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Frederick Chopin, Ballade Op.52 (1843)

Luigi Dallapiccola, Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera (1952)
Quasi lento, misterioso (Simbolo, Symbol)
Allegro con fuoco (Accenti, Accents)
Mosso scorrevole (Contrapunctus primus, First counterpoint)
Tranquillamente mosso (Linee, Lines)
Poco allegretto, alla serenata (Contrapunctus secondus, Second counterpoint)
Molto lento,con expressione parlante (Fregi)
Andantino amoroso (Contrapunctus tertius, Third counterpoint)
Allegro, con violenza (Ritmi, Rhythms)
Affettuoso, cullante (Colori, Colors)
Grave (Ombre, Shadows)
Molto lento (Fantastico, Fantastic)

Claude Debussy, Images Book II (1906)
Cloches a travers les Feuilles
Et la Lune Descend sur le Temple qui Fut
Poissons d'Or

Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonata Op. 57 (1804-05)
Allegro Assai
Andante con Moto
Allegro ma non troppo, Presto

Luciano Berio, Short pieces (1969-90)
Brin (1990)
Leaf (1990)
Wasserklavier (Water, 1965)
Erdenklavier (Earth, 1969)
Luftklavier (Air, 1985)

Claude Debussy, L'Isle joyeuse (1904)


Frederick Chopin, Ballade Op.52 (1843).   Conceived over the relatively large time span of five years, the second of the four Ballades is characterized by the dynamic contrast of two large sections. The first is a quiet, almost serene, lilting pastoral (in F-major), which Chopin played as a separate piece on different occasions, while the second section (in a-minor) is more dramatic, faster, and louder. The Ballade revolves around these two long and different musical enunciations.   Their sequential exposition, characterized by an explosive and sudden transition, is followed by a restatement of the first section, its development, the reappearance of the second section and finally by new conclusive materials and the ending which is a short quotation of the original pastoral. The fundamental contrast between the two ideas is never resolved: which makes this into a fairly mysterious, unsettling, baffling piece of music.

Luigi Dallapiccola, Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera ( Musical Booklet of Annalibera', 1952). A century divides Dallapiccola and Chopin, and the difference in their musical language will be very apparent. Dallapiccola in the 1940s and1950s is concerned with the development of a personal version of the twelve-tone idiom proposed by Schoenberg about fifty years earlier. In a nutshell, the idea behind the twelve-tone proposal was to eliminate any center of gravity in a musical piece: where in traditional tonal music a particular pitch (the tonic) is more important than others in the sense that the music starts, revolves and ends in its surroundings, in a twelve-tone piece all the twelve pitches of the traditional Western scale have equal importance and this, simply speaking, is achieved by not   repeating any pitch before all the others have been played. The result can be disconcerting, and one of Dallapiccola's goals is to reconcile such an unforgiving and alien language with tradition and in particular with the interest in melody that can be found in Italian classical music. A rather cryptic description of the Quaderno is from Dallapiccola himself: ' In an essay published in the English review Music Survey (October, 1951), I have explained my progress along the route of the twelve-tone system, a rather strange and very long progress. Outside the works of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, I have received very extraordinary explanations (exactly in the twelve-tone domain) through the literature of Proust and Joyce. Such a declaration, strange as it may seem, should lead us to the conclusion that the arts, at a specific moment of history, have a common problem. If I were competent in painting, I am sure that even in this art I could find very striking analogies with twelve-tone music.' The Quaderno di Annalibera (Annalibera is the name of Dallapiccola's little daugh-ter), is composed of eleven variations on the same the twelve-tone sequence based on the name BACH (that is the pitches b, a, c, and b-flat), which will also be used for the Canti di Liberazione and an orchestral version of the Quaderno: Variazioni per orchestra

Claude Debussy, Images book II (1906). This   is the second series of Images, the first appearing in 1904, and the third originally conceived for two pianos but never completed. Debussy was pleased with the series. He wrote to his publisher: 'I think I may say without undue pride, that I believe these three pieces will live and will take [their] place in piano literature . . . ' adding a characteristically rather cryptic ' . . .   either to the left of Schumann or to the right of Chopin . . . as you like it. ' The pieces use a revolutionary, for the time, and extremely nontraditional harmonic vocabulary, which is combined with relatively standard musical forms.The titles of the three Images ( Bells through the leaves , The moon descents over the temple that is no more , Goldfishes ) are perhaps best explained with a reference to symbolism, as Mallarme' said about his poetry: 'To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the pleasure of the [art] . . . to suggest, herein lies the dream' a statement that can be applied to Debussy's musical esthetic as well and that does not encourage pictorial or literal interpretation of the piece based on the title.

Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonata Op. 57 (1804-05). The Sonata Op.57, familiarly known as the 'Appassionata' (passionate) is nowadays one of the most well-known sonatas of Beethoven. The 'Appassionata' however was so novel in structure and size and so demanding of both performer and instrument that it was quite incomprehensible at first, and went unplayed in public until more than three decades after Beethoven's death. The sonata is in three movements, but it is conceived as a unit, with the three movements bound together by the use of the same motivic material. The first, hesitant, motive (three easily recognizable notes in a short arpeggio at the real beginning of the piece), and the second 'faith' motive (heard shortly thereafter: ta-ta-ta-taaa, D-flat/D-flat/D-flat/C) generate and enclose the first movement; the second movement is a set of variations on a theme closely related to the faith motive; and the third movement, which shows no loss of continuity with the Andante, is worked out around the first motive.

Luciano Berio, Short pieces (1969-90).   Luciano Berio wrote for the piano all of his life , and these pieces cover a range of more than twenty years. Berio, a student of Dallapiccola, came under the influence of the twelve-tone system early on, and in all of the pieces, with perhaps the exception of Leaf, one can find elements of twelve-tone compositional techniques. However, Berio, an accomplished pianist, was fascinated by th e sound-world of the pianoforte and his piano music, in different and unique ways, explores and capitalizes beautifully on the possibilities of the piano, its dynamic range, its reson ances and decays, its colors.

Claude Debussy, L'Isle joyeuse (1904). Composed shortly before the Images, L'Isle joyeuse was first performed in public in 1905 by Ricardo Vines and met with great success. It is written with concessions to a piano virtuoso style that is not so usual in Debussy. Debussy wrote about the piece: 'Heavens! how difficult it is to play ... This piece seems to embrace every possible manner of treating the piano, combining as it does strength and grace ... If I may presume to say so.' There is a possible pictorial inspiration for the piece: Waton's   painting 'Departure to the Island of Cythera,' which is the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The painting is itself quite enigmatic in its literal interpretation, but its main motive is of three couples departing to (or returning from) Aphrodite's island. The piece is conceived as a dynamic crescendo from pianissimo to fortisssimo, from slow to fast. It starts with an introduction (an evocation, or summoning? or preparation for departing?), followed by the exposition of the main motive (a dance?), then it progressively builds momentum, which is interrupted by outspokenly lyrical and slower episodes, until the final exultant and ecstatic finale. It is a piece of rare balance and directness—refined, structurally complex and at the same time straightforward in its ultimate emotional goal.

Program notes by Davide Verotta



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