Take an enchanting, musical journey through the great outdoors. Award-winning French pianist David Kadouch performs travel-inspired works by Bach, Schumann, Liszt, and Bartók. Kadouch made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after winning top prizes at the Beethoven Bonn Competition and Leeds International Piano Competition. This concert was presented in conjunction with The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes from Asia.
The Traveler’s Ear: Scenes from Music
David Kadouch, piano
This concert was presented on December 5, 2014, in conjunction with the exhibition The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes from Asia.
|Johann Sebastian Bach
Capriccio on the Departure of His Most Beloved Brother, BWV 992 (ca. 1704)
Forest Scenes (Waldszenen), op. 82 (1848‒49)
Three Petrarch Sonnets, from Years of Pilgrimage, Second Year, Italy(1838‒39, 1845)
Sonnet no. 47 (Benedetto sia ’l giorno)
Variations on Bach’s Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing (1862)
Out of Doors (Five Piano Pieces) (1926)
With Drums and Pipes
The Traveler’s Ear: Scenes from Music
This concert was presented on December 5, 2014, in conjunction with The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes from Asia. That exhibition, on view in the Sackler Gallery from November 22, 2014, through May 31, 2015, explored the many ways that travel shapes how we perceive the world. Long after a trip has ended, images made to guide, track, and represent travelers and their journeys continue to influence our views of other cultures and our own cultural identities. Featuring more than a hundred works created over the past five centuries, The Traveler’s Eye provided glimpses of travels across the continent of Asia, from pilgrimages and research trips to expeditions for trade and tourism.
Forest Scenes (Waldszenen), op. 82
Robert Schumann (1810‒1856)
Considering Robert Schumann’s bouts of depression and mental instability, it is surprising that he experienced one of his most productive creative surges from 1847 to 1849. The beginning of 1847 found Robert and his wife Clara on tour in Bohemia and Germany. She was igniting unbridled acclaim for her sterling pianism, while he was largely serving as the husband of the star performer. Robert received some notoriety when Clara played his Piano Concerto at several stops, but he completely failed in his attempt to conduct a performance of his oratorio Paradise and the Peri in Berlin.
A short time after they returned home to Dresden, Clara received the distressing news that her friend Fanny Mendelssohn, the talented sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn, had died suddenly in Berlin. Only a month later, sixteen-month-old Emil Schumann expired after a sickly infancy. The greatest shock came with the unexpected death of Mendelssohn himself on November 4, 1847, at the age of thirty-seven.
After Schumann attended the funeral in Berlin, he talked incessantly of Mendelssohn for months. In addition to these personal griefs, political insurrection was erupting throughout Germany in 1848, with Dresden being one of its epicenters. Open rebellion exploded in Dresden on May 3, 1849, and Schumann fled to the countryside with Clara and their children. The rebellion was soon quelled, and Schumann returned to Dresden with some small pieces he composed to celebrate the republican spirit.
Despite the turmoil and sadness of those years, Schumann enjoyed one of the most fertile periods of his life. “I have never been more active or happy in my art,” he wrote. “The tokens of sympathy, which reach me from far and near, give me the feeling that I am not working completely in vain. And so we go on, spinning and spinning our web and finally spin ourselves into it.” In 1849, which he claimed to be “my most fruitful year,” he wrote some thirty vocal and instrumental compositions. The first was the piano cycle Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), completed after just nine days of work. Unlike the impassioned and challenging piano pieces of the 1830s, these nine miniatures are mostly gentle in nature and undemanding technically. Together they underscore Schumann’s abiding ability to conjure mood through tone, to draw characteristic and lovely sounds from the instrument, and to evoke memories, places, images, and dreams with music.
Framing the cycle at beginning and end are the sylvan Entrance (Eintritt, which was originally headed with the later-discarded poetic motto, “We go on the fir-bounded path, by tall grass and fragrant moss, into the heart of the green thicket”) and the nostalgic Farewell (Abschied: “The shadow imperceptibly closes round; the breath of evening drifts through the valley; only distant peaks salute the last rays of the sun”). Standing immediately inside these musical portals are two contrasted hunting scenes, one stealthy—Hunter in Ambush (Jäger auf der Lauer)—the other triumphant—Hunting Song (Jagdlied).
The five movements occupying the center of Waldszenen suggest other aspects of the forest world that was so beloved by the German Romantics. Lonely Flowers (Einsame Blumen) is quiet and melancholy, perhaps a naive song of lost love; Friendly Landscape (Freundliche Landschaft) seems lively and sunny, as if rustled by the wind; and Wayside Inn (Herberge) is comfortable and welcoming, brimming with good cheer. Stronger emotions are elicited in Haunted Spot (Verrufene Stelle). Its uneasy mood is indicated with the verses by the German poet Christian Hebbel that Schumann inscribed above the music: “The flowers that grow so high are here pale as death; only in the middle grows one which gets its dark red color not from the sun’s glow but from the earth which drank human blood.” The enigmatic Prophet Bird (Vogel als Prophet), one of the most masterful and haunting of all Schumann’s piano pieces, was originally headed with the warning, “Take care! Be on your guard!” Clara once said that this music suggests “a sad little bird who tells of a sad story to come,” and in its brief span Schumann managed to capture something of the transitory nature of life as well as its beauty and mystery.
Three Petrarch Sonnets, from Years of Pilgrimage, Second Year, Italy
Franz Liszt (1811‒1886)
After a dazzling series of concerts in Paris in the spring of 1837, Franz Liszt and his longtime mistress, Countess Marie d’Agoult, spent the summer with George Sand at her villa in Nohant before descending upon Milan in September. As the birth of their second child became imminent, they retreated to Lake Como, where Cosima was born on Christmas Eve. They remained in Italy for the next eighteen months, making extended visits for performances in Venice, Genoa, Milan, Florence, and Bologna before settling early in 1839 in Rome, where Daniel Liszt was born.
Liszt’s guide to the artistic riches of the Eternal City was the renowned painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, who was then director of the French Academy at the Villa Medici. The composer was particularly impressed with the works of Raphael and Michelangelo and the music of the Sistine Chapel. He took home as a souvenir of his Roman holiday the now-famous drawing that Ingres did of him and inscribed to Mme d’Agoult. Liszt’s Italian travels inspired a series of seven luminous piano pieces that he composed between 1837 and 1849 and then gathered together as Book II of his Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) for publication in 1858.
The Three Sonnets of Petrarch that occupy the heart of the second set of the Années de Pèlerinage began as settings for a high tenor voice that Liszt wrote in 1838–39 on verses by the hallowed fourteenth-century poet Petrarch. He transcribed these songs for piano solo in 1845 and published them the following year. Ten years later he created extended fantasias on the songs’ materials for inclusion in the Années. His last version of the songs was a revision for low voice done in 1864. Sonnet no. 47 (Benedetto sia ’l giorno) is, in the words of English pianist and Liszt authority Louis Kentner, “a song of thanksgiving for the pleasures and sufferings of first love.” It captures well the mood of Petrarch’s poem: “Blessed be the day, the month, the year, the season, the hour, the place . . . where I was found and enslaved by two fair eyes.” According to Kentner, Sonnet no. 104 (Pace non trovo, e non ho da far guerra [I find no peace, and know not how to make war]) speaks of “restlessness, tears, self-hate, vain search for inner peace—all caused by the loved one. . . . It is understandable that pianists revel in its eloquence.” The dreamy mood of Sonnet no. 123 (I’ vidi in terra angelici costumi) evokes perfectly Petrarch’s gracious words and images: “I saw on earth figures of angelic grace . . . no leaf stirred on the bough, and all was celestial harmony.”
Variations on Bach’s Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing
“For all my admiration of Handel,” Liszt informed a friend after he studied that master’s sacred music, “my predilection for Bach remains unshaken, and after I have edified myself sufficiently with Handel’s common chords, I long for the wonderful dissonances of the St. Matthew Passion and the B minor Mass.” Only Beethoven occupied as lofty a niche in Liszt’s pantheon of composers did as Johann Sebastian Bach; his dedication to Bach’s music was a lifelong passion. When Liszt first started to show talent as a pianist, his father (his earliest teacher) nourished him with a steady diet of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Years later Liszt recalled, “Every day at lunch, while my parents were eating dessert, I was made to play six Bach fugues and then transpose them.” His teacher, Carl Czerny (author of the piano studies used to this day), placed Bach at the center of Liszt’s instruction, noting that the young prodigy “could enter at once into the spirit and style of the music.”
Liszt included compositions by Bach on his concerts throughout his life, favoring especially the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and the Goldberg Variations. In 1833 he played Bach’s Triple Concerto at a concert in Paris with Frédéric Chopin and Ferdinand Hiller, and seven years later in Leipzig he performed it again with Mendelssohn and Hiller. Liszt made significant editorial contributions to the first collected edition of Bach’s music. In addition, he played a benefit concert to raise funds for a statue of Bach in the composer’s home town of Eisenach, and he attended the statue’s unveiling nine years later.
Liszt created several works inspired by Bach. His arrangements include piano transcriptions of six Preludes and Fugues (BWV 543–548) done during the 1840s for use at his tour recitals; the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (BWV 542) published in 1868; the Adagio from the Violin Sonata no. 4 (BWV 1017) for organ; and organ adaptations of movements from the cantatas Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (BWV 21), Aus tiefer Not (BWV 38), and Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing) (BWV 12). In 1880 he planned but never realized an arrangement of the Chaconne from the Violin Partita no. 2 (BWV 1004). Liszt’s original compositions honoring Bach are the Prelude and Fugue on the Name BACH of 1855 and the Variations on Weinen, Klagen. Bach composed his cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen for the Weimar court services for the third Sunday after Easter in 1714. The work’s opening chorus is built on an incessantly repeated ground bass, which Bach liked well enough to reuse for the Crucifixus of his B Minor Mass two decades later.
In 1859 Liszt made an arrangement of the movement, and three years later, as a way of venting his grief over the death of his daughter Blandine in childbirth, he again took up the mournful descending theme and used it as the subject for a set of solemn variations expansively written on the scale of Bach’s Chaconne. The technical demands of the Variations are considerable, and its harmonic language is highly chromatic and richly expressive. Liszt’s quotation of the pure, diatonic setting of the chorale Was Gott thut, das ist wohl getan (What God does, that is well done), with which Bach closed his cantata, brings a heightened poignancy to the end of the work.
Capriccio on the Departure of His Most Beloved Brother, BWV 992
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685‒1750)
In 1703 Johann Sebastian Bach―ambitious, feisty, and not yet twenty years old―received his first appointment as organist of the New Church at Arnstadt, a small town seventy miles southwest of Leipzig. The few records that survive of Bach’s Arnstadt tenure concern mainly his continuing tiffs with the town council, who demanded explanations when he refused to accompany the church school’s choir on grounds of its musical incompetence or when he came to blows over an insult to a student (whom he accused of being a “nanny-goat bassoonist”). Other conflicts arose when his improvising was judged “too curious,” “too confused,” and “too long” for the good of the congregation, and when he invited a “young female stranger” (perhaps his cousin Maria Barbara Bach, whom he married in 1708) into the organ loft—with the pastor’s permission, he contended—for the purpose of a little informal music-making.
Bach’s prickly relationship with his municipal employers came to a head in 1706 after he overstayed—by three months (!)—the leave he had been granted to hear the concerts of the renowned Dietrich Buxtehude in Lübeck. Bach remained at Arnstadt for a few more months, cushioned by his extraordinary skill as an organist, which was bringing him notoriety and job offers, a vast family deeply imbedded in the musical and political life of northern Germany, and a quickly maturing genius for composition. In 1707 he won the organist’s job at St. Blasius’ Church in the Free Imperial City of Mühlhausen, thirty miles away.
Sometime during his tenure at Arnstadt, probably in 1704, Bach composed his Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo (Capriccio on the Departure of His Most Beloved Brother) in honor of Johann Jacob, who was leaving the family’s ancestral home in Saxony to become an oboist with the Swedish army of Charles XII. Bach’s little suite—one of his earliest instrumental pieces and his only one with an explicit (narrative or pictorial) program—captures the responses of friends and family to Jacob’s departure: Coaxing by His Friends Not to Undertake His Journey; A Portrayal of the Kinds of Accidents that Could Overtake Him in Foreign Lands; A General Lament by His Friends; His Friends See that They Cannot Stop Him, So They Come to Bid Him Farewell; Air of the Postilion; and Fugue Imitating the Sound of the Posthorn.
Out of Doors (Five Piano Pieces)
Béla Bartók (1881‒1945)
Out of Doors, composed in Budapest from June to August 1926, was written as a vehicle for Béla Bartók’s own performances. (The Piano Concerto no. 1, the Piano Sonata, and the Nine Little Piano Pieces were created at the same time to serve a similar purpose.) The work’s name was derived from the titles of the movements and the scenes they describe: With Drums and Pipes; Barcarolla; Musettes; The Night’s Music; and The Chase. Bartók left no more specific programs for these pieces, but his son Béla gave the following information about The Night’s Music: “He often visited his sister in Pusztaszöllös. This is where The Night’s Music originated, in which my father captured the frogs’ concert in the quiet of the plain and other evocative sounds.”
With Drums and Pipes is a sardonic march, sometimes out of step with itself, which transmutes the cadences of a street parade into motoric, percussive piano figurations. Barcarolla is a Venetian boating song translated into Bartók’s unique Hungarian dialect. (He had visited Venice with his wife Ditta two years before.) Musettes evokes the peasant dances of the villages where Bartók carried out his extensive folk music researches. Many Baroque keyboard pieces mimic the drone and diatonic melodic leadings of small bagpipes called musettes.
The Night’s Music is an extraordinary tonal picture. Aladár Tóth, a Hungarian critic and contemporary of the composer, described it as “some kind of sobbing and vaguely remote music, bird-music, star-music, and the calm transcendental melody of the night’s majestic hymn.” Four elements comprise the music: a slow progression of soft, tightly packed, dissonant chord clusters (perhaps representing nature itself); tiny, disjointed motives, some flying quickly across the registers, others just repeating tones (nature’s creatures); a broad hymnal theme (man contemplating nature); and a rapid melody of small intervals (a shepherd’s pipe). The Chase is a virtuoso depiction of a wild hunt, driven relentlessly by a hammered ostinato (i.e., short, repeated motive) in the bass.
― Richard E. Rodda, PhD
David Kadouch, piano, was a prize winner at the Beethoven Bonn Competition in 2005 and Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009. He has become a regular guest on important orchestras, recital series, and international festivals. In 2011 he received the Young Artist of the Year award from the International Classical Music Award committee as well as an Artist Breakthrough of the Year award from French critics.
Kadouch’s performances during the 2013–14 season included Schumann’s Piano Concerto in Mulhouse, Bach’s Concerto for Three Pianos at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos in D-minor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in C-minor with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, in addition to recitals in Istanbul, Aix en Provence, and Liege.
Recent orchestral appearances include concertos with Orchestre Lyon led by Leonard Slatkin, the Verbier Festival led by Charles Dutoit, the Tonhalle Orchestra (Zurich) led by David Zinman, the Contemporary Music Festival of Lucerne led by Pierre Boulez, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Orchestre National de Lille, Gulbenkian Foundation Orchestra, and Israel Philharmonic. His appearances with Daniel Barenboim include performances in Jerusalem in 2008 and Ramallah in 2009.
Kadouch made his New York recital debut in 2010 with a performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also appeared in recital at the Louvre in Paris, the Verbier Festival (where he was awarded the 2009 Prix d’Honneur), Klavier-Festival Ruhr (Germany), and at festivals in Gstaad, Montreux, and Jerusalem. As a chamber musician he has collaborated with such ensembles and artists as the Quiroga, Ebène, and Ardeo quartets and with Radovan Vlatkovic, Frans Helmerson, Nikolaj Znaider, Antoine Tamestit, and Renaud Capuçon. He has also performed Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major with Itzhak Perlman at Carnegie Hall.
His recordings include a live performance recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5 (Emperor) with the Cologne Philharmonic on the Naxos label; a recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Medtner’s Sonata, and Taneiev’s Prelude on the Mirare label; a recording of Schumann’s Piano Sonata and Piano Quintet with the Ardeo Quartet on the Decca label; and a recording of Shostakovich’s complete Preludes on the TransArt Live label. He also appears with Daniel Barenboim in the Maestro’s Beethoven Sonata Project DVD series, which features artists in performance and master classes.
Born in Nice in southern France, Kadouch began his studies at the Nice Conservatoire with Odile Poisson. At the age of fourteen he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he participated in the classes of Jacques Rouvier. After receiving first prize with honors from the Paris Conservatoire, he moved to the Reina Sofia School in Madrid in 2003, where he studied solo piano with Dmitri Bashkirov and chamber music with Marta Gulyas and Ralph Gothoni.
This concert was presented on December 5, 2014, as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series and in conjunction with the exhibition The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes from Asia, which was made possible by the Anne van Biema Endowment.
Podcast coordination by Michael Wilpers, F|S manager of performing arts. Thanks to Andy Finch and SuMo Productions for audio recording and editing, Nancy Eickel for text editing, Torie Castiello Ketcham for web design, Neil Greentree for photography, and especially the artists for granting permission to share their performances at the Freer Gallery.
The Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series was established in memory of Dr. Eugene Meyer III and Mary Adelaide Bradley Meyer. It is generously supported by Elizabeth E. Meyer, Melissa and E. Bradley Meyer, the New York Community Trust—The Island Fund, the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series Endowment, and numerous private donors.