Ludwig van Beethoven
SERENADE in D Major for String Trio, Op. 8
D’un soir triste (1918)
D’un matin de printemps (1918)
ALLELUIA in Form of Toccata (1947)
QUINTET in D Major for Clarinet, Strings and Piano, Op. 11
Beethoven's Serenade in D Major for string trio, Op. 8 offers a portrait of the 26-year-old composer recently settled in Vienna. This work, which he composed in 1796-97, reveals a mixture of youthful exuberance and mature elegance. The second movement Minuet is a marked contrast to the ensuing Adagio-Scherzo, and the fifth movement variations show Beethoven's fondness for this form. The highly animated outer movements provide a charming beginning and conclusion to this dynamic early work.
Orion pianist Diana Schmück has been exploring works by female composers who studied with the renowned French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger--specifically on this program, Nadia's sister Lili and Louise Talma.
The Boulanger family comprised musicians, actors and thinkers. As a toddler, Lili began her life of music study and compositions by accompanying her older sister Nadia to the Paris Conservatory. Lili (Marie-Juliette Olga) was later the first woman to win the Prix de Rome at that institution, and she wrote a considerable amount of music during her short life: songs, piano pieces, choir compositions and orchestral works. The chamber pieces on Orion's program--Cortège (1914) for solo piano, D'un soir triste (1918) for piano trio and D'un matin de printemps (1918) for violin and piano--are the last she wrote with her own hand, although she continued to compose until her death by dictating to her sister. They are miniature masterpieces of varying expressions, each a tonal journey of lush and exotic harmonic colorations.
Louise Talma was one of many Americans--Aaron Copland being the most famous--who went to France to study with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. In her Alleluia in Form of Toccata (1947) for piano, one can hear the rhythmic play (a la Stravinsky), as well as the strong sense of forward motion and continuity, for which she was known. This work, which celebrates the dynamic, unrelenting rhythms one finds in virtuosic pieces, with shifting tonalities that bring a shimmering essence of personalized expression, received critical acclaim, and shortly thereafter she was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships in composition.
The heartfelt strains of Josef Labor's Quintet in D Major for clarinet, strings and piano, Op. 11 provides a sumptuous sonic experience showcasing all five musicians. The musings of the five instruments as they engage each other in rapturous dialogues of melody are enhanced by the richness of harmonic textures, revealing a composer whose roots firmly thrived in 19th century romanticism. Orion was the first ensemble to record this work with Cedille Records on its Twilight of the Romantics album.