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The "radiant playing" (The Baltimore Sun) of German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser unites with the refined artistry of Austrian pianist TIll Fellner. Together, they juxtapose Beethoven's intimate Op. 102 sonatas, written in 1815, with a varied group of works from a century later.

Please note that it is expected that this concert will take place at Shriver Hall. Learn more here.

"Moser attached the piece with flaming elegance. He has a bravura technique, lush sound, but also natural temperament." —Berliner Zeitung

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    Johannes Moser

    Hailed by Gramophone Magazine as "one of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists", German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser has performed with the world's leading orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, BBC Philharmonic at the Proms, London Symphony, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, Tokyo NHK Symphony, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras with conductors of the highest level including Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, Valery Gergiev, Zubin Mehta, Vladimir Jurowski, Franz Welser-Möst, Christian Thielemann, Pierre Boulez, Paavo Jarvi, Semyon Bychkov, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Gustavo Dudamel.

    Johannes recently won his 3rd ECHO Klassik award as ‘Instrumentalist of the Year 2017' for his Russian Recital disk on the label PENTATONE, for whom he records exclusively. His latest recordings include the concertos by Dvorák, Lalo, Elgar and Tchaikovsky, which have gained him the prestigious Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and the Diapason d'Or. He will return to the recording studio in late 2017 to record Lutoslawski and Dutilleux concertos.  

    In the 2017-18 season, Johannes will return to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, Netherlands Radio, Orchestre National de Lille, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Seattle and San Diego Symphony.  

    With his newly formed piano trio with Yevgeny Sudbin and Vadim Gluzman he will tour extensively in the coming season throughout Europe and North America. A dedicated chamber musician, Johannes has performed with Joshua Bell, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, Menahem Pressler, James Ehnes, Midori, and Jonathan Biss. He is also a regular at festivals including the Verbier, Schleswig-Holstein, Gstaad and Kissinger festivals, the Mehta Chamber Music Festival, and the Colorado, Seattle and Brevard music festivals.

    Renowned for his efforts to expand the reach of the classical genre, as well as his passionate focus on new music, Johannes has recently been heavily involved in commissioning works by Julia Wolfe, Ellen Reid, Thomas Agerfeld Olesen, Johannes Kalitzke, Jelena Firsowa and Andrew Norman. He will take part in the European Premiere of Gubaidulina's Triple Concerto with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. In 2011 he premiered Magnetar for electric cello by Enrico Chapela with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and in the following season he continued this relationship with the orchestra performing Michel van der Aa's cello concerto Up-close. Throughout his career, Johannes has been committed to reaching out to all audiences, from kindergarten to college and beyond. He combines most of his concert engagements with masterclasses, school visits and preconcert lectures.

    Born into a musical family in 1979, Johannes began studying the cello at the age of eight and became a student of Professor David Geringas in 1997. He was the top prize winner at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, in addition to being awarded the Special Prize for his interpretation of the Rococo Variations. In 2014 he was awarded with the prestigious Brahms prize.  

    A voracious reader of everything from Kafka to Collins, and an avid outdoorsman, Johannes Moser is a keen hiker and mountain biker in what little spare time he has.

    "His tone was big and warm where needed, and he proved himself capable of some Rostropovich-like wild abandon…he was consistently eloquent." —The Telegraph

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    Till Fellner

    Austrian pianist Till Fellner’s international career was launched in 1993 when he won the prestigious Clara Haskil Competition in Switzerland. Over more than two decades, he has become a sought-after guest with many of the world’s most important orchestras and at the major music centers and festivals of Europe, America, and Japan.

    During the 2018-19 season Till Fellner returns to the Montreal Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as to the Pittsburgh Symphony for performances at Heinz Hall and at New York’s Lincoln Center. He performs recitals at Harvard and Shriver Hall Concert Series, and tours with cellist Johannes Moser in Europe and North America. For two seasons beginning in 2018-19, Till Fellner will present an all-Schubert cycle (four concerts in total) at Vienna’s Schubertiade Festival, in Antwerp, Tokyo, and Taipei, among other cities.

