Aulin, Brahms, Dvarionas, Khachaturian, Prokofiev, Ravel, Rota, Schumann, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky: 10 (Ten)

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  • Artist(s): Duo Auškelytė - Pezzi
  • Composer: Aram Khachaturian, Balys Dvarionas, Jean Sibelius, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel, Nino Rota, Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Robert Schumann, Sergey Prokofiev, Tor Aulin
  • EAN Code: 7.46160665900
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Piano, Violin
  • Period: Modern, Romantic
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The number 10 flaunts on the cover of our album and intertwines throughout the entire album project. But why is our new album focused on this number? Celebrating our first decennial together as a duo, we decided to give ourselves a little homage – a new album. Being 2019 our 10th year of collaboration and friendship, we took 10 violin and piano masterpieces by 10 different composers and put them into one album. Symbolically, each composition recorded on this album represents one year of our work together. Looking back since 2009, there have been way more than 10 days of rehearsals, endless travels, concerts, musical confrontations, intense work, discussions or laughter to tears. 10 years of friendship that binds us deeply and enriches us more and more every day.
Notes by Justina Auškelytė & Cesare Pezzi

The magic of the numbers is deeply inscribed in the human thought, and while the various cultures have associated different meanings to different quantities, some kind of numerical symbolism is found practically throughout the human history and geography. One of the numbers which has marked not only the history of mathematics, but also the very form we use for our daily thinking is doubtlessly the number ten. And the reason for this is obvious: the number ten is inscribed in our very body, in our fingers (and indeed the word “digit” comes from the Latin for “finger”), so that the simple act of counting on one’s fingers starts to coincide with counting tout court, and with our ideas about the countability of the quantities around us.

As is equally well known, music is not only the art of emotions, but also a very mathematical art. Numbers are found everywhere in music: from the proportions among pitches which make our tuning systems to the rhythms and tempi (frequently indicated by metronome numbers in turn), from the bar numbers (which not only are a practical help for the rehearsals, but more importantly establish meaningful proportions between a piece’s sections) to the chords indicated by strings of numbers… But even though music can hardly be thought of without numbers, the digits most frequently noted on the scores are… the fingerings. Indicating each finger by a number, teachers and performers frequently clutter their scores with numbers, which ultimately facilitate the learning process.

However, even this is not as straightforward as may seem. For example, “1” will indicate one of the two thumbs for a pianist, while for a violinist it will always represent the left hand’s index finger. And so on.

Notwithstanding these intricacies, it is fascinating and meaningful that we, as humans, started counting by using our fingers, shaped our mathematics on base ten for that reason, made music in a mathematical fashion, and use numbers to identify the fingers when playing. Our bodily reality (our fingers), our most abstract activity (mathematics) and our emotions (music) are thus intertwined in a sophisticated and refined game, which unifies all of our cognitive, sensitive and physical faculties.

Unsurprisingly, the number ten is frequently found in Western music (though, to be honest, less often than some simpler quantities such as one, two, three and four: but the sum of these four numbers… is once more ten). For example, it structures Bach’s masterly Goldberg Variations, thirty pieces making ten groups of three each (the numbers three and ten are similarly employed in Dante’s Commedia, for example). After Beethoven, many composers sought – in vain – to break the glass ceiling of the ten symphonies: as Arnold Schönberg put it, “It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter”.

For Christian and Jewish musicians, moreover, ten stands for the Commandments; and Johann Sebastian Bach was keen to underpin this concept, evoking God’s Laws through his works, especially when the “rules” of music had to be followed more strictly, as in the canonic forms.

The musical programme on this CD, therefore, by simply using the number “10” as its title, evokes a whole universe of symbols, ideas and associations; it is a meaningful choice, as it is also intended to be a homage to the duo’s decade-long cooperation. Indeed, the performing musicians stated their intentions by these words: “For our new album, we chose a simple, minimalist and unusual name, 10. Ten is the number of completeness and unity; it represents the completion of a cycle; the ancients used to consider it as a divine number, as a symbol for the universe and for human knowledge”. Inspired by these concepts, they collected ten pieces for violin and piano, symbolizing the whole compass of the human affections: “Among the infinite facets of classical music, we gathered some of its properties in this album”, they explain.

