Leon Fleisher, Piano
Miriam Fried, Violin
Donald Weilerstein, Violin
Frans Helmerson, Cello
Paul Biss, Viola
Kim Kashkashian, Viola
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 71, No. 2 (Hob. III:70)
Donald Weilerstein, Miriam Fried, Kim Kashkashian, Frans Helmerson
Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87
Andante con moto
Finale: Allegro giocoso
Miriam Fried, Frans Helmerson, Leon Fleisher
String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 87
Adagio e lento [attacca]
Allegro molto vivace
Miriam Fried, Donald Weilerstein, Kim Kashkashian, Paul Biss, Frans Helmerson
LEON FLEISHER, Piano
San Francisco native Leon Fleisher began keyboard studies at age 4 and gave his first public recital at 8. A year later he began studying with Artur Schnabel and in 1944, at age 16, made his New York Philharmonic debut. In 1952 he became the first American to win the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Worldwide appearances soon followed, and his collaboration with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra resulted in numerous legendary recordings. A debilitating ailment in Fleisher’s right hand during the 1964-65 season caused him to devote himself to teaching and conducting as well as performing and recording the left-hand-only piano literature. He founded the Theater Chamber Players at the Kennedy Center in 1967 and became music director of the Annapolis Symphony in 1970 and associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony in 1973. He has since conducted many orchestras throughout the world. In 1995 he began adding two-hand works back into his repertoire. Holder of the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the Peabody Conservatory of Music since 1959, Fleisher also serves on the faculties of The Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 2004 he released Two Hands, his first two-hand recording in 40 years. In 2005 the French government awarded him the title Commander in the French Order of Arts and Letters, and last year’s World Piano Pedagogy Conference was dedicated to him, celebrating him as one of the giants of classical music. Since his 1945 Ravinia Festival debut, Leon Fleisher has appeared here regularly; this year marks his 15th summer on the faculty of the Steans Institute for Young Artists since 1988.
MIRIAM FRIED, Violin
Program director for the Steans Institute’s Program for Piano and Strings since 1993, violinist Miriam Fried was born in Romania and emigrated to Israel with her family at age 2. She began taking lessons as a child with Alice Fenyves in Tel Aviv, came to the United States as a protégée of Isaac Stern and continued her studies with Ivan Galamian at The Juilliard School and Joseph Gingold at Indiana University. Her solo career was launched when she won first prize in the 1968 Paganini International Competition in Genoa. Three years later she claimed top honors in the Queen Elisabeth International Competition, becoming the first woman to win that prestigious award. Fried has performed with nearly every major American orchestra and is active internationally, having appeared with such noted orchestras as the Israel Philharmonic, London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Japan Philharmonic and L’Orchestre de Paris. Recently she premiered a violin concerto written for her by Donald Erb with the Grand Rapids Symphony and recorded the work for the Koss label. Dedicated to chamber music, Fried serves as a member of the Mendelssohn String Quartet and collaborates regularly with her son, pianist Jonathan Biss. Her highly praised New York recitals of Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin were the culmination of three years of international performances, and she recorded this music in 1999 for the Lyrinx label. She has also made a prize-winning recording of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the Helsinki Philharmonic for the Finlandia label. A noted pedagogue, Miriam Fried is on the faculty of the New England Conservatory and regularly presents master classes throughout the world.
DONALD WEILERSTEIN, Violin
Violinist Donald Weilerstein has concertized extensively throughout the world as soloist and chamber musician. He studied at The Juilliard School with Ivan Galamian, Dorothy Delay and members of the Juilliard String Quartet, and was honored by the National Foundation of the Arts as an outstanding graduate of the school. He was a member of the Young Concert Artists and in 1968 won the Munich International Competition for violin and piano duo. From 1969 to 1989 Weilerstein was the first violinist of the renowned Cleveland Quartet, with whom he toured the world. His recordings have earned seven Grammy nominations and won Best of the Year awards from Time and Stereo Review. Festivals at which he has taught and performed include Caramoor, Tanglewood, Aspen, Marlboro, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, Luzern, Verbier, Ishikawa, Keshet Eilon and “Chamber Music Encounters” sponsored by La Cite de la Musique and the Paris Conservatory. He regularly teaches and performs at Ravinia’s Steans Institute for Young Artists, the Yellow Barn Music Festival and at the Perlman Music Program. He also performs with pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, and the duo was enthusiastically received at Alice Tully Hall and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Weilerstein is active as a member of the Weilerstein Trio, which is in residence at the New England Conservatory of Music. Their 2006 CD for Koch records features trios of Dvořák. Formerly a professor of violin and chamber music at the Eastman School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, Weilerstein is currently on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music and The Juilliard School. Tonight marks Donald Weilerstein’s second performance at Ravinia Festival, where he first appeared in 1999.
FRANS HELMERSON, Cello
Swedish cellist Frans Helmerson studied in Göteborg, Rome and London with Guido Vecchi, Giuseppe Selmi and William Pleeth and also had the benefit of guidance and support from Mstislav Rostropovitch. Helmerson has performed with many of today’s finest conductors, including Seiji Ozawa, Colin Davies, Neeme Järvi, Evgeni Svetlanov, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Herbert Blomstedt, Sergiu Comissiona, Frübeck de Burgos, Kurt Sanderling and Mstislav Rostropovich as well as with a number of major orchestras, touring throughout Europe, the United States, South America, Asia and Australia. His love for chamber music led him to take the position of artistic director of the Korsholm Festival in Finland from 1994-2001, and he frequently appears at a number of international festivals, including Verbier, Prades, Naantali and Kuhmo. In 2002 he formed the Michelangelo String Quartet with Mihaela Martin, Stephan Picard and Nobuko Imai. Other credits include tours both as cellist and conductor in Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, Korea and Japan. Helmerson can be heard on CD in concertos by Dvořák and Shostakovich, Brahms’s Double Concerto with violinist Mihaela Martin and the Bach Solo Suites. Tonight marks Frans Helmerson’s third appearance at Ravinia Festival, where he made his debut in 2001.
PAUL BISS, Viola
Raised in DeKalb, Illinois, Paul Biss was in constant company of the leading artists of the day and the greatest music making of the time, as his mother was the well-known cellist Raya Garbousova. He started piano at age 5, violin at age 7 and by age 9 was traveling 60 miles away to Chicago for lessons on the violin, an instrument whose sound and lore became one of the great passions of his life. It was this love that brought him to Indiana University to study with the legendary Josef Gingold. During his student days at IU, Paul also found his future wife, Miriam Fried. After graduation Paul enrolled at Juilliard for his M.S. degree, during which time he studied with another pedagogical legend, Ivan Galamian. After several years of concertizing and conducting, he returned to IU in 1979 as a faculty member and member of the Berkshire Quartet. His tenure at the Jacobs School of Music has been marked by a love of and devotion to teaching the violin and conducting in the orchestral program. After 29 years of service on the faculty, he has former students all over the globe performing in orchestras and string quartets, as soloists, public school string specialists and in virtually any venue that requires violinists. He has conducted many orchestra concerts on campus (and off) over the years and has established a great following in the community. Outside of the school, his compassionate nature turned him to Middle Way House and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, with whom he served as a volunteer. This is Paul Biss’s 12th season at Ravinia, where he made his festival debut in 1995.
KIM KASHKASHIAN, Viola
Born in Detroit of Armenian descent, Kim Kashkashian studied with Walter Trampler and Karen Tuttle at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. In recent seasons she has appeared as soloist with the major orchestras of New York, Berlin, London, Munich and Tokyo, and her recital appearances have taken her to Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, San Francisco, Cleveland and Los Angeles. Kashkashian is a proponent of new music, and as a result of her relationships with composers Gubaidulina, Penderecki, Kancheli, Kurtág, Mansurian, Pärt, Eötvös and, most recently, Eitan Steinberg, Betty Olivero, Ken Ueno and Thomas Larcher, she has extensively enlarged the repertoire for solo viola. Her commitment to chamber music, which began during years of participation in the Marlboro Music Festival, where she was influenced by her work with Felix Galimir, continues through appearances at the Salzburg, Marlboro and Lockenhaus festivals. Current ongoing partnerships include duos with pianist Robert Levin, percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky and harpsichordist Robert Hill. Kashkashian has made guest appearances with the Tokyo, Guarneri and Galimir quartets and toured with a unique quartet that included violinists Gidon Kremer and Daniel Phillips and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The violist’s extensive teaching activities include professorships at the University of Indiana and the conservatories of Freiburg and Berlin. In 2000 she began teaching viola and chamber music at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Kashkashian has amassed an extensive discography on ECM, and her recording with Robert Levin of Brahms’s sonatas won the Edison Prize in 1999. Another recording of concertos by Bartók, Eötvös and Kurtág won a 2001 Cannes Classical Award. Tonight Kim Kashkashian makes her fourth appearance at Ravinia, where she made her festival debut in 2003.
JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 71, No. 2 (Hob. III:70)
Haydn returned to Vienna in 1792 after his series of acclaimed London concerts sponsored by violinist Johann Peter Salomon. Exhilarated by the bustling English music scene—almost nightly public performances, the tooth-and-nail competition between impresarios and Salomon’s gloriously large orchestra—Haydn sought to absorb these new stimuli into his own compositions. Few other activities vied for his attention. Vienna at that time stood mired in a lackluster artistic state. Mozart had died tragically the year earlier, and Beethoven had just arrived from Bonn to become Haydn’s pupil.
The master composer turned to his musical workshop—the string quartet—where he often formulated innovations in form, key and sonority. Six quartets dedicated to Count Anton Apponyi (1751-1817) were prominent among the relatively few works of 1792-93. Apponyi, a fine amateur violinist, had served as Haydn’s sponsor at the Viennese Masonic lodge Zur wahren Eintracht (“The True Harmony”) in 1784. The six “Apponyi” quartets appeared in print as two sets of three quartets, now known as Opp. 71 and 74.
Scholar H.C. Robbins Landon hypothesized that Haydn conceived these quartets for public performances, most likely in London with Salomon as first violinist. This transplantation of a very intimate chamber form to the concert stage had a noticeable effect on his quartet style. Landon observed that these quartets “are entirely different from the leisurely, more ‘detailed’ and much more intimate works which Haydn had previously written for the Austrian connoisseurs. In the works de anno 1793 Haydn paints with a broad brush.” Symphonic influences are detectable in the first-movement introductions and Haydn’s quest for greater contrast of instrumental densities, from quiet, fragile unisons to quasi-orchestral sonorities.
The Quartet No. 2 in D Major opens with the most substantial slow introduction of the six quartets. Only four measures in length, its descending octave leap gains importance in the subsequent fast section. When presented in rapid succession by the four strings, this bounding gesture demarcates important sections of the form and occasionally springboards the music into unexpected harmonic territory. Haydn instills the Adagio with lyrical simplicity—a long-lined melody, sustained harmonies and an undulating thread adding rhythm to the otherwise placid music—which he varies continually throughout. The Menuet harkens back to the first movement’s downward leaping octave, now filled in with other chord members. Playful and serious materials alternate in the final movement, which gains excitement as the tempo increases from Allegretto to Allegro.
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-97)
Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87
Brahms passed the summer months of 1882 in Bad Ischl, where he retreated to escape the interruptions in Vienna. Unfortunately, many native Viennese also vacationed there, including a number of his friends and admirers. Nearly constant rain that summer helped isolate Brahms from his well-intentioned supporters. He wrote to his friend, the surgeon Theodor Billroth: “But I must give high praise to Ischl, and though I am only threatened with one thing—the fact that half of Vienna is here—I can be quiet here, and on the whole I do not dislike it.” The first of several compositions completed in Bad Ischl was his Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, a work begun two years earlier. After several private readings, the trio received its first performance in Frankfurt on December 29, 1882, by violinist Hugo Heermann, cellist Valentin Müller and Brahms as pianist.
The combination of violin, cello and piano created numerous problems for Brahms. Difficulty in balancing the widely varying ranges and tonal weights of these three instruments may have accounted for the nearly 30-year interval since his Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8. The later work handles these differences through a symphonic variety of textures and distribution of thematic materials. Piano Trio No. 2 opens with the violin and cello—later joined by the piano—presenting the Allegro first theme. The cello descends to its lower register for a secondary theme before the keyboard offers a graceful third theme accompanied by string pizzicatos. Development begins with first-theme material. The cello introduces an expressive minor-key variation of the first theme in augmented rhythmic values. All three main themes return in the tonic key. An extended coda recalls motives from the main melodies before summoning minor-key material from the development. Dramatic string multiple stops and piano chords conclude this movement in major.
Brahms’s Andante con moto offers five variations on a melancholy, gypsy-like theme stated in octaves by the violin and cello. Variation 1 is quiet and expressive with melodic motives passed among the three instruments. In the second variation, the theme begins in the piano, which is then joined by the violin and cello. Variation 3 opens with long multiple stops in the strings, answered by full chords in the piano. The music turns to major with a lilting 6/8 meter in the fourth variation. Strings again present long melodic phrases in the minor-key final variation. The Scherzo is a minor-key movement characterized by rapid repeated notes and brisk upward surges. A somewhat slower trio in major provides contrast before the lively scherzo music returns in a varied form. Brahms again introduces three themes of widely contrasting character in his sonata-form Finale. The broad coda builds in rhythmic and dynamic intensity in its drive to the conclusion.
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-47)
String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 87
Frustrated by his inability to effect administrative changes at the Berlin Academy of Arts, Mendelssohn resigned as director of the conservatory in the fall of 1844. His immediate plans involved “complete rest—not traveling, not conducting, not performing.” For the next year he refused all offers that would take him beyond Frankfurt and the surrounding area (including one from a New York music festival). Mendelssohn spent long periods outside Frankfurt at the Bad Soden resort, near the Taunus Mountains, a place where he felt “at home among cows and pigs: my equals.” This idyllic locale already had provided a favorable compositional environment for his Violin Concerto in E Minor. Steamboats paddling slowly along the river, locomotive trains puffing into town and quaint family gatherings in a spacious salon remain immortalized in Mendelssohn’s delicate pencil sketch of Soden.
Composition never disappeared from his agenda. Mendelssohn completed his second work for two violins, two violas and cello on July 8, 1845. (The String Quintet No. 1, Op. 18, had appeared nearly 20 years earlier.) Of the four movements, the middle pair especially conveys wondrous examples of Mendelssohn’s expert string writing. The finale, however, never fully pleased the composer.
The Allegro vivace immediately thrusts attention on the first violin, which offers a heroic theme over tremolos in the other strings. Even after assigning the decorative second theme to the first viola, Mendelssohn quickly transfers the melody to the violin. Development concentrates on motives derived from the opening melody. After numerous false recapitulations, the true restatement of the valiant first theme settles into the second violin part. Further modification of basic themes continues in the extensive coda.
Mendelssohn crafted a dancing, characteristically buoyant Andante scherzando, whose subtly displaced accents and strategically placed pizzicatos reveal the master’s hand at work. After stating his gorgeous minor-key Adagio e lento melody, the composer spins out an unpredictable succession of theme transformations. The music proceeds without pause into the finale. Although two complete themes are presented here—the first bold and daring, the second simple and nondescript—Mendelssohn chose to dwell on the dotted opening rhythm. An unusual fugato development and oddly conceived counterpoint in the coda may have caused the composer’s misgivings.
—Program notes © Todd E. Sullivan 2009
Meet pianist Leon Fleisher after his performance for a signing outside Ravinia Gifts, located in front of the Dining Pavilion.
Signings are at the discretion of the artist and are subject to change. Purchase of recorded merchandise does not guarantee signature.