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Program Notes by James Pegolotti

Sonata No. 5 in F major, Op. 24, “Spring”Ludwig van Beethoven
Adagio molto espressivo
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75Camille Saint-Saens
Allegro agitato
Allegretto moderato
Allegro molto

Sonata in G minor, op. 1, no. 4, “Devil’s Trill” Giuseppe Tartini
Larghetto affettuoso
Allegro assai

Recitativo and Scherzo, op. 6, for violin soloFritz Kreisler


Fantasy on Bizet’s “Carmen”Franz Waxman

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Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata No. 5 in F major, op. 24, “Spring”

When Beethoven composed the “Spring” sonata, he was about thirty years old and had found his own musical voice. In the same time period he had completed his first symphony as well as the “Moonlight Sonata.” Hearing these, his Viennese listeners recognized that Beethoven had brought something new to music. Not unexpectedly, some criticized him for being too adventuresome in harmonies and rhythms. With such criticism, Beethoven may well have decided to provide in the “Spring” sonata a work of extreme listenability, something to quiet his critics and reach the broadest audience. In this his fifth violin sonata, Beethoven makes the piano a prominent partner to the violin. In the first movement (allegro), the violin and piano seem to be enjoying an “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” game as they toss melodies back and forth. The tranquility of the second movement (adagio), contrasts beautifully with the following scherzo movement. Here the instruments play a brief game of tag, with the violin echoing the piano in a split-second delay. The rondo finale provides a Mozartean melody, which the violin and piano share in lively Beethoven equality.
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Camille Saint-Saens
Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75

Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy who, at age four and a half, appeared as pianist in a Beethoven violin sonata. By twenty-one, he held the post of organist at a major Parisian church and began years as a successful composer. In later life, he brought French music an international reputation touring as pianist and organist at the start of the twentieth century. He played in the United States twice, with an honored presence at the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1916. Throughout his compositional life, he provided elegant examples of music in all its forms: opera (Samson and Delilah); symphonies (Symphony No. 3, The “Organ” Symphony); concertos (both piano and violin), and chamber works. He himself wrote: “The artist who does not feel completely satisfied by elegant lines, by harmonious colors, and by a beautiful succession of chords does not understand the art of music.” His Sonata No. 1 surely exemplifies the essence of his words. But how to define “elegance”? Just listen to the piano and its often-rippling undercurrent to the long violin melodic line. This is elegance.

Written in four movements, Sonata No. 1 appears to be in two parts because Saint-Saëns links the first two movements, pauses, then joins the allegretto with the finale. Perhaps the word “caressing” bests describes the instruments in their quieter moments, a word not unrelated to the Saint-Saëns’ world of romanticism. Midway in the final movement, the music erupts with energy and impetus. “The brilliance of the finale compensates for the pale coloring of the other movements,” wrote one critic. The contrast is almost startling, but consistent with a man whose training as an organist knew the value of a radiant ending.

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Giuseppe Tartini
Sonata in G minor, op. 1, no. 4, “Devil’s Trill”

Tartini, a master violinist and composer of some 200 concertos, remains today best known for only one composition – the “Devil’s Trill” sonata. While initially sent by his parents to become a priest, he chose to escape the seminary and spend early years one step ahead of the Church. He fell in love with the niece of the local Cardinal, and ultimately had to find sanctuary when the Cardinal learned of his clerical escape. Maybe that’s why he had a dream, which he described to a friend, where he made a pact with the devil. In the dream the devil played a sonata of great beauty. Tartini awoke and noted down the sonata as best he could remember. Whether the devil inspired the sonata or not, one should also know that Tartini sought to teach and improve violin technique. As one writer noted of the Sonata: “Its intricate trills and double stops appear to be academically as well as demonically designed to develop the left hand.” The sonata, with its alternating slow and fast movements common to the time, finds the violin prominent throughout. This is hardly unexpected when one recalls that violin accompaniment at the time came from the light-sounding harpsichord, hardly a partner in impact as would be the pianoforte in later years. The “demonic” trills are the feature of the last movement. Leopold Auer, also a great violinist and teacher, once said of the sonata: “If it really was inspired by the devil, it proves that whatever his other faults, His Satanic Majesty is a musician of the first order!”

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Fritz Kreisler
Recitativo and Scherzo, op. 6, for violin solo

During World War One, the United States took a rather severe stance concerning anything German: German measles became “Liberty Rash” and sauerkraut re-named “Liberty Cabbage.” Operas by Wagner disappeared from opera houses and German artists became less than welcome, something that the Vienna-born Fritz Kreisler came to learn. However, once the anti-German feeling had passed, Kreisler took his place as the pre-eminent virtuoso of the violin on the American concert stage before the Heifitz era. Kreisler became an American citizen in 1943.

One critic spoke of Kreisler’s artistry as “so nearly flawless that it is like a pane of clear glass through which one looks upon beauty.” At the end of his concerts, Kreisler invariably played encores, which he indicated were arrangements by him of eighteenth-century pieces he had discovered. Not being able to find any copies of these pieces, a suspicious New York music critic asked Kreisler point blank if, in fact, he had not composed the pieces himself. Kreisler admitted that he had, thinking the public would accept them better if they thought others had composed the works. This minor hoax irritated many, but today these Kreisler “miniatures” (among them “ Caprice Viennois,” “Schön Rosmarin,” and “Liebesfreud”) remain among the most often played encores by violinists. One composition he did immediately admit to having composed is the short Recitativo and Scherzo, a Caprice for Solo Violin. The Recitativo portion opens dramatically in the darker tones of the violin, with much double stopping, establishing a solemn mood. The Scherzo portion brings a contrasting playfulness utilizing the brighter violin tones.

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Franz Waxman
Fantasy on Bizet’s “Carmen”

In September 1999, Franz Waxman’s face appeared on a U. S. Postal Service stamp, part of a “Hollywood Composers” series that included Bernard Herrmann (Psycho), Max Steiner (Gone With the Wind), and Dmitri Tiomkin (High Noon). The German born Waxman (originally Wachsmann) began musical studies in Berlin, earning money by playing in the Weintraub Syncopaters, a jazz orchestra. He brought his musical talents to the thriving German film industry of the early 1930s, conducting and arranging the musical score of The Blue Angel, the film that made Marlene Dietrich the universal femme fatale. After becoming a composer for German films, Waxman, a Jew, was forced to escape Nazi Germany. Hollywood was a natural destination. There he composed the scores for such classic films as The Philadelphia Story and Hitchcock’s Rebecca and gained back-to-back Academy Awards for Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun.

In the mid-1940s, Warner Brother’s decided to resurrect the old “soaper” Humoresque, the story of a violin prodigy, a poor New York Eastside Jewish boy (John Garfield), whose talent is overwhelmed by the love for the married woman who provides him financial support (Joan Crawford). The producers asked Waxman for a new piece to be featured in a critical scene. Though Garfield appeared to be playing the violin in the film, it was Isaac Stern who provided the “fireworks” for the sound track. Waxman turned to the tuneful opera Carmen and devised a Fantasy from its melodies. The great Jascha Heifitz, impressed by Waxman’s composition, asked the composer to expand the work for Heifitz’s appearance on radio’s Bell Telephone Hour. The result is a work which brings familiar themes from the opera into an exciting continuity of melody, demanding violin virtuosity of the highest order.

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Ayako Yoshida Biography

Ayako Yoshida won nationwide recognition when the Concert Artists Guild honored her exceptional qualities with the 1993 Nathan Wedeen Management Award, and she has since established an important solo career. She gave a “truly impressive debut recital” (The Strad) in June of 1996 at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, and The New York Times wrote that in her gripping performance Ms Yoshida played with “on the line commitment.”

Ms Yoshida’s repertoire and musical activity are as extensive as her commitment to music: she gives solo recitals, makes orchestral appearances and plays with chamber ensembles. Her recital work has taken her throughout the United States and to England, Italy, Spain, France, Japan and Panama, and she has participated in the music festivals of Salzburg, Assisi, Vancouver and the Vermont Mozart event. She has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with Yo-Yo Ma in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, with the Little Orchestra Society at Lincoln Center, and with the Orchestra of St Luke’s at Caramoor; in 1998 Danbury audiences heard her in performance with the Los Angeles Piano Quartet. As a frequent guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Ayako has collaborated with such leading musicians as Andre Previn, Paul Neubauer, and Ani Kavafian. Today we’re pleased to welcome her back to our stage with pianist Andrew Armstrong.

Ayako Yoshida has been heard regularly on WQXR Radio’s “On Air” program, and on NPR’s “Performance Today.” She studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and plays a 1669 Jacob Stainer violin, on loan from Suntory Limited of Japan.

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Andrew Armstrong Biography

Andrew Armstrong’s piano performances have delighted audiences around the world and won critical acclaim for his passionate expression and dazzling technique.

Armstrong “masters the details,” wrote Studio Magazine, “and explores them with passion.” He was praised for his “stirring and exciting performance” of the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor and for the “extraordinary grasp of style and sterling musicianship” he demonstrated in playing the Martinu Double Concerto at Caramoor in 2000. And after his performance of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1, Chopin Magazine of Japan wrote that “His playing is filled with a bounty of colors...reminiscent of Vladimir Horowitz.”

With a repertoire that ranges from Bach to William Bolcom, Armstrong has given solo recitals and played with orchestras in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. As a chamber musician he has performed with the Alexander, American and Manhattan Quartets, as well as with Itzhak Perlman. He has also been heard regularly on NPR and WQXR Radio.

Earlier in his career, Andrew Armstrong received over 25 national and international first prizes. At the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition, where he was the youngest pianist entered, he received the Jury Discretionary Award. The New York Times in covering the event wrote that “Armstrong may have been the most talented player in the competition... He’s a real musician. We’ll hear more from him.”

Andrew Armstrong’s interests range beyond performance; he is devoted to outreach programs and donates part of his busy schedule to playing for children, hoping to help develop their interest in classical music.

Today’s appearance, joined by Ayako Yoshida, marks his second appearance for the Danbury Concert Association.

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