Sunday, August 15, 2021 at 4 pm
Download a copy of the program here.
Samantha Cho, piano
Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Sonata in C major, K. 132
Sonata in D minor, K. 1
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Rondo in A minor, K. 511
Sonata in B-flat major, K. 570
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
Drei Intermezzi, Op. 117
Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931)
About the music
Although Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757) is classified as a Baroque composer chronologically—sharing the same birth year as the important Baroque composers J. S. Bach and Handel—his music expresses elements of the Classical style. Scarlatti is primarily known today for his prolific contribution to the keyboard sonata literature, having written 555 keyboard sonatas during his lifetime! Originally intended to be played on the harpsichord, clavichord or fortepiano, the opening piece to this afternoon’s program (Sonata in C major, K. 132) is a wonderful example of Scarlatti’s influence on the development of the Classical style. In ternary ABA form, this sonata is highly ornamented in Baroque style but the tone color throughout is light and transparent. The second piece in today’s program (Sonata in D minor, K. 1) is more virtuosic and technically challenging. Both works pair beautifully to showcase Scarlatti’s contribution to the keyboard sonata as well as his influence on raising the virtuosic and expressive standards for keyboard performance.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), considered to be one of the greatest classical composers, had the remarkable gift of writing music at a quick pace: despite his early death at the age of thirty-five, he left to the world more than 600 compositions in every genre available during his time, such as the symphony, concerto, opera, instrumental solo works, chamber music and chorale. The Rondo in A minor, K. 511 was published in 1787 during an especially prolific time during Mozart’s career: having successfully premiered his opera The Marriage of Figaro in Prague and about to produce his next great opera Don Giovanni. The Sonata in B-flat major, K. 570 is dated two years later in 1789. Both solo piano works are highly cantabile and beautiful, expressing Mozart’s love and genius for operatic music.
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) was a German composer from the Romantic Period. His works include four symphonies, two piano concertos, lieder, a violin concerto and a variety of chamber music genres. During the beginning of Brahms’ career, Robert Schumann–another important Romantic composer –publicly expressed great expectations for Brahms as a young composer. For the rest of Brahms’ life, he strove to live up to Schumann’s expectations. The Drei Intermezzi, Op. 117 in today’s program are a set of three intermezzi written for solo piano written towards Brahms’ later years. The sound throughout communicates tender longing and sadness. To set the tone for the first intermezzo in E-flat major, Brahms included a preface excerpted from an old Scottish Ballad Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament:
Schlaf sanft, mein Kind, schlaf sanft und schön!
Mich dauert’s sehr, dich weinen sehn.
After Brahms finished writing this set, he described the Drei Intermezzi as “three lullabies to my sorrow.”
Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931) is an important Russian female composer from the second half of the 20th century. Born in Christopol, a small town in the Tatar Republic of the USSR, Gubaidulina’s childhood experience is unusual and inspiring: she was profoundly influenced by Judaism and as a young child, she hid her spiritual needs from even her own parents as the Russian USSR strictly forbade religious passion. Her early experience of keeping her spiritual thoughts private would later submerge powerfully in her music as she continually strove to combine the realms of sound and spirituality into one union. Gubaidulina’s aesthetic is intensely spiritual: music for her became an escape from the oppressive atmosphere in Soviet Russia. Gubaidulina also found her own voice by exploring innovative instrumental ensemble pairings: Detto I is a sonata written for organ and percussions and Descensio is written for three trombones, three percussionists, harp, harpsichord/celesta and piano/celesta. Guided by her early discovery of Judaism, Gubaidulina’s Ten Preludes for Solo Cello carries religious symbolism: in the 7th movement, bowing directions are written to guide the cellist to draw a crucifix using the bow arm. Sofia’s work for solo piano Toccata-Troncata uses pitch clusters and intense intervallic chromaticism instead of traditional tonal centers. Although the pianist creates an improvisatory feel through rhythmic flexibility and frequent use of fermatas, the structure carries a clear architecture. Towards the end of the piece, the melody slowly ascends in chromatic half-steps while two half-steps below each melodic pitch are dampened silently, creating a soft echo of chromatic clusters and a direct path into the spiritual realm. The last piece in this evening’s program Invention is marked staccato throughout. The intense intervallic dissonance, rapid change of time signatures and syncopations combine effectively to culminate into a climax at the end of the piece into the lowest note of the piano.
About the musician
Born in Los Angeles, pianist Samantha Cho is active professionally as a performer and educator. Her recent appearances include performing as a guest artist on San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year Concert, streamed on San Francisco Symphony +, Seattle’s Classical King FM, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert in Chicago Cultural Center, San Francisco