Latitude 41

Livia Sohn, violin
Luigi Piovano,
Bernadene Blaha,

Sunday, July 15, 2012, 4 pm


Notturno in E Flat, Op. 148, D. 897
Franz Schubert

Piano Trio No.1 in F Major, Op. 18 (1863)
Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)
Allegro vivace
Scherzo (Presto)


Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50 (1882)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
"In Memory of a Great Man"
Pezzo elegiaco (Moderate assai – Allegro giusto)
Tema con variazioni


next week

Saturday, July 21, 8:00 pm
The 2012 Woodstock Beat:
Peter Schickele in concert.
This brilliant composer, musicologist, and raconteur
will perform in a benefit concert for the
Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild.
Tickets for this concert are only available directly from the Woodstock Guild at 845-679-2079.
Maverick tickets are not valid.

Sunday, July 22, 4 pm | Leipzig Quartet
Music of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and César Franck




Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


Violinist Livia Sohn, cellist Luigi Piovano, and pianist Bernadene Blaha came together to form Latitude 41 in the summer of 2009, as a result of their previous musical collaborations and mutual passion for chamber music. Since their formation, highlights of Latitude 41 appearances include the Newport Music Festival (for the opening gala in 2009 and the closing gala in 2011), the L'Ermitage Foundation in Los Angeles, and "Sundays Live" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is streamed live across the internet and radio. Latitude 41 released its debut CD this year with works of Schubert. The latitude of the trio's first performance venue in Rhode Island, as well as where cellist Luigi Piovano makes his home in Rome, Italy, are both Latitude 41.

Livia Sohn, violin, performs widely on the international stage as concerto soloist, recitalist, and festival guest in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. Livia gave her first public performance at age eight. At the age of 12, she won First Prize in the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition. Livia plays on a J. B. Guadagnini violin crafted in 1770 and a Samuel Zygmuntowicz made in 2006. She has been on faculty at the Music Department of Stanford University in California since 2005.

Luigi Piovano, cello, started studying music at the age of five with his father Antonio Piovano, pianist and composer. Due to a scholarship he won at the International Menuhin Music Academy, he performed all around the world as a soloist under the baton of Lord Menuhin. He then earned a diploma in cello and chamber music at the European Conservatoire of Music in Paris. He is the First Soloist Cello of the Symphony Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome and since 2007 he has been the First Soloist Cello guest of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Since 2008 he has been the Artistic Director of the "Estate Musicale Frentana" in Lanciano. He plays an Alessandro Gagliano cello dated 1710.

Bernadene Blaha has performed as recitalist, concerto soloist, and chamber musician in performances throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Mexico. Recent highlights include performances with Netherlands' Amati Ensemble at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; and Schloss Mirabel, Salzburg.

A highly regarded chamber musician, Ms. Blaha has appeared at The Newport Festival, Tucson Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Bard Festival, Australia Festival of Chamber Music, Banff Festival of the Arts, and Festival de San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Originally from Canada, Ms. Blaha first came to international attention as a prizewinner in major competitions in Montreal, Grand Rapids, Lugano, Switzerland, and the 11th Annual International Piano Competition, New York City.

This last award resulted in recital appearances at Carnegie Recital Hall and the Lincoln Center Library. Soon afterward, Ms. Blaha was featured in a major festival in Czechoslovakia, followed by solo recitals in Washington, DC and London, England. Ms. Blaha currently resides in Los Angeles, and since 1993 has been a member of the Keyboard Faculty at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California, where she is an Associate Professor.





Schubert achieved little success in publishing his works during his lifetime. Only a few volumes of songs and a single string quartet were published, and not a single one of the symphonies we now consider integral parts of the classical orchestral repertoire. His music was greatly beloved, however, within his small circle of Viennese admirers, who flocked to the Schubertiaden ("Schubert Evenings") where he and others would perform his works in private salons.

The Notturno in E Flat, Op. 148, D. 897 is actually the slow movement (Adagio) from an unfinished or discarded piano trio. The movement starts with a gentle duet between the violin and cello in thirds, accompanied by softly sweeping chords in the piano. The melodic phrases are short, leaving room for the harmonic accompaniments to fill in the sound. When the piano takes up the melody, it is accompanied by sweet pizzicato (plucked) strings.

