2024.02.25 | Marc-André Hamelin Program

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Marc-André Hamelin Sunday, February 25 | 3 PM Soka Performing Arts Center at Soka University of America

Sponsored by Dr. Ken & Sandy Tokita and the Parnassus Society

Marc-André Hamelin


LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, op. 106 “Hammerklavier” Allegro Scherzo: Assai vivace Adagio sostenuto Largo; Allegro; Allegro risoluto

- INTERMISSION ROBERT SCHUMANN Waldszenen, op. 82 Eintritt Jäger auf der Lauer Einsame Blumen Verrufene Stelle Freundliche Landschaft Herberge Vogel als Prophet Jagdlied Abschied

MAURICE RAVEL Gaspard de la nuit Ondine Le gibet Scarbo

PROGRAM Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, Opus 106 “Hammerklavier” LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Born December 16, 1770, Bonn Died March 26, 1827, Vienna Beethoven spent the summer of 1817 in the small village of Mödling, about twelve miles south of Vienna. These were miserable times for the composer (he himself referred to this as a period of “oppressive circumstances”): he was in poor health, locked in a bitter legal struggle for custody of his nephew Karl, and sinking deeper into deafness. Worse, he found himself at a creative standstill. Since the dissolution of the Heroic Style five years earlier, he had fallen into a long silence as–from the depths of his illness and deafness–he searched for a new musical language. Yet Beethoven took pleasure in the village in the lovely valley of Brühl, where he would go for long walks. He was joined on one of these by the pianist Carl Czerny, who reported that Beethoven told him “I am writing a new sonata that will become my greatest.” But progress was slow. Beethoven began the sonata in the fall of 1817 and had only the first two movements complete by the following April. He returned to Mödling for the summer of 1818 and had the sonata done by the end of that summer. It had taken a year of work. Many would agree with Beethoven that this sonata is his greatest, and–at 45 minutes–it is certainly his longest. When it was published in September 1819, it acquired

the nickname “Hammerklavier,” a nickname that originated– obliquely–with the composer himself. Beethoven in these years had become convinced that the piano was a German invention, and he did not want to use the Italian title pianoforte for the instrument (during this period he was also coming to prefer German performance markings to Italian). When this sonata and the Sonata in A-flat Major, Opus 101 were published, Beethoven specified that they were “für das Hammerklavier,” which was simply the German word for piano (a piano with the strings struck by hammers). The title Hammerklavier has stuck only to the second of those sonatas, but that nickname–with its latent subtextual implication of vast power–is inextricably linked to our sense of this music. We never think of it as the Sonata in B-flat Major. We think of it only with one powerful word: Hammerklavier Coming as it does between the collapse of the Heroic Style and the arrival of the Late Style, the Hammerklavier is inevitably a transitional work, though that hardly need imply an inferior one. It is traditional in the sense that it retains the four-movement structure of the sonata: a sonataform first movement, a scherzo, a lyric slow movement, and a powerful fast finale, yet in every other sense this music looks ahead, and Maynard Solomon is quite right when he describes the Hammerklavier “the crystallization of the late style.” Those old forms

Marc-André Hamelin may be present, but Beethoven is transforming them beyond recognition even as he holds onto them. The Allegro opens with a powerful, almost defiant chordal gesture, yet Beethoven quickly follows this with a flowing, lyric idea and then brings the music to a brief pause–in those opening eight bars, he has provided enough material to fuel virtually the entire movement. There is a second theme, a quiet chorale set high in the pianist’s right hand while the left accompanies this with swirling sextuplets; Beethoven marks this cantabile dolce ed espressivo, but it is really the sonata’s opening that will dominate this movement– the chorale theme does not reappear until almost the end of the exposition, and Beethoven treats it thereafter more as refrain than as an active thematic participant. The drama comes from that sharply-contrasted opening idea, and Beethoven builds much of his development on a fugal treatment of the opening gesture before the movement drives to a powerful close on a coda derived from that opening. After that mighty first movement, which lasts a full dozen minutes, the Scherzo whips pasts in barely two. It is in standard ternary form, but Beethoven experiments with the whole notion of theme here: the outer section is built virtually on one rhythmic pattern, the dotted figure heard at the very beginning. The brief central episode, in D-flat major and written in octaves, leads

to a dazzling return to the opening: a Prestissimo run across the range of the keyboard and great flourish set up the beautifullyunderstated reappearance of the opening. The ending is just as brilliant: Beethoven writes a very brief Presto that begins in colossal power and–almost before we know it–has vanished like smoke. The Adagio sostenuto is not just the longest movement in this sonata but one of the longest slow movements Beethoven ever wrote. He specifies that it should be Appassionata e con molto sentimento, and the simple, moving chordal melody at the beginning gradually expands across the long span of this movement, taking us through a range of experience, intense and heartfelt. The final movement opens with a long introduction marked Largo; some of this is unbarred and gives the impression of existing outside time, yet in the middle of this slow introduction the music suddenly rushes ahead on a five-measure Allegro that sounds as if it had come directly from Bach’s WellTempered Clavier. The Largo resumes, gathers power on a series of trills, and suddenly the main section–Allegro risoluto– bursts to life. This massive finale is one long fugue in three voices, which Beethoven then develops with great power, originality, and complexity; perhaps he saw in the fugue, with its combination of intellectual and emotional power, an ideal conclusion to so powerful a sonata. This finale

