Performing this Week

Bella Hristova
Bella Hristova

Giora Schmidt
Giora Schmidt

Lily Francis
Lily Francis

Michael Tree
Michael Tree

L. P. How
L. P. How

Eric Kim
Eric Kim

Gary Hoffman
Gary Hoffman

Lynn Harrell
Lynn Harrell

Marji Danilow
Marji Danilow

Kathleen McIntosh
Kathleen McIntosh

Jennifer Frautschi
Jennifer Frautschi

Teng Li
Teng Li

Peter Stumpf
Peter Stumpf

Jeremy Denk
Jeremy Denk

WFMT Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Summer 2011 — Program 6

Welcome to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio series production blog, home of program out takes, artist commentary, and other related tangents we like to call "web extras."

Week 6 of our concert broadcasts from Santa Fe featured music by J. S. Bach and César Frank.

One of the great things about this Festival is the way artistic director Marc Neikrug juggles the arrivals and departures of visiting musicians so that every once in a while he has a dream team in town who can perform a Brandenburg Concerto as beautifully as this group did. In some ways, you could say it's similar to the situation that Bach had at the court of Cöthen, which included some of the best musicians of his day. The ensemble who performed the virtuosic Concerto #3 in G Major, BWV 1048 consisted of violinists Helen Nightengale, Bella Hristova, and Giora Schmidt; violists Lily Francis, Michael Tree, and L. P. How; cellists Eric Kim, Gary Hoffman, and Lynn Harrell; bassist Marji Danilow, and on harpsichord, Kathleen McIntosh.

Also on the program, pianist Jeremy Denk collaborated with violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Jennifer Frautschi, violist Teng Li, and cellist Peter Stumpf to play César Franck's dramatic F Minor Piano Quintet.

Scroll below to hear a number of audio out-takes from the program...

Thanks for stopping by,

Louise Frank
Series Producer

PS - These nationally syndicated radio concerts of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival can be heard in the Chicago area Saturdays at 5pm, from April through June 2011, on 98.7 WFMT. You can also listen anywhere there's Internet. WFMT provides free, live streaming at wfmt.com and via a free, downloadable app for your iPhone.

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann, Copy or second Version of his 1746 Canvas, private ownership of William H. Scheide, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann, Copy or second Version of his 1746 Canvas, private ownership of William H. Scheide, Princeton, New Jersey, USA (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048 (1721)

  • Helen Nightengale, violin
  • Bella Hristova, violin
  • Giora Schmidt, violin
  • Lily Francis, viola
  • Michael Tree, viola
  • L. P. How, viola
  • Eric Kim, cello
  • Gary Hoffman, cello
  • Lynn Harrell, cello
  • Marji Danilow, bass
  • Kathleen McIntosh, harpsichord

 

Marc tells Kerry he can plan a big piece like this Brandenburg Concerto by carefully planning weeks where artists' schedules overlap. This is an unusually accomplished and intriguing group of people who would usually not be together for something like this.

 

Kerry and Marc talk about the Brandenburg Concerti and the nature of their achievement, in their time, and for all time.

 

In this clip Marc and Kerry note that Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major is about string sounds and vibrant energy. They also ponder the lingering mystery surrounding the score for the middle movement and what seems to be a lack of notation in some passages. Was this an impetus for improvisation? It reminds Marc of "Sphinxes," the ambiguously orchestrated movement from Robert Schumann's Carnaval, op.9.

 

"Sphinxes" consists of three different arrangements of four musical acrostic letters and is marked "not to be played." Like the famous Egyptian monument, these sphinxes apparently remain silent, keeping their secret safe.

Photo of Jeanne Rongier's 1885 painting: César Franck at the console of the organ at St. Clotilde Basilica, Paris, 1885

Photo of Jeanne Rongier's 1885 painting "“"César Franck at the console of the organ at St. Clotilde Basilica, Paris, 1885"" (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

CÉSAR FRANCK

Piano Quintet in F Minor, M. 7 (1878-79)

  • Cho-Liang Lin, violin
  • Jennifer Frautschi, violin
  • Teng Li, viola
  • Peter Stumpf, cello
  • Jeremy Denk, piano

 

When César Franck's intense and emotion-packed Piano Quintet in F Minor had its premiere, it was received with a great deal consternation and astonishment. Marc and Kerry discuss possible reasons why, and observe, "no one gets appalled or shocked when something is extraordinarily boring." The mild-mannered organ professor stunned a lot of people with this personal, revealing, tumultuous work.

 

Félicité Franck turned on her husband's pupils one day and blamed them, not without reason, for the hostility he encountered and for the advanced style of his later works. 'You don't have to tell me that Franck has once written some beautiful works,' she cried, 'I am a musician myself. … But that quintet! Ugh!"

- THE BOOK OF MUSICAL ANECDOTES by Norman Lebrecht, Free Press, 1985

 

Kerry asks Marc the compositional tools Franck used to compose the Quintet.

 

"It certainly takes a group that can throw themselves into a piece in order to play this right," observes Kerry, and Marc laughs, "this is not a stand-back, intellectual piece, ... it takes a pianist who can play with abandon – and that doesn't mean abandon the right notes! ... It's a very exuberant, on-the-edge, full-out performance."

 

Violinist Cho Liang Lin remarks that this concerto-like piano quintet has endured very well, despite a humiliating public rejection at the premiere from the dedicatee, Camille Saint-Saëns. Perhaps that's because to play it well, the ensemble has to play it "almost completely over the top."

 

Here's what violist, Teng Li, told producer Louise Frank about performing Franck's Piano Quintet, a work which turns out to be one of her favorite chamber pieces.

 

When Louise asked Jeremy Denk about the piece, he told her, "it begins with a big string expostulation, and then the piano does this amazing meditation…" He also recalled his teacher and mentor Gyorgy Sebok who said "music is not the notes but it's always in between them."

 

Alfred Cortot - Cesar Franck: Quintette pour piano et cordes en fa mineur (1)

Pianist Alfred Cortot performs the first movement of the Franck Piano Quintet in F Minor along with the International String Quartet (Boris Pecker, André Mangeot, Frank Howard & Herbert Withers) in this 1927 recording.