Brahms’ Scherzo from the FAE Sonata, written as part of a multi-authored work honouring a common friend, is aptly chosen by the performing musicians as a symbol for passion, for that enthralling feeling which excites and ensnares the listeners. This piece’s powerful physical dimension is contrasted with Zvaigzdute by Balys Dvarionas, arranged by Jurgis Dvarionas and Justina Auskelyte, here elected as a symbol for dreaming – that realm of undefined feelings, of enchanting sensations which, at one and the same time, betrays and empowers our rational powers.

Another piece, by Nino Rota (who is mostly known for his film music, but who has also composed some masterpieces both in the instrumental and in the vocal repertoire), is titled Improvviso. “Un diavolo sentimentale”. This “sentimental devil”, which alludes to the virtuoso and yet touching violin music of the preceding decades and centuries, is linked to a “diabolic passion” in the words of the performing musicians. A totally different atmosphere (“melancholic nostalgia”, in the players’ view) is found in yet another work, by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, whose music breathes the very air of infinity and nature. This Berceuse, op. 79 n. 6, is a fine example of his lyrical tone and of his intimate, and yet expressive, melodic vein.

A “dramatic impetus”, again in the performers’ words, marks Schumann’s Sonata no. 1, op. 105, which is indeed a powerful, majestic, and generously scaled masterpiece. Its technical complexity is in the service of an almost ecstatic discourse, full of heroism and of pathos. Grandiosity, and a majestic style, is what the musicians find in Prokofev’s Dance of the knights, arranged by P. Petrov after the symphonic original found in the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, the noble and yet fantastic style of this music perfectly matches the atmospheres of Shakespeare’s play, and the arrangement for violin and piano manages to maintain its union of the magniloquent with the robust and solid.

An entirely different mood is found in another Russian composer’s work, i.e. in Čajkovskij’s Melodie, from Souvenir d’un lieu cher, op. 42. Here, the performers find a “sweet and harmonious cantabile”, a singing tune which gives free rein to the expansive and warm tone of the violin. A similar feeling is evoked, for them, by the Ydill by Tor Aulin, excerpted from the 4 Aqvareller for violin and piano. This Swedish composer, roughly a contemporary of Sibelius, writes a piece full of an almost otherworldly beauty and charm.

Theatricality is what the musicians find in Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane: indeed, gipsy violinists had been admired for generations before Ravel, and their tunes and style were cited or evoked in countless compositions. Ravel, with his taste for exoticism and the distance coming from his ironic and detached perspective, manages to create a piece which enthuses at first hearing, and amuses when its strategies are revealed (and these strategies are very theatrical indeed).

Last but not least, Aram Khachaturjan’s Sabre Dance, in the arrangement by Jascha Heifetz, is as famous as it is exciting; for the musicians, it represents a “wild and furious folly”, with its obsessive rhythms and whirling sonorities.

This journey through ten pieces, ten moods, (two times) ten fingers, ten composers and ten styles is therefore a delightful reminder of how the time of a recording can encompass a whole universe of feelings, emotions and imaginations.

Album Notes by Chiara Bertoglio

Artist(s)

Duo Auškelytė - Pezzi emerged in 2009 within the walls of the International Music Academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola, where two young musicians - a Lithuanian violinist Justina Auskelyte and an Italian pianist Cesare Pezzi - were studying. The duo debuted in July 2009 in Ravenna, Italy and since then they have been performing around Europe and the United States including numerous prestigious festivals and world known institutions. Having mastered their playing with eminent musicians and professors, such as Pavel Berman, Enrico Pace, Boris Kuschnir, Konstantin Bogino, Jurgis Dvarionas, Laurie Smukler and Dario De Rosa, Duo Auskelyte - Pezzi are continuously expanding their repertoire, including violin and piano music from baroque to 21st century and paying particular attention to the chamber music by Lithuanian composers. In May 2017 Auskelyte and Pezzi presented to the public the first worldwide recording of the complete works for violin and piano by the Lithuanian composer Balys Dvarionas. The recording was released by the largest classical music label Naxos Records and has been enthusiastically reviewed by international critics. Duo Auskelyte - Pezzi performed at the major festivals in Justina’s homeland Lithuania, successfully debuted at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic in Vilnius, recorded live for the Lithuanian National Radio and Lithuanian National Television and collaborated with Lithuanian artists and composers. In 2018 Duo Auskelyte - Pezzi debuted at the prestigious festival by Riccardo Muti - International Ravenna Festival, performing complete Violin Sonatas by Johannes Brahms. The concert was recorded live and is available online.