ABOUT THE PROGRAM makes fiendish demands on the pianist (it is scarcely easier for the listener), and it has produced some stunned reactions: Barry Cooper notes that “There is in this finale . . . an element of excessiveness . . . An instinct to push every component part of the music . . . not just to its logical conclusion but beyond.” And in fact the sonata is so overwhelming–technically, musically, emotionally–that it has left all who write about it gasping for language that might measure its stride. Paul Bekker calls the slow movement “the apotheosis of pain, of the deep sorrow for which there is no remedy . . . the immeasurable stillness of utter woe.” The pianist and pedagogue Ernest Hutcheson virtually concedes defeat: “The immensity of this composition cannot fail to strike us with awe. We gaze at its vast dome like pygmies from below, never feeling on an intellectual or moral level with it.” Perhaps it is best to leave the last word to Beethoven himself, who mailed this music off to his publisher with a wry observation: “Now there you have a sonata that will keep the pianists busy fifty years hence.” Waldszenen, Opus 82 ROBERT SCHUMANN Born June 10, 1810, Zwickau Died July 29, 1856, Endenich As a composer, Robert Schumann pitched between periods of whitehot creativity and intervals of depression that left him unable to work at all. But the years 1848-49

were fertile for him, and music seemed to rush out of him. In 1848, while political revolution swept across Europe, Schumann completed his opera Genoveva, began work on incidental music for Byron’s Manfred, and wrote the Album für die Jugend for his oldest child Marie. Early in 1849 he composed two of his most popular chamber works–the Phantasiestücke for clarinet and piano and the Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano–as well as the Conzertstück for four horns and orchestra. From the midst of all this creative energy came a set of nine piano pieces that Schumann titled Waldszenen, or “Forest Scenes.” It is a measure of his productivity during this period that he was able to complete the entire work in just over a week: beginning December 29, he had it done on January 6. Waldszenen hovers right on the intersection of two worlds. At some level, it feels like children’s music in the manner of Schumann’s own Kinderszenen or Album für die Jugend: it offers a series of portraits of woodland scenes for young listeners, and some of the movements are within reach of young performers. But not all of them. Several of the movements are very difficult technically, and at moments this music seems to draw us into a nightmare world, a world far from the sensibilities of the child. Schumann frames the set with two gentle outer movements. The opening Eintritt (“Entrance”) has a

Marc-André Hamelin once-upon-a-time quality, while the concluding Abschied (“Farewell”) trails off quietly, its progress complicated only by some threeagainst-two rhythms. In between come a series of impressions of forest life. Two of them, full of bluff energy, depict hunters. Several are welcoming in their depictions of a comfortable inn (Herberge) or of what Schumann calls a Freundliche Landschaft (“Friendly Landscape”). But two of these forest visions deserve special attention. The seventh, Vogel als Prophet (“Prophetic Bird”), is built on delicate, suspended arabesques of sound, draped lightly over dotted rhythms and subtle splashes of color. The most striking movement, though, is the fourth, marked Verrufene Stelle, or “A Haunted Place.” This movement does indeed seem haunted. Schumann prefaces it in the score with a poem by Friedrich Hebbel that translates loosely: “The flowers that grow so high here are pale as death. Only one in the middle stands there in dark red. It has that color not from the sun nor from its heat, but from the earth, which has drunk human blood.” The music itself is suitably spooky, moving haltingly along double-dotted rhythms. The other movements in Waldszenen may offer welcoming visions of the forest, but this one does not, and Schumann’s wife Clara always omitted it when she performed Waldszenen.

