Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 4 pm
Download a copy of the program here.
Jason Chiu, piano
Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op.38
Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major, Op. 47
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Sonata in C major, Op. 53, ‘Waldstein’
Allegro con brio
Introduzione. Adagio molto
Rondo. Allegretto moderato – Prestissimo
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884–1920)
from Fantasy Pieces, Op. 6
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
About the program
Claude Debussy (1862–1918) was inspired by Watteau’s famous painting, L’embarquement pour Cythère (The Voyage to Cythera), when he composed L’isle joyeuse (The Island of Joy) in 1904. In the ancient world, Cythera, one of the Greek islands, was thought to be the birthplace of Venus, Goddess of love. The painting is a celebration of love as it portrays many joyful and amorous couples, along with flying cupids and a statue of Venus. The colorful and brilliant piano writing of Debussy in L’isle joyeuse suggests the enchanted landscape of this mythical island of love.
Frederic Chopin (1810–1849) composed his four Ballades between 1831 and 1842. He was the first composer to use the title of Ballade in a work for solo piano, and in doing so, he established the piano ballade as a new musical genre. The music is based on the folk ballade, a strophically constructed poem that described a dramatic, and often demonic or mystical scenario. Chopin was especially inspired by the poems of his fellow Polish countryman Adam Mickiewicz, who numbered among the composer’s circle of closest acquaintances.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) dedicated the Grande Sonate in C major, Op. 53 (now known as the ‘Waldstein’) to one of his most important patrons, Ferdinand Ernst, Count von Waldstein. Beethoven formed a close friendship with Count Waldstein over the years, and it was Waldstein who recommended him to study with the famous composer Joseph Haydn, and arranged a scholarship for him to do so. The Op. 53 sonata was originally drafted with the Andante Favori (WoO 57) as the slow movement, but after one of Beethoven’s friends complained that the sonata was too lengthy, he decided to write a new slow movement, and published the Andante Favori as a separate work.
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884–1920) composed his Fantasy Pieces, Op. 6 between 1912 and 1915. He was fascinated by the exotic, mysterious sounds of the French Impressionists, and the Fantasy Pieces shows the influence of his time studying in Europe. The title Notturno comes from the Italian spelling of nocturne, which is defined as a short composition of romantic or dreamy character suggestive of the night. The first nocturnes to be written under the specific title were by the Irish composer John Field, however, the most well known nocturnes are those written by Chopin, who wrote 21 of them in total.
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) originally wrote La valse (The Waltz), a choreographic poem for orchestra, as music for a ballet. The work was commissioned by Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the famous Ballets Russes, but the ballet was never produced. Upon hearing the two-piano reduction of La Valse for the first time, Diaghilev said it was a masterpiece, but music that was not suitable for dancing. It has since been heard more as a concert piece in three different arrangements: an orchestral poem, a two-piano duet, and a solo piano piece. Many see La valse as expressing the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire; the piece reminiscing about the carefree past as exemplified by the Viennese waltz (made famous by Johann Strauss), juxtaposed with the harsh realities and carnage of World War I. Whether Ravel intended the music as such is questionable, and the composer George Benjamin summarized the work very nicely, “Whether or not it was intended as a metaphor for the predicament of European civilization in the aftermath of the Great War, it’s one-movement design plots the birth, decay, and destruction of a musical genre: the waltz.”
About the performer
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason Chiu was a recent prize winner of the American Protégé Piano and Strings Competition and was invited to perform in the winners concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. He has received a number of other top prizes including first place in the 2019 inaugural Bay Area Piano Competition, and a third-place award in the 2014 American Prize Competition for his recording of Chopin’s four Ballades. In his rendition of these major works for the piano, he displayed “many original interpretative ideas and a very individualistic way of listening,” according to the judges. While attending UC Berkeley, where he attained his B.A. in Music, Jason performed as a soloist with the University Symphony Orchestra, and was a recipient of the Eisner Award for achievement in the creative arts. He later earned his Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music studying with Sharon Mann. Recent appearances include solo performances in Seattle at Benaroya Hall and in San Francisco with Old First Concerts, as well as performances with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra and the Saratoga Symphony. Jason maintains an active teaching studio from his home near Berkeley where he resides with his wife along with his two children.