May 1, 2007 at 9:42 PMToday, there are nineteen standard sonatas for "piano and violin" left by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Eighteen of them are straightforward, classical in nature, and each in a major key. The lone sonata written in minor, his e minor K. 304, was composed under somber circumstances.
This sonata has special significance for me as well. The first weekend in April 2005, I was to play two recitals, each opening with the Mozart e minor. The day of the first recital, I learned of my grandfather's passing. Each recital, I dedicated this sonata to his memory, and since then I have had a personal connection with this work.
The c minor sonata by Edvard Grieg, Op. 45 (1843-1907) remains the most popular of his three sonatas, and was completed while Grieg was residing in Troldhaugen, Norway. Occupying a standard place in the violin repertoire, this sonata has memorable themes, a sense of drama throughout, and shows off the instrument well. Written in c minor, a key well remembered for heroicism (Beethoven Sonata Op. 30 No. 2, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the second movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony), there is a sense of virility and conquest in the opening movement. There is a feeling of uneasiness and nervousness, as portrayed by the consistent syncopations. The second movement, opening eerily like a contemporary pop ballad, has a gorgeous theme in E major, and a rustic secondary theme that hints at the playful. The Finale opens with a Nordic theme, emphasizing the interval of the fifth throughout, and is demanding of both instruments. I became quickly enamored with the piece after hearing the energetic Leila Josefowicz perform it, and programmatically, the sonata usually fits very well.
Last summer, I was asked to play the Franck A major sonata on very short notice. Never having played this work before, as I held a great deal of reverence and awe for its emotional range and reputation as a pinnacle of the repertoire, I approached it with trepidation. After a couple days of stalling and avoiding the work at all costs, I turned to an invaluable aid: Anita Pontremoli. I had already worked on many concerti and sonatas with Anita, and learned so much each time. Patiently, she worked through the sonata with me over the course of a week, and we have since performed it a couple of times. It is with a great deal of gratitude that I culminate my senior recital by collaborating with Anita on the Cesar Franck Sonata.
Cesar Franck (1822-1890) was born in Liege, Belgium (not France, as so many will state), to German parents who coerced him into a piano career. Befriending the Olympian-talented (and sized) violinist Eugene Ysaye, this sonata was written for his wedding. Like Ysaye’s six Op. 27 unaccompanied violin sonatas, the Franck sonata has a feeling of rhythmic flexibility, and is clearly written with the violinist in mind. A autobiographical sense surrounds this work, with the leisurely, innocent opening movement representing youth; a hormonal, highly-charged second movement as young adulthood; the Recitativo-Fantasia movement representing older age and reflection; and the final Allegro (in a canon between the two instruments) looking back on a life well-lived. I never tire of this sonata, and though it is rather emotionally draining, I am honored to share the stage with Anita Pontremoli for its duration.
A special thanks to Pi-Ju Chiang for her willingness to rehearse and collaborate; to Linda Cerone and David Russell for reining me in and helping this recital come together; to Charlie Tyler for relentlessly (albeit sometimes reluctantly) lending a pair of ears to this learning process; to Virginia Weckstrom, for listening to so much collaborative rep over the years; to Anita Pontremoli, for an exorbitant amount of hours of help and collaboration; and to my family, for always coming to this soirees.
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