Gaspard de la nuit MAURICE RAVEL Born March 7, 1875, Ciboure Died December 28, 1937, Paris Maurice Ravel had a lifelong fascination with magic and the macabre, and they shaped his music in different ways. While still a student at the Paris Conservatory, he fell in love with a curious book written sixty years earlier: Gaspard de la nuit, a collection of prose-poems by Aloysius Bertrand (1807-1841). Bertrand said that these spooky tales from the middle ages were “after the manner of Callot and Rembrandt” (it was an engraving by Callot–The Huntsman’s Funeral–that inspired the third movement of Mahler’s First Symphony), and Bertrand gave these tales a further whiff of brimstone by claiming that the manuscript had been delivered to him by a stranger: Gaspard himself, simply an alias for Satan. Ravel composed his Gaspard de la nuit–a set of three pieces that blend magic, nightmare, and the grotesque–in 1908, at exactly the same time he was writing his collection of luminous fairyland pieces for children, Ma mère l’oye. Ravel’s completed work descends from a curiously mixed artistic ancestry: Bertrand’s prosepoems were originally inspired by the visual arts (paintings, etchings, and woodcuts), and in turn–his imagination enlivened

ABOUT THE PROGRAM by Bertrand’s literary images– Ravel composed what he called “three poems for piano.” This heterogeneous background makes itself felt in the music, for at its best Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit blends word, image, and sound. Each of the three pieces in Gaspard de la nuit was inspired by a particular prose-poem, and Ravel included these in the score. But Gaspard de la nuit should not be understood as the attempt to recreate each tale in music; rather, these pieces evoke the particular mood inspired by Bertrand’s prosepoems. Still–there are moments of such detailed scene-painting that one imagines Ravel must have had specific lines in mind as he wrote. Ondine pictures the water sprite who tempts mortal man to her palace beneath the lake. Ravel’s shimmering music evokes the transparent, transitory surfaces of Bertrand’s text, the final line of which reads: “And when I told her that I was in love with a mortal woman, she began to sulk in annoyance, shed a few tears, gave a burst of laughter, and vanished in a shower of spray which ran in pale drops down my blue windowpanes.” It is impossible not to hear a conscious setting of these images over the closing moments of this music, which vanishes as suddenly as the water sprite herself. Le gibet (“The Gallows”) evokes quite a different world, and all commentators sense the influence of Poe here (during his American tour of 1928, Ravel made a point of

visiting Poe’s house in Baltimore). Bertrand’s text begins with a question: “Ah, what do I hear? Is it the night wind howling, or the hanged man sighing on the gibbet?” He considers other possibilities, all of them horrible, and finally offers the answer: “It is the bell that sounds from the walls of a town beyond the horizon, and the corpse of a hanged man that glows red in the setting sun.” Muted throughout, this piece is built on a constantlyrepeated B-flat, whose irregular tolling echoes the sound of that bell The concluding Scarbo is a portrait of some bizarre creature–part dwarf, part rogue, part clown–who seems to hover just outside clear focus. The text concludes: “But soon his body would start to turn blue, as transparent as candle wax, his face would grow pale as the light from a candle-end– and suddenly he would begin to disappear.” Ravel’s music–with its torrents of sound, sudden stops, and the unexpected close– suggests different appearances of this apparition. It should be noted that Gaspard de la nuit is music of stupefying difficulty for the performer, and this was by design: Ravel consciously set out to write a work that he said would be more difficult than Balakirev’s Islamey, one of the great tests for pianists (alert listeners may detect hints of the beginning of Islamey in Scarbo, perhaps an act of homage on the part of Ravel). In his effort to write blisteringly difficult music for the pianist, Ravel succeeded brilliantly.

Marc-André Hamelin From the complex (and fingertwisting) chords of Ondine through the dense textures of Le gibet (written on three staves) and the consecutive seconds of Scarbo, Gaspard de la nuit presents hurtles that make simply getting the notes almost impossible. And

only then can the pianist set about creating the range of tone color, dynamics, and pacing that bring this evanescent music to life. Program notes © Eric Bromberger, 2024

ABOUT THE ARTIST “A performer of near-superhuman technical prowess” (The New York Times), pianist Marc-André Hamelin is known worldwide for his unrivaled blend of consummate musicianship and brilliant technique in the great works of the established repertoire, as well as for his intrepid exploration of the rarities of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. He regularly performs around the globe with the leading orchestras and conductors of our time, and gives recitals at major concert venues and festivals worldwide.

and Brevard Music Center with Johannes Moser, and across the U.S. with the Takács Quartet. Festival appearances include Tanglewood, Le Festival de Lanaudière, Grand Teton Music Festival, Tuckamore Festival, Schubertiade, and Rockport Chamber Music Festival.

