Anthony Marwood & Aleksandar Madžar

Violin and Piano

April 2, 2017, 4 PM

Music Room

British violinist Anthony Marwood is a versatile musician, working regularly as a soloist and in chamber ensembles, recording extensively—particularly as a member of the Florestan Trio. He plays a large repertoire, including works composed for him by Thomas Ades and Sally Beamish. For this recital he is joined by Serbian pianist Aleksandar Madžar, a distinguished soloist who came to prominence after winning third prize at the 1996 Leeds Piano Competition and who has worked extensively as a chamber musician in collaborations with Marwood and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Their program frames Beethoven and Ravel with two 20th-century classics: the passionate and intense sonata by Janaček and Prokofiev’s joyous Sonata No. 2, originally for flute but reworked by the composer for David Oistrakh.


LEOŠ JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Violin Sonata (1914)
     Con moto

Sonata for violin and piano No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30/2 (1801)
     Allegro con brio
     Adagio cantabile
     Scherzo. Allegro – Trio
     Finale. Allegro


MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor (op. posth) (1897)

Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94a (1943)
     Presto - Poco piu mosso del - Tempo I
     Allegro con brio - Poco meno mosso - Tempo I - Poco meno mosso - Allegro con brio

Anthony Marwood performs worldwide as soloist with many notable orchestras, and enjoys regular collaborations with Les Violons du Roy in Canada (he currently holds a three-year position as Principal Artistic Partner), the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Artistic Partner in the 2016-17 season), Tapiola Sinfonietta in Finland, Australian Chamber Orchestra and the St Louis Symphony in the USA. He has worked with conductors including Valery Gergiev, Sir Andrew Davis, Thomas Søndergård, David Robertson, Gerard Korsten, Ilan Volkov, Jaime Martin and Douglas Boyd. In 2015 he toured with the New Zealand, Sydney, Tasmanian and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, and this year makes his debut with the New World Symphony in Miami, returns to A Far Cry in Boston, and appears at Festivals in Sanguine Estate in Australia, Lockenhaus in Austria, Bridgehampton, New York and Lanaudière in Quebec, where he will perform Beethoven's violin concerto. Further ahead, he will make his débuts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra, and will tour both the United States and Europe with Les Violons du Roy. He also returns to the Amsterdam Sinfonietta for a Dutch tour and will perform Brahms' Double Concerto with Alexander Rudin at Tchaikowsky Hall in Moscow. His regular chamber music partners include Thomas Ades, Martin Fröst, Steven Isserlis, Lawrence Power and Aleksandar Madžar. In the 2014-15 season he was a featured artist at London's Wigmore Hall. Anthony has made more than 30 CDs for the Hyperion label, both as soloist and as a former member of the Florestan Trio; he has also recorded for EMI, BIS and Wigmore Live. His latest recording for Hyperion, of Walton's violin concerto, will be released in the near future. Many composers have written concertos for him, including Thomas Adès, Steven Mackey, Sally Beamish and, most recently, the young American Samuel Carl Adams. Anthony was named Instrumentalist of the Year by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2006, and made a Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2013. He is co-director of the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival with cellist Richard Lester and appears annually at the Yellow Barn Festival in Vermont. Anthony has a close association with the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne and the Pettman National Junior Academy in Auckland. His teachers have included Emanuel Hurwitz and David Takeno. He plays on a 1736 violin by Carlo Bergonzi.

Born in Belgrade in 1968, Aleksandar Madžar first studied piano with Gordana Matinovic, Arbo Valdma and Eliso Virsaladze in Belgrade and Moscow, then with Edouard Mirzoian at the Strasbourg Conservatory and in Brussels with Daniel Blumenthal. He now holds professorships at the Royal Flemish Conservatoire, Brussels and the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Bern.

In 2008/09 Madžar maintains his schedule of diverse performance activities taking him world wide: in recital he returns to Tokyo, as also to Paris, Théâtre de la Ville, Cardiff and the Vlaanders Festival. With Stuttgart Philharmonic he performs in Milan´s Conservatorio G Verdi, returns to the Irish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Belfast Symphony and Belgrade Philharmonic.

Various select partnerships are key to Aleksandar Madžar´s current performance schedule. His partnership with violinist Ilya Gringolts sees them next perform a complete Beethoven cycle at the 2008 Verbier Festival and, following the world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies´ Violin Sonata at St Magnus and Cheltenham Festivals in summer 2008, recitalsat Prague and Beethovenfest Bonn Festivals. His partnership with soprano Juliane Banse continues next season with a tour of Spain to Bilbao, Valencia, Leon and Lisbon´s Gulbenkian Foundation.

After a successfull cooperation with the Irish Chamber Orchestra´s 2007 summer festival, under the Artistic leadership of colleague Anthony Marwood the two further collaborate in recital in Edinburgh, and future plans include a cycle at the Wigmore Hall.

