Beethoven & Schubert cover

Beethoven & Schubert

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Was Schubert Beethoven’s biggest fan? Franz Schubert became a passionate devotee of the older composer’s music. In fact, on his deathbed Schubert asked to be buried in a grave alongside Beethoven. Revel in the genius of these two great composers as you enjoy coffee, tea and pastries in the intimate coffee-house atmosphere of the Samueli Theater.
ORLI SHAHAM • PIANO AND HOST
PAUL MANASTER • VIOLIN
TIMOTHY LANDAUER • CELLO
Beethoven & Schubert
Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Sonata in A Minor for Arpeggione and Piano, D. 821
Allegro moderato
Adagio
Allegretto
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
Vivace, adagio espressivo
Prestissimo
Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo
I N T E R M I S S I O N
Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D. 898
Allegro moderato
Andante, un poco mosso
Scherzo: Allegro
Rondo: Allegro vivace
This concert is generously sponsored by Dot and Rick Nelson.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.





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Arpeggione Sonata

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797–1828)

Arpeggione Sonata

Background

There are those enthusiasts—your annotator among them— who live in the hope that an arpeggione will someday find its way onto the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow. But arpeggiones are so rare that examples are rarely found in museum collections, let alone in grandfather's attic.

Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, the sole surviving repertory work for the arpeggione, is almost always played on some other instrument—usually the cello. What would a professional appraiser say about this exotic hybrid? And for listeners, does it matter that the Arpeggione Sonata was conceived for a different instrument than we are likely to hear as the sonata's dominant voice?

Our first glimpse of an arpeggione is likely to elicit deep admiration— followed, perhaps, by a double-take. This is a beautiful instrument, the size of a large classical guitar, with a scroll and six tuning pegs resembling those of a violin. Holding the six strings in place is the traditional fiddle tailpiece, shaped like a wedge of pie.

Image by Johann Georg Staufer

The body is somewhat elongated, with gentle slivers of arc where we might expect to see f-holes. It doesn't take long for us to realize that this combination of features doesn't add up. A guitar-in-law? A variant of the cello or gamba? Then we notice the strangest element of all: the fingerboard—subtly crowned, like a violin's or cello's, but with frets, like a guitar's.

And now we note that even its graceful proportions are weird, with a voluptuously long hourglass shape tapering to a daringly narrow waist, as if Mae West had posed for Salvador Dali. How is this thing to be played … strummed like a guitar, or bowed like a cello?

Answer: bowed. The arpeggione was developed by Viennese luthiers Johann Stauffer and Peter Teufelsdorfer, who conceived it as a standing fiddle tuned in e-a-d-g-b-e (classical guitar tuning) to be bowed between the legs. The augmented string complement and fretted fingerboard would allow the player greater nimbleness in playing rapid thirds, arpeggios and double-stops.

The makers introduced their invention in an era when the orchestra was expanding and manufacturing techniques were changing some instrumental sections and augmenting others. Flutes and pianos were modernizing year by year, and another strange innovation, the saxophone, was patented in 1846.

But while it seemed like a good idea at the time, the “bowed guitar” did not find a place in the orchestra. By the late 1830s it was nearly forgotten, except among hardcore advocates. By 1871, when the Arpeggione Sonata was posthumously published, both Schubert and the novel instrument for which he composed it had been gone for nearly four decades.

Schubert wrote the sonata in November 1824 at his family's home in Vienna. What attracted him to the arpeggione? Wags joke that it was just another instance of his notoriously bad self-promotion—a case of betting on the wrong horse, as he had recently done with his clunky opera Alfonso und Estrella.

But he was also clearly fascinated by the musical possibilities of a six-stringed instrument in the cello range, and imbued the sonata with virtuoso passagework that tests the instrument's capabilities. In modern performance transcriptions for cello, viola and other instruments, these passages pose even greater challenges for the soloist.

What to Listen For

We know Schubert as one of music's greatest masters of melody, unrivalled in the beauty and depth of his more than 600 songs. But Schubert also gave us some of the greatest chamber music ever composed. When his health began to deteriorate and the complications of syphilis were clearly irreversible, death and loss came to dominate Schubert's waking hours, his dreams and his musical inspiration.

He composed the Arpeggione Sonata before this period of darkness, but even here, the shadow of death occasionally intrudes, tempered by a quality of buoyancy and decorative grace. Its songful qualities are no surprise; he had just completed one of his great song cycles, Die schöne Müllerin.

We hear the braiding of dark and light moods throughout the first movement, when an introductory theme—lyrical but introspective—is casually shouldered aside by a more extroverted second theme. An exclamation of dread interrupts the interplay and seems to quote Schubert's setting of Goethe's despairing Gretchen am Spinnrade—”my peace is gone, my heart aches”—lines he would later quote to a friend in confessing his own despair.

Schubert idolized Beethoven, and pays tribute to him in the Arpeggione's second movement, which is inspired by the serene larghetto of Beethoven's second symphony. The passage is tender but also vulnerable, and before long it is overtaken by frigid undercurrents that build and eventually dominate the movement's conclusion in a manner reminiscent of another Schubert song cycle: Die Winterreise, the winter's journey.

The sonata proceeds from the second movement's E major to A major in the third movement. Here a boisterous rondo provides a dramatic showcase for the string soloist, and an optimistic rondo resolves the sonata in joy.

The movement is built with an abundance of spectacular arpeggios composed to exploit the arpeggione's particular strengths. They pose unique challenges when the sonata is transcribed for modern players, but they are easy for listeners to enjoy.

Schubert (Perenyi, Schiff) - Sonata en a minor Arpeggione D821.avi

Video 24:49

Video

Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109

Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)

Background

No composer is more strongly associated with monumentality in his music and his ideas than Beethoven. And since musicologists have divided his musical output into three periods—early, middle and late—it's natural for us listeners to assume that the great philosophical statements of his most monumental works were culminations that came toward the end of his career, in its late period.

The great concertos and most of his symphonies, including the Fifth and the Eroica, came earlier, during Beethoven's middle period. In these he grappled with the values of human freedom and the struggle against tyranny.

Admirers of Beethoven's piano sonatas and string quartets know a different but equally philosophical side of the composer. These smaller- scale works have the intimacy of a musical journal as he struggles with the epistemological questions of art's ultimate value and the meaning of human existence—ideas of increasing importance to Beethoven as he confronted his mortality and the meaning of his art, which he could no longer hear outside his own mind. These are the subjects implicit in his Piano Sonata No. 30 and in all his late-period chamber music, the more so as he approached the end of his life.

The Piano Sonata No. 30, one of the latest in Beethoven's canon of 32, came directly after the ambitious and emphatic Hammerklavier, which is sometimes described as unplayable. But the No. 30 represents a very different kind of musical utterance, introspective and meditative. He composed it in 1820, having already undertaken his Choral Symphony, the Diabelli variations, and his thorny religious testament, the uncompromising Missa Solemnis.

At this point, writing at the keyboard but imprisoned by deafness, Beethoven was alone with his ideas and unconstrained by convention (though he was never one for conforming to norms). The works he wrote during this period continue to astonish us. They are of their time, but will never sound old.

One source for the sonata's thematic materials may well have been an earlier bagatelle that his personal secretary described as a “small piece” suitable for a sonata's introductory theme. But this historical conjecture is probably incontrovertible now and, at any rate, it hardly matters. As always with Beethoven, it's what he does with his themes that counts.

The first published edition of this sonata—its actual completion date is in doubt—was introduced by Beethoven's publisher, Adolf Schlesinger, in November 1821. In the decade after Beethoven's death, his late piano sonatas including this one were championed by two of the greatest pianists of the day, Hans von Bülow and Franz Liszt.

What to Listen For

The No. 30 follows the insistent and often percussive language of the Hammerklavier with a sound that Beethoven aptly described as gesangvoll—”songful.” Though annotated with special emphasis in the closing movement, we hear this quality throughout.

In the opening movement it is especially evident in a section marked vivace, which miraculously combines great speed with a sense of inner calm. An adagio follows with an equivalent paradox: it is much slower but also much louder, with a series of arpeggios that turn the inwardness of the movement outward, disrupting its earlier equilibrium.

In the second movement, marked prestissimo, analysts note two critical factors. One is the sheer beauty of the melody that propels us (and the soloist!) through the tumult of Beethoven's musical rapids— one of the most compelling prestissimo movements to be found among Beethoven's chamber works.

The other is more technical and less audible to modern listeners, especially in this era of perfected tuning: in this stormy movement, Beethoven brings us away from the brightness of the first movement's E major key into the darker realm of E minor.

The question of key signature is provocative because, some critics insist, E major was a key Beethoven reserved for statements of optimism and ultimate triumph. And it is to this key that we return in the magnificent final movement of the Piano Sonata No. 30, which takes the form of a 16-bar theme restated and developed in six majestic variations.

These provide a virtual survey of piano technique while seeming to trace a philosophical discourse—in the poet W.B. Yeats' phrase, a dialogue of self and soul. Listening back in the mind's ear, we realize that in this sonata Beethoven has led us out of darkness and into light, as in so many of his more widely known compositions, such as the Symphony No. 5.

Beethoven Sonata N° 30 Daniel Barenboim

Video: 21.37

Video

Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D. 898

Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D. 898

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797–1828)

Background

Schubert's two piano trios are acknowledged masterpieces of the chamber repertory. Both were composed in 1827, the year Schubert turned 30. He would die the following year.

During the time of the trio's composition, Schubert's friends observed a puzzling duality in his life. In the morning, his eyes would shine with the pleasure of musical inspiration, and he seemed to be transported to the “better world” immortalized in his great song “An die Musik.”

But as afternoon and evening closed in, the darkness seemed to bring agonizing despair to Schubert. His friend Eduard von Bauernfeld described it as the frightful visitation of “a black-winged demon of sorrow and melancholy.”

Schubert had many friends, and they knew he was not well. But after 1824 he knew, as they did not, that his failing health would not improve.

But if death was a constant presence in his life, so was the spirit of Viennese gaiety. Pleasure and conviviality were as important to the Viennese as art and culture, and Schubert was very Viennese. Ironically, both the joys of Viennese culture and the specter of mortality inspired Schubert in his final compositions.

This is a substantial work, generally lasting more than 45 minutes in performance—“heavenly length,” in Robert Schumann's famous phrase. But Schumann had more to say about the D. 898 piano trio: “One glance [at it] and the troubles of our human existence disappear and all the world is fresh and bright again,” he wrote. Its length passes before we know it.

What to Listen For

As listeners, we are often reminded not to make assumptions about the moods of composers based on the moods in their music. When asked what Beethoven was composing just after learning that total deafness was inevitable, the musicologist Piero Weiss speculated it was the radiant largo from his Symphony No. 2. Howard Gardner, the authority on the creative mind, has compared Mozart's genius to a prism that was transparent and unaffected by the light passing through it, yet transformed the light itself.

Schubert was surely an exception to this rule. His compositions dating from this dark period (after 1824) seem to reflect either the brightness of his mornings—when the beauty of the natural world and art's connection to it seemed to be magnified—or the abyss of his evenings, when he stared desperately into the infinite to find lasting meaning in art.

Listening to the Piano Trio No. 1, we hear a work filled with the good cheer Schubert displayed in the morning hours, abounding in warmth and Viennese lilt. First performed at a private musicale in March 1828 to mark the engagement of his friend Josef von Spaun, it was received with great enthusiasm in the spirit of celebration. It was published posthumously in 1836.

Schubert quoted freely from his own songs, and in this trio we immediately hear a paraphrase from “Des Sängers Habe"—the singer's wealth—that could hardly seem more personal to the financially jinxed Schubert. “Shatter my happiness, take all my worldly possessions,” dares the singer, “but leave me my zither and I shall be happy and rich!”

Introduced in the piano (Schubert's own voice?) with staccato counterpoint in the strings, the melody leads to a second theme introduced by the cello. The interplay of these two elements leaves us rapt.

The second movement opens almost like a lullaby. Introduced in the wine-dark voice of the cello, a tender theme ascends into the violin range, then moves among all the players, gradually quickening in pace and drama. At length a second theme moves through the ensemble and a sense of formal tautness develops, then relaxes, allowing the movement to end much in the spirit of its opening … a perfect arch.

Like Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven before him, and like Mahler after him, Schubert loved a good Ländler—the melodious, rustic country dance that suggests Austrian farmers stepping lively with their boots on. The third movement intertwines a merry Ländler tune with a more refined theme, allowing a mixture of energy and elegance.

The fourth movement, a rondo, also suggests dancing in its rhythms and in the lively, mobile development of its themes; we can almost envision dancers whirling to keep up with the breathless changes in key and tempo, all leading to a joyful final cadence.

Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in- chief for The Santa Fe Opera.

Beaux Arts Trio Video 38.50

Menahem Presller, piano

Ida Kavafian, violin

Peter Wiley, Cello

Neumarkt in der "Ober"pfalz 1995

Video

Orli Shaham

Orli Shaham

A consummate musician recognized for her grace, subtlety and vitality, Orli Shaham has established an impressive international reputation as one of today's most gifted pianists.

Hailed by critics on four continents, Shaham is in demand for her prodigious skills and admired for her interpretations of both standard and modern repertoire. The Chicago Tribune recently referred to her as “a first-rate Mozartean” and London's Guardian said Ms. Shaham's playing at the Proms was “perfection.”

Shaham has performed with major orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia symphony orchestras; and internationally with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and Orchestre National de France, among many others.

Concert highlights of the 2017–18 season include performances with the Indianapolis Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony and Orlando Philharmonic among others. Shaham continues to serve as the artistic director for Pacific Symphony’s chamber music series in Costa Mesa, a position she has held since 2007. She is a featured performer on each of the chamber recitals in the series. In addition, Shaham serves as the artistic director for the interactive children's concert series, Baby Got Bach, which she founded in 2010.

Shaham’s acclaimed 2015 recording, Brahms Inspired, is a two-CD set of new works by Brett Dean, Avner Dorman and Bruce Adolphe alongside works of Brahms and his compositional forefathers. The New York Times praised Shaham's “beautiful performances” on the recording, calling it “a treasurable album.”

Paul Manaster

Paul Manaster

Paul Manaster has been the associate concertmaster of Pacific Symphony since 1998. He is almost a native Californian, having grown up in San Diego from a young age. Manaster has performed with a variety of groups in the Southern California area, including the San Diego Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has performed as concertmaster of the Riverside Philharmonic and the San Diego Chamber Orchestra.

Prior to his move to Orange County, Manaster lived in Texas for eight years, playing with the San Antonio Symphony.

He received a bachelor of music degree from Northwestern University.

In addition to performing, Manaster teaches violin privately and has served on the faculty of Trinity University and other institutions. Manaster lives in Irvine with his actress/oboist wife Dianne, their daughter Stephanie and three cats.

Timothy Landauer

Timothy Landauer

Pacific Symphony Principal Cellist Timothy Landauer was hailed “a cellist of extraordinary gifts” by The New York Times when he won the coveted Concert Artists Guild International Award in 1983 in New York. Landauer is the winner of numerous prestigious prizes and awards, among them the Young Musicians Foundation’s National Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Cello Award, the Samuel Applebaum Grand Prize of the National Solo Competition of the American String Teacher’s Association and the 1984 Hammer-Rostropovich Scholarship Award.

Landauer’s extensive engagements include his highly acclaimed recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall, the Ambassador Auditorium in Los Angeles, the Orford Arts Center in Montreal, the City Hall Theater in Hong Kong and in Hanover, Germany.

He has performed as a soloist with orchestras across three continents. They include the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Taiwan National Symphony, the Beijing Symphony and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. In the United States, he has appeared with the Maryland Symphony and the Grand Teton Festival Orchestra.

Landauer was born in Shanghai, the son of musician parents. He first studied with his father and later attended the Shanghai Conservatory Middle School, a pupil of Ying-Rong Lin. He continued his studies in the United States with Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California where, upon receiving his master’s degree, he was immediately invited to join the faculty as a lecturer and assistant to Piatigorsky Chair Professor Lynn Harrell.

Landauer was the recipient of “The Outstanding Individual Artist Award 2004” presented by Arts Orange County.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.