Mr. Hamelin is an exclusive recording artist for Hyperion Records, where his discography spans more than 70 albums, with notable recordings of a broad range of solo, orchestral, and chamber repertoire. In September 2023, Highlights of Mr. Hamelin’s the label releases Mr. Hamelin’s 2023–2024 season include a vast recording of Fauré’s Nocturnes variety of repertoire performed and Barcarolles, including the with the Philharmonische Hagen Dolly Suite, Op. 56, played with (Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3), his wife, Cathy Fuller. In 2022, he Netherlands Radio Philharmonic released both a two-disc set of C. P. (Reger’s Piano Concerto), and E. Bach’s sonatas and rondos and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra a two-disc set of William Bolcom’s (music by Franck and Boulanger). complete rags that both received Recital and chamber music wide critical acclaim. appearances take Mr. Hamelin to Prague, Poland, Oslo, Hamburg’s Mr. Hamelin has composed Elbphilharmonie, London’s music throughout his career, Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s with over 30 compositions to Muziekgebouw, Portland Piano his name. The majority of those International, Cleveland Chamber works—including the Etudes Music Society, Cliburn Concerts and Toccata on “L’homme armé,”

ABOUT THE ARTIST commissioned by the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition— are published by Edition Peters. Mr. Hamelin performed his Toccata on “L’homme armé” along with music by C.P.E. Bach and William Bolcom on NPR’s Tiny Desk in 2023. His most recent work, his Piano Quintet, was premiered in August 2022 by himself and the celebrated Dover Quartet at La Jolla Music Society. Mr. Hamelin makes his home in the Boston area with his wife, Cathy Fuller, a producer and host at Classical WCRB. Born in Montreal, he is the recipient of

a Lifetime Achievement Award from the German Record Critics’ Association, and has received 7 Juno Awards, 11 Grammy nominations, and the 2018 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. In December 2020, he was awarded the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award for Keyboard Artistry from the Ontario Arts Foundation. Mr. Hamelin is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec, and a member of the Royal Society of Canada.


Leif Ove Andsnes with Dover Quartet PROGRAM: BRAHMS Selections from Fantasies, op. 116 DOHNÁNYI Piano Quintet No. 2 in E-flat Minor, op. 26 INTERMISSION BRAHMS Piano Quintet in F Minor, op. 34 FRIDAY, APR 26, 2024, 8 PM SOKA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER TICKETS & INFORMATION HERE

Sponsored by Dr. Ken & Sandy Tokita and the Parnassus Society

soka.edu/pac tickets@soka.edu 949-480-4278

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SUA BOARD OF TRUSTEES Steve Dunham, JD Chair Vice President and General Counsel Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University | Baltimore, Maryland Tariq Hasan, PhD Vice Chair Chief Executive Officer, SGIUSA | New York, New York Andrea Bartoli, PhD President, Sant’Egidio Foundation for Peace and Dialogue | New York, New York Matilda Buck Benefactor | Los Angeles, California Lawrence E. Carter, Sr, PhD, DD, DH, DRS Dean, Professor of Religion, College Archivist and Curator, Morehouse College | Atlanta, Georgia Andy Firoved CEO, HOTB Software | Irvine, California Jason Goulah, PhD Professor of Bilingual-Bicultural Education and Director, Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education, Director of Programs in Bilingual-Bicultural Education, World Language Education, and Value-Creating Education for Global Citizenship, College of Education, DePaul University | Chicago, Illinois Clothilde V. Hewlett, JD Commissioner of Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, State of California | San Francisco, California Lawrence A. Hickman, PhD Director Emeritus, The Center for Dewey Studies and Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University Carbondale | Carbondale, Illinois

Kris Knudsen, JD Attorney | Wilsonville, Oregon Karen Lewis, PhD Sondheimer Professor of International Finance and Co-Director, Weiss Center for International Financial Research, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Luis Nieves Founder, Chairman Emeritus AUL Corp, Benefactor | Napa, California Gene Marie O’Connell, RN, MS Health Care Consultant, Associate Clinical Professor, University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing | Corte Madera, California Adin Strauss General Director, Soka Gakkai International-USA | Santa Monica, California Yoshiki Tanigawa Benefactor, Soka Gakkai | Tokyo, Japan Edward M. Feasel, PhD President, Soka University of America (ex-officio member) | Aliso Viejo, California


SUA LEADERSHIP COUNCIL Edward M. Feasel, PhD President Chief Academic Officer Professor of Economics

M. Robert Hamersley, PhD Dean of Faculty Professor of Environmental Biogeochemistry

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Hyon J. Moon, EdD Dean of Students Title IX and Section 504 Deputy Coordinator for Students

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Concessions A wide variety of wine, beer, soft drinks and freshly prepared snacks will be available before the concert and during intermission in the lobby.

Artist Drink Pick Duvel (Belgium) We asked the artist for their favorite drink pick to feature at concessions! The Duvel (Belgian beer) was chosen by Marc-André Hamelin and will be available for purchase before the performance and during intermission

Click here for menu and to order Pre-order your concessions for intermission and skip the line ahead of time!

Concessions provided by FPG Events

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