On Tuesday 28 June, Diana Doherty and Bernadette Harvey take to the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall stage to perform works by Telemann, Berio and more as part of Melbourne Recital Centre's Great Performers series. Explore the program in this excerpt from the official program notes, written by Stella Joseph-Jarecki.
Oboist Diana Doherty is a commanding trailblazer, transporting audiences through time and space with her innate musical sensibility and internationally acclaimed artistry. Bernadette Harvey is a solo pianist and master teacher whose performances and recordings have received outstanding praise throughout her varied career. Together they display a captivating mastery of chamber music, leaving audiences enlivened and energised.
Antal Doráti (1906-1988)
Duo Concertante for Oboe and Piano
Antal Doráti‘s Duo Concertante for Oboe and Piano was commissioned by renowned oboe virtuoso and conductor Heinz Hollinger. Hollinger premiered the piece at the Kennedy Centre Concert Hall in 1983, in a program that also included Doráti‘s Cinq Pieces pour le Hautbois (Five Pieces for Solo Oboe).
Doráti could be described as a wunderkind: he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest at the age of fourteen and graduated at eighteen. While he specialised in composition and piano, Doráti‘s career rapidly gained momentum in the field of conducting. His impressive resume included (but was not limited to) positions at Dallas Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Duo Concertante for Oboe and Piano is Doráti‘s interpretation of a Hungarian rhapsody. This form was popularised by Franz Liszt and incorporates traditional Hungarian folk melodies into a virtuosic showpiece. Unlike the clarinet, the oboe is not commonly used in Hungarian music.
The Hungarian genre informing Duo Concertante is the verbunkos, a dance used to recruit soldiers into the Austro-Hungarian army in the 18th century. The dance was divided into two halves: lassú (slow) and friss (fresh). The lassú would move at a stately tempo whereas the friss would energetically increase in speed as it conveyed the strength of the Hungarian cavalry.
The oboe’s pure, luminous timbre is showcased in the opening lento, rubato movement with long, winding notes. Doráti cleverly uses rhythms to bridge the lassú with the friss- the opening of the second movement features dotted quavers and semiquaver runs, rhythmic characteristics of the preceding dance. The molto vivace movement begins with a flurry of activity which shifts into a pensive lyrical passage. This brief window of calm is short lived, however- the final minutes of the movement are filled with unrelenting explosions of notes in a spirited conclusion.
12 Fantasias for Flute without Bass, TWV 40:2-13
Georg Telemann exhibited natural musical talent from a young age. While he received a general education as the son of a Protestant minister, his family discouraged from pursuing a musical career. Despite their reluctance, Telemann went on to become one of the most successful composers and musical directors in Germany during his lifetime.
In 1701 Telemann enrolled in law studies at the University of Leipzig. His compositional talent and aptitude for ensemble organisation soon earned him a job assisting two local churches. Over the resulting decades Telemann worked as director of Leipzig Opera, kapellmeister in two aristocratic courts, and even held the prestigious city-wide position of director of music in Hamburg from 1721 to 1767.
The transverse flute (the instrument played horizontally as we recognise it today) came into fashion as a solo instrument in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Telemann’s 12 Fantasias for Flute without Bass were self-published, with the composer even engraving the plates himself. It is likely these fantasias were written for teaching purposes, and they remain standards in the flute repertoire today. The form and length of the fantasias vary widely across the twelve pieces.
In keeping with the Baroque tradition of maintaining detailed layers of harmony, Telemann creates a sense of false polyphony within the third fantasia of the volume. He achieves this through rapid leaps between the flute’s upper and lower register, building the illusion that two flutes are playing at the same time.
Luciano Berio grew up in a town on the Ligurian Coast, in an Italy under the control of Benito Mussolini. Berio began his studies at the Milan Conservatory in 1945- he was prevented from doing so earlier when he was drafted into the army.
It was during his time at the conservatory that Berio was introduced to composers of the twentieth century: Schoenberg, Webern and Stravinsky all featured prominently. Berio spent the subsequent decades experimenting with genre and form, dabbling in serialism, extended performance techniques, and electronic music.
Berio wrote his series of works under the title Sequenza over a period of thirty years. The first was written in 1958 for flautist Severino Gazzelloni. The concept for the collection came about almost accidentally- in the process of preparing to write a harp concerto, Berio wrote a piece for the unaccompanied instrument. When it was completed, Berio noticed similarities between the piece and his Sequenza for flute and gave it the title Sequenza II. Every piece in the series is dedicated to a virtuosic instrumentalist.
The score for Sequenza VII is structured in a grid: thirteen horizontal staves are divided vertically into thirteen sections. There are no time signatures; rather each column is given a time duration. Berio uses a mix of traditional European notation, grace notes, and stemless pitches which can be rhythmically interpreted by the performer.
While he became disillusioned with the purest form of serialism, Berios was still influenced by the twelve-tone system. In Sequenza VII each chromatic pitch is progressively introduced in a deliberate manner: first appearing subtly as a grace note or adornment, then appearing prominently in the fabric of the piece.
Program note excerpt by Stella Joseph-Jarecki.