"A French soirée"

October 25, 2021

7:30 pm

Laurel Heights Church

227 West Woodlawn Ave., SA, TX

with Jeffrey Kahane, piano

Mark Teplitsky, flute

Zachary Hammond, oboe

Ilya Shterenberg, clarinet

Sharon Kuster, bassoon

Eric Gratz, violin

Jeffrey Kahane, piano

PROGRAM:

Eugène Bozza

Serenade for Woodwind Quartet 


Francis Poulenc 

Sonata for flute & piano, FP 164

    I. Allegretto malincolico

    II. Cantilena

    III. Presto giocoso


Jean Françaix

Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano 

    I. Adagio

    II. Scherzo

    III. Andante

    IV. Finale


INTERMISSION

Jacques Ibert

Deux Interludes for Woodwind Quartet 
    I. Andante expressivo

    II. Allegro vivo

Claude Debussy, arr. Léon Roques

Valse "La Plus que Lente” for Violin and Piano

Gabriel Fauré 

Berceuse for Violin and Piano Op. 16 

Maurice Ravel

Kaddish for Violin and Piano 

Darius Milhaud

Suite for Clarinet, Violin and Piano 
    I. Ouverture

    II. Divertissement

    III. Jeu

    IV. Introduction et final

*programs and personnel subject to change

This concert is sponsored in part by a generous gift from William and Marilyn Moll.

Program Notes, written by Mark Teplitsky

Eugene Bozza (1905-1991)

Serenade for Woodwind Quartet

 

A French composer and violinist, Eugène Bozza was one of the most productive contributors to woodwind solo and chamber music. Born in Nice, Bozza moved to Italy with his father at age ten to avoid the havoc of the First World War. There, Bozza studied violin, piano, and composition at the Academia Nazionale di Rome. Interestingly, having moved back to France in his twenties as a professionally trained violinist, Bozza chose to move away from the popular Romanticism of the time. Fortunately, he recognized the unique sonorities of woodwind instruments and chose to compose capitalize on them in his compositions. Over three hundred works for winds were left by this composer with many unnamed manuscripts attributed to him as well. As is with Ibert’s Deux Mouvements, The Serenade for Woodwind Quartet reflects beautifully the lyricism and blend of woodwind instruments that few composers knew how to bring out.

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Sonata for Flute and Piano FP 164

 

One of the most beautiful works of music to have ever been written for flute and piano, this Sonata by Francis Poulenc has been lauded internationally by audiences and musicians alike. Commissioned by the American Library of Congress in 1957, the work made its debut at the Strasbourg Music Festival, with flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and Poulenc, himself, at the piano. The work is so incredibly well regarded, that composer Lennox Berkeley (heard earlier in our August 22nd concert) orchestrated it for recording. Having always been drawn to wind instruments for their similarity to the human voice, Poulenc writes “In working on this Flute Sonata, I have the feeling of going back a long way. It’s a sonata of Debussyan dimensions. It is the French sense of balance.” The Sonata is composed in three short movements: Allegretto malinconico, Cantilena: Assez lent, and Presto giocoso. The first movement sings from the opening descending line like a sad, but hopeful elegy. The second movement is described by Poulenc as an infinite melody, a tune that quietly hovers in the air, stunningly beautiful and never rushed. The final movement is an exciting finale that begins with a shrill exclamation of a single note, effectively waking the listener out of their trance from the previous Cantilena.

 

Jean Francaix (1912-1997)

Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano

The not so well know known French composer, Jean Francaix left a notable output of over two hundred pieces covering all the orchestral instruments. Initially trained in composition and piano by his father, Francaix spent his teenage years studying with Nadia Boulanger and Maurice Ravel. The recipient of many international Grand Prix awards, Francaix was endlessly commissioned to compose concerti, ballets, operas, and chamber music. In much of his music, Francaix expressed an affection towards woodwind instruments. Francaix's trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano is filled with much loved satirical compositional techniques of the early 20th century: syncopation, flamboyance and virtuosity. The virtuosic demands of this music would be impossible to achieve on anything but a modern woodwind instrument.

Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)

Deux Mouvements for Woodwind Quartet

 

Jacques Ibert was already an impressive composer in his youth. Despite his studies in France being interrupted to serve in the First World War, Ibert returned home to receive the Prix de Rome in composition in the last year of the war. While clearly Impressionist in his influence, Ibert was an independent thinker, following no particular school of composition. He developed a style of writing that explores variety in musical color, but also mixes it with humorous and sometimes quirky effects. The Deux Movements for woodwind quartet were composed in 1922 for the “Modern Society of Wind Instruments.” Both movements are lyrical and explore the special French sonorities found only in a blend of wind instruments.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) arr. Léon Roques

Valse "La Plus que Lente” for Violin and Piano

 

Perhaps the most famous of the three short pieces presented tonight for violin and piano, Debussy’s Valse is originally composed for solo piano. Being the pleasant short work that it is, it has been transposed and arranged for all instruments, most popularly violin and piano. Composed at a time when slow waltzes were in vogue around Parisian salons, Debussy went as far as to rewrite the work for full orchestra. Written in 1910, when Debussy had already matured into his unique compositional style, the opening measures are as undeniably impressionist and French as Baguettes and stinky cheese.

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Berceuse for Violin and Piano Op. 16 

 

Composed in 1879, Fauré’s Berceuse for Violin and Piano has become so popular with audiences, that it has been arranged for virtually every instrument.

Despite its short 112 measure duration, the Berceuse, which Fauré cast off as inconsequential, has seen a large variance in its interpretation, with some recordings lasting two minutes, while others run for over four! Literally meaning “cradle song,” this recognizable Berceuse is dedicated to Hélène Depret in thanks for introducing Fauré, in his youth, to France’s socialites.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Kaddish for Violin and Piano

Another of the most beautiful melodies to have ever been composed, Kaddish is the first of two songs composed by Ravel that are based on Hebrew melodies. In this arrangement of the same work by Ravel, the violin part is written as imagery for a prayer of mourning. The short but beautiful work features the violin imitating the voice of a singing Rabbi, while the accompaniment is very sparse adding to the sense of eerie divinity. First performed in 1914, the work is a wonderful homage by Ravel, a devout Catholic, to the Jewish community.

 

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)

Suite for violin, clarinet, and piano

 

Throughout much of the twentieth century, a recurring philosophy prevailed among those in the arts community, to defy convention and oppose past tradition. As such, a prominent circle of French composers formed, a group that called itself Les Six, comprised of Poulenc, Honegger, Auric, Durey, Tailleferre, and Milhaud. With their integration of jazz and ethnic folk songs in classical compositions, the group's music often meant to deliver a sense of shock to a traditional listener. In spite of that, the influence of the Les Six resulted in a witty and quirky, but still beautifully tonal output. As is with many performed pieces, Milhaud’s Suite for violin, clarinet and piano is part of a larger theatrical work titled “Traveler Without Baggage,” the baggage alluding to a World War I veteran’s lost memory. The combined length of the first three movements, Overture, Divertissement, and Jeu, match that of the entire last movement, titled Finale. The work’s sassy nature is influenced by Milhaud’s time spent in Brazil.