Rhapsody in Blue at St. Martin in-the-Fields, Recital by Clara Rodriguez 14-04-2015

Clara Rodríguez, piano recital
St. Martin in-the-Fields
Trafalgar Square
London

Tuesday 14 April 2015 at 7.30 pm

Programme notes by Clara Rodríguez

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827) Tempest Sonata Op. 31, No. 2

Largo-Allegro Adagio Allegretto

The Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was composed in 1801/02. It is usually referred to as “The Tempest” (or Der Sturm in his native German). The nickname comes from a claim that the tormented inspiration of the first movement, refers to Shakespeare’s play. Beethoven recommended its reading in his reply to his associate Anton Schindler who asked him about the meaning of the sonata. According to my teacher Paul Badura-Skoda it is a sonata that is addressed to the soul and one of Beethoven’s great masterpieces, an original and powerful piece representing a decisive influence on the Romantic composers.

The first movement Largo-Allegro, is the boldest and most innovative of the three, it presents a free structure and sudden changes of tempo. Sombre recitativo cells next to quick quaver passages and an agitated subject share space in this most menacing movement. The Adagio contrasts with the chaotic feeling of the first movement with serenity and calmness, a sort of balm, with a beautiful hymn like melody.

The Allegretto despite having the appearance of a rondo is actually in sonata form. As an anecdote Czerny, his pupil, explains that it is possible that its initial rhythmic figure was inspired by a horse gallop. Its start echoes Fur Elise and some say that its gentle rocking-like rhythm is reminiscent of the infinite motion of the sea. It contrasts with the other movements in that it does not present human passion, the ending is restraint giving a sensation of simplicity.

Wilhelm Kempff says about this sonata that “the human voice of the first movement was carried off by the tempest and alone dominates the eternal sea”

Johannes Brahms (1833 -1897) Six Pieces Op 118

The Six Pieces for Piano Op. 118, are, according to Paul Badura-Skoda, “Late Autumn-harvest fruit.” Completed in 1893 and dedicated to Clara Schumann, the collection was the second to last composition to be published during Brahms’ lifetime. The six pieces are:

No. 1. Intermezzo in A minor. Allegro non assai, ma molto appassionato

No. 2. Intermezzo in A major. Andante teneramente

No. 3. Ballade in G minor. Allegro energico

No. 4. Intermezzo in F minor. Allegretto un poco agitato

No. 5. Romance in F major. Andante

No. 6. Intermezzo in E flat minor. Andante, largo e mesto

The first is a passionate prelude, the second intermezzo an intimate love song which enters and fades with an un-answered question “Warum?” “How so?” and contrasts against the defiant Ballade that follows it. The fourth intermezzo is based on canonic imitation which has the effect of your own shadow being chased by an unescapable ghostly follower. The Romance hints at a love song, the beloved one however is Death, how gentle is its lullaby. The concluding piece of the cycle is one of the most powerful works in piano literature; “Vanity, everything is vanity” seems to be the message of the main motive. The middle section evokes an apocalyptic vision, night riders approaching, bringing war, woe and destruction taking the music to an exclamation outcry of pain that gradually dies away. Despite its gloom, the music leaves an effect of catharsis.

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) Two Études:
Op. 25 No 1
Op. 10 No5

All twenty-seven études were published during Chopin’s lifetime; they were composed between 1829 and 1836 and represent some of the most challenging pieces of the pianistic repertoire dealing with nearly every difficulty possible in an amazingly musical and poetic way. They are studied by pianists to develop virtuoso technique but they are also performed in concerts.

The Étude Op. 10, No. 5, in G-flat major, was composed in 1830 and was first published in 1833 in France, Germany, and England as the fifth piece of his Études Op. 10. This work is characterized by rapid triplet figuration played by the right hand exclusively on black keys. This melodic figuration is accompanied by the left hand in staccato chords and octaves.

The Étude Op. 25, No. 1 in A-flat major was composed in 1836, and published in 1837. The work consists entirely of rapid arpeggios and harmonic modulations based on A-flat major. Robert Schumann praised this work in a dissertation on the Études; calling it “a poem rather than a study”, and nicknamed it “Aeolian Harp”

INTERVAL

Miguel Astor (1958- ) Two Venezuelan waltzes:
Adriana
Creciente –World Première

These two Venezuelan waltzes by Venezuelan composer Miguel Astor, Adriana (1987) and Creciente (2005) belong to his ample catalogue of piano music. The first one is dedicated to his wife and the second one, to me. Astor’s style of composing varies according to the medium he happens to be writing for. Miguel Astor was a pupil of Yanis Ioannidis, Modesta Bor and Antonio Mastrogiovanni in Caracas, which results in a mixture of very diverse influences, notwithstanding, his is a very recognizable Venezuelan idiom.

Miguel Astor was born in Caracas in 1958, studied Arts at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and has PhDs in Latin American Musicology and in History. He has taught in many of the conservatories and universities and conducts several choirs in Caracas. He has written for choir, chamber music and orchestra.

