Program Notes - The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Notes on the Program by DR. RICHARD E. RODDA
Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano
Francis Poulenc
Born January 7, 1899 in Paris.
Died there on January 30, 1963.
Composed in 1926.
Premiered on May 2, 1926 in Paris.
Duration: 14 minutes
Of Francis Poulenc’s 13 chamber works for various instrumental combinations, only three are exclusively for
strings. Though it was preceded by the Sonatas for Two Clarinets, for Clarinet and Bassoon, and for Horn, Trumpet,
and Trombone, the Trio for Piano, Oboe, and Bassoon is generally regarded as the earliest of Poulenc’s chamber
works to reflect the full flowering of his particular genius. The composer’s friend and biographer Henri Hell wrote
that the Trio “is indeed music in which the claims of the mind and the heart are adjusted with surprising skill.... The
very heart of Poulenc is in this adroit little work.” The piece was composed while Poulenc was wintering at Cannes
on the French Riviera between February and April 1926, and first heard at a recital in the Salle des Agriculteurs in
Paris on May 2nd.
Poulenc spoke of the Neoclassical roots of his Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano: “The first movement is based
on the structure of a Haydn allegro, and the rondo finale derives from the scherzo movement of Saint-Saëns’ Second
Piano Concerto. Ravel [with whom Poulenc had been studying at the time] always counseled me to use this method,
which he often followed himself.” Though Poulenc invoked Haydn as the formal progenitor of the opening
movement, the influence of that Classical master must have been more in terms of general structure and idiom than in
details of the form. The Trio opens, as do many Haydn symphonies, with a slow introduction which is serious (or, in
Poulenc’s case, perhaps mock-serious) in mood. Without pause, there follows a splendid Presto whose wealth of
melodic materials (Keith W. Daniels counted “nine distinct tunes or motives”) was inspired by Poulenc’s beloved
“Parisian folklore.” This abundance of lyrical inspiration is disposed so as to outline a traditional sonata exposition,
but the middle of the movement is occupied not with a Haydnesque thematic working-out but with a tender melody
of elegant shape and sentimental mood. A condensed traversal of the earlier themes rounds out the delightful first
movement. Poulenc’s superb lyrical gifts are abundantly evident in the Andante, which exhibits an almost Mozartian
clarity and restraint while being distinctly modern in its richly expressive harmonic palette. The closing rondo
borrows both its elfin rhythmic élan and its general formal shape from Saint-Saëns’ Second Concerto, though its
realization is unmistakably that of Poulenc.
Rustiques for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon
Joseph Canteloube
Born October 21, 1879 in Annonay, France.
Died November 4, 1957 in Paris.
Composed in 1946.
Premiered in 1947 in Paris by the Trio d’Anches René Daraux.
Duration: 15 minutes
Joseph Canteloube was born in 1879 to an old family in the small town of Annonay in the Ardèche, 50 miles
south of Lyons — his country heritage was to shape his life’s work. Canteloube went to Paris to study piano with
Amélie Doetzer, a pupil of Chopin, and in 1901, he entered the Schola Cantorum, founded by the composer and
pedagogue Vincent d’Indy five years before. D’Indy became his mentor as well as his instructor (he published a
biography of his teacher in 1949), and d’Indy’s musical style and passion for French folksong were the model and
inspiration for much of Canteloube’s work. Canteloube began composing while still a student, and he went on to
create a modest catalog of original works: two operas; a symphonic poem; concerted pieces for violin and piano;
some vocal music; and a half dozen chamber works. It was his research and arrangements of French folksong,
however, that won him enduring fame. He spent much of his life traveling throughout France to collect the music of
many regions, preserving traditions soon to be overwhelmed by mass media, and lectured, wrote and broadcast
extensively about his findings. He arranged many songs for choir or solo voice, most with instrumental
accompaniment, making a special point of preserving the dialects of the originals (though he also gave versions in
modern French). From 1939 to 1944, Canteloube edited the Anthologie des chants populaires français, a
comprehensive collection of regional folksongs.
