26th February 2022


Lauenen, Saturday, 26th February 2022

5 pieces for 2 violins and piano

Julian Rachlin – 1st violin, Joji Hattori – 2nd violin, Hélène Mercier – piano

Excerpts from the “Goldberg Variations” (transcription for string trio by Dmitry Sitkovetsky)

  Julian Rachlin – violin, Sarah McElravy – viola, Boris Andrianov – cello



Piano Quintet in F minor

Julian Rachlin 1st violin, Joji Hattori 2nd violin, Sarah McElravy viola, Boris Andrianov cello, Hélène Mercier piano

Programme notes

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975) 
5 pieces for 2 violins and piano

These five pieces were collected and arranged for two violins and piano by Lev Atovmyan—a friend and assistant of Shostakovich—with the composer’s approval. The gorgeous, almost Brahmsian Prelude is taken from Shostakovich’s score to the film The Gadfly (1955), the Gavotte, Elegy and Polca come from his Ballet Suites. The Waltz is believed to derive from sketches for The Tale of the Priest and of His Worker, Blockhead, a Soviet animated film Shostakovich began to score, but was forced to abandon after his 1936 denunciation under Stalin. In these five violin pieces, we hear a less familiar Shostakovich: this music is beautiful and straightforward—joyful and sorrowful in turn, but uncut by the fear and anger evident in so many of his other works.

J. S. BACH (1685-1750)
Excerpts from the “Goldberg Variations” (transcription for string trio by Dmitry Sitkovetsky, *1954)

J S Bach’s ‘Goldberg’ Variations is the last of a series of keyboard music works that the composer published under the title of Clavierübung. Many people consider this the most serious and challenging composition that has ever been written for harpsichord. Based on a single bass theme, the variations prove Bach’s profound understanding of many musical styles as well as his exceptional performing technique. This largest of all clavier pieces encapsulates the whole history of Baroque variation, as Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations later did for the Classical period.

Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Dmitry Sitkovetsky grew up in Moscow, studying at the Moscow Conservatory. After emigrating in 1977, he studied at the Juilliard School in New York and now lives in London and enjoys an international career as violinist, conductor, arranger, chamber musician and festival director. He has transcribed more than 40 works mostly for string orchestra by Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Dohnányi, Bartók, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Schnittke. His original transcription of The Goldberg Variations was written in 1984, inspired by the famous 1981 Glen Gould recording. A version for string orchestra is equally popular and these transcriptions have been played all over the world.

César FRANCK (1822-1890) 
Piano Quintet in F minor 
Cesar Franck wasn’t exactly a late bloomer, but he is mostly know for a series of pieces he composed over the last twenty of his sixty-seven years. The Piano Quintet in F minor also dates from this ’mature’ period (as do the Symphony in D minor, Violin Sonata, and Symphonic Variations), written in 1879 after Franck hadn’t composed any chamber music in over a quarter of a century.

The premiere of Franck’s Quintet in January 1880 must rank as one of the strangest musical affairs of the 19th century. In the event, the pianist (and dedicatee) was the composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who sight-read his part, and liked what he was playing less and less as the performance wore on. At the end of the performance, as Franck came to the stage to congratulate the players and accept the audience’s applause, Saint-Saëns angrily marched off, embarrassed to have been involved with the piece at all: officially, he took issue with the music’s many modulations, though perhaps the score’s unbridled sensuality – and Franck’s none-too-subtle infatuation at the time with one of his students (who Saint-Saëns may or may not have shared feelings for) – was too much for him.

In spite of the less fortunate premiere event, this Quintet soon became one of the most popular piano quintets of all times, being a magnificent example of French romantism, being a perfect combination of aesthetic musical form and emotional explosions.