What’s On Preview! | August 1, 2021

The first piece on this evening’s Preview! reminds me of a delectable amuse-bouche. This gorgeous filigree spun by Sergei Rachmaninoff in his Prelude in F major and artfully played by Zixiang Wang sets the tone for the next three hours of superb musical offerings.

Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Betsy Schwarm writing in Britannica states: “Dvořák, who was then serving as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, wrote the American Quartet in Spillville, Iowa, where he spent one of his summer holidays. The vibrant Czech community of immigrants in Spillville provided a place where he could speak his native language and feel somewhat at home. Dvořák began the piece in early June 1893, only three days after his arrival in Iowa, and finished it before the month was out.” We’ll hear the Julliard String Quartet, one of the world’s top quartets, play Bohemian composer Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96 “American” on a recording from Sony Classics.

Her muscular approach keeps you listening with awe and wonder….Geoff Brown, The Times

The third piece on this evening’s program is a burst of violin virtuosity. Russian-British violinist Alina Ibragimova plays the Capriccio in F, Op. 1 No. 22, by 19th-century Italian violin virtuoso and composer Niccolò Paganini. This is from Alina’s new album entitled Paganini 24 Caprices on the Hyperion label.

Danish composer Niels Gade was a notable composer of the late Romantic era. Maria -Elisabeth Lott, violin and Sontraud Speidel, piano perform Gade’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in D minor. You can find this on Niels Wilhelm Gade Violinsonaten 1-3 from Ars Produktion.

American conductor Craig Hella Johnson is a musician I refer to as a choral conductor’s choral conductor. You will hear what I mean as we chat about his latest recording, The Singing Guitar. Following our chat, Craig conducts Conspirare and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet in a performance of Reena Esmail’s When the Guitar. It’s on the Delos label.

GRAMMY Award-winning American composer Richard Danielpour (1956-) was our guest on the June edition of My Life In Music. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein plays Three Bach Transcriptions which Richard composed for her. The CD is entitled An American Mosaic – Danielpour // Dinnerstein on Supertrain Records.

Keith Anderson writing for Naxos offers the following analysis of Beethoven’s arrangement of his Symphony No. 2 as the Piano Trio in D: “Beethoven’s arrangement of the work for piano trio was made in 1803 and published two years later. The form corresponds to some practical demand for works of this kind. After the slow introduction to the first movement the Allegro con brio opens with the piano version of the original string parts, the cello joining with the lower register of the piano at the original entry of the double basses. The second subject is stated by the piano, soon joined by the violin and it is the piano that takes the lead into the development section. The A major Larghetto quasi andante is opened by the piano with a characteristically singing melody, echoed by the violin and cello, a procedure followed in the second part of the theme. The violin proposes a secondary theme, soon overtaken by the rapid figuration of the piano, taken from the original first violin part, and both themes make their due return as the movement continues. The strong dynamic contrasts of the Scherzo are preserved, with violin and cello at first taking over the original answering notes of the horns and then of the oboes. The piano has the opening bars of the Trio, joined by violin and cello after the first sentence, and the piano starts the final Allegro molto, followed by the violin with the second half of the main theme. Although the transcription may lack the varied colour of the original symphony, it nevertheless translates the work into a thoroughly idiomatic composition for piano trio.” This can be found on a recording on the Harmonia Mundi label performed by violinist Isabelle Faust, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, and fortepianist Alexander Melnikov.

Marin Alsop writing in Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical notes: “Scriabin originally set out to write a poem he was calling ‘Orgiastic Poem,’ centered on physical ecstasy, but later decided to alter the title to something more ambiguous — which thankfully allowed his work to gain a more universal audience. His poem is 300 lines and his orchestral piece just over 20 minutes long, yet the theme of each is clear and singular. It is a theme of self-affirmation and self-fulfillment, built on the interval of the fourth.” We shall hear Alexander Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy performed by the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern. It’s on a CD entitled One Movement Symphonies on the Reference Recordings label.

Photo by Luke Ratray

American violinist Gil Shaham brings Preview! to a close with his recording of the Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77. He’s accompanied by The Knights conducted by Eric Jacobsen. The performance can be found on the Canary Classics label.

Rob Kennedy
August 1, 2021