Sunday, April 07, 2013

Carnegie Hall concert of Elias String Quartet, Jonathan Biss, and Timo Andres's new Piano Quintet is online




I learned that one could listen to the entire concert at Carnegie Hall with the Elias Quartet on April 2, so I did so, with the NPR url here.  So Sunday afternoon I made an electronic retro trip to NYC;  I had known about the concert but just didn't have time for the trip this week. 
  
The program notes at Carnegie Hall are here.
    
The pianist was Jonathan Biss, with the members Sara Bitlloch, violin; Donald Grant, violin; Martin Saving, viola;  Marie Bitlloch, cello. 

The program is centered around the “manic-depressive” Robert Schumann, but we’ll come back to that.
  
‘The program opened with the Piano Quartet #2 in E-flat by Mozart. K. K493.  The work sounds lightweight compared to the G Minor Quartet and didn’t, to my ear, have the pathos of a lot of Mozart;s other chamber works.

The program continued with the String Quartet #2 by Leos Janacek, subtitled “Intimate Letters”, based on a “platonic” relationship between the composer and Kamila Stosslova.  The four movement work is quite passionate and ends in the unusual key of D-flat major (with dissonance) thrown in. Dohanyi also has a quartet in that unusual key.  But the work here ends with a bit of triumph.  The tone is idiosyncratic Janacek and a bit postromantic (1928).

During the intermission, the host interviews Biss, and then composers Gabriel Kahane and Timo Andres.
  
An excerpt from Biss’s recording of the Beethoven Fantasy for Piano in G Minor, Op. 77 (10 minutes), was played.  I wanted to hear it all, so I looked it up on YouTube afterward.  I do have it on a CD somewhere.  On my Casio, it sounds like the work ends in B Major.  Is that really the relative major B-flat?  Still, unusual for Beethoven.  The theme of this work inspired the opening of the first piano concerto by Shostakovich.  
    
That was to prepare for the third work in the program, the NYC premier of the Piano Quintet by Timo Andres.  (By the way, the hosts pronounce his name with short I’s;  I think other pronunciations sound more decisive.)   Biss (instead of Andres himself) plays the piano part.

The twenty-minute work has five movements, and is based on a four-note theme that occurs in Robert Schumann’s mammoth C Major Fantasy for piano.  Andres’s style is often predicated on building new themes or blocks of music out of repeated notes or motives.  This work, in places, is more lush and postromantic in feel than some of his other music.  The movements are titled “Canons and Fables”, “Boulder Pushing”, “Tenderly”, “Lenticular Postcard”, and “Pyramid Scheme”.  The second movement seemed to be a slow movement, almost monumental in character;  the title of the movement reminds one of the movie “127 Days” (about the hiker trapped by a boulder in Utah) but the music doesn’t.  The appearance of the score of the last movement is said to look like a set of pyramids, going up and down.   No, I don’t think this is a pun on Wall Street (or Social Security).  The work does end quietly, and a bit indeterminately.
  
The program closed with the warm Piano Quartet in E-flat, Op. 47, of Robert Schumann (not to be confused with the Quintet).  The third movement reminds me of the Romanza in the Second Symphony, and this work is also grandiose at the end.  

I recall hearing Mahler's Second Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall around 1975 when I was living in NYC, by a visiting orchestra.

Also -- today, I visited the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC; the sanctuary had re-opened March 31.  I could see the pipes of the new organ.  The service was still conducted with piano (including more Bach transcriptions).

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