Hausmusik or the joy of making music together produced a magical evening at the National Liberal Club with Cristian Sandrin and Julian Jacobson.
Joining forces for an imminent cruise that will see them in six performances together whilst sailing from Southampton to Canada and finishing in New York.
Mozart’s late C major Sonata was played with the grace and charm that makes him if not the greatest composer certainly the most perfect -to use Julian’s own words .The Mozart Sonata K.521 was the last of his four hand sonatas and was dated May 29, 1787 just 4 years before his untimely death in in 1791,aged 35.On the same day in 1787 he also received word of his fathers death. Mozart then shared the sad news with his close friend Gottfried von Jacquin, a Viennese court official and amateur musician, and subsequently dedicated the sonata to Gottfried’s sister, Franziska von Jacquin.In Mozart’s letter to Gottfried, he noted that the sonata is “rather difficult” and therefore instructed Franziska to “tackle it at once”.Instead of Mozart’s original intention to dedicate it to Franziska von Jacquin, one of his most talented pupils, it was finally dedicated to Nanette and Barbette Natorp,daughters of Viennese businessman Franz Wilhelm Natorp.It was the absolute precision that they brought to this ‘rather difficult’ sonata that was remarkable for it rhythmic drive and absolute clarity.Cristian’s beautiful way of allowing the music to flow so naturally from his hands with his particular way of playing trills from above and Julian’s superb musicianship that created just the overall tonal palette that was both dramatic and elegant.The vehemence of the opening dissolving into the absolute charm of the following melodic outpouring.The melancholic beauty of the Andante and it’s overpowering central section were played with great intensity contrasting so well with the simple music box type recurrence of the rondo.It was played with a disarming simplicity and elegance as this already distinguished duo partnership were at one before such genius.
Grace and charm too in Debussy’s early Petite Suite composed between 1886 to 1889 and first performed on 2 February 1889 by Debussy and pianist-publisher Jacques Durand at a salon in Paris.It may have been written due to a request (possibly from Durand) for a piece that would be accessible to skilled amateurs, as its simplicity is in stark contrast with the modernist works that Debussy was writing at the time .In four movements En bateau (Sailing): Andantino ,Cortège (Retinue): Moderato ,both settings of poems from Fetes galante by Paul Verlaine.Followed by Menuet : Moderato,Ballet: Allegro giusto .It was orchestrated by Debussy’s colleague Henri Busser in 1907, and published by A Durand et Fils.If Julian could have been a little more generous with the pedal it would have allowed more fluidity of colour and contrast and would have added to his superb sense of architectural line and non sentimentality.The final ballet in particular was played with passionate involvement and joie de vivre that was to contrast so well with the imperious nature of the Wagner that immediately followed.
A monumental performance of the Meistersinger Prelude in the rare transcription by Tausig that Julian had found in the archives of the Royal College of Music.It was here that Julian took the helm and led the procession with Elgarian pomp and circumstance.Cristian allowing his feet full reign that gave such sumptuous full sounds to this enthralling unpublished transcription.Julian is not only a great pianist capable of playing all the Beethoven Sonatas in one marathon sitting without any trace of the score.He is also a remarkable musicologist ready to search and sift out masterpieces lost and long forgotten as they lie in the archives of the great institutions.
Schubert’s sublime F minor Fantasy opened the second half of this extraordinary musical journey.
What a remarkable work it is pointing the way for new paths for Liszt and Wagner and all that were to follow.Schubert began writing it in January 1828 in Vienna and was completed in March of that year, and first performed in May. Schubert’s friend Eduard von Bauernfeld recorded in his diary on May 9 that a memorable duet was played, by Schubert and Franz Lachner and was dedicated to Caroline Esterházy, with whom Schubert was in (unrequited) love.Schubert died in November of that year and after his death, his friends and family undertook to have a number of his works published. This work is one of those pieces; it was published by Anton Diabelli in March 1829.
The Fantasia is divided into four movements that are interconnected and played without a break: Allegro molto moderato- Largo-Scherzo. Allegro vivace-Finale. Allegro molto moderato.The basic idea of a fantasia with four connected movements also appears in Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, and represents a stylistic bridge between the traditional sonata form and the essentially free-form tone poem.The basic structure of the two fantasies is essentially the same: allegro, slow movement, scherzo, allegro with fugue.The form of this work, with its relatively tight structure (more so than the fantasias of Beethoven and Mozart), was influential on the work of Liszt who arranged the Wanderer Fantasy as a piano concerto, among other transcriptions he made of Schubert’s music.There were so many beautiful things in their interpretation but it was the overall architectural shape that was so remarkable.From the sublime beauty of the opening and the contrasts between the imperious and the ravishing in the slow movement.The elegance of the scherzo and the overpowering force of the fugue.All dissolving into the magic of the final few bars where one can only wallow and marvel in the genial invention of Schubert in his final few months on this earth.A continuous outpouring of melodic invention which Beethoven was to develop and take into the realms of the Gods in his silent world that awaited only thirty years later.
After such a sublime performance what more could one add?
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue of course,the biggest money spinner of all time and still one of the best loved works in the entire crossover repertoire.
Gershwin had politely declined to compose any such work for Whiteman.In a telephone conversation the next morning, however,Gershwin was informed that Whiteman’s arch rival Vincent Lopez was planning to steal the idea of his experimental concert and there was no time to lose.Gershwin was thus finally persuaded to compose the piece.With only five weeks remaining until the premiere, Gershwin hurriedly set about composing the work.He later claimed that while on a train journey to Boston the thematic seeds for Rhapsody in Blue began to germinate in his mind: ‘It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer…. I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise. And there I suddenly heard—and even saw on paper—the complete construction of the rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance.’Gershwin began composing on January 7 as dated on the original manuscript for two pianos.After a few weeks he finished his composition and passed the score, titled A Rhapsody in Blue, to Ferde Grofé,Whiteman’s arranger.Grofé finished orchestrating the piece on February 4—a mere eight days before the premiere.
Rhapsody in Blue premiered during a snowy afternoon on Tuesday, February 12, 1924, at Aeolian Hall,Manhattan entitled “An Experiment in Modern Music.”The much-anticipated concert held by Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra drew a packed audience consisting of concert managers come to have a look at the novelty, composers, symphony and opera stars and many influential figures of the era including Stravinsky,Stokowski,Kreisler,Damrosch and John Philip Sousa.Julian and Cristian gave a scintillating performance of teasing wit and beguiling style but also of grandiloquence and astonishing technical command.The start of a life on the ocean waves with hopefully calm seas will certainly be a prosperous voyage for all those lucky enough to share this adventure in music together as they had done with us today.
Not to be outdone,but also with great humility ,Julian presented his Palm Court Waltz ,dedicated to his friend Richard Rodney Bennet on hearing of his unexpected death in New York.Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE was an English composer of film, TV and concert music, and also a jazz pianist and occasional vocalist. He was based in New York City from 1979 until his death there in 2012.
A delicious pot pourri played with the charm and superb musicianship that had been the hallmark of a memorable wintry evening in August !