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The Concert
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Classical Music Podcasts from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
256 Episodes

Works for solo piano performed by Cecile Licad.

  • Liszt: Two Legends
  • Liszt: Three Pieces from Années de Pèlerinage

Perhaps no composer was more skilled than Liszt in his painterly use of the piano, deftly evoking a wide range of images and emotions. We begin this episode with the composer’s Two Legends, both based on the lives of saints. In the first—St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds—swirling, shape-shifting flocks are evoked by high tremolos in the piano. The second Legend tells the story of St. Francis of Paola walking on the water. In a clever musical counterpart to the first, Liszt again uses swirling textures, this time in the bass, meant now to depict rolling waves. Next on the program is a selection of movements from Liszt’s three-volume Années de Pèlerinage, or Years of Pilgrimage. Spanning three hours when performed in full, the pieces range from evocations of the sculpture, poetry, music, and landscapes that Liszt encountered in his journeys to more abstract spiritual meditations. We’ll hear three selections from the first book, about his travels in Switzerland.

2 years ago | |
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Works for violin, cello, and piano performed by the Claremont Trio.

  • Mozart: Piano Trio No. 3 in B-flat Major, K. 502
  • Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49

The piano trio—an ensemble of violin, cello, and piano—was one of the great innovations of classical and Romantic chamber music. Before that time, composers wrote for similar groups of instruments, but the pieces rarely gave equal prominence to the three players. Classical and Romantic composers shifted the balance of the trio by giving equal weight to all three players and putting equal thought into each instrument’s part. In fact, Mendelssohn made extensive revisions after completing the first draft of his Piano Trio No. 1, adding more elaborate and technically challenging passagework to up the ante for the pianist. Mozart was a true father of the piano trio genre, and his B-flat trio is considered one of his best contributions, chock full of tuneful melodies arranged with grace and balance to show off all three members of the trio to their best advantage.

2 years ago | |
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Works for solo piano and string quartet performed by Paavali Jumppanen, piano, and the Orion String Quartet.

  • Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp Major, Op. 78
  • Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131

It’s always interesting to find out which of his own works a composer particularly loved (or loathed). Today, we’ll listen to two favorites of the great Beethoven, beginning with the sunny Piano Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp Major. A piece of rather diminutive proportions—just two movements, a total of about 10 minutes—this sonata was nonetheless one of the composer’s personal favorites, according to noted Beethoven biographer Maynard Solomon. The next work is altogether different: Beethoven’s seven-movement String Quartet in C-sharp minor. By all accounts a magnum opus, this was one of the composer’s last large-scale works, and though he demurred somewhat when asked to pick a favorite from among his 16 string quartets—saying each had its own merits—he later implied that this was in fact the top contender.

2 years ago | |
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Works for string duo and trio, performed by Musicians from Marlboro.

  • Kodály: Serenade, Op. 12
  • Kodály: Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7

It’s difficult to discuss Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály without, in the same breath, mentioning his longtime musical compatriot Béla Bartók. Despite their close association, Kodály had a distinct musical voice of his own, which certainly comes across in this program. First, we’ll hear Musicians from Marlboro play Kodály’s Serenade for two violins and viola. Kodály wrote a lot of vocal music, and his proclivity for melody comes through in this piece. Like many of his works, it incorporates scales and folk dance rhythms borrowed from his extensive studies of traditional Hungarian music. Next, we’ll hear violinist Augustin Hadelich and cellist Peter Stumpf of Musicians from Marlboro perform Kodály’s Duo for violin and cello. It, too, exhibits a profusion of passionate melodies and a harmonic language tinged with Eastern European folk scales.

2 years ago | |
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Works for voice and violin with piano, performed by Jeanine De Bique, soprano; Warren Jones, piano; Timothy Fain, violin; and Jeremy Denk, piano.

The repertoire on today’s podcast—spirituals paired with a modern violin sonata—might at first glance, and even first listen, seem a bit odd. But we think Charles Ives, the composer of the sonata in question, wouldn’t find it strange in the slightest. Ives often used musical quotation in his works, borrowing and stitching together snippets of tunes, often from traditional American sources like hymns and folk songs, to achieve a layered, patchwork effect. The sonata you’ll hear today, his third for violin and piano, has some wonderful moments, in particular its imaginative interweaving of hymn and gospel tunes. We’ll begin back at the source, with a selection of spirituals arranged for soprano and piano.