    In 2017-18, Fellner debuted with the New York Philharmonic and returned to the Chicago Symphony for a subscription week with frequent collaborator Manfred Honeck. In Europe, he appeared with Le Concert Olympique, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. He was heard in recital in Paris, Vienna, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and throughout Germany, Belgium, and France. He also served on the jury of the Montreal International Keyboard Competition.

    Fellner has performed Mozart and Beethoven concertos with the Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Montreal, and Vienna symphony orchestras, Berlin’s Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester, and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. In 2015, he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink.

    In chamber music, Fellner regularly collaborates with British tenor Mark Padmore, with whom he premiered a work by German composer Hans Zender in 2016 and toured Japan in February 2017. This collaboration continued in 2017-18, with recitals in Vienna and Salzburg. In addition, he regularly performs with the Belcea Quartet.

    Earlier in his career, Fellner dedicated himself to two milestones of the piano repertoire: Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier and Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas. He performed the Beethoven cycle from 2008 to 2010 in New York, Washington, Tokyo, London, Paris, and Vienna. Committed to contemporary music, he has given the world premieres of works by Kit Armstrong, Harrison Birtwistle, Thomas Larcher, Alexander Stankovski, and Hans Zender.

    An exclusive ECM recording artist, Fellner has released the first book of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, as well as Bach’s Two- and Three-Part Inventions, Beethoven’s piano concertos Nos. 4 and 5 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Kent Nagano, and most recently, chamber music by Harrison Birtwistle. In 2016, Fellner’s recording of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Belcea Quartet on Alpha Classics received the Diapason d’Or de l’Année.

    A native of Vienna, Fellner studied with Helene Sedo-Stadler before going on to study privately with Alfred Brendel, Meira Farkas, Oleg Maisenberg, and Claus-Christian Schuster. Since autumn 2013, Till Fellner has taught at the Züricher Hochschule der Künste.

    His website is tillfellner.com

    "[Fellner's] playing was all Apollonian grace…remarkable in its clarity, musicality, and feline viruosity." —The Boston Globe

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Suite Italienne for Cello and Piano

View Notes

Stravinsky’s long and storied career took him from the aristocratic salons of czarist St. Petersburg to the tinsel-town sound studios of Los Angeles. It was as a Russian nationalist that he rocketed to fame on the eve of World War I with a trio of colorfully folkloristic ballets—Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring—that alternately enraptured and enraged European audiences. The Parisian Stravinsky of the 1920s and 1930s cut a more cosmopolitan figure, characterized by such coolly Neoclassical masterpieces as the ballet Apollo and the Violin Concerto in D. After emigrating to the United States in 1939, he reinvented himself yet again in works like his opera The Rake’s Progress and the spikily serial Movements for piano and orchestra. 

Pulcinella, which Stravinsky wrote in 1920 for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, is based on music by Giovanni Pergolesi and other 18th-century composers. The engagingly lyrical Neoclassical score marked a turning point in the composer’s career. “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible,” he told his faithful chronicler Robert Craft. “It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too.” Featuring characters drawn from the Italian commedia dell’arte, the ballet proved so popular in Europe and the United States that Stravinsky extracted from it no fewer than four concert suites. This one, thinly disguised under the title Suite italienne (Italian Suite), was made in 1932 for the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. 

Along with the works by Webern and Debussy to be heard later on tonight’s program, the Suite italienne represents one strain of the Modernist style that swept across Europe in the early 20th century. There may be little trace of modernity in the confidently striding Introduzione, apart from occasional dissonances and a hint of hoedown-style fiddling. But the rocking barcarolle rhythm of the dreamy Serenata is interrupted by two measures in which time seems to stand still while the cellist plays a series of trills, an effect later echoed by shuddering tremolos. The impishly energetic Aria strays farther from the 18th-century path, adding a soupçon of Slavic passion to the mix. The Tarantella is a scintillating moto perpetuo, spiced with bitonal harmonies and subtle agogic effects. After a mock-formal Minuetto, Stravinsky sheds all vestiges of 18th-century garb and lets his hair down in the foot-stomping Finale.

Note by Harry Haskell, © 2018

Anton Webern (1883-1945)

Three Little Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 11

View Notes

Of the triumvirate of Austrian modernist composers who comprised the so-called Second Viennese School—Arnold Schoenberg and his prize pupils, Anton Webern and Alban Berg—Webern was the most single-minded in his pursuit of a radically stripped-down musical language, purged of the lushness and long-windedness associated with 19th-century Romanticism. The definitive break with the past came in 1908, the year Webern’s formal studies with Schoenberg ended. For the next six years he concentrated on refining his style in a series of spare, highly compressed works that are minimalist in dimensions but not in musical content. 

In the spring of 1914, Webern’s father suggested that he switch gears and write “a major piece for cello and piano.” He dutifully started work on a full-length sonata, but broke off after completing the first movement to compose the Three Little Pieces (or Drei kleine Stücke). As the title suggests, Op. 11 is one of Webern’s most aphoristic and ethereal works. To Schoenberg, who like his father had been urging him to try his hand at longer forms, he sheepishly apologized for once again producing “something so short.” But he explained that the urge to write the Three Little Pieces had been overpowering, adding that “rarely have I felt so certain that something good has come into being.” 

The compression of musical thought in Op. 11 is extreme even by Webern’s standards: the entire work consists of a mere 32 bars and takes only about two minutes to play. (Accordingly, it will be heard twice on today’s concert, once after the Stravinsky and again after the Debussy Sonata.) Although Webern followed Schoenberg’s lead in using all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, the fully developed 12-tone technique for which the older composer is known lay some years in the future. Instead, short melodic motifs and chords are the building blocks of the Three Little Pieces, whose distinctive characters are accurately described by the German tempo markings: mässige (moderate), sehr bewegt (very lively), and äusserst ruhig (extremely calm).

Note by Harry Haskell, © 2018

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, Op. 102, No. 1

View Notes

Although Beethoven wrote only half as many sonatas for the cello as for the violin, they are no less central to the instrument’s repertory. String sonatas were a novelty at the turn of the 19th century, in part because composers were still wrestling with the problem of combining the often brittle brilliance of the contemporary fortepiano with the mellower and more singing voices of the cello and violin. Unlike the ten violin sonatas, all but one of which were written between 1797 and 1803, Beethoven spread his five cello sonatas over nearly two decades. The 26-year-old composer presented the two Op. 5 sonatas as a calling card to the cello-playing Prussian monarch, Friedrich Wilhelm II, in Berlin in 1796. The works’ understated exuberance played to Beethoven’s strengths as a pianist, and to the virtuosity of the exiled French cellist Jean-Louis Duport. By 1808, the composer of the “Eroica” and “Pastoral” symphonies, the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas, and the three “Razumovsky” string quartets had become a seminal force in the Romantic movement. The tuneful A-major Cello Sonata of that year is one of Beethoven’s most intricately wrought pieces of chamber music, while the two boldly dramatic Op. 102 sonatas, both written in 1815, pushed the language of Viennese Classicism toward its limits. 

In 1809, a consortium of noble patrons awarded Beethoven a lifetime annuity. This welcome stipend at last freed him from the burden of catering, however grudgingly and erratically, to the conservative taste of the Viennese public. Many of the sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, and other works that he wrote in the last 18 years of his life have a quirky, somewhat otherworldly quality, often juxtaposing passages of great tenderness and lucidity with lacerating eruptions of raw energy and emotion. How, and how much, the composer’s increasing deafness may have affected his music and outlook on life is to some degree a matter of conjecture, but there is no mistaking the profound inwardness of these extraordinary late works, with their radical discontinuities, far-flung tonal relationships, and bold reconfigurations of musical time and space.

Flouting convention, Beethoven laid out the C-major Sonata in two very fast movements of contrasting characters, each preceded by a leisurely and somewhat meandering preamble. The tender 6/8 theme of the opening Andante is punctuated with tiny pauses and fluttering trills that create an aura of expectancy, a lull before the storm that erupts without warning in the first Allegro vivace in A minor. Listen for the rising four-note figure (long-short-short-long) that Beethoven inserts in the cello part just before the first-section repeat: it will return as an integral part of the main theme of the second Allegro vivace, the two instruments playfully batting it back and forth in a game of cat and mouse. In similar fashion, the brief Tempo d’andante that links the second slow-fast pair reprises the opening Andante.

Note by Harry Haskell, © 2018

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor

View Notes

At once radical and traditionalist, Debussy rebelled against the French Wagner cult and the ponderous academic style of establishment composers like Saint-Saëns and d’Indy. At the same time, he urged his compatriots to return to the “pure French tradition” as exemplified by the Baroque master Jean-Philippe Rameau. Debussy first made his mark in the early 1890s with a series of boldly unconventional and quintessentially Gallic masterpieces, such as the emotionally turbulent String Quartet; La damoiselle élue (The Blessed Damozel), a Wagnerian “lyric poem” for women’s voices and orchestra; and his revolutionary masterpiece Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun”). By the time Debussy published his first book of Images for solo piano in 1905, the composer and his aesthetic principles—loosely subsumed under the rubric “Debussyism”—had attracted praise and censure in equal measure. Together with the symbolist opera Pelléas et Mélisande, Debussy’s great piano and orchestral pieces came to define musical impressionism in the popular mind. Although many critics associated him with painters like Manet and Whistler, he maintained that his music depicted not superficial impressions but essential “realities.” Musicians alone, he declared, enjoyed “the privilege of being able to convey all the poetry of the night and the day,” whereas painters could “recapture only one of her aspects at a time.”

Composed in the summer of 1915, the Sonata for Cello and Piano was the first of six projected sonatas for sundry instrumental ensembles, of which only two more—scored for flute, viola, and harp and for violin and piano—would come to fruition. It signaled Debussy’s emergence from a prolonged depression, exacerbated by the inexorable onslaught of cancer, during which he had felt incapable of producing any music of substance. “I’ve almost had to relearn” how to compose, he told the Italian conductor Bernardo Molinari. “It was like a rediscovery and it’s seemed to me more beautiful than ever! Is it because I was deprived of it for so long? I don’t know. What beauties there are in music ‘by itself,’ with no axe to grind or new inventions to amaze the so-called dilettanti.” The freshness and spontaneity of the D-minor Sonata may owe something as well to the therapeutic landscape of the Normandy coast, where Debussy had sought refuge from the tense, bellicose atmosphere of Paris. 

True to his nationalist credo, Debussy proudly signed himself “musicien français” on the title pages of his three wartime sonatas. The Cello Sonata, cast in three short movements of more or less equal length and weight, illustrates the “clarity of expression” and “precision and compactness of form” that he considered the hallmarks of the “pure” French style. Debussy’s music is predominantly spare and delicate, almost Neoclassical in its transparency. Despite the piano’s grandiloquent opening, it is the cello’s graceful arabesques and tenderly swooning melody that set the tone for the Prologue. The Sérénade is fantastical and rhapsodic in character, with crisp staccato accents, quirky, free-flowing rhythmic patterns, and subtle chromatic harmonies. The movement comes to rest on a quietly sustained A, then pivots without pausing for breath into the buoyant, lighthearted Finale.

