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Program Notes

Yefim Bronfman, Piano


Joseph Haydn: Sonata in C major, Hob. XVI:50
Born in Rohrau, Austria, March 31, 1732; died in Vienna, May 31, 1809
Joseph Haydn spent some thirty years in the service of the Esterhzys, a Hungarian noble family
who spent most of the year in a cultural wasteland well outside Vienna, as the composer
bitterly complained. Nevertheless, Haydn managed to build an international reputation, and when
Prince Nicolaus died in 1790, his successor allowed Haydn the freedom to pursue an
independent career. The concert promoter Johann Peter Salomon took the opportunity to book a
London tour for Haydn in 1791, and a second followed in 1794.
The Piano Sonata in C major, Hob.XVI:50 belongs to a trio of sonatas Haydn composed during
his second tour of London in 1794-95 for the pianist Therese Jansen. (Haydn not only admired
her playing but also knew her personally, and was guest at her London wedding in May 1795.)
Judging by this sonata, along with two others composed at the same time and likewise dedicated
to her (Hob. XVI:51 and Hob. XVI:52), Jansen was an exceptional performer playing a modern
instrument. As scholar Karl Geiringer notes, Haydns C Major Sonata reaches a higher note on
the keyboard than in any of Haydns other piano sonatas. These three sonatas are among Haydns
very last efforts in the genre, and reveal not only Jansens virtuosic talents as a performer but
also Haydns command as a composer and famed musical wit.
The first movement combines the tripartite structure of a sonata-allegro formexposition,
development, and recapitulationwith a theme and variations. The laconic main theme hops
along in the right hand, with abrupt answers in the left; a first variation follows with rolled
chords and little frills that fill in the silences. Theres no second theme per se (Haydn is known
for his monothematic sonatas), but a new key emerges, marked by the skipping octave theme
moving to the left hand. After a brief nod to the minor mode, the exposition is capped by
decisive-sounding chords. Variations continue in the development, which begins in the minor and
later modulates to a remote, major key. The tonal distance traveled since the opening is
underscored by the soft dynamic, low register, surprisingly dark mood, and use of the pedal.
Three chords close the development, and the recapitulation repeats the sunny opening.
The second movement also relies on variation procedures and showcases Haydns ability to
embellish even the simplest material with lavish ornamentsthe little turns, tweaks, and trills
that enliven the wandering line in the right hand. The unusually brief finale, in triple meter, is a
scherzo of great good humor and Beethovenian vigor, to quote musicologist Lszl Somfai.
Haydn deploys his famous musical wit in the odd phrase lengths, indecisive repetitions, and
unexpected pauses.

Robert Schumann: Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26


Born in Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810; died in Endenich, Germany, July 29, 1856
In the fall of 1838, Robert Schumann moved from Leipzig, his home for the last decade, to
Vienna, where he hoped to relocate his influential music journal, Die Neue Zeitschrift fr Musik
(The New Journal of Music), and settle with his intended bride, concert pianist Clara Wieck.
None of this came to pass, however, and Schumann returned to Leipzig in 1839. His time in
Vienna, however, seems to have influenced his compositional style, musicologist John Daverio
has argued. Perhaps hoping to appeal to a wider public, Schumann embraced a more accessible
style, writing large piano works that comprise miniature movementsmany within reach of
accomplished amateur pianists.
As its title suggests, Schumann composed the Faschingsschwank aus Wien while living in the
capital city. Although the work was sketched in 1839, it was not published until August 1841.
Faschingsschwank, translated as Carnival Jest, is not found in any German dictionary:
Schumann himself invented the word, combining Faschings (carnival) and Schwank
(comedic scene or farce). Clearly the piece is meant to be lighthearted, and Daverio notes its
popular tone; the French revolutionary anthem La Marseillaise is quoted in the first movement.
But critics have also discovered a wealth of musical references to Schubert and Beethoven that
would delight sophisticated listeners and especially concert pianists like Clara.
The first movement of Faschingsschwank falls in rondo form: Discursive interludes appear
between recurrences of the main theme (or ritornello) heard at the outset. The ritornello is
bracing, with repeated chords and sweeping arpeggios. The second episode features gently
rocking syncopated chords, played softly. The third is in the minor mode. The fourth and longest
episode alludes to a waltz with repeated chords, and a fanfare-like passage introduces the
quotation of La Marseillaise. A delicate passage of syncopated chords leads to the last return of
the ritornello, and a coda caps off the movement.
The short second movement, Romanze, unfolds in A-B-A form with a middle section
distinguished by a move to the major mode. Like the first movement, the third, Scherzino, is in a
loose rondo form with recurring thematic material separated by digressive episodes. The main
idea takes the form of short questions and answers that alternate between high and low registers.
The Intermezzo features a soaring melody above quick arpeggios in the right hand and slowmoving octaves in the left. The Finale falls in traditional sonata-allegro form, featuring an
exposition that sets out the thematic material, a development that fragments and varies it, and a
recapitulation that brings back the themes. The first theme breezes by in a blur of repeated notes;
a quieter transition leads to the second theme, in a new key, which features gently pulsing triplets
in the inner voices and a more leisurely melody. The development occupies itself with the first
theme, moving through various keys, and the work ends decisively with a series of rousing final
chords.

Sergei Prokofiev: Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major, Op. 84


Born in Sontsovka, Ukraine (now Krsn) on April 23, 1891; died in Moscow, March 5, 1953
In March 1936, Sergei Prokofiev relocated to Moscow, a fateful choice more pragmatic than
political. Having left Russia for the West in 1918, he endured a peripatetic life as a concert
pianist in Europe and North America, composing on the fly while in transit; the steady stream of
commissions promised by the Soviet government afforded the means to devote himself to
composition full time. He seized the opportunity to shift his base of operations, thinking he could
maintain his cosmopolitan career. For a time this strategy worked. In 1937 and 1938 Prokofiev
was allowed to travel to the United States, where he was most warmly met in Chicago.
Thereafter the composer found himself trapped, forbidden to travel abroad, and unable to
compose freely. Though valued by the Stalinist regime and supported by the Soviet cultural
bureaucracy, he suffered correction and censorship, the result being a gradual sapping of his
creative energies. While his late ballets and operas often came in for harsh criticism from
musical apparatchiks, he had much greater success with his piano music and symphonies,
receiving numerous official prizes for them.
Shostakovich and Prokofiev each composed a wartime trilogy: the former of symphonies (Nos.
79), the latter sonatas (coincidentally also Nos. 79). Yet Prokofievs Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth
Piano Sonatas, conceived as a set in 1939, address musical and spiritual conflictsnot worldly
ones. The leading expert on Prokofievs life and works, Simon Morrison, presents the fusion
between violent impulse and classical discipline in the Sixth Sonata as a dialogue between
Neoprimitivism and Neoclassicism, Romantic passion and Classical logic; the same may be
said of the Seventh and Eighth. All three, Morrison writes, are united in the radiant discord of
their melodic and harmonic language and the willfulness of their rhythmic writing.
Thus Prokofiev appears to assert in music the tenets of his faith: The composer was a committed
Christian Scientist who believed in the divinity of his own talent and dismissed the evils of the
temporal world as mere illusion. He believed that traditional structures could not contain the
creative impulse; the spirit of music superseded the materiality of its own earthly logic. Always,
however, Prokofiev sought to serve the world, not forsake it, and so aspired to the better. Above
the stuff of harmony and melody lay timeless truths.
The first and third movements of the Eighth Sonata abound in conflicts of all sortsrhythmic,
melodic, tonal, texturalas typical of a sonata in the tradition of Beethoven. (The
Appassionata was an inspiration.) The first theme of the first movement owes its dreamy
sweetness to a different and more immediate inspiration: it came to the composer while walking
with his second wife, Mira.
The second movement, a fantastic mazurka, is something otherworldly, seemingly imagined,
slightly unhinged. The bass plods along steadily enough at the opening, although the harmonies
are subtly off-kilter, but is soon jolted, as if pushed off balance by an unseen hand. Even as the
melody repeats exactly the bass is offset; melody and accompaniment do not match. Another

harmonic shift introduces a new, contrasting section that seems a non sequitor. The opening
theme returns with an even more bizarre, serpentine accompaniment, but ultimately the melody
itself dissipates altogether. The music comes unmoored from formal constraints as well as from
reality.
Although the delusional qualities of the mazurka might be ascribed to spiritual forces or wartime
circumstance, the music in fact attaches to fictional events. The second movement of the sonata
originated as incidental music Prokofiev composed for Eugene Onegin. There the dance is part of
a name-day celebration for Tatyana, who has confessed her love to Onegin. He rejects and
admonishes her as drunken dancers swirl around them, oblivious and uncaring. Humiliated by
her own heart, she chokes back bitter tears.
Program notes Elizabeth Bergman