Saturday, September 26, 2015
- Mozart: Variations on “Ah vous, dirai-je, Maman”
- Scriabin: Deux Poemes, Op. 32
- Chopin: Sonata No. 3 in B minor
Constantine Finehouse, piano
Notes on the Program
by Betty Oberacker
One of the highlights of Santa Barbara Music Club’s concerts is the opportunity for audiences to hear great music from a variety of historical periods, with a diversity of musical forms, performed by excellent artists. This opening concert features internationally renowned pianist Constantine Finehouse in a program highlighting beloved masterworks of the Classical and Romantic periods.
The concert opens with Mozart’s charming Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman,” K. 265/300e. The melody of this popular French children’s song has had numerous lyrics written to it, including the familiar “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” “The Alphabet Song,” and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and in this composition, Mozart’s best known set of variations, the composer displays – indeed, revels in – his virtuosic ability to build a substantial structure from the simplest of materials.
In complete contrast, Alexander Scriabin’s Deux Poèmes, Op. 32 follows, offering in the “Andante cantabile” an introverted, dreamily passionate utterance, and in the “Allegro, con eleganza, confiducia” an assertively outgoing proclamation. Interestingly, Scriabin had envisioned writing an opera, and these two works were originally conceived as arias in it, but the plan never came to fruition; the fanciful, imaginative characters of the two poems, however, stand alone as eloquent testimony to the composer’s dramatic creativity nonetheless.
Concluding the program will be the magnificent Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 of Fréderic Chopin. The first large-scale, multi-movement piano work written in the key of B minor, it demonstrates convincingly the extraordinary maturity Chopin had attained during his last years of life.
The first movement unfolds with such logic and developmental instinct that it inexorably defines its own structure: though critics have viewed the absence of the first theme’s return following the development as an apparent weakness in Chopin’s mastery of sonata form, the opening theme is in fact manipulated so definitively and comprehensively prior to the recapitulation that its further statement would seem redundant. The Scherzo, as if to balance the exceptionally emotional content of the surrounding movements, is a surprisingly lighthearted caprice. The Largo exhibits a fascinating dichotomy: the A section offers the broadly poetic bel canto lines of a nocturne, while the B section reveals an hypnotically-extended otherworldliness. The sonata-rondo Finale utilizes an increasingly animated accompaniment to underscore the uninterrupted momentum which defines this brilliant movement of formal clarity and harmonic inventiveness.