Scales of Joy and Sorrow

Sunday May 13 @ 3:30pm

The title piece, Scales of Joy and Sorrow for Violin, Cello and Piano by acclaimed Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich takes us on an other -worldly journey across the emotional spectrum. We’ll also revel in the beauty and poetic musical language of Maurice Ravel’s deservedly famous Piano Trio. His striking neo-classical themes are embedded in luminescent and richly varying textures. Antonin Dvorak’s magnificent Piano Trio in G minor, Op.26 concludes this program. The music thoroughly expresses the warmth, passion and splendor of the romantic age.

Scales of Joy and Sorrow
Marjan Mozetich (b.1948)

  • Slow and expressive
  • Arabesque
  • Fast and expressive

Marjan Mozetich was born of Slovenian parents and immigrated to Canada with them in 1952. He pursued his education and professional career here in Canada settling in Kingston as a professor of composition at Queens University. He has become one of the most prominent, frequently broadcast and listened to Canadian composers of our time. His works have been performed by major orchestras and prominent musicians around the world. He has won numerous awards and written over 70 works in a wide variety of instrumental and vocal combinations, also writing for theatre, film and various international dance companies. His unique style has evolved over the years from avant-garde expressionism, to minimalism to post-modern romanticism, yet remains always accessible, vibrant, and even spiritual, appealing to a broad range of audiences.

Scales of Joy and Sorrow is written for piano trio in 3 movements and was commissioned by the Gryphon Trio and premiered at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival on July 25th, 2007. It’s been enthusiastically received by audiences everywhere. This beautiful work brings a new ecstatic perspective to the humble scale and rather stands it on its head. Scales and melodic ideas that emerge from the scale permeate the work, rising and falling at all tempi, in all registers and responsively between the 3 instruments. This material is embedded within undulating textures, trills, tremolos, repeated notes, melodic fragments and somehow conveys the intensity of human emotion that oscillates between the sorrowful and joyous. As one feeling fluidly slides to the next we are reminded of these two sides of human experience and how one emotion is never that far from the other.

Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)

  • Allegro moderato
  • Largo
  • Scherzo- presto and Trio- poco meno mosso
  • Finale- Allegro non tanto

Antonin Dvorak was a Bohemian composer and the second Bohemian composer after Smetana to achieve international recognition. He played the violin, viola, piano and organ and wrote numerous symphonies, operas, songs and chamber works over his lifetime, and in a nationalist spirit, he often incorporated Czech folk idioms into his music. Fame and fortune still some distance away, the early 1870’s finds Dvorak a struggling musician/composer making a meagre living as an organist and music teacher, but it was at least enough to support his marriage in 1873. And then in September of 1875, Antonin and his wife Anna tragically lost their first infant daughter Josefa. This loss affected him deeply.

His Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 26 was written in just 17 days in January of 1876 and is thought to be in memorial for his daughter. It is significant that he chose the same medium and even the same key to commemorate his daughter as his friend and colleague Smetana did for his 4 year old daughter Bedriska who died 15 years previously. The trio displays a Czech flavour and was premiered on June 29, 1879 and published in 1880.

Two emphatic chords open the first movement, Allegro moderato, followed by a descending line of great sadness. This gathers into a lengthy statement of the first theme, an expression of grief and nobility. Eventually the mood somewhat lightens with the second theme. The second movement is slow, Largo, and despite being in a major key, is sombre and heartfelt with great dynamic contrasts and expressive of feelings that run deep. The third movement Scherzo, displays fast fiery rhythms in its outer section with echoing musical material between the piano and the strings accompanied by an underlying insistent repeated note idea. Its intensity is contrasted with the Trio’s ‘simple’ folk-like melody. The main theme of the Finale movement is announced by 3 strong chords which open the piece and recur at the important structural points in the piece. The bulk of the musical material is built on this theme. It’s passionate and expressive with a greater positivity emerging towards its stirring conclusion. Perhaps it represents a move towards Dvorak’s acceptance of his loss.

Piano Trio in A minor
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

  • Modere
  • Pantoum - assez vif
  • Passacaille - tres large
  • Final - anime

Maurice Ravel composed his Piano Trio in A minor in 1914 when he was 39 years old and it was premiered in Paris in January of 1915. The First World War broke out during his writing of it, and he hastened its completion in the hopes that he could enlist in the army and fearing it might therefore be his last musical utterance. Soon after France entered the war, he wrote to one of his pupils,“ I am working on the Trio with the sureness and lucidity of a madman!" Though his weak constitution prevented his enlistment, he did volunteer first as a nurse’s aide and later as a truck driver. Against this backdrop of mounting national tension, or perhaps because of it, Ravel was inspired to write one of the most radiant and virtuosic masterpieces of the chamber literature. Its sonority is rich and orchestrally conceived, and indeed it is difficult to remember at times, that only 3 instruments are playing, yet nonetheless, he manages to communicate a personal and intimate message.

In keeping with Ravel’s own Basque heritage, the first movement Modere, draws on Basque dance form with its distinctive rhythms, and is an elegiac expression of beautiful shifting textures and colour. The second movement is really a Scherzo with an ABA structure, its first theme incisive and spiky contrasting a smoother more sonorous second theme. Its title Pantoum refers to a Malaysian poetry form which loosely appears to be reflected in its alteration of material. The third movement Passacaille is derived from the first theme of the Pantoum and presents the slow sad steps of this old dance in a piercingly beautiful song of the heart. The theme is first heard in the low register of the piano, and is then passed between the instruments 9 times, each time varying and building in intensity to a driving climax before dying away. The fourth movement Final interestingly alternates between 5/4 time and 7/4 giving the piece a forward moving rhythmic edge. It is incredibly virtuosic employing such devices as violin arpeggio harmonics, double stop trills for the cello and full chordal and arpeggio textures from the piano bringing the work to a driving and brilliant finish.