CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Tuesday, May 29, 2012 | 8 PM

Lang Lang

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Lang Lang is indisputably “the hottest artist on the classical music planet” (The New York Times). TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and his performance at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was watched by more than four billion people. His recitals are guaranteed sell-outs, and when he performs at Carnegie Hall, sparks will certainly fly.
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The Program

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825

About the Composer


Though this German composer and organist was only modestly known during his lifetime and had only a handful of works published, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was revivified in Berlin through an 1829 performance of the St. Matthew Passion, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Today, Bach is almost universally regarded by listeners of classical music as among the greatest composers of all time. Within the realm of keyboard music, his mighty influence in polyphony, counterpoint, and musical line has permeated generations of composers, students, and listeners alike.


About the Work


In the Baroque era, dance music evolved into a pinnacle of craft and stylization, with no better representation than the partitas, suites, and overtures of Bach. The six partitas are especially notable for being Bach's last works in the language of the (Baroque) suite, and, along with the English and French suites, are the greatest examples of the form.

Generally acknowledged as Bach's first published works (in 1731), the six partitas would later comprise the first part of Bach's massive four-part Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice), which includes the Italian Concerto and the "Goldberg" Variations. Penned five years before its publication, the Partita No. 1 was a gift to commemorate the birth of Emanuel Ludwig, prince of Anhalt-Köthen.


A Closer Listen


The clean transparency of the charming and astonishing B-flat-Major Partita hides the complexity of the work's counterpoint, which can be heard in the opening, lyrical Prelude, the melody of which is passed from voice to voice. The unusually rollicking Allemande complements the skipping Corrente. An introspective Sarabande slows to—and recalls—the pace of the Prelude, while the pair of Minuets that follows picks up on the partita's opening theme, now made danceable. The closing Gigue floats a melody through a sea of accompaniment.


—Ben Finane

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

FRANZ SCHUBERT
Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960

About the Composer


Considered the last great composer of the First Viennese School, Vienna native Franz Schubert imbued his masterful contributions to orchestral, chamber, and piano music—and most certainly to German lieder—with an uncompromising priority for lyricism and integrity of melody. His expressive style, so naturally suited to song, had a great influence on 19th- and 20th-century composers to follow, namely Anton Bruckner and Anton Webern.


About the Work


His syphilitic condition worsening, Schubert wrote his last three sonatas (D. 958–960) in the last few months of his short life. The B-flat–Major Sonata (D. 960) was completed on September 26, 1828, and performed by Schubert himself the next day—along with the C-Minor (D. 958) and A-Major (D. 959) sonatas—at the house of Dr. Ignaz Menz (a small Schubertiade of sorts). The composer had intended to dedicate the sonatas to his friend Johann Nepomuk Hummel, but both the intended dedicatee and Schubert were dead when Anton Diabelli ultimately published the three sonatas—with a dedication to a great Schubert champion, Robert Schumann.


A Closer Listen


Whether Schubert felt Death at his shoulder as he penned what was to be his final sonata will of course never be known, but certainly D. 960 does not want for mortal drama—which appears in the opening movement in the guise of a rumbling bass, interrupting the warm opening theme and then lurking at the periphery until its subsequent returns. There is an air of desperation in the manner in which the major-key theme fights to soar above the fray as miraculous shifts in coloration in the expansive movement delicately unfold around it. The major-key theme seems to come to some sort of resolution with the minor-key rumble at the movement's end, if only temporarily. The Andante can feel even more deliberate than the sonata's opening movement, pensive but not to the point of stasis, as its middle, more lively section reveals. The Scherzo offers a brief return to lightness, then wanders into the shadows, and back again—nearly. The celebrated final movement (in rondo form) features an interrupting G, in octaves, that recalls the opening movement's rumbling bass and becomes an obstacle of sorts for the Allegro theme to negotiate, which it does by achieving the major key (B-flat), building to a triumphant finale.


—Ben Finane

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN
12 Etudes, Op. 25

About the Composer


For all of his innovation at the keyboard, a strong Classical streak steadfastly prevails throughout Chopin's oeuvre. That much is clear from the way the composer stuck with absolute forms for his titles (waltz, ballade, etude, nocturne, mazurka, polonaise, scherzo, impromptu) instead of descriptive or programmatic titles, as his colleagues Schumann, Liszt, and Mendelssohn were apt to use. Beethoven's thunder appealed to Chopin far less than Mozart's elegance and proportion and Bach's organizational powers and contrapuntal acumen.


About the Work


Chopin's etudes are not for students but for masters. The first set of 12 was published as the composer's Op. 10 in 1833 and dedicated to Franz Liszt. Chopin's second dozen—the Op. 25 to be performed tonight—was published in 1837 and dedicated to one Countess Marie d'Agoult, Liszt's mistress.

Building on the foundations, techniques, and figuration of the Op. 10 Etudes, the Op. 25 Etudes are simply packed with music. Chopin draws on free and unpredictable melody and blurs functional and incidental harmony.


A Closer Listen


Etude No. 1, "Harp Study" (Chopin suggested no titles for the etudes that have since earned monikers) delights with coloration and swimming arpeggios—we can hear the influence on Debussy—above which a soprano line of melody is buoyed. Hearing No. 2 in Dresden, Robert Schumann called the piece "charming, dreamy, and soft—as a child singing in its sleep." Chopin weds No. 3 to a clopping rhythm throughout, yet the fluidity is surprising and transitions between sections are languorously blurred. The syncopated No. 4's repeated staccato in the left hand is juxtaposed against a more cantabile texture in the right. In the grand No. 5, a simple motif is colored in many different ways, and accompaniment dances around a broad melody. No. 6, nicknamed "Study in Thirds" for its right hand, is lushly Romantic. No. 7 marks a change of pace and serves as a "slow movement"; the theme here comes from "Teneri figli" in Bellini's Norma. Virtuoso Hans von Bülow recommended No. 8 as "a remedy for stiff fingers before performing in public—playing it through six times is recommended for even the most expert pianists." The insistent rhythm of No. 9, "Butterfly Wings," is set beneath a delicate blend of staccato and legato, whereas No. 10 is filled with brutal octaves, pausing only briefly for a period of tranquility. No. 11, "Winter Wind," is certainly tempestuous in Romantic Sturm und Drang fashion, guarding its energy even during lulls. No. 12 became known as "Ocean" for its tidal swell; the etude's grandness recalls Beethoven—with more finesse.


—Ben Finane

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Please note that if you purchase stage seating, please arrive one hour before concert time. There will be no late seating.
Duff and Phelps 115 x 31
The Carnegie Hall Live broadcast series is sponsored by Duff & Phelps.
This performance is part of Great Artists I.

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