the Richmond Symphony, among others. He has played solo recitals at Alice Tully Hall in New York, Casals Hall and Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile, Da Camera of Houston, The Frick Collection in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, Lincoln Center’s What Makes It Great? Series, for Arizona Friends of Chamber Music in Tucson, Lane Series at University of Vermont, and many others.
Pedja’s many festival engagements include performances at Tanglewood, Spoleto USA, Mostly Mozart, Newport, OK Mozart, Bridgehampton, Bay Chamber Concerts, San Miguel de Allende, Aldeburgh, Lucerne, Holland, Melbourne, Aix-en-Provence, Dubrovnik, Merano and Bratislava Festivals.
Mr. Muzijevic’s chamber music performances include the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center, and the 92nd Street Y, Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players in Tanglewood, the Boston Chamber Music Society, La Jolla Music Society and Mainly Mozart in La Jolla, Da Camera in Houston, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and many others. He has toured with Mikhail Baryshnikov and the White Oak Dance Project throughout the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia and with Simon Keenlyside in Trisha Brown’s staged version of Schubert’s Winterreise at Lincoln Center, Barbican in London, La Monnaie in Brussels, Opéra National de Paris, as well as in Amsterdam, Lucerne, and Melbourne.
Mr. Muzijevic’s recording Sonatas and Other Interludes is available on Albany Records. It juxtaposes music for prepared piano by John Cage with composers ranging from W. F. Bach to Liszt.
Pedja made his New York recital debut in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall as a recipient of The Juilliard School’s William Petschek Award. His many honors include top prize in the Busoni International Piano Competition and a finalist diploma in the Naumburg International Piano Competition, as well as special prizes of the Chopin Society, Warsaw, and the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon.
Native of Sarajevo, Pedja graduated from the Academy of Music in Zagreb, where he received the Croatian Music Institute Award for best recital. He continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music and at The Juilliard School, where he received his Master of Music degree. He is the artistic administrator at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Although Joseph Haydn was somewhat isolated and sequestered in the palace of his patron, Prince Esterhazy, for most of his career, he nonetheless achieved a great deal of international renown. When the prince died in 1790, Haydn had few obligations, a nice pension, and several attractive offers. He decided to visit England, where his music was greatly admired. He became acquainted with King George III and Queen Charlotte, the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of York, and many other noble families. Oxford University gave him an honorary doctorate. He had a very close relationship, probably a love affair, with a wealthy widow, Rebecca Schroeter, who was also his student and copyist.
In addition to the well-known London Symphonies, Haydn composed and performed a series of London Piano Sonatas to great acclaim. The composer who had written the rules on sonata form and the proper structure of chamber music pieces was now free to ignore those same rules and write whatever struck his fancy. It would have been obvious to his audience that the Piano Sonata No. 61 (Hob. XVI/51) in D Major would break new ground even before the pianist touched the keyboard — there are only two movements listed, and the first is Andante instead of the usual Allegro.
The Andante opens with three grand arpeggiated (rolling) chords, giving the piece a ceremonial feeling. The forthright theme is then decorated with scalar runs, adding a sense of friendly camaraderie and intimacy. Haydn was a composer whom people felt they knew personally even if they only heard him in concert. That effect continues today, and we can sometimes feel as though Papa Haydn is here in the hall with us.
In the Finale: Presto, the movement is set in 6/8 time, with accents that are so far off the beat that at first they sound like mistakes. Haydn plays with our expectations. It is a dance, yet it is nothing like a dance. He had the ear of his London audience, and he was free to show them the leading edge of his creativity.
George Crumb studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then briefly studied in Berlin before returning to the United States to study at the University of Michigan. He spent most of his career teaching, including more than thirty years at the University of Pennsylvania. He has received a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition. Crumb sought to reach out to audiences who were alienated by avant garde music, and strove to create a new accessibility. At the same time, he was interested in unconventional instruments and in using instruments in unconventional ways. In one string quartet, the players also play percussion instruments and use their bows on wine glasses.
Makrokosmos is a set of four books of short pieces for piano and various percussion instruments. The pieces that make up Makrokosmos are among Crumb’s best known works. The title is an allusion to Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, a set of piano studies of progressive difficulty, starting with simple student pieces and ending with virtuoso concert pieces. Crumb’s Pastorale from Book I is subtitled “From the Kingdom of Atlantis, ca. 10,000 B.C.” (Taurus), and makes up part of a cycle within Book I that portrays the signs of the zodiac. High wisps of ephemeral sound are contrasted with guttural rumbling from the bottom of the keyboard.
Of the major composers of the classical era, including a group sometimes called the First Viennese School, Franz Schubert was the only one born and raised in Vienna. The city was filled with musical and artistic activity, gatherings, and parties, and in general gemütlichkeit — joy and well-being. Schubert spent many an evening at the homes of friends making music and enjoying drinks and conversation, and in fact these get-togethers became so centered on his music that they ended up being called Schubertiaden — Schubert evenings.
While it is commonplace to read that Schubert gained little success during his short lifetime, the fact is that his one and only concert was very successful. Sponsored by his circle of friends and supporters, the all-Schubert performance on March 26, 1828, offered Viennese audiences a retrospective of Schubert’s works — not just the popular lieder, but also the piano music and other instrumental works that had been turned down by publishers time and time again. With the proceeds from this concert, Schubert was able to buy himself a new piano, pay off some debts, buy a few rounds for his friends, and get tickets to Paganini’s long-awaited debut in Vienna.
He finally had some recognition for his music, but his health was worse than ever. Nevertheless, he composed nonstop for the next few months, right up until just before his death eight months later. Some of the works from this period include the thirteen songs of Schwanengesang, the C Major String Quintet, and three piano sonatas, including the Piano Sonata in A Major, Op. posth., D. 959.
In the opening Allegro, Schubert presents a fanfare of chords punctuated by a low A pedal point (a single pitch sustained and played over and over while the harmonies above it change). This is contrasted with delicate scalar runs and triplets (three notes to a beat). The secondary theme is serene and songlike, and much of the development relies on chromatic figures and modulations. Schubert ends with the first theme, once again in A major, with a surprising quiet coda.
Schubert continues the use of chromatics in the slow movement (Andantino) with a mournful melody based on a descending semitone (A–G-sharp). The movement’s triple meter and frequent use of triplets lift it out of the depths of despair. The central section juxtaposes strong dramatic chords with plaintive melodies in the relative minor, F-sharp minor. For the ending, Schubert takes the piano notes down to the bottom of the keyboard in another quiet finish.
The Scherzo: Allegro vivace provides much needed relief, with dancing triple meters back in the home key. The trio, marked Un poco più lento (a little slower) is relaxed and waltz-like. Even in this happy movement, we hear some startling harmonies and modulations, reminding us that Schubert idolized Beethoven, served as a torchbearer in Beethoven’s funeral, and asked, from his deathbed, for a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131. Like Beethoven, Schubert was writing for a later age.
In the Rondo: Allegretto, Schubert combines an anthem-like melody with steady decorative runs in triplets. The form is sonata-rondo, with a second theme and a development section as well as multiple recurrences of the rondo theme. Towards the end, Schubert deconstructs his themes, stopping in the middle, starting up again in a minor key, then adding another piece of the theme, and so forth, leading up to a final cascade of runs and a definitive cadence.
All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg.
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Program Notes © 2016 by Miriam Villchur Berg