Rather than take the harmony through extensive chord progressions to establish a new key, Schubert modulates from E flat to E by having the instruments rise the half step and then simply announcing the new key with unisons and octaves in all three instruments. These repeated octaves crescendo with the new feeling, using a majestic double-dotted motif and piano runs that traverse the entire keyboard. Here too, the motif seems to stop mid-phrase each time, and the sharply dotted rhythm emphasizes the halting quality. The gentle legato returns, and alternates with the emphatic passages, finally ending with the sweet feeling that opened the movement.

Of the many composers who were child prodigies, Camille Saint-Saens was perhaps the most remarkable. He started playing the piano at two and a half, and wrote his first piece at three. When he was ten, he performed concertos by Beethoven and Mozart, and, as an encore, offered to play whichever of Beethoven's piano sonatas the audience cared to hear. News of this feat spread worldwide, and was written up in a Boston newspaper. It also led to a friendship with Franz Liszt. He was the teacher of Gabriel Fauré, who also became his close friend. Saint-Saens founded the Société Nationale de Musique, dedicated to "Ars Gallica"—the promotion of new music by French composers. He was greatly acclaimed in the US and Great Britain, although his reputation in his homeland suffered from his reluctance to accept avant-garde music (he was horrified by Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, reportedly stomping out in protest of the "misuse of the bassoon."). He had both friends and enemies among the composers of his era. Although he did incorporate some of the techniques of the contemporary music scene, for the most part his music builds on the past rather than striking out in new and innovative directions.

Saint-Saens' music has often been called transparent. In the opening movement of his Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18, he presents a short dancing theme, then simply pauses, introduces the second, more legato theme, and then develops both of them. He uses the three instruments to full advantage, intertwining, alternating, and juxtaposing the parts and giving them equal prominence.

The slow movement (Andante) changes character completely, with an intense, double-dotted melody in A minor accompanied by folk-like drones on the strings. The three instruments combine to develop and expand this theme, taking it into flowing meters in the major mode until the movement ends with a repeat of its opening material.

Syncopation, pizzicato, and staccato notes make the Scherzo (Presto) lively and playful. Rather than make the central trio a sharp contrast, Saint-Saens develops the same material to create a more flowing version, soon returning to the opening material.

The finale (Allegro) combines features of all the previous movements—dotted rhythms, vignettes of phrases interwoven between all three instruments, and lively, optimistic writing. A lyrical song briefly appears, with the vignettes transformed into light accompaniments. Piano, violin, and cello trade short phrases as the tempo speeds up for the spirited conclusion.

Tchaikovsky was a composer torn between traditions. The Germans thought him too Russian, and the Russian nationalists considered him a sell-out for employing Western European techniques of musical composition. Although he was well-versed in classical forms, he often adapted those forms in the service of melody and expressiveness, and he often employed Russian folk tunes as themes in his classically-organized compositions.

The widow Nadezdha Von Meck, Tchaikovsky's longtime patroness, had been urging him for a long time to write a piano trio, but it took the death of his good friend Nikolai Rubenstein, a renowned pianist, to finally inspire him to write the Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50, which he inscribed "In Memory of a Great Man."

Tchaikovsky's brother Modest wrote in his biography about an afternoon when Tchaikovsky, Rubenstein, and other professors from the Moscow Conservatory went for a walk in the countryside. Rubenstein, a great lover of Russian folk music, provided a meal for a group of peasants, and then asked them to sing and dance. The performance made a big impression on Pyotr Ilyich, and probably inspired some of the themes in this trio.

The Trio's first movement is entitled Pezzo elegiaco (Elegiac piece), and is made of two Russian themes—one melancholy and the other majestic. An elegy, after all, is both a song of lament and a celebration of the life of the departed.

Although the piece has only two movements, it is fairly long, since the second movement consists of a theme and twelve variations. Once again, the theme is Russian—either a genuine folk tune or else one Tchaikovsky invented in folk style. Different variations use the meters of Russian dance, mazurka, and waltz, the high sparkling sound of the music box, a complex three-voice fugue, and considerable use of the piano, in tribute to Rubenstein.

The final variation and coda are several times as long as any of the other variations, and some consider it a separate movement. The tune is modified into a new energetic form, after which the themes from the first movement are reintroduced and developed. After a section of powerful minor chords, the coda, marked lugubre, brings back the lament theme in the strings over a slow funeral march in the piano, finally fading as if into the distance.

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg. It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy,  publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg