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Saturday, June 12, 2010

William Steck & Lambert Orkis play Martinon, Respighi & Dello Joio (1999)

Liner Notes:

Jean Martinon,

the significant French composer and conductor, was born in Lyons in 1910 and died in Paris in 1976. He is best known in America as the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1963 to 1968. He was a champion of new music, and during his tenure in Chicago he conducted over 60 new works by American and European composers, incurring the wrath of some influential members of the board of the orchestra as well as of Chicago's press. He consequently resigned, returned to France and led the National Orchestra of the Paris Radio as well as the Residente Orchestra of The Hague.

Martinon's compositions are neoclassical, but also owe a debt to the late 19th century romantic French masters as well as to the impressionists. His Duo is a major work for violin and piano in the tradition of the sonatas by Debussy and Ravel. It is truly "Musique en forme de sonate" with four large scale movements containing long themes and extraordinary contrasts. The first movement, in sonata form, contains two easily discernible elements: one lyric and easy-flowing, the other chordal with some quick arpeggiatton. The ending of the movement is a very poetic, quiet summation of the two gestures. The second movement is a light scherzo in 6/8 time. Perpetual motion is the character of this scherzo, which is contrasted by a long flowing violin line with the piano keeping up the initial rhythm as accompaniment to form the "B" section, or Trio. A short bridge leads back to the scherzo which is repeated with elaborations. A very beautiful slow movement follows. It has an intriguing form: A piano solo characterized by a dotted rhythm which we will call "A". The violin begins at first imperceptibly, then plays a lyric theme "B". This episode is followed by a variation of "A" and then a variation of "B" a fourth higher. Next, another variation of "A" by the piano, this time followed by the violin entering a fifth higher from the original and carrying the "B" theme to a climax, all followed by a short, very delicate coda which ends the movement with a very soft Db held by the violin. The Finale is developed out of the small fragments heard at the outset with spacious long lines as well as spunky interactions between the two instruments. It is a movement full of energy and imaginative counterpoint leading to an ending that is evocative of the beginning and yet ends the work on a light and even whimsical note.

The Sonatine #5 for violin alone was written several years before the Duo and is Op. 32, No. 1. It is a very powerful and grand expression of fine musical material. The work is in two vastly contrasting movements. The first is a strong, rather romantic, flowing movement that constantly moves in eighth notes with expressive longer notes to keep up the rhythmic tension. This gives way to a rather curious, indecisive second movement; meaning that it seems to stop and start, setting forth some new material dominated by double stops, especially consecutive fifths. This leads to a climax and a very decisive start of fast and furious music which then forms the main body of the final movement. It is a perpetually moving dance requiring incredible virtuosity and brings the work to a most exciting close.

One can only wonder why these two Martinon pieces have not made it into the standard repertoire since they are so musically gratifying both from the listener's as well as the performer's perspective. Perhaps the excellent performance on this recording will rectify this situation.

Norman Dello Joio

was born in New York City in January, 1913, and at an early age showed great promise as a pianist and organist. He entered the Juilliard School in 1939 to study composition with Bernard Wagenaar. After studying with Paul Hindemith at Tanglewood in 1941, he followed him to Yale University to continue his studies (1941-1943). Dello Joio has written operas, ballets, and a great deal of orchestral, choral, and vocal music, plus a good bit of chamber music. Both in 1947 and again in 1959 he was awarded the New York Music Critics' Award. His compositions are widely performed by orchestras and choral organizations all over the world. He has also distinguished himself as a teacher of composition, having held posts at Sarah Lawrence College, Mannes College, and served as dean of the School of Fine Arts at Boston University from 1972 to 1979. Dello Joio's style can be described as neoclassical, but it is mixed with very fresh ideas stemming from his jazz background and his life-long involvement in actual musical performance. It is because of their freshness that many of his works have become staples in the orchestra, especially the choral and wind-ensemble repertory.

Variations and Capriccio was written in 1948 and consists of a theme with six variations followed by a Capriccio.

The theme is stated by the piano alone. Its characteristics are dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note then two repeated eighth notes; this leads to a figure consisting of an eighth note followed by two sixteenths and its inversion, two sixteenths followed by an eighth.

Variation I. The violin takes up the theme and varies it all by itself except for the final chord in which the piano supplies the low bass note "C". This is significant because the cadence of each variation ends with the piano low "C" becoming a unifying element in the entire work.

Variation II. A brilliant dance variation with prominent pizzicato passages for the violin. Occasional lyric moments for the piano contrast to the ever spirited violin passages.

Variation III. Another fiery rhythmic piece almost perpetually for the violin. Once again the piano supplies some lyric relief, and here Dello Joio uses some "bluesy" harmony.

Variation IV. A lovely Siciliana brings a good contrast to all the more muscular previous variations.

Variation V. A happy, rather fast variation with characteristically American dance rhythms of shifting accents, relieved at times by stabilizing elements which quote the original theme exactly.

Variation VI. The violin and piano each introduce this final variation with separate lyric passages. These are followed by a very beautiful theme with 'romantic' harmony. This variation is built on the tune introduced by the left hand accompaniment beginning in measure two of the original theme.

The Capriccio is introduced by a solo violin melody that sounds as if it were a continuation of the one heard in Variation VI. This is especially so since we have an emphasis once again on the cadence, where the piano enters after a long violin solo, supplying the chord. This time, however, it is a mixed chord of G major over a 'C' bass. This cadence leads to a true Scherzo or Capriccio which does use gestures from the theme as well as of the previous six variations. This unifying aspect creates not only a most effective work, but one which is quite easy to follow.

Ottorino Respighi

was born in Bologna in 1879 and died in Rome in 1936. Besides his studies in composition, Respighi was trained as a violinist and violist. Before teaching composition at Santa Cecilia Academy in 1913 he played the viola in the St. Petersburg (Russia) Imperial Opera, was active as a concert violinist from 1903 to 1908, and then joined the Mugelini Quartet as a violist. While in St. Petersburg, Respighi studied with Rimsky-Korsakov. This had a great influence on the young composer, especially in his colorful orchestrations in later works. In 1925-6 and 1928, he made tours of the United States as a pianist and a conductor. His output is quite large, containing operas, ballets, orchestral works, chamber music and songs. Important in his works were transcriptions and editions of works by early Italian composers such as Monteverdi, Vitali, Corelli, Marcello and others.

The Violin Sonata in b minor was composed in 1917, and though he composed a great deal for violin and piano this was the only "formal" sonata. It is dedicated to Ernest Consolo and Arrigo Serato.

This is a major work in the tradition of the late 19th century sonatas of Brahms, Franck and Fauré. The first movement is in the large-scale sonata form, with beautifully long lyric lines in the violin accompanied by a very active, ever moving piano part. The characteristic of the first theme group is a large skip, either of a seventh or ninth, to begin each phrase. The second theme group is distinguished by three stepwise pitches followed by a skip. Respighi succeeds in making the listener aware of this contrast throughout by further emphasizing the difference with his treatment of the accompaniment, although the notion is sustained throughout both themes. There is an extensive development of both thematic ideas: an elaborate key scheme and many tempo variations lead to a calm poetic ending in B major with the juxtaposition of the two themes, one upon the other.

The second movement is slow, but actually takes over the "atmosphere" of the ending of the first movement. The difference here is that the piano accompaniment obscures the rhythm of the song-like first theme by the use of quintuplets which have the fifth and the first note tied, creating an undulating but a-rhythmic background. The second theme, which begins on Db major, is accompanied with rhythms that make one feel the beats much clearer. This dichotomy is exploited throughout the development section, which again takes us through a number of keys and tempo changes, and climaxes in a cadenza-like return of the first theme of the first movement played by the violin over sustained piano chords. This activity leads eventually to a recapitulation and another beautifully quiet ending in E major, the main key of the movement.

The final movement is a Passacaglia. This is an old pre-Baroque form in which a ground bass of eight measures in 3/4 time is used over and over again with variations on top of it. Respighi uses this devise, but only in principle: there is a ten measure bass line stated by the piano at the beginning which is elaborated upon nineteen times. These variations can be divided into three groups. In the first group, the theme and the first eleven variations are vigorous and become faster and ever more exciting. In order to slow this down, variations ten and eleven have 15 measures each instead of 10, creating a slightly unbalanced feeling. This is "relieved" by the beginning of a series of four slow variations, forming the second group. Once again, the composer adds an extra four bars, this time to variation 15, leading to the final four variations. This becomes the most unevenly divided group since the variations are of unequal measure lengths, but beautifully provides an accumulative effect of getting faster before coming to a brilliant conclusion.

—notes by Samuel Adler

William Steck

has been Concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra since 1982 when he was personally selected by conductor Mstislav Rostropo-vich. Active as a soloist and recitalist since the age of four, Mr. Steck has appeared as soloist with the National Symphony as well as many other orchestras, including Atlanta, Dallas, Cleveland, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

His chamber music experience is both varied and extensive. He is currently first violinist of the Stratford String Quartet and violinist of the Flathead Festival Piano Quartet which offers a series of concerts based at the festival, located in Whitefish, MT. Previously he has been the violinist of the Lanier Trio of Atlanta, GA, and first violinist of the Severence String Quartet in Cleveland.

Mr. Steck has held the posts of Assistant Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell, and Concertmaster of both the Dallas and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras. His violin is contemporary: made in 1979, it is a fine example of the work of the late noted maker Sergio Peresson.

Lambert Orkis,

chamber musician, soloist, interpreter of contemporary music, recitalist with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, as well as fortepianist with the Castle Trio and the Smithsonian Chamber Players, has received international recognition for his brilliant pianism and the probing musicianship of his performances and recordings.

Mr. Orkis has premiered and recorded works of prize-winning contemporary composers George Crumb and Richard Wernick, and has appeared as orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician worldwide. His recordings include two releases, with Anne-Sophie Mutter and with Anner Bylsma, which have garnered Grammy Award nominations, and others with Lucy Shelton, the late Arleen Augér and the Castle Trio.

Mr. Orkis holds the positions of Principal Keyboard of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, DC, and Professor of Piano at Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music where he was honored with the University's Faculty Award for Creative Achievement.

Track List:
  1. Jean Martinon - Duo, Musique En Forme De Sonate, Op.47: I Allegro Espressivo
  2. Jean Martinon - Duo, Musique En Forme De Sonate, Op.47: II Molto Vivace
  3. Jean Martinon - Duo, Musique En Forme De Sonate, Op.47: III Lento
  4. Jean Martinon - Duo, Musique En Forme De Sonate, Op.47: IV Allegro Molto Vivace (Finale)
  5. Jean Martinon - Jean Martinon - Sonatine No.5, Op.32, No.1: I Allegro Espressive
  6. Jean Martinon - Sonatine No.5, Op.32, No.1: II Allegro-Adagio-Allegro (Segues)
  7. Norman Dello Joio - Vars And Capriccio, Part 1
  8. Norman Dello Joio - Vars And Capriccio, Part 2
  9. Ottorino Respighi - Sonata in b: Moderato
  10. Ottorino Respighi - Sonata in b: Andante Espressivo
  11. Ottorino Respighi - Sonata in b: Allegretto Moderato Ma Energico
Download Links: Enjoy the Music, or here.

Other recordings featuring William Steck:
Other recordings featuring Lambert Orkis:

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