Program Notes: Notturno

by Jack Bryce

Carleton College Professor Emeritus

Board Member

Christopher Kachian, Guitar

Christopher Kachian, Guitar

Wenzel Thomas Matiegka (Choceň, Bohemia, baptized 1773 – Vienna, 1830), originally named Václav Thomas Matějka in his native Czech, became an Austrian composer, guitarist and church choir director.  He studied law in Prague, but moved to Vienna to pursue music.  He pursued both piano and guitar, but it was the guitar which became his favorite.  He married and took up a church position in the suburb of Leopoldstadt, composing liturgical music in a strict style which survives in manuscript; he published only his guitar works.

Notturno, op. 21, for flute, viola, and guitar is in five movements, marked Allegro Moderato, Menuetto, Lento é patetico, Zingara, and Ständchen (theme and variations on Mädchen o schlummere noch nicht).  This is a charming piece, and very rarely performed, so I think we are quite lucky to hear it this evening.  It seems remarkable, for a work written by a guitarist, that the guitar, though important, is most often in an accompanying role, with the exception of the statement of the second theme and a few other spots in the first movement, and the 1st Variation in the final movement.  The viola tends also to be subordinate relative to the flute, though there is plenty of solo work for all three instruments.  The first movement is the most extensive, featuring prominent parts for all three players and a guitar cadenza.  The Minuet is very charming, and in the second trio we hear a lot of guitar.  The third movement is very deeply felt and moving, beginning with a viola solo.  The fourth movement, whose title suggests it is a gypsy piece, begins with a viola solo, and is in ABA form rather like a minuet, featuring a spectacular flute part.  The last movement has variations on a popular tune, “Maiden, sleep no longer.”  The flute announces the theme; Variation 1 is for guitar solo with gentle viola accompaniment; Variation 2 is for flute and guitar; Variation 3, called Capriccio, is slower; Variation 4 is fast, featuring frequent abrupt pauses; Variation 5 is in a minor key, with a constant rapid guitar accompaniment; Variation 6 is a cheerful waltz-like movement; and the piece concludes with Variation 7, a march marked Maestoso, featuring a remarkable dissonance that keeps recurring in the third measure of the jaunty tune.

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