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Northside Community Church and First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor present
Concert4aCause. Social Distance 4 Social Justice Series.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - 9pm (EDT)
Streamed Live Online
Beethoven A Major Sonata, opus 69
At the first performance of this work, the pianist was, of course, Beethoven himself. And I enjoy imagining the audience at that time whispering to each other “What’s going on? Why isn’t the maestro playing with the cellist? Is his deafness so bad that he cannot even tell that his own piece has already started?” But we cellists know that this seminal work represents one of the very first unaccompanied openings of any solo chamber music work. It was stunningly original, and it also influenced and inspired a young Johannes Brahms when he was ready to begin writing his first cello and piano sonata at age 29. That is one reason I love juxtaposing these two sonatas as we’re doing tonight. The scherzo of the Beethoven is a relentless game of syncopation that we get to experience a lot because Beethoven is experimenting with a double scherzo form, similar to the scherzo in his Pastoral Symphony, which was premiered close to this 3rd cello sonata. The interpretation that we’ll be offering has this piece kind run out of steam a little bit, and it sort of just falls over into a stupor at the movement’s last note. And this sets up one of Beethoven’s truly masterful slow introductions to the final allegro movement. I often find myself wondering if he had considered turning this into a full-fledged slow movement, but that would have involved messing with the overall expectation of a 3-movement sonata work. Not to mention that Beethoven was now fully into his middle period, and this often stressed a much less indulgent and more economical use of thematic materials, as in his 5th Symphony.
Brahms E Minor Sonata, opus 38
Brahms wrote this piece while he was growing deeper and deeper in love with the wife of Robert Schumann, the outstanding composer and celebrated concert pianist, Clara Wieck Schumann. Although their relationship appears to have never been consummated, Clara also loved Brahms a great deal, especially after the tragic death of her husband about 6 years before this sonata. She became one of Brahms’ greatest advocates, and their friendship lasted until the very end, Brahms passing on less than a year after her. It is my sincere belief that the unbelievably tender and yet passionate F# Minor section of the 2nd movement is, in fact, an ardent musical love scene between Brahms (the cello) and Clara (the piano). See if that makes any sense to you. He completed this sonata right after the death of his mother, and the elements of his German Requiem were very much developing in his mind during that time. In addition, he completed his amazing Horn Trio that same year, with its funereal slow movement depicting his grief over the loss of his mother. The entire cello sonata is dedicated to JS Bach, and the last movement’s fugue was written in homage to Bach’s last major work, Art of the Fugue. Brahms didn’t consider this work to be particularly difficult to perform, and his 2nd Sonata in F Major therefore represents a full expression of the relationship between piano and cello. In the E Minor’s last movement, listen for the way Brahms is constantly exploiting duple eighth notes against triplet eighth notes. This creates both drive and tension, and it lasts all the way until the very end of the work.
Followed by July 15, 2020 concert with Goitsemang Lehobye and Julian Goods