Among Canteloube’s original works deeply imbued with the substance and spirit of French folksong is the trio
for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon that he composed in 1946 — Rustiques, his only composition for winds. The work
was written for the Trio d’Anches [reeds], one of several ensembles in Paris during those years promoting music for
wind instruments. The first movement (Pastorale) of Rustiques opens with a melody whose reedy oboe sonority,
simple intervals, and elaborate decorations sounded above the drone-like accompaniment of clarinet and bassoon
evoke a shepherd’s piping in the fields. The tempo quickens and the mood becomes lighter to introduce a spirited
song from Poitu, a coastal region in western France, Mon père a fait batir maison (“My father had a house built”),
which goes on to praise “the good winemaker.” The music becomes more subdued for Qui marierons-nous (“Who
will marry us?”), a doleful melody from Vendeé, Poitu’s neighboring region. The shepherd’s piping tune and the two
folksongs recur in varied forms before the movement closes with a final pastoral reference. The Rêverie takes a long,
thoughtful melody introduced by the bassoon as the theme, apparently original with Canteloube, for its outer
sections; more animated music based on Coclicót Maria sa fille (“His daughter Maria Coclicôt”), from the central
Bourbonnais region, fills the center of the movement. Both thematic elements recur in abbreviated form in the coda.
The closing Rondeau à la française takes as its theme a round from the southwestern region of Quercy titled Le
truquet, le luret (archaic terms referring to tapping a barrel of wine), traditionally sung by young girls who form a
circle by holding hands and one-by-one at the end of each verse leave the group and the song until just one remains.
The sprightly 6/8 episode derives from the Quercy song J’aime ben mon cotillon rouge (“I love my red petticoat”).
La Cheminée du Roi René for Wind Quintet, Op. 205
Darius Milhaud
Born September 4, 1892 in Marseilles.
Died June 22, 1974 in Geneva.
Composed in 1939.
Premiered on March 5, 1941 in Oakland, California by the South Wind Quintet.
Duration: 13 minutes
In 1939, French film director Raymond Bernard asked Roger Désormières, Arthur Honegger and Darius
Milhaud to compose the soundtrack for his Cavalcade d’amour, a three-part love story by the renowned dramatist
Jean Anouilh set in the Middle Ages, 1830, and 1930. Milhaud, a native of Aix-en-Provence, chose the first segment,
which takes place during the 15th-century reign of King René d’Anjou. René (1409-1480) ruled large parts of
southeast France and northwest Italy and was instrumental in finally securing French control of Normandy from the
English in 1450. He was a benevolent ruler and a generous patron of the arts (he authored a treatise on tournaments
as well as poems and allegorical romances), and he became a beloved figure among his subjects.
After arriving in Oakland, California in the summer of 1940 to teach at Mills College, Milhaud arranged
excerpts from his film score as a suite for woodwind quintet titled La Cheminée du Roi René; the work was
premiered at the school on March 5, 1941. The title is puzzling. “Cheminée” in French means “chimney” or
“fireplace.” Some commentators have construed the name to mean that René shed the warmth of goodness and
enlightenment among his people, a sort of Provençal predecessor of Louis XIV, Le roi soleil — “The Sun King”;
others hold that it indicates René’s presence is still felt so strongly that he could seemingly step down from the
chimney-like column bearing his statue in Aix-en-Provence, where he died, and walk again among his subjects. More
in keeping with the work’s ebullient spirit and evocative movement titles, however, is the possibility that cheminée is
a Medieval variant of the verb cheminer — “to walk, proceed.” Milhaud’s movements suggest just such a
“Procession of King René”: an opening Cortège (a ceremonial procession with a train of attendants); Aubade (a
morning song); Jongleurs (jugglers and acrobats); La Maousinglade (the region of the Aix countryside that was
Milhaud’s home in 1939); Joutes sur l’Arc (“Jousts on the Arc,” described in the score as “nautical journeys that
took place on the River Arc, near Aix-en-Provence, in olden times”); Chasse à Valabre (“Hunting at Valabre,” “a
little castle where King René was accustomed to go for his hunting parties”); and Madrigal-Nocturne (“the suite ends
in a slow poetical atmosphere”).
Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
György Ligeti
Born May 28, 1923 in Dicsőszentmárton (Diciosânmartin, now Tîrnăveni), Transylvania.
Died June 12, 2006 in Vienna.
Composed in 1953.
Movements 1-5 premiered in 1956 in Budapest; complete work premiered on October 6, 1968 in Södertälje,
Duration: 13 minutes
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word “bagatelle” — “a trifle, a thing of little value or importance” —
to the Italian root “bagata,” meaning “a little property.” (The OED speculates that the term “baggage” may have
come from the same source.) The word entered the English language no later than the mid-17th century, and was
later used in France by François Couperin as the title for one of the movements in the Tenth Ordre of his Pièces de
Clavecin, issued in 1716. Beethoven applied the name to some two dozen of his small piano compositions dating
from his teenage years to his fullest maturity, and Dvořák, Bartók, Dohnányi, Sibelius, and Webern all later
contributed pieces to this diminutive genre.
When the modern Hungarian master György Ligeti arranged a half-dozen numbers from his Musica Ricercata
for Piano (1951-53) as the Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet in 1953, he certainly intended that they share some of the
lighter qualities of their earlier namesakes, but he also encompassed within these brief movements strong emotions
and progressive techniques. Indeed, when the Bagatelles were premiered, in Budapest in 1956, the Hungarian
government bureaucrats forbade the performance of the last movement because of its dense chromaticism and
frenzied expression (the final climax is marked “as though insane”). The work was not heard in its complete form
until the Stockholm Wind Quintet performed it on October 6, 1968 in Södertälje, Sweden.
In 1953, when the Bagatelles were written, Ligeti was teaching at the Budapest Conservatory and largely cut off
from musical developments in the West, so Bartók became for him a strong influence, “the big genius” in his words.
The Bagatelles provide a virtual catalog of Bartókian techniques: the modal ambiguity of alternating major and
minor thirds in the first movement; the keening, small-interval melody of the second; the cackling ostinato
accompaniment of the third; the irregular stomping rhythms of the fourth; the snapping, parlando phrases of the fifth
— fittingly, a piece in memory of Bartók; the asymmetrical rhythms and crushed dissonances of the finale. Despite
the strong presence of Bartók, however, the Bagatelles display Ligeti’s distinctive musical personality, in their
precise balancing of airy and dense textures, their fine tuning of sonority, their post-World War II harmonic acerbity,
and their sharply etched forms.
Quintet in E-flat major for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and Piano, K. 452
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born January 27, 1756 in Salzburg.
Died December 5, 1791 in Vienna.
Composed in 1784.
Premiered on April 1, 1784 in Vienna.
Duration: 25 minutes
Mozart’s personal happiness and public popularity were at their zeniths in 1784. He shared a comfortable
apartment with Constanze, and they were looking forward to the birth of a baby in September. He had been settled in
Vienna for nearly three years, and had acquired a reputation as the finest pianist in town as well as a talented
composer. So great was the demand for his performances in the city’s concert halls and the houses of the aristocracy
that he played 22 concerts between February 26th and April 3rd. This hectic schedule alone would be enough to fully
occupy any solo performer, but the Viennese audience also expected that “I must play some new works and therefore
I must compose,” he wrote. In addition, many of his mornings were given over to teaching, with the remaining cracks
in his schedule devoted to carrying on a quite merry social life. “Have I not enough to do? I do not think I can get
rusty at this rate,” he wrote in a letter to his father with which he proudly enclosed a list of his performances. For his
program of April 1st at the Burgtheater, which also included the Concertos Nos. 15 and 16 (K. 450 and K. 451) and
the Symphonies No. 35 (“Haffner”) and No. 36 (“Linz”), Mozart composed the Quintet for Piano and Winds (K.
452), completing it just the night before the concert.
The Quintet’s opening movement, bursting with melody, begins with a slow introduction followed by a sonataform essay with a tiny development section. (One- or two-keyed 18th-century wind instruments were limited in their
chromatic possibilities, and did not lend themselves to the harmonic peregrinations of Mozart’s more elaborate
thematic developments.) The Larghetto, also in sonata form, is sweet and limpid. The finale is a perky rondo with a
written-out cadenza near the end marked by entrances in close imitation.
©2012 Dr. Richard E. Rodda
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