Saturday, March 5, 2016
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
- Elgar: Romance for Bassoon and Strings, Op. 62
- Shinji Eshima: Krapp’s Endgame for bassoon, string quartet, and optional Buddhist monk
- Beethoven: Sonata No. 9 “Kreutzer”
Nicole McKenzie, violin
Betty Oberacker, piano
Paul Mori, bassoon
Issac Kay, violin
Andrea Lárez, violin
Erik Fauss, viola
Wynston Hamann, cello
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.
The program opens with Edward Elgar’s lyrically reflective Romance for Bassoon and Strings, Op. 62, performed by Paul Mori and a string quartet composed of Isaac Kay and Andrea Lárez, violins, Erik Fauss, viola, and Wynston Hamann, cello. Originally for orchestra, this version by Trevor Cramer retains the gentle and beautifully flowing sonorities and tonal colors of the original, while basking in the intimacy and clarity of the chamber music format.
The same performers will then present Krapp’s Endgame (2009) by the American composer Shinji Eshima. Based on a play by Samuel Beckett, the work is scored for bassoon, string quartet, and optional Buddhist monk. In Beckett’s play, a man is reviewing his life through recordings he has made of himself on each of his birthdays; Eshima’s score emphasizes the ensuing emotional turmoil, commencing with an opening statement marked “Crying despair” and subsequently including some chanting from the quartet.
Violinist Nicole Mckenzie and pianist Betty Oberacker will conclude the program with the mighty “Kreutzer” Sonata, No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 of Ludwig van Beethoven. Composed in 1803, the work was noted in the composer’s sketchbook as “Sonata per il Pianoforte ed uno violino obligato in uno stile molto concertante come d’un concerto” (Sonata for Piano and Violin Obligato in a Very Concertante Style, Like a Concerto). The sonata takes its nickname from the famed 18th-century virtuoso violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer (composer of the infamous violin exercise made famous by Jack Benny), but it was not actually premiered or even performed by Kreutzer; instead, Beethoven enlisted the violinist George Bridgetower to collaborate with him in the first performance.
The history of that premiere is fascinating: shortly after the work’s completion it was presented at a concert that started at the unusually early hour of 8 am. Bridgetower sight-read the piece, as he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal. Though the premiere was by all accounts a success, the spirited collaboration of Beethoven and Bridgetower was short lived, as after the performance, while the two were drinking, Bridgetower apparently insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, he changed the title page, dedicating the work to Kreutzer, who was considered the finest violinist of the day. (Yet it should be noted that Kreutzer considered the sonata “outrageously unintelligible” — nor did he care for any of Beethoven’s music!)
The sonata’s three-movement structure encompasses unsurpassed brilliance and emotional scope: the brief but profound Adagio sostenuto introduction quickly erupts into a Presto of enormously propulsive excitement; the dignified romanticism that permeates the theme of the Andante con variazioni lends its beauty to inspire the ensuing five variations, with the final one expanding into delicate and scintillating philosophical realms. Then, a bold chord breaks the spell and the final movement, Presto, is off and running, its unflagging exuberance providing a thrillingly virtuosic conclusion to this momentous musical edifice.