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Pre-concert lecture by Beth Sussman, 7pm Segerstrom Center for the Arts Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

OLGA KERN, PIANO Preludes, Op. 32

Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873 -1943)

No. 1 in C major (Allegro vivace) No. 2 in B-flat minor (Allegretto) No. 3 in E major (Allegro vivace) No. 4 in E minor (Allegro con brio) No. 5 in G major (Moderato) No. 6 in F minor (Allegro appassionato) No. 7 in F major (Moderato) No. 8 in A minor (Vivo) No. 9 in A major (Allegro moderato) No. 10 in B minor (Lento) No. 11 in B major (Allegretto) No. 12 in G-sharp minor (Allegro) No. 13 in D-flat major (Grave - Allegro)

- INTERMISSION 3 Études-Tableaux Op. 39, No. 9 in D major Op. 33, No. 8 in G minor Op. 33, No. 6 in E-flat minor

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 36 Allegro agitato Non allegro Allegro molto EXCLUSIVE MANAGEMENT R. Douglas Sheldon / Denise A. Pineau Columbia Artists Management LLC 5 Columbus Circle @ 1790 Broadway New York, NY 10019

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RACHMANINOFF: PRELUDES, OP. 32 The 24 preludes and fugues of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier have haunted subsequent composers. Two decades later, Bach himself wrote another cycle of 24 preludes and fugues in all the keys, a century later Chopin wrote precisely 24 piano preludes, and early in the twentieth century Debussy composed two books of twelve preludes each. In the mid-twentieth-century, Dmitri Shostakovich—just as haunted as his distinguished predecessors—also wrote a set of 24 preludes and fugues. Rachmaninoff wrote a total of 24 piano preludes as well, but—rather than writing them all at once—he spread their composition out over his career. His Prelude in C-sharp minor (1892) quickly became so popular that audiences wanted to hear nothing else, and Rachmaninoff waited eleven years before completing the ten preludes of his Opus 23 in 1903, then another seven before composing the final thirteen as his Opus 32 during the summer of 1910. He spent that summer at the family retreat at Ivanovka. The previous season had seen an exhausting tour of America, during which he had played the premiere of his third piano concerto, toured with the Boston Symphony, conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, given recitals in numerous cities, and repeated the third concerto with Mahler conducting the New York Philharmonic. Now at Ivanovka, he was content to relax amid familiar and quiet surroundings—that summer he rode, fished, and planted willow trees. He also composed, and the music came quickly: that summer he wrote the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, a number of songs, and the thirteen piano preludes that make up his Opus 32. The preludes came so quickly in fact, that Rachmaninoff composed three of them (Nos. 5, 11, and 12) in one day, two more (Nos. 7 and 8) the next. Rachmaninoff’s preludes are brief and are often carefully unified around a melodic or rhythmic cell; many are in ternary form, with a modified return of the open-

RACHMANINOFF: ÉTUDES-TABLEAUX OP. 39, NO. 9 IN D MAJOR OP. 33, NO. 8 IN G MINOR OP. 33, NO. 6 IN E-FLAT MINOR Rachmaninoff composed two sets of Études-tableaux: the first—consisting of eight brief pieces—as his Opus 33 in August 1911, and the second—of nine pieces—as his Opus 39 during the 1916-17 season, just as he turned 44. The latter set was completed during the dark days of World War I, when Rachmaninoff was performing benefit concerts for wounded Russian soldiers. The Communist Revolution came later that year, and in December 1917 Rachmaninoff would leave Russia, never to return. The title of this collection of brief piano pieces needs some explanation: Études-tableaux means “picture-studies,” piano etudes that are meant to be expressive but not pictorial—Rachmaninoff does not set out in this music to paint exact musical portraits. In response to a question about what this music depicted, he replied: “I do not believe in the artist disclosing too much of his images. Let them paint for themselves what it most suggests.” The one thing clear about this music is how difficult it is, and that may also be a clue to its character. The Études-tableaux are evocations of mood and atmosphere that depend more on pianistic brilliance, complex textures, and rhythmic subtlety than on the memorable tune—listeners will come away from this music not humming their favorite parts but instead struck by the atmosphere Rachmaninoff is able to create in these pieces. The composer did not regard these studies as a unified set and would sometimes perform individual pieces on his recitals. For this recital Olga Kern performs three Études-tableaux drawn from the two sets. The last of the Opus 39 set, No. 9 in D major is violent and dramatic, full of pounding chords and a powerful drive to its exciting close on hammered octave Ds. No. 8 in G minor from Opus 33 is wistful and melodic— Rachmaninoff marks it molto legato e cantabile. In its opening measures, the melodic line passes smoothly between the pianist’s left and right hands; a middle section of cadenza-like brilliance leads to a close on the quiet mood of the very beginning. No. 6 in E-flat minor (Opus 33) opens with a two-measure introduction, marked Non allegro and full of eerie harmonic suspensions, and then the Presto erupts. This is turbulent music, and it extends across the full range of the piano—from the rumbling deep registers to the glittering sound of its high octaves—before the music vanishes into silence.

