MUSIC FOR HARP
Jane Yoo, Harp
FRENCH SUITE NO.3 (1722/23)
IN B MINOR, BWV 814
1900 – 1991
SONATA FOR HARP, OP. 150 (1955)
1811 – 1886
UN SOSPIRO (c. 1848)
1885 – 1961
JEUX D'EAU OP. 29 (1914)
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Born: March 31, 1685, Eisenach, Germany
Died: July 28, 1750, Leipzig, Germany
French Suite No.3 in B Minor, BWV 814
The third 'French' suite alternates seductive melodies with brilliant virtuosity. In Baroque music, the key of B minor had a melancholy quality. Bach reserved it for a few of his most impressive works, such as the Kyrie in the Mass in B minor.
This third 'French’ suite opens with a delicate Allemande; possibly the most delicate Allemande of all six suites. It is a duet that could almost be played as a solo with accompaniment – on the flute, for example. The opening motif also appears throughout the piece in inversion and in imitation. The Courante is also based on a motif from the first bar, in the bass, which soon takes over the movement of this fast dance completely.
By tradition, this is followed by a stately Sarabande, to which Bach lends a more cantabile air than the French models by Couperin, for example, with which Bach was familiar from his youth. Then we hear two fast sections; in some sources first the very rhythmical Menuet with its contrasting Trio, followed by the Anglaise, and elsewhere in reverse order. Pierre Hantaï chose the latter. The Anglaise, incidentally, had not come over from England, but from the court of Louis XIV, and is reminiscent of a Gavotte. And finally, the Gigue is all about imitation, whereby the two parts continually chase one another.
‘French’ suites, BWV 812-817
Bach composed his ‘French’ suites as a young man of thirty, when he was working at the court of Köthen. However, the suites have nothing to do with the court. Bach wrote them for teaching purposes in his own private circle. The first five appear in their original form in the little music book he compiled in 1722 for his second wife Anna Magdalena, possibly as a wedding present. But Bach continued to rework the pieces. The later versions, with the addition of a sixth suite, have survived thanks to the many copies made by his pupils. They are rewarding practice pieces that despite a certain compositional complexity (it is Bach, after all), do not make extreme demands on the player.
The epithet ‘French’ was not given by Bach himself and appears for the first time in a text from 1762, twelve years after Bach’s death. The pieces are no more French than his other keyboard suites, just as the previously composed ‘English’ suites are not particularly English either. Indeed, the ‘English’ suites, with their extensive preludes, actually follow the French model to a certain extent. But as usual, here Bach is using a cosmopolitan language; an ingenious synthesis of various European styles.
The ‘French’ suites do not have a prelude, but launch straight into the first dance: an allemande. This is followed by the classical sequence of courante, sarabande and gigue, with a somewhat freer selection of dances in between the sarabande and gigue, ranging from the minuet and the gavotte to the bourrée and the less common loure.
Born: August 23, 1900, Vienna, Austria
Died: December 23, 1991, Palm Springs, California
Sonata for Harp Op.150
Austrian-American composer, one of the prominent exponents of the serial technique of musical composition. Krenek studied in Vienna and Berlin and was musical assistant at the German opera houses of Kassel (1925–27) and Wiesbaden (1927–28). In 1938 he immigrated to the United States, where he taught composition at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (1939–42), and Hamline University, St. Paul, Minn. (1942–47), before settling in Palm Springs, Calif.
“One need have no hesitation about designating my writing of the past ten years as dodecaphonic, since the twelve tones are always in close proximity. It is atonal, since it rejects tonal centers. I only occasionally employ the stricter disciplines of the dodecaphonic and serial techniques, since I am more interested in a suppler writing style. I have nothing to do with new tendencies like ‘New Simplicity’, ‘Neoromanticism’, ‘Minimalism’, and so forth.” (Ernst Krenek, 1989)
Even during his lifetime, Ernst Krenek, who left behind an oeuvre of more than 240 works when he died at the age of 91, held quite an extreme position in music history. Because of his great versatility, critics in Europe often spoke of him as constantly changing his “style of composing,” tacitly implying that a creative life must be stylistically uniform. In the United States, however, he was deemed the “one-man history of twentieth-century music,” a unique and nearly unbelievable fact Krenek sustained through his creation of work that spans more than seven decades of the twentieth century, from the end of the 1910s until the end of the 1980s. When taken seriously, this bon mot does not refer to the temporal concordance of his works or his participation in the latest developments in music throughout his life; it rather points to his role as a twentieth-century contemporary.
Krenek’s earliest compositions were influenced by Gustav Mahler (who was briefly Krenek’s father-in-law). In his first operas, however, he turned to a dissonant, Expressionist style, as in Zwingburg (1924; Dungeon Castle). He gained international success with the opera Jonny Spielt Auf! (1927; Johnny Strikes up the Band!), a work written in an idiom that mixed Expressionist dissonance with jazz influences and strove to reflect modern life in the 1920s. After a period in which he espoused the Romanticism of Franz Schubert, he began in the 1930s to use the 12-tone method of Arnold Schoenberg. His first significant 12-tone work was the opera Karl V (1933; produced 1938). His other important 12-tone works were the Piano Concerto No. 2 (1937) and the Symphony No. 4 (1947).
Krenek experimented widely with styles and techniques of composition. In Sestina (1957) he used total serialization in which not only pitch but all musical elements are arranged in basic series. In his Piano Concerto No. 3 (1946) he temporarily abandoned the 12-tone method for traditional tonality; his Symphony No. 5 (1950) is atonal but avoids serial technique. In his oratorio Spiritus Intelligentiae (1958) he utilized electronically produced sound. In Pentagram, for wind quintet (1952; revised 1958), and in Fibonaci Mobile (1965), mathematical ideas influence the musical content. Krenek’s other compositions include sonatas for harp and for organ; Twelve Short Piano Pieces (1938), an introduction to 12-tone technique; Eleven Transparencies for orchestra (1954); and operas. He also wrote several books, notably Über neue Musik (1937; Music Here and Now), Studies in Counterpoint (1940), and Selbstdarstellung (1948; Self-Analysis), an autobiography.
Born: October22, 1811, Raiding, Austria
Died: July 31, 1886, Bayreuth, Germany
This lovely Romantic work by famed Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt is transcribed for harp by Henriette Renié. Arguably one of Liszt’s most well-known and beloved compositions for the piano is the final etude of his Trois études de concert (Three Concert Etudes), Un sospiro. The Italian subtitles of this etude and its siblings, by which they are generally known today, were not given by Liszt himself and only appeared in later editions. Indeed, Liszt remained in the habit of referring to the etudes only by their key. However, Un sospiro (“A Sigh”) carries a poignancy with it, heightening the Romantic emotionalism of Liszt’s music. While perhaps too narrow an epithet to adequately embrace the fervent and heartfelt melodies that emerge during the piece’s course, it nevertheless provides the imagination the seed with which to construct a suiting scene.
Un Sospiro reminds us of raindrops falling on the ocean. A cascade of raindrops hitting the roof of a tin boathouse, an upturned canoe, the grey-blue body of the sea. A soft melody, on the edge of the shore with the sea’s constant wash of waves. The rain waivers between soft and hard. The waves wash in and go out, all the while getting bigger, louder until a giant wave crashes against the sand, while raindrops pound down from above.
Liszt was the only contemporary whose music Richard Wagner gratefully acknowledged as an influence upon his own. His lasting fame was an alchemy of extraordinary digital ability -- the greatest in the history of keyboard playing -- an unmatched instinct for showmanship, and one of the most progressive musical imaginations of his time. Hailed by some as a visionary, reviled by others as a symbol of empty Romantic excess, Franz Liszt wrote his name across music history in a truly inimitable manner.
From his youth, Liszt demonstrated a natural facility at the keyboard that placed him among the top performing prodigies of his day. Though contemporary accounts describe his improvisational skill as dazzling, his talent as a composer emerged only in his adulthood. Still, he was at the age of eleven the youngest contributor to publisher Anton Diabelli’s famous variation commissioning project, best remembered as the inspiration for Beethoven's final piano masterpiece. An oft-repeated anecdote -- first recounted by Liszt himself decades later, and possibly fanciful -- has Beethoven attending a recital given by the youngster and bestowing a kiss of benediction upon him.
Though already a veteran of the stage by his teens, Liszt recognized the necessity of further musical tuition. He studied for a time with Czerny and Salieri in Vienna, and later sought entrance to the Paris Conservatory. When he was turned down there -- foreigners were not then admitted -- he instead studied privately with Anton Reicha. Ultimately, his Hungarian origins proved a great asset to his career, enhancing his aura of mystery and exoticism and inspiring an extensive body of works, none more famous than the Hungarian Rhapsodies (1846-1885).
Liszt soon became a prominent figure in Parisian society, his romantic entanglements providing much material for gossip. Still, not even the juiciest accounts of his amorous exploits could compete with the stories about his wizardry at the keyboard. Inspired by the superhuman technique -- and, indeed, diabolical stage presence -- of the violinist Paganini, Liszt set out to translate these qualities to the piano. As his career as a touring performer, conductor, and teacher burgeoned, he began to devote an increasing amount of time to composition. He wrote most of his hundreds of original piano works for his own use. Accordingly, they are frequently characterized by technical demands that push performers -- and in Liszt’s own day, the instrument itself -- to their limits. The "transcendence" of his Transcendental Etudes (1851), for example, is not a reference to the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, but an indication of the works' levels of difficulty. Liszt was well into his thirties before he mastered the rudiments of orchestration -- works like the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1849) were orchestrated by talented students -- but he made up for lost time in the production of two "literary" symphonies (Faust, 1854-1857, and Dante, 1855-1856) and a series of orchestral essays (including Les préludes, 1848-1854) that mark the genesis of the tone poem as a distinct genre.
After a lifetime of near-constant sensation, Liszt settled down somewhat in his later years. In his final decade he joined the Catholic Church and devoted much of his creative effort to the production of sacred works. The complexion of his music darkened; the flash that had characterized his previous efforts gave way to a peculiar introspection, manifested in strikingly original, forward-looking efforts like Nuages gris (1881). Liszt died in Bayreuth, Germany, on July 31, 1886, having outlived Wagner, his son-in-law and greatest creative beneficiary.
Born: April 6, 1885, Arcachon, France
Died: August 17, 1961, Waterville, Maine
Jeux d'eau, Op. 29
Born in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France, Carlos Salzedo grew up around a combination of Spanish, French, and Basque cultures, so his music carries an eclectic feeling of cultural fluency. “Salzedo has done for the harp what Bach did for the organ, Paganini for the violin, Chopin, Liszt and Debussy for the piano, which is to enlarge the technical and expressive potentialities of their chosen instruments”. These are the words of the great conductor Leopold Stokowski when writing about the figure of Carlos Salzedo.
Of Franco-Spanish origin, with Jewish roots, Salzedo came from a family of musicians (his father was a singer, his mother a pianist, his elder brother a violinist). His early training ended precociously at the age of just 16, when on the same day he gained the Premier Prix in both harp and piano at the Paris Conservatoire, directed at the time by Gabriel Fauré. On moving to New York, he became the harp soloist of the Metropolitan orchestra under the guidance of Arturo Toscanini, who gave him lessons in conducting. He left the position in 1913 in order to devote himself entirely to concerts, composition and teaching, embarking on a long career that enabled him to leave his mark as the figure of reference for the harp in the 20th century.
A tireless organizer, performer of the harp and piano, and conductor, Salzedo was the cofounder with Edgard Varèse of the International Composers’ Guild (active from 1921 to 1927). He was also a member of the International Society for Contemporary Music and of countless other prestigious associations. His desire to promote the music of new composers and to inform the public remained constant throughout his whole life. His sensitivity towards new music and his strong didactic vocation led to the publication in 1921 of a fundamental work for both performers and composers. Modern Study of the Harp, which includes his Five Poetical Studies. The treatise deals with the main innovations in the performing and expressive techniques of the harp, the outcome of a path of personal research on gesturality that he also shared with the legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who became a close friend. The various topics are covered with the extensive application that characterizes Salzedo’s entire repertoire - a gesturality aimed at creating the “right” sound, at directing the energy towards the musical sense.
His influence was therefore decisive among composers of the 20th century: from Stravinsky to Schoenberg, from Bartók to Prokofiev, from Britten to Ginastera, all the most important composers benefited from Salzedo’s innovative techniques for the harp. From the 1920s his commitment to teaching led him to teach at the two main music education institutions of the United States: the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Juilliard School in New York, where he trained a new generation of harpists, to whom he imparted a vast repertoire of original works and transcriptions for harp alone and in chamber groups.
French-American Carlos Salzedo occupies a special place in the world of the harp. This grandmaster of the harp was responsible for a whole range of new virtuosic novelties. Composer Elliott Carter noted that Salzedo “presents a whole new repertory of effects for that instrument that are still not incorporated into our composers’ vocabulary”.
Salzedo published the Trois morceaux pour harpe seule: Ballade, Jeux d’eau and Variations sur un thème dans le style ancien at the age of 26. Already in the choice of titles it is possible to discern the French cultural milieu to which he belonged (just think, for example, of piano compositions like Fauré’s Ballade op. 19 and Thème et variations op. 73, or Ravel’s Jeux d’eau), but the writing for harp gives the work an unequivocal character.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jane Yoo, harp
Jane Yoo is an international prize-winner classical harpist. Jane has performed across the globe in concerts in the United States, Korea, Hong Kong, France, Switzerland, and Israel. She has distinguished herself as a musician and has won numerous prizes, including 1st Prize at the Korean International Harp Competition, Advanced Division, 1st Prize at Korean National Music Association, 1st Prize at the Korean Chamber Orchestra Competition, and the Special Prize at Szeged Hungary International Harp Competition. Jane was invited to perform in the Concert of Youth Concert in the World Harp Congress in Hong Kong in 2017 and was a Kumho Young Concert Artist twice.
As a soloist, Jane has performed with the Kangnam Symphony Orchestra, the Seoul National University Orchestra, and the Yale Philharmonia. She has also performed in many music festivals including as a soloist and chamber musician at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, the Harp Masters Academy, the Nice International Music Academy, and the Tignes International Music Festival. Jane has a Bachelors of Music from Seoul National University, where is studied with Rana Park. Ms. Yoo is currently pursuing her Masters of Music at the prestigious Yale University School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. June Han.