Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
Piano Trio in E minor, Opus 90 (“Dumky’9
When Dvorak arrived in the United States in 1892 for a celebrated stay of three years, he was the most renowned of all Bohemian composers, even more than his older countryman, Smetana. The latter was one of the founders of musical nationalism in Bohemia, encouraging the study of Bohemian folksong as an inspiration in the composition of a pure indigenous musical art. Dvorak, eighteen years Smetana’s junior, was a disciple who brought this philosophy to a wider world. He was born in the village of Nelahozeves, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), the son of an innkeeper/butcher. Dvorak, with his father’s blessing, learned the violin and other string instruments as a boy and eventually, in his teens, completed his studies in the great Bohemian culture center, Prague. He won prizes, thanks to an admirer, Johannes Brahms, who also arranged for his first publications. By the time Dvorak arrived in America, he was truly world famous which is what got him his job as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York (he was already a professor at the Prague Conservatory).
While in America Dvorak composed several works, among them the classic Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) inspired by American folk music. He encouraged American composers to look to their native music for original works which few heeded at the time. One of his “American” works was his popular Humoresque that years later a hooky-playing ten- year-old George Gershwin heard from a school window and found it “a flashing revelation of beauty” and decided he would become a musician. Like Dvorak he too would draw upon the music of his country in his composition.
One of Dvorak’s finest excursions into musical folklore is his fourth, and last Piano Trio Opus 90, completed in 1891, around the time he turned 50. Its inelegant subtitle, “Dumky,” needs explanation. It is the plural for dumka , a type of Slavic folksong of a peculiar character in two contrasting sections, one melancholy and the other exuberant - sad and lively, not unlike a slow blues followed by a rhythmic fox trot.
In this work Dvorak created a suite of six dumky, each in a different key. He manages in the first part of the third dumka to sound the proper melancholic note despite its major key (A).
Like his music, Dvorak was unassuming, simple; his music is richly melodic, skillfully formed and orchestrated. His interests were centered on music (except for the hobby of raising pigeons). He had a happy family life, a marriage that lasted a lifetime and the adulation of the music world. He had a store of folk tales and a rustic sense of humor. During his tenure as conductor of an amateur orchestra in Prague, he heard some ugly sounds from the string section. He stopped and inquired of the offending fiddler’s occupation. “Village carpenter,” he was told. Dvorak suggested that he might he more useful sawing wood than a violin.
Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947)
Café Music for Trio
Composer-pianist Schoenfield, horn in the Midwest (Detroit, Michigan) and active musically in the Mideast (Israel), is a worldly composer of wide interests. He studied with the eminent Robert Muczynski, himself a noted composer and pianist.. Musically Schoenfield can he described as eclectic, in the good sense of the word: not as a borrower but as an assimilator. Like the great Hungarian folklorist Bela Bartok, He absorbs the essence of popular and folk music to create an original work of his own.
The grist for Schoenfield’s imaginative mill consists of soundings from Vienna, New York, Chicago, New Orleans - all points. These are the sounds of people singing and dancing, or simply listening. They sound comfortably familiar, but are wonderfully original. Schoenfield takes music where he finds it. Take, for example, the skittish and complex Café Music that was, in fact, conceived in a cafe, not in Paris, say, or Vienna, not even in Manhattan, hut as the composer tells it, “Murray’s Restaurant in Minneapolis.. .after sitting in one night for the pianist of the house.” “My intention,” Schoenfield said, “was to write a kind of high-class, dinner music - music which could be played at a restaurant, but might also (just barely!) find its way into the concert hall.” (It did when the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra premiered Café Music in January 1987.) According to the composer the work incorporates many musical styles, including classical, Gypsy, Viennese, American, early twentieth century, and Broadway styles. The second movement includes paraphrases from a Hasidic melody and an African- American spiritual. The Presto finale calls for some “high class” virtuosity from the trio.
Robert Starer (1924-2001)
Episodes for violin, cello and piano
Born in Vienna, Robert Starer has been invariably grouped with American composers, though he was over twenty when he arrived in America in 1947.
It is a tangled tale. He was in his early teens when his family fled to Palestine (now Israel) after the Nazis invaded Austria. He continued his studies at the Jerusalem Conservatory before enlisting in the British Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war he came to the United States to study at the Juilliard School (composition with Frederick Jacobi). He grew into a major figure on the American musical scene as composer and teacher (Juilliard School of Music, Brooklyn College). He also wrote a standard textbook, Rhythmic Training, and was a fine piano accompanist and soloist. He has written three piano concertos, as well as songs, symphonies, choral works, and ballets (his Secular Games received the Martha Graham Award).
His Episodes, dedicated to The Newstead Trio, is a reworking of an earlier composition for different instruments dating from 1993. The Newstead Trio premiered the new version in New York in April 2000. For that occasion, the composer prepared this description; “The work is in four contrasting sections, played without interruption. The opening episode is lyrical in character, as though the three instruments are in conversation. A melody makes a brief appearance and returns in the final episode where it is developed. The second section is vigorous, almost martial. It opens with a fugal theme played by the cello. The third section also opens with the cello, this time with pizzicato ostinato, played almost like a string bass. The violin and piano introduce their own ideas above the ostinato. The final episode returns to the mood of the first with an intense, almost ardent section followed by abluesy melody. That pensive mood prevails to the end of the work as it gently fades.”
The Newstead Trio
Michael Jamanis, violin
Sara Male, cello
Xun Pan, piano
Since 1993, the virtuosic and deeply expressive performances of the Newstead Trio have delighted audiences worldwide — including Canada, Italy, Hungary, Singapore and China, as well as throughout the United States and via live radio and television broadcasts. They have worked with such respected artists as Bernard Greenhouse, Arnold Steinhardt, Theodore Lettvin and Timothy Eddy. The trio made their New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and their concerto debut performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.
Ensemble-in-residence at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music, the group is on the roster of Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour.
Founding members of the Newstead Trio, whose name honors British pianists Katherine Bacon and Arthur Newstead, are cellist Sara Male, from Canada and American violinist, Michael Jamanis. Pianist Xun Pan, born and raised in China during the Cultural Revolution, joined the ensemble in 1994.
The Newstead Trio
Xun Pan, Sara Male and Michael Janzanis
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
Piano Trio in E minor, O. 90 (“Dumky”)
W Lento maestoso—Allegro vivace, quasi doppio movimento 4:21
Poco adagio—Vivace non troppo 6:27
Andante—Vivace non troppo 6:10