Other notable highlights will include his recital debut in Amsterdam´s Concertgebouw Hall and a return in recital to the Wigmore Hall, London.

Leoš Janáček, Violin Sonata, JW VII/7 (1914–1922)
Janáček first attempted a Sonata for violin and piano in January 1880 while he was a student in Leipzig. A few months later, on entering Franz Krenn’s composition class at the Vienna Conservatory, he completed a new Sonata which was performed in public at the Brno Beseda on January 6, 1881 but is was subsequently lost, as was the earlier effort. It was not until three decades later—in 1914—that Janáček returned to the form. In January 1922 he wrote about the work to Otakar Nebuška at the Prague publishing firm of Hudební matice: “I wrote the Violin Sonata at the beginning of the war, 1914, when we were expecting the Russians in Moravia.” This was a prospect that excited the Russophile composer, but Janáček’s dating isn’t quite accurate: war broke out on July 28, 1914, and the Ballada movement was certainly composed well before then: Janáček’s friend Antonín Váňa wrote to the composer requesting performance material for it in May 1914. Even so, it seems likely that some of the Sonata was composed in response to the Russian advances given the date “1 August 1914” written on some of the sketches for the work. Over a year later, in October 1915, Janáček wanted the work included in the program of a concert in Prague, but this never took place. Meanwhile, the Ballada was published in 1915 as a stand-alone movement, issued by the little-known firm of Švarc in Kuntá Hora in its series “Czech Music.” By 1916 Janáček embarked on a comprehensive revision of the work, rewriting or replacing the outer movements and changing the order of all but the first movement: the Ballada was originally placed third, and the Allegretto (originally an Allegro which was itself a replacement for an earlier movement) was intended as the finale before it too was moved. The Adagio was the original second movement but Janáček’s eventual decision—an inspired one—was for it to become the work’s finale. The first movement remained in its original place, but was extensively revised. This lengthy revision process took several years during which Janáček was preoccupied with major projects including two operas—The Excursions of Mr. Brouček and Katya Kabanova—and the orchestral works Taras Bulba and The Fiddler’s Child. Sketches for the Allegretto movement of the Sonata appear on a manuscript (probably dating from early 1920) that also includes music for the opera Katya Kabanova. It was only in the printed edition of the Sonata, published in 1922, that the definitive order of the movements was established.

The first performance of the Violin Sonata took place at one of the concerts of the Moravian Composers’ Club at the Museum of Applied Arts in Brno on April 24, 1922, played by the violinist, František Kudláček, and pianist, Jaroslav Kvapil (who was to conduct the world premiere of the Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass five years later). Janáček was present at this concert, as he was for the first performance in Prague a few months later, and again at the International Festival of Contemporary Music in Salzburg where the work was played by Stanislav Novák and pianist Václav Stěpán on August 5, 1923. A few days before the Brno premiere in April 1922, Janáček had inscribed a copy of the newly-published Sonata to the English musicologist, Rosa Newmarch who was visiting the composer. The work was subsequently included in the concert of his works given at the Wigmore Hall in London on May 6, 1926 during Janáček’s only trip to England—which had been organized by Newmarch. Despite regular performances during the composer’s lifetime, the Violin Sonata was not recorded until 1943. Since then it has come to be regarded as one of the composer’s most important chamber works, alongside the two string quartets, the Concertino and the wind quintet Youth.

The musical language is characteristic of Janáček’s mature style, dominated by short, epigrammatic ideas that are used both as melodies and as propulsive rhythmic figures. With themes that are often derived from typical features of Moravian folk music, this highly original technique can be heard clearly in the first movement, as can Janáček’s equally individual use of harmony, basing his music firmly on tonal principles, but employing dissonances and surprising chordal progressions to startling effect, and preferring unusual keys (in the first movement, A-flat minor, but with a surprising shift into D-flat Major for the end of the movement). The Ballada is based on a theme that recalls the lyrical folk songs of the Hukvaldy region where Janáček grew up (and later had a country retreat). After the faster Allegretto with its hints of music from the opera Katya Kabanova, the finale opens with the juxtaposition of two starkly contrasted themes: slow, wistful chords on the piano and a terse, neurotic response from the violin (rapid notes, marked to be played feroce). There are moments of great beauty and exultant passion in what follows, but at the end the mood returns to the uneasy atmosphere with which the movement began.

Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2 (1802)
The set of three Sonatas for Violin and Piano Op. 30 were composed in the spring of 1802 and were dedicated to Tsar Alexander I, a man widely admired in Vienna following his accession to the Russian throne in 1800. (He was a great deal less well regarded by some of his subjects: on taking power he immediately began a particularly brutal campaign to suppress rebellion in the Caucasus, killing some 25,000 Circassians). When Alexander visited Vienna in 1802, Beethoven was keen to capitalize on the arrival of this highly cultured Emperor, and he asked permission to dedicate his three new Sonatas to Alexander. He received a diamond ring as a sign of the Emperor’s appreciation, but the promised fee in return for the dedication was not forthcoming, and it was not until 1814 that Alexander came back to the city for the Congress of Vienna, having spent most of the previous decade resisting the eastward advances of Napoleon’s armies. Through an amusing ruse (composing a Polonaise for the Emperor’s daughter and being invited to perform it in front of the Tsar), Beethoven was able—finally—to remind Alexander of his debt, which was promptly paid, with a handsome bonus.   

The year 1802 was very successful from a professional point of view, with a generous annuity from Prince Lichnowsky and publishers queuing up to publish his work but it ended in near disaster as Beethoven faced up to the reality of losing his hearing: in October 1802, a few months after completing these Sonatas, he wrote the “Heiligenstadt Testament,” an unsent letter (discovered among his papers after he death) in which he explained his predicament to his brothers—and one of the most moving documents relating to the life of any composer.

The second of the three Sonatas Op. 30 is the only one in a minor key. C minor was a significant choice: it was a key to which Beethoven often turned for his most personal music utterances—some other works in the same key include the Pathétique Sonata, the Third Piano Concerto and the Fifth Symphony—and in this work the dark sonorities of the opening are unflinchingly tragic in mood. The second theme (in E-flat Major) provides a contrast, but its dotted rhythms have a martial character that offers no sense of repose. At the end of the movement, Beethoven is uncompromising, closing with brusque minor chords. The Adagio cantabile, in A-flat Major, offers consolation and an outpouring of lyricism. The theme is introduced by the piano before being taken up by the violin, which later presents the melody again over rapid scales in the piano part. (These return at the end of the movement for the coda). The Scherzo is in C Major and so is its Trio section, which presents a variant of the same theme. The genial mood of this movement is quickly crushed by the finale which opens with music suggesting the quiet rattling of bones before it erupts into rage and despair, bringing the work to a demonic, implacable close. 

Maurice Ravel, Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor (Op. posth) (1897)
This early work by Ravel (not to be confused with his later Sonata for Violin and Piano written from 1923–1927) was composed in April 1897 during his years of study at the Paris Conservatoire and it was almost certainly performed there at the time by Ravel himself on the piano with his classmate Georges Enesco. Written in a single movement in Sonata form (exposition–development–recapitulation), there are clear influences from Ravel’s teacher Fauré and also, perhaps, of César Franck’s Violin Sonata, but there are also musical fingerprints that identify this as a work by Ravel. In particular, the opening theme is similar in its melodic contours to the start of Ravel’s Piano Trio of 1915, a work deeply imbued with the music of his native Basque country. Given the eloquence and fluency of the early Sonata it is puzzling that Ravel chose not to perform the work again after its single outing with Enesco, and nor did he allow it to be published (unlike his other works from this period, such as the Menuet antique of 1895 and the Pavane pour une infante défunte of 1899). It was thanks to an edition by the great Ravel scholar, Arbie Orenstein, that the work finally saw the light of day in 1975, published to celebrate the composer’s centenary.

Sergei Prokofiev, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, Op. 94a (1943)
Prokofiev composed his Sonata for flute and piano in 1943 while he was staying at a hotel in Perm with the evacuated Kirov ballet company. His main concern was to complete the score for his ballet Cinderella, but the Sonata provided a welcome distraction from the larger work. The conductor Issay Sherman had the only room in the hotel with a piano, and Prokofiev was a daily visitor. As Sherman later recalled, “I was delighted to be the first to hear not only the music of Prokofiev’s Cinderella but also that of his Flute Sonata.” This genial and brilliant work was inspired by what Prokofiev called the “heavenly sound” of the French flutist Georges Barrère, with whom he had worked during his years in Paris. The first performance was given in Moscow on December 7, 1943, by Nikolay Kharkovsky with the young Sviatoslav Richter at the piano. Among the first to praise the work was Shostakovich, who acclaimed it as “a perfectly magnificent work.” Prokofiev’s friend David Oistrakh quickly persuaded the composer to produce a new version of the Sonata for violin and piano, and assisted him in making the transcription. This version was introduced to the Moscow public—as Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano—by Oistrakh and Lev Oborin on June 17, 1944.

The work is designed along Classical lines. The Sonata-form first movement unfolds at a gentle Moderato and shares something of the lyrical mood of Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, composed at the same time. The Scherzo is ebullient, driven by exciting cross-rhythms in the main tune, and the music here is not completely untroubled as it occasionally takes a more sardonic turn. The Andante is a kind of song without words, dominated by an arching melody that is shared between the two instruments. A contrasting idea forms the languid central section, before a return to the opening. The finale is brilliant and energetic, the momentum slowed only by a more expressive interlude before Prokofiev brings the Sonata to a dazzling close, affirming the home key of D Major.

Nigel Simeone, 2017