Federico Ruiz (1948- ) Carmen Rosa
Zumba que zumba

Federico Ruiz was born in Caracas in 1948, where he trained as an accordionist and as a composer at the Escuela Superior de Música. He is a much loved composer with a vast compositional output, containing an interesting eclecticism of techniques, forms and different media. Its scope ranges from electro acoustic music to large orchestral works, taking in, along the way, numerous piano pieces, chamber pieces, and the music for many films and plays. He has also written a trumpet concerto, two piano concertos, and two operas (Los Martirios de Colón and La mujer de espalda)
Carmen Rosa is originally the incidental music of a play that I saw in Caracas and begged Federico to write for the piano.
Zumba que zumba was written between 2002 and 2003. It is based on folk themes, using as a reference the pattern of the zumba que zumba type of joropo, which has a particular harmonic sequence, on which variations are created. He kindly dedicated it to me.

George Gershwin (1898- 1937) Rhapsody in blue

“It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise…. And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece”. This was what Georges Gershwin told his biographer Isaac Goldberg in 1931 about the composition which he started on January 7 for two pianos; it came into existence thanks to the band leader Paul Whiteman who asked George Gershwin to write a piece that combined classical and jazz elements in the search of creating a North American idiom .

The working title was “American Rhapsody”. The title Rhapsody in Blue was suggested by Ira Gershwin after his visit to a gallery exhibition of James McNeill Whistler paintings, which bear titles such as Nocturne in Black and Gold and Arrangement in Grey and Black. After a few weeks, Gershwin finished his composition and passed the score to Paul Whiteman’s arranger Ferde Grofé, who orchestrated the piece, finishing it on February 4, only eight days before the première which took place at the in Aeolian Hall in New York City with Paul Whiteman and his band Palais Royal Orchestra and George Gershwin at the piano in a concert entitled An Experiment in Modern Music where many important and influential composers of the time such as Sergei Rachmaninoff, were present.

The piece was an instant success with the public and has become North America’s best known and representative musical work. The influences of jazz and other contemporary styles are certainly present: ragtime rhythms are abundant, as is the Cuban “clave” rhythm, which doubles as a dance rhythm in the Charleston jazz dance.

Clara Rodriguez, pianist
Clara Rodriguez is one of the most distinguished of the present generation of international artists. Her fascinating way of programming has consistently contrasted traditional classical music with the output of South American composers. Since coming to London at seventeen to study at the Royal College of Music with Phyllis Sellick, she has performed to great acclaim as a soloist at Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and at St John’s Smith Square. Clara Rodriguez has also studied with Guiomar Narváez, Niel Immelman and Paul Badura-Skoda. In Caracas, aged sixteen she made her debut playing Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra under the baton of José Antonio Abreu; from then on Clara Rodriguez’s career as a concert pianist has taken her to tour in Europe, India, Egypt, Tunisia and the Americas. Her playing is described as highly expressive, sensitive with considerable digital clarity and stylistic acumen. Glowing reviews are regularly written about her concerts and discography on the Nimbus label which includes CDs of the piano music of composers such as Ernesto Lecuona, Moises Moleiro, Federico Ruiz and Teresa Carreño “Clara Rodriguez provides performances of alluring vivacity allied to thatmost essential of requisites-CHARM.” Gramophone

She has also published a collection of dances by 18 different composers in her CD “VENEZUELA” of which critic Jeremy Nicholas wrote “Clara Rodriguez makes the most of her innate feel for the exuberant and languorous, dispatching the toe-tapping cross-rhythms with panache and a light touch. A treasure chest from which to cherry pick” Other CDs by Clara Rodriguez are Chopin Late Works and Clara Rodriguez & El Cuarteto Live in concert in Caracas.

She has commissioned and premièred many works including Federico Ruiz’s Second Piano Concerto which she recorded with the Orquesta Municipal de Caracas and played last year in the celebrations of the 39th El Sistema Anniversary.

Clara Rodriguez is a repertoire adviser to the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and has edited piano albums for Spartan Press Publishers.

Clara Rodriguez teaches the piano at the JD of the Royal College of Music.

Her 2014 Saint Martin-in-the Fields recital “Appassionata Sonata by candlelight” was received with a standing ovation from the large audience. The following comment gives a good insight into the programme played:

“World music indeed! The concept could not have become more clear in our minds after listening to Clara Rodriguez interpretations of works by Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Albéniz, Villa-Lobos, the Venezuelans Teresa Carreño, Luisa Elena Paesano and the Argentinean Ariel Ramírez. Clara’s expressive and powerful performances conveyed great lyricism to a magnetized audience entwining the works of these composers in a unity of spirituality in time and space at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields. Clara Rodriguez has again demonstrated that musical poetry is a universal means of communication. A true tour de force, an unforgettable evening.”

“Clara Rodriguez’s vibrant temperament and her rhythmic èlan mark her out as a leading exponent of Latin American music. She is a very special artist.”
RCM Professor Niel Immelman

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