“Borrowed Songs” features poetic lyricism, touching pathos, and razor-sharp wit as it explores the common thread of musicality found in different cultures. The first stop on the program features two selections from Charles Ives’ monumental 114 Songs, both of which bear the watermark of Americana in their earnest nature, religious deference, and attachment to the land. Concerning Ives, Schoenberg wrote, “There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn [sic]. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.” Serenity opens the program with the austere intonation of a chant-like melody that is simply and wonderfully effective as it stops time with very little fuss. This suspension is partially due to a “false relationship” between the two chords present, one containing a C-natural, the other a C-sharp. Autumn delves its content from a love letter turned poem penned by Ives’ wife and unabashedly utilizes tonality offset by a displaced rhythmic device in the left hand of the piano. The third song, Sure on this Shining Night is by another American composer, Samuel Barber, and sets the poetry of James Agee. Warmly received, this song relies on a canonic structure that ensures unbroken shimmering lines of melody and an unforgettable impression.
Sonata op. 94 borrows from the flute repertoire and features the dramatic melodies and contours of Prokofiev’s vivid imagination. A heartwarming sonata at turns tender, elaborate, impish, and strident, it pushes the pianist and soloist to virtuosic heights with seeming carelessness in a very classical structure. Gypsy colorations in the Trio of the second movement are immediately followed by a plaintive and precociously jazzy third movement before Prokofiev cedes once again to the march-like qualities that earned him his reputation as a composer as adept in percussive colors as counterpoint in the fourth movement. The rollicking nature of the finale is cut with sentimentality as perhaps my absolute favorite Prokofiev melody appears and abruptly evaporates.
Composer Kinan Azmeh is a brilliant artist settled in NYC for the last 16 years and a frequent collaborator with Yo Yo Ma in his innovative Silk Road Ensemble. “A Scattered Sketchbook was commissioned by Canadian clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois in 2012 and received its premiere in Philadelphia in January 2013. The piece is a suite of si independent miniatures reflecting different moods and representing different characters. It can be described as a world-inspired journey since each of the movements is based on an idiom specific to some folk music element from around the world. Writing these miniatures was therapeutic for me as they were composed during a very difficult time back home in Syria. This “scattered sketchbook” was rather an “escape book” that I built for myself during these dark times. The performers may choose which miniatures to play in any order.”