Programme Notes 2024

Bach: Partita No 1 in B flat, BWV 825

Bach wrote many suites for keyboard, of which three sets of six suites each have come to known as the French Suites, the English Suites, and the Partitas respectively. Suites are collections of smaller pieces, many of them dance movements, at the time generally all sharing the same key. The Partitas all contain the same four dances types, Allemande (a German dance), Courante (a fast French dance), Sarabande (a slow Spanish dance) and Gigue (a jig, a fast English dance). These dances are complemented by other movements, in this case a Prelude and two Menuets. Together the Partitas are probably the summit of Bach's piano compositions.

Beethoven: Sonata in C Minor, Op.13 “Grande Sonate Pathetique”

This is one of the few Sonatas by Beethoven of which the name was actually given by Beethoven. The adjective “pathetique” suggests dramatic and very serious music, and although it is not especially long it is also one of the few Sonatas that has a slow introduction at the beginning. The material of this introduction reappears several times during the first movement making it a movement of sudden and dramatic contrasts. The lyrical second movement was later used as a model by Schubert for his own Sonata in C Minor, and the fast third movement, although containing much brighter and optimistic music nevertheless returns to the drama and doom to close the Sonata in the same serious and unforgiving manner as it began.

Wagner, arr Liszt and Kocsis

Wagner did in fact write some original piano music early in his life, but it has little interest and he soon abandoned the piano as a medium. There are many transcriptions that attempt to make the greatest music from his operas accessible to pianists but most fail to capture the rich and complex textures that this great orchestrator created. Liszt, Wagner's father in law, made several transcriptions and probably succeeded better than anyone else in finding a pianistic expression for the music that sounds (to many) an ideal translation from the orchestra to the piano. Of all his translations the most successful is perhaps his version of the final scene from Tristan and Isolde, the Liebestod. Late in the 20th century the great Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis, whose own Wagner transcriptions are perhaps the most satisfying after Liszt's, added the Prelude to same opera, making the same pairing as often performed by orchestras.

Béla Hartmann: Tanzende Tränen (Dancing Tears) - Berauscht (Intoxicated)

These piano pieces were inspired by words, or to be more precise, by the emotional states conjured up by words. They are not intended as musical replicas of existing poems, rather as reflections on certain states of being implied by specific phrases or texts. Tanzende Tränen was inspired by a poem by Rilke, in which the author describes a state of sadness that is nevertheless alive and creative, a sense of longing that is expressed in beauty and light, modest in scope but deep and intense in its expression. Berauscht was inspired by a text drawn from the writings of the Persian poet Rumi which conjures up the intoxication, obsession and ecstasy of love and all its insatiable insanity. It is the opposite of sickly, unhappy love and celebrates carefree elation, the fire that knows no fear nor regret.