BENJAMIN GROSVENOR PROGRAM
The Benjamin Grosvenor Program consists of a selection of pieces from the Baroque and Romantic eras.
Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828 by J. S. Bach Overture
Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 by Frédéric Chopin
Scherzo: Molto vivace
Finale: Presto non tanto
Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Polka de W.R.
Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp Minor, Op. 19 by Scriabin
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**************************************************************** Benjamin Grosvenor begins his program with the J. S. Bach Partita No. 4 in D Major that was composed between 1725 and 1730.
Bach's Partitas, which comprise of several dance pieces, are often referred to as his German Suites. Bach's first set of Suites were labeled English and the second set French Suites.
In comparison with the two earlier sets of suites, the Partitas are by far the most free-ranging in terms of structure. Unlike the English Suites, for example, which open with a strict prelude, the Partitas feature a number of different opening styles including an ornamental Overture and a Toccata.
While each of the Partitas was published separately, they were collected into a single volume (1731), known as the Clavier- übung I (Keyboard Practice), which Bach chose to label his Opus 1. Unlike the earlier sets of suites, Bach originally intended to publish seven Partitas, advertising in the Spring of 1730 upon the publication of the fifth Partita that the promised collected volume would contain two more such pieces. Following this Baroque style piece in the Benjamin Grosvenor Program we go the Romantic Era.
The Benjamin Grosvenor Program continues with the Chopin Sonata No. 3 in B Minor.
Frédéric Chopin composed his Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58, in 1844 and dedicated it to Countess Emilie de Perthuis, his last sonata for solo piano.
This work in our Benjamin Grosvenor Program opens on a martial note with heavy chords and filigree in the opening of the first movement giving way to a more melodic second theme, eventually leading to the conclusion of the exposition in the relative major, D.
Motives of the original theme emerge in the development, which, unconventionally, returns to the second theme (as opposed to the first) for the recapitulation. The movement concludes in B major.
The scherzo, in the distant key of E flat and in strict ternary (3-part) form, is characterized by runs in the right hand, with a more demure chordal middle section. If played slowly, the main E-flat theme sounds somewhat similar to the E-flat melody from the composer's First Ballade. Unlike the scherzo of the B-flat minor sonata (and, indeed, the rest of Chopin's contributions to the genre outside of the sonatas), it is exceptionally short, typically lasting barely two minutes in performance.
Despite a stormy introduction that was composed in dotted rhythm the largo is serene, almost nocturne-like; a mellow and expansive middle section, again characterized by figuration in the background of an intensely harmonic line, separates the more cantabile outer sections in B major. Notice how musically profound this section is of all the movements (Kraemer, 1991), in terms of a sustained melody and innovative harmonic progression; it rivals the extensive first movement in length alone.
The Finale has a turbulent and dramatic introduction–a rising harmonic progression left hanging on a high dominant seventh. It is pervaded by a "galloping" rhythm with emphasis in the melodic line on the first and third beats of each half-measure that outlines the fifth through eighth degrees of a harmonic minor scale. In this piece of the Benjamin Grosvenor Program listen for the overall melody as it contributes a dark mood to these primary sections. A more triumphant second theme in B major, appears quite suddenly. It tumbles back to a dramatic restatement of the main theme in both of its appearances. This piece concludes with a jubilant B major.
The Benjamin Grosvenor Program continues with two compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)who was born in Russia and studied at the Moscow Conservatory.
Lilacs (Siren) was composed in April 1902, along with ten other songs that were then combined with an earlier piece, Fate (1900), into the opus 21 set of 12 Songs published by Guthiel in December 1902. It was later arranged by Rachmaninov for piano solo.
The poem is by Ekatrina Beketova, an eighteenth-century Russian poet; it describes bunches of lilac flowers as "where happiness lives." Indeed, Rachmaninov's setting of this text is radiant and sunny. Lilacs quickly became popular and a regular feature of Rachmaninov's solo recitals, at which it was hardly uncommon for a singer or even other instrumentalists to be present for a number or two.
Around 1908, Rachmaninov began to receive bouquets of lilacs at his performances from an anonymous admirer. The lilacs arrived, like clockwork, to every concert or recital Rachmaninov gave, no matter where he was appearing in the world, through 1918. That year, Madame Felka Rousseau of Russia identified herself to Rachmaninov as the mysterious donor of the lilacs. She stated that she would have preferred to remain anonymous, but was curious as to why so much time had gone by since Rachmaninov had appeared in Russia. Rachmaninov explained that as long as the current political situation remained as it was in Russia, it was unlikely that he would be able to return at all. Soon after that, the lilacs stopped coming.
Lilacs was one of only two of Rachmaninov's own songs that he adapted into solo piano transcriptions that is part of today's Benjamin Grosvenor Program. The arrangement was made around 1913 which he often used as an encore. He recorded it three times, the first such recordings being made for Victor in 1920, the second as an Ampico piano roll sometime in the 1920s, and the last time at his final recording session held at the RCA studio in Hollywood on February 6, 1942. This last version would not be released until long after Rachmaninov's death.
The Benjamin Grosvenor Program continues with Sergei Rachmaninoff's Polka de W.R. It is a virtuoso piano arrangement of Franz Behr's Lachtäubchen (Scherzpolka) in F major. The tune was a favorite of Rachmaninoff's father, Vassily (the "W.R." in the title refers to his father's initials in the German transliteration, Wassily Rachmaninoff), but it is not known whether Rachmaninoff knew its true author to be Franz Behr, or whether he believed that the melody was concocted by his father.
Behr was given no mention in the published edition of Polka de W.R., and it was universally believed to be an original work of Rachmaninoff's until the late 20th century, when the true author of the melody was identified.
The piece is now generally listed as being by "Behr/Rachmaninoff”, or "Behr, arr. Rachmaninoff". Its first known public performance was on 6 May 1922, by Rachmaninoff himself, at the Queen's Hall, London. He recorded it four times, without revision, and it has been recorded more than sixty more times.
The final piece, Scriabin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in G sharp minor, (Op. 19, also titled Sonata-Fantasy) concludes the Benjamin Grosvenor Program. It was finally published in 1897, at the urging of his publisher. The piece is in two movements, with a style combining Chopin-like Romanticism with an impressionistic touch. Although obscure, it is one of Scriabin's more popular pieces. Like his other sonatas, it is both technically and musically very demanding for the pianist and is written for large hands. There is a large reach of a twelfth, which is arpeggiated.
Continuing on in our Benjamin Grosvenor Program, the first movement Andante begins with echoing effects, followed by two lyrically themed sections. After a short climax, the piece modulates to E major (also C-sharp minor) and lyrical sections are restated with a slightly more complicated accompaniment.
The second movement Presto, in sharp contrast to the first movement, is very fast and intense. In fact, at the given tempo indication, the second movement averages nearly 15 notes per second, making it comparable to an étude. Listen for alternating crescendos and decrescendos. Think of how it gives the listener the impression of waves. The precedent of Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata allowed Scriabin the luxury of an opening slow movement to his Second Sonata. From his program it said, "The first section represents the quiet of a southern night on the seashore; the development is the dark agitation of the deep, deep sea. The E major middle section shows caressing moonlight coming up after the first darkness of night. The second movement represents the vast expanse of ocean in stormy agitation."
Sit back and enjoy the Benjamin Grosvenor Program presented by Matinee Musicale Cincinnati.
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