D SCARLATTI (arr. LIPATTI) Six Sonatas (20’)
PUCCINI Storiella d’amore; Sole e amore; E l’uccellino; Canto d’anime; Avanti Urania! (11’)
BEETHOVEN ‘Moonlight’ Sonata (15’)
SHOSTAKOVICH Sonata for viola and piano (35’)
Beethoven’s beloved ‘Moonlight’ Sonata takes the spotlight, performed by Ensemble 360’s Tim Horton, with echoes of the same piece in Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata – the final notes ever written by the Russian master.
Performances from guest stars Tine Thing Helseth and Kathryn Stott are also woven into the evening, through a selection of Puccini’s songs transformed for trumpet and piano, and Scarlatti’s virtuosic keyboard sonatas brilliantly arranged for wind quintet.
SCARLATTI Domenico, Six Sonatas arranged for wind quintet by Dinu Lipatti
Allegro marciale in G minor (K.450)
Andante in C minor (originally Allegro, C sharp minor; K.247)
Allegro ma non tanto in C major (K.515)
Allegretto in G major (K.538)
Allegro moderato in B minor (K.377)
Allegro molto in G major (K.427)
The Scarlatti sonatas recorded by the great pianist Dinu Lipatti in the late 1940s, during the last few years of his short life, are among the most famous (and admired) of all Scarlatti records. What is much less well known is that in 1938–9, Lipatti also made arrangements of Scarlatti for wind quintet. Lipatti was primarily a pianist, but he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas and these extremely ingenious transcriptions are in the spirit of neoclassical works like Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, though much less interventionist.
Even though Lipatti is generally faithful to his original sources, transcribing such idiomatic keyboard music for wind instruments required imagination and skill – and the finished results sound as much of the sound of the early twentieth century as they do the early eighteenth. These transcriptions were first performed during a radio broadcast on Romanian Radio in April 1940 (apparently the only time Lipatti appeared as a conductor). They were played in public in Paris later in the same year by the Quintette à vent de Paris, the ensemble for which Lipatti started to compose his own wind quintet in 1938 which was destined to remain unfinished.
© Nigel Simeone
PUCCINI Giacomo, 5 songs for trumpet and piano
Storiella d’amore (1883)
Sole e amore (1888)
E l’uccellino (1899)
Canto d’anime (1904)
Avanti Urania! (1896)
Storiella d’amore was Puccini’s first published work, printed in the magazine La musica popolare on 4 October 1883, with a note from the publisher proudly announcing that it was ‘a work by the young maestro Giacomo Puccini, one of the most distinguished students to graduate this year from the Milan Conservatory.’ Originally a song for voice and piano, it contains some intriguing pre-echoes of Mimi’s Act One aria from La bohème.
Sole e amore from 1888 has even more explicit links with the same opera: the tune of this song is identical to that of the Quartet in Act Three.
The charming E l’uccellino was written in 1899 as a cradle song for the infant son of a friend.
Canto d’anime has links to Puccini’s lifelong fascination with technology – whether fast cars, speedboats or, in this case, the gramophone: this song, with words by Luigi Illica (librettist of Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly) was commissioned by the Gramophone Company who subsequently issued a recording of it.
Marked ‘Allegro spigliato’ (‘Fast and breezy’), Avanti Urania! was composed in 1896 to celebrate the acquisition of a handsome steamboat called Urania by Puccini’s friend, the industrialist Marchese Ginori-Lisci.
© Nigel Simeone
BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, ‘Moonlight’ Sonata: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2
In 1801 Beethoven was preoccupied for two reasons. The first was the increasing problem he was having with his hearing. The second was altogether happier: “a dear, magical girl who loves me and whom I love”, as he told an old friend in a letter. In the same letter he even spoke of marriage: “this it is the first time that I have felt that marriage might make one happy.” The “magical girl” was Giulietta Guicciardi who had met Beethoven in 1800 when he started to give her piano lesson. Alas, the magic was not to last as Giulietta married a Count in 1803 – but the musical result is one of Beethoven’s most famous piano sonatas.
The second of his Op.27 sonatas subtitled “quasi una fantasia”, has become universally known as the “Moonlight” – a nickname that derived from a description in 1832 by the critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab who likened the first movement to moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne. The form is unusually free: after the dreamy, slow opening movement, the second is a moment of repose before the angry outburst of the finale – clearly it’s not a portrait of Giulietta, even if Beethoven’s “magical girl” had been the inspiration for this highly original masterpiece.
Nigel Simeone © 2012
SHOSTAKOVICH Dmitri, Viola Sonata Op.147
Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata was his last work, composed in June–July 1975, a few weeks before his death. As in the famous 8th String Quartet, there is a complex network of quotations, including from his own works, and also from Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. Composer Ivan Sokolov reports on Shostakovich’s phone calls from his hospital bed to the viola player Fyodor Druzhinin to whom he was to dedicate the work: ‘In one conversation, noted down immediately afterwards by Druzhinin, Shostakovich suggested titles for each of the three movements: Novella, Scherzo and Adagio in memory of Beethoven.’ Druzhinin gave the first performance on 25 September 1975, on what would have been the composer’s sixty-ninth birthday, and the work was heard in public for the first time a few days later, in the small hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic on 1 October 1975.
The loosely programmatic titles given by the composer to Druzhinin are helpful. The first movement, ‘Novella’, begins with the open strings of the viola and it is a free-flowing structure in which tension is created by the contrast between the austere open sound of fifths (later fourths) and the use of the twelve-note theme heard in the first entry by the piano. The ‘Scherzo’, marked Allegretto, takes as its starting point music from a much earlier operatic project based on Gogol’s The Gamblers that Shostakovich abandoned in 1942. The character is close to that of a march apart from the eerie and mysterious Trio section. After an introductory viola solo, the finale introduces a quotation from the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, but this long movement also explores Shostakovich’s own works.
Biographer David Fanning has pointed out that the later part of the movement includes ‘note for note quotations, mainly found in the piano left-hand part, from Shostakovich’s Second Violin Concerto and all fifteen of his symphonies in sequence.’ Fanning concludes from this that ‘there could scarcely be a clearer indication that Shostakovich knew – or at least suspected – that this would be his last work’
© Nigel Simeone