Monday, May 17, 2010

06/16 @ 6:15 p.m.: Huls Clark Duo

Max Huls, violin
Christine Clark, piano

Jacksonville Symphony violinist Max Huls and award-winning pianist Christine Clark once again join forces for our season finale!

Violinist Max Huls joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in 1993 and was introduced to the First Coast as soloist in Bartók’s Second Rhapsody, for violin and orchestra. Mr. Huls is on the faculty of the Prelude Chamber Music Camp, is a violin coach for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra, and in addition to his core membership in the JSO he is Concertmaster of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia. He appeared variously as concertmaster, soloist and conductor with the Savannah Symphony, and was concertmaster of the Memphis Symphony and Opera Memphis. Max was on the faculty of the University of Memphis and Rhodes College, and while living in Tennessee was much sought after as a studio musician, working with the rock group The Replacements and soul legends Patti LaBelle and Al Green, among many others. He has participated in numerous music festivals, and among his many local concerts and recitals, Max performed Paganini's demanding Twenty-four Caprices for Friday Musicale. As a member of Duo Proto he plays violin and viola alongside his son, Victor Minke Huls, and he frequently collaborates with award-winning pianist Christine Clark. The Huls Clark Duo was featured in our season finale concerts in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Christine Armington Clark began piano studies with James Crosland, and continued her professional training at Oberlin Conservatory. She received a Master's degree in piano performance from the University of Illinois, and studied with Leon Fleisher in the Peabody Conservatory Artist Diploma Program upon the recommendation of legendary concert pianist Lorin Hollander. Ms. Clark was national finalist in the Collegiate Artist Competition sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association, and attended the Aspen Music Festival on a piano performance and accompanying scholarship. She competed in the Maryland International Piano Competition, and won the Boca Raton Piano Competition. A versatile musician, Ms. Clark played keyboard with Trap Door, a local rock group, and toured Europe under the aegis of Proclaim! International. She taught piano at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and her chamber music performances include an appearance at the Goethe Institute in San Francisco. Well known along the First Coast, Ms. Clark has appeared with the Jacksonville Starlight Symphonette and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and appears frequently in solo recitals and in collaboration with many of the areas finest instrumentalists and vocalists. She also serves on the Boards of several arts organizations, is President of Friday Musicale, and is on the faculty of Prelude Chamber Music camp. In addition to being an accomplished pianist, Christine is an attorney, and while working in Washington, D.C., she gave perhaps her most unusual recital, performing in the United States Supreme Court at the request of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The transcendent German-born composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) began his compositional career essentially imitating the styles and forms he inherited from Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and W.A Mozart (1756-1791), but during his "middle" period (ca. 1803-1815) Beethoven expanded and personalized this inheritance, creating works that have come to represent the culmination of the Classical style in much the same way that the works of J.S. Bach (1685-1750) represent the culmination of the Baroque. During Beethoven's "late" period (ca. 1815-1827), he discovered new paths toward still more personal, even intimate, musical expression, and, despite the gradual and eventually total degeneration of his hearing, he forged the way beyond the Classical tradition into the Romantic.

Beethoven began work on both his 4th and 5th violin sonatas in the summer of 1800, while he also worked on his Symphony No. 2, Op. 21, and the ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43. The two violin sonatas were intended as contrasting companion pieces and initially were grouped together as the composer’s “Opus 23.” But the violin part of the brightly lyrical Sonata No. 5 in F major (now known as the “Spring” Sonata) mistakenly was printed using an oblong format rather than the tall format used for the darkly dramatic Sonata No. 4. This made it impossible to bind the two sonatas together, and it was cheaper to assign them separate opus numbers rather than re-engraving them. Thus, the fifth sonata became “Opus 24,” while the fourth kept the original work number.

Although Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4 dates from his “early” period, contemporary critics were already making note of the composer’s originality, even when they didn’t quite understand his innovations. The key of A-minor was a rare choice for chamber music compositions, made even more unusual by Beethoven’s retention of the minor mode for the first movement’s “second subject,” which is introduced in E-minor rather than in the “expected” relative major key centered on C. And although Beethoven retains the 3-movement outline favored by his mentors rather than using the 4-movement scheme with an added scherzo movement that he later seemed to prefer (and which he uses in the “Spring” Sonata), he nonetheless interjects the jesting spirit of a scherzo into the slower-paced middle movement.

SCORE (pdf): Beethoven Sonata No. 4, Op. 23

Beethoven Sonata No. 4 on YouTube:
1. Presto2. Andante scherzoso, più allegretto3. Allegro molto

By the age of three, the French composer and keyboard virtuoso Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) could read and write and had penned his first piano piece; by seven he had learned Latin; and by ten he could perform from memory all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas upon request. An expert mathematician and a successful playwright, he published poetry, scholarly works in acoustics and philosophy, and popular travelogues. He was a confidant of Berlioz, Liszt, and Fauré (his most famous student), and a notorious enemy of Franck, Massenet, and especially of Debussy.

Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise, Op. 83, remains one of the most frequently performed and recorded pieces from among the more than 300 works the composer wrote. “Havanaise” (the French equivalent of the Spanish "habanera") is derived from the name of the Cuban city of Havana (“La Habana” in Spanish), and it identifies the origins of the dance rhythms that infuse Saint-Saëns’ virtuoso showpiece. Originally for violin and piano but soon provided with an orchestral accompaniment, Saint-Saëns composed the piece in 1887 for Raphael Diaz Albertini (1857-1928), a Cuban violinist whom he had accompanied on a concert tour a couple of years before.

SCORE (pdf): Saint-Saëns Havanaise

Saint-Saëns on YouTube:
Havanaise, Op. 83

At a time when it was fashionable to write programmatic music that illustrated specific scenes, poems, or stories, the great German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was recognized by his admirers as “Beethoven’s true heir” (Grove Concise Dictionary of Music) by demonstrating that established abstract formal procedures could be used to organize musical discourse without sacrificing the passion and deeply individualistic expression that defines 19th-Century Romantic music. Thus, Brahms joined Bach and Beethoven as one of the great “Three B’s” of classical music.

For many of us, summer vacations might provide a good time to "vegetate," in the sense of "idly lulling about." But for Brahms, sunny rural retreats instead sparked his musical inspiration to "bloom and grow" into some of his most ingratiating works, including his three violin sonatas. The first (Op. 78, 1878) was written in response to an Italian sojourn, and both the second (Op. 100, 1886) and third (Op. 108, 1886-88) to stays on Lake Thun in Switzerland, a locality which Brahms reported was "so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any." In August 1886, in addition to the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100, Brahms (mostly) completed his Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 99, and the Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 101. He also wrote several songs, including Komm bald ("Come soon"), Op. 97/5, and Wie Melodien zieht es mir leise durch den Sinn ("It passes through my mind like melodies"), Op. 107/1, both of which provided thematic inspiration for the opus 100 violin sonata.

Considering its birthplace and sunny disposition, it is not surprising that Brahms’ second sonata is sometimes known as the "Thun" Sonata. But surprisingly, it also has appeared with the nickname "Meistersinger," owing to the intervallic similarity between the piano's first three notes with the first sung notes of "Walter's Prize Song" from the last scene in Wagner's 1868 opera, Die Meistersinger—only it is hard to imagine that Brahms would have intentionally paid tribute to his noted rival!

SCORE (pdf): Brahms Sonata No. 2, Op. 100

Brahms Sonata No. 2 on YouTube:
1. Allegro amabile2. Andante tranquillo. Vivace3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante)