The American Chamber Players
Flute Quartet in A major, K. 298
Prelude, Recitative, and Variations for Flute, Viola, and Piano, Op. 3 (1928)
Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15
MARCH 8th, 2017
Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.
The American Chamber Players is comprised of a piano quartet plus flute which allows them to perform a wide variety of music. According to The New York Times “They appealed to the heart and the head, offering a warm, seductively luxurious sound and an impressive precision and unity of purpose.”
Prelude. Recitative, and Variations for flute,
viola, and piano, Op. 3
Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986)
Maurice Duruflé, born in Louviers in 1902, studied piano and organ in the Rouen Cathedral Choir School. In 1920 he entered the Conservatoire de Paris studying harmony and composition with Jean Gallon and Paul Dukas. He became Professor of Harmony at the Conservatoire in 1943. His main compositional and performing activity focused on works for solo organ and choral compositions. His most famous work is his Requiem Op. 9.
The Prelude, Recitative, and Variations for flute, viola and piano, Op. 3 (1928) is his only chamber music composition. It dates from his conservatoire years where he won a premier prix for the work. He dedicated the composition to Jacques Durand, a musician and head of the publishing firm Durand & Cie, who died in August 1928. The trio received it’s first hearing that year in Salle Chopin sponsored by Sociète Nationale de Musique with flutist Marcel Moyse, violist Maurice Vieux and celebrated pianist Jean Doyen. Duruflé also took the piano part in several public performances.
The prelude has an improvisational character; quiet chords in the piano are expanded and joined by the viola and flute. In the recitative, solo passages for the flute and viola are followed by the presentation of a short theme that evolves into a series of alternating lyrical and rapid variations culminating in an extended variation with lively coda.
Quartet in A major, K. 298
Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Mozart composed four quartets for flute and strings. They were initially all thought to date from 1777 when Mozart left Salzburg on a European tour to advance his career and obtain a court position preferable to the one he held in Salzburg. In Mannheim an amateur flautist known only as De Jean offered Mozart 200 gulden for “three small, easy, brief concertos and a few flute quartets.” Of these, the quartet in D major, K.285 is the most frequently heard.
The quartet we hear today, the Flute Quartet in A major, K. 298 has a very different history that was not fully understood until well into the 20th Century. The quartet was composed in a popular form of Quartuor d’airs dialogués using non-original tunes. The first movement of this quartet uses a theme that is very similar to Franz Anton Hoffmeister’s song An die Natur in a small set of variations. The theme of the minuet-trio is based on an arrangement of the old French rondeau Il a des bottes, des bottes Bastien and the theme of the third movement comes from Giovanni Paisiello’s opera Le gare generose. Paisiello’s opera was first performed in Naples in early 1786 and received its first performance in Vienna on September 1, 1786. There is no evidence that Mozart heard this opera but the use of the theme suggests that the quartet was composed in that year. The humorous intent of this composition is confirmed by the tempo designation for the Rondeau: "Rondieaoux: Allegretto grazioso, ma non troppo presto, però non troppo adagio. Così-così—con molto garbo ed espressione" ( "A joke rondo: Allegretto grazioso, but not too fast, nor too slow. So-so—with great elegance and expression"). The quartet was in the possession of Mozart’s friend Gottfried von Jacquin and may have been composed for household music making of the Jacquin family.
Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35
Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924)
Gabriel Fauré was born in Pamiers, France in 1845. His musical talent was recognized at an early age and the nine-year-old Fauré was sent to a boarding school in Paris that specialized in teaching music. Although his compositions were being published by the time he graduated, he had to support himself as an organist for many years, notably in the Church of the Madeline. In 1896 he was appointed professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire where he served as the director from 1905–1920.
Except for his beautiful Requiem Mass, he confined his composition to smaller forms, chamber music, songs and piano pieces. His six major chamber music compositions include: two piano quartets two piano quintets, a piano trio, and his final composition, a string quartet. His first piano quartet was completed in 1879 and dedicated to the Belgian Violinist H. Leonard. It was introduced the same year at a concert of the Société nationale de Musique Français.
The first movement, Allegro molto moderato, is in sonata-allegro form. The first theme is played in unison by the strings against the piano’s rhythmic chords on the offbeat. In contrast, the second theme is a flowing motive, first heard in the viola and marked piano, trètes eglament. The demanding piano part provides a continuous flowing texture. The coda moves to the key of C major ending with softly played chords on the offbeat as in the beginning of the movement.
The elegantly crafted Scherzo, Allegro vivo, presents a sparkling upbeat theme in the key of E-flat major. The strings are set against the piano and with a rapid alternation between 6/8 and 2/4 meter. The trio section of the movement gives the melodic burden to the muted strings. The piano ushers in a reprise of the Scherzo.
Against a somber C minor harmony, the strings open the Adagio with deeply felt rising scalar fragments. The music moves to a major key and a variation on the opening theme. The ever-restless piano accompaniment returns to a closure in the key of C minor.
The Finale, Allegro molto, in triple meter begins with a piano accompaniment of dazzling triplets under the strings that mark out a theme that resembles the theme of the Adagio, rising scalar fragments in a dotted rhythm. The viola followed by violin and cello present a contrasting lyrical second theme. These elements are developed climaxing with a grand pause. The music resumes pianissimo and builds to a brilliant conclusion in the key of C major.
Program notes by James L. Franklin