CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Monday, November 14, 2011 | 8 PM

Joshua Bell
Sam Haywood

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
With his celebrity status and ubiquitous presence as a recording artist, it’s easy to forget the most important thing about Joshua Bell: He’s one of the best violinists around. This recital, with frequent collaborator Sam Haywood, is sure to make the point that this is a virtuoso “who doesn’t stand in anyone’s shadow” (The New York Times).
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The Program

FELIX MENDELSSOHN
Violin Sonata in F Major


About the Composer


In 1838, 29-year-old Felix Mendelssohn was at the peak of his fame and prowess as a conductor, composer, and pianist. As music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus since 1835, he had built the resident orchestra into one of Europe’s most prestigious ensembles and persuaded the renowned virtuoso Ferdinand David to serve as concertmaster. In addition to conducting the orchestra’s regular season of 20 subscription programs, Mendelssohn organized a series of popular chamber music concerts at the Gewandhaus, for which he wrote a number of pieces, including the F-Major Violin Sonata. The summer of 1838 was a typically productive one for the hyperactive composer. He finished the last of his three Op. 44 String Quartets in July, began work on his Cello Sonata No. 1 in B-flat Major, and planted the seeds of his great E-Minor Violin Concerto. On June 10, he returned home to Berlin from Cologne, where he had conducted some 700 musicians in a “monster” performance of Handel’s oratorio Joshua. 


About the Work


The first draft of the Violin Sonata is dated June 15, 1838, which suggests that Mendelssohn intended to introduce it in Leipzig with David the following winter. Instead, unhappy with the first movement, he tossed his “wretched sonata” aside. He later picked it up and started to revise the score, only to abandon it again. Mendelssohn’s dissatisfaction, and David’s understandable reluctance to add the problematic work to his repertoire, helps explain why the F-Major Sonata remained unpublished and virtually unknown until Yehudi Menuhin came across the manuscript in 1953. Since then, this bracingly virtuosic work has enjoyed a new lease on life, taking its place alongside Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata in F Minor, Op. 4, of 1825 and his two cello sonatas. (The manuscript of a third violin sonata, also in F major, is listed among the composer’s juvenilia.)


A Closer Listen


Mendelssohn was an accomplished violinist, as his confident and idiomatic writing for the instrument attests. The opening Allegro vivace combines two basic ideas: a briskly striding four-note theme in dotted rhythm that surges higher and higher, and a smoother, more lyrical version moving in the opposite direction. The music bears Mendelssohn’s fingerprints in its almost prodigal melodic facility, transparency of texture, and subtle chromatic inflections. The songlike Adagio in A major is by turns sweetly introspective and urgently lyrical, with violin and piano sharing the thematic material on equal terms. The final Assai vivace flies like the wind, a rushing torrent of 16th notes that flirts with seriousness but remains resolutely playful.


—Harry Haskell

© 2011 The Carnegie Hall Corporation 


LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2


About the Composer


Although Beethoven was not as musically precocious as Mozart or Schubert, he was scarcely a late-bloomer. His very first published opus, the three piano trios of 1795, established his credentials with the Viennese public as an up-and-comer eager to distinguish himself from his esteemed teacher, Haydn. By his 30th year, he had to his credit a clutch of masterpieces—including three piano concertos, six string quartets, and one symphony—that any composer might envy. Over the next dozen years, his increasing deafness notwithstanding, a flood of ambitious and formally innovative works flowed from his pen: the opera Fidelio, the Third (“Eroica”) Symphony and its three successors, the Violin Concerto, the three “Razumovsky” Quartets, and the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas.


About the Work


Beethoven’s 10 sonatas for violin and piano date from the crucial formative years 1797–1812, when he emerged from the shadow of Haydn and Mozart and forged the “heroic” style of his so-called middle period. He composed the three Op. 30 sonatas on the heels of the sunny, crowd-pleasing “Spring” Sonata and just before the stylistic breakthrough represented by the brilliant and monumental “Kreutzer” Sonata. Of the three, the C-Minor is the longest (it is the only one in four movements) and darkest. Although the title page of the first edition specified that the sonatas were written for piano “with the accompaniment of a violin,” Beethoven in fact treated the two instruments as equal partners.


A Closer Listen


A terse, tightly coiled figure in the piano—a long note followed by a brisk curlicue—generates much of the energy for the expansive and highly dramatic Allegro con brio. A few moments later, the violin introduces a sprightly strutting theme in the relative major key, whose crisp dotted rhythms will also play a prominent role in Beethoven’s musical argument. The Adagio cantabile, steeped in the warmth of A-flat major, lives up to its name in its limpid lyricism, though Beethoven can’t help gilding the lily with delicate pianistic filigree. The fleet C-major Scherzo builds an irresistible momentum with its playful accents and flowing Trio midsection. Like the first movement, the final Allegro, again in C minor, germinates from a tiny cell that is first presented as a subterranean rumbling in the piano.


—Harry Haskell


 
© 2011 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

EUGÈNE YSAŸE
Violin Sonata in D Minor, Op. 27, No. 3, “Ballade”


About the Composer


Born into a musical family in 1858, Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe studied with two of the leading virtuosos of the day, Henri Wieniawski and Henri Vieuxtemps. By the end of the century, he had taken both Europe and America by storm. Dvořák was not alone in praising the “tremendous power and incomparable purity” of his tone, which can still be admired on the recordings he made late in life. Among the many works written for or dedicated to him are Debussy’s String Quartet and Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major. After a four-year stint as conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony (1918–1922), Ysaÿe returned to Brussels and died there nine years later.


About the Work


It was the experience of hearing the Hungarian virtuoso Joseph Szigeti play one of Bach’s works for unaccompanied violin after World War I that inspired Ysaÿe to write his Op. 27 sonatas. Each of the six solo works is dedicated to a reigning violinist of the day. Like Bach, Ysaÿe exploited the instrument’s technical and expressive resources to the utmost, using special sound effects, double- and triple-stops, scintillating passagework, and simulated polyphonic passages. The D-Minor Sonata, subtitled “Ballade,” is the shortest and best known of the Op. 27 set. It is dedicated to the Romanian composer and violinist Georges Enesco.


A Closer Listen


The sonata’s single movement falls into three parts. The slow, meditative introduction is characterized by broad, romantic gestures and hollow-sounding intervals (sixths and fourths). Chains of finger-twisting double-stops, mounting in volume and intensity, lead to the main section of the sonata, a bravura showpiece built around a recurring figure in a distinctive “snap” rhythm (short-long). After presenting the main theme, the violinist weaves a soft, rhythmically nebulous web of sound, out of which snatches of melody emerge with increasing definition. Brief as it is, the “Ballade” Sonata exemplifies Ysaÿe’s desire to combine “musical interest with virtuosity on a large scale.”


—Harry Haskell


 
© 2011 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

CÉSAR FRANCK
Violin Sonata in A Major


About the Composer


By his early 20s, César Franck had several widely acclaimed works under his belt, including a series of piano trios designed to showcase his prowess at the keyboard. Nonetheless, he was slow to win recognition as a leading figure of the French Romantic school. Not until his 50th year did he achieve the equivalent of a tenured position as professor of organ at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils would include Debussy and Bizet. Among his best-known works are the majestic Prélude, fugue et variation for organ, the ebullient Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, and the Lisztian symphonic poem Le chasseur maudit.


About the Work


Although Franck wrote a mere a handful of chamber works, clustered at the beginning and end of his career, they include some of his greatest and most characteristic creations. The A-Major Sonata of 1886, which many consider his masterpiece, was dedicated to the Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe. Such was its éclat that it was soon taken up by cellists, violists, and flutists, making it one of the most frequently performed works in the recital repertoire. It figures memorably in literature as well: in John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga, it is Irene’s playing of Franck’s “divine third movement” that triggers Young Jolyon’s fateful decision to tell his son about the tragedy that has loomed over their family since before his birth.


A Closer Listen


The sonata is deeply indebted to Ysaÿe’s purity of tone, liquid phrasing, and tasteful reticence. After hearing him play the opening movement, Franck adjusted the tempo marking to a livelier Allegretto ben moderato, imparting an undercurrent of urgency to the gently undulating principal theme. For all its rich chromaticism and quasi-symphonic textures, the sonata has a chaste, limpid quality that permeates even the restless, driving intensity of the second-movement Allegro. The work lacks a true slow movement. In its place, Franck injected an oasis of repose in the form of a spacious minor-mode meditation that revisits earlier thematic material. Freely declamatory in style, the Recitativo—Fantasia mediates between the muscular lyricism of the first two movements and the disciplined canonic writing of the final Allegretto poco mosso.


—Harry Haskell


 
© 2011 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Bank of America Logo 8/18/11
This performance is sponsored by Bank of America, Carnegie Hall's Proud Season Sponsor.
The Trustees of Carnegie Hall gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Larry A. Silverstein in support of the 2011-2012 season.

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