Back in January I announced an addition to the San Francisco Performances schedule in the form of an inaugural performance of a newly formed piano trio consisting of pianist (and current composer-in-residence for the New York Philharmonic) Magnus Lindberg, violinist Jennifer Koh, and cellist Anssi Karttunen. This performance will take place on the afternoon of May 15. Plans for the program have changed since the initial announcement; and, on the basis of currently available details, this event promises to be a far cry from the usual piano trio recital.
Most important is that these three musicians will only perform as a trio for one work on the program, the conclusion, which will be the West Coast premiere of Lindberg’s piano trio. Sadly, I have not yet had an opportunity to hear any of Lindberg’s chamber music. However, on the basis of my impressions of “Seht die Sonne,” which received its West Coast premiere by the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Sakari Oramo in June of 2008, I feel it is damned well about time to have another opportunity to hear his music. I seldom envy New Yorkers, but I have to confess that I wish I had their advantage where exposure to his music is concerned.
Fortunately, the remainder of the program will provide two additional opportunities to make up for any “temps perdu” with regard to Lindberg’s repertoire. The program will begin with “Sonatas,” which he completed in 1979, while still a student at the Sibelius Academy, under a commission from the Finnish Broadcasting Company. In 1993 Risto Nieminen provided a program note for the IRCAM Web site, whose English translation by Nick Le Quesne is available on the Web page for this composition on the Web site for the Finnish Music Information Centre. Here is the primary description in that note:
In Sonatas, the main question was, according to the composer, “to explore the differences between progressive and static forms”. Three superimposed sonatas blend into each other, but are at the same time distinguished by playing directions in three languages: German, French and Italian. The piece, whose title is a reference to a string quartet by Ferneyhough (who Lindberg went to meet in Darmstadt in 1980), is written for violin and piano, although the piano part is overwhelmingly dominant.
In her past San Francisco Performances appearances, Koh has never been shy about taking on challenges; and this one promises to be an impressive adventure in the chamber music genre.
Lindberg’s other appearance as composer on this program comes from his relationship with Karttunen. It involves selections from the Mystery Variations on the Chiacona of Giuseppe Colombi, described on Karttunen’s Web site as follows:
Mystery Variations was a gift for the 50th birthday of Anssi Karttunen, masterminded by Kaija Saariaho and Muriel von Braun. They invited a number of composers to write short pieces for cello, using as a theme the first ever piece written for the cello, the Chiacona by Giuseppe Colombi.
The resulting 31 pieces were bound into one book by the Chester Music and presented to Anssi Karttunen. He premiered the 9 Finnish Variations in Helsinki on the 26th of September 2010 and 7 more in Paris on the 30th of September, his 50th birthday. More performances of the Variations followed in Strasbourg, Porto and Amsterdam and New York.
Wikipedia gives the title of Colombi’s 1670 composition as “Chiacona a Basso Solo;” but this does not imply that it was written for double bass. Rather, the Grove Music Online entry suggests that the work may have been conceived as a solo opportunity for a basso continuo player; so there is some validity to the work initiating the solo cello repertoire.
In the San Francisco Performances program, Karttunen will play Colombi’s theme followed by five of the variations. Four of them, those by Edmund Campion, Martin Matalon, Roger Reynolds, and Pablo Ortiz, will be receiving their United States premiere. The set will conclude with Lindberg’s variation, which is receiving its West Coast premiere.
The remaining works on the program will be duos for violin and cello, both from the early twentieth century. These will be performed on either side of the intermission. Given the recent interest in the compositions of Erwin Schulhoff, his four-movement duo, composed in 1925, is likely to further that interest. As was evident when the Pavel Haas Quartet performed his first quartet, Schulhoff was capable of making challenging virtuoso demands; and these demands are just as evident in his duo, requiring the same energy level of the quartet, harmonic bowing, and the execution of pizzicato with the left hand. The other duo, the second “Chôros” by Heitor Villa-Lobos (from a series of fourteen), was originally scored for flute and clarinet; and its foundation in the origins of Brazilian music should balance Schulhoff’s exploration of Eastern European folk sources, particularly since both works were composed in the same decade.
This debut recital by Lindberg, Koh, and Karttunen performing together will take place at 2 PM in the Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on Sunday, May 15. Ticket prices are $50, and $30. Tickets may be purchased through the event page on the San Francisco Performances Web site. They may also be purchased by calling 415-392-2545.