by guest contributor Julie Berridge
Dénes Várjon opens with Beethoven’s Sonata in G Major, Op. 14, No. 2 composed in 1798 and 1799. It’s a lyrical, lively and often humorous Sonata.
Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 is a set of eight pieces, the title of which was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Fantasiestücke in Callots Manie. The composition was also inspired by fictional lives that Schumann created based on the real lives of his friends and enemies. For years Schumman developed these fictional characters in his diaries and letters to friends. He then began using these characters in his work as a music critic. In 1837, these characters became the inspiration for Fantasiestucke, Op. 12.
The composition is both passionate and dreamy. It begins with “Des Abends” (In the Evening). It is a “gentle picture of dusk” followed by followed by a parley between passion and dreams. It ends with what Schumann described as the combining of wedding and funeral bells. In a letter to his wife Clara he wrote, “At the time, I thought: well in the end it all resolves itself into a jolly wedding. But at the close, my painful anxiety about you returned”.
Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is Surreal and hallucinatory. It is based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand which features a mermaid a monster and a corpse.
Gaspard de la Nuit is comprised of 3 movements. The first movement Odine, is the tale of a mermaid who is trying to seduce a man by singing to him about her magical and fantastic would. The man tells Odin that he is married and he rejects her. Odin’s reaction is at first stormy, followed by quiet acceptance and then laughter. All of this is delightfully conveyed by Ravel.
In the second movement Le Gibet, Ravel paints a musical picture of a solitary corpse. The sounding of a B flat throughout the movement sustains the lonely and desolate musical landscape of this piece.
The third movement Scarbo conveys grandeur as much as it conveys horror. In the poem, Scarbo is an evil dwarf who makes frenzied appearances at night, sometimes hiding – waiting to pounce and scare. Ravel captures all of this.
Bartok’s Out of Doors is a set of five pieces, each of which are a depiction of Hungarian peasant life. In these five pieces we hear rocking melodies, drumbeats, and the nocturnal sounds of crickets and frogs.
Bartok fell in love with folk songs when he heard a peasant girl singing a Transylvanian tune in 1904. After hearing the girl, he said to his sister, “I now have a plan. I will collect the most beautiful Hungarian folksongs and raise them to the level of art songs”.