about the PRoGRaM

ing material. These preludes can also be extremely difficult to perform, with the music ranging from the brilliant and exuberant to the dark and introspective. Rachmaninoff did not intend that these preludes should always be performed as a set, and pianists usually perform only a few. This recital offers the rare opportunity to hear all thirteen preludes of Opus 32. The brief but ebullient No. 1 in C major rides along great washes of sound, but comes to a surprisingly restrained close. No. 2 in B-flat major is built on a constant dotted 9/8 meter—so obsessive is that rhythm that the ear seems to hear it even when it is not present. The music moves from a dolce beginning to a much more animated central episode marked Allegro, then returns to the mood of the opening in the brief closing section. The propulsive No. 3 in E major, marked Allegro vivace, whips along with a toccata-like brilliance, while No. 4 in E minor is powerful music, demanding unusual strength and stamina from the pianist. Rachmaninoff marks it Allegro con brio, and this prelude pounds along very fast chordal writing; it accelerates to a Presto possible, gives way briefly to lyric interlude, and then—after all this energy—winks out in front of us. No. 5 in G major is all delicacy—here a limpid melody floats above rippling accompaniment, grows capricious, and finally comes to a shimmering close. No. 6 in F minor—aptly-marked Allegro appassionato—is dramatic and very brief, lasting only about one minute, while No. 7 in F major makes piquant contrast between its wistful melodies and their almost playful accompaniment. The brief No. 8 in A minor seems in constant motion throughout—it is a virtually a perpetual-motion, with the march-like main theme emerging from whirling cascades of notes. No. 9 in A major, marked Allegro moderato, offers music that—while built on thick textures—remains delicate throughout. The longest of the preludes in Opus 32, No. 10 in B minor is regarded by some as the finest of the set. Rachmaninoff said that this music was inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s darkly-evocative painting of “The Homecoming.” No. 11 in B major, marked Allegretto, dances gracefully and nobly along its 3/8 meter in music full of quicksilvery changes of mood and expression. The haunting No. 12 in G-sharp minor opens very quietly, with the pianist’s right hand laying out a steady sequence of rippling, dark arpeggios, and beneath these the left hand has the spare and halting main idea. The rippling sound of the beginning continues virtually throughout; Rachmaninoff builds the middle section into music of intensity and force, then allows it to fade away, and the prelude vanishes, almost like smoke. The concluding No. 13 in D-flat major, marked Grave, begins with a simple but noble rising melody. This grows more animated, and the simple opening soars up to a titanic restatement at the climax.

RACHMANINOFF: PIANO SONATA NO. 2 IN B-FLAT MINOR, OPUS 36 Though he was famed for performances of music by other composers, Rachmaninoff made a point early in the twentieth century of playing recitals only of his own 3

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music. By 1913, when he was 40, Rachmaninoff felt that he needed new repertory and decided to compose a new piano sonata. He took his family to Rome that summer, and—working in a room that Tchaikovsky had once occupied—he sketched two works: a choral symphony based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells and the Piano Sonata No. 2. Late that summer he returned to the family estate at Ivanovka, near Moscow, and completed both works. Rachmaninoff’s setting of The Bells met with success (the composer called it his own favorite among his compositions), but the sonata—which Rachmaninoff premiered in Moscow on December 3, 1913—had a cooler reception. Audiences and critics alike found it difficult—reserved, detached, intellectual—and the composer himself came to agree with them: after performing it for several seasons, he withdrew it from the stage. But Rachmaninoff remained interested in this sonata, and in 1931 he decided to revise it, believing that he had located the source of the problem: “I look at my early works and see how much there is that is superfluous. Even in this sonata so many voices are moving simultaneously and it is too long.” Rachmaninoff cut the original version severely, removing altogether passages that he believed “superfluous” and clarifying textures. Rachmaninoff had little success with this version, but another Russian pianist did. Vladimir Horowitz, acting with the composer’s approval, created his own version by reincorporating some of the passages Rachmaninoff had excised from the original version. The Second Sonata is extraordinarily difficult for the pianist, and Horowitz made performances of it a real occasion; he recorded his revised version (as well as a later one that he made in the 1960s). At the present concert, the Second Sonata is performed in Rachmaninoff’s 1931 revision. The three movements are played without pause, and the move-

ments depend on musically-related ideas: themes from the opening Allegro agitato reappear in later movements. Listeners who come expecting the big Rachmaninoff “tune” may be disappointed, for this dramatic music makes its case through the logic of its musical argument rather than with engaging melodies. The sonata-form first movement opens with a great downward flourish that leads immediately to the main theme; the more lyric second subject, marked meno mosso, arrives in a dotted 12/8 meter. The main theme will reappear in both the wonderful, dark slow movement (Non allegro) and the dynamic finale (Allegro molto). Throughout, this music demands a pianist of transcendent skill, able to cope easily with complex technical problems yet still generate the vast volume of sound this sonata demands. Many have noted that this music seems full of the plangent sonority of ringing bells, and this is only natural, given Rachmaninoff’s fondness for the sound of bells in general and the fact that he was working on the Poe setting at the same time he wrote this sonata.

