Invesco Piano Concerts
Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 8:00 pm
This is the 660th concert in Koerner Hall
Alexander Seredenko, piano
Charles Richard-Hamelin, piano
Stéphane Tétreault, cello
Tony Yike Yang, piano
Emily D’Angelo, mezzo-soprano
Philip Chiu, piano
Steven Philcox, piano
Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36
Robert Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op. 73
(Stéphane Tétreault & Philip Chiu)
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Pezzo capriccioso, Op. 62
(Stéphane Tétreault & Philip Chiu)
Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83, “War Sonata No. 2: Stalingrad”
(Tony Yike Yang)
Gioachino Rossini: Giovanna d’Arco
(Emily D’Angelo & Steven Philcox)
Fryderyk Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58
Born in Semyonovo, Russia, March 20/April 1, 1873; died in Beverly Hills, California, March 28, 1943
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36 (1913, rev. 1931)
Rachmaninov wrote the second of his two piano sonatas as a virtuoso showpiece for his own recital tours, immediately prior to the Russian Revolution. He began work on it in Rome in 1913 while staying in the very apartment in the Piazza di Spagna where Tchaikovsky lived and worked during his several visits to that city. He completed it at the family estate of Ivanovka, where he would find solitude … and breed racehorses. The sonata is monumental in scale, full of turn-of-the-century romantic opulence. It makes great demands on the pianist, both in its 1913 original version and in the revision Rachmaninov made in 1931, where he cut some 120 bars and clarified the musical texture. “I look at my earlier compositions and see how much surplus material they contain,” Rachmaninov wrote while editing the sonata. “Even this sonata has too much unnecessary movement of voices, and it is too long. Chopin’s Second Sonata lasts 19 minutes and all has been said.”
Like much of Rachmaninov’s music, and that of many other Russian composers including Stravinsky, the Second Sonata is haunted by the sound of church bells. In fact, while drafting the piano sonata in Rome, Rachmaninov also wrote his choral symphony, The Bells. The music plunges headlong into the dramatic rhetoric that is a distinctive trait of the composer. The opening gesture of the sonata, a short, drooping four-note figure, is to return as a motto theme throughout each of its three movements, which are played without a break. It gives rise to the deep turmoil of the middle movement, which gives voice to a feeling of deep melancholy, another recurring feature of Rachmaninov’s music. The finale begins with almost frenzied exuberance in a fortissimo four-and-a-half-octave plunge and ends in shimmering cascades of chords.
Born in Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810; died in Endenich, nr. Bonn, July 29, 1856
Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 (1849)
In 1849, against an unsettled political background and periodic debilitating personal health, three dozen works flowed from Robert Schumann’s pen with extraordinary fluency, in many different genres. “It has been my most fruitful year,” he wrote to a fellow composer and friend. “It seemed as though the outward storms drove me more into myself. Only in my work did I find any counterforce against the terrible pressures that burst upon me from outside.” Schumann was eager to prove his mastery of any medium, whether there were precedents for a particular combination of instruments or not. He was also eager to reach a broader market with his music. The original title for his Op. 73 was Soiréestücke, indicating an interest in domestic music making, or hausmusik. He originally published the Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano, though the title page – in a pragmatic move calculated to increase sales – indicates that the solo part could also be played by clarinet, violin, or cello. The three pieces form an organic whole, since they are linked by both key and musical themes and follow one another with increasing momentum, without break. In the first, the violin introduces a dreamy, melancholy theme, while the piano presents another, complementing it. As the song-like second movement opens, this piano theme is heard again, quite transformed into something more joyful, now in the major key. Similarly, the second movement’s smoothly chromatic middle section later returns as a distant echo. Almost immediately, Schumann transforms it into a vigorous flourish that bursts to life at the beginning of the third movement. More references to themes from the opening movement underline the superb craft of these delightful pieces.
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia, April 25/May 7, 1840; died in St. Petersburg, Russia, October
25/November 6, 1893
Pezzo capriccioso, Op. 62 (1887)
Composed in Aachen while at the bedside of his dying friend Nikolai Kondratiev, the short Pezzo capriccioso makes a brave attempt to smile through its tears. An anguished opening gives way to a somewhat wistful theme, tinged with an underlying melancholy. Tchaikovsky dedicated the piece to another friend, cellist Anatoly Brandukov, whose companionship provided relief at this demanding time and also an incentive to begin its composition. Brandukov’s virtuoso technique is reflected in a central delicately dashing spiccato section which sparkles in the major key over the prevailing musical pulse. After revisiting the reflective theme, Tchaikovsky ends his final completed concert work for solo instrument and orchestra – appropriately enough given its title – in a capricious mood.
Born in Sontzovka, Russia, April 11/23, 1891; died in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 1953
Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83 (1939-42)
The descriptive tempo markings – inquieto, caloroso, precipitato – that Prokofiev provides for this, the most popular of his piano sonatas, speak of a particular time and place. Prokofiev completed the sonata in 1942 in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he and many other artists had been evacuated to escape the Nazi onslaught. It is one of his three so-called ‘War Sonatas,’ Nos. 6, 7, and 8, which represent the composer at the peak of his skill. He worked on all ten movements of the three sonatas concurrently between 1939 and 1944 and they were his first piano sonatas in 16 years. The three movements of No. 7 contain all the hopes and aspirations of a nation struggling for victory. The great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter was eager to give the first performance of the sonata, after learning it in just four days. At the time he said: “The sonata immediately throws one into the anxious situation of a world losing its equilibrium. Disorder and uncertainty reign. Man observes the raging of death-dealing forces. Full of the will for victory, he makes a headlong running attack, clearing away all obstacles. He will become strong through the struggle, expanding into a gigantic and life affirming force.”
The ferocious first movement contains some of Prokofiev’s finest, most uncompromising music. Its nervous intensity and bitonality dramatically contrast with the warm lyricism of the slow movement. Here, a disarmingly simple melody seems to be drawn straight out of the opera War and Peace, on which Prokofiev was working at the time. It is, in fact, closely related to the song “Wehmuth” (Sadness) by Schumann. The driving, motoric, moto perpetuo finale, with its thrilling seven-beats-to-the-bar, propels the sonata to a decisive end. The composer Miaskovsky, who was also evacuated to Tbilisi, described it as ‘superbly wild.’
Born in Pesaro, Italy, February 29, 1792; died in Passy, Italy, November 13, 1868
Giovanna d’Arco (1832)
“Give me a laundry list and I will set it to music,” Rossini is reputed as saying. During his highly productive years – with 39 operas in 19 years – it was said that Rossini would rather write another page of an opera than get out of bed to pick up a fallen leaf. Then, before he was 40, his fortune made, he gave up composing operas and furthered his reputation as a bon viveur. He cooked fabulous meals, devised new recipes for Parisian chefs he knew, and entertained his friends with his legendary wit. During the remaining 39 years of his life, not one opera came from his pen. Towards the end, however, Rossini channelled his energy into providing music for frequent Saturday evening musicales which attracted leading musicians and fashionable society to his Parisian home. He called these witty, often whimsical piano pieces, songs, and short works for small ensemble, Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age). Happily, Rossini sinned frequently between 1856 and 1868 and the number of short pieces grew to more than 150, each of which he copied, corrected, signed, and collected into 13 volumes.
The operatic cantata, or gran scena, Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc), found in Volume 11, was written for Olympe Pélissier, whom Rossini would marry in 1848 after his first wife’s death. It opens with a deeply-felt, intense, and reflective opening monologue in which Joan anticipates the coming battle in which, she believes, God has chosen her to lead the French against the English. This leads to a cantabile aria in which the French heroine’s thoughts now turn to her mother and to the pride which she and all French mothers will soon feel in her daughter. As she pictures her mother’s tears in the central tempo di mezzo, Joan’s grief combines with resolve for the upcoming battle. Premonitions of death combine with visions of victory in explosive coloratura. A brilliant cabaletta, “Corre la gioia,” displays an entire arsenal of vocal techniques from the bel canto era, concluding one of the most challenging vocal pieces from Rossini’s pen.
Born in Żelazowa Wola, nr. Warsaw, Poland, March 1, 1810; died in Paris, France, October 17, 1849
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 (1844)
In 1844, Chopin was 34 and at the peak of his genius. He wrote his third and final piano sonata during a last, happy summer spent with the novelist George Sand, at Nohant in France. Here, free from the need to support himself and teach, he was able to concentrate on composition. The B Minor Sonata, arguably his most successful large-scale work, begins with a proud, heroic flourish. A second theme introduces a nocturnal mood. Both themes are amongst Chopin’s finest, capable of the gentlest expression and the most exhilarating virtuoso development. At the same time, Chopin writes more contrapuntally here than in any other piece. His veneration for the music of Bach, which he played daily, underlines every bar, the learning masked in the romantic surge of the music. After the grand scale of the opening movement, the Scherzo comes in complete contrast, a fine example of the sort of shimmering right-hand piano playing with which Chopin used to dazzle his audiences. The slow movement is a glorious Italian aria, where the voice floats effortlessly over the accompaniment and the mood is positive and radiant in feeling. After the calm repose, the finale is an exultant rondo which increases in intensity with each return of the theme. The excitement builds to a final stretto – an operatic device that Chopin adapts to great effect, in which the tempo quickens to a dazzling conclusion. – Program notes © 2016 Keith Horner
A recent graduate of The Glenn Gould School’s Rebank Fellowship Program, pianist Alexander Seredenko also holds both a Performance Diploma and Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School. Emerging as a leading voice in the next generation of Canadian young artists, his electrifying yet deeply expressive solo and chamber performances have in recent years been thrilling audiences in Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Mr. Seredenko has won numerous top prizes in national and international piano competitions. He is the only Canadian to have received First Prize at the Hamamatsu International Piano Academy Competition in Japan, and previous to that had won Grand Prizes for Solo and Concerto Performances at the World Piano Competition in Cincinnati and Second Prize and Special Award for Solo Performance at the Corpus Christi International Piano and Strings Competition. More recently, he won the First Prize in the 4th Canadian Chopin Piano Competition in 2014, and in 2015 was awarded a prestigious Sylva Gelber Award as well as First Prize in The Glenn Gould School Chamber Music Competition as part of The Ruby Trio.
After competing in and winning the Toronto Symphony Orchestra competition, Mr. Seredenko joined Peter Oundjian and the TSO as part of their Masterworks series with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Later that year, as an exchange between The Royal Conservatory and the Liszt Academy, he embarked on a three-concert tour in Hungary, including a concert with the Budapest Strings as part of the Budapest Spring Festival. In November of 2015, he was invited to again perform with the Toronto Symphony and gave an electrifying performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Roy Thomson Hall.
Silver medalist and laureate of the Krystian Zimerman award of the best sonata at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015, Charles Richard-Hamelin is one of the most important pianists of his generation. He also won the second prize at the Montreal International Musical Competition and the third prize and special award for the best performance of a Beethoven sonata at the Seoul International Music Competition in South Korea. In April 2015, he was awarded the prestigious Career Development Award offered by the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto.
He has appeared in various prestigious festivals, including the Prague Spring Festival, La Roque d’Anthéron in France, “Chopin and his Europe” Festival in Warsaw, and the Lanaudière Festival in Canada. As a soloist, he has performed with various ensembles such as the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra, Beethoven Academy Orchestra, Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, OFUNAM (Mexico), Korean Symphony Orchestra, and I Musici de Montréal.
Mr. Richard-Hamelin has studied with Paul Surdulescu, Sara Laimon, Boris Berman, and André Laplante. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in performance from McGill University in 2011 and a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music in 2013. He also completed an Artist Diploma program at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal in 2016 and currently takes lessons with Jean Saulnier, alumna of The Glenn Gould School. His first solo CD, which features late works by Chopin, was released on the Analekta label in September 2015 and received widespread acclaim. His second CD on Analekta was released in September of 2016.
Cellist Stéphane Tétreault first made international headlines as the recipient of Bernard Greenhouse’s cello, the 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini” Stradivarius, on generous loan by Mrs. Jacqueline Desmarais. In addition to numerous awards and honours, he was recently selected as laureate of the Classe d’Excellence de Violoncelle under the direction of Gautier Capuçon from the Louis Vuitton Foundation, and was the recipient of the Fernand-Lindsay Career Award and the Choquette-Symcox Award in 2013. For three consecutive years, he was also ranked amongst CBC’s “30 Hot Canadian classical musicians under 30.”
Mr. Tétreault has performed with Maxim Vengerov and Alexandre Tharaud, and has participated in a number of master classes with cellists Gautier Capuçon, Frans Helmerson, and Truls Mørk. Chosen as the first ever Soloist-in-Residence of the Orchestre Métropolitain, he performed alongside Yannick Nézet-Séguin and others during the 2014-15 season. In October 2016, he made his concert debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Nézet-Séguin.
His debut CD, recorded with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and conductor Fabien Gabel, was nominated as the Best Classical Album of the Year at the 2013 ADISQ Gala and was chosen as Editor’s Choice in the March 2013 issue of Gramophone. He recently released a second CD with pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone featuring works of Haydn, Schubert, and Brahms.
Currently 23 years old, he was a student of the late cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky for more than 10 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in Music Performance from the University of Montreal. Mr. Tétreault is accompanied today by Philip Chiu.
Tony Yike Yang
17-year-old Tony Yike Yang is emerging as one of the foremost pianists of the younger generation. As a frequent prizewinner, his most recent success at the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition led him to become the competition’s youngest ever laureate, winning the 5th prize at the age of 16. In previous years, he won the first prize at the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition, and the Bösendorfer and Yamaha USASU International Junior Piano Competition. He has also been awarded with top prizes at many other competitions, including the Hilton Head International Young Artists Piano Competition, the Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition, and the Canadian National Chopin Competition as the youngest ever competitor.
Mr. Yang has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, Hilton Head Symphony, Toronto Sinfonietta, Toronto Festival Orchestra, and The Royal Conservatory’s Academy Chamber Orchestra. In addition, he has also made appearances at the Chopin and his Europe International Music Festival, Canadian Chopin Festival, Bravo Niagara, Stratford Summer Music, Festival de Lanaudière, and the Oberlin-Lake Como Academy. One of his performance highlights includes having performed in front of her Royal Highness Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Mr. Yang has also been featured on many television programs, including the “Inspiration Generation” series on Global TV, and he was also named by CBC Music as one of the 25 hottest Canadian musicians under 25. He is currently a full scholarship student at the Harvard University and New England Conservatory of Music joint degree program, where he is studying under Prof. Wha Kyung Byun.
Italian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo made her European debut at the Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi as Cherubino last summer and she is making several debuts in the 2016-17 season, including her North American debut with the Canadian Opera Company as a member of their Ensemble Studio.
A winner of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition Finals, D’Angelo was also named winner of the 2015 Centre Stage Competition at the Canadian Opera Company and the 2016 American National Opera Association Competition. She received second prize at the 2015 OREL Foundation Ziering-Conlon Competition in Los Angeles and the German Lieder Prize at the 2016 Art Song Preservation Society Competition. In addition, she was recognized with awards from both the George London Foundation and the Gerda Lissner/Liederkranz Foundation.
A passionate recitalist, she performed at the Canadian Opera Company Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, and WFMT Chicago Classical Radio Station. She was also invited by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall to sing in “The Song Continues” workshop with Marilyn Horne and was a fellow at the Ravinia Steans Institute for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
D’Angelo was honoured in June 2016 with the Premio Monini prize from the Spoleto Festival and is a grant recipient of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation. She recently received her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Toronto, where she was the recipient of the Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song as well as the Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award.
Ms. D’Angelo is accompanied today by Steven Philcox.
For seven years Mr. Yang was a student of The Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at The Royal Conservatory, where he primarily studied with James Anagnoson. Alexander Seredenko is a holder of the Performance Diploma and the Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, and is an alumnus of the Rebanks Fellowship Program. Charles Richard-Hamelin made his Conservatory debut on January 15, 2016, in a joint recital with Tony Yike Yang. Stéphane Tétreault made his Conservatory debut on April 24, 2015, and Emily D’Angelo is making her debut tonight.
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