Note by Harry Haskell, © 2018

Anton Webern (1883-1945)

Three Little Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 11

View Notes

Of the triumvirate of Austrian modernist composers who comprised the so-called Second Viennese School—Arnold Schoenberg and his prize pupils, Anton Webern and Alban Berg—Webern was the most single-minded in his pursuit of a radically stripped-down musical language, purged of the lushness and long-windedness associated with 19th-century Romanticism. The definitive break with the past came in 1908, the year Webern’s formal studies with Schoenberg ended. For the next six years he concentrated on refining his style in a series of spare, highly compressed works that are minimalist in dimensions but not in musical content. 

In the spring of 1914, Webern’s father suggested that he switch gears and write “a major piece for cello and piano.” He dutifully started work on a full-length sonata, but broke off after completing the first movement to compose the Three Little Pieces (or Drei kleine Stücke). As the title suggests, Op. 11 is one of Webern’s most aphoristic and ethereal works. To Schoenberg, who like his father had been urging him to try his hand at longer forms, he sheepishly apologized for once again producing “something so short.” But he explained that the urge to write the Three Little Pieces had been overpowering, adding that “rarely have I felt so certain that something good has come into being.” 

The compression of musical thought in Op. 11 is extreme even by Webern’s standards: the entire work consists of a mere 32 bars and takes only about two minutes to play. (Accordingly, it will be heard twice on today’s concert, once after the Stravinsky and again after the Debussy Sonata.) Although Webern followed Schoenberg’s lead in using all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, the fully developed 12-tone technique for which the older composer is known lay some years in the future. Instead, short melodic motifs and chords are the building blocks of the Three Little Pieces, whose distinctive characters are accurately described by the German tempo markings: mässige (moderate), sehr bewegt (very lively), and äusserst ruhig (extremely calm).

Note by Harry Haskell, © 2018

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Sonata for Cello and Piano in D major, Op. 102, No. 2

View Notes

Beethoven often seems to be feeling his way through this powerful and enigmatic companion to the C-major Sonata. The piano begins by making a couple of bold, exploratory leaps, each landing on a heavily accented dotted half-note, before quickly scampering back to home base—whereupon the cello picks up the ball and carries it into more lyrical territory. This start-and-stop pattern repeats itself throughout the Allegro con brio as Beethoven teases out the implications of his two main themes. A variation of the opening bars introduces a pulsating pianissimo interlude, charged with harmonic tension, which resolves magically into a final D-major cadence. The searing Adagio—the only full-scale slow movement to be found in any of Beethoven’s cello sonatas—is marked, somewhat redundantly, “with great emotional feeling.” Here, too, the composer seems to be searching for a new synthesis of expansive lyricism and dramatic compression. Formally, the movement is open-ended, the cello and piano alighting momentarily on a dominant A-major chord before launching into the final Allegro. Each plays a simple A-major scale reminiscent of the piano’s preliminary “warm-up” in the first movement. Then the cello leads the way in an energetic fugue characterized by jagged syncopations and contrary motion between the voices. Eventually, a deep, rumbling trill emerges in the piano, like a mighty pedal point, reaffirming the Sonata’s underlying D-major tonality.

In their blend of tenderness and abrasiveness, hesitancy and impetuosity, the two Op. 102 Sonatas offer a window into Beethoven’s creative soul. They stand on the threshold between the “heroic” style of his middle period and the more introspective, convoluted language of his later works. Beethoven presented the manuscripts as a parting gift to his longtime friend and patron Countess Erdödy, who moved away from Vienna with her family in 1815. Having made his final public appearance as a solo pianist the preceding year, the composer was increasingly isolated by his progressive loss of hearing. It was a fallow period for him compositionally as well, a time for taking stock and consolidating the lessons of the past few years before striking off in a new direction. “It is so original that no one can understand it on first hearing,” a contemporary remarked upon hearing one of the Op. 102 sonatas. A century later, the equally challenging music of Debussy, Webern, and Stravinsky would elicit similarly bemused reactions.

Note by Harry Haskell, © 2018

Program Subject to Change Without Notice