- Program Notes by Eric Bromberger OLGA KERN, PIANO Now recognized as one of her generation's great pianists, Olga Kern was born into a family of musicians with direct links to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff and began studying piano at the age of five. In 2001, she became the first woman in more than 30 years to receive the Gold Medal at the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Ms. Kern is a laureate of eleven international competitions including her first place win at the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at the age of seventeen and has toured throughout her native Russia, Europe, and the United States, as well as in Japan, South Africa, and South Korea. Ms. Kern was the recipient of an honorary scholarship from the President of Russia in 1996 and is a member of Russia's International Academy of Arts. She studied with Professor Sergei Dorensky at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and Professor Boris Petrushansky at the acclaimed Accademia Pianistica Incontri col Maestro in Imola, Italy. With her vivid stage presence, passionately confident musicianship and extraordinary technique, the striking young Russian pianist continues to captivate fans and critics alike. Ms. Kern’s performance career has brought her to many of the world’s most important venues, including the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Symphony Hall in Osaka, Salzburger Festspielhaus, La Scala in Milan, Tonhalle in Zurich,

OLGA KERN © Dario Acosta

about the aRtISt

and the Châtelet in Paris. She has appeared as a soloist with the Kirov Orchestra, the Bolshoi Theater, the Moscow Philharmonic, St. Petersburg Symphony, Russian National, China Symphony, Belgrade Philharmonic, La Scala Philharmonic, Torino Symphony, and Cape Town Symphony Orchestras. Ms. Kern has also collaborated with the most prominent conductors in the world today, including Valery Gergiev, Leonard Slatkin, Manfred Honeck, Vladimir Spivakov, Yuri Termirkanov, Pinchas Zukerman, and James Conlon. In the 2013-14 season, Olga will perform with the symphonies of Cincinnati and Detroit along with the New Mexico Philharmonic and the Orquestra de São Paulo and will present recital programs in Orange County, California, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver and at the Van Cliburn Foundation. In the 2012-13 season, Olga performed with the Symphonies of Nashville, Pittsburgh, Detroit and San Diego and performed in recital in St. Louis, Dallas, and Scottsdale, Arizona and at Lincoln Center in New York City as part of the Cherry Orchard Festival. In 2013, for a celebration of Rachmaninoff’s 140th year, Olga Kern performed all four Piano Concerti and the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini in collaboration with Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre National De Lyon. Ms. Kern has also performed this special program in South Africa, Warsaw, and with several orchestras across the United States. Other past seasons in North America have seen Olga perform with the symphonies of Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Vancouver and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. She has presented recital programs in the most esteemed concert halls and alongside artists such as soprano Kathleen Battle at Carnegie Hall and soprano Renee Fleming at Kennedy Center. In February of 2012, Olga made an extensive recital tour of North America with violinist Vladimir Spivakov, their first chamber music collaboration outside of Europe. Ms. Kern also performed under the direction of Maestro Spivakov in North American tours of the National Philharmonic of Russia and the world renowned Moscow Virtuosi. Recent international appearances have included a tour of Austria and Switzerland with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Maestro Antoni Wit, a tour of Germany with the Czech Philharmonic and Maestro Zdeněk Mácal, performances with the orchestras of Academy of La Scala in Bad Kissingen, Copenhagen and Lyon, and recitals in Milan, Hamburg and Luxembourg. She made her London debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006 followed by her

Proms debut in 2008. Ms. Kern has performed recently with the Orquestra de São Paulo, the Seoul Philharmonic and in Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, and Israel. In June of 2002, Olga Kern made an extensive tour of South Africa where she returned to tour again in February of 2005 with her brother Vladimir Kern conducting. Ms. Kern was the Artistic Director of the Cape Town Festival in South Africa from 2005 until 2010 and returns there annually. In addition to performing, Ms. Kern devotes her time to the support and education of developing musicians. In 2012, the artist and her brother, Vladimir Kern, co-founded the “Aspiration” foundation whose objective is to provide financial and artistic assistance to musicians throughout the world. Ms. Kern’s discography includes Harmonia Mundi recordings of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Seaman (2003), a Rachmaninoff recording of Corelli Variations and other transcriptions (2004), a recital disk with works by Rachmaninoff and Balakirev (2005), Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit (2006), Brahms Variations (2007) and a 2010 release of Chopin Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3 (2010). She was also featured in the award-winning documentary about the 2001 Cliburn Competition, Playing on the Edge. Most recently, SONY released a recording of Ms. Kern performing the Rachmaninoff Sonata for Violoncello and Piano with cellist Sol Gabetta.


Olga Kern Program Book  

Friday, October 04, 2013 Renée & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

Olga Kern Program Book  

Friday, October 04, 2013 Renée & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall