Esther Hoppe, Chiara Enderle Samatanga, Luisa Seraina Splett
Mel Bonis / Dora Pejačević / Lili Boulanger / Rebecca Clarke
Ref. Kirchgemeindehaus, Winterthur-Veltheim, 2023-03-05
2023-03-27 — Original posting
MUT, in der Tat: Wagnis und Erfolg mit selten gespielter Kammermusik komponierender Frauen — Zusammenfassung
Mit diesem Konzert lancierte die jetzt in Berlin lebende Pianistin Luisa Seraina Splett (*1983) eines ihrer Herzensprojekte, die Konzertreihe “MUT! 2023“: fünf Konzerte in der Region Winterthur, die sich ganz dem Schaffen komponierender Frauen widmen. Dieser erste Anlass der Serie entstand in Zusammenarbeit mit der Violinistin Esther Hoppe (*1978) und der Cellistin Chiara Enderle Samatanga (*1992). Im ausverkauften Saal des Kirchgemeindehauses Winterthur-Veltheim erklangen unter dem Titel “Morgen-leicht und Abend-schwer” vier Klaviertrios vom Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts.
Die erste Konzerthälfte brachte zwei Werke: die zwei Sätze des Klaviertrios “Soir-Matin“, op.76 (1907) der französischen Komponistin Mel (Mélanie Hélène) Bonis (1858 – 1937). Danach folgte das viersätziges Klaviertrio in C-dur, op.29, der kroatischen Komponistin Dora (Maria Theodora Paulina, Gräfin) Pejačević (1885 – 1923), entstanden 1910.
Die zweite Konzerthälfte brachte kompositorische Schwergewichte: als erstes das einsätzige Klaviertrio “D’un soir triste“ (1917/1918) der jung verstorbenen Lili (Marie-Juliette Olga) Boulanger (1893 – 1918). Es ist dies eines der letzten Werke der zeitlebens gesundheitlich schwer angeschlagenen, hoch talentierten Komponistin, der jüngeren Schwester der bekannteren Nadia (Juliette Nadia) Boulanger (1887 – 1979). Das Programm schloss mit dem 1921 entstandenen, dreisätzigen Klaviertrio der englisch-amerikanischen Komponistin Rebecca Clarke (1886 – 1979).
Table of Contents
- Concert & Review
- Program and Concept
- Mel Bonis: Piano Trio “Soir-Matin”, op.76 (1907)
- Dora Pejačević: Piano Trio in C major, op.29 (1910)
- Lili Boulanger: Piano Trio “D’un soir triste” (1917/1918)
- Rebecca Clarke: Piano Trio (1921)
|Venue, Date & Time||Ref. Kirchgemeindehaus, Winterthur-Veltheim, 2023-03-05 17:00h|
|Series / Title||MUT! 2023 (“Courage! 2023”)|
Morgen-leicht und Abend-schwer (“Morning-light and Evening-heavy”)
Piano Trios of the Early 20th Century
|Organizer||Luisa Seraina Splett|
|Reviews from related events||Concerts featuring Esther Hoppe|
Concerts featuring Chiara Enderle Samatanga
Esther Hoppe, Violin
The Swiss violinist Esther Hoppe (*1978, see also Wikipedia.de) grew up in Zug, capital of the Swiss canton with the same name. After high school, she studied violin with Thomas Füri (1947 – 2017) at the Musikakademie Basel. At age 19, she was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. There, she obtained her Artist Diploma in 2000. She continued her studies with Yfrah Neaman (1923 – 2003) at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, and finally with Nora Chastain (*1961) at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK). 2009 – 2013, Esther Hoppe was concertmaster of the Munich Chamber Orchestra. Since 2013, she holds a teaching position at the Mozarteum Salzburg, while also performing in various chamber music formations.
Esther Hoppe performs on the 1722 “De Ahna” violin by Antonius Stradivarius (1644/48 – 1737). She has just been appointed artistic director of the Camerata Zürich (see also Wikipedia), starting with the 2025/2026 season. In this position, she succeeding Räto Tschupp (1929 – 2002, founder of the ensemble), Marc Kissóczy (*1961), Thomas Demenga (*1954), and Igor Karsko (*1969).
Chiara Enderle Samatanga, Cello
The cellist Chiara Enderle Samatanga (*1992) is not new to this blog. She participated in a chamber music concert in Zurich (2018-04-13). Soon thereafter, I heard her in a half-hour solo presentation in Lucerne (2018-05-31). 2018, Chiara Enderle became a member of the Carmina Quartet, located in Zurich. The ensemble features her parents, Matthias Enderle (first violin) and Wendy Champney (viola). See also my report from their string quartet recital in Zurich (2019-10-20). The artist was recently appointed professor for cello at the Bern University of the Arts. At the time of this concert, Chiara Enderle Samatanga was pregnant with her second child, which was in fact due to arrive within days after the concert.
Luisa Seraina Splett, Piano
The pianist Luisa Seraina Splett (*1983) grew up in Winterthur, in a family of musicians. She started her piano career at age of five, giving her first solo performance at age 7. Luisa Splett did her undergraduate studies at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZhdK), where her main teachers were Silvia Näsbom-Thellung and Karl-Andreas Kolly (*1965). Her education then took her to the Universidad Mayor de Chile in Santiago, where in 2006 she graduated under the Russian teacher Yelena Victorovna Scherbakova. The following year she started postgraduate studies with Oleg Malov (*1947) at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatoire in St.Petersburg. She completed these studies in 2009, with highest distinction.
Since 2012, Luisa Splett lives in Berlin, pursuing a career as independent solo artist and teacher, while at the same time studying musicology at the Universität der Künste (UdK) Berlin on the Swiss composer, pianist and teacher Emil Frey (1889 – 1946) and his pedagogical in influences on the pianists of his time and beyond.
Luisa Splett’s instrument in this concert was a mid-size grand piano by Feurich.
The concert formed part of a five-part series “MUT! 2023“. For details see below. This first event in the series ran under the title “Morgen-leicht und Abend-schwer“ (Morning-light and Evening-heavy), featuring Piano Trios of the Early 20th Century:
- Mel Bonis (1858 – 1937): Piano Trio “Soir-Matin“, op.76 (1907)
- Dora Pejačević (1885 – 1923): Piano Trio in C major, op.29 (1910)
- Lili Boulanger (1893 – 1918): Piano Trio “D’un soir triste“ (1917/1918)
- Rebecca Clarke (1886 – 1979): Piano Trio (1921)
In reversed sequence, the title of the concert refers to a gloomy evening mood, and the contrasting, light morning atmosphere that Mel Bonis is describing in her op.76, which opened the program. Fittingly, Lili Boulanger’s piano trio also describes a melancholic, sad evening.
The venue was the community hall of the Reformed Church in Winterthur-Veltheim (North of the city center). The spacious hall was sold out. Additional chairs had to be brought in, in order to accommodate an audience of around 200 people. The organizers were kind enough to reserve me a first-row press seat, somewhat offset to the right. From my position, the cello was much closer than the violin. With this, I cannot comment on the volume balance in this concert.
In the text below, I collected the biographic notes from the respective Wikipedia entries (all referenced in the text), combining information from entries in different languages, where appropriate.
Concert & Review
Program and Concept
The title of her project “MUT! 2023“—”Courage! 2023″—stands for a series of five chamber music concerts that Luisa Seraina Splett is organizing in the surroundings of her home town. It’s a project that cannot possibly be the result of a “fast shot”, but one that the artist must have prepared from long hand. In doing so, the artist took substantial risks (hence “Courage!”). Why?
- The idea was that of a concert series featuring exclusively chamber music by women composers, from classic to contemporary. Some of these composers may be known to “insiders”—but almost throughout, their works are not.
- There is the question whether such works would attract sufficient audience.
- For these programs (scheduled 2023-03-05, 2023-04-16, 2023-05-07, 2023-09-03, and 2023-10-01), the pianist needed to motivate and engage a number of fellow musicians—who obviously would be sharing some of the risks.
- Last, but not least, Luisa Seraina Splett needed to screen the vast chamber music repertoire not only for the (sadly) scarce music written by women, but also for pieces that she could combine to programs that make sense, i.e., compositions that “cooperate” to form a sensible concert dramaturgy.
- The artist lives in Berlin, where she is rising two kids. With that, the time that she could devote to this was limited.
- So, all of the above, plus the organization (venues, marketing, ticket sales, etc.) needed to happen from Berlin.
… and Success
As the result of this first concert shows, the artist was highly successful in all of this. Luisa Seraina Splett obviously is well-networked in her home town, even though she left the place for Berlin over 10 years ago. And before that, she spent years in distant places, to complete here education, see above. Also, the pianist knew what to expect, hence selecting venues (one church and four church community halls in the suburbs of Winterthur) that are “right” for the expected audiences. And she has the necessary connections to draw upon a pool of chamber musicians that she could ask to participate.
All in all: already at the onset, the “MUT!” concerts are a highly commendable project / venture. Congrats to Luisa Seraina Splett for inventing, planning and realizing it!
Four more concerts in this series are planned for 2023:
- 2023-04-16, Winterthur-Töss: piano and clarinet
- 2023-05-07, Winterthur-Seen: Lieder, soprano and piano
- 2023-09-03, Oberwinterthur: piano, recitation and projections
- 2023-10-01, Wülflingen: Duo KLUSA (saxophone and piano), Theremin
This first concert in the series was combined with an exhibition of paintings. Also, prior to the concert, the Swiss organist, curator and music publicist Sibylle Ehrismann (*1962) gave a half-hour presentation on the topic “Women composers once and today” (which I did not attend). As part of the concert, prior to every piece, Luisa Seraina Splett introduced its composer and briefly characterized the work that the ensemble was about to perform.
Mel Bonis: Piano Trio “Soir-Matin“, op.76 (1907)
The late-romantic French composer Mel (Mélanie Hélène) Bonis (1858 – 1937), born in Paris, grew up in a strictly Catholic environment. A self-taught piano player, her parents only allowed her to pursue formal piano training when persuaded by a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris. 1874, she began her studies in accompaniment, harmony, and composition. She shared classes with Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) and Gabriel Pierné (1863 – 1937), and she received tuition from César Franck (1822 – 1890).
Her parents disapproved her falling in love with a fellow student Amédée Landély Hettich (1856 – 1937, poet and singer) and withdrew her from the Conservatoire. In 1883, they forced her to marry Albert Domange (1836 – 1918) a businessman, a double widower with 5 children from his previous marriages. Mel Bonis had three children with Domange, even though her marriage was unhappy, and her husband disliked music.
In the 1890s, she re-encountered Hettich, her first love, now married, a respected vocal teacher and writer on music. He encouraged Mel Bonis to return to composition and introduced her to major publishers. This launched her career as composer—and it led to an affair. 1899, this resulted in an illegitimate child that was given into the care of a former chambermaid. After this, Mel Bonis devoted all her forces to composing.
Mel Bonis created some 300 works, including piano, organ, and chamber music, music for children, vocal and orchestral works. 1901, after a performance of her piano quartet (presumably the one in B♭ major, op.69), Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1929) allegedly exclaimed “I never imagined a woman could write such music!”. However, Mel Bonis apparently was too modest for self-promotion, and, of course, her gender did not help. Yet, 1907, she became a member, later even the secretary of the committee of the Société des compositeurs de musique. After WWI, her music was gradually forgotten, her health deteriorated. Yet, she continued to compose up to her death in 1937.
The Piano Trio “Soir-Matin“, op.76 is a work from 1907—a fruitful period in Mel Bonis’ life. The work features two movements: a piece describing the warm, but melancholic and retrospective (?) thoughts & feelings in the evening. The contrasting second movement is in the lighter mood of a morning with positive thoughts:
- Soir — Andante cantabile
- Matin — Andantino
In her introduction, Luisa Seraina Splett described Mel Bonis’ “evening music” as typically impressionist, strongly influenced by Claude Debussy. Its gentle, mellow colors, remind her of paintings by Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883), while the “morning” movement makes her think if early sunlight glittering in dew droplets…
I. Soir — Andante cantabile
The piano opens this piece with gentle, ascending figures—dreamy, instantly exposing the warm, mellow sonority of the Feurich grand. This forms the background / “comment” to a highly expressive, melodious duet of the two string instruments, mutually commenting each other’s “statements”. Often, the piano bass added a third voice / “person” to this intense discourse. Beautiful, beautiful melodies, warm, heartfelt, longing, melancholy. Maybe more late-romantic than impressionist?
II. Matin — Andantino
Airy, light, “transparent”, a fragrant bouquet of flowers. This now is truly impressionist—and truly French! I saw the dew droplets that Luisa Seraina Splett associates with this music primarily in the piano part: cascades, fountains of glittering reflexes—peaceful, reflective. A sound painting at its best, a highly atmospheric gem!
Dora Pejačević: Piano Trio in C major, op.29 (1910)
Dora (Countess Maria Theodora Paulina) Pejačević (1885 – 1923) was born in Budapest, into a noble family. Dora (Countess Maria Theodora Paulina) Pejačević (1885 – 1923) was born in Budapest, into a noble family. Her father was a Croatian count, her mother Elisabeta-Lilla Vay de Vaja a Hungarian baroness, pianist and singer. Dora Pejačević spent her youth in Našice (Slavonia, now part of Croatia). She received piano lessons from her mother, continued teaching herself piano and violin. She also took lessons with the organist Károly Noszeda (1863 – 1944) in Budapest.
Dora Pejačević started composing at age 12. 1902, her family moved to Zagreb, where she continued her education (violin and music theory) continued in the Croatian Music Society in Zagreb, as well as through private lessons in instrumentation. 1907, her family returned to Našice, but 1909, she started studying in Dresden, from 1911 on in Munich. 1914, with the outbreak of WWI, she returned to Našice again, composing and also helping wounded soldiers as a nurse. After the war, she lived in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna, finally in Munich. There, in 1921, she married Ottomar (Otto), Ritter von Lumbe (1892 – 1978). 1922, aged 47, she fell pregnant. In 1923, she died only weeks after giving birth to a son.
Dora Pejačević is one of the most prominent Croatian composers. Her oeuvre consists of 106 compositions (published with opus numbers up to 58). Her works include numerous songs, songs with orchestral accompaniment, solo piano works, chamber music, and orchestral works: a piano concerto and a Phantasie concertante for piano and orchestra, one symphony (considered the first modern symphony in Croatian music), and an overture. So far, only a limited number of Dora Pejačević’s works have been published. Her piano concerto (from 1913) is considered to be the first concerto ever written by a Croatian composer.
The Piano Trio in C major, op.29 is a work from 1910, from the composer’s time in Dresden. It features four movements:
- Allegro con moto
- Scherzo: Allegro — Trio
- Finale: Allegro risoluto
I. Allegro con moto
A beautiful, descending melodic theme presented first by the violin, then picked up by the cello, and all accompanied by broad arpeggios on the piano: such joyful emphatic music! The voices appear to motivate each other, building up intensity and momentum. At a first climax, a (mostly ascending) punctuated new theme sets in, then yet another one—Dora Pejačević shows herself as a composer rich in fantasy and imagination!
Some of the inventions are catchy, but they don’t “live” long or appear frequently enough to survive the following inventions. For the listener, the multitude in themes soon turns confusing, and it is hard to recognize a larger structure—at least in a first encounter. I don’t mean to say that this movement sounds “difficult”. The overall (first) impression is just that the music doesn’t live so much from the melodies, but rather from the harmonies, the interesting, late-romantic modulations. The latter reveal the composer’s personal style, though they appear somewhat aimless (in a first encounter, at least).
Climax and Cadenza
The movement builds up to a climax, which then leads into a short piano cadenza. The continuation is highly expressive. It does return to the catchy initial themes / Leitmotifs, though now elegiac, rhapsodic, more emotional. The music leads into a piano solo, and later, the short, descending first piano cadenza returns—twice even.
A kaleidoscope of nice, even beautiful melodies / motifs and interesting modulations, short intense cantilenas, a virtuosic piano part, often dense textures. Beautiful, true, though at times a bit confusing. The one thing that holds the movement together are the initial two themes (which return at the end of the movement), and the three instances of a short cadenza.
II. Scherzo: Allegro — Trio
The Scherzo is a capricious fun piece, a mix of pizzicato and staccato, with canon-like sequences and expressive outbreaks, often moody (in the modulations), ending rather abruptly.
The Trio is rather unusual: as Luisa Seraina Splett explained, it is in 5/4 time—Slavonic heritage, obviously. There are segments where the piano plays a simple, chordal motif in the first three beats, and the two string instruments respond with two pizzicato beats in octaves. Later, in the middle part, the 5/4 meter is less conspicuous. The music builds up to a rhapsodic episode with beautiful, rounded piano sonority—and in the last part, the initial 3+2 scheme returns, ultimately leading into the second instance of the Scherzo.
Clearly Pejačević’s best movement so far! Elegiac, longing, wistful, melancholic, with beautiful, intense cantilenas in the strings, often in octaves. Excellent coherence between Esther Hoppe and Chiara Enderle Samatanga! Peaceful, atmospheric music, far less complex than the Allegro con moto in harmonies and themes.
The middle part forms a strong contrast: dense, “burning”, distinctly Slavonic colors and expression, often virtuosic and complex in the piano part, highly expressive in the string cantilenas, building up intense, dramatic climaxes, then returning to the elegiac, melancholic initial theme.
IV. Finale: Allegro risoluto
Risoluto: resolute, indeed! Determination, momentum, drive, big sonority and emotions. A dramatic composition that is constantly striving forward (in harmonies, melodies and rhythm), building up dramatic climaxes, with a virtuosic piano part. Violin and cello are often competing with each other in the intensity of the cantilenas, the expression. The piano further “heats up” the atmosphere, never dropping the tension, up to a truly enthralling, impressive climax.
Musically, the first movement felt like the weakest of the four, but then, the composition keeps building up, culminating in an impressive final movement.
Lili Boulanger: Piano Trio “D’un soir triste” (1917/1918)
With Lili (Marie-Juliette Olga) Boulanger (1893 – 1918), the program turned towards a name that is familiar to many. However, most may actually be thinking of her elder sister, Nadia (Juliette Nadia) Boulanger (1887 – 1979). The latter is known as a conductor, pianist, organist, and, most importantly, music teacher to many prominent musicians (composers, conductors, pianists). Her sister Lili grew up as a child prodigy, in a family of musicians. At age four, she accompanied her sister Nadia to classes at the Conservatoire de Paris. Soon, she was sitting in on music theory classes and studying organ with Louis Vierne (1870 – 1937). She also sang and played piano, violin, cello, and harp.
Sadly, her health was always frail. In 1912, she participated in the Prix de Rome composition. However, during the performance, she collapsed due to her illness. The following year, 1913, she competed again and won the first prize—the first female winner at that competition. Under the Conservatoire’s Director Gabriel Fauré (1875 – 1924), Lili studied harmony, counterpoint and composition. The death of her father, Ernest Boulanger (1815 – 1900) had a profound effect on Lili and many of her compositions. Her work also reflects influences by Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918). Despite her short life, Lili’s compositions influenced Arthur Honegger (1892 – 1955). Her chronic illnesses, which started at age 2, ultimately led to intestinal tuberculosis and an early death at age 24.
Lili Boulanger’s Piano Trio “D’un soir triste“ is a work from 1917/1918. It is the last score that Lili Boulanger was able to write herself. Written for “violin or cello and piano or orchestra”, it exists in various versions. The only composition that followed this work is a “Pie Jesu” for soprano, string quartet, harp, and organ, which Lili dictated to her sister Nadia, from her death bed.
The annotation for the single movement is Lent, grave (slow, heavy)
Mel Bonis’ and Dora Pejačević’s piano trios clearly still are in the spirit of the 19th century. Lili Boulanger’s composition felt like an instant “switch” to the early 20th century, especially with the harmonies in the piano part. And what an impressive and expressive piece it is! The first part is with piano and cello only—elegiac, intense sadness, longing, weeping, pain in an endless cantilena. When the violin joins in, the atmosphere further densifies to intense lamenting. The music builds up to a climax in utter desperation, intensified by the dissonant harmonies in the piano part.
There is no relief, just pain. When things can’t get any worse, violin and cello stop their lament. The dark, fateful bass beats on the piano are devastating: cries for help, resignation, hopelessness, pain and outcries. Now, the string instruments use mutes, and oppressive fog appears to cover the scenery. The protesting chords from the piano are in vain. When the string instruments return (now without mutes), they appear to have given in to fate.
The final build-up is the somber culmination of the drama. Doesn’t the cello’s falling fifth anticipate or match the same, fateful motif in the opening bars in the cello concerto in E minor, op.85 by Sir Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934), composed around the same time? Sheer coincidence?
One can see the final bars as total resignation. However, wasn’t there a flash of transfiguration in the diminuendo at the very end?Strong music, and a real, moving masterpiece that leaves a deep impression!
Rebecca Clarke: Piano Trio (1921)
Rebecca (Helferich) Clarke (1886 – 1979) grew up in Harrow, England, the child of the American teacher Joseph Thacher Clarke and his German wife, Agnes Paulina Marie Amalie Helferich. Rebecca’s brother, 15 months her junior, had violin lessons, and his sister was sitting in on these lessons when she was 8. 1903, Rebecca Clarke began her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, but was withdrawn by her father in 1905, when her harmony teacher proposed to her. She continued her studies at the Royal College of Music (RCM), being one of the first female composition students with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 – 1924). The latter convinced her to shift focus from the violin to the viola. Consequently, she studied with Lionel Tertis (1876 – 1975).
Around 1910, Rebecca Clarke started composing. That same year, she lost support by her father and was expelled from her home. She left the RCM and supported herself as violist, in 1912 becoming one of the first female professional orchestral musicians. 1916, she moved to the U.S., where she continued her performing career. The peak of her career as composer was around 1919, when she entered a competition with a viola sonata. Among 72 contestants, she competed for the first prize with Ernest Bloch (1880 – 1959). The latter was pronounced winner, and the press claimed that her name was merely a pseudonym for Bloch himself. It seemed inconceivable that a woman could have composed such beautiful music.
1924, Rebecca Clarke returned to London, to start a solo career. While she continued to pursue both careers as composer and performer, her output in the former function gradually diminished. When WWII broke out, she was in the U.S., unable to receive a visum to return to Britain. In 1944, she got married, and subsequently stopped composing (later also performing), despite encouragement by her husband. Rebecca Clarke’s oeuvre is not big and mostly consists of chamber music (predominantly with viola) and vocal works. Yet, she was described as “the most distinguished British female composer of the inter-war generation”.
Rebecca Clarke’s Piano Trio is a composition from 1921—from around her most productive time as composer. The work premiered at London’s Wigmore Hall. It features three movements:
- Moderato ma appassionato
- Andante molto semplice
- Allegro vigoroso
In her introduction, Luisa Seraina Splett referred to this composition as an important work by a British composer from that time. She also mentioned that while rehearsing, the ensemble discovered numerous “British features” in this music. Indeed, with this piece, we entered yet another world, further away from late romanticism, and away from French impressionism.
I. Moderato ma appassionato
The most striking difference to the previous works in this concert was in the sonority, especially in the piano. That started in the first bars, with their (almost) violent exclamations with “glassy” (or steely?) sonority in the descant. Interestingly enough, these textures, the harmonies strongly reminded me of music by Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971). Violin and cello contributed to this “strangeness” using a “nervously stuttering” (or fluttering?) bow, often in octave parallels, which in a way reminded of the early baroque vocal trillo. The piano accompanied these with rapidly undulating figures. Later, the piano imitated the trillo as rapid repetitions on a single note. The music builds up to a climax with big sonority, then collapses and appears to come to a complete halt.
The piano introduces a solemn, ethereal second theme, above a drone. When the strings join in, theme turns elegiac, builds up to an intense climax, then calms down again, soon giving way to virtuosic piano cascades,, commented by pizzicato on violin and cello, often in octaves. Another theme appears, marcato, resolute, exposing the impressive, warm, characterful sonority on the low strings of Esther Hoppe’s Stradivari. Apart from rapid tone repetitions, a recurring element is “shivering” articulation in the strings. The movement closes in an earnest, pensive mood, with violin and cello exchanging motifs, imitating each other.
Also here, I was impressed by the sonority of the Feurich grand: rich in colors, clear and vigorous in the ff, lucid and brilliant, shining in the descant.
II. Andante molto semplice
A restrained, careful & cautious entry with muted strings, the violin presenting an “archaic” theme, reminding of Gregorian Chant. The cello joins in, an intimate dialog develops, growing in intensity and emotions. After a first climax: very interesting, “hollow” sonorities through large, dissonant intervals between the voices. Reminiscences from the first movement with shivering, trembling motifs.
The piano presents a beautiful, melodious cantilena, above calm murmuring in violin and cello, all pp. It reminds of the archaic theme from the beginning, but now feels serene, peaceful, at the same time earnest, elegiac, with some bittersweet melancholy. Gradually, the music builds up to a wistful climax, then retracts to transfigured, intimate ppp.
When she introduced the composition, the pianist stated that some people suggested that this might rather be music by Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)—though it is inconceivable why Ravel would have written music under a female pseudonym! Yet, I can see why some would related this music to Ravel. At the same time, felt that there are connections (anticipations?) to music by Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976). However, this might just have been generic “British traits”, which Luisa Seraina Splett also referred to in her introduction. Beautiful music, for sure!
III. Allegro vigoroso
The opening theme indeed vigorous, but also joy- and playful, led by the piano, and exposing Luisa Seraina Splett’s clear, clean touch, her excellent technique and agility. The acciaccaturas on every note in the jumping melody make the descant sound “asynchronously dissonant”—micro-clusters, in a way. That segment suddenly ends in a capricious figure, and the tone changes completely: violin and cello (in unison, i.e., octave parallels) present a solemn, or rather stately, chorale-like melody. These gradually mutate into a polyphonic and polyrhythmic segment with interesting, peculiar sonorities and harmonies. Beautiful cantilenas on top of a piano part with far-eastern influences—hidden allusions to Gamelan music.
A splash—an ascending, rapid glissando on the piano leads into another vigorous, firm, motoric and determined segment, which again reminded me of music by Stravinsky. The culmination is a highly virtuosic, complex, if not violent piano cadenza that would almost fit into a piano concerto by Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953): amazing! The cadenza includes fanfare-like motifs that dominate the continuation, leading into intense cantilenas and finally regretful sighing on the cello. The music seems to sink into obscurity, in soft, resting dissonances. Another “rocket glissando” wakes the music up, for the short coda and an affirmative, bright ending with an F major cadence.
A strong, impressive composition—an astounding masterpieceI
One could tell from the applause that the audience was enthused, especially from the second half of the concert. In her closing remarks, Luisa Seraina Splett announced the first movement, “Soir“, from Mel Bonis’ Piano Trio “Soir-Matin“, op.76 that stood at the beginning of the concert.
That was more than just “closing the circle”. The piece appeared “filtered”, particularly through the experience of Rebecca Clarke’s composition. This appeared to highlight the beauty and warmth of the harmonies, the intense cantilenas—a wonder- and peaceful, fitting closure to a highly interesting concert experience!
One general remark on my comments above: it was hard or impossible to abstract from the acoustic bias in favor of Chiara Enderle Samatanga (who was performing at about half the distance to Esther Hoppe). Comments about the cello’s full, rounded sonority may appear unfair / biased. Hence, my comments on Esther Hoppe’s and Chiara Enderle Samatanga’s playing may seem scarce, even marginal—my apologies. I felt in a somewhat better position to comment on Luisa Seraina Splett’s playing, and on the sonority of her instrument.
I think it is understandable that my primary focus was on the music! Nevertheless: needless to state that all three musicians are excellent chamber musicians. Based on past concerts, I expected no less from Esther Hoppe and Chiara Enderle Samatanga, and also Luisa Seraina Splett’s more than filled my high expectations.
The author would like to express his gratitude to Luisa Seraina Splett for the invitation to this concert.