Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
2-Allegro con brio
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Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)
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To that end, we have regularly performed for patients in hospitals around Chicago since our formation in 2011. We share this passion for uplifting hospital patients with the Center for Food Equity in Medicine, which provides services and resources to navigate the complexity of food insecurity a person may encounter during and after their healthcare challenges. We are honored to partner with such an outstanding organization after a year when healthcare systems, patients and their families, and food resources city-wide have been strained by the Covid-19 pandemic. Until Civitas is able to safely enter hospitals to perform once more, we thank you for supporting our collaboration with the Center so that we can continue to support those in need.How we help
Despair and mourning, hope and healing; these have been recurring themes over the past 15 months. Mischa Zupko composed his Anechoic Rhapsody to reflect our collective journey. With this work in mind, we chose piano trios by Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich that convey the internal dichotomy between the turmoil and serenity we have been facing.
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Across the program, there is an underlying exploration on the meaning of “silence”, both literally and figuratively. We close this program with Air and Simple Gifts, a reminder of the possibilities to come.
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Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor is one of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s (1873–1943) earliest compositions, written in just four days in January of 1892 when the composer was only 18 years old. It was a big year for the young Rachmaninoff: he made his formal debut in Moscow just a few weeks later on January 30, where he performed works by Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and several of his own chamber works including the Trio élégiaque. Later that year, he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory with the highest honor in composition, the Great Gold Medal.
The single-movement work showcases both Rachmaninoff’s unique, emerging voice alongside the profound influence of his friend and unofficial mentor, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893). Rachmaninoff’s trio bears a resemblance to the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s 1882 Piano Trio in A minor, marked “Pezzo elegiaco,” which was written after the death of Tchaikovsky’s friend Nikolai Rubinstein. Both “elegiac” pieces follow a conventional sonata form and share many similarities, the most pronounced of which is the return of the main theme as a funeral march in the coda of both movements. When Tchaikovsky died of sudden illness less than two years after the premiere of the first Trio élégiaque (and before conducting the premiere of Rachmaninoff’s orchestral fantasy The Rock, as he had wished), Rachmaninoff returned to the piano trio form and wrote Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor, Op. 9 in memory of his mentor. The second trio, much larger in scope and length, often overshadowed the earlier trio of the same name, which was not even published until 1947. The first trio’s admirable qualities have become more well known in recent years, and the work stands as a powerful example of the young Rachmaninoff’s unmistakable voice.
Approximately 13 minutes
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Anechoic Rhapsody was written at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic as the world was being asked to shelter-in-place. The world changed overnight and brought with it an intense quiet and solitude never before experienced. Heartbeat and breath became audible and reflection was inevitable. It was enough to drive one mad and also a potential source of healing. The periodicity of breath and heartbeat are central to the work and take the form of repeating gestures that undulate and pulse. At times, the pulsing is even in nature and at other times it varies widely in speed progressing rapidly between slow and fast tempos. At other times, the pulses of the various instruments diverge from one another and there is something akin to a sense of drifting into reverie. The range of experience spans from meditative to untethered and the work ultimately climaxes with the piano alone, a voice that had remained relatively subordinate until this moment, as if consciousness itself was awakened and moved by a revelation.
The anechoic chamber, referenced by the title, is a completely soundproof environment used for testing audio products and it is reported that most people cannot stay within it for longer than 45 minutes at a time, some needing to leave immediately. The awareness of one’s own blood flowing through organs and the sound of bones moving at the turn of a head can bring awareness as to the fragility of life. A frightening prospect, but it is precisely this fragility that also makes life so precious and what causes us all to dream beyond the confines of our experience. There is beauty and healing in the quiet. This work was commissioned by the Civitas Ensemble and dedicated to Judy McCue, all of whom engaged in the process of developing the concept behind this work and to whom the composer is truly grateful.How we help
Approximately 7 minutes
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Like Rachmaninoff’s elegiac trios and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, Dmitri Shostakovich’s (1906–1975) Piano Trio in E minor was written to mourn the loss of a dear friend: Ivan Sollertinsky, a brilliant musicologist, music critic, and artistic director of the Leningrad Philharmonic who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of forty-one in February 1944. Shostakovich was devastated by the loss, writing the following to Sollertinsky’s widow: “I cannot express in words all of the grief I felt when I received the news of the death of Ivan Ivanovich … who was my closest friend. … I owe all my education to him.”
The trio’s profundity no doubt comes in part from the backdrop of World War II against which it was written, commenting more broadly on the tenor of the times and suggesting an elegy for the tragic victims of war as well as for Sollertinsky. Though not Jewish himself, Shostakovich felt a strong affinity with what he considered the most persecuted people of Europe and was deeply affected by the discovery of the Majdanek and Treblinka death camps as the Nazis retreated from the eastern front. His edgy use of “Jewish” and other folk themes in this trio and other works can be traced to both the trauma of war as well as his fascination with the music of Gustav Mahler, whose work (loosely drawing on Jewish themes) had been championed in the Soviet Union by Sollertinsky.
The opening Andante begins very quietly in eerie high harmonics as a solo cello introduces a meditative subject that grows into a weighty fugue. The following scherzo, brisk and spiky, is unmistakably Shostakovich and constantly teeters on the edge between lively and frantic. The third movement Largo is a funeral dirge cast in the form of a Baroque passacaglia, based on the six-fold repetition in the piano of an 8-measure chord progression (in 1975, this movement was played as the public filed past the coffin of the composer lying in state in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory). Without pause, a quiet drumming figure in the piano leads us into the finale, which features several Jewish dances and juxtaposes joy and sorrow in such a way as to intensify emotions in both directions.
Approximately 30 minutes
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John Williams (b. 1932) wrote the piano quartet Air and Simple Gifts for the first inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America. It was premiered by a virtuosic ensemble comprising Anthony McGill (clarinet), Itzhak Perlman (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), and Gabriela Montero (piano) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2009 and was the first classical quartet to be performed at a presidential inauguration.
John Williams is famous for his many symphonic film scores from a career spanning nearly seven decades. Air and Simple Gifts prominently features the traditional 19th century Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” by Joseph Brackett, most famously heard in Aaron Copland’s 1944 ballet, Appalachian Spring. The use of the tune is doubly significant because of its familiar status in American traditional music and because Copland is noted as one of President Obama’s favorite classical composers. Structured roughly in three parts, the piece opens with a pensive, modal “Air” theme introduced by the violin and accompanied by the cello and piano. The clarinet enters later with the “Simple Gifts” theme, triggering an increasingly energetic series of variations leading up to the return of the “Air” melody and a final cadence in D major.
Approximately 5 minutes
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Zoltán Kodály’s duo for violin and cello is a masterpiece that showcases the two instruments in their most glorious forms, as the ultimate virtuosos and as communicators of folk musical language. The freedom and energy that flows through the entire piece is irresistible.How we help
A dominant figure in Hungarian music, Dohnanyi is regarded as the most versatile musician to emerge from that country since Franz Liszt. His compositional style is a delicious mix of Richard Strauss’s tone poems and Sergei Rachmaninov’s symphonies. This sextet was his last large scale chamber music, in which we are featuring two amazing guest artists, CSO (horn) Oto Carrillo and (viola) WeiTing Kuo.How we help
DePaul’s new performance venues have caught the attention of many performers and ensembles, and being in a university setting gives us greater access to students thus further our mission on education. This is a great way to kick off the 2019-2020 season.How we help