This season, From the Heart of Europe, The Musical Offering has explored the music by composers from the center of the continent: Bohemia, Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Moravia. Our season finale concert showcases light and dark in music with works by three remarkable composers: the Moravian Leoš Janácek, the German August Klughardt, and the Hungarian Ernő Dohnányi.
First on the program is Janácek’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, a jarring and folk-inflected piece composed at the outset of the First World War. Janácek was one of the first ethnomusicologists; he spent much of his early career studying (and later recording) the folk musics of his native Moravia. These local traditions later influenced most of the his compositions, and it is one of the characteristics for which he is most remembered.
Janácek began composing the violin sonata in 1914, right as war was breaking out across Europe. As with much of his music, he incorporated folk melodies and styles into the sonata, combining them with more modern sounds of the time and creating a very dramatic, emotional work. After it’s completion, he noted “…in the 1914 Sonata for violin and piano I could just about hear sound of the steel clashing in my troubled head…” It is a dramatic and beautiful chamber work that you could only wish to hear more frequently.
Next on the program is the wind quintet written nearly twenty years earlier by August Klughardt. Born in Köthen, Germany (where Bach wrote many of his best known secular works), Klughardt became a devotee of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, adopting their progressive harmonic vocabularies and motivic techniques. Formally, however, remained in a more conservative vein, composing in traditional symphonic and chamber music forms. His wind quintet from 1898 is lush and Romantic, a more warm and comforting character to follow the Janácek.
The final performance of the season is of a work from the middle of the twentieth century, the sextet by Hungarian Ernő Dohnányi. Like Janácek, Donhnányi was a champion of the music of his homeland, and he spent much of his life leading the Budapest Academy of Music and the Budapest Philharmonic. Unlike Janácek, however, rather than taking up the style of his native traditions in his own compositions, he followed more in the path of Brahms, Schumann, and Liszt. This piece begins very dark and serious but ends with a light, jazzy romp, exploiting the full expressive potential of the strings, winds, and piano. It combines the Romantic characteristics of Brahms with a contemporary, modern style.
This program runs the gamut From Light to Dark, and it is sure to be a captivating afternoon to close the season.