Week One – July 1 and July 3, 2022

WEEK ONE – July 1 and July 3

Friday at 7:30pm | Sunday at 4:00pm

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: Movement for String Trio
Ruth Crawford Seeger: Sonata for Violin and Piano (1926)
Beethoven: String Trio in D major, Op. 9, No. 2
Schumann: Piano Trio in F major, No. 2, Op. 80

Violin
David Bowlin
Laurie Smukler
Axel Strauss

Viola
Doris Lederer

Cello
Gwen Krosnick
Raman Ramakrishnan

Piano
Anna Polonsky
Gilles Vonsattel

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: Movement for String Trio

Published posthumously in 2021, this short but profound work is the final composition of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

Composer and conductor Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson was born on June 14, 1932. Prior to his entrance into New York’s High School of Music and Art in 1945, he exhibited an interest in dance, studying with Pearl Primus and Ismay Andrews. Mentored in high school by his teacher Hugh Ross, he came to meet Igor Stravinsky. By the time of his graduation in 1949, when he won the LaGuardia Prize for music, he had begun composing. He majored in education for two years at New York University (1949-1951), then transferred to the Manhattan School of Music in 1951 (B.M., 1953; M.M., composition, 1954) where he was a composition major under Charles Mills and Vittorio Giannini, and conducting with Jonel Perlea.

His interest in jazz was stimulated while enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music in association with classmates Julius Watkins, Herbie Mann, Donald Byrd, and Max Roach. In the summer of 1954 he studied conducting at the Berkshire Music Center. This was supplemented with additional study with Earl Kim at Princeton University from about 1959 to 1962. His ballet scores include works for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, and the Eleo Pomare Dance Company. He has composed and conducted scores for numerous award-winning theatrical, television, and documentary films and has arranged for jazz and popular artists including Harry Belafonte and Marvin Gaye. 

He conducted orchestras worldwide and served as music director or composer-in-residence for the Negro Ensemble Company, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and various theatre groups. From 1998 until his death in 2004, Perkinson was affiliated with the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago. He was appointed Coordinator of Performance Activities at the Center for Black Music Research in 1998 (advisor to Ensemble Stop-Time, then in 1999 as music director of the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble which offered 34 concerts in Chicago, in Washington for Congress, in New York, and for the première of Wendell Logan’s opera, “The Doxology”, and composer-in-residence for the Ritz Chamber Players of Jacksonville. He also served as guest conductor of the Antara Ensemble of the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Ruth Crawford Seeger: Sonata for Violin and Piano (1926)

Ruth Crawford Seeger, orig. Ruth Porter Crawford, (born July 3, 1901, East Liverpool, Ohio, U.S.—died Nov. 18, 1953, Chevy Chase, Md.), U.S. composer. She studied piano as a child and was self-taught as a composer until she entered the American Conservatory. After early works influenced by Alexander Scriabin, she wrote several astonishing serial pieces, including her String Quartet (1931). She married the musicologist Charles Seeger (1886–1979) in 1931, becoming folk singer Pete Seeger’s stepmother. She composed little after that but became an influential curator of American folk music.

 

 

 

 

Beethoven: String Trio in D major, Op. 9, No. 2 (1798)

In early 1798, when Beethoven composed his three string trios, Op. 9, he was still in the process of consolidating his reputation in Vienna. He had already made a splash in several of the city’s leading aristocratic salons as a virtuoso pianist, playing his own music and improvising. Three concerts at the Burgtheater (March 29-31, 1795) introduced him to a wider audience; at the first of these, he played his B-flat-major Piano Concerto. Building on his successes in Vienna, Beethoven began to tour during this period, visiting Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Pressburg, and Pest (before its unification with Buda) in 1796.

It was hard, though, for the young composer to escape the shadow of Mozart and Haydn. Although he had died in 1791, Mozart was more popular than ever in the 1790s. (Beethoven’s Burgtheater performance on March 30, 1795, had been of Mozart’s D-minor Piano Concerto between the acts of that composer’s opera La clemenza di Tito.) Mozart’s Divertimento, K. 563, for string trio (violin, viola, and cello) was published in 1792 and doubtless provided a model for Beethoven’s trios. Haydn – with whom Beethoven had studied for at least a year after arriving in Vienna in November 1792 – was still very much alive. Many commentators have pointed to Haydn’s achievements in his symphonies and string quartets as inhibiting and delaying Beethoven’s forays into those genres, certainly a viable explanation for the younger composer’s focus on the piano sonata and other types of chamber music, such as the string trio, during the 1790s.

The second trio from the Op. 9 set is in four movements, a layout it shares with Haydn’s quartets and symphonies. The violin dominates the trio, and the part may have been intended for Ignaz Schuppanzigh, a gifted player who collaborated frequently with Beethoven. The opening allegretto is marked by a strongly lyrical impulse in the writing for the violinist, but the incessant accompaniment lends the movement a restless atmosphere. The second movement, with its flowing 6/8 rhythm and its minor mode, has the feeling of an arcane dance. A lively minuet reminds the listener that Beethoven would soon abandon this courtly dance in favor of the more vigorous scherzo. In the rondo finale, Beethoven assigns the main theme to the cello, but the violin claims it by the end.
(Program notes from the LA Phil)

Schumann: Piano Trio in F major, No. 2, Op. 80 (1847)

Once bitten by the counterpoint bug, Schumann never entirely shook off the effects. “I find it strange and remarkable,” he wrote, “that nearly every motif that forms in my mind lends itself to contrapuntal treatment. It is not that I start with the slightest intention of composing such themes. It just happens that way. There seems to be something basic and natural about it.” And indeed, Schumann’s piano trios are full of fugues, fugatos, and canons.

Schumann wrote his first two piano trios in 1847, a remarkably productive year, considering that it was full of turmoil and shocks: the sad death of the Schumanns’ sickly 16-month-old son Emil, and the sudden and unexpected deaths of Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny. Still, Robert managed to finish his opera Genoveva and make good progress on his Eight Scenes from Faust, despite taking time off to write the trios. He wrote the G-minor piano trio, his last, in 1851, amid increasing decline in his physical and mental state.

Schumann’s trios, like his symphonies, gravitate toward the middle in sound and substance. Neither the piano nor the violin use much of their higher registers, and Schumann being Schumann, there is no superficial brilliance in any of the parts. Schumann composed rather like most of us paint and decorate a house: stick with the simple, basic colors. Both the F-major Trio and the G-minor Trio are carefully laid out, and full of unifying devices (movements have themes, thematic contours, moods, or stylistic touches which remind the listener of the other movements.

The opening movement of the F-major Trio is athletic and optimistic, with a feeling of jovial bigness. The descending theme introduced just before the contrapuntally dense development is an allusion to one of Schumann’s songs, and the main theme of the slow movement is a cousin to that song-theme. The third movement is not a scherzo, but a sort of barcarolle in “moderate tempo” (“Im mässiger Bewegung”). Members of this audience, thoroughly schooled by the Six Studies, will no doubt quickly recognize the canonic imitation in this movement between violin and cello, then between piano and violin. (The cello and piano are also in strict canon with each other at the beginning of the slow movement, but Schumann knew that a listener would not be likely to catch it, and on at least one occasion had some fun with a composer friend in a parlor-game sort of way: “Notice anything unusual about the slow movement?”) The jaunty finale, like the first movement, has a heavily contrapuntal development.
(Program notes from Howard Posner and the LA Phil)