Program notes for Sam Haywood’s April 30 concert
“Piano playing is more difficult than statesmanship. It is harder to wake emotions
in ivory keys than it is in human beings.”
Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) —
(Concert pianists and premier of Poland)
It was in the early 19th century that the “piano-forte” became the favored instrument of composers, using it as a tool in their process of composing and/or launching a solo career as a performer. Mozart and Haydn wrote solo piano sonatas in the 1780s, and Beethoven followed suit in the 1790s. By 1802 the piano had evolved into an expressive and sonorous instrument with its wider keyboard and pedaling possibilities. It was Beethoven who stretched the sonata forms into works that freely exhibited philosophic and poetic thoughts.
Schubert was born in Vienna and was five when the “Sonata quasi fantasia” by the composer he came to idolize – Beethoven – premiered. But Schubert’s music was more intimate and melodic (he wrote over 600 songs), ideal for the salon settings he enjoyed. In mid-1826 he visited the ailing Beethoven and was one of the torch-bearers at the great composers funeral in March of 1827. Very ill himself, he went home and composed the four “Impromptus, Op. 90” the four “Impromptus, Op.142″, and the “Moments Musicale” – all for solo piano, and he passed away Nov. 19, 1828, age 31.
The pianist-composer Mendelssohn demonstrated his musical genius early – piano lessons at age 4, Symphony No. 1 at age 15, the overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at age 17 and the exciting “Rondo Capriccio” that same year. Equally prodigious as a pianist, organist, and conductor, he was characterized as the “Romantic Classicist” – his output always poetic and beautiful. The late violinist Jascha Heifitz said of him: “If it is conceivable that the music of Mendelssohn can die, then all music can die.”
A program featuring piano music performed by an artist of the keyboard and also a composer, would not be complete without the music of Chopin. He lived most of his life in Paris (his father was French, his mother Polish), composing and teaching even as his health failed, yet producing his most well-known collections of Nocturnes, Waltzes, Mazurkas, etc. He favored performing in the intimacy of a friendly room or salon, and it is noted that he gave only 11 performances in a concert hall. Beginning with the passionate and epic Scherzo, then lulled by the ethereal Nocturne, Mr. Haywood will close his program with the Polonaise that is welcomed by all lovers of piano music – the ever-popular “Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53.”
We trust that our audience will be inspired and lifted by music that never grows old!
— Aileen James, D.M.A.