The Concertmaster Series has its first installment of the season this week. I am thrilled and blessed to be performing two works this Wednesday and Thursday evenings that are keystones in their respective chamber music genres. The concerts will be at Remedy Coffee in the Old City, 125 W. Jackson Ave., and start at 7:00. There will be a cookies-and-coffee reception following chamber music by Kodály, Richard Strauss and Schubert.
Kodály’s op. 7 Duo for violin and cello has long been on my list of favorite pieces, and Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz and I will be performing the 1st movement Allegro serioso, non troppo. What does this tempo marking mean? Seriously allegro? Fast and serious, but not too fast? Or not too serious? The music seems very serious to me, but I suppose that it can be played too fast, hence the non troppo. (Italian for “not too much).”
The work uses the Dorian mode and the pentatonic scale, both elements of the Eastern European folk music that Kodály and Bartok so meticulously catalogued. After the opening theme is stated, an ostinato (repeated rhythmic accompaniment figure) is traded between instruments. I can’t decide whether this figure comes out of nature (could be a birdcall, perhaps an edgy loon?) or technology (could be Morse Code), but it is highly entertaining and serves as a rhythmic basis for the pyrotechnics that follow.
My go-to recording of the piece is of cellist Janos Starker and violinist Josef Gingold, which I recorded off the radio in college, back when lps were used at classical radio stations. So despite static from bad reception, scratches from the record they were broadcasting, and tape hiss from my tape sitting for decades in a shoebox, Maxell tape once again proves immortal.
Gabe and pianist Kevin Class will combine on Richard Strauss’ op.18 Sonata for Violin and Piano in E♭. This is early Strauss, think the first Horn Concerto and the Cello Sonata and you’re on the right track. E♭is a heroic key shared by both of Strauss’ horn concerti and his tone poem, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life). Gabe will get to play the role of the Strauss hero this time, as the Heldenleben violin solos, which were programmed on Gabe’s audition concert, are actually a musical representation of the hero’s love interest. (Although I must say that Gabe’s performance of them was nothing less than heroic).
This work from 1887 and the Schubert Piano Trio in B♭ from 1828 stand at opposite ends of the Romantic Era. What a long strange trip it had been. There isn’t much to say about the Schubert that hasn’t already been said by much smarter people than me, except that if you liked his Trio in E♭ which was performed in the spring of 2012 at the Bijou, you will like this trio even more. Words about the Schubert B♭ can best be found on a sampler on our music room wall that my sister gave us:
For heights and depths no words can reach,
music is the soul’s own speech.