Vladivostok, Primorsky Stage, Chamber Hall

Cello Sonata Evening

Elizaveta Sushchenko (cello)
Andrey Ivanov (piano)

Edvard Grieg
Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 36

Frédéric Chopin
Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 65

Sergei Rachmaninoff
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19

Host of the concert: Elizaveta Sushchenko

About the Concert

Having won fame as “the poet of the piano”, Frédéric Chopin wrote almost all of his music for that instrument. He made an exception for just one other instrument – for the cello. Chopin loved the cello for its deep timbre and he often wrote themes in his pieces for piano that imitated its sound.
Chopin wrote three works for cello solo with the direct participation of his close friend, the Paris Conservatoire professor and renowned performer and composer Auguste Franchomme, who was considered to be the finest cellist of his age.
The Cello Sonata was to be Chopin’s last major work. He worked on the sonata for two years, from 1845 to 1846. In a letter to his sister the composer complained that, writing the sonata, he “wrote little and crossed out much”, thanks to which one may draw conclusions about the extremely painstaking selection of material. Throughout the work, Chopin manages to retain an ideal balance between the soloists, who emerge as equal partners and attentive interlocutors. Chopin dedicated the sonata to Auguste Franchomme, together with whom he performed it for the first time. The premiere in Paris proved a tremendous success and was to be the final appearance in Chopin’s career as a performer. It was to be a unique “summing up” of his collaboration with the French cellist: it was with Franchomme that Chopin took his first steps on the way to glory in France, and together with him, now as an acclaimed maestro, he completed this journey.
Nadezhda Kulygina

In the legacy of Sergei Rachmaninoff, the chamber ensemble genre is represented by just a few compositions. The most frequently performed of those are only two Piano Trios dating back to the composer’s early period, and the Sonata for Cello and Piano.
The time when the Sonata was composed falls on the period of Rachmaninoff’s creative upheaval, when his crisis ended. Chronologically, it coexists with his Piano Concerto No. 2. The two compositions, whose first performance days are just a month apart, have easily perceivable intonations in common. The Sonata is also related to the Concerto by the composer’s attitude to the piano part, which is unfolded and virtuoso like in a concerto, sometimes coming to the fore. It is no coincidence, that in the autograph and lifetime editions the sequence of instruments is indicated precisely as “for piano and cello”, and not in the usual reverse order.
The Sonata has four movements: tense and dynamic Allegro moderato with slow introduction; disturbing scherzo-tarantella; Andante, which the pianist Konstantin Igumnov considered one of the pinnacles of Rachmaninoff’s lyrics; finally, a bright and festive finale, whose quiet ending gives way to a jubilant coda with subsequent return of the main theme of the first movement in a major key.
The Sonata is dedicated to its first performer, outstanding cellist Anatoliy Brandukov, a friend of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (the latter has dedicated Pezzo capriccioso to him).

In the legacy of Edvard Grieg, chamber instrumental ensembles are also relatively few. In addition to small pieces and works that have remained unfinished, he has composed three Violin Sonatas, one String Quartet and the Cello Sonata. Grieg wrote it marking a return to composition following an almost two-year break, when he had been preoccupied with his conducting duties at the Bergen Musikselskabet Harmonien and had not had time to compose music.
Grieg dedicated the Sonata to his brother, John, who was a professional cellist but rarely performed. The premiere performance took place in Dresden. The cello part was performed by Friedrich Grützmacher, and a few days later the Sonata was performed in Leipzig by another famous German cellist Julius Klengel. The composer himself was at the piano both times. Although he did not consider this Sonata to be his outstanding achievement, later he would include it in his own performance programs, in particular, into one of his last concerts in May 1906 (the cello part was then performed by Pablo Casals).
The main theme of the first movement is sustained in a dramatic, impulsive spirit. The peaceful “oasis” of the secondary theme counterpoints it; however, being further developed, it also gets melancholic minor tones. In the coda, one can notice echoes of Grieg’s more famous Piano Concerto in A minor. In the slow second movement, the main role is played by the theme previously used by Grieg in the march from the Incidental music to Bjørnson’s play Sigurd Jorsalfar, but here it appears in a different guise. For the first time, it sounds in the “crystal” upper register of the piano, then moves on to the cello and undergoes a number of changes throughout the movement. The finale, preceded by a small solo cello without accompaniment, is built on two well-recognized elements characteristic of Grieg’s music: the rhythmic figure of the Halling (a lively Norwegian dance) and a descending three-tone motif. The extensive and somewhat lengthy coda is affirming the triumphant major intonation.
Vladimir Khavrov

Age category 6+

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