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      Niccolò Paganini, Helen Grime, Amy Beach, and George Gershwin

      American composer and pianist Amy Beach (1867-1944)

      American composer and pianist Amy Beach (1867-1944)

      Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

      Selection of Caprices for Solo Violin, Op. 1 – #1 & #7 (c. 1801-07)

      Soovin Kim, violin

      Violinist Soovin Kim won first prize at the 1996 Paganini International Competition and Classic FM Magazine named his recording of the 24 Caprices ‘disc of the month’ back in 2006. He’s a recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and performs regularly as a concerto soloist, recitalist, and as a founding member of the Johannes String Quartet. He is also the artistic director of the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival. Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival Artistic Director, Marc Neikrug once asked him which Paganini Caprices he could play best if woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning with such a request.

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      Like Chopin’s Etudes, each of Paganini’s 24 Caprices highlights a particular technical or expressive challenge. Here is Soovin Kim playing Caprice #1.

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      Helen Grime (b. 1981)

      Snow and Snow for Clarinet, Viola & Piano (2012)

      2012 commission by Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, World Premiere
      Todd Levy, clarinet; Teng Li, viola; Haochen Zhang, piano

      Snow and Snow takes its title and starting point from the poem by Ted Hughes. Although the piece is not programmatic, the striking images of fragility and beauty together with the enigmatic nature of snowfall in the poem, struck a resonance with me.

      The piece falls into 3 movements, the 2nd and 3rd continuing without a break. The 2nd movement forms a sort of centrepiece to the work with the outer movements almost functioning as an introduction and postlude to the central section. The musical material is developed and refracted in a myriad of ways throughout the three movements with the result that the piece could almost be heard as one larger movement.

      The piece begins with a tentative duet for clarinet and viola. The two instruments are constantly overlapping and imitating each other, at times breaking into canon-like figures. This is a feature which characterizes the work as a whole: the clarinet and viola forming a unit set against the contrasting nature of the piano. The music is delicate and very quiet and silence forms an important part in establishing the fragile mood struck in the poem. After a scurrying exchange of faster figures, the piano enters with in a more soloistic manner. At first the duo and piano are quite separate, eventually overlapping and coming together towards the end of the movement.

      The 2nd movement opens with an extended solo for piano. Here the piano acts as a constant throughout with much more rhythmic regularity. The clarinet and viola form melodies, which hang from the piano texture, marking different tempos and creating intricate, cumulating patterns against it. The music shifts and moves through various moods, a virtuosic piano cadenza paving the way into a faster moving, agitated section before the three instruments come together in their closest form in an extended melodic section.

      Coming out of the closing piano figures of the 2nd movement, the last movement acts as a sort of distant postlude, revisiting and drawing on the themes and ideas of the piece.

      - © Helen Grime, 2012

      Marc Neikrug reveals how he first learned about composer Helen Grime.

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      Helen Grime described her sound world when we spoke with her by phone at her home in London.

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      Helen Grime recites the Ted Hughes’ poem that inspired her Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival 40th Anniversary commission, Snow and Snow.

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      SNOW AND SNOW

      Snow is sometimes a she, a soft one.
      Her kiss on your cheek, her finger on your sleeve
      In early December, on a warm evening,
      And you turn to meet her, saying "It's snowing!"
      But it is not. And nobody's there.
      Empty and calm is the air.

      Sometimes the snow is a he, a sly one.
      Weakly he signs the dry stone with a damp spot.
      Waifish he floats and touches the pond and is not.
      Treacherous-beggarly he falters, and taps at the window.
      A little longer he clings to the grass-blade tip
      Getting his grip.

      Then how she leans, how furry foxwrap she nestles
      The sky with her warm, and the earth with her softness.
      How her lit crowding fairylands sink through the space-silence
      To build her palace, till it twinkles in starlight—
      Too frail for a foot
      Or a crumb of soot.

      Then how his muffled armies move in all night
      And we wake and every road is blockaded
      Every hill taken and every farm occupied
      And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling.
      And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming
      We have to watch more coming.

      Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world
      Is a bridesmaid at her miracle.
      Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle.
      The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood
      Are a wedding of lace
      Now taking place.

      (Ted Hughes)

      Amy Beach (1867-1944)

      Piano Quintet in F-sharp Minor, Op. 67 (1907)

      Anne-Marie McDermott, piano; Orion String Quartet: Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips, violins; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Timothy Eddy, cello

      Amy Beach sang on pitch at the age of one, formed original melodies by age 4, and at 18, performed as a piano soloist with the Boston Symphony. Critics of her day hailed her 1907 Piano Quintet in F-sharp Minor, Op. 67 as an important addition to the repertoire, perhaps for the lush, distinctive qualities that Festival artistic director Marc Neikrug told Kerry Frumkin he still hears within it.

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      George Gershwin (1898-1937) / arr. Earl Wild (1915-2010)

      “Somebody Loves Me” & “I Got Rhythm”

      Kirill Gerstein, piano

      Marc and Kerry discuss Earl Wild’s knack for capturing the very essence of what made George Gershwin’s songs unique is on full display in these transcriptions. And, Marc adds, Kirill’s dual citizenship as a jazz pianist and classical virtuoso gives him a particular ability to play these in a very exciting way.

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      Here’s a little Gershwin as arranged by the great pianist, Earl Wild. Kirill Gerstein has made a name for himself as a wonderful interpreter of Gershwin’s music, as well as for being the recipient in 2010 of both the Gilmore Artist Award and an Avery Fisher Career Grant!

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