Frost Amphitheater



Tony Siqi Yun


Wednesday, May 18, 2022
7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall


Tony Siqi Yun, piano

Program Notes

transcr. Ferrucio Busoni (1866-1924)

Chaconne, from the Partita in D minor for violin
BWV 1004/BV B24 (1720/1891-2, rev.)


transcr. Ferrucio Busoni (1866-1924)

Chorale Prelude: Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ
BWV 639/ BV B27 (1713-17/1898)


Piano Sonata No. 15, in D, Op. 28 (‘Pastoral’) (1801)
Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo




LUCIANO BERIO (1925-2003)
Wasserklavier (1965)


Piano Sonata No. 3, in F minor, Op. 5 (1853)
Allegro maestoso
Andante espressivo
Allegro energico
Intermezzo (Rűckblick): Andante molto
Allegro moderato ma rubato


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Program Notes

Born in Empoli, Italy, April 1, 1866; died in Berlin, July 27, 1924
Chaconne, from the Partita in D minor for violin, BWV 1004 (1720/1891-2, rev.)
Chorale Prelude: Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639/ BV B27 (1713-17/1898)

At the age of 22, Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni began a series of Bach transcriptions that eventually ran to seven volumes. “By cleaning them of the dust of tradition, I try to restore their youth,” he said in 1902, “to present them as they sounded to people at the moment they first sprang from the head and pen of the composer.” As one of the last in a line of 19th century composer-pianists, Busoni felt he should do more than simply make music from one medium more accessible through another. His transcription of the magnificent, stately Chaconne from Bach’s D-minor Partita for solo violin was made while living in Boston 1891-2, and premièred there January 30, 1893. He published three revisions, the last in 1916. Although Bach’s violin work has no actual bass line, it is nonetheless classed as a chaconne (traditionally a dance movement built over an unvarying bass pattern) because the bass is implied throughout its remarkable 64 variations. Busoni provides a monumental reinterpretation of the original, realizing Bach’s implied harmonies, while extending and re-voicing his polyphonic writing, as though viewing the piece through the lens of an imagined organ transcription. He strives to make complex music ever more complex. “A transcription does not destroy the original,” Busoni once said. “From Bach, I learnt to recognize the truth that Good and Great Universal Music remains the same through whatever medium it is sounded.”

Bach’s organ prelude Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I call on Thee, Lord Jesus Christ) derives from the cantata of the same name, BWV 177 of 1732, for the fourth Sunday after Trinity. The original chorale on which it is based was composed by Johann Agricola (c.1530). Bach’s organ prelude is found in the Orgel-Büchlein (Little Organ Book) of 1713-1716, a collection of 46 organ preludes, originally known to have been planned as a full cycle of 164. Bach’s use of these chorale preludes served both a pedagogic value and a more pragmatic purpose as music for the church service, as a prelude to the cantata, as a substitution for one of its sung verses, or even as a substitute for the entire chorale. Busoni’s darkly sonorous transcription “for the piano in chamber style” is the fifth of his collection of Ten Chorale Preludes (1898). Octave displacements accommodate the organ pedals, while the chorale melody is often played in octaves with varied articulations and chord enriching in places, together with Busoni’s dynamic and interpretative markings. 

Born in Bonn, Germany, baptised December 17, 1770; died in Vienna, Austria, March 26, 1827
Piano Sonata No. 15, in D, Op. 28 (‘Pastoral’) (1801)

Beethoven wrote no less than four piano sonatas in the year 1801. Although he wouldn't have known it, he was beginning what we now call his "middle period." What he would have known, however, is that his hearing was becoming alarmingly weak and that he was in the deepest despair. A year later, through the writing of his thoughts in a document known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, we know that he was contemplating suicide. Three of the sonatas he completed in 1801 are progressive and ground-breaking. The A-flat sonata, Op. 26 has a highly unusual sequence of movements and dispenses altogether with the customary sonata form, while the two Op. 27 sonatas (including the "Moonlight") are both described as Sonata quasi una fantasia and venture into hitherto unexplored territory.  

The fourth sonata, Op. 28 is the last to follow the traditional pattern where a quick movement is followed by a slow movement, then a scherzo and finale. It is an understated piece of music by any standard—particularly those of Beethoven himself—a gentle, calming work whose slow movement Beethoven was fond of playing. The opening low D, repeated some 60 times in all, generates the rustic feeling which, together with the finale, likely led to the sonata’s unofficial but still appropriate subtitle "Pastoral"(e) by its first publisher. It’s as though Beethoven is calmly contemplating nature and feeling no need to express a wide range of emotions, even though the scope of the music is still broad and expansive. All three movements remain in the home key of D, but the slow movement speaks in an elegiac D minor, except for a rather whimsical section in the major key. Both the scherzo, with its horn calls, and the rustic, carefree finale continue the pastoral feeling. 

Born in Oneglia, Italy, October 24, 1925; died in Rome, May 27, 2003
Wasserklavier (1965)

A wartime firearm injury put paid to Italian composer Luciano Berio’s early intentions to work as a concert pianist. However, in a large creative output spanning six decades, piano music does not hold a prominent place. Water Piano, originally for two pianos, is one of four miniatures inspired by the ancient elements, together with Earth, Air and Fire, plus two additional pieces, all published as Six Encores. Elusive and reflective, with an una corda haze throughout, the gentle score alludes to both a Brahms Intermezzo and Schubert Impromptu. 

Born in Hamburg, Germany, May 7, 1833; died in Vienna, Austria, April 3, 1897
Piano Sonata No. 3, in F minor, Op. 5 (1853)

In the heady days of 19th century Romanticism, it was unusual for a young composer to introduce himself to the musical world with a set of three piano sonatas. Operatic fantasias, piano miniatures, waltzes or nocturnes were the more usual calling cards. Brahms was just 20 when, one day in 1853, he turned up on the doorstep of Robert and Clara Schumann. He carried a bundle of manuscripts that included the work he had decided to call his Opus 1, a piano sonata in C major.  

Clara Schumann was bowled over by the young virtuoso pianist and composer from Hamburg: "He played us sonatas, scherzos and so on, all of his own, all of them showing exuberant imagination, depth of feeling and mastery of form . . . It is really moving to see him sitting at the piano, with his interesting young face which becomes transfigured when he plays, his beautiful hands, which overcome the greatest difficulties with perfect ease (his things are very difficult) and in addition these remarkable compositions."

Robert Schumann was similarly impressed by the young lion of the keyboard. "His brilliant playing transformed the piano into an orchestra of lamenting and loudly jubilant voices," he wrote. Brahms spent the month of October with the Schumanns in Dűsseldorf. Under their appreciative, but considered encouragement, he completed the third of the piano sonatas. Schumann perceptively described the sonatas as “symphonies in disguise." It turned out to be a prophetic statement, as the F minor was to be the last of Brahms’s piano sonatas. Thereafter, his broadly drawn, monumental conceptions were worked out in orchestral terms and his piano writing proceeded via the variations on themes by Schumann, Handel and Paganini, to the intimately drawn miniature forms of the capriccio, fantasia, intermezzo and so on.  

One of Brahms’s early biographers, Richard Specht, viewed the F minor Sonata as a portrait of the artist as a young man. It combines all the virtues of youthful ardency with a mastery of form.  Although its five-movement form is unusual, there are sufficient thematic links between the Andante and the Intermezzo, together with cunning recollections of the previous four movements in the finale, to give an inner unity to the work. Throughout, Brahms includes various imitations of orchestral instruments. Yet the fiery, craggy opening, ranging over the entire keyboard, is utterly pianistic in concept. No notes are wasted in the Allegro maestoso, which grows entirely out of the opening few bars. By contrast, the tender Andante contains the most explicit baring of emotion to be found in Brahms’s music. This beautiful nocturne is prefaced by a love poem by Sternau: “Evening approaches, and in the light of the rising moon, two loving hearts join in rapture.”

The Scherzo returns to the fiery F minor passion of the opening and includes elements of the Ländler dance. By including the Intermezzo (subtitled Retrospect) Brahms breaks with the classical tradition of the three or four movement sonata. The movement provides a wintry, funereal recollection of the Andante, underlined by a tragic drum-roll. The rondo finale, with its contrasting episodes and skilful contrapuntal writing, ends this monumental sonata on a note of triumph.  

Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed:

About the Artist

“Tony is a true poet of the keyboard. Expressive, and with his own distinct voice, yet elegant and poised.”  Pianist Magazine

Tony Siqi Yun, the First Prize winner and Gold Medalist at the First China International Music Competition, was born in Toronto, Canada in 2001. Tony is a recipient of the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship at the Juilliard School where he studies with Professors Matti Raekallio and Yoheved Kaplinsky.

With playing that combines poetry and elegance, this fiercely charismatic young pianist is already being invited to perform at major venues on the world stage, including upcoming debuts at BOZAR, the Luxembourg Philharmonie, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, NDR Hannover, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and in Weimar. 

This young pianist can already look back at an extraordinary concert career. In 2019, he made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin in the final round of the First China International Music Competition, and has since been invited to perform with Nézet-Séguin in North America. His outstanding debut with the China Philharmonic Orchestra at the Third Polish Culture Festival led to an invitation to tour with the orchestra in 2015. Yun appeared with the China Philharmonic Orchestra again in the 2018-2019 season including the 2019 CCTV New Year’s Concert. In 2018, Yun successfully collaborated with the Cleveland Orchestra at the final round of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition and won First Prize and the Audience Prize. 

As a soloist, Yun has given recitals in North America, Europe, and Asia. Highlights include recitals at the renowned Salle Cortot Concert Hall in Paris, Opera & and Concert Hall of CCOM, The Juilliard School, New York’s Steinway Hall, and at the Heidelberger Frühling Music Festival.


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