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Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)Piano Trio in G Major (“Gypsy”), Hob. XV:25
Finale: Rondo all’ Ongarese
Anton ArenskyPiano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Finale: Allegro non troppo
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49
Molto allegro agitato
Andante con moto tranquillo
Scherzo: Leggiero e vivace
Finale: Allegro assai appassionato
Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin
Wu Qian, piano
Isang Enders, cello
Alexander Sitkovetsky was born in Moscow into a family with a well-established musical tradition. His concerto debut was at the age of eight, and in the same year, he moved to the UK to study at the Menuhin School. His critically acclaimed CPO recording of Andrzej Panufnik’s Violin Concerto with the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin commemorating the composer’s 100th birthday won an ICMA Special Achievement Award.
Wu Qian was born in Shanghai, where she received her early training before being invited to study at the Menuhin School and was selected as the classical music bright young star for 2007 by The Independent. At fifteen she performed Mozart’s E flat Major concerto (K449) in Queen Elizabeth Hall and again at the Menuhin Festival in Switzerland. She made her debut recital at the South Bank Purcell Room in 2000. Her concerts have been broadcast by NHK for Japan, Phoenix TV for China, and BBC Radio 3.
Isang Enders quickly established himself as a dynamic artist in search of new-concepts and works for the cello. Born into a German-Korean musician family in Frankfurt in 1988, Enders began studying at the age of twelve. His playing is influenced by his studies with Gustav Rivinius, Truls Mørk, and above all, by the mentoring of the American cellist Lynn Harrell. As a dedicated chamber musician, he continues to work closely with the pianist Igor Levit, with whom he has toured extensively. Enders plays an instrument by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (Paris, 1840).
The trio released their first recording in 2014 with works by Smetana, Suk, and Dvořák to much critical acclaim. Other releases followed with works by Brahms and Schubert and the Mendelssohn Trios. Recently, they recorded Beethoven’s Trios Op.1 and Op.70, and Allegretto in B-flat major for Piano Trio WoO 39 as part of their complete Beethoven cycle, which was released to great critical acclaim for the composer’s birthday celebration last year. A new release is coming this year of the Ravel Trio and Saint-Saens Trio no 2.
This concert, exclusive to AFCM, was recorded live at the Razumovsky Academy in London.
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“In his youth, Arensky did not escape some influence from me; later, the influence came from Tchaikovsky. He will quickly be forgotten.”—Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov
AFTER HE RESIGNED from his twenty-nine-year tenure as Kapellmeister to the Esterházy family, Haydn enjoyed two extensive residencies in London at the invitation of the impresario Johann Peter Salomon. Time in this brilliant musical capital stylistically broadened Haydn, who now began to write with bolder harmonies and brighter sonorities. Since Haydn did much of his composing at the keyboard, he especially appreciated the resonance of the English grand piano, far more powerful than his thinly stringed Viennese instrument. Perhaps inspired by this new sonority, Haydn wrote the ten most esteemed of his thirty-one piano trios during and soon after his London sojourns.
Written during the final weeks of his second London visit, the G Major Piano Trio (1795) is the second of a set of three he dedicated to his London piano student Rebecca Schroeter, widow of the composer Johann Schroeter and a platonic love interest for Haydn. Rebecca was a frequent dinner companion for Haydn, who later wrote that he “would have married her very easily” if he had been free at the time—a reference to his unhappy marriage in Vienna.
The G Major Piano Trio, nicknamed “Gypsy” because of its beguiling finale “in the Hungarian style,” is perhaps the most popular of Haydn’s piano trios. The opening movement is structured as a set of variations on a graceful theme; each statement is repeated to create a leisurely succession of phrases. An extensive G minor section foreshadows similar harmonic alternations in the finale. The Poco andante (E major), cast in three-part song form, develops with expressive chromaticism in its central section—an area much admired by Pablo Casals, who would assume the poignant violin line for his cello at the repeat.
The main theme of the Presto finale is based on the Hungarian Verbunkos, a vigorous dance performed by military recruiters. Broad sections with profusions of Magyar-inspired ideas alternate to create an expansive rondo form with contrasting G major and G minor areas. Colorful string effects such as left hand pizzicato suggest improvisatory gypsy style. At the final return of the opening theme a steady crescendo leads to an exuberant conclusion.
BORN INTO A MUSICAL FAMILY, Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Anton Arensky studied composition with the brilliant tonal colorist Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After graduation, he was appointed Professor of Composition at the Moscow Conservatory, where his notable pupils included Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Glière. His colleague Tchaikovsky became his friend and mentor. After an important but brief period as Director of the Imperial Chapel, Arensky retired at age 40 with a generous pension and planned to devote his life to concertizing and composition. Unfortunately, his alcoholism led to a fatal case of tuberculosis, and he died at age 45. Appalled at the waste of tremendous gifts, Rimsky-Korsakov predicted that Arensky would soon be forgotten; but his reputation as an important Russian late Romantic remained secure. Arensky is now remembered for a small number of works, several of which are miniatures, and his significant pedagogical influence.
One of imperial Russia’s more eclectic composers, Arensky was most strongly influenced by Europe’s leading romantic composers, particularly Chopin and Mendelssohn. Arensky’s works all reveal fluent technique, singing melodic lines, and an affinity for unusual rhythmic patterns. A keen sense of instrumental color pervades his work.
Arensky wrote his D minor Trio, Opus 32 (1894) in memory of his cellist friend Karl Davidov, whom Tchaikovsky called “The Czar of Cellists.” Davidov, who had died five years earlier, established the expressively intense Russian school of cello playing, and Arensky pays him tribute in the numerous songful passages for cello. Davidov’s legendary performances were enhanced by his Golden Age Stradivarius, willed to him by Count Mathieu Wielhorsky, who procured the instrument through the exchange of his Guarneri cello, 40,000 francs, and the handsomest horse in his stables.
A soulful cello solo introduces the opening Allegro moderato, a substantial sonata form movement that inventively develops three lyrical themes. The movement concludes with a reflective coda (Adagio) that reprises the cello’s opening idea. The Scherzo’s piquant opening theme, stated by the strings, is enlivened by spiccato bowing (light bounces off the strings). Piano runs offer a glittering accompaniment. Arensky was fond of dance, and the trio section features a leisurely waltz.
The Elegia (G minor) begins with a somber muted statement in the cello against quiet detached chords in the piano; a reflective dialogue between the violin and cello follows. A piano interlude in the major-key central section evokes peaceful memories. Two contrasting ideas are developed in the dramatic rondo finale. Motives from both the first movement’s opening statement and the Elegia return as a reprise.
Notes by Nancy Monsman