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Program Notes

Prelude and Fugue in Eb minor/D# minor, WTC I, BWV 853 by J.S. Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier is a collection of 24 preludes and fugues in two
books. When Bach composed these pieces, he aimed to exploit the new tuning system that
allowed for composers to explore all key centers without altering the keyboard’s tuning. The first
book was completed in 1722 and the second around 1744. Each prelude varies in character and
style. Some might be improvisatory, influenced by dance styles, or polyphonic. Because the
preludes are paired with fugues, both share similar characters.
The prelude has a solemn and contemplative in character. Its melody has qualities of over-
dotting found in the French overture style. The accompaniment is heard as rolled harmonies. One
can argue that at times the melody is in a recitative style, which can be identified by a lack of
texture with a single melodic line or a stasis in harmonic activity.
The fugue is much more complex than the prelude. It is comprised of three voices. A main
melody, or subject, is presented by the first voice which the entire piece is based on. The second
voice responds with its contrapuntal answer. Finally, the third voice enters and restates the
subject. After each voice enters, a new section begins where the subject can be transformed.
Here, fragments of the melody or the entire melody can be heard. The theme can be inverted,
have its rhythm lengthened (augmentation) or shortened (diminution).
Sources: http://www.bachwelltemperedclavier.org/pf-ebd-minor.html
https://vanrecital.com/2012/09/program-notes-andras-schiff-performs-bach/

Violin Sonata in E minor, K. 304 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an incredibly popular composer in his time and today. He is
known for his prolific output of many genres including sonatas, concertos, operas, string
quartets, and choral pieces. Of Mozart’s thirty-six violin sonatas, only one is written in a minor
key. Minor keys in his music signal a tragedy. Around the time this sonata was composed, his
mother suddenly died. It is thought that the second movement is an homage to her.
The exposition in the first movement begins with the piano and violin sharing a unison melody.
Theme two appears in C major but modulates back to a minor key. Although the development
retains a serious tone, there is a new playful tone, but the transition to the recapitulation returns
us to the previous dark mood. The recapitulation begins with only the violin playing the first
theme while the piano plays a dramatic accompaniment, and ends on a half cadence, to be
resolved by the coda. The second movement begins with a simple melody in the piano. It is taken
by the violin and is developed, transitioning into a new section in a major key. After a short
cadenza, there is a return of the first theme. The middle section is now in E major and contains a
bittersweet melody. The final section restates the first theme again in a dramatic conclusion.
Sources: http://www.kennedy-center.org/artist/composition/3827
https://www.classicalconnect.com/Violin_Music/Mozart/Sonata_in_e_minor/795
Piano Sonata No. 24 in F# major, Op. 78 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was especially known for his 32 piano sonatas, each one a masterpiece.
Pianists today call the sonata set the “New Testament” of piano (Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier
is considered the “Old Testament”). His Sonata in F-sharp major Op. 78 was written in 1809 and
dedicated to Therese von Brunswick. What is interesting about the work is how much it contrasts
with his previous sonatas, especially the “Appassionata” sonata, written three years before.
The work is divided into two movements. The first movement begins with a short, lyrical adagio
introduction, heard only once throughout the entire work. The exposition has two main melodies.
The first melody, heard immediately after the introduction, is tuneful and fluid. The second
melody is light and playful. In the development, Beethoven sequences fragments of theme one
and shifts between major and minor key centers. The section transitions back into the theme one,
starting the recapitulation.
Movement two contrasts the first. It is in rondo form, with an effervescent melody heard
throughout. A defining characteristic of the movement is its contrast, from the major/minor
harmonic shifts to the stark dynamic extremes.
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/arts/audio/2006/dec/05/culture1425

Polonaise-Fantaisie in Ab major, Op. 61 by Frederic Chopin


Frederic Chopin was a monumental figure of the Romantic era. In the entirety of his
compositional output, he embodied the “bel canto” vocal style, heard in the operas of Vincenzo
Bellini. Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie was completed and published in 1846. The work is more
of a fantasy with elements of a polonaise. The musical ideas are always being developed with a
forward momentum that launches one idea after another.
This large work contains a variety of sections, each with its own character. The piece begins with
a harmonious introduction, which is sort of an introspective and lush section. One of the defining
rhythms of the polonaise, repeated sixteenth notes similar to a fanfare, is heard shortly at the end
of the large introduction. The main theme is apparent as it is presented many times throughout
the A section, each time with different harmonies, registers, textures and energy. The piece then
moves to the B section, which is now much slower than the previous section. At the end of the B
section, a transition using ideas from the introduction and the B section lead into the final
section. The C section is triumphant in character and virtuosic in technique.
Source: http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/composition/detail/id/129
8 Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Op. 83 by Max Bruch
Max Bruch was an important composer during the late Romantic period. He is most known for
his violin concerti, but has a large body of works, including a concerto for two pianos, Double
Concerto for clarinet and viola, choral works, songs, operas, and chamber works. Bruch wrote
his Eight Pieces in 1909. They were dedicated to his son Max Felix who was a talented
clarinetist. Originally for clarinet and viola, the warm timbre each produce pair well with each
other. The piano primarily provides a foundation and accompaniment for the soloists.
Bruch did not intend the set of eight pieces to be performed as a whole. Instead, the set allows
the performers to program the movements in any desired order. The first piece, Andante,
contains two contrasting melodies, the first in a sort of mournful recitative and the second more
hopeful. The second piece, Allegro con moto, is much darker than the first. The sixth piece,
Andante con moto, is a beautiful nocturne and the fourth piece, Allegro agitato, is a fiery
scherzo.
Sources: http://www.chambermusictulsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Zodiac-Trio-Program-Notes-Salon-
Nov12.pdf
http://www.chambermusic.org/uploads/6/5/1/0/6510495/cmslc-program.pdf

Nocturne No. 4, Op. 38 by Lowell Liebermann


Lowell Liebermann is a prolific contemporary composer. He wrote a large number of flute works
and piano works, concerti for a variety of instruments, and a few chamber works. Liebermann
received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees all from Julliard and is a highly
successful composer.
Liebermann composed the nocturne in 1992. It was dedicated to Andrew Wilde, who premiered
the piece on November 22 of the same year. The piece begins with a simple, haunting melody
that is developed and presented in new textures throughout the piece. A second theme is heard
shortly after the first theme. Immediately, there is a very distinct harmonic language achieved by
shifting between major and minor harmonies. These unsettling chords are used throughout the
piece, contributing to its eerie atmosphere.
Source: http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5134&context=etd