Piano Masters Series: Janice Weber

Seully Hall
8 Fenway, Floor 4
Boston, MA

American pianist Janice Weber is a piano faculty member at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Her unique career continues to surprise and delight, exploring standard and uncommon repertoire and championing contemporary works, always delivered with charm and effortless virtuosity. A Renaissance woman, Weber’s ninth novel will soon be released.

BEETHOVEN: Sonata op. 31, no. 1
ORNSTEIN: Sonata No. 4
LISZT: Schubert Lieder
LISZT: "Norma" Fantasy

Program Notes

BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 16 in G Major, op. 31, no. 1

With his three op. 31 sonatas, Beethoven intended to break with classical tradition and set off on his own musical path. Indeed, the first movement of his remarkable sonata op.  31, no. 1 opens off-kilter and remains so through a spate of foreign keys, burlesque snippets, and dynamic whiplash. Is the slow movement a long, graceful interlude or a parody of vocalists fond of hyper-embellishment and one more verse? The third movement begins as an innocent rondo, but ends in a robust presto vanishing into thin air.

ORNSTEIN: Sonata No. 4 (1918)

Though now known as a prolific and renegade composer, in his youth Leo Ornstein was considered a piano virtuoso the equal of Horowitz and Hofmann. He performed the American premier of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit as well as his own shockingly barbaric works, one of which proved to be his undoing: audiences clamored for the notorious Wild Men’s Dance to the point that Ornstein abandoned performing altogether for the joys of composition. He was still writing music at the age of 105. In contrast to his early, dissonant hits, the Fourth Sonata (1918) is lushly romantic, with references to Debussy, Hebraic modes, kitsch, and languid vapors infiltrating the first three movements. The sonata closes with an obsessive tour de force well ahead of its time.

BRAHMS: Sechs Klavierstücke, op. 118

Brahms referred to op. 118 (1893) as “the cradle songs of my sadness.” Waves of longing, nostalgia, and regret suffuse the set, one of his last works for piano. There are lingering moments of tenderness and peace, particularly in the second Intermezzo and the Romanze. Yet the Ballade ends desolately; a shadow agitates the third Intermezzo; and a motif from the Dies irae dominates the last piece, displaced only once by a stark march—perhaps that of approaching death. Significantly, op. 118 is dedicated to Clara Schumann.

LISZT: Serenade (Ständchen)

Serenade
written by William Shakespeare

Hark, hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings,
And Phoebus ‘gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking Mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes:
With every thing that pretty is,
My lady sweet, arise:
Arise, arise.

LISZT: Die Rose

The Rose
written by Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel
translation by T. P. Perrin

Beguiling warmth lured me to the sun’s light,
Then its fire burned so fiercely that I must grieve forever.

My bloom could have lasted so long, had the day been mild and clear.
Now I am fated to wither, my beauty too soon forgotten.

At the break of dawn I relinquished all shyness, opened my precious bud,
I could scent the air, lift my crown . . . then the sun grew so hot!

What good is the gentle evening? It cannot ease my pain.
The sunset glow fades; ah, soon the cold will finish me.

Yet, dying, I give thanks for my brief life.       

LISZT: Reminiscences of Norma

Bellini’s opera Norma (1831) was an immediate sensation not only for its bel canto fireworks but its riveting tale of a Druid priestess caught between duty to her oppressed people and an illicit love affair with their Roman oppressor. Ten years later, Liszt condensed the opera to seven episodes, reordering themes for optimal dramatic flow, and packed his Reminiscences with a stunning array of pianistic devices that transcended the merely technical to capture Norma’s tragic dilemma, which could only end with her sacrificial suicide at the burning stake. Liszt dedicated the work to his “dear and ravishing colleague” Marie Pleyel, a brilliant Belgian pianist who broke off her engagement to Hector Berlioz to marry Camille Pleyel, heir to the piano manufacturing fortune.
 

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