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InterHarmony Concert Series: The Soul of Elegiaque
New York City, New York
Thursday, 6 November 2014 - 8:00 PM

In music, nothing is ever really lost. Within its bounds, great composers and great performers live on forever. On November 6, the anniversary of Tchaikovsky's death, IIMF musicians take up the impossible battle that music has waged against death since Orpheus picked up the harp. In an unusual program of elegies and laments, including some of the most heart-rending and beautiful music ever committed to paper, the elegiac soul goes beyond mere grief: it promises resurrection.

Tchaikovsky's first and only "Piano Trio in a minor, Op. 50," subtitled In memory of a great artist, was his monument to the memory of his friend and mentor, Nikolai Rubinstein. When Tchaikovsky died, this piece would become his own elegy, and was performed at his funeral. The trio itself has enjoyed a distinguished afterlife in the elegiac trios of Arensky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich. Despite what Tchaikovsky called the "funereal and mournful tone" of the piece, it is never more than a cadence away from pure joy, as the composers loses himself in recollections of his lost friend, triumphing over time and basking in ecstatic harmony. He rushes back and forth through the stages of grief, from sorrow to nostalgia, from crushing despair to the promise of reconciliation.

The "Trio pathétique," an early work by Mikhail Glinka, is surely a forerunner of Tchaikovsky's "Piano trio," with its plaintive melodies and unreserved romanticism. Under the influence of Bellini, the father of Russian classical music turns the melancholy folk songs of his homeland into a work of operatic lyricism. Heartbroken and desperately ill during a long stay in Italy, Glinka inscribed the manuscript: "I have known love only by the pains that it causes." But the work is anything but despairing, as if Glinka's afflictions could not quite suppress the spirit of playfulness and delight that animates his music. He, too, feels the curious joy of contemplating and, in the beauty of his music, overcoming suffering and loss.

Dominick Argento's song cycle, "To be Sung upon the Water," for voice, clarinet and piano, brings these meditations up to the 20th century. America's leading composer of lyric opera and art song, Pulitzer Prize winner Dominick Argento descries the voice as "our representation of humanity." In this work, Argento, a "true American romantic," grapples with the memory of the great Austrian romantic, Franz Schubert, the so-called "Prince of Song". Combining subtle musical homage with a profound reflection on Schubert's themes of ambiguity, love and mortality, "To be Sung upon the Water" balances the inevitability of life's passing against its indelible moments of beauty. The songs and sonnets of Wordsworth provide the texts for this cycle. Standing on the shores of Lake Como, where Glinka wrote his trio, Wordsworth's narrator looks out beyond the water's edge, where speech stops – and all music begins.
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Who's on InstantEncore?
Misha Quint
Partner Since: 16 Jan 2011
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InterHarmony International Music Festival
Partner Since: 24 Nov 2012
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cellolovin The Soul of Elégiaque was a riveting experience from start to finish. Hands down, the best Tchaikovsky Piano Trio I have ever heard. It was a privilege and musical life highlight to hear this performed live by Qian Zhou (violin), Misha Quint (cell... read more