Tryon Concert Association Presents
Stephen Hough, Pianist
Friday, January 26, 2018
Claude Debussy Claire de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque)
Claude Debussy Images, Book II
Cloches à travers les feuilles
Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut
Robert Schumann Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17
(1810-1856) Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich
Mässig. Durchaus energisch
Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten.
Claude Debussy La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
(from Préludes, Book II)
Claude Debussy Images, Book I
Reflets dans l’eau
Hommage à Rameau
Ludwig van Beethoven Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57
Andante con moto
Allegro ma non troppo – Presto
**A Footnote on Applause**
The spirit and beauty of the music will be enhanced for both the performer and the audience by saving your applause until the completion of the last movement of each composition.
Recordings available on the Hyperion, BIS, Chandos, Warner Classics labels.
Stephen Hough appears by arrangement with CM Artists.
Note on the Artist
British-born Stephen Hough began playing the piano at age five. He studied music at major schools in England and then received his Master’s Degree from The Juilliard School. The winner of numerous performance competitions in his youth, Hough became the first classical music performer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship in 2001.
This multi-talented musician has given recitals around the world and performed with major orchestras and conductors. Called a “renaissance man of his time,” Mr. Hough is also a composer, painter, poet and writer.
As a recording artist he has made more than 50 CDs, many of which have won Grammy nominations. He has won eight Gramophone Magazine Awards and received the magazine’s Record of the Year award in 1996 and 2003. In 2008 he won the Sixth International Poetry Competition and his writings can be found in The Guardian, The Times, The Tablet, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine.
In addition to his many performances, writings and compositions Mr. Hough is a Governor of Royal Ballet Companies and a patron of the Nightingale Project, which takes music and art into hospitals and prisons.
Stephen Hough lives in London and is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at the Royal Northern College in Manchester. He is also on the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City.
Notes by Stephen Hough
“In a previous season I placed Debussy and Chopin side by side in a sandwich-like programme, wanting to highlight the empathy between them in their love for and understanding of the sound of the piano. In this recital I’m trying for the opposite effect – for contrast, even opposition.
“Debussy’s triptychs are his piano sonatas, even if their descriptive, entitled movements stand alone as sensual paintings with mystical suggestions. The two German sonatas (Schumann’s Fantasie is one in all but name and was conceived as a tribute to Beethoven) are abstract, classical forms. They are also, arguably, the two composers’ greatest works for the instrument.
“The Schumann begins with a wash of colour under which the right hand declaims its ardent melody but this is not an impressionist gesture. He may dream of spires but he is always conscious of the architecture of musical form, whereas Debussy seems so often to take delight in mere atmosphere for its own sake: incense floating in the air: the surprise of shimmering, sparkling colours.
“And Beethoven … in this piece! All sophisticated pianistic veneer is stripped away in one of the most incendiary, elemental works ever written. If there is perfume here it is the scent of gunpowder. Three of the Debussy works on this programme contain the image of the moon in their titles, and perhaps the imaginative soul can discern a lunar glow shining on the lovers in the third movement of Schumann’s Fantasie, but Beethoven shakes a mighty fist from Mars.”
Additional notes about the program by Joella Utley:
Clair de Lune
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
One of the greatest of French composers, Claude Debussy was considered extremely radical as he threw out most all the rules he was taught during his days at the Paris Conservatory. He had the strength of his convictions to stand up to the criticism he received as a youth. Today, to modern ears, his music seems familiar and natural, painting musical scenes for our mind’s eye. He has been called “a master of color and expression, light and darkness, harmony and melody, texture and rhythm.”
In 1890, while still a student, Debussy started a work entitled Suite Bergamasque, a piano suite containing four movements. He reworked the suite in 1905 prior to publication, which he felt would reflect his more advanced style of composition. The third movement, Clair de Lune, is the most recognized part of this suite today.
Inspired by Paul Verlaine’s poem Clair de Lune Debussy’s music gives the impression of beautiful moonlight filtering through the leaves of trees. This graceful movement has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments and for orchestra, including a score by Leopold Stokowski for the Philadelphia Orchestra. As well, it is heard as background music in movies and ballets.
Images, Book II
In his mature years Debussy wrote two books he titled Images: the first in 1905 and the second two years later. The titles given to the individual pieces were not meant as literal depictions, but were for the projection of a mood – a suggestive image in sound.
Debussy’s Images, Book II contains three movements, each with subtle harmonic blending. In Cloches a travers les feuilles (bells through the leaves) the sustaining pedals and imitation of chimes through use of a whole-tone scale could remind one of the rustle of leaves in the trees.
Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (and the moon sets over the temple that was) suggests an ancient Oriental scene, again brought through skilled use of the pedal.
An oriental lacquered vase belonging to Debussy may have inspired Poissons d’or (goldfish). The imitation of ripples in the water followed by calm and restful waters bring this work to a conclusion.
Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Robert Schumann’s musical life started when, as a twenty-year-old, he began his studies of piano with Friedrich Weick. the father of Clara, who would later become Robert’s wife. However, Father Weick was strongly against their courtship and did all he could to separate the two. During one of the forced separations imposed by Friedrich Weick, Robert began composing the first movement of his Fantasie in C Major. He later wrote to Clara, “You can only understand the Fantasie if you go back to the unhappy summer of 1836 when we were separated.”
Robert would later add two additional movements to his Fantasie. The public first heard this three-movement version in 1839 when the music was used to honor Beethoven in his home city of Bonn. Franz Liszt contributed generously to the building of a Beethoven statue for the occasion and Schumann dedicated the work to Liszt.
Indeed the music resounds with emotional longing. The opening section contains an ever-present “Clara Theme” played by the right hand above the rapid movement below. The middle movement, which is in the style of a rondo, is based on a majestic march with episodes that recall the emotion of the first movement. The finale is slow and meditative, a dreamy nocturne. Near the end a climax begins to build but then rapidly resolves into a quiet reverie.
La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
Between 1909 and 1912 Debussy composed two books of preludes, each containing twelve short musical episodes, which suggest elements of nature, legend, or atmosphere. Book Two contains “La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune” (the balcony where moonlight holds court) in which he put to music a newspaper account of the coronation of Britain’s King George V, who was installed as Emperor of India in 1911. This music was intended to give an air of oriental mystery to the occasion.
Wanting the listener to form his own image when listening to his preludes, Debussy withheld his own title until the end of each piece. In this work there is a changing sense of tonality as well as a hint of his previously published Clair de Lune. The sense of moonlight and atmosphere are enhanced by careful use of the sustaining pedal. We hear a range of nuanced dynamics and a flexible change of rhythm, which gives the impression of improvisation.
Images, Book I
Images, Book I published in 1905 contains three episodes: Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections in the Water) has been compared to dropping stones onto the surface of water and watching the patterns of ripples interweave. Hommage a Rameau (Tribute to Rameau) honors the 18th Century French composer and musical theorist, Jean-Philippe Rameau. As Rameau loved classical dance forms, Debussy chose the sarabande (a slow stately dance in triple meter) to show his respects to this great master. In the third section, Mouvement, Debussy gives us humor, gaiety, and a sense of irony – a little “tongue in cheek.” This virtuosic piece is in fairly perpetual motion which creates a rhythmic illusion and requires great dexterity of the fingers as well as skillful and subtle use of the pedal.
Debussy was pleased with these works and wrote to his publisher, “I think I may say without undue pride, that I believe these three pieces will live and take their place in piano literature.”
Piano Sonata No. 23, F minor, Op. 57 (“Appassionata”)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Of his 32 piano sonatas Beethoven’s sonata No. 23 is recognized as one of his most violent and passionate works. It was written in 1804 while the composer was on a holiday ordered by his doctor; both men were hoping for a recovery from treatments the composer was receiving for progressive deafness. It is easy to imagine Beethoven’s anger and angst that he, as a musician, would one day be unable to hear his own creations. Yet as he dealt with this disability he chose to “take fate by the throat” and not give in to this growing problem.
In this three-movement composition Beethoven was striving for an explosion of sound, which the pianoforte of his day was barely able to produce. There is turbulence and energy in the opening movement in which volume changes range from loud to barely audible. The second movement, a theme and four variations, is more gentle and calm, which Beethoven reminds the pianist to play dolce. The finale returns with great energy and ends with a fiery coda.
The name “Appassionata” was not given by Beethoven but was attached by a publisher in 1838. This is one of the composer’s greatest and most technically challenging piano sonatas and was considered by Beethoven to be the most tempestuous of his works in this genre. It is said to be the sonata he loved over all the others.