Programme Notes

Sonata in A major, K 526 Mozart (1756-1791)

Molto allegro – Andante – Finale: presto

Mozart wrote this Sonata in 1787, while he was composing Don Giovanni. It is not known whether it was written for any individual or for any special occasion.

The first movement is in sonata form, with a time signature of 6/8, an unusual one for Mozart. Its most notable characteristic is the presence of hemiola effects, i.e. varying patterns of triple and duple notes and rhythms. The Andante, also in sonata form, is spare in texture with octave doublings contrasted with flowing accompaniment figures, chromatics and major-minor shifts. The Finale is a virtuoso race to the end with a high-spirited almost demonic quality. The theme is taken from a sonata by C.F.Abel whom Mozart met in London when he went there as a child.

Callum Au, ‘Purple Light’. The Lantivet Duo commissioned Callum to write this piece earlier this year to be paired with the Cole Porter song, ‘You’re the Top’. Callum based his music around the lyrics ‘you’re the purple light of a summer night in Spain’. By taking the melody of Cole Porter’s song and using it as a starting point for composing a classical piece, he did the opposite of what the Tin Pan Alley songwriters would do when they used classical melodies as the starting point for jazz songs. For example, Hoagy Carmichael’s I Get Along Without You Very Well takes its melody from a Chopin prelude. The result is a beautiful piece that evokes the nostalgia and sentimentality of early twentieth century music. 

Kala Ramnath’s ‘Aalap and Tarana‘ was commissioned by Hilary Hahn as an encore. Ramnath is one of the most famous Indian violinists and a world leader in her art. The Northern tradition, of which she is a part, is based on a drone instrument which plays the same note throughout, the tabla providing the rhythm and the violin improvising within a structure based on the Indian scales (ragas) and rhythms (tala). In this piece the piano part, which is very sparely notated and leaves a lot for the pianist to create, has the role of the drone and the tabla. The Indian violin is the same as the western violin, although it is tuned differently. It is played sitting cross legged on the floor with the scroll resting on the foot, which allows the player to recreate the incredible glissando slides for which Indian singing is famous. This piece consists of an Aalap, or slow tune, followed by a Tarana, which is a fast dance. 

Scandi Jean’ is the Lantivet Duo’s own arrangement of two folk tunes. The first is Swedish, and the second is ‘Jean’s Reel’, a Scottish tune written by Bobby MacLeod. This was created as part of the duo’s continued exploration of folk melodies from around the world. (Not much to say about this one I’m afraid, but it’s really good fun!)

Violin Sonata no. 2 in G major (1923-7) Ravel (1875-1937)

Allegretto – Blues: moderato – Perpetuum mobile: allegro

Written slowly over four years, this sonata shows Ravel’s style changing as he became increasingly interested in Jazz. He said of it that he wanted to show the incompatibility and contrast of the two instruments rather than their unity.

The first movement is gentle and graceful, unadorned by trills or other ornamentations, quiet and calm throughout, in strong contrast to the second movement. A famous dance-band leader is said to have described this as a perfect Blues, faultlessly constructed and conveying all the sadness and nostalgia implicit in this form. 

A breathtaking last movement now follows, with no pause for the violinist’s agile fingers. Ravel is said to have written to his interpreter: “It won’t be very difficult”. Ask the violinist how true this is! 

Programme note (edited) by Stratford-Upon-Avon Chamber Music Society, April 2011, from making Music’s Programme note bank.

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