Beethoven, Poulenc, Brahms, Chopin & Bridge performed by Christopher Langdown - brought to you by WMP Piano Classics
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|Sonata in C sharp minor op.27/2||Ludwig van Beethoven|
|01||i. Adagio sosteauto||5.43|
|03||iii. Presto agitata||7.05|
|Mouvements Perpétuels||Francis Poulenc|
|04||i. Assez modéré||1.27|
|05||ii. Très modéré||1.25|
|Ballades op 10||Johannes Brahms|
|07||No.1 in D minor “Edward’||4.14|
|08||No.2 in D major||6.34|
|09||No.3 in B minor <Intermezzo>||3.42|
|10||No.4 in B major||10.10|
|11||Scherzo in B flat minor op.31||Frédéric Chopin||9.20|
|Three Sketches||Frank Bridge|
|14||iii. Valse Capricleuse||1.32|
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Sonata in C sharp minor op.27/2 <Sonata quasi una Fantasia>
in 1801, the ‘Moonlight” Sonata has become one
of Beethoven’s most popular works. It was not the composer
himself who gave it this nickname, but the poet H.F.L Rellstab (1799-1860) who thought that the tranquil and hypnotic first movement, with its serene
melody floating over
incessant triplets, suggested moonlight on Lake Luceme.
The brighter second movement is in the tonic major and owes much of its charm to its buoyant rhythm - the play on syncopation in the central Trio section is particularly effective.
The Sonata concludes with an extremely volatile and fiery final movement which, like the first movement, is in clear sonata form. Urgent and compelling, this highly dramatic finale could hardly be of greater contrast to the opening.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Mouvements Perpétuels were written in 1918 - Poulencs first vintage year. In each of these uniquely magical and enchanting child-like pieces the composer uses ostinato. No.1 adheres strictly to its ostinato, opening with a memorable melody which droops pentatonically before being dissonantly mutated and playfully tickled with acciaccaturas. After the momentum subsides in five-bar coda, the movement dissolves into pianissimo bitonality.
No.2 has much poise and grace and the young composer toys with the rising fourth and major second. As in all three Mouvements, Poulene avoids drawing to a close by means of conventional harmony - this time, a pianissimo glissando humourously slinks out ‘off-key’.
No.3 is the longest and most impulsive of the pieces. It also has the richest harmonies and widest dynamic range - in fact, the performer is instmcted very specifically with regard to tonal variety. As the piece fades out on an unresolved dominant thirteenth, one is left with the impression that the music could go on forever.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Ballades op. 10
The four Ballades op 10 were composed in the summer of 1854 when Brahms was very involved with Robert Schumann’s music. These pieces move away from Classical forms, focusing rather or Romantic atmosphere, imaginative textures and poetic harmonic effects.
The first Ballade is based on the Scottish ballad Edward and is an instmmental setting of the opening words of the poem. The dialogue between the mother’s troubled questions and the son’s furtive replies is vividly represented before the full drama of the patricide is eventually revealed. The Ballade ends eerily without consolation.
The second Ballade grows from the F-A-F (“frei, aber froh” - “free, but happy”) motto adopted by Brahms and is in arch form (ABCBA). After a gentie opening, there are marked contrasts of tempi, metres, registers and textures. According to Robert Schumann, the work is richly suggestive to the imagination, contalning magical sounds.
Though headed Intermezzo, the opening of no.3 in B minor seems more in the style of a turbulent scherzo inspired by a fantasy world of goblins and fairies. Surprisingly, the piece ends in the major mode; a sense of optimism prevalling.
Certainly the most spiritual and introspective of the Ballades is the fourth in B major. We are initially presented with an expressive, yeaming upper melody which is carried along by a gentle quaver movement. A more meditative and intimate mode of expression thereafter emerges where there is continual use of cross-rhythm - an effect Brahms used frequentiy in his piano compositions. These two themes are then juxtaposed with a noble chordal section before the work finally draws to its sublime conclusion.
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)
Scherzo in B flat minor op.31
This piece, which dates from 1837, represents a milestone in Chopin’s art. As with other great works from his central period, the B flat minor Scherzo is a testament to the composer’s individualism and rank as one the greatest poets of the piano. Chopin composed almost entirely for piano and, with his phenomenal technique and tonal range, his own piano playing was legendary.
Despite the fact that Chopin paid great attention to form, the Scherzo is however most notable for its thematic plasticity and lyricism. In its apparent simplicity, there unfolds an inexhaustible range of emotions: from the mysterious sotto roce opening, to the sweetness of the second theme, to the exhilarating, intense explosion of the coda.
Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
Frank Bridge composed his Three Sketches in 1906. These persuasive, frequently chromatic character pieces serve to demonstrate an excellent example of his compositional creativity.
In the first piece, April. the scurrying and frequently angular nature of the passagework demands a fair amount of dexterity on the part of the performer Musically however, the piece has a certain piquant charm about it and the harmonious right hand, with its intervals of thirds and sixths, lends itself very well to this.
Rosemary begins with something of the delicacy of a Faure song before a brief but highly animated Allegro section, with its strong and perfectly judged coutrapuntal lines, follows as the central episode. Following the climactic chordal section, the opening theme is recapitulated.
In truth, it is more likely that the final piece, Valse Capricieuse, dates from nearer the publication year of 1915. Like April, it is the freshness of the music which is most striking to the listener - indeed, one should be thankful that it was not tainted or influenced by the faded air of much Edwardian salon music. A whimsical and highly vivacious piece, it concludes with a sparkling flurry of semiquavers.
CreditsRecorded at St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol on 11 June 1999
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