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Nicolas Namoradze

Fri Jul 8 - 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm EDT

20 - 56

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Edward Johnson Building, Queens Park, Toronto, ON, Canada

Georgian-born pianist and composer Nicolas Namoradze makes his TSM debut in a solo recital of selections by Bach and Rachmaninoff, paired with four of his own compositions.

Nicolas Namoradze, piano

Johann Sebastian Bach: French Suite No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812

Nicolas Namoradze: Étude V, “Entwined Threads”
                                          Étude VI, “Double Notes”
                                          Étude I, “Major Scales”
                                          Étude III, “Moving Mirrors”

Sergei Rachmaninoff (arr. Nicolas Namoradze): “Adagio” from Symphony No. 2, Op. 27

Alexina Louie: I leap through the sky with stars 

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28 

This concert is generously supported by Sheffield Moving and Storage.

 

Programme Notes 

 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) 

French Suite No.1 in D minor, BWV 812 

In 1802, Johann Nikolaus Forkel published the first biography of Johann Sebastian Bach’s life and music. In it, he describes some works that went unpublished during the composer’s lifetime. Amongst them, he labels six “great” suites for the clavier written in the English style and six “little” suites for the same instrument written in the French style. What Forkel meant when he used these geographical appellations is beyond the understanding of modern historians, for, other than a few French dance names, these “French” suites do not contain any characteristics specific to 18th-century France. However, by the time anyone decided to object to these designations, the names had already stuck and, to this day, these suites are still referred to as such. 

Misnomers aside, the “French” suites are six individual collections of baroque dances written sometime between 1722 and 1725, although evidence suggests the first suite (the one being heard tonight) was composed sometime prior to this. The baroque dance suite was a popular musical form in Bach’s time. Each suite is centered around four highly stylized dances: a stately Allemande, a flowing Courante, a solemn Sarabande, and a lively Gigue. Additional dances, or gallantries, are often added to provide diversity within these collections. In the case of the suite being heard tonight, two Minuets, graceful dances in triple meter, are interpolated before the concluding Gigue.  

While the image of elaborately dressed lords and ladies dancing along to this music in a gilded palatial ballroom somewhere in Western Europe might be an attractive one, it is most definitely a false one. Bach most likely composed these suites to serve as tools in the musical education of his second wife, Anna Magdelena, and of their numerous offspring. Can one imagine a more delightful and effective pedagogical tool?! 

Bach imbues each of these miniature dances with melodic ingenuity and contrapuntal virtuosity, unleashing the full prowess of his compositional genius. A particular highlight of this suite (and my personal favourite moment) is the poignant and plaintive Sarabande. The soprano melody and the bass voice dance around each other in exquisite fashion while unique and colourful harmonies underpin their sensual pas-de-deux. It makes one want to get up and dance just thinking about it. 

Copyright © 2022 Stephane Mayer 

 

Nicolas Namoradze, (b. 1992) 

Études V, VI, I, & III 

Each étude is inspired by a specific technical, pianistic challenge that serves as a basis for the textures and figurations. In Entwined Threads, slowly rising scales enter at varying rates, ending up stacked upon one another and causing shifts in the thickness of the overall texture. A study in voicing, various individual strands are highlighted in the layered sonority. In Double Notes, each hand navigates a pair of rapidly moving voices, as well as acrobatic leaps across the keyboard, while alternating between a number of characters – at times whimsical and capricious, sometimes menacing, and finally, celebratory. In Major Scales, the hands switch between different types of scales in various keys, at first in a coordinated manner, but soon falling out of sync and bouncing off each other in different directions. An increasingly chaotic interaction between the two hands leads to the eventual disintegration of the passagework. In Moving Mirrors, short figurations undergo several forms of inversions and distortions in pitch, accentuation, register, melodic shape, and rhythm, and as the rate of these transformations increases, the passagework gets increasingly frenetic. 

Copyright © 2022 Nicolas Namoradze 

 

Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1873-1943 

Rachmaninoff-Namoradze, Adagio from Symphony No. 2, Op. 27 

The première of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in 1908 cemented his reputation as one of the leading symphonists of his time, and, to this day, the work remains among his most celebrated musical statements. The third movement, Adagio, is emblematic of many features that define his compositional language, including enchantingly expansive melodies, a rich harmonic palette, searing climaxes, and lush, full textures.  

While adhering strictly to the thematic and harmonic material of the original, this arrangement is less a strict transcription and more a reimagining of the movement for the piano, taking a generally liberal approach with reworking the textures in order to create a pianistically idiomatic piece. The piano writing is informed both by Rachmaninoff’s compositional style as well as my own approach to keyboard texture. 

Copyright © 2022 Nicolas Namoradze 

  

Alexina Louie, (b. 1949) 

I leap through the sky with stars (1991)  

I was deeply affected by the deaths of two Canadian artists: pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) and composer Claude Vivier (1948-1983). Gould was a great pianist and a mature artist in the midst of a profound career while my colleague, Vivier, was at an earlier stage of an extremely promising one.  

Over the years, several of my works have reflected the sense of loss one feels when such vital artists pass away. Along with the pain of loss came the realization that an artist’s life ultimately endures through his/her art. This juxtaposition of death and eternal life has been the inspiration for several of my works.  

Based on the accompanying Zen poem about death and spirituality (a Zen death poem is rarely morbid and is usually meant as a summation of the author’s life and an inspiration to others), I leap through the sky with stars was inspired by its message.  

The work involves contrasting elements which reveal extremes in the piano range and playing technique. On one hand, it has light, sparkling, shimmering sections requiring an agile pianistic touch, while, on the other hand, force is needed to achieve hammered effects in the lowest register. A significant senza misura middle section calls upon the player’s full interpretive sensibility to imaginatively give shape to the passage. The performer’s accuracy is particularly tested toward the end (where the extended left-hand trill begins). Here, the contrasting elements are superimposed upon each other leading to a rapid alternation and greater fragmentation of these materials. A final low note is hammered out and, as it rings, a rising, scale-wise passage emerges which gradually transforms itself into “celestial chords” in the highest register of the piano.  

I leap through the sky with stars was commissioned as the imposed piece for the Canadian Music Competitions (1991) through the assistance of the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council.  

Alexina Louie O.C.  

 

Four and fifty years  

I’ve hung the sky with stars.  

Now I leap through –  

What shattering!  

Dogen (1200-1253) 

 

Copyright © 2022 Alexina Louie 

 

Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1873-1943 

Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28 

Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff had, by the end of the 19th century, developed the reputation of being a fine pianist and a rather mediocre composer. The works from his early period had garnered less than favourable reviews from his peers. Most notably, Rachmaninoff’s first symphony, which premiered in 1897, was so universally panned by critics that the composer subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown. Recounting the experience to his biographer Oskar von Riesemann, Rachmaninoff stated that “My confidence in myself had received a sudden blow. Agonizing hours spent in doubt and hard thinking had brought me to the conclusion that I ought to give up composing.” It wasn’t until Rachmaninoff started hypnotic therapy with Dr. Nikolai Dahl in 1899 that he was able to start composing again. Still, Rachmaninoff’s ego was forever bruised and he was plagued with extreme feelings of inadequacy regarding his skills as a composer throughout the rest of his career.  

Hoping that escaping the distractions of the big city would help him better focus on composition, Rachmaninoff left Moscow with his family in November of 1906 and relocated to the quiet town of Dresden. He remained there for two years and composed three important works: his Second Symphony, large parts of an opera entitled Mona Vanna (a project which was later abandoned), and his First Piano Sonata.  

Rachmaninoff’s original idea for the sonata was to base it on the tragic play Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Each of the three movements would come to represent one of the main protagonists from the tale: the erudite Faust, the innocent young Gretchen, and the devil Mephistopheles. A similar premise was the basis for Liszt’s “Faust Symphony,” a work Rachmaninoff was no doubt familiar with.  

The original version of the sonata was indeed symphonic in scope, Rachmaninoff called it “endlessly long,” lasting around 45 minutes. He feared that the length of the work would negatively impact the reception of the piece so, after asking some of his contemporaries for input, Rachmaninoff set out to revise the piece, cutting significant sections from the work and reducing it to its current form. However, even after all these revisions, the sonata was still met with lukewarm reception.  

Despite all of this, this sonata remains a favourite of many great concert pianists. The work is a veritable tour de force renowned for its devilish difficulty and exacting technical demands. 

Copyright © 2022 Stephane Mayer