Adam Neiman: Serenade for Violin and Piano
Adam Neiman composed his Serenade for Violin and Piano in 2013 as a birthday gift for his wife, Ariella Siu-Yin Mak-Neiman. The work is unapologetically romantic and very much inspired by the venerable tradition of nostalgic encore works by such composers as Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and Kreisler. Thematically simple, the composition unfolds as an expansive narrative that begins softly and poetically, reaches ecstatic heights, and ultimately disperses in semi-mystic peace and tranquility.
Eleanor Alberga: String Quartet No. 2
Although British composer Eleanor Alberga has been highly regarded in the United Kingdom for decades, she has come to international prominence only in recent years. Born in 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica, Alberga initially set her sights on becoming a concert pianist before starting to compose works for the piano.
In 1978 Alberga began improvising for classes at the London Contemporary Dance Theatre (LCDT). She later became the company’s Musical Director, conducting, composing, and playing on LCDT’s many tours. Alberga left the LCDT in 1988 and became a full-time composer. She continues to compose orchestral, chamber, vocal music, and works for stage and screen across genres and in various styles.
Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartet No. 2 was commissioned by the Smith Quartet, who premiered it at the Greenwich Festival, UK, in 1994. It is a single-movement work played without pause, constructed as four through-played movements. The rapidly shifting material of the piece is all born from the motivic foundation established at the outset. Several motives in succession open the work and are developed, becoming the basis for the entire 15-minute piece. The opening motive returns in the piece’s final moments, building in a frenzy towards the emphatic final chords.
Antonin Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81
Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81 is one of the most beloved works in the chamber music repertoire. Dvorak first wrote for the combination of string quartet and piano in 1872 but discarded the piece after the premiere. By 1887 Dvorak had become well-established as a composer, and he tackled the form again, this time with undeniable success.
The four movements of the piece traverse a broad romantic landscape. The first movement, Allegro ma non tanto, opens with a warm cello theme interrupted by fierce music, which eventually yields to a wistful melody in a minor key. The movement is developed from these three building blocks. The second movement, marked Andante con moto, is a devastatingly sad Slavic lament called a dumka. The dumka material is contrasted alternately with brilliant and cheerful music, bringing the movement into charming expressive balance. The third movement, marked scherzo, is another Slavic dance form known as a furiant. Dvorak uses a displacement of the pulse known as hemiola to allude to the nature of the furiant as a dance for three with alternating pairings. The Allegro finale is a boisterous rondo that goes through twists and turns, including a fugue and a chorale marked Tranquillo, before drawing the piece to a brilliant conclusion.
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