Latitude 41 Piano Trio

Livia Sohn, violin
Luigi Piovano, cello
Bernadene Blaha, piano

Sunday, July 27, 2014, 4 pm

American Landscapes VI: Platt and Dvořák


Piano Trio No. 3 in F Minor, Op.65 (1883)
Antonin Dvořák (1840-1904)

Allegro, ma non troppo
Allegretto grazioso
Poco adagio
Finale: Allegro con brio

Duo for Violin and Cello (2008)
Russell Platt (b. 1965)


Schubert: Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major,
Op.100, D. 929
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Andante con moto
Scherzando. Allegro moderato
Allegro moderato

next week

Saturday, August 2, 11 am

Young People’s Concert
Marc Black, vocals and guitar

Saturday, August 2, 8 pm

Jazz at the Maverick
Fred Hersch, piano, with Julian Lage, guitar

Sunday, August 3, 4 pm

Modigliani Quartet
Music of Schumann, Saint-Saëns, and Ravel


Program Notes © 2014 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 have included the Newport Music Festival (for the opening gala in 2009 and the closing gala in 2011), LErmitage Foundation in Los Angeles, and Sundays Live at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is streamed live across the Internet and radio. Highlights of future engagements include concerts in Carnegies Zankel Hall and in the prestigious Filarmonica Romano series in Rome, Italy. Latitude 41 released its debut CD in 2012 with works of Schubert. Their next recording, which will include the Saint-Saëns Piano Trios Nos. 1 and 2, is soon to be released.

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 won First Prize in the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition at the age of twelve. Livia plays on a G.B. Guadagnini violin crafted in 1770 and a Samuel Zygmuntowicz instrument made in 2006. She has been on faculty of the Music Department at Stanford University since 2005.

Luigi Piovano, cello, won a scholarship at the International Menuhin Music Academy, and went on to perform all around the world as a soloist under the baton of Lord Menuhin. He earned a diploma in cello and chamber music at the Conservatoire de Paris, and he is the first soloist cello of the Symphony Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome. Since 2007 he has been the first cello and guest soloist of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. He was named artistic director of the Estate Musicale Frentana in Lanciano in 2008. Luigi plays an Alessandro Gagliano cello dated 1710.

Bernadene Blaha, piano, has performed as recitalist, concerto soloist, and chamber musician in performances throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Mexico. A highly regarded chamber musician, Ms. Blaha has appeared at the Newport Festival, the Tucson Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, the Bard Festival, the Australia Festival of Chamber Music, the 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 eleventh annual International Piano Competition in New York City, followed by recital appearances at Carnegie Recital Hall and the Lincoln Center Library. 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.

The trio takes its name from the latitude of their first performance venue in Rhode Island, as well as where cellist Luigi Piovano makes his home in Rome, Italy.





Despite his peasant origins, Antonin Dvořák managed to acquire a solid musical education. He was fortunate in having the support of major musical figures of his day, including Smetana and Brahms, and he achieved worldwide success in his lifetime.

The Piano Trio No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 65, was written in a mere six weeks. Dvořák himself played the piano at its premiere. He had already seen major success for his Slavonic Dances, but was under pressure from friends to break out of the mold of the purely nationalist composer. The opening Allegro ma non troppo starts with a stormy theme soon followed by a soaring second theme. In good classical sonata-allegro format, the two thematic ideas alternate, as do the textures—now full, now spare, with each instrument providing an essential part of the whole. A lively coda (Quasi vivace) ends the movement, but the melancholy theme makes a brief appearance.

The Allegretto grazioso is the scherzo, and here Dvořák lets us know that he has no intention of giving up his Eastern European roots for the cosmopolitan sound. He uses the meter of the Bohemian dance known as the Furiant—three beats against two, with offbeat syncopations. A clean break introduces the Trio section, which provides the contrast of an airy, mellifluous tune, again with hints of Slavic sonorities. The opening material returns to complete the ABA structure.

