PROGRAM INFORMATION

 

Randall Goosby, violin

 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022
7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall


Artists


Randall Goosby, violin

Zhu Wang, piano


Program


LILI BOULANGER (1893-1918) 
Deux morceaux: Nocturne (1911) and Cortège (1914)

         

MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata No. 2, in G Major (1923-7)
           I. Allegretto
           II. Blues: Moderato
           III. Perpetuum mobile: Allegro

 

WILLIAM GRANT STILL (1895-1978)
Suite for violin and piano (1943)
           I. African Dancer,
           II. Mother and Child
           III. Gamin

 

—INTERMISSION—

 

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, "Bridgetower" ("Kreutzer")
           I. Adagio sostenuto - Presto
           II. Andante con variazioni
           III. Presto

 

 

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PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones, pagers, and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.


Program Notes


LILLI BOULANGER 
Born in Paris, August 21, 1893; died in Mézy, France, March 15, 1918
Deux morceaux: Nocturne (1911) and Cortège (1914)

The Prix de Rome was a rite of passage through which generations of French composers passed. In it, they were challenged in their knowledge of the science of music (theory) and its art (composition). Lili Boulanger’s father Ernest (1815-1900) won the prize in 1835, when he was 19. With her second prize in 1908, Lili’s elder sister Nadia stirred the Establishment. Lili, on the other hand, positively shook it and made international news when she followed her father and won the coveted Premier Grand Prix de Rome at 19, becoming the first female competitor to do so. Lili, however, was sick from the age of two with what is nowadays known as Crohn’s Disease. When her health permitted study, the family could afford private tutors. Lili soon began to accompany her sister to the Paris Conservatoire from a very early age, studying with Vierne (organ), Vidal (piano accompaniment), and Fauré (composition) among others.     

Dating from 1911, Boulanger’s Nocturne, written for violin or flute with piano, is among her earliest published chamber compositions. Not a note is out of place in this beautiful, carefully crafted miniature, built around a piano pedal point. 

The tantalizingly brief but brilliant showpiece, curiously titled Cortège, (usually a funeral procession, but here much more of a festive parade), was written in 1914 during Boulanger’s short stay in Rome. With the outbreak of the First World War, Lili returned to Paris and created, organized, and edited La Gazette des classes du Conservatoire National, a newspaper distributed to hundreds of the Conservatoire’s mobilized students throughout the war years. Lili’s health eventually failed her, in 1918, at the age of just 24.


MAURICE RAVEL
Born in Ciboure, France, March 7, 1875; died in Paris, December 28, 1937
Violin Sonata No. 2, in G Major (1923-7)

Ravel’s Blues is the centerpiece of his Second Violin Sonata. In it, the violin frequently echoes the wailing saxophone and both instruments recreate the sounds of the strummed banjo. One critic has even found echoes and borrowings from Jelly Roll Morton’s Black Bottom Stomp. Ravel admitted to having been impressed by the ‘‘nerve-wracking virtuosity” of the African American jazz musicians in 1920s Paris. Nevertheless, he insisted that the spirit of the music is Gallic to the core. “It is French music—Ravel's music—that I have written," he told a reporter while touring the piece in the United States and Canada. 

The Violin Sonata is his final chamber work. Ravel joked that it took him four years (1923-27) to get rid of all the unnecessary notes. "In writing my Sonata, two fundamentally incompatible instruments, I assumed the task. . . of emphasizing their irreconcilability," he said. Still, like Debussy 20 years earlier, Ravel must have sensed deep down that opposites can attract. The opening Allegretto main theme is graceful and lyrical when heard on violin, more angular on the piano. It is contrasted with a persistent quirky "tapping" figure which assumes more importance as this pastoral opening movement progresses. The musical material is shared between the instruments equally and fluently, with never an extraneous note. After the Blues movement, the finale is a driving perpetuum mobile, led by the violin, with simple piano accompaniment. It brings back themes from the two earlier movements. The demanding violin writing is reminiscent of Ravel's virtuoso violin showpiece Tzigane, which he also wrote while this sonata was being composed. 


