Zuill Bailey, cello
Robert Koenig, piano

Sunday, July 29, 2012, 4 pm
This concert is dedicated to the memory of Edgar Villchur.

 

program

Suite No.2 in D Minor for
Unaccompanied Cello, BWV 1008
(ca. 1720)
J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Prelude
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Menuett I & II
Gigue

Sonata for Cello and Piano (1915)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Prologue: Lent
Sérénade: Modérément animé
Finale: Animé

intermission

Sonata for Violin (Cello) and
Piano in A Major, Op. 8
(1886)
César Franck (1822-1890)

Allegretto ben moderato
Allegro
Recitativo: Fantasia
Allegretto poco mosso

Selections to be announced

 

next week

Saturday, August 4, 11 am | Young People's Concert
Elizabeth Mitchell and Family

Sunday, August 4, 4 pm | Amernet String Quartet
with Yizhak Schotten, viola; Robert deMaine, cello; and Nancy Allen Lundy, soprano
Music of Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Russell Platt's "Transport to Summer" for
soprano and string sextet (2010)

 

 

 

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Zuill Bailey, cello, is widely considered one of the premier cellists in the world. His rare combination of celebrated artistry, technical wizardry, and engaging personality have secured his place as one of the most sought after and active cellists today.

Mr. Bailey has been featured with the symphony orchestras of major cities in the US as well as numerous international orchestras. He has collaborated with prominent conductors including Itzhak Perlman and James DePriest, and been featured with musical luminaries Leon Fleisher, Jaime Laredo, the Juilliard String Quartet, Lynn Harrell, and Janos Starker. Mr. Bailey has appeared at the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, Alice Tully Hall, the 92nd St. Y, and Carnegie Hall.

Festival appearances include Ravinia, Interlochen, Santa Fe, Caramoor, Chautauqua, Bravo! Vail, Maverick Concerts, and many other national and international series. He was the featured soloist at the Bard Festival. Zuill Bailey also performs regularly in a piano trio with violinist Philippe Quint and pianist Navah Perlman.

His Bach Cello Suites recording immediately soared to the Number One spot on the Classical Billboard Charts. Zuill Bailey was awarded the Classical Recording Foundation Award for 2006 and 2007 for Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano.

Network Television appearances include a recurring role on the HBO series Oz, NBC’s Homicide, A&E, and NHK TV in Japan. He has been heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, Tiny Desk Concert, Performance Today, Saint Paul Sunday, BBC’s In Tune, XM Radio’s Live from Studio II, Sirius Satellite Radio’s Virtuoso Voices, the KDFC Concert Series, Minnesota Public Radio, WFMT, and RTHK Radio Hong Kong.

Mr. Bailey received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and Juilliard. He performs on a 1693 Matteo Gofriller Cello, formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet. He is the Artistic Director of El Paso Pro Musica (Texas), Artistic Director of the Sitka Summer Music Festival and Series, (Alaska) and Professor of Cello at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Canadian pianist Robert Koenig has quickly established a reputation as a much sought-after collaborative pianist and chamber musician. He performs regularly in major centers throughout the world with many of this generation’s most renowned musicians. Recent engagements have included performances at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, The Concertgebuow in Amsterdam, and the Louvre Museum in Paris. He has performed with many of today’s leading artists including Sarah Chang, Hilary Hahn, Pamela Frank, Roberto Diaz, Elmar Oliveira, and Aaron Rosand.

Mr. Koenig has appeared at many festivals around the US. He is frequently heard on radio and television including ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS This Morning. Mr. Koenig was staff pianist at both Juilliard and the Curtis Institute of Music, and from 2000-2007 he served as Professor of Piano and Piano Chamber Music at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Since 2007, he has been Professor and Head of The Collaborative Piano Program at The University of California in Santa Barbara. Mr. Koenig’s recent CD with violist Roberto Diaz of transcriptions for viola and piano by William Primrose was nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

When Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750, his music was considered old-fashioned, and he was mostly remembered as a keyboard virtuoso. His compositions were largely forgotten until the Bach revival of the early nineteenth century. Even with the Bach revival, the Suites for Unaccompanied Cello remained obscure. They were considered merely didactic exercises, not meant to be played in performance. In 1889, a thirteen-year-old cello prodigy named Pablo Casals (1876-1973) found a copy of the suites in a used music store. He wrote later that he was so excited by his discovery that he “hugged his treasures all the way home.” Because of his efforts, this set of Suites is now an important part of the solo cello repertoire.