In the slow movement (Poco adagio), the cello opens with a wistful aria, soon joined by the violin and piano. Major and minor alternate, as do calm and tense passages. The ending is graceful and majestic, with violin and cello in dialogue, accompanied by a gentle piano.

The syncopations of the Furiant make another appearance in the Finale (Allegro con brio), this time as a recurring rondo theme. In the intervening episodes, both the dramatic and the lyrical effects from previous movements are recalled. The piano takes the lead in bringing us to the major key for the bright finish.

Russell Platt studied music and history at Oberlin, Curtis, Cambridge, and the University of Minnesota. Among his awards are the Charles Ives Scholarship, a Fellowship in Composition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a McKnight Fellowship. He has received commissions from numerous ensembles and presenters, including Bargemusic, Sequitur, and the Dale Warland Singers. Maverick Concerts has commissioned him to compose a string quartet for the Borromeo String Quartet, to be premiered at the Maverick centenary in 2015. In addition to being the senior editor for classical music at The New Yorker, he is a regular contributor to such publications as Newsday, The Nation, and Opera News.

The composer writes: “My Duo for Violin and Cello is a ten-minute, one-movement work in sonata-allegro form. (There’s even a mandatory repeat of the exposition section, which may help the listener to become more grounded in the music’s proudly tonal but richly chromatic language.) Since such composers as John Adams and Thomas Adès continue to find a use for this basic building block of Western music, I’m hardly ashamed to indulge in it myself.

“In style, the piece is an extension of the string duo genre as founded by Ravel and Kodály, to which I, as a composer of the present day, have also brought the American influences of minimalism and ‘roots music.’ The first theme is emphatic, athletic, and rhythmically varied; the second, developed out of the first, is plaintive, lyrical, and insistent. (Many of my nonvocal melodies, a friend has pointed out to me, begin with upward stepwise motion.)

“The piece, which I began in the summer of 2008 and completed during a residency at the Corporation of Yaddo in the winter of 2009, was premiered at Brooklyn's Bargemusic, which commissioned it, by Colin and Eric Jacobsen, to whom it is dedicated.”

Of all the major composers of the classical era, Schubert was the only one born and raised in Vienna. The city was filled with musical and artistic activity, gatherings, parties, and general gemütlichkeit—joy and well-being. He 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 around his music that they ended up being called Schubertiaden—Schubert evenings.

This congenial atmosphere stands in sharp contrast to the circumstances of Schubert’s life. He never found a way to make a living. He was not well suited to teaching, and it is said that he would abandon his students if he suddenly came up with a musical idea he simply had to write down. He was not a virtuoso as Mozart and Beethoven had been, so he could not support himself with concert tours. He chose to dedicate his compositions not to rich and powerful potential patrons, but rather to great artists, musicians, and other kindred spirits. And despite the fact that he was extremely prolific, publishers continuously rejected his music, and only a very few of his many compositions were ever published during his lifetime.

His one and only public concert, however, 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 the great violinist Niccolò Paganini’s long-awaited Vienna debut.

Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op.100, comes from this late period, and was performed at that concert. The first theme of the Allegro is assertive, immediately demanding our attention. A more lilting second subject enters, introduced by the cello, and the two themes are alternated and developed. In the slow movement (Andante con moto), a minor key (C minor) gives the song an air of nostalgia. The tune was identified by a Scandinavian friend of Schubert’s as a Swedish folk song about the setting of the sun.

The Scherzo (Scherzando: Allegro moderato) opens with canon-like entries by the violin and cello in playful imitation of the piano. A heavily accented Trio provides contrast, after which the imitative counterpoint returns. The finale (Allegro moderato) offers a cheerful rondo theme. Episodes move into various keys, with the instruments taking turns with elaborate dancing figurations, and the rondo theme is developed as well. The cello briefly recalls the sad song from the slow movement, and all three instruments combine for a spectacular finish.

As a result of the public concert, Schubert finally had some recognition for his music, but his health was worse than ever. Nevertheless, he continued to compose nonstop until his death only eight months later.

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 © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg