SATURDAY 29th SEPTEMBER 2012 at 7.30pm
Leon McCawley's programme starts with Bach's lively and popular "Italian Concerto". The rest of his programme includes well known and less well known gems by Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and Rachmaninov before ending with one of the finest works of the romantic repertoire, Schumann's "Carnaval".
J S Bach Italian Concerto in F major BWV971
Chopin Nocturne in C minor Op 48/1
Chopin Nocturne in E major Op 62/2
Debussy Pour le Piano
Liszt Les Cloches de Genève
Debussy Cloches à Travers les Feuilles from Images Book 2
Rachmaninov Étude-Tableau in C minor Op 39/7
Schumann Carnaval Op 9
Italian Concerto in F major (BWV971) JS Bach
(No tempo indication) – Andante – Presto
Bach's interest in styles from outside Germany is well illustrated by the "Clavier-Übung II" of which the famous Italian Concerto is the first part, and the French Overture the second. It was written specifically for two-manual harpsichord in order to emulate the colour contrasts of Italian orchestral music – Bach would no doubt have appreciated the same achievement on the piano with one manual! The outer movements are in ritornello form, with contrasting tutti and solo passages alternating in different keys, whilst the central movement is an arioso in the relative minor.
Nocturne in C minor (Op 48/1) Frédéric Chopin
Nocturne in E major (Op 62/2) Frédéric Chopin
Chopin's "nocturnes" are more melancholy than soporific in mood: usually a central agitated section is enclosed by outer sections in which an aria floats above an arpeggiated accompaniment in 'A-B-A' structure. The C-minor nocturne, one of Chopin's most emotional outpourings of grief, is an exception – the 'A' section is chordal in accompaniment, whilst the 'B' section is a quiet chorale which is soon interrupted by stormy octaves. The same chordal accompaniment is found in the E major nocturne's outer sections, but here the central section is more agitated.
Pour le Piano Claude Debussy
Prélude – Sarabande – Toccata
Dating from 1901, this suite is one of the composer's earlier works for piano – it is surprising that it was not till his 30s that he wrote anything for his own instrument. The first movement is dazzlingly virtuosic, using the whole-tone scale and harp-like glissandi at the end. The general style is, however, neo-classical especially in the central Sarabande, whilst the closing toccata develops a baroque form.
Les Cloches de Genève Franz Liszt
Liszt's three suites "Années de pèlerinage" contain some of his most original and varied works, including both the virtuosic and the disarmingly simple. The first volume "Suisse" was written after Liszt was forced to flee Paris with his married lover, the Countess Marie d'Agoult. In this final "nocturne" the very quiet tolling of bells high and low opens in exquisite peace: in the central section, the same theme erupts in a full-blown paean of joy until the opening theme, elaborated, closes the piece.
Cloches à travers les feuilles Claude Debussy
Debussy was also inspired by bells, and by the Balinese Gamelan, a percussion ensemble. The work opens with a simple whole tone theme that is developed with parallel chords and rippling runs to form a typically Debussyian haze, before closing with fading bell sounds.
Étude-Tableau in C minor (Op 39/7) Sergei Rachmaninov
The Études-Tableaux are studies in compositional as well as keyboard technique. The second, Op 39, set was written shortly before Rachmaninov's emigration to America. The seventh opens with almost threatening gloominess, and remains largely subdued before an ecstatic – perhaps nostalgic before the event – interjection of Rachmaninov's beloved bells, before closing in foreboding peace.
Carnaval (Op 9) Robert Schumann
This major work illustrates Schumann's unique ability to alternate moods (his imaginary personae, the calm "Eusebius" and the fiery "Florestan") with disturbing rapidity: perhaps one can hear his later mental breakdown. In its 22 sketches, friends, fictional characters and events at a masked ball fly past us at dizzying speed. Many are based on a cryptogram drawn from the musical letters A, Es, C, H (A, E flat, C, B in English) drawn from his name, or AsCH (A flat, C, B), his place of birth. Rejected in his life as unplayable or unmusical, "Carnaval" has become one of Schumann's most popular works.
LEON McCAWLEY studied at Chetham's School of Music, Manchester with Heather Slade-Lipkin before continuing his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia with Eleanor Sokoloff, and with Nina Milkina in London. Leon McCawley is currently professor of piano at London's Royal College of Music.
In 1993, when just 19, Leon McCawley won First Prize in the Ninth International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and Second Prize in the Leeds International Competition, building on his earlier success in 1990 as the winner of the Piano Section of the BBC Young Musician of the Year.
Leon McCawley has played as a recitalist at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Wigmore Hall in London, Philharmonie and Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Lincoln Centre and Frick Collection New York, as well as in Prague and Hong Kong, whilst concerto performances have been with many of the leading British orchestras including the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Hallé and Ulster Orchestras. He has played five times at the BBC Proms, and with many leading orchestras and conductors abroad. Chamber music engagements include the Aldeburgh, Cheltenham and Edinburgh festivals.