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Three Songs from Schubert’s Mignon cycle (1995)
Aribert Reimann

Linda Larson, soprano
Ruby Chen, violin                              George Thomson, viola
Katherine Winterstein, violin             Anne Ridlington, cello

Aribert Reimann, born into a musical family in Berlin in 1936, studied with and eventually joined the German post-war musical avant-garde, centered at the Darmstadt Festival. After graduating from the Berlin University of the Arts, Reimann became a repetiteur at the Deustche Oper Berlin. There he met many great singers and quickly became a leading accompanist. He performed for years with baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012), the most famous lieder singer of his day. Reimann wrote an opera, King Lear, for him. Reimann’s literary operas after Lorca, Goll, Strindberg, Kafka, Euripides and Grillparzer, are highly regarded in Europe.

Reimann’s intimate knowledge of lieder led him to arrange songs by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms for voice and string quartet. According to Stephen Eddins, some of Reimann’s arrangements are straightforward transcriptions of the piano parts; others are riffs on the originals. In the Mignon cycle, Reimann preserved Schubert’s harmony but added new material to link the songs into a continuous flow. 

Notes by Tom Strini. Sources: Wikipedia, the Naxos Reimann page, Andrea Budgey’s program notes for the Talisker Players, the Reimann page at allmusic.com, Stephen Eddin’s allmusic.com review of Juliane Banse’s album, with the Cherubini Quartet, of Reimann’s treatment of lieder with string quartet.

Three Old English Songs    (1924)   Rebecca Clarke

“It was a lover and his lass” (Shakespeare/Morley)
“Phillis on the new mown hay” (Anon.)
“The tailor and his Mouse” (Anon.)

            Linda Larson, soprano         Shin-Young Kwon, violin

Shortly after Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) was born in Germany, her American father and German mother moved to England.

She enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music, London, in 1903, as a violin student. Her harmony teacher, Percy Miles, fell in love with her and proposed marriage in 1905; her father, whom she described as cruel in her 1973 memoir, pulled her out of school because of it. (Decades later, when Miles died, he left her a Stradivarius violin.) In 1907, she returned to RAM, as the first female allowed into the composition class of the famed Charles Villiers Stanford. Again, her father forced her to drop out, this time by kicking her out of the family home.

At Stanford’s suggestion, she switched to viola and began her long career as a freelance musician. In 1912, she became the first woman to win a job in the fully professional Queen’s Hall Orchestra. In 1916, she visited her brothers in America and toured the country as a soloist and recitalist. She toured the world and composed extensively in the ensuing years, and gained particular note playing her own Viola Sonata (1919) and in her dazzling Piano Trio (1921). In 1924, she settled again in London and became an A-list chamber musician, played often on BBC Radio, and continued to compose and publish.

As World War II began, Clarke again retreated to America, this time in more difficult circumstances. By 1942, she was working as a nanny. She composed when she could. She became re-acquainted with pianist James Friskin, from their RAM days, who had joined the Juilliard faculty. They married, and together restarted her career to an extent.

Clarke had difficulty getting her works published during her lifetime; many remain unpublished and are property of the estate. The Old English Songs reflect the interwar interest in English folk music she shared with such composers as Vaughan Williams and Holst.

           Notes by Tom Strini. Source: The Rebecca Clarke Organization website

Sextet in E-flat for Two Horns and Strings, Opus 81b (c. 1795) L. van Beethoven 

Kerry Turner, horn                                    George Thomson, viola
Kristina Mascher-Turner, horn                 Anne Ridlington, cello
Ruby Chen, violin                                     Brian Johnson, double bass
Shin-Young Kwon, violin

The Sextet in E-flat, like many of Beethoven’s works from the 1790s, suggests a young Beethoven with a willingness to please and an ear turned toward Mozart and Classical style. This is 18 minutes of light music, written almost as much for the benefit of the players as for an audience.

The busy horn parts call for a degree of virtuosity rare back in the days of crooked horns. Beethoven must have written for some monster horn players he knew. The strings mostly accompany; this is more of a mini-duo concerto than a sextet – which, by the way, often appears to be a septet. Early editions indicate that Beethoven intended a string bass to double the cello part.

Notes by Tom Strini. Sources: John Henken’s notes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic chamber series, Annette Oppermann’s G. Henle Verlag blog post on the bass-cello issue.

Violin Sonata No. 21 in E minor, K. 304 (1778) W.A. Mozart

I. Allegro
II. Tempo di Menuetto

Katherine Winterstein, violin        Monica Ohuchi, piano

Mozart composed the Sonata in E minor – curiously, his only work in this key – during a miserable sojourn in Paris. His father, Leopold, had sent him and his mother, Anna, there on a tight budget to try to break into the French musical scene. Mozart got nowhere. He took on a few students to buy food and pay for their room in a run-down hotel. Mozart hit bottom when his mother died in that room.

The hardships did not prevent him from writing the Symphony No. 31 (“Paris”), which eventually proved to be a hit in Paris and elsewhere, and the present violin sonata. He brought his usual measures of craft and feeling to this unusual 16-minute work in two movements, a sonata form and the most melancholy and contemplative minuet/trio I know.

In the first movement, listen for the changing harmonies and shifting phrases in the seven repetitions of the principal theme. Ever changing yet always the same, it suggests the gradual aging of a familiar face.

Notes by Tom Strini. Sources: Mozart.com; Joel Lester’s penetrating analysis of the first movement at symposium.music.org.

Songs     Amy Beach

“Chanson d’amour” (1898), Op. 21, No. 1
“A Mirage (1877), Op. 100, No. 1
“June” (1903), Op. 51, No. 3

Linda Larson, soprano          Anne Ridlington, cello
Ruby Chen, violin                  Monica Ohuchi, piano

By age 1, Amy Beach (nee Cheney) had memorized and could sing 40 songs. At 4, Amy Cheney had composed four waltzes for piano. At 7, she gave her first public recital.

With the prodigious force of such talent, Amy Cheney Beach (1867-1944) overcame societal disapproval of female professional musicians. The Cheney family, though progressive and musical, worried about their daughter taking on the stigma of women who appeared on stage. Still, Amy’s accomplished mother gave the girl piano lessons.

In 1875, the family moved from rural New Hampshire to Boston, and more or less gave in to Amy’s will. She studied piano with a former student of Liszt. The Boston musical establishment embraced and nurtured the teenager. Beach’s concerto debut, at 16, was a smashing success, as was the 1896 Boston Symphony premiere of her Gaelic Symphony. Even the Boston composers school accepted her. George Whitfield Chadwick referred to her as “one of the boys.”

Her burgeoning performing career skidded to a halt in 1885, when she married Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a physician 24 years her senior. The forceful Dr. Beach changed her focus from concertizing to composition, yet forbid her to study composition with anyone.

She was largely self-taught, but that didn’t stop her from writing about 300 pieces – though she felt compelled to sign them “Mrs. HHA Beach.”

When the doctor died in 1910, Amy Beach immediately moved to Germany and dropped the HHA from her billing. In 1912, she started touring Europe with soprano Marcella Craft, in programs of songs, piano works, and often with a guest violinist. She returned to America in 1914 with the stamp of European approval.

Beach, a collector of Irish and Scottish folk tunes, wrote songs on French, German and English texts.

Notes by Tom Strini. Sources: www.amybeach.org; the American Composers Orchestra web page on Beach; Beach’s page at Naxos.com; and Wikipedia.

Catalonian Serenade     Kerry Turner

Commissioned by Chintimini Chamber Music in memory of Craig B. Leman,
scholar, humanitarian, empathetic champion of composers of every era.

I. Alba a Barcelona (Dawn in Barcelona)
II. Mitjanit al Barri Gotic (Midnight in the Gothic Quarter)
III. Bal a la Posta del Sol (Dancing in the Sunset)

Kristina Mascher-Turner, horn                 George Thomson, viola
Kerry Turner, horn                                     Anne Ridlington, cello
Shin-Young Kwon, violin                          Brian Johnson, double bass
Katherine Winterstein, violin

The continent of Europe is host to quite a large number of artistic cites that have inspired poets, painters, authors, and composers through the centuries. Barcelona belongs to this group of inspiring cities. Having already resided and composed in other great locations such as Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam, the composer decided to use Barcelona as his pallet for this composition. Immediately after arrival, the haunting melody of the first movement materialised. In fact, one can hear the silent text to the opening melody – “The streets of Barcelona.” This city, like all great cities, changes moods and temperament during each part of the day. Thus the composer chose to feature three distinct hours in the daily life of this magnificent metropolis.

 Alba a Barcelona” – With the first rays of sunshine, the city begins to awaken. Brilliant sun washes the sides of the thousands of closely packed buildings in the old town. The people emerge on to the tiny streets and daily life begins. Within a short time the whole city is bustling, preparing for local commerce and the thousands of tourists who have flocked here.

Mitjanit al Barri Gotic” – It was this quarter of the city that attracted the composer to Barcelona. Its medieval atmosphere, countless winding streets, and gothic architecture make it a favorite neighborhood. It is, however, rather overrun with tourists during the day. Therefore the composer chose to explore this fascinating neighbourhood at midnight, when one is alone and free to wander aimlessly for hours. At midnight, we hear the bells of the cathedral chime midnight. As if crossing into another era, the horns play an ancient and wellknown Catalonian dance called “Bolangera de Roses.”

 Bal a la Posta del Sol As in most great cities, a different energy takes over the streets at sunset. The people are off work, nestled in bars and cafes. Children play football in the streets, and the aroma of various foods announces the arrival of dinnertime. In Barcelona, one encounters people of all ages strumming the guitar. One can hear guitars serenading the evening on almost every block … and where there is Spanish guitar, there is passionate dancing.

Notes by the composer, printed in the score