The dance suite was a standard assemblage of pieces, usually in the sequence Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue. German composers added a Prelude to begin, and inserted a pair of dances–often two Minuets–before the final Gigue. The alternation of fast and slow tempi, of duple (e.g., 4/4) and triple (e.g., 3/4) meters, and of different musical characters remained a part of musical organization into the Classical era, evolving into Allegro, Andante, Minuet, and Presto.

Casals' one-word characterization of the Suite No. 2 in D Minor for Unaccompanied Cello was “tragic.” The Prelude has an improvisatory feeling, moving up and down the notes of the chords rather than melodically. The Allemande, a German dance in moderate 4/4 time, makes use of the contrast between fast runs and arpeggios in high and low ranges. The Courante, a fast French dance in a triple meter, also depends on the swift change of registers from low to high. The Sarabande, a stately dance with a slow legato melodic contour, uses ornamentation and arpeggiated chords. The Menuetts are here in the order minor, then major, then minor repeated. And the Gigue, despite its minor key, ends the piece on an uplifting note.

In the last decade of his life, Claude Debussy was diagnosed with colon cancer, a painful disease that would take his life at the age of fifty-six. For several years, he composed very little, concentrating on making editions of earlier composers, including Bach. Then, in 1915, he found renewed energy, fueled in part by national pride. He wrote: “I have decided that, all things considered, it would be cowardice on my part to join the ranks of the disabled and spend my time dwelling on the atrocities that have been committed without reacting against them by creating, to the best of my ability, a little of that beauty which the enemy is attacking with such fury.” The Sonata for Cello and Piano was the product of this nationalist and artistic inspiration.

The piano announces a recurring rhythmic motif—a long note and a series of fast short notes—in the first measures of the Prologue (Lent—Slow). This halting promenade becomes a soulful cello song. Originally, Debussy had planned to subtitle the work “Pierrot fâché avec la lune” (Pierrot mad at the moon), invoking the spirit of the sad harlequin clown.

The cello is plucked like a guitar for much of the central movement (Sérénade: Modérément animé), again recalling the image of Pierrot serenading the moon. Even the piano imitates a plucked instrument, playing sparse notes in succession. The mood runs the gamut from angry to plaintive to otherworldly.

The Finale (Animé) begins with a flurry of notes from the piano in a descending progression of chords. A happy abundance of running notes is alternated with more introspective spare textures, and the piece ends on an emphatic and hopeful note.

César Franck’s reputation as a teacher and organist was phenomenal. But when it came to composition, he was thought of as “old school,” and his efforts were often scorned by the critics, by his colleagues at the Paris Conservatoire, and by the public. It was only at the end of his life that his talent began to be recognized. He created works that have stood the test of time, including the Symphony in D Minor, the Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano solo, the Piano Quintet in F Minor, the String Quartet in D Major, and the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major. Except for the Symphony, we will hear all of these works this season at the Maverick as part of Music Director Alexander Platt’s “Tour de France” celebration of French music.

The Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major was written as a wedding present to Franck’s Belgian compatriot, violinist Eugene Ysaÿe. After a hurried rehearsal, Ysaÿe performed it at his own wedding. It became one of his favorite pieces, which he played on tour for another forty years. His support for Franck’s music helped give the composer international recognition. Although the piece has been transcribed for countless instruments, the only transcription approved by Franck was for cello and piano, as we hear it here today.

Franck was known for using cyclic form, in which the themes are reused and developed not only within movements but also throughout the entire piece. In the opening Allegretto, the cello presents the gently rocking theme in 9/8, with the piano offering accompaniment and taking an occasional solo.

The Allegro begins with a powerful reinterpretation of the first movement theme, now in D minor. Midway through, a brief interlude changes the mood, as the music slows down and becomes a spare outline of the notes of the motif. This is followed by grand piano chords and a return to the tumultuous texture with which the movement began.

The halting rhythms of spoken language are appropriate for the Recitativo that opens the third movement. Franck was known for his frequent use of modulations from one key to another, and here he travels through many tonalities, never settling on one. The next section is a Fantasia, like a dreamy, free-form improvisation, within which the rising-third motif from the opening reappears. The movement ends in F sharp minor.

In the finale (Allegretto poco mosso), the home key of A major is once again firmly established, with an optimistic new theme presented in canonic imitation between the instruments. Starting with a comfortable walking tempo, the music speeds up, and once again the cello recalls the thematic material from the first movement. The piece ends with a cascade of descending and ascending lines and a last triumphant chord.

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 miriam@hvc.rr.com Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg