ABOUT THE ARTISTS
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. Highlights of Latitude 41 performances 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 via Internet and broadcast radio. Latitude 41’s most recent CD includes the piano trios of Camille Saint-Saëns. The trio derives its name from the location of their first performance venue in Rhode Island, and from where cellist Luigi Piovano makes his home in Rome, Italy, both at forty-one degrees north latitude.
Violinist Livia Sohn performs widely on the international stage as a 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. She plays on a G.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 since 2005.
Cellist Luigi Piovano 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 then earned a diploma in cello and chamber music at the European Conservatory of Music in Paris. He holds the post of principal cellist of the symphony orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, guest principal cellist of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and guest principal cellist of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Since 2008 he has been the artistic director of the Frentana Summer Music Festival in Lanciano. He plays an Alessandro Gagliano cello dated 1710.
Pianist Bernadene Blaha has performed as a 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, the La Jolla Summerfest, the Bard Festival, the Australia Festival of Chamber Music, the Banff Festival of the Arts, and the Festival de San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Originally from Canada, Ms. Blaha first came to international attention as a prizewinner in major competitions in Montreal, Grand Rapids, and Lugano, as well as the eleventh annual International Piano Competition in New York City, which she followed up with 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.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Haydn’s string quartets are well-known to Maverick audiences, but his less commonly heard keyboard trios make up a substantial and important part of his chamber music output. In Haydn’s time, the keyboard could either be a harpsichord or the newly invented pianoforte, and several of his keyboard trios are marked as suitable for either instrument. As was the custom in the late eighteenth century, the keyboard was usually featured, with the violin adding treble support and the cello doubling the bass line. Only occasionally will one of the strings venture out on its own, sometimes introducing a secondary theme or adding a countermelody. The violin and cello serve important functions, however, providing textural interest, tone color, and rhythmic accentuation.
The Piano Trio No. 39 in G major, Hob. XV:25 was written on Haydn’s second trip to England, where his music was enthusiastically received. It is dedicated to Rebecca Schroeter, a student, copyist, and love interest of the composer. Haydn transcribed her letters into his journal, giving us a record of an obviously deep and affectionate relationship. In one letter, Rebecca wrote: “My heart was and is full of tenderness for you, but no language can express half the love and affection I feel for you; you are dearer to me every day of my life.”
Haydn created many of the rules and conventions that would govern chamber music for the next century or so; he was, therefore, allowed to break them. The opening movement (Andante) breaks with the tradition that the first movement should be fast (usually Allegro), and ignores the tradition that it ought to be in sonata form. Instead, Haydn gives us a theme and variations. After the piano introduces the sprightly theme, the ensemble plays it briefly in a minor key, and then with a violin descant back in the major. The following variations use figurations and runs in both violin and piano, and give the violin its moment, however brief, in the spotlight.
The middle movement (Poco adagio) is in E major; this is the parallel major of the tonic’s relative minor, and is a somewhat adventurous choice for the time. The piano presents a song-like melody, after which the violin plays a descant—a different, higher melody that fits into the same harmonic structure. The piano returns to center stage, with the violin doubling at times, for the close.
In the final movement, Haydn employs the rhythms and stylings of Gypsy music. Although Hungarian music became well-known later in the hands of Brahms and Liszt, this piano trio may well have been the London audience’s first encounter with Eastern European folk meters and melodies used in art music. The movement (Presto) is a stomping dance, and includes phrases that begin slowly and morph into rapid cascades of notes—a pattern typical of the music of Hungary.
At the age of thirteen, Dmitri Shostakovich was accepted into the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied under Alexander Glazunov. He was frail and often sick, and contracted tuberculosis three years later. Recovering at a sanitarium in the Crimea, he met and fell in love with a young girl, Tatyana Glivenko, to whom he dedicated this early work, the Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8. Its original title was Poème. It was not discovered and published until after his death, and the last measures of the piano part were completed by one of his students.
The work is in one movement, marked Andante, although it is notable for its numerous tempo changes. Even at this young age, Shostakovich demonstrates compositional skill in giving equal importance to the three instruments. The influence of Glazunov and other Romantic composers can be heard in the lyrical cello aria that introduces the second theme, but the chromatic opening presages the future melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic adventurousness of this artist whom many consider one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century.
Felix Mendelssohn was a precocious musical talent, composing and performing his own works at the age of nine. In addition to being a brilliant pianist and violinist, Mendelssohn was also fluent in several languages, and a fine graphic artist. He was a virtuoso pianist who included the masters—Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven—in his performances when others were focusing on contemporary composers whose names are today mostly forgotten.
Mendelssohn’s career stands at the beginning of the Romantic era, but he greatly honored the music of the past, including that of Bach. Mendelssohn was a major participant in the Bach revival that ultimately preserved that composer’s music and reputation for the future. At twenty, he conducted Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion—the first performance since the composer’s death in 1750—sparking a revival of interest in Bach’s music. Unfortunately, Mendelssohn never got to see or become part of the extraordinary changes that music underwent in the second half of the nineteenth century—a time that should have been the latter half of his own career.
The Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66, opens with a fiery Allegro energico e con fuoco. The piano sets the mood with fast runs as the other two instruments play a single note—known as a pedal tone—for several measures before joining in the melodic and harmonic changes. When the second theme enters, it provides contrast with a tender air in the major mode. Mendelssohn plays with these two characters, developing and combining them in various ways and with various instrumentations. As the movement builds to its final cadence, the gentle theme returns, this time put into minor so as not to interrupt the dramatic ending.
Mendelssohn sets the slow movement (Andante espressivo) in a gently swaying 6/8 meter and a major key (E flat, the relative major of the home key). The piano takes the lead to present the cantabile (song-like) theme, followed by the cello and violin in duet. This configuration is repeated, with the strings answering the piano either in duet (melody and harmony lines together) or in dialogue (one after the other). The three parts are given great independence throughout, finally fading to pianissimo.
The short Scherzo (Molto allegro quasi presto) is a shower of fast runs in all three instruments. This is one of the rare instances of a scherzo in a duple rather than a triple meter (4/4 rather than 3/4 or 3/8). The central trio moves to major, with the minor key returning to round out the ABA structure.
The Finale uses a triple meter (6/8), where a Classical era audience would ordinarily expect a fast 4/4. By switching the usual meters, Mendelssohn is playing with standard musical practice, but in ways that do not stray too far from the norm. In the middle of the movement, a slow, stately Bach-like chorale is introduced by the piano and integrated with the faster running theme in the strings.
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Program Notes © 2016 by Miriam Villchur Berg