WILLIAM GRANT STILL
Born in Woodville, MS, May 11, 1895; died in Los Angeles, December 3, 1978
Suite for violin and piano (1943)

Acknowledged by his peers as "the Dean" of African American composers, William Grant Still pursued a wide-ranging career that saw him writing jazz arrangements for W. C. Handy, Artie Shaw, Paul Whiteman, and Sophie Tucker, providing orchestrations for the film Pennies from Heaven and tv shows Perry Mason and Gunsmoke, while composing more than 150 concert works and eight operas. Still left Oberlin Conservatory without graduating, but later took composition lessons from Edgard Varèse who encouraged his lyric gift and included his compositions on concerts of the International Composers' Guild. Still turned away from spirituals as the foundation for his composition, preferring the blues, declaring that “they, unlike many spirituals, do not exhibit the influence of Caucasian music.” The influence of the blues can be heard in his breakthrough Afro-American Symphony (1930), the first of five symphonies and the first by an African American composer to be performed by a major American orchestra. There were many other firsts that this still neglected American composer pioneered: conducting a major U.S. orchestra, having an opera produced by a major company, and having an opera performed on national television, among others.   

The Violin Suite from 1943 is a musical impression of three works of art created during the previous decade by African American artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. In Richmond Barthé’s African Dancer, Still blends forward driving, assertive music with more reflective, bluesy thoughts. The high soaring, somewhat sentimental idiom of the lullaby-like middle movement comes in response to one of the many Mother and Child sculptures and paintings of San Francisco-based Sargent Johnson. The more whimsical Gamin brings syncopated rhythm and blues figures to reflect the nonchalance present in Augusta Savage’s bust of a young man. 


LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Born in Bonn, Germany, baptised December 17, 1770; died in Vienna, Austria, March 26, 1827
Violin Sonata No. 9, in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer) (1802-3)

The "Kreutzer" sonata very nearly came down to us as the "Bridgetower." A handsome 24-year-old English violin virtuoso, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860), of West Indian and Polish descent, gave the first performance of the work in his Vienna début. Beethoven himself played piano at this public concert in 1803 in a hall in the Vienna Augarten. The two musicians had met at the house of Prince Lichnowsky and Beethoven praised the English-born violinist as “a very skilled virtuoso, entirely the master of his instrument.” Both Bridgetower and Beethoven were known for their volatile temperament. When they became enamored of the same woman, they inevitably had a falling out. Bridgetower proved the more romantically successful, but the price he had to pay was the withdrawal of the dedication of the sonata. Not long afterwards, Rodolphe Kreutzer, Napoleon's chief violinist, accepted the dedication of the sonata, but never played it. Berlioz (who thought the work “one of the most sublime of all violin sonatas”) reported that Kreutzer viewed the music as "monstrously unintelligible.” But Beethoven’s most brilliant violin sonata was to manage well enough on its own merits, without its dedicatee’s advocacy.   

After flagging the “highly concerto-like style” of the work on the printed score, Beethoven further indicates the brilliance of the music by marking both outer movements Presto. At the outset, an imposing four-bar introduction for the violin alone is rich in musical ideas. A feature of a rising half-step slur is drawn out as the piano has its own imposing reply and both instruments further explore its possibilities, building up a feeling of anticipation for what is to come. This half-step motif and frequent pauses become prominent elements of the fiery, incisive Presto that follows. Its momentum is only held back by a broad, chorale-like second theme with its thematic echoes of the introduction. For the rest, we have Beethoven’s most driven movement since the finale of the Moonlight sonata. This was music that, for Tolstoy, in his novella The Kreutzer Sonata, could generate the power to arouse erotic feelings and generate sexual jealousy enough to lead to murder.  

