CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | 7:30 PM

Alexandre Tharaud

Weill Recital Hall
French pianist Alexandre Tharaud is one of those rare performers who finds hidden connections among works separated by centuries, which makes his recitals more than just a display of astounding musicality. On this program—his Carnegie Hall recital debut—Tharaud builds interpretive bridges between Scarlatti, Ravel, Liszt, and Chopin.

This concert is part of Salon Encores.
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The Program

 

DOMENICO SCARLATTI 
Sonatas in E Major, K. 380; A Minor, K. 3; C Major, K. 514; F Minor, K. 481; D Minor, K. 141

                              
About the Composer


Born the same year as J. S. Bach and Handel, Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti is recognized as the founder of modern keyboard technique. The son of composer Alessandro Scarlatti (one of the direct predecessors of Mozart in opera composition), he began his career writing church music, secular vocal works, and operas. But his years as composer to Queen Maria Barbara and the Spanish court (1729-1757) directed his attention to keyboard instruments. He wrote pieces that showcased experimental effects, such as hand-crossings, rapid repetitions of notes, octaves, wide leaps, double trills, extended chords, and other virtuoso finger techniques. Though many of his works were not published during his lifetime, his 19th-century advocates included Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Clara Schumann, and Frédéric Chopin.


About the Works


Scarlatti wrote at least 555 essercizi, or exercises. Through their colorful and often unexpected harmonies and vividly descriptive keyboard effects, these single-movement sonatas reflect Scarlatti's exploration of Spanish folk music and the popular rhythms of the region. In these works, one can hear many elements characteristic of the Iberian region, from castanets and guitars to flamenco dancers and drums. Written for the harpsichord and early pianofortes, the sonatas are in binary form (two related sections that are usually repeated, A-A-B-B), and bear no resemblance to the sonata form developed later by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. These compositions are compact, virtuosic, lively, and charming, representing a major evolution in keyboard playing that was not echoed again until Chopin.


A Closer Listen


The E-Major Sonata, K. 380, is one of Scarlatti's most popular works and is nicknamed the "Cortège" for its stately processional quality, depicted by the frequent trills and trumpeting rhythms. The two defining features of the Sonata in A Minor, K. 3, are its cascading melodic figures and extreme chromaticism, countered by K. 314, which is diatonic and firmly in C major, continually reinforced by surging, multi-octave arpeggios in the home key. In contrast to the flashy, technical works, the heartfelt Sonata in F Minor, K. 481, is contemplative and lyrical, and seems to bridge the Baroque and Romantic worlds. Its restrained and dark quality is tense, but never reaches a climax. The collection is closed with the flashy and brilliant Sonata in D Minor, K. 141, in which the obsessive repetitive notes, guitar-like strumming, and intricate acrobatics are on display.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

 


 

MAURICE RAVEL
Miroirs

                    
About the Composer


Maurice Ravel was known throughout his life (and since his death) as an innovative composer, a sophisticated musician, and a phenomenal orchestrator. In all genres and instrumentation, his music explored new possibilities of color and form: His unique amalgam of past ideals with the fascination of everything exotic of his day (including jazz and folk idioms) resulted in a distinctly French sound and style.

Along with his contemporary Claude Debussy, Ravel is frequently associated with the Impressionist movement in music, which moved away from the overt emotional expression of the Romantic era toward music that was more about contour, color, and space rather than melodic transformation or elaboration. Much of Ravel's musicespecially works for solo pianoblurs the functions of melody and harmony, allowing a slowly unfolding melody to emerge through the faster surrounding figuration.


About the Work


Ravel was dismissed from the Paris Conservatoire twice-as a piano student in 1895, and as a composer in 1900. He also tried multiple times to win the prestigious Prix de Rome, but met with no success. Rejected, he joined a group of young poets, artists, critics, and musicians known as Les Apaches, or "the hooligans"; each movement of Miroirs is dedicated to a member of his artist troupe. Ravel intended that the work would evoke both the visual and emotional reactions that occur when examining oneself in a mirror, perhaps calling into play multiple versions of our own realities.


A Closer Listen


Each movement is a self-contained "tone poem" of sorts, examining the moods and images that Ravel associated with Les Apaches. Like much of Ravel's music, the piece draws on a wide variety of musical, social, cultural, and historical sources from a period of nearly 200 years.

Dedicated to writer Léon-Paul Fargue, Noctuelles depicts "night moths" and is based on the author's poetry with the same imagery. Its darting and fluttering opening yields to a more sober, chordal middle section. These two thematic ideas interact, but eventually give way to the haze of the night.

Oiseaux tristes (Sad Birds) is dedicated to Ricardo Viñes, the pianist who premiered the work. This somber movement presents a dichotomy between the lonely and songful, and the frantic and fragmentary.

