Edward Arron & Friends
Sunday November 20, 2016 3:00pm

Edward Arron & Friends

Overview

This evening brings together a vivacious, witty and fun program along with a group of musicians to match. After meeting twenty years ago at Caramoor, the exquisite cellist Edward Arron reunites with violin virtuoso Jennifer Frautschi and the technically brilliant pianist Andrew Armstrong. Tchaikovsky ensures thrilling piano playing while Stravinsky promises movements that are tuneful and amusing.

Artists

Andrew Armstrong, piano
Jennifer Frautschi, violin
Edward Arron, cello

Program

Stravinsky  Suite Italienne for Violin and Piano
Glière Eight Pieces for Violin and Cello, Op. 39
Schnittke Musica Nostalgica for Cello and Piano (1992)
Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50

Andrew Armstrong

Andrew Armstrong, piano

Praised by critics for his passionate expression and dazzling technique, pianist Andrew Armstrong has delighted audiences across Asia, Europe, Latin America, Canada, and the United States, including performances at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, and Warsaw’s National Philharmonic.

Mr. Armstrong’s orchestral engagements across the globe have seen him perform a sprawling repertoire of more than 50 concertos with orchestra. He has performed with such conductors as Peter Oundjian, Itzhak Perlman, Günther Herbig, Stefan Sanderling, JeanMarie Zeitouni, and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and has appeared in solo recitals in chamber music concerts with the Elias, Alexander, American, and Manhattan String Quartets, and also as a member of the Caramoor Virtuosi, Boston Chamber Music Society, Seattle Chamber Music Society, and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players.

Mr. Armstrong’s debut solo CD featuring Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Sonata and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was released to great critical acclaim: “I have heard few pianists play [Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Sonata], recorded or in concert, with such dazzling clarity and confidence” (American Record Guide). He followed that success with a disc on Cordelia Records of works by Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, and the world premiere recording of Bielawa’s Wait for piano & drone.

He has released several award-winning recordings with his longtime recital partner James Ehnes, including three volumes of the music of Béla Bartôk, Prokofiev’s Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 and Five Melodies, Tartini’s Devil’s Trill, and Leclair’s Tambourin Sonata, a recital disc of works by Franck and Strauss, as well as an upcoming release featuring pieces by Debussy, Elgar, and Respighi (Onyx Classics).

Andrew Armstrong is devoted to outreach programs and playing for children. In addition to his many concerts, his performances are heard regularly on National Public Radio and WQXR, New York City’s premier classical music station.

Mr. Armstrong lives happily in Massachusetts, with his wife Esty, their two children, two dogs, two guinea pigs, and two fish.

Andrew Armstrong is a member of Edward Arron & Friends, which receives generous support from The Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation. Mr. Armstrong has performed at Caramoor on numerous occasions including the Summer Music Seasons of 2008 and 2009.

 

Jennifer Frautschi

Jennifer Frautschi, violin

Two-time GRAMMY® nominee and Avery Fisher career grant recipient Jennifer Frautschi has garnered worldwide acclaim as an adventurous musician with a remarkably wide-ranging repertoire. Highlights of her past season included performances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Tucson Symphony, as well as return engagements with the Alabama, Arkansas, Belo Horizonte, Chattanooga, Phoenix, and Toledo Symphonies and the Rhode Island Philharmonic. This past summer she performed at the Ojai, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Moab, Bridgehampton, and Salt Bay Chamberfest music festivals.

Her discography includes the Stravinsky Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Robert Craft, and two GRAMMY®-nominated recordings with the Fred Sherry Quartet, of Schoenberg’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra and the Schoenberg Third String Quartet. Her most recent releases are a recording of Romantic horn trios, with hornist Eric Ruske and pianist Stephen Prutsman, and the Stravinsky Duo Concertant with pianist Jeremy Denk. With pianist John Blacklow she will release two discs on Albany Records this year: the first devoted to the Schumann sonatas; the second an exploration of recent additions to the violin and piano repertoire by American composers.

Born in Pasadena, California, Ms. Frautschi was a student of Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School; she also attended Harvard, NEC, and Juilliard, where she studied with Robert Mann. She performs on a 1722 Antonio Stradivarius violin known as the “ex-Cadiz,” on generous loan from a private American foundation. Jennifer Frautschi participated in Caramoor’s Evnin Rising Stars program during the 1992 and 1993 seasons. She is a member of Edward Arron & Friends, which receives generous support from The Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation.

 

Edward Arron & Friends: Edward Arron

Edward Arron, cello

Cellist Edward Arron has garnered recognition worldwide for his elegant musicianship, impassioned performances, and creative programming. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Arron made his New York recital debut in 2000 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since that time, he has appeared in recital, as a soloist with major orchestras, and as a chamber musician throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

In 2013, Mr. Arron completed a ten-year residency as the artistic director of the critically acclaimed Metropolitan Museum Artists in Concert, a chamber music series created in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Museum’s prestigious Concerts and Lectures series. Currently, he is the artistic director, host, and resident performer of the Musical Masterworks concert series in Old Lyme, Connecticut, as well as the Festival Series in Beaufort, South Carolina and Chamber Music on Main at the Columbia Museum in Columbia, South Carolina. Additionally, Mr. Arron curates tonight’s series, “Edward Arron & Friends,” at Caramoor, and is the co-artistic director along with his wife, pianist Jeewon Park, of the new Performing Artists in Residence series at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Mr. Arron has performed numerous times at Carnegie’s Weill and Zankel Halls, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls, New York’s Town Hall, and the 92nd Street Y, and is a frequent performer at Bargemusic. Festival appearances include Ravinia, Salzburg, Mostly Mozart, BRAVO! Colorado, Tanglewood, Bridgehampton, Spoleto USA, Santa Fe, Seattle Chamber Music, Great Mountains, Charlottesville, Telluride Musicfest, Seoul Spring, Lake Champlain Chamber Music, and Bard Music Festival. He has participated in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project as well as Isaac Stern’s Jerusalem Chamber Music Encounters.

Edward Arron began playing the cello at age seven in Cincinnati and continued his studies in New York with Peter Wiley. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he was a student of Harvey Shapiro. Mr. Arron has served on the faculty of New York University since 2009.

Edward Arron participated in Caramoor’s Rising Stars program in 1993 and 1994. He most recently performed at Caramoor in during the 2016 Summer Music Season. He is Artistic Director of Edward Arron & Friends, which receives generous support from The Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation.

About the Music.

Igor Stravinsky / 1861-1971 / Suite Italienne for Violin and Piano (arr. Dushkin)

The ballet Pulcinella was the first Stravinskyan excursion into an older musical style reworked with characteristic wit and verve to a 20th-century idiom. Produced in Paris in 1920 with choreography by Massine and a set designed by Picasso, the charming evocation of the 18th century was a great success with the public. During the 1920s, Stravinsky toured for a time with the violinist Samuel Dushkin, finding it was easier to make a living as a performer than as a composer. He wanted to perform his own music as much as possible, and the popular Pulcinella seemed a good choice, so he worked with Dushkin to convert selections from the ballet into a duo for violin and piano: the Suite Italienne. (Later the cellist Gregor Piatagorsky, with Stravinsky’s permission, made one for cello and piano.)

The results sound more like Stravinsky than Pergolesi, but it is a Stravinsky much less astringent than the composer we know from much of his other music of the period, and audiences found it charming and accessible.

The two duets are similar, but not identical. The violin version begins with two movements taken from the opening of the ballet and then selects passages from near the end of the score for the next three movements, finally closing with the Minuetto and Finale that end the original work. All of the original thematic ideas are drawn from the works of Pergolesi (or what were then thought to be the works of Pergolesi; many are now known to be spurious), but they are made subtly asymmetrical by Stravinsky’s treatment. The results sound more like Stravinsky than Pergolesi, but it is a Stravinsky much less astringent than the composer we know from much of his other music of the period, and audiences found it charming and accessible.

 

Reinhold Glière / 1875-1956 / Eight Pieces for Violin and Cello, Op. 39

Glière’s name in Cyrillic would literally be transliterated as “Glier,” but the accent fell on the “e”, so for publication in the Roman alphabet, he chose to render it with a French spelling (as did most of the Russian composers of the romantic and early modern periods when their work was published). This is another indication—aside from the romantic colors of his compositions—that links him with the world of Tsarist Russia, growing up amid the glorious accomplishments of Tchaikovsky and “The Five,” who had created a language for Russian music that went round the world.

Glière studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Tchaikovsky’s favorite pupil Taneyev and with Arensky and Ippolitov-Ivanov, all composers whose work represented the fulsome richness of late romanticism with Slavic coloration. And, though he lived beyond the middle of the twentieth century, Glière’s music never really left that Russian romantic tradition. He worked on the grand scale producing music in the large forms, including three symphonies (the last, a program work on a Russian folk hero entitled Ilya Murometz, is of Mahlerian proportions, running over an hour and a half in a complete performance), seven ballets, five operas, and several concertos. His best-known work by far is a single number, the “Russian Sailors’ Dance,” from the 1927 ballet The Red Poppy, which, along with The Bronze Horseman, earned him the sobriquet, “founder of Soviet ballet.”

It is one of a number of works based on the folk culture of various nationalities embraced by the Soviet Union, including Ukrainian, as well as the peoples of the Transcaucasus and central Asia. Many of these works are based on folk tunes treated with a vivid imagination for orchestral color. These predilections matched well the requirements of the Soviet government for music accessible to the people, and Glière received the title People’s Artist of the USSR in 1938.

As this list of major works implies, Glière worked most famously in the large forms, where he could deploy the rich forces of a full orchestra with great verve. All but unknown are his chamber works, which include four string quartets and a string sextet. He also composed a large number of duos, some with various individual instruments accompanied by piano, and two sets of works for two stringed instruments: Eight Pieces for violin and cello, Opus 39; and Ten Duos for two cellos, Opus 53. He evidently composed these little works over a period of time, then gathered them for publication. Opus 39 appeared in 1909.

The duos for violin and cello are not designed to showcase folk material or to imply any kind of narrative. They are “classical” works in the late Russian Romantic tradition, and they give us a quite different view of the composer

Unlike the hugely elaborate and colorful ballets and operas, which were often based on folk material, the duos for violin and cello are not designed to showcase folk material or to imply any kind of narrative. They are “classical” works in the late Russian Romantic tradition, and they give us a quite different view of the composer, because a conscious restriction to two melody instruments naturally focuses attention on the mutual interaction of the melodic lines, and less on harmony and orchestral color. At the same time, the conscious limitation in sonority sparks his musical imagination in these marvelously varied pieces, so that he evokes a wide range of musical styles from the Baroque era to his own time.

 

Alfred Schnittke / 1934-1998 / Musica Nostalgica for Cello and Piano (1992)

By the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, Alfred Schnittke was widely regarded as one of its leading composers. Only a handful of his contemporaries, notably Sofia Gubaidulina, were discussed in the same terms with him as imaginative creative musicians who have found original paths to musical expression in a culture that officially frowned on novelty and innovation. When the force of his personality could not be denied, he was granted premieres only in out-of-the-way places in order to minimize the “disturbing” effect of his music. And as soon as the wall between eastern and western Europe came down, he moved to Hamburg to live the last years of his life in a place where he could create freely.

When the force of his personality could not be denied, he was granted premieres only in out-of-the-way places in order to minimize the “disturbing” effect of his music.

Even so, there had been bold devotees of his work all along: conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who led performances of the First Symphony (which strikes an American audience rather like a “happening” of the 1960s, with its mix of musical styles, theatrical gestures—the entire orchestra goes on and off stage twice during its performance—and so on) in Gorky, London, and Boston; Rostislav Dubinsky, first violinist of the Borodin Quartet until his defection, who fought to get permission to perform Schnittke’s First String Quartet in the Soviet Union; and Gidon Kremer, who had already moved to western Europe, where he frequently performed Schnittke’s violin concertos and chamber music. Others who promoted his music (and received dedications in return) are the violist Yuri Bashmet and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

Musica Nostalgica is a little gem, a pastiche suggesting an older musical style, the minuet, a stately court dance of the 18th century, perhaps. The mood is essentially melancholy, yet there are moments that seem slightly off-the-wall in a possibly comic way—all in a matter of some three minutes.

 

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky / 1840-1893 / Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50

Tchaikovsky did not care much for the combination of piano with stringed instruments in chamber music. He said as much in a letter to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, in October of 1880, after she had requested that he compose a piano trio for her (her “house pianist” at the time was none other than the young Claude Debussy). Yet in December 1881, he began to compose a work in the very medium he had spurned so recently. Although Tchaikovsky assured Mme. Von Meck that he was undertaking the work partly to please her and partly to overcome the technical difficulties involved in combining the linear, lyrical qualities of violin and cello with the weight and percussive character of the piano, the piece was actually inspired by the death of his friend and associate Nikolai Rubinstein.

Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein were estranged for a time following the latter’s harsh attack on Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto in December 1874, when the composer played it through for him in order to get his advice regarding the solo part. Rubinstein first maintained a stony silence, then asserted that the work was fragmented, vulgar, clumsy, and imitative. Tchaikovsky has intended dedicating it to him, but, not surprisingly, he changed his mind. Still, Rubinstein had been responsible for conducting many of the premieres of Tchaikovsky’s work, and the two had often discussed music in general and Tchaikovsky’s new pieces in particular. They patched up their quarrel and remained close friends and colleagues. Rubinstein’s death in 1881 struck him harder than any since the death of his own mother. Between late December 1881 and February 9, 1882, Tchaikovsky wrote the A-minor Trio, and premiered it on March 23, the first anniversary of Rubinstein’s death.

Thus, though the dedicatee is not explicitly named, the score is filled with reminiscences of the trio’s commemorative character. The dedication is “to the memory of a great artist;” the first movement is explicitly marked Pezzo elegiaco (“Elegiac piece”), and the sadly lyrical first theme returns at the end of the second movement in a coda that suggests a heroic funeral march dying away into nothingness (the last performance instruction in the piece is “lugubrious”). Moreover, the dominating piano part points to the dedicatee’s own instrument.

The long first movement is a sprawling, loosely constructed sonata form with the piano so strongly projected as to suggest a concerto in which the orchestra has been reduced to two stringed instruments. But, after all, in a memorial tribute to one of the greatest pianists of his day, the emphasis is fitting.

The long first movement is a sprawling, loosely constructed sonata form with the piano so strongly projected as to suggest a concerto in which the orchestra has been reduced to two stringed instruments. But, after all, in a memorial tribute to one of the greatest pianists of his day, the emphasis is fitting. The recapitulation is one of the very rare cases in music in which the opening theme is brought back at a slower tempo than it had at the opening. The marking is Adagio con duolo e ben sostenuto (“slowly, with grief, and well sustained”)—yet another reminder of the work’s character as an act of mourning.

The variations of the second movement are based on a folk melody first presented in the piano alone. The 19th-century Russian critic Nikolai Kashkin wrote that Tchaikovsky used this tune in recollection of a spring day when Rubinstein had ordered wine and sweets for a group of local peasants, who then entertained him and his friends with songs and dances. The variations are supposed to reflect incidents in Rubinstein’s life, but they make a splendid collection of musical moments without even considering a possible program (which, in any case, Tchaikovsky never revealed). The scoring is varied and fascinating, most of all perhaps in the fifth variation, where the strings hold the tonic note in an extended drone, while the piano, playing lightly in the upper registers, suggests a music box.

Owing particularly to the unusual length and structure of the second movement, Tchaikovsky marked two optional cuts in the printed score: the entire eighth variation (a fugue) and a large chunk of the finale. The present performances will observe these suggested cut to the finale, but will play the fugue variation.

© Steve Ledbetter