After the grand scale and virtuosity of the opening movement, the central slow movement is a set of four elaborate variations of increasing ornamentation on a richly resonant melody. The finale is a whirling tarantella, a movement that came ready-made, as the finale Beethoven had put aside from an earlier sonata. Its brilliance and virtuosity are wholly in keeping with the resonant, heroic and virtuoso character of the "Kreutzer." While Beethoven had been acutely aware of the challenges of balancing the sonorities of the violin, an upper register instrument, with the full-range piano in all his recent violin sonatas and other duo sonatas, the "Kreutzer" in particular cries out for performance in the concert hall rather than the private salon—the traditional venue for the accompanied keyboard sonata. That's why it has been said that the "Kreutzer’" did for the violin sonata what Beethoven's "Razumovsky" quartets did for the string quartet and the "Waldstein" and "Appassionata" sonatas did for the piano sonata.

 

— Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner.  Comments welcomed: khnotes@sympatico.ca


About the Artists


Randall Goosby
“For me, personally, music has been a way to inspire others." Randall Goosby’s own words sum up perfectly his commitment to being an artist who makes a difference.

Signed exclusively to Decca Classics in 2020 at the age of 24, American violinist Randall Goosby is acclaimed for the sensitivity and intensity of his musicianship alongside his determination to make music more inclusive and accessible, as well as bringing the music of under-represented composers to light.

Highlights of Randall Goosby’s 2021/22 season include debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl, Baltimore Symphony under Dalia Stasevska, Detroit Symphony under Jader Bignamini, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra. He makes recital appearances at London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s 92nd Street Y, San Francisco Symphony’s Davies Symphony Hall, and Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
 
June 2021 marks the release of Goosby’s debut album for Decca entitled Roots, a celebration of African-American music which explores its evolution from the spiritual through to present-day compositions. Collaborating with pianist Zhu Wang, Goosby has curated an album paying homage to the pioneering artists that paved the way for him and other artists of color. It features three world-premiere recordings of music written by African-American composer Florence Price, and includes works by composers William Grant Still and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson plus a newly commissioned piece by acclaimed double bassist Xavier Foley, a fellow Sphinx, Perlman Music Program, and Young Concert Artists alumnus.

Randall Goosby has performed with orchestras across the United States including the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, and New World Symphony. Recital appearances have included the Kennedy Center, Kravis Center,–– and Wigmore Hall.

Goosby is deeply passionate about inspiring and serving others through education, social engagement and outreach activities. He has enjoyed working with non-profit organizations such as the Opportunity Music Project and Concerts in Motion in New York City, as well as participating in community engagement programs for schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities across the United States.
 
Randall Goosby was First Prize Winner in the 2018 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. In 2019, he was named the inaugural Robey Artist by Young Classical Artists Trust in partnership with Music Masters in London; and in 2020 he became an Ambassador for Music Masters, a role that sees him mentoring and inspiring students in schools around the United Kingdom.

Goosby made his debut with the Jacksonville Symphony at age nine. At age 13, he performed with the New York Philharmonic on a Young People’s Concert at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and became the youngest recipient ever to win the Sphinx Concerto Competition. He is a recipient of Sphinx’s Isaac Stern Award and of a career advancement grant from the Bagby Foundation. A graduate of the Juilliard School, he continues his studies there, pursuing an Artist Diploma under Itzhak Perlman and Catherine Cho. An active chamber musician, he has spent his summers studying at the Perlman Music Program, Verbier Festival Academy and Mozarteum Summer Academy among others.

Randall Goosby plays a 1735 Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu on generous loan from the Stradivari Society.


Zhu Wang
Praised as “especially impressive” and “a thoughtful, sensitive performer” who “balanced lyrical warmth and crisp clarity” (Tommasini – The New York Times), Chinese pianist Zhu Wang was awarded First Prize at 2020 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Zhu had appeared as a soloist and chamber musician at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, 92nd Street Y, Shanghai Concert Hall, Davies Hall in San Francisco, and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Zhu was a Bravo Vail! Piano Fellow during the summer of 2022. 

In the 2022-2023 season, Zhu will appear in recitals and chamber music series at Evnin Rising Stars at Caramoor, Vancouver Recital Society, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Buffalo Chamber Music Society, performing commission works by Steven Banks and Alistair Coleman, and will join Columbus Symphony for Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. 

As a performer with remarkable depth of sensitivity and poise, Zhu aims to bring the utter joy in music, and explore the meaning and profundity behind every note he plays.

 

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