Poulenc Trio

22 September 2013

Trio Pathétique in D minor Glinka

Hailed as “Father of Russian Music” by Balakirev, Glinka pioneered a style of music derived from the idiosyncrasies of Russian folk music, creating a personal style marked by daring harmonies, dynamic and flexible rhythm, and bright, pure orchestral colors.

Originally for clarinet, bassoon and piano, the Trio Pathétique dates to 1827-28, and will feature an oboe here. We can hear Russian folk melody, but it is written in the idiom of the Viennese classics. The first Allegro moderato is in a transitional style of early Romanticism with a classical structure. The second Scherzo movement gives the piano a sparkling part against which the others have long-breathed lyrical passages. The melodious trio recalls an early Beethoven. The Trio’s center of gravity is its Largo third movement. The sobriquet “pathétique” no doubt comes from the melodies given to the winds, especially the lower voice. The running triplets, which characterize the exciting finale, Allegro con spirito, suggests the original basis of the thrilling movie music featured in silent films.

Suite in the Old Style Schnittke

Born in the Soviet Union, Alfred Schnittke was first taught music in Vienna, then studied piano in Moscow. In 1985, he suffered his first serious stroke, yet was able to keep composing, until he died of a last stroke in 1998, in Hamburg. His early music showed the strong influence of Shostakovich, and he wrote in a wide range of genres and styles, but was a prolific composer of scores for the Soviet film industry. The Suite in the Old Style uses thematic material from three of these scores, a perfect example of his neo-classical style.
Pastorale and Ballet are from a comedy film about a dentist's amorous adventures. Pantomime and Minuet are from scores for animated children's films. The Fugue comes from a documentary about a sportsman's double life ("Sport, Sport, Sport"). The entire score reflects his varied sound world, and rich creative imagination.

Romance, and A Spin Through Moscow Shostakovich

In half a century, Shostakovich engrossed himself in a staggeringly diverse range of genres and styles, including fifteen symphonies and fifteen string quartets, but also lesser-known works offering intrigue and interest. His light music is beginning to enjoy unprecedented popularity in concert halls and record catalogues. The Gadfly (1955) is probably Shostakovich's best-known film score. It is an orchestral suite of incidental music from the exceptionally popular film in the Soviet Union, of which Romance is the most famous movement. The three-act comic operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki (1958) dealt with the chronic housing shortage and the difficulties of securing livable conditions. A Spin Through Moscow is the first of the four dance-like movements of the orchestral suite from the operetta.

Tríptico (2012) Vázquez

Labeled by New Music Connoisseur magazine as "a burning torch for the next century", Octavio Vázquez is a quickly rising compositional star, born in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. He came into writing music spontaneously at age 7, and became music director at St. Peter's church in Lugo at age 12. At the Madrid Conservatory, he earned degrees in piano, theory, and accompaniment. After winning a prestigious Barrié de la Maza Foundation Scholarship, he went on to study composition at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the University of Maryland, in College Park. Commissioned by The Poulenc Trio, Tríptico was premiered as part of the 2013 New York Festival of Now, a leading contemporary arts festival.

Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon Poulenc

A native Parisian, Francis Poulenc was part of the informal group of French composers known as “Les Six”. Embracing clarity, simplicity, wit and even parody, they refined a genre influenced by Stravinsky and Satie called Neo-classicism. Poulenc was essentially self-taught and, contrary to the fervor of his contemporaries, comparatively conservative. Yet, he is widely prized as a composer for his innate and fertile talents best described as natural, spontaneous, and superbly original. In his Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon, the first sparkling Presto, patterned after a particular Haydn allegro, is a compact caricature of contrasting sections, as in perfect execution juxtaposed with tongue-in-cheek pratfalls. The middle Andante is a soft dream described by Poulenc as “sweet and melancholic.” The final Rondo is brisk sequence of tableaux, whose refrain begins as a near perfect quote of a well-known Beethoven melody, but it then makes a surprising turn into the fresh vocabulary of Poulenc’s own particular language, perhaps a hint at a Saint-Saëns piano concerto.