PROGRAMME NOTES

Covid restrictions prevent us from handing out printed programmes at our concerts, so we include programme notes here.


Programme notes 7 July 2021

James Lisney, piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Four Impromptus D935

No. 1 in f minor – Allegro Moderato

No. 2 in A-flat – Allegretto

No. 3 in B-flat – Theme (Andante) with Variations

No. 4 in f minor – Allegro scherzando

Schubert wrote two sets of Impromptus (D899 and D935). Composed in 1827, a year of fervent creativity, the Impromptus are some of his most popular and best-loved piano works.

The word “Impromptu” is misleading, suggesting a small-scale spontaneous salon piece. In fact, all of Schubert’s Impromptus are tightly organised, highly cohesive works, and the longest lasts over ten minutes. Schumann suggested that Schubert may have had something much larger in mind when he composed the D935 set, and even posited that the key sequence of the four pieces formed a piano sonata in all but name. Certainly the F minor Impromptu (the first of the D935 – the set ends with another F minor impromptu) has the grandeur and scale one expects from the first movement of a piano sonata from this period, but all four works also stand alone, each distinct in their own right.

Schubert arr. Liszt

Liebesbotschaft

Ständchen

Die Taubenpost

Liszt transcribed the whole of Schwanengesang, a set of songs written at the end of Schubert’s life; Liszt’s arrangement was published in 1840, 12 years after Schubert’s death.

Liszt’s great skill as an arranger, and his sensitivity to the originals, is evident in these three pieces, but this is also very much his own work in the way he changes the piano texture to provide a personal commentary on the original song text and the music. Liszt sometimes takes Schubert very literally, at other times he adds flourishes and embellishments, but he always retains the essential melodic structure of the song.

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Programme notes 2 June 2021

Duncan Honeybourne, piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Piano Sonata in A minor, D784

I. Allegro giusto

II. Andante

III. Allegro vivace

Franz Schubert‘s Piano Sonata in A minor, D 784, is one of Schubert’s major compositions for the piano. Schubert composed the work in February 1823, perhaps as a response to his illness the year before, but it was not published until 1839, eleven years after his death. It was given the opus number 143 and a dedication to Felix Mendelssohn by its publishers. This was Schubert’s last to be written in three movements, and is regarded by many as the herald to a new era in Schubert’s writing for the piano. It is a profound, sometimes almost obsessively tragic work. Its first movement has a sparse texture, with many bare octaves which contribute to the music’s sense of bleakness and solemnity. By contrast, the second movement, in F major, is intimate and tender, but tinged with poignancy. The finale is a whirling sequence of triplet scale figures relieved by more lyrical passages.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op 100

I. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo

II. Allegro molto

III. Adagio ma non troppo – Allegro ma non troppo

This sonata is the middle of Beethoven’s final three piano sonatas, composed in 1821-22. Its first movement is calm and moderately-paced, and even its central section, in the minor key, does little to disturb the relaxed atmosphere. The second movement, by contrast, is robust, though with a gentler middle section, and is said to be based on two folksongs – We Are All Dissolute and Our Cat Had Kittens. The third movement combines several elements – a haunting recitative-like section where the music appears to die back almost to nothing, followed by a fugue which emerges from the (almost) silence to build to an impressive climax before falling back into an even more anguished version of the recitative marked ‘exhausted, lamenting’. The music gradually revives and the fugue re-emerges into one of the most glorious uplifting finales in all of Beethoven’s piano music.

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