Ellen Parrella Memorial Concert - Notes


Sonata for Cello & Piano in G Minor, Op.19 Rachmaninoff

Two months after premiering the iconic 2nd piano concerto in 1901, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano emerged, albeit in the shadow of the tremendous success of the piano concerto. Although far different in scope, both works shared a common link: they were the first pieces Rachmaninoff composed as he himself emerged from a period of deep self-doubt and depression. Rachmaninoff would go on to compose two more piano concertos, but the Sonata was to be the final piece of chamber music in the composer’s oeuvre.
Rachmaninoff deliberately avoided naming this fantastic piece a “cello sonata”, because the cello and the piano are so deeply intertwined in musical and emotional dialogue throughout the work. In typical Rachmaninoff fashion, there are numerous moments throughout the sonata in which the cello sings a beautiful countermelody to the piano line, and vice versa, creating a rich tapestry of melody and lyricism. The four-movement structure follows a standard sonata form style:
Lento – Allegro moderato (G minor)
Allegro scherzando (C minor)
Andante (E flat major)
Allegro mosso (G major)
In the first two movements of the work, flashes of light and color make brief appearances but are inevitably overtaken by darker, more brooding and turbulent forces. The intensely lyrical Andante is an example of Rachmaninoff at his most poignant, long rich melodic lines filled with longing and bittersweet sentiment. The final movement overwhelms the listener (and the performers) with dazzling and joyous writing, bringing the sonata to an exuberant conclusion.

Sonata No. 14, K 29 Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, was an accomplished violinist, although he was much better known for his keyboard performances. He wrote his first violin sonatas at the age of 6, and continued to write them throughout his life. This charming sonata was written in 1766 while Mozart and his family were in Holland at the request of Princess Caroline, who had learned of Mozart and wanted to hear the young prodigy.

Fantasie, Opus 124 Saint-Saens

Camille Saint-Saens was a musical prodigy on the piano and organ, and had a long career of international performing and composing. He composed this work in Italy in 1907, for two sisters who played harp and violin. Rather than the classical forms he usually employed, the Fantasie is one long movement with different sections and moods, showcasing virtuosity in each instrument. After an introductory passage of improvisations, an Allegro presents a robust character with an impassioned climax; followed by a scherzo-like episode with a contrasting pastoral interlude. Finally an Andante builds above a repeating ostinato figure in the harp, and reminiscences of the first two sections as a coda finish this gorgeous work.

Stucke fur Violin Solo Cerha

Friedrich Cerha was born in Vienna and is now 90. He studied violin and composition at the Viennese Music Academy and the University of Vienna. He has composed a large body of work for solo instruments, chamber works, vocal music, and orchestral repertoire. These solo violin pieces were written in 1997. Cerha is generally accepted as the leading contemporary composer in Austria. Among his many awards are the Grand Austrian State Prize for Music, the Honorary Gold Medal of Vienna, and the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art. He recently wrote: “Despite my age, I am always searching for new things.”

Nocturne for Harp Solo Glinka

Mickhail Glinka’s Nocturne was written for solo harp in 1828 when the composer was just 24. Glinka would later become known for composing in a Russian nationalist style, and for his operas Russlan and Ludmilla and A Life for the Tsar. This work is beloved in the harp repertoire for its beautiful, lyrical melody and rolling base arpeggios.

Medley of Waltzes Strauss

Johann Strauss II was born just outside of Vienna. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other dances, as well as a ballet and several operettas including Die Fledermaus. He was known as "The Waltz King", and was largely responsible for the popularity of that dance. His music is still widely performed, including the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert that Ellen Parrella enjoyed attending and/or listening to each year.