Composer

Aram Il'ich Khachaturian (b Tbilisi, 24 May/6 June 1903; d Moscow, 1 May 1978). Armenian composer, conductor and teacher. He is considered by some to be the central figure in 20th-century Armenian culture and, along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich, was a pillar of the Soviet school of composition. He influenced the development of composition not only in Armenia but also in Asia and South America. His name graces the Grand Concert Hall in Yerevan, a string quartet has been named after him and a prize in his name was instituted by the Armenian Ministry of Culture. His house was opened as a museum in 1978 and since 1983 the International Khachaturian Fund in Marseilles has held competitions for pianists and violinists.

Balys Dvarionas (b Liepāja, Latvia, 19 June 1904; d Vilnius, 23 Aug 1972). Lithuanian composer, pianist and conductor. The youngest child in a family of 11 children, he first studied music with his father, an organist and instrument maker. Serious study began under Alfrēds Kalniņš, and in 1920, along with several other Lithuanian musicians including Jadvyga Čiurlionytė and Juozas Gruodis, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied with Teichmüller and Karg-Elert. He made his début as a pianist while still a student at Leipzig, with programmes featuring works by Debussy, Skryabin, Prokofiev, Čiurlionis and Gruodis. After graduating in 1924, he went on to Berlin in 1925 to take a postgraduate piano course under Egon Petri, before settling in Lithuania in 1926. He later made appearances as a pianist in Moscow and Leningrad (1933), Paris (1935), Stockholm (1936), Hamburg and elsewhere. In 1926 Dvarionas took up a teaching post at the Kaunas Music School (later renamed the Kaunas Conservatory), which he held until his death. It was at this institution that he began his conducting career, directing student ensembles. He conducted in Berlin in 1932, studied with Walter and Karajan at the Salzburg Mozarteum in 1934, and in 1936 directed the first Lithuanian performance of Shostakovich’s First Symphony and the première of Čiurlionis’s The Sea. He took a diploma in conducting under Abendroth in Leipzig in 1939. In January 1940 he conducted the Lithuanian SO in their first concert, which featured Čiurlionis’s In the Forest. After the war he moved to Vilnius, the new Lithuanian capital, with his wife, the pianist A. Smilgaite, and their two children. There he continued to conduct and to teach in the newly unified conservatory. Dvarionas wrote many of his most important compositions during the period immediately after the war. Works such as the Violin Concerto are notable for their combination of a folk-inspired lyricism with structural confidence and developmental coherence. His output is essentially conservative in tone, and as such it found favour with the Soviet authorities. He composed the Lithuanian national anthem, and in 1964 received the Order of Lenin and was made a People’s Artist of the USSR. His daughter Margarita Dvarionaitė (b 1928) studied in Leningrad and became conductor of the Lithuanian PO and Opera.

Jean Sibelius (b Hämeenlinna, 8 Dec 1865; d Järvenpää, 20 Sept 1957). Finnish composer. He was the central figure in creating a Finnish voice in music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His most significant output was orchestral: seven symphonies, one violin concerto, several sets of incidental music and numerous tone poems, often based on incidents taken from the Kalevala, the Finnish-language folk epic. His work is distinguished by startlingly original adaptations of familiar elements: unorthodox treatments of triadic harmony, orchestral colour and musical process and structure. His music evokes a range of characteristic moods and topics, from celebratory nationalism and political struggle to cold despair and separatist isolation; from brooding contemplations of ‘neo-primitive’ musical ideas or slowly transforming sound textures to meditations on the mysteries, grandeurs and occasionally lurking terrors of archetypal folk myths or natural landscapes. A master of symphonic continuity and compressed, ‘logical’ musical structure, he grounded much of his music in his own conception of the Finnish national temperament. Throughout the 20th century Finland regarded him as a national hero and its most renowned artist. Outside Finland, Sibelius's reputation has been volatile, with passionate claims made both by advocates and detractors. The various reactions to his music have provided some of the most ideologically charged moments of 20th-century reception history.

