Best of Together Again: Episode 6

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
WCLV 104.9 FM – Cleveland Ovations


ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK | Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor “Dumky”
Performed June 21, 2021

Alexi Kenney, violin
Oliver Herbert, cello
Roman Rabinovich, piano

JOHANNES BRAHMS | Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25
Performed June 26, 2021

Alexi Kenney, violin
Ayane Kozasa, viola
Julie Albers, cello
Roman Rabinovich, piano

Thoughts About the Music

Antonín Dvořák – Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor “Dumky”

While Dvorak gained much fame and success for the pieces he wrote while in America, with an inspiration that grew from the sounds of New World, his roots lie grounded in the folk music of Bohemia. His working-class father would occasionally play the zither (a Bavarian stringed instrument) at weddings and other ceremonies. After the Czech independence movement, the sounds of Dvorak’s youth became reinvigorated. While Dvorak never transcribed any preexisting folk tunes, his compositions incorporate rhythms and harmonies influenced by these ancestral melodies and exemplifying the true nature of the Czech spirit. His Piano Trio No. 4 is subtitled “Dumky” which translates roughly to a brooding lament. The piece is divided into 6 movements. Each movement alternates with fast and slow tempos, all while retaining the overall dark, impassioned aura of the work. The first movement establishes this mood with a dramatic melody first played by the cello. Then, the music shifts into a rocking dance-like section before returning to its original darkness. As the music shifts into the second movement, a mournful mood comes to the forefront, shifting into that of peaceful solace. The third movement is characterized by a more joyful section that is quickly tainted with a crestfallen dance. A feeling of deep sadness permeates the fourth movement, with its nostalgic march-like sections. After a mournful pause, the next movement showcases a driving Allegro energy, with the first and last sections being quicker and more energetic than the middle section. Finally, in the last movement, the spirit of the Dumky returns with a vengeance, featuring an ominous, melancholy mood that shifts into a violent dance before rising to a fervent climax. ©2021 Nicole Martin

Johannes Brahms – Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25

Brahms was just 29 years old when he composed his first piano quartet, sparking the creation of over 26 more masterful chamber works throughout his life. For the time, this instrumentation of piano, violin, viola, and cello was quite unusual, yet this in no way halted its success at its 1862 premiere in Vienna. The first movement, Allegro, comes in the form of a sonata and sets off immediately with the main theme, an exuberant yet stately melody played first in the piano before echoing throughout the ensemble. This theme is heavily built upon and leads way to 4 more energetic themes. Brahms explores these elements with a reckless abandon of sonata tradition as the recapitulation incorporates almost all previously heard melodies before a sombre, peaceful ending. The next movement sounds almost like a tranquil scherzo if there ever was one, featuring tender, whispering progressions that sigh in relief after small builds of tension. Woven within this movement is Brahms’ “Clara motif”: a five note melody symbolizing his undying love for Clara Schumann. The third movement carries this romantic idea in its purest form, with amorous string lines that give the feeling of a slow, passionate waltz. The repeated 8th notes from the second movement make an appearance here, further linking the two in mood and thematic content. As the harmonies grow more chromatic and unstable, Brahms finds his way back to a heartful song with a touchingly affectionate end. The final movement of the work centers heavily around the music of the “Gypsy” , denoting a complex cross-cultural integration of exotic musical styles, typically associated with that of Hungarian folk music. It is well known that Brahms had a fascination with Hungarian folk music, but this “Gypsy Rondo” finds its roots in not that of Bartok or Kodaly, but the great Baroque composer Haydn whose own “Gypsy Rondo” is widely regarded as one of his most innovative works. The energy in this movement is bursting at the seams as the piano and strings furiously and wildly dance around a simple folk melody. The virtuosity of this movement is displayed in every instrument, with the piano providing steadily running scalar figures and the strings athletically weaving complex rhythmic passages that come together in a fiery passion before the music swells down into a slow-burning lyrical section. This material escalates into an exhilarated whirlwind before a brilliant climax brings this work to a close. ©2021 Nicole Martin

All musical selections are subject to change without notice.