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Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
String Sonata No. 3
Composed in 1804

When you think back to being 12 years old, I am sure many memories might involve spending time with friends, riding a bike, etc. I am also sure that at age 12 you were not writing Six String Sonatas. It is hard to imagine writing such spirited sonatas at such a young age. Written originally and presented today in the composer’s instrumentation of choice, his 3rd String Sonata calls for two violins, violoncello, and double bass, no viola. They were composed in the summer of 1804 while residing at the home of double bass aficionado Agostini Triossi.

Despite being documented, the six works were thought to have been destroyed before they were found in the Library of Congress -how they made it there is still a mystery to this day. The works show a decent understanding of the music of Haydn and Mozart. It is surprising to most that despite the composer writing the six works at a young age that technically they can be difficult for musicians to play and yet, they show an astonishing amount of emotional depth. Rossini most definitely, should not be labeled only as an operatic composer, but as a versatile composer.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1956)
Charterhouse Suite
Composed in 1920
Arranged by James Brown for String Orchestra

Vaughan Williams Charterhouse Suite or Six Short Pieces began life written only for the piano. Musicologist James Brown took the original work, originally published in 1923, and arranged it for string orchestra. The suite is composed of six short pieces each based on English dances. The arranged work has become more popular than the original, eclipsing Williams’ piano compositions as many note his style of composing is more suited for the orchestra. In comparison to other Vaughan Williams works, this piece is less serious and allowed him to explore broad brush strokes on his musical canvas.

The suite opens with the prelude, which is rather tranquil and has been compared to Thomas Tallis’s Fantasia on a Theme. From there the music progresses through a slow-to-quick dance highlighting vibrant dance rhythms of the day. After slowing to take a breath during the slow air, it progresses ultimately into the Pezzo ostinato, a spritely, yet fitting way to end our turn on the dance floor.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Andante Cantabile in B flat Major for Cello & Strings
Composed in 1888

Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile undoubtedly is one of the most famous cello works in all the classical repertoire. The main theme for the movement, taken from his first string quartet, was inspired by a folk melody Tchaikovsky was said to have heard a gardener whistling at his sister’s home in Ukraine. One never knows when inspiration will hit you! The music moves between the folk tune from the gardener to that of Tchaikovsky’s own, clearly recognizable to most as his own indomitable style.

This arrangement for solo cello and strings was created by Tchaikovsky for a performance by cellist Anatoly Brandukov in Paris. The premiere was small and uncomplicated at a home in Paris, but it certainly was unmistakably Tchaikovsky. Likewise, this piece was years ahead of the composer’s large symphonies but written only eight years after his Fourth of July favorite 1812 Overture.

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Cello Concerto No. 2
Composed Approximately In 1785

Growing up in a small town in Italy, Boccherini began studying music at the young age of five. His father was a professional bass player, and gave his son lessons and inspired a life-long love for the musical arts Boccherini would eventually blossom into one of the foremost cello virtuosos and composers writing more than 12 cello concertos and 32 cello sonatas in addition to a large body of other compositions. It is unfortunate that many are not familiar with his works today.

His cello works require the soloist to exhibit a high degree of advanced technique, a feature that at the time allowed the composer, and generally the soloist, to show off their own abilities. According to James Reel, of allmusic.com, “Boccherini backs his soloist with only a string orchestra and minor harpsichord continuo to concentrate the accompaniment materials in the violins to create a great contrast to the solo cello.” The result leaves lush, full passages by the soloist as a show of their own virtuosity.

Written by Endicott Reindl

2024-2025 Season

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