Based on a short cell of music, Une barque sur l'océan (A Boat on the Ocean) is dedicated to painter Paul Sordes. From the gentle swells to the crashing seas, the shimmering ebb and flow of the arpeggiations in this movement capture the boat's journey on the water. The speed of the notes and the complexity of the lines, which are continually weaving in and out of each other, make this the hardest movement of the set.

Alborada del gracioso, translated as "the morning song of a jester," is heavily influenced by Spanish themes. Dedicated to music critic Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, this movement contains stark textural, dynamic, and emotional contrasts. It features rapid repeated notes and glissandi in parallel fourths-both very difficult keyboard techniques.

Miroirs ends with La vallée des cloches (The Valley of Bells), which evokes the striking of church bells of all sizes and sonorities. Dedicated to Ravel's first student, Maurice Delage, this dreamlike movement features lush harmonies and arresting melodies.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

 

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35

                    
About the Composer


Unlike many composer-pianists of his time, Frédéric Chopin disliked public performance. His famed reputation as a preeminent piano virtuoso and improviser arose from his many appearances in society drawing rooms and salons. As a leader of Romanticism, his works combined beautiful, poignant melodies with daring approaches to harmony and inventive formal processes. The majority of Chopin's works are for piano (including mazurkas, etudes, preludes, nocturnes, waltzes, polonaises, ballades, impromptus, and many others), though he also wrote two piano concertos and a few pieces of chamber music. As a performer, Chopin captivated audiences with impressive technique, delicate touch, and nuanced dynamics. Though he shied away from concert life, the formidable virtuosity captured in his music is the embodiment of the Romantic piano tradition and the technical and emotional capacity of the instrument.


About the Work


Chopin wrote four sonatasthree for solo piano and one for cello and piano. His Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor was finished in 1837. It received mixed reviews when it was first published: Composer Robert Schumann thought it lacked cohesion and remarked that Chopin had "simply bound together four of his most unruly children." Though his criticism was harsh, Schumann was correct that the sonata was used as a framework to combine the varied achievements of Chopin's earlier works, such as patterned figuration, periodicity, and sustained melodic line.


A Closer Listen


The B-flat-Minor Sonata is in four movements and modeled after Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 12 (reportedly one of Chopin's favorites). The first movement contrasts a raucous and tempestuous opening with more lyrical sections. The flashy second-movement Scherzo is a fantastic display of virtuosity, again contrasted with a relaxed, melodic center episode. The third movement is the celebrated funeral march, and the short but demanding finale is an incessant tornado of technical display, with unrelenting tempo and dynamic until the last bars of the piece.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation 

FRANZ LISZT
Funérailles from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses


About the Composer

 

Along with Chopin, Franz Liszt was a leader in the Romantic era. He developed new methods of form and technique, employed radical harmonic ideas, invented the symphonic poem, and furthered the concept of thematic transformationall of which influenced contemporaries and future composers alike. With his sensational technique and charm, he was also the leading piano virtuoso of his time and used his fame both to advance the music of others (including his colleagues Berlioz and Wagner) and preserve the music of the past (including Bach, Handel, Schubert, and Beethoven). As musicologist and Liszt expert Alan Walker has written, "He contained in his character more of the ideals and aspirations of the 19th century than any other major musician."


About the Work


In 1834, Liszt wrote a piece titled Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, inspired by a volume of lyric poetry by Alphonse de Lamartine (1830). Though this was published in 1835 along with a dedication to Lamartine, Liszt had plans to add more movements to it. This project did not come to fruition until around 1847, resulting in the work we now know as Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, a collection of 10 pieces published in 1853, all vastly different from one another, and not including the original movement at all. Funérailles is one of the most well-known pieces from the collection.

A Closer Listen


Written in 1849the same year that Chopin diedFunérailles is seventh in the set of Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. Some considered it to be a memorial for Chopin, but Liszt intended it to honor the victims of the Hungarian Revolution.

Funérailles contains four distinct sections, with three main themes that are repeated throughout. The slow, dark introduction is followed by a somber funeral procession. Then ensues a heroic, galloping fanfare atop repetitive, cascading octaves in the bass. After this peak, the final section recalls the themes of the previous three in various thematic transformations, allowing the piece to build in fervor until a sudden drop into the quiet, final chords. Combining poignancy, grief, nobility, anguish, and bombast, Funérailles is a testament to the emotional force of Liszt's musical language.

ToniMarie Marchioni

 

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation


The Distinctive Debuts series is made possible, in part, by an endowment fund for the presentation of young artists provided by The Lizabeth and Frank Newman Charitable Foundation.

Additional endowment support for international outreach has been provided by the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.
This performance is part of Distinctive Debuts.

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