Tags: Charles Ives ; Jeanine De Bique ; Jeremy Denk ; Timothy Fain ; Warren Jones ; Piano ; Violin ; Sonata ; 20th Century ;
2 years ago | |
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Works for solo piano performed by Paavali Jumppanen.

  • Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 7 in C Major, K. 309
  • Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310

On this program, we’ll hear two piano sonatas by Mozart, composed back-to-back on a trip he took throughout Europe with his mother in 1777 and 1778. Mozart wrote today’s first piece, his Piano Sonata No. 7 in C Major, in the court at Mannheim, where he hoped to secure a respectable position. After an unsuccessful stay in Mannheim, Mozart and his mother headed to Paris, where she fell seriously ill. Around that time, Mozart completed the eighth sonata in A minor, one of just two piano sonatas Mozart composed in a minor key over the course of his life. These back-to-back sonatas are an interesting time capsule, capturing the composer at a critical juncture in his maturation from child prodigy to young adult.

2 years ago | |
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Works for violin and keyboard performed by Caroline Goulding, violin, and Shuai Wang, piano and harpsichord.

  • Tchaikovsky: Melody in E-flat Major, Op. 42, No. 3
  • Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 2
  • Tartini: Violin Sonata in G minor ("Devil's Trill")
  • Respighi: Sonata in B minor

The idea of the virtuoso—often a musician who possesses not just exceptional skill, but also great precocity—has been part of the culture of classical music for centuries. Violinist Caroline Goulding fits the profile. An astonishing young musician, Goulding began playing the violin at age 3 ½ and earned a Grammy nomination for her first CD, recorded at age 16. In her Boston debut recital at the Gardner Museum, she took her violin, the General Kyd Stradivarius, through its paces, performing a wide variety of works.

2 years ago | |
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Works for violin and piano duo and string quartet performed by violinist Bella Hristova, pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute, and the Belcea Quartet.

  • Beethoven: Sonata No. 8 in G Major, Op. 30, No. 3
  • Beethoven: Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6

The two chamber works on this podcast showcase a somewhat more jovial side of Beethoven. We begin with the perky eighth sonata in G Major for violin and piano, one of the pieces composed in Beethoven's surprisingly productive period following the Heiligenstadt Testament. Although written during the time that Beethoven began to seriously recognize his worsening hearing, the eighth sonata doesn't give any hint of inner turmoil. Next, we'll hear Beethoven's sixth string quartet, Opus 18, number 6, another mostly lighthearted chamber piece that also owes a great debt to Haydn.

2 years ago | |
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Works for voice and piano and piano solo, performed by soprano Jeanine De Bique, and pianists Warren Jones and Cecile Licad.

Today's podcast is for the unabashed romantic. We begin with songs by the Catalan composer Fernando Obradors. Written between 1921 and 1942, Obradors' songs capture the spirit of the classic Spanish poetry with a freshness and immediacy that has made them an enduring hit, with both singers and audiences. Then we move on to one of the great Romantic piano works: Rachmaninoff's second piano sonata. Just as Obradors' songs seem to have an essential Spanish-ness, Rachmaninoff's sonata has often been called uniquely Russian in its fierce passion and brooding expressiveness.

2 years ago | |
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Works for piano performed by pianists Paavali Jumppanen and Elaine Hou.

  • Mozart: Sonata No. 17 in B-flat Major, K. 570
  • Mozart: Sonata No. 5 in G Major, K. 283
  • Mozart: Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos, K. 448

Mozart began his musical life as a keyboard prodigy, touring the European courts and performing alongside his sister, both of them encouraged and shepherded from town to town by their father. At age 19, when he penned his first keyboard sonata, he had already written 8 operas and at least 30 symphonies. It's quite likely that the reason for the delay in his keyboard output was at least partly technical: though the earliest pianos had been built decades earlier, it wasn't until the 1770's that the instrument began to achieve a quality and consistency of tone that made it such an attractive option for ambitious solo composition. On this podcast, we'll sample a wide range of Mozart's sonatas: one of his first, one of his last, and a unique sonata for two pianos.

2 years ago | |
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