Johannes Brahms: (b Hamburg, 7 May 1833; d Vienna, 3 April 1897). German composer. The successor to Beethoven and Schubert in the larger forms of chamber and orchestral music, to Schubert and Schumann in the miniature forms of piano pieces and songs, and to the Renaissance and Baroque polyphonists in choral music, Brahms creatively synthesized the practices of three centuries with folk and dance idioms and with the language of mid- and late 19th-century art music. His works of controlled passion, deemed reactionary and epigonal by some, progressive by others, became well accepted in his lifetime.

Maurice Ravel (b Ciboure, Basses-Pyrénées, 7 March 1875; d Paris, 28 Dec 1937). French composer. He was one of the most original and sophisticated musicians of the early 20th century. His instrumental writing – whether for solo piano, for ensemble or for orchestra – explored new possibilities, which he developed at the same time as (or even before) his great contemporary Debussy, and his fascination with the past and with the exotic resulted in music of a distinctively French sensibility and refinement.

Nino Rota: (b Milan, 3 Dec 1911; d Rome, 10 April 1979). Italian composer. He grew up surrounded by music: his mother Ernesta Rinaldi was a pianist and the daughter of the composer Giovanni Rinaldi (1840–95). At the age of eight he was already composing, and in 1923 a well-received performance of his oratorio L’infanzia di S Giovanni Battista established him as a child prodigy. In the same year he entered the Milan Conservatory, where his teachers included Giacomo Orefice. After a brief period of study with Pizzetti, he moved to Rome (1926), where he studied with Casella, and took his diploma at the Conservatorio di S Cecilia three years later. On the advice of Toscanini he studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia (1931–2) with Rosario Scalero (composition) and Fritz Reiner (conducting). He formed a friendship with Aaron Copland and discovered American popular song, cinema and the music of Gershwin: all these elements were grafted on to his passion for Italian popular song and operetta. On his return to Italy, barely into his twenties, Rota attracted the attention of audiences and critics with a large body of music, predominantly chamber and orchestral works. At a time of open warfare between innovators and traditionalists (sustained by the mood established by the Fascist régime favouring warfare), Rota’s style, in part building on the example of Malipiero, displayed original characteristics. Works such as Balli (1932), the Viola Sonata (1934–5), the Quintet (1935), the Violin Sonata (1936–7) and his first two symphonies (1935–9 and 1937–41) show Rota’s trust in an unbroken link with the music of the past. This made Rota’s idiom exceptionally and uninhibitedly responsive to the widest variety of influences, supported, as it was, by a masterly technique, an elegant manner and a capacity for stylistic assimilation. His language at this time is strikingly different from the contemporary predominant directions in Italy. For example, the symphonies draw on a middle-European, Slav symphonic tradition (Tchaikovsky, but possibly Dvořák even more so), probably absorbed during his American period and already infused with cinematic mood. He contributed to the renewal of Italian music with a body of work that has an immediacy of gesture and is rooted in a rare lyricism, built on harmonic languages, formal structures and a rhythmic and melodic idiom which sound distinctive and original. Gianandrea Gavazzeni commented of the Sonata for flute and harp (1937) that he heard ‘the voice of an Italian Ravel, archaic, intimate, the voice of one who has invented a style that did not exist before’. After World War II, Rota’s critical fortunes altered considerably when, in the wake of the post-Webern movement, his work was increasingly judged to be anachronistic. This opinion was strengthened by his growing establishment as a film composer, held by many to be insignificant and uninvolved in the contemporary music scene. He continued, however, to write music for the concert hall and the opera house, with a constant cross-fertilization between the two areas: for a European composer this was an oblique, pioneering approach. In film music he used his eclectic inclinations and treated the boundaries of the film medium as a challenge, so producing some of the finest music of the genre. He became a lecturer at Bari Conservatory (1939), and later its director (1950–77). In 1942, Rota began his long collaboration with the Lux Film company, directed by, among others, Guido M. Gatti and Fedele D’Amico. He created the music for around 60 films in ten years by such directors as Renato Castellani (Mio figlio professore, Sotto il sole di Roma), Mario Soldati (Le miserie del signor Travet), Alberto Lattuada (Senza pietà, Anna) and Eduardo De Filippo (Napoli milionaria, Filumena Marturano). In 1952, with Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik), he began an association with Fellini which lasted until the composer’s death. Of their 16 films, some achieve an extraordinary marriage of music and image, such as I vitelloni, La strada, La dolce vita, 8½, Amarcord and Il Casanova di Federico Fellini. Although it is generally thought that the director dominated the composer, the situation was more subtle and problematic as the music was required to fulfil a narrative and psychological role, frequently featured at the expense of the text itself. Fellini’s film style owes a great deal to Rota’s virtuosity, adaptability and insight. Examples include the many circus marches inspired by Julius Fučík’s Einzug der Gladiatoren and the engaging parody of Weill’s Moritat von Mackie Messer in the theme of La dolce vita. In addition, Rota’s tendency to quote, sometimes to the point of plagiarism – the theme for Gelsomina in La strada is based on the Larghetto of Dvořák’s Serenade, op.22 – was a genuine inclination which converged with Fellini’s imagery, to the point where it identified with it and lent it dignity. Rota’s film career, amounting to over 150 titles, included collaborations with Luchino Visconti (Rocco e i suoi fratelli and Il gattopardo [The Leopard]) and directors such as René Clément, Franco Zeffirelli, King Vidor, Sergei Bondarchuk, as well as on the first two parts of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Rota composed in a wide variety of genres, writing pieces of an almost provocative simplicity. His Ariodante (1942), audaciously 19th-century in manner, was followed by works reminiscent of operetta and vaudeville, such as I due timidi (1950), La notte di un nevrastenico (1959) and the overwhelming farce Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (1955). These works show an ability to produce instant sketches which the composer himself described as the product of his familiarity with the rhythm of film-making. Another favoured genre was that of the fairy tale as in Aladino e la lampada magica(1968) and La visita meravigliosa (1970), considered perhaps his finest score for the theatre. The most significant orchestral works are the 3 piano concertos, the Sinfonia sopra una canzone d’amore (1947), the Variazioni sopra un tema gioviale (1953), Symphony No.3 (1956–7) and several concertos for various instruments. His piano and chamber music includes many original compositions, such as the 15 Preludes or the Due Valzer sul nome di Bach for piano (1975; re-used in Casanova), the Violin Sonata (1936–7), the String Quartet (1948–54), two trios (1958 and 1973) and a nonet (1959–77). His vocal music includes the oratorio Mysterium (1962) and the rappresentazione sacra, La vita di Maria (1968–70), in which a style derived in part from the neo-madrigalist manner of such composers as Petrassi and Dallapiccola results in an operatic-sounding eclecticism, with influences filtered through Stravinsky but rooted in other Eastern European styles (Musorgsky, for example). Rota had frequent recourse to self-borrowing, increasingly apparent in the later film music and stage works. As a whole, Rota’s work is a dense web of continual, multiple references where – in line with the composer’s declared intention – film music and art music are allowed equal dignity. As early as Il cappello di paglia di Firenze he drew together material from preceding works, but it is particularly in a masterpiece like the ballet La strada (1966) and in the opera Napoli milionaria (1977) where self-quotation becomes a point of synthesis and revelation of his essential style. His first film score for Fellini, Lo sceicco bianco, stands out as a source-composition, a model of one of Rota’s specific musical languages; other scores for Fellini as well as Il cappello di paglia, Il giornalino di Gian Burrasca and the incidental music for Much Ado about Nothing draw material from it. La strada makes use of themes from many works, including Lo sceicco bianco, Le notti di Cabiria, Rocco e i suoi fratelli, Concerto soirée and 8½, while Napoli milionaria uses quotations from Filumena Marturano, Plein soleil, La dolce vita, Rocco e i suoi fratelli and Waterloo. Rota’s uninhibited language corresponds in aesthetic terms to this flood of quotation, and the two aspects offer new definitions of such terms as ‘new’ or ‘originality’.

Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky: (b Kamsko-Votkinsk, Vyatka province, 25 April/7 May 1840; d St Petersburg, 25 Oct/6 Nov 1893). Russian composer. He was the first composer of a new Russian type, fully professional, who firmly assimilated traditions of Western European symphonic mastery; in a deeply original, personal and national style he united the symphonic thought of Beethoven and Schumann with the work of Glinka, and transformed Liszt’s and Berlioz’s achievements in depictive-programmatic music into matters of Shakespearian elevation and psychological import (Boris Asaf’yev).

Robert Schumann: (b Zwickau, Saxony, 8 June 1810; d Endenich, nr Bonn, 29 July 1856). German composer and music critic. While best remembered for his piano music and songs, and some of his symphonic and chamber works, Schumann made significant contributions to all the musical genres of his day and cultivated a number of new ones as well. His dual interest in music and literature led him to develop a historically informed music criticism and a compositional style deeply indebted to literary models. A leading exponent of musical Romanticism, he had a powerful impact on succeeding generations of European composers.

Sergey Prokofiev (b Sontsovka, Bakhmutsk region, Yekaterinoslav district, Ukraine, 11/23 April 1891; d Moscow, 5 March 1953). Russian composer and pianist. He began his career as a composer while still a student, and so had a deep investment in Russian Romantic traditions – even if he was pushing those traditions to a point of exacerbation and caricature – before he began to encounter, and contribute to, various kinds of modernism in the second decade of the new century. Like many artists, he left his country directly after the October Revolution; he was the only composer to return, nearly 20 years later. His inner traditionalism, coupled with the neo-classicism he had helped invent, now made it possible for him to play a leading role in Soviet culture, to whose demands for political engagement, utility and simplicity he responded with prodigious creative energy. In his last years, however, official encouragement turned into persecution, and his musical voice understandably faltered.

Tor Aulin (b Stockholm, 10 Sept 1866; d Saltsjöbaden, 1 March 1914). Swedish violinist, composer and conductor, brother of Valborg Aulin. He studied from 1877 to 1883 with J. Lindberg (violin) and C. Nordqvist (theory) at the Swedish Royal Academy of Music and in Berlin from 1884 to 1886 with E. Sauret (violin) and P. Scharwenka (composition). He was active as an orchestral musician in the early years of his career and served as leader of the Swedish Hovkapell from 1889 to 1902. In 1887 he founded the Aulin Quartet, which made annual tours of Sweden and other northern European countries until it was disbanded in 1912; it specialized not only in the Classical repertory, particularly Beethoven, but in a wide-ranging representation of the works of Scandinavian composers, above all Berwald, Grieg, E. Sjögren and W. Stenhammar. From 1890 Aulin worked closely with Stenhammar, who also took part in most of the Aulin Quartet’s tours as pianist. His circle of friends also included Grieg and Sjögren. From 1900 Aulin devoted his time increasingly to conducting: until 1902 he directed the Svenska Musikerförbundets Orkester, from 1902 to 1909 the Stockholm Concert Society (founded largely through his initiative) and from 1909 to 1912 the Göteborg Orchestral Society. He conducted the first performance of Berwald’s Sinfonie singulière, which he subsequently edited for publication. In 1895 he was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Music. As a composer Aulin was stylistically as close to German Romanticism as to the Scandinavians. He is best remembered for the last of his three violin concertos, op.14 in C minor, a highly accomplished work reflecting the influence of Bruch and Schumann as well as that of Grieg. He also composed numerous songs and chamber works, wrote incidental music to the play Mäster Olof by his friend Strindberg, and made transcriptions for violin and piano of some of Sjögren’s songs.

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