PROGRAM NOTES - V, W & Y Composers


PROGRAM NOTES: V - W- Y

| VAUGHAN WILLIAMS | VERDI | VIDAL | VIEUXTEMPS | VIVALDI | WALTON | WARD | WARLOCK | WEILL | WICKMAN |
| WICKS | WIDOR | WIENIAWSKI | WILDHORN | WILLIAMSON | WORK | WROTEN | YARBROUGH | YSAYE |


[A] | [BA-BI] | [BL-BU] | [C] | [D-E] | [F-G] | [H] | [I-J-K-L] | [M] | [N-O-P] | [Q-R] | [S] | [T] | [ ⇑ ]

Copyright 2006-2020 by Edward Lein;
please notify & credit if reprinting.


Ralph Vaughan Williams: Five Mystical Songs
The quintessentially English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) received extensive musical training at the Royal College of Music and at Cambridge, and he also studied privately with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel. But it wasn’t until he began collecting English folk-songs and studying hymnody that he developed the personal style that has made him arguably the most popular British composer since Henry Purcell (Benjamin Britten being his only real rival).

Although he was a “cheerful agnostic,” this didn’t stop Vaughan Williams from composing some of the most spiritually charged music in the English language, including these Five Mystical Songs (1911, four of which also have optional parts for chorus) on texts drawn from George Herbert’s The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633).

--Summer Serenade, July 25, 2007 (Lindsey Tuller & Clinton Weinberg)


Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) is the foremost Italian composer of operas. Among his early triumphs are the ever-popular Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore (1853) and La Traviata (1853), and by the time of Aïda (1871) all the elements of his youthful style had reached full maturity—and his achievement seemed unsurpassable. But after a 16-year hiatus a 73-year-old Verdi surpassed even himself with Otello (1887), based on Shakespeare's tragedy (less an "h"), a supreme masterpiece that for many represents the culmination of Italian grand opera. Then, in 1893, Verdi produced Falstaff, a comic masterpiece based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, proving that the octogenarian's genius never waned.


Rigoletto: La donna è mobile
In Rigoletto, on a libretto by friend and frequent collaborator Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876), and based on Victor Hugo’s play, Le roi s’amuse (1832), the title character is the spiteful court jester to the “Duke a Mantua.” The Duke routinely seduces the wives and daughters of his courtiers, and Rigoletto takes great pleasure in humiliating the wronged noblemen. But when one of them hurls a father’s curse at him, the superstitious jester is horrified. Later, a group of the mocked noblemen discover Rigoletto in the company of “Gilda,” a beautiful young woman whom they incredulously believe to be Rigoletto’s mistress. As revenge, they decide to kidnap Gilda and deliver her up to the Duke, and they convince Rigoletto to join them by pretending they are abducting a countess from the neighboring house. Rigoletto realizes too late that he has been duped into helping them steal that which is most precious to him—Gilda is not his mistress, she is in fact his over-protected daughter! No longer finding his boss’s dissolute behavior the least amusing, Rigoletto hires an assassin to do in the Duke. But the various plots and counter-plots become hopelessly tangled when both the naive Gilda and the assassin’s worldly sister fall for the Duke’s superficial charms, and each works, unbeknownst to the other, to redirect the assassin’s blade. The Duke’s Act III canzone, La donna è mobile, is one of Verdi’s most recognizable tunes, and it perfectly demonstrates the Duke’s charming exterior that obscures the underlying contempt he has for others, and most especially for women.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 18, 2007 (Bella Voce Cabaret)


La traviata: Brindisi
Following Rigoletto, Verdi and Piave scored big again with La traviata (“She Who Strayed”), based on La dame aux Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas, fils (a-lek-SAHN-druh dü-MAH fees, 1824-1895), only “la dame” is apparently holding a different bouquet in Verdi’s adaptation. “Violetta,” a courtesan-with-a-heart-of-gold, sacrifices happiness to save the reputation of her young paramour, “Alfredo,” at the urging of Alfredo’s father (but it’s really more for Alfredo’s sister, who never sings a note). At a party Violetta has thrown to celebrate her (temporary) recovery from a recent illness, Alfredo offers a toast with the Brindisi (“Drinking Song”), having just met Violetta (whom he’s secretly been stalking, uh, admiring from a distance).

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 18, 2007 (Bella Voce Cabaret)


Aida: Ritorna vincitor
In Aida, Verdi tells the tragic tale of the titular Ethiopian princess who has been captured into slavery by the Egyptian army, lead by "Radames," with whom, ironically, she is desperately in love. In her Act I soliloquy, Ritorna vincitor ("Return a conqueror"), Aida struggles with her breaking heart and impossibly conflicted emotions--her love for Radames on one hand, versus her love for her father and homeland on the other.

--Music @ Main, March 10, 2010: Kimberly Beasley, soprano


Il Trovatore: Tacea la notte placida
In Il Trovatore ("The Troubador"), Verdi takes a hopelessly tangled plot--fueled by jealousy, hapless coincidence, and a Gypsy's dying curse--and sorts out the melodrama with some of the most magnificent music in all of opera. In the first act cavatina, Tacea la notte placida ("Quiet was the peaceful night"), "Leonora," a lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Aragon, relates to her maid how she went to a balcony overlooking the moonlit garden to find out who was serenading her, and there discovered and fell passionately in love with Manrico, the same knight in black armor whom she had once crowned victorious in a joust.

--Music @ Main, March 10, 2010: Kimberly Beasley, soprano


Paul Vidal: Aria et Fanfare
French composer Paul Vidal (1863-1931) was a classmate of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) at the Paris Conservatory, and in 1863 Vidal won the coveted Prix de Rome, the year before Debussy won the same composition prize. But unlike his famous friend, Vidal was better known as an opera conductor than as a composer, and he became chief conductor at the Paris Opera from 1906, and was director of the Opera-Comique from 1914-1919. After 1909, Vidal also taught at the Paris Conservatory, where his students included Henri Tomasi, Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), and Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979), the legendary conductor and composition teacher who used Vidal's harmony text as one of her principle pedagogic tools. Not surprisingly, as a composer Vidal was best known for his theatrical and vocal compositions, although these are rarely performed today. In addition to the Aria et Fanfare (1927), among Neruda's instrumental works featuring cornet or trumpet, his Concertino (1922) is also sometimes still performed.


Henri Vieuxtemps: Capriccio in C minor for Viola Solo, Op. 55 "Hommage à Paganini"
Much like his contemporary Alard, the Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps (1820–1881) was a child prodigy who famously performed a concerto at age six, and who likewise went on to gain an international reputation as both performer and teacher. Vieuxtemps was a student and eventually professor at the Brussels Conservatory, and he represented the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing. He lived in Russia for five years (1846-51), where he founded the violin school at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, while also serving as principal violinist in the court of Czar Nicholas I. Vieuxtemps' solo performances throughout Europe brought him into friendly and admiring contact with the likes of Schumann, Berlioz, Wagner and Paganini, and he also toured the United States. He was widely admired as a performer of chamber music, particularly of string quartets by Beethoven.

In 1871, Vieuxtemps accepted an appointment at the Brussels Conservatory, but he suffered a stroke that affected his bowing arm, effectively ending his concert career and interrupting his teaching. A second stroke in 1879 made even teaching impossible, and he retired to Algeria to be near his daughter and son-in-law, but he still continued to compose.

Most of Vieuxtemps' compositions feature the solo violin, and he is most remembered for his seven violin concertos, with which he helped redefine Romantic concertos as works of symphonic scope rather than merely vehicles for virtuosic display. Other works of note include two cello concertos, three string quartets, and several works featuring the viola, another instrument of which Vieuxtemps had been a master.

Among these is Capriccio in C minor for Viola Solo, Op. 55 "Hommage à Paganini", which was published posthumously with 6 pieces for solo violin as 6 Morceaux suivis d'un capriccio ("Six Pieces followed by a Capriccio"). Although publishers have used “Op. 55” for the entire collection, The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and other sources identify the combined set as “Op. 61,” his highest opus number, suggesting that it is the composer's valedictory composition.


Antonio Vivaldi
Music historians often refer to the Venetian violin virtuoso Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) as the composer most representative of the mature Italian Baroque style, and in addition to sonatas and sacred choral music he wrote nearly four dozen operas and over 500 concertos. He was nicknamed il Prete Rosso ("The Red Priest") owing to his hair color and day job as music teacher in a church-run orphanage. As the composer of "The Four Seasons" Vivaldi wrote what have become among the most recognized violin concertos of any era, so it is perhaps surprising that after he died his music remained virtually unknown until the 20th Century.


Concerto for 2 Flutes in C Major, RV 533
Of Vivaldi's 500+ concertos, the Concerto in C Major, RV 533 is the only one specifically for two transverse flutes (as opposed to the then more-common recorder). As with most of his other concertos, the first movement Allegro molto makes use of a ritornello (Italian for "refrain") in which the opening passage (for the full orchestra) appears several times in different keys, returning to the home key for the closing statement.


Flute Concerto, Op. 10, no. 3 "Il Cardellino"
The six concertos of Vivaldi's op. 10 (1728) were among the very first works for the transverse flute ever published. The subtitle for the third concerto, Il Cardellino ("The Goldfinch"), is one Vivaldi supplied himself, as the flute part is meant to suggest birdsong.


Concerto for 2 Violins (L'Estro Armonico, Op. 3, no. 8)
The 12 concerti grossi of Vivaldi's L'Estro Armonico ("Harmonic Inspiration"), Op. 3, were written in 1711, and Concerto No. 8, which features 2 solo violins, was later arranged for organ solo by J.S. Bach.

Music@Main, November 16, 2009: JU Chamber Strings


Sonata in A minor, RV 43
Vivaldi is among the earliest composers to treat the cello as a solo instrument, with almost 30 cello concertos and nine (or so) cello sonatas with continuo accompaniment. This Sonata in A minor, RV 43, is one of six published together in 1740 as “Opus 14,” but it is doubtful that Vivaldi himself had anything to do with their grouping or publication. The movements follow the “slow-fast-slow-fast” pattern of the typical Baroque sonata da chiesa (i.e., “church sonata”), providing the soloist opportunity to display in alternation contemplative elegance and sprightly good humor.

Music @ Main 12/14/2009: Linda Minke & Edith Moore-Huber


JSYO Major/Minor Notes William WALTON (1902-1983)
Viola Concerto (1929). I. Andante comodo

In many "Music History 101" courses British music from the Renaissance into the 20th Century might be summarized: Some madrigals, fa la la -- Purcell -- Elgar (maybe) -- Vaughan Williams and Holst -- Britten. William Walton might get only a footnote glimmering faintly through Britten's shadow, but this doesn't diminish the luminous quality of Sir William's best music, including Belshazzar's Feast (1931).

Between the World Wars, and before being eclipsed by the younger upstart (whom, by the way, Walton greatly admired and befriended), Walton was the shining star of "Modern" British music. His first major work was Façade (1922). The piece scandalized the audience during its public premiere in 1923, but one suspects less for the music and more for the seemingly nonsensical poetry it accompanied. The shocking verse was recited (from behind a screen and through a megaphone) by its author, Edith Sitwell, whose literary family had all but adopted Walton after he flunked out of Oxford (for his disdain of algebra, not his music). It didn't take too long for Walton's witty score to become better appreciated, but at first even the musicians hated it--one of the original sextet asked the composer if perhaps a clarinetist had inflicted some injury upon him.

For his Viola Concerto (1929), Walton looked to Elgar and Prokofiev as models, as well as to German composer Paul Hindemith. The latter was really instrumental in the initial success of the concerto: Hindemith appeared as soloist for the premiere after violist Lionel Tertis rejected the work Walton had written for him. The concerto was a big success with the audience and critics, Walton and Hindemith became great friends, and a regretful Tertis soon added the masterful piece to his repertoire.

In 1937 Walton conducted the first recording of the concerto with violist Frederick Riddle, and Riddle provided some changes to his part that the composer gratefully included in the score published the following year. In 1961, Walton revised his orchestration, paring some of the winds and adding a harp. Without withdrawing the original version, Walton published the new edition in 1964, and the concerto is now usually performed with the revised orchestration.

With his Viola Concerto the 27-year-old composer more fully revealed his innate lyricism, previously "hidden under a mask of irony" (The Record Guide, 1956). As Walton matured and focused more on the lyrical and less on the ironic, the fickle critics began to dismiss him as old-fashioned. A decade after his triumph with the Viola Concerto, Walton observed in a newspaper interview: "These days it is very sad for a composer to grow old ... I seriously advise all sensitive composers to die at the age of 37. I know: I've gone through the first halcyon period and am just about ripe for my critical damnation."

(c)2014 by Edward Lein. All rights reserved


Samuel Augustus Ward: America the Beautiful
When Samuel Augustus Ward (1847-1903) wrote the hymn tune Maderna in 1882, the New Jersey organist could not have dreamed that it would become one of the most recognized melodies in the world, thanks to a poet he never even met. Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), a professor of English at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, penned America the Beautiful in response to the magnificent panoramas she experienced during a cross-country trip in 1893. First published on July 4, 1895, Bates revised her poem in 1904, and finalized the complete eight stanzas in her 1911 collection entitled, America the Beautiful and Other Poems. Although Bates’ verses were sung to practically every tune that could be made to fit (including even Auld Lang Syne), by as early as 1910 Ward’s hymn had become the favorite, and today it is hard to imagine that the words and familiar melody came from unrelated sources. Incorporating readings from landmark documents and speeches in American history, the setting used in today’s concert is by Mark Hayes (b. 1953), a composer and arranger who has published over 600 works primarily for church musicians.

--October 21, 2007 (Cromley and Friends: Voices & Violin, Bach to Broadway)


Peter Warlock: Capriol Suite
Peter Warlock (1894-1930) was born in London as Philip Arnold Heseltine and had a successful career as a music critic under his real name. But he is better known by the bewitching pseudonym he used for his musical compositions, and it also reflects his alleged interest in the occult. Providing inspiration for a number of British authors including Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence, at age 36 Warlock's colorful personal life ended by gas poisoning, under suspicious circumstances.

Although he devoted most of his compositional efforts toward writing songs, Warlock's instrumental Capriol Suite (1926) has become his best-known work. Originally for piano duet and inspired by Orchésographie, a manual of Renaissance dances by Thoinot Arbeau (1519-1595), the composer also prepared a version for full orchestra in addition to this one for strings.

-- Music@Main, November 16, 2009


Kurt Weill: Trouble Man (from Lost in the Stars)
German composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) is most remembered for his works for the stage, especially The Threepenny Opera (1928), in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), but he also produced a prodigious amount of art songs and concert and chamber music during the first decade of his career. Despite his popularity with the German public, Weill became a target of the Nazis during the early 1930s, and the Jewish socialist and his famous wife, the Austrian chanteuse and actress Lotte Lenya (1898-1981), were forced to flee Germany in 1933; they moved to New York City in 1935, and he eventually became an American citizen.

Weill immersed himself in American popular song and Broadway musicals, hoping to develop a style that synthesized European opera with American musical theater-- perhaps building on Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935), but definitely setting the groundwork for future achievements, like Bernstein's West Side Story (1957), and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (1979). Weill's efforts were officially rewarded in 1947 when Street Scene earned him the first-ever Tony Award for Best Original Score.

Premiering in 1949, the year before his early death, Weill's last work for the stage was Lost in the Stars, with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959), and based on the novel Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), by Alan Paton (1903-1988). With South African apartheid as a backdrop, the sad, but ultimately hopeful tale relates the story of "Stephen Kumalo," a black Anglican priest, as he searches for his son, only finally to find him awaiting trail for murder. Before father and son are reunited, Father Stephen has a meeting with his son's pregnant girlfriend, "Irina," who relates her anxiety in Trouble Man.


Ethan Wickman: Respite
Award-winning composer Ethan Wickman is Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and he recently returned from Madrid, Spain, where he held a Fulbright Fellowship. He holds a Doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and his music was featured in the soundtrack of the PBS series Ancestors. More at http://www.ethanwickman.com/

--http://jaxpubliclibrary.org/progs/main/violinfutura_2008.html


Christopher M. Wicks: Duo for violin and cello (2002)
Christopher M. Wicks is an organist and composer living in Oregon's Willamette Valley. He holds a M.Mus. in Composition from the Universite de Montreal and a M.Mus. in Organ from the University of Oregon, and, did undergraduate work at no fewer than six colleges, including Marylhurst University and the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New York). Christopher's compositions have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe, and he has released two CDs, one of him performing original organ music, and one of chamber compositions for harp and violin.

For the piece on this concert the composer observes, "My Duo for violin and cello, composed in 2002, is in three movements, each rhythmically fairly traditional, but with shifting modes in the scalar motions in each instrument. The second movement is centered on the tone E, with a sense of minor or Dorian mode much of the time, and the third movement has passages with a persistent pedal tone of D in one instrument, while the other plays improvisatory-sounding roulades."

--Music @ Main, May 12, 2009 (VnC Duo)


Charles-Marie Widor: Introduction et Rondo, op. 72
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) was the preeminent organist in Paris at the turn into the 20th Century, and he taught both organ and composition at the Paris Conservatoire to students including Vierne, Dupré, Honegger, Milhaud, and Varèse, as well as Albert Schweizer with whom he annotated an edition of the organ works of J.S. Bach. Although his output includes operas, symphonies, concertos and a variety of chamber music, as a composer Widor is remembered mostly for his 10 symphonies for solo organ, a form he pioneered, and most especially for the famous Toccata finale of his Organ Symphony No. 5, Op. 42, no. 1. His idiomatic and virtuosic Introduction et Rondo, op. 72, was written in 1898 to fill a request from the Paris Conservatoire for a solo de concours (i.e., solo competition piece) for clarinet with piano. It remains a favorite of accomplished clarinetists, allowing the soloist ample opportunity to showcase both versatility and technique by alternating lyrical melodies with bravura passage work.


Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)
-- Obertas, op. 19, no.1 (1860)
-- Legende, op. 17 (1859)
-- Polonaise Billante in D-Major, op. 4 (1852)

As a violinist the prodigious talent of Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) was recognized early on by his pianist mother, and she managed to get her son admitted into the Paris Conservatoire when he was a mere lad of eight, despite his being underage and not even French. From age 15 until his death from heart failure at 45, Wieniawski maintained a rigorous concert schedule that included a two-year tour of North America (1872-74), and his influence as a teacher is still evident particularly among violinists from Russia, where he taught from 1860 to 1872.

Wieniawski's two dozen published compositions include pieces that are reckoned among the cornerstones of the violinist's repertoire, requiring the highest level of technical proficiency and often featuring virtuoso effects that heighten the passionate melodic expression. His works demonstrate a continuing interest in cultivating a national music based on characteristically Polish forms, including mazurkas, as in Obertas (from Two Mazurkas, op. 19), and polonaises, as in the early Polonaise brillante, op. 4. Wieniawski apparently wrote his works to perform himself, but his Legende, op. 17, has a more personal significance: it was through its composition that Wieniawski was finally able to convince the parents of Isabel Hampton that he was worthy enough to marry their daughter.

--Music @ Main, December 8, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk, violin & Christine Clark, piano)


Frank Wildhorn: A New Life (from Jekyll and Hyde)
Jekyll and Hyde (1990) is the best known musical by American composer Frank Wildhorn (b.1958), and at the same time it was on Broadway, Wildhorn had two other shows playing just down the street: The Scarlett Pimpernel (1997) and The Civil War (1998), and these last two were nominated for Tony Awards, as was his Bonnie and Clyde (2009). Based on the Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), the Tony-nominated book and lyrics of the musical version are by British composer Leslie Bricusse (b.1931), whose early collaborations with fellow Brit Anthony Newly (1931-1999) gained them international fame, along with both a 1963 Tony (for Stop the World, I Want to Get Off) and Grammy (for What Kind of Fool am I)--and Bricusse has since had numerous additional nominations for his work in movies and stage musicals, and has won two Oscars®.

The song A New Life is sung by "Lucy," a showgirl infatuated with the kind-hearted Dr. Jekyll, who has just sent her money to move away to safety and start her life over. Sadly, she is also being terrorized by the murderous Mr. Hyde, who has other plans for her.


Nathan Williamson: Homecoming
Composer, pianist, teacher and artistic director Nathan Williamson (b. 1978) is highly regarded as one of Great Britain’s most versatile and distinctive musicians. His widely varied compositions reveal a clear, individual artistic voice, and he has been awarded numerous commissions. He studied composition at the Guildhall School of Music and at Yale University, where he won several major prizes and received a one-year teaching fellowship upon graduating. He will complete doctoral studies at Oxford University this year. More at http://www.nathanwilliamson.co.uk/

--Music @ Main, February 5, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk: Violin Futura)


John Wesley Work III: Soliloquy
Both John Wesley Work III (1901-1967) and his brother, Julian, became the third generation of professional musicians in their family: their grandfather, the first John Wesley Work, was a Tennessee church musician and choral arranger; their father, John Wesley Work II, was a singer, ethnomusicologist and professor at Fisk University, in Nashville; and their mother, Agnes Haynes Work, was a singer and choral director at Fisk. In addition to composing, John W. Work III followed extremely closely in both his parent's footsteps, becoming an important ethnomusicologist, as well as both choral director and professor of music theory and composition at Fisk, eventually becoming chair of the music department there in 1950.

The third John began composing as a high school student, and throughout his career wrote over 100 works in a variety of genres, with songs and choral music dominating his output. In 1946 he won first prize from the Federation of American Composers' competition for a cantata, The Singers, and the following year he received an award from the National Association of Negro Musicians. Also dating from 1946, Soliloquy is a setting of a text by Myrtle Vorst Sheppard--still under copyright, so it cannot be reprinted in its entirety, but the beginning and ending lines aptly convey the sentiment of the whole song:

If death be only half as sweet as life, I will not fear, I'll shed no tear,
Nor will I ask my friends to weep;
...
If death be only half as sweet as life, I will not fear to go.
I love life so! I love life so!


Alex Wroten: Realpolitik
Alex Wroten began studying drums at the age of six, and began piano and guitar lessons at age eight. In middle school he wrote pieces for his school’s concert band and a few works for guitar and piano, and while in high school Alex developed a continuing focus on electronic music and synthesis for film scores. He began formal composition studies in 2004 at the Greenville County Fine Arts Center (South Carolina), and in 2005 Alex entered The University of South Carolina School of Music, where he has recently completed coursework as a Music Composition major studying under Dr. John Fitz Rogers and Dr. Reginald Bain, while also studying classical guitar with Christopher Berg.

About Realpolitik, the composer writes, "The inspiration for the music came from the blues scale and power-chord-based rock n' roll. An optional improvisation section allows the performers to extend and add their own ideas to the piece. The title, which refers to practical, power-based politics versus ideals, is analogous to the power and ubiquitousness of rock versus classical music."

--Music @ Main, May 12, 2009 (VnC Duo)


Stephen Yarbrough: Heartsong
American composer Stephen Yarbrough (b.1946) has been teaching music at the University of South Dakota since 1982, following a stint as a flutist and arranger for the United States Air Force Academy Band. The winner of numerous national composition awards and grants, Dr. Yarbrough writes for a wide variety of vocal and instrumental combinations, ranging from solo vocal and choral pieces to chamber music and works for orchestra and symphonic band.

Heartsong, inspired by Bible verses Luke 4:18-19, is performed by cello and piano on a CD of the composer’s “17 most requested works,” but the piece was also published in 1987 as a solo for hand bells and piano!

--Music @ Main, February 10, 2009 (Mu Phi Epsilon Student Recital)


Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27, no. 6
Considered one of the greatest violinists of all time, the Belgian Eugène Ysaÿe (1858–1931) began lessons with his father at age five, and entered the Royal Conservatory in his hometown of Liège two years later. But, unlike Alard and Vieuxtemps, Ysaÿe was not a prodigious success, and he was soon asked to leave when his lessons did not progress satisfactorily--it seems that in order to help support his impoverished family, young Eugène had to play full-time in two local orchestras, unfortunately leaving little time to practice. But he continued studying on his own, and, as the story goes, by chance Henri Vieuxtemps passed by where Ysaÿe was practicing and, so impressed by what he heard, he got the 12-year-old youth readmitted to the Conservatory. Ysaÿe’s teachers included the Polish virtuoso and composer Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) as well as Vieuxtemps himself, but Ysaÿe credited his father as the teacher who had the greatest impact on the way he performed.

Ysaÿe began his post-student career as concertmaster of Benjamin Bilse's orchestra (which would later become the Berlin Philharmonic). His playing impressed many of the day's leading musicians, including Anton Rubinstein (1828-1894), and the famous pianist invited the young violinist to accompany him on tour. But Ysaÿe's solo career really took off in 1885, when he was invited to perform works by Lalo and Saint-Saëns in Paris; Ysaÿe soon became a favorite of many leading composers, including Debussy and Franck. From 1886-1898 Ysaÿe was a professor at the Brussels Conservatory, and he continued to expand his fame as a performer. Even after leaving the Conservatory he continued to teach into his final years, and he also gained fame as a conductor. Ysaÿe was invited to lead the New York Philharmonic in 1898, but he declined due to the demands of his solo career. But as health issues began to affect his playing more and more, he accepted the conductorship of the Cincinnati Symphony from 1918-1922, and he devoted more time to composing.

Among the best-known of Ysaÿe’s compositions are the technically demanding Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27, composed in 1923. In addition to incorporating contemporary compositional techniques such as the use of microtones and whole tone scales in some of them, each sonata is dedicated to a different virtuoso whose playing inspired the style of the sonata. Sonata No. 6 takes the form of a one-movement habanera, and is dedicated to the Spanish virtuoso Manuel Quiroga Losada (1892-1961), who, however, apparently never performed the sonata that is identified with him.

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