2013 Summer Concert #1: Piano Four Hands

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Rain Location

7:30 pm

Thursday, August 15, 2013


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Streaming on our Youtube channel - LINK will appear here & in EMAIL

Antonin Dvorak: Slavonic Dances (selections)
Igor Stravinsky: Rite of Spring
Johannes Brahms: Hungarian Dances (selections)
Franz Schubert: Fantasia in F Minor

Festival Artist




Stravinsky described The Rite as “representing . . . the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring." The story involves pre-history Russian tribes meeting to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Virgins dance and a girl is chosen. After the tribes pay homage to their ancestors, she dances to her death as wise men look on.

Riots broke out at the premiere one hundred years ago (1913). Like Picasso’s “Demoiselles d'Avignon,” this work was revolutionary not only for what composers could now do but also for its effect on how they looked (or listened) to the world. Nothing has been the same since.Stravinsky himself scored the work for piano four hands and premiered it with Claude Debussy.

Program notes by David Yang

HUNGARIAN DANCES, WoO 1, Nos. 6, 8, 7, 4, & 5

HUNGARIAN DANCES, WoO 1, Nos. 6, 8, 7, 4, & 5

You might not be aware of it, but you already know many of these Hungarian Dances. I’ve recently heard them live in a market on an island off the Italian coast, in a coffee shop in Halifax, and with accordion on the E train on the Upper West Side (apparently there are no pianos allowed on the subway). Composing music is rarely lucrative, but here Brahms struck gold. The proceeds from these dances, transcribed for other instruments and even orchestra, enabled him to focus his attention elsewhere.

Duo Q & A have selected five favorites from the full set of twenty-one. Brahms doesn’t give much instruction to the performers, but it is understood that, like their Hungarian and gypsy roots, interpretation should be idiosyncratic and very personal. The intense emotions can have a sense of hyperbole about them – tragic, sure, but a little funny at the same time. This is very different from the genuine anguish of the Schubert Fantasia, written by a dying composer. Curiously, the prevalence of syncopation (off-beats) with unusually catchy melodies was hugely influential for ragtime musicians like Scott Joplin.

Program notes by David Yang

FANTASIA IN F MINOR, D. 940 (Op. posth. 103)

FANTASIA IN F MINOR, D. 940 (Op. posth. 103)

Apart from a few dreadful years of hacking away at the piano as a child, I never really studied the instrument. But if I were ever to try again it would be for one reason – to play this piece. This is not one of the greatest works for piano, it is one of the greatest works of art ever created. A bold statement in a week with music by Bach, Bartok, Brahms, and Mozart, but I stand by it. Composed in 1828 during the superhuman output of Schubert’s last year, it was published posthumously. I find it impossible to maintain a clear perspective when I realize in the same year he also wrote the

C Major cello quintet, G Major string quartet, the song cycle “Winterreise,” and his 9th symphony – each one a certifiable masterpiece.

The Fantasia is a transformative journey that starts with a pleading melody over a pulsing bass that eventually ranges over emotional extremes of repressed fury, resigned nostalgia, and rustic vitality, until it rounds a corner and there, shockingly, that first melody reappears. This is followed by a vertigo-inducing fugue that builds to a terrible level of tension until it spins around and we find ourselves full-circle at the opening one last time.

Program notes by David Yang

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