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Barbara Riccardi, Violin and Carl Blake, Piano
February 7, 2023
Barbara Riccardi, Violin and Carl Blake, Piano

Otto Respighi: Romanza in A Major

Otto Respighi: Sonata in B Minor

Jean Sibelius: The Spruce

Federico Mompou: Cancíon y Danza No.7 in A Major

Frédéric Chopin: Ballade No. 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 47

 

PROGRAM NOTES

Otto Respighi (1875-1936) is an Italian composer, violinist, teacher, and musicologist who is considered the leading Italian composer of the early 20th century.   His fame today rests principally on a handful of internationally popular and superb orchestral tone poems: Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals.

The sonata is an extremely ambitious work.  In fact, his publishers were very dubious about publishing the sonata because they considered it unplayable.  Respighi himself did not premiere the work but played the second performance of it at the piano with his former violin teacher.  Apparently, Respighi was as superb a pianist as a violinist.  Eventually, the sonata gained international notoriety.

The sonata reveals its unusual nature of soaring lyricism and rhythmic complexity in the first movement.  After the second movement of indescribable beauty, the last titanic movement called passacaglia (theme and variations) introduces an energetic, jagged theme followed by a set of 20 variations.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is considered Finland’s greatest composer.  Among his prolific works (many of which are imbued with the national character), one can find ephemera such as the musical gem The Spruce.

Federico Mompou (1893-1987) lived to be 94 years old.  Originally from the Catalan region of Spain, Mompou studied, lived, and thrived in Paris.  His works are very short and enigmatic yet highly refined and extremely colorful and soulful.  “They are all so free” is how the composer described them.

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), of Polish nationality, is considered one of the greatest composers in the history of Western classical music.  His works are primarily piano solos among them preludes, waltzes, nocturnes, etudes, mazurkas, and sonatas as well as a handful of chamber music pieces and concertos.  Chopin is considered the poet of the piano.  Debussy’s tribute to Chopin reads: “Chopin is the greatest of them all, for with the piano alone he discovered everything.” The third Ballade begins with a lovely ascending treble melody followed by imitative tenor and bass voices.  Various themes alternate until the story is brought to its apotheosis with superb craftsmanship and matchless inspiration. Chopin recommended playing his passionate pieces as dramatic events remembered in tranquility.

CARL BLAKE (piano) holds three degrees in piano performance: Bachelor of Music (magna cum laude) from Boston University, Master of Arts from San Jose State University, and Doctor of Musical Arts from Cornell University. Dr. Blake has performed to critical acclaim three times in Weill Recital Hall (formerly, Carnegie Recital Hall), Wigmore Hall (London), and L’Hermitage (Winter Palace of the Czars, St. Petersburg, Russia).  In addition, he has toured France, England, Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands as an Artistic Ambassador for the United States Department of State.  Currently, he serves as Director of Music of The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco and serves on the Board of Directors of Noontime Concerts SF.

BARBARA RICCARDI (violin) graduated magna cum laude from Vassar College where she studied with Russian violinist Boris Koutzen and Casals disciple Luis Garcia-Renart both of whom kindled her love of chamber music.  This inspiration led to a mentorship with the Guarneri String Quartet and its first violinist Arnold Steinhardt who became her sole teacher for many years.  She joined the San Francisco Symphony under Seiji Ozawa and subsequently the San Francisco Opera Orchestra where the vocal masters continue to inspire.  Ms. Riccardi is a founding member of the Temescal String Quartet as well as the Nipper Piano Trio and performs throughout the Bay Area