≈ 1 hour and 30 minutes · With intermission
Last updated: October 17, 2023
“Am Strande” (“On the shore”)
“Der Mond kommt still gegangen” (“The moon rises silently”), Op. 13, No. 4
I. Allegro maestoso
II. Romanze: Andante non troppo, con grazia
III. Finale: Allegro non troppo
“Die gute Nacht” (“To the good night”)
“Die Lorelei” (“The Loreley”)
III. Vivace non troppo
Isata Kanneh-Mason appears by arrangement with Enticott Music Management
Isata Kanneh-Mason records exclusively for Decca Classics
German source: Wilhelm Gerhard
Traurig schau ich von der Klippe
Auf die Flut, die uns getrennt,
Und mit Inbrunst fleht die Lippe,
Schone seiner, Element!
Furcht ist meiner Seele Meister,
Ach, und Hoffnung schwindet schier;
Nur im Traume bringen Geister
Vom Geliebten Kunde mir.
Die ihr, fröhliche Genossen
Gold’ner Tag’ in Lust und Schmerz,
Kummertränen nie vergossen,
Ach, ihr kennt nicht meinen Schmerz!
Sei mir mild, o nächt’ge Stunde,
Auf das Auge senke Ruh,
Holde Geister, flüstert Kunde
Vom Geliebten dann mir zu.
Der Mond kommt still gegangen
German source: Emanuel Geibel
Der Mond kommt still gegangen
Mit seinem gold’nen Schein.
Da schläft in holdem Prangen
Die müde Erde ein.
Und auf den Lüften schwanken
Aus manchem treuen Sinn
Viel tausend Liebesgedanken
Über die Schläfer hin.
Und drunten im Tale, da funkeln
Die Fenster von Liebchens Haus;
Ich aber blicke im Dunklen
Still in die Welt hinaus.
Die gute Nacht
German source: Friedrich Rückert
Die gute Nacht, die ich dir sage,
Freund, hörest du;
Ein Engel, der die Botschaft trage
Geht ab und zu.
Er bringt sie dir, und hat mir wieder
Den Gruß gebracht:
Dir sagen auch des Freundes Lieder
Jetzt gute Nacht.
German source: Heinrich Heine
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme
Und singt ein Lied dabei,
Das hat eine wundersame,
Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn;
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die Lorelei getan.
III. Vivace non troppo
In the spring of 1887, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) wrote to Clara Schumann, coyly informing her that he had the “amusing idea of writing a concerto for violin and cello. If it is at all successful, it might give us some fun.” He revealed he was insecure, however, about writing for the two stringed instruments. For his Violin Concerto (1878), he consulted and worked with his friend Joseph Joachim, but they had since become estranged for years. (In 1881, Brahms had sided with Joachim’s wife, Amalie, against her husband during their divorce proceedings, when the violinist was convinced she was having an affair with the music publisher Fritz Simrock.) Seeing an opportunity to make peace, Brahms cautiously approached Joachim in the summer about his plans for the “double concerto”, with the cello part to be played by Robert Hausmann for whom Brahms had written his Second Cello Sonata. His efforts appeared to have worked; as Clara, who attended an early rehearsal of the piece in September, reflected in her journal, “This concerto is a work of reconciliation—Joachim and Brahms have spoken to each other again for the first time in years.”
The Double Concerto, Brahms’s final orchestral work, was premiered in Cologne on October 18, 1887, with Joachim and Hausmann as the soloists, and the composer on the podium. They performed it several more times during the concert season though reception of the piece remained mostly lukewarm. Even Clara was doubtful: “I do not believe the concerto has any future…nowhere has it the warmth and freshness which are so often to be found in his works.” Today, it is much more appreciated—for its beauty and masterful construction, not to mention as a grand showcase for two top-notch soloists.
The Double Concerto has a few notable precedents—Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for violin, cello, and piano, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, and J.S. Bach’s Double Concerto for two violins—that Brahms likely studied as models. From what he had absorbed, he forged a strikingly distinctive work. He opens with two dramatic cadenzas for the soloists, thus turning the typical structure of a concerto’s first movement completely on its head. Soon after full orchestra announces a fragment of the main theme, the cello interrupts with the first of these (“to be played like a recitative”). Woodwinds and horns later respond with the “sigh” motif of the second theme, after which the violin enters alone, and following a few musing phrases, is joined by the cello. Together, in the second cadenza, they revel in the depth and breadth of their sonorities—through resonant double stops and chords, then a magnificent arpeggio, displaying their entire range as if one “super instrument”. Finally, they unite to climb an ascending scale, which arrives at the orchestral exposition to properly reveal, at last, the movement’s main elements. As the soloists return to develop these throughout the movement, listen to how Brahms explores every facet of their relationship through spirited dialogue ranging from imitation to commentary, from argumentation to the completion of each other’s phrases. Near the end, at the point a cadenza is expected, violin and cello instead come together to state the main theme, then join in a marvellous unison octave passage—the musical embodiment of reconciliation—that emphatically closes this weighty movement.
Continuing their united front, the soloists introduce the gorgeous song of the “Romanze” in unison octaves (violin in its low register), with orchestral strings adding harmonic richness. Woodwinds later intone a serene chorale, which, as the movement progresses, alternates with the soloists’ increasingly elaborate ruminations on the song. In the reprise, violin and cello sing only the first part of the song, then recall past musings, after which an exquisitely dreamy passage draws the movement to a peaceful finish.
Cello and violin take the lead again to present the recurring theme of the third movement, which Brahms laces with elements of the “style hongrois” (Hungarian-Romani style)—a nod to Joachim’s heritage. The tune sounds delicate, slightly melancholy at first, but attains confidence when the orchestra takes it up. With subsequent returns, the soloists exchange its phrases, adding embellishments and flourishes. By contrast, the second theme is robust and boisterous, featuring resonant double stops, as does the assertive melody appearing mid-movement; with its juxtaposition of snappy and fluid rhythms, the “style hongrois” is most obvious here. In the epilogue following the reprise of the first two themes, the soloists trade gossamer arpeggios, extending to new heights in a soaring phrase. Finally, they merge once more in unison octaves to proclaim a transfigured version of the main theme and end the movement in triumphant joy.
Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD
Cecilia Livingston specializes in music for voice. She is composer-in-residence at the Canadian Opera Company (2022–) and was composer-in-residence at Glyndebourne Opera (2019–2022). Her music is driven by melody, mixing styles from minimalism to The American Songbook to create work that is lyrical and unsettling.
Cecilia’s residencies at the COC and Glyndebourne build on her two-year fellowship at The American Opera Project in New York. Her opera Singing Only Softly won the inaugural Mécénat Musica Prix 3 Femmes and was nominated for two 2020 Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Theatre (including Outstanding New Opera), and her harp and vibraphone duo Garden features on the 2020 JUNO Classical Album of the Year for Solo or Chamber. Her music has been heard at Bang on a Can’s summer festival, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche art festival, the 21C Music Festival, with the Royal Conservatory of Music, the international World Choir Games, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Kingston Symphony, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Toronto’s Thin Edge New Music Collective, and on Deutsche Grammophon’s Digital Stage.
Current projects include a song cycle with Orange Prize winning poet Anne Michaels, new work for Soundstreams, and an opera for TorQ Percussion Quartet and Opera 5. Her creative work is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, and SOCAN Foundation.
In the summer of 2022, Cecilia joined the faculty at the Banff Centre’s Opera in the 21st Century program, and she is Vice-President of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre.
She was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at King’s College London and her articles and reviews have appeared in Tempo (Cambridge), the Cambridge Opera Journal, and The Opera Quarterly (Oxford); she has given papers on contemporary opera at the Royal Musical Association and American Musicological Society annual conferences.
Winner of the Canadian Music Centre’s Toronto Emerging Composer Award and a winner in the SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers, she studied with Steve Reich at Bang on a Can’s summer festival and Soundstreams’ Emerging Composer Workshop. She holds a doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto, where she was awarded the Theodoros Mirkopoulos Fellowship in Composition.
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
*John Marcus (guest principal)
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Darren Hicks (principal)
*Spencer Park (guest principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
*Steve Dyer (guest principal)
*Simón Gómez (guest principal)
Orchestra Personnel Coordinator