Easy Being Green

Friday, March 11, 2016, 7:30 pm, First Parish, Wayland
Saturday, March 12, 2016, 3:00 pm, Emmanuel Church, Boston

Variations sur la Romance de Une Folie, op. 14       Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837)

Sonata no. 3 in Bb Major for piano and violin   George Frederick Pinto (1785–1806)
    Allegro moderato con espressione con spirito    
    Adagio affetuoso e con sentimento
    Rondo (Allegro moderato)


Divertimento à 3 in Bb Major , K. 254  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
    Allegro assai    
    Rondeau (Tempo di menuetto)

Trio in G Major, WoO37  Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
    Thema andante con variazioni


Suzanne Stumpf, flute; Sarah Darling, violin
Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, fortepiano

Green Season Program Partner: Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

Program Notes

This program presents excellent early works by four of the most prominent musical prodigies of the Classical era. While Mozart was most widely known as an extraordinary child prodigy during his lifetime, all four composers represented on this program had significant musical accomplishments at an early age. It is interesting to note that two of the other composers on our program—Pinto and Beethoven—were each predicted early in their lives by their respective teachers to “become a second Mozart,” while our other featured composer—Hummel—was taken in by Mozart himself in his youth due to his promise.

The works by Mozart and Pinto heard on this program are in the vein of accompanied keyboard sonatas. Mozart’s Divertimento à 3 is his first mature piano trio, composed in Salzburg in 1776 at the age of twenty. Probably first conceived for harpsichord, Mozart is known to have played this work on the piano during a visit to Munich in 1777. While the keyboard part dominates in this work, the violin frequently alternates with the keyboard’s right-hand in the melodic material, particularly in the wistful adagio movement.

George Frederick Pinto was an English violinist, pianist, and composer. A student of the prominent violinist and impresario Johan Peter Salomon, Pinto was a child prodigy who was already performing publicly at 11 years of age and concertized internationally until 1804. His tragic death at the age of twenty was attributed to the catchall term of the time, “dissipation,” his teacher Salomon referring to his inability to “resist the allurements of society.” Pinto’s contemporaries were enthusiastic about his musical genius as was his teacher. Among the last works he composed are the piano and violin sonatas. These forward–looking works show a romantic sensibility. In his third sonata, the piano writing is quite advanced for its time, with great attention to the texture and timbre of the instrument in its frequently full-voiced chords. The violin part, following contemporary practice, is generally subservient to the piano part, but there are lovely solo passages in the haunting adagio and some independent thematic material in the pastoral Rondo.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in Pressburg (now Bratislava). His family moved to Vienna when he was eight where his father became the music director at the Theater auf der Wieden. It was at that time that Hummel was taken in by Mozart. He was so impressed with the prodigy that he taught him for free and took him into his household as a de facto family member. Hummel met many musicians who visited the family, including Haydn. After a couple of years, Mozart recommended that Hummel’s father take the young prodigy on a Grand Tour to make his musical talents known to a wider public, such as Mozart had done as a youth. The Hummel family traveled broadly across Europe for several years.

Hummel’s op. 14 variations were written in 1804 when Hummel was twenty-four, shortly after he had been appointed to work at the Esterházy court. The theme is the aria Je suis encor dans mon Printemps from the opera Une Folie (1802) by Etienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817). This was a popular aria from the opera—Louis Spohr, a contemporary of Hummel, also penned a set of variations for solo harp on the same theme. A master of serious opera, Méhul was a leading French composer in Paris during the Revolution, Consulate, and Empire. Une Folie was a well-received work. It was written in the lighter comic opera style that was popular during the Consulate at the turn of the century. This theme possesses interesting harmonic modulations, and Hummel captures these moments with skill and variety as he moves through the variations. The work also displays sophisticated duet writing through the suave integration of the flute into the texture of each variation rather than the simple treble accompaniments that were more typical at that time. In the Adagio, the flute even comes to the fore, and his writing is quite passionate and florid. The playful character of the Finale is possibly reflective of comical elements of the original opera.

Beethoven’s Trio in G Major for piano, flute, and bassoon was written in 1786 when he was about fifteen years of age. The work was found among his papers after his death and not published until 1888. We could not resist including this delightful piece using our instrumentation as the bassoon part fits rather nicely on the cello. It is believed to have been written for the family of Count Friedrich Von Westerholt, a bassoonist, whose daughter Anna Maria studied piano with Beethoven. Perhaps because it is an early work, there are some inconsistencies with expressive markings in the score, calling for creative interpretation on the part of the performers. In the piano writing, there is little integration between the hands, as if the right hand were a treble part and the left hand a bass part. These details indicate the work may have been conceived the harpsichord. Beethoven gives special attention to minute changes in articulation and slight adjustments in the melodic writing of repeated phrases that evidence that he was very carefully considering variety of expression in his message.

— Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf