Fri, 18 Sep | Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor Op.10 No.1
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Major Op. 2 No.3
Time & Location
18 Sep, 13:00
YO1 8NQ, UK
About The Event
Described as being a “profoundly gifted artist” by Gramophone magazine, Katya is one of Europe’s most renowned pianists, in demand internationally as both a soloist and as a chamber musician. A prize winner at the Leeds International Competition she opens the 2020 York Chamber Music Festival’s celebration of Beethoven with two of his early sonatas. Begin at the beginning! Be aware that even here this is no ordinary composer, no ‘beginner’ but a fully-fledged genius already pouring out his wit, his intelligence, his love of the new pianoforte and showing us his soul.
In his late 20s we find Ludwig living in Vienna having managed to secure the patronage both as composer and pianist of Vienna's cosmopolitan aristocracy. They had an insatiable need for chamber music and the he was able to supply string trios, piano sonatas, violin sonatas. He was best known at this time for improvising at the piano. The Piano Sonata No. 5 in C Minor (Op.10, No.1) was written in 1798 and dedicated to Anna Margarete von Browne, the wife of a Russian diplomat who was Beethoven's main patron at this period. The sonata shows the twenty-something composer/performer stretching piano technique and includes one of his most glorious slow movements.
The C Major sonata is one of a group of three and shows the young composer/pianist experimenting and innovating with his characteristic challenge to convention. While all the general mood of this sonata remains light-hearted, the music is also dramatic and replete with characteristic Beethovenian drive and assertiveness.
Fri, 18 Sep | Church of St Chad York
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Trio in G Major Op. 9 No. 1
Herbert Howells - Fantasy String Quartet, Op. 25
Robert Schumann - Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 44
Time & Location
18 Sep, 19:30
Church of St Chad York, 36 Campleshon Rd, York YO23 1EY, UK
About The Event
Composed over several years and finally written out by March 1798 the three string trios of Op.9 already show the young Beethoven changing things. String trios were thought to be a difficult ensemble to write for but the capricious twenty-something Beethoven was already creatively explosive and his music was well-nigh impossible for any but the top players. Indeed for many years string playing technique lagged behind Beethoven’s demands. His creative process was not lacking in humility! The part for the cello, for example, requires a virtuoso player such as the famous Berlin court cellist Jean-Louis Duport (for whom Beethoven wrote his Op. 5 Cello Sonatas.) Nothing if not unconventional, these trios stretched the credibility of conservative Viennese audiences, were over the cliff for performers but to us are a great joy and prefigure what is to come!
It goes without saying in the city containing York Minster that Herbert Howells (1892-1983) is well known as a definitive sound of English Cathedral music. His early chamber music is less known and is infused with an English pastoral palette, especially redolent of his native Gloucestershire. The Fantasy String Quartet is in one movement – a beautifully crafted, free-spirited outpouring, rooted in the English folksong tradition, although the tune is the composer’s.
In the Spring of 1842, brooding and alone in Leipzig having left Clara on a concert tour – she was the most famous pianist of the day – Robert Schumann passed the time by a close study of the string quartets and trios of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. On Clara’s return and with her inspiration his creative voice suddenly erupted in what has become known as his ‘chamber music year’, which included three string quartets but also the idea of adding single voice instruments to a string quartet (oboe, clarinet, horn). In October he wrote out at top speed the Piano Quintet for Clara. It left him emotionally and physically drained but as she said the piece is, “…full of strength and freshness.” Schumann thus invented the idea of the piano quintet which became the model and inspiration for Brahms, Dvorák, Fauré, César Franck among others and remains one of the greatest pieces of chamber music ever written; as Steven Isserlis writes, “miracle after miracle”.
Sat, 19 Sep | Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate
Charlotte Scott (violin)
and Katya Apekisheva (piano)
Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in D major, Op. 12, No. 1
Johannes Brahms - Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1
Jenö Hubay (1858-1937) - Zephyr for Violin and Piano, Op.30 No. 5
Time & Location
19 Sep, 13:00
Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, St Saviourgate, York YO1 8NQ, UK
About The Event
Charlotte and Katya are both internationally known musicians and have played as soloists with many orchestras and are renown chamber musicians. Charlotte plays on the ‘Galiagno’ Stadivarius violin of 1685.
Beethoven was renowned in Vienna for his prowess as a pianist – especially his improvisations - but he was also intimately familiar with the violin. He had taken lessons as a youth in Bonn, and later, at the age of 24, he sought further study with Ignaz Schupannzigh. As a result he knew about the technical evolution of the violin which with metal bound gut strings enabled higher bridges, greater tension, becoming a much more powerful and expressive instrument. Beethoven made ever greater demands and with the new pianoforte under his hands the two voices became one unified partnership. Beethoven wrote his first violin sonatas, a set of three (Op. 12) in 1797-98. As with all his compositions at this time there is a new urgency, high energy levels and a reaching forward into a new era.
Brahms wrote three exquisitely beautiful violin sonatas. The first sonata was published in 1879 when he was 46. He burnt at least three previous sonatas in the fire of self-criticism. The Sonata in G Major, Op. 78 thus emerges as an astonishing ‘first’ sonata by any standard; it is a magical work full of graceful tenderness, bursting in intense nobility beautifully crafted but above all serene. Its song-like inspiration is drawn from one of Brahm’s songs to a poem by his friend Klaus Groth that provided him with the germ of this sonata, sometimes known as the ‘Regenlied’ sonata (Rain Song). This is a great Romantic masterpiece.
"Pour, rain, pour down, Awaken again in me those dreams That I dreamt in childhood."
The Hungarian composer Hubay’s Zephyr is the fifth of set of six short pieces which are known as Blumenleben (‘A Flower's Life’) based on the poems of Geza Zichy. It is a fanciful tale of a flower's life from bud to bloom. A Butterfly flits by and lands on the flower who falls in love. But the feckless Butterfly soon flies off. Zephyr conveys the picture of the butterfly as it leaves the flower.
Sat, 19 Sep | Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op.18, No. 1
Josef Suk - Piano Quartet in A Minor, Op.1
César Franck - Piano Quintet in F minor
Time & Location
19 Sep, 19:30
Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, Heslington YO10 5DD, UK
About The Event
In his late 20s Beethoven was living in Vienna having managed to secure the patronage both as composer and pianist of Vienna's cosmopolitan aristocracy. They had an insatiable need for chamber music and the he was able to supply string trios, piano sonatas, violin sonatas as well as famously improvising at the piano (for which he was better known). Biding his time before launching into the string quartet genre – given that Haydn was still at the height of his powers – Beethoven bit the bullet in 1798 and by1801 his set of six quartets were published as Op. 18. The F Major quartet is the most well developed and has the greatest expressive range of the six, has a tragic slow movement inspired by Romeo and Juliet and further put the young Beethoven into the public eye. Here he shows us his distinctive voice and already prefigures his later quartet style.
Suk's Piano Quartet was the result of an assignment from his teacher at the Prague Conservatoire, Anton Dvorak. The seventeen year-old had produced under the illustrious composer’s eye a gem, signalling his distinctive voice, despite shades of Dvorak from time to time. Promptly assigned as his Op. 1 the piece was published immediately and became a staple of Czech repertoire and was widely performed. It was recently republished having gone out of print for over fifty years so here is a chance to hear this passionate and tenderly lyrical piece.
From the organ loft of St. Clothilde Cathedral in Paris César Franck garnered admiration as founder of a distinctive ‘Frankist’ school which can be traced down to Messiaen and Boulez, although for over forty years he produced no chamber music. His piano quintet marked a dramatic departure in musical style for the erstwhile rather demure composer. This would seem to have had a strong connection with an extra-marital romance with his dashing Irish student Augusta Holmès (also beloved of Saint-Saëns, Liszt and others). The Piano Quintet in F minor, first performed in 1880 is passionate, even erotic, in mood. It certainly made an impact. Saint-Saëns, the pianist at the premiere walked off the stage (he was also fond of Augusta) and his wife yelled out against this ,”abhorrent music”. It is in fact one of the great masterpieces of French music.
Sun, 20 Sep | National Centre for Early Music
Ludwig van Beethoven - String Quintet in C Major, Op. 29
Antonín Dvořak - String Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 97
Time & Location
20 Sep, 19:30
National Centre for Early Music, St Margarets Church, 88-96 Walmgate, York YO1 9TL, UK
About The Event
In his late-twenties with an alluringly intense personality and undoubted musical genius, Beethoven had managed to secure the patronage of Vienna's cosmopolitan aristocracy. Yet he was deeply troubled. By 1801 he was aware that there was no treatment for his failing hearing and his love-life was in tatters when Countess Giulietta Guicciardi declined to marry below her social status. There is no trace of this anguish in this bubbling, attractive quintet. It is a large-scale work using his knowledge of string playing honed writing his string trios and quartets. Like Mozart’s quintets it has a rich sonority due to the addition of a second viola. He had met Mozart fifteen years earlier at a time when he was finishing his own string quintet, so it seems likely that Beethoven used Mozart’s quintet as a model (same instruments, same key).
But apart from the Mozartian slow movement with an unusual depth of feeling this quintet has a voice of its own, or rather voices. The finale inspired the quintet’s nickname, the Storm and includes a dramatic fugato (“little fugue”) with the lower strings on full throttle. We are hearing the seeds of the fifth and sixth symphonies and in the breadth of the first movement clear signposts towards the first ‘Razumovsky’ String Quartet, Op 59 No.1 and the Archduke Trio. The string quintet is a key work because it marks the transition out of Beethoven’s so called ‘early period’ and is the harbinger of the thirty-year old composer’s imagination already on a different planet as yet unknown and unheard.
Dvorak took up the post of the Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York in 1892. The following summer he was persuaded by his secretary Jan Josef Kovařík to take holiday in Spillville. The town boasted a large Czech community, and further inducements to Dvořák was the promise of going on the Chicago Express. Dvořák was a keen train spotter! Arriving with his family in Spillville he found it an idyllic setting and soon set to work on a new string quartet, rapidly followed by a quintet. He cherished his time in the countryside of Iowa which reminded him of his native Bohemian landscape. Spillville inspired an outpouring of music, in this case some of Dvořák’s sunniest and most bucolic; a state of contentment that is beyond national identities. Beethoven’s use of the added viola to a string quartet would probably not have been too far from his mind. A suitable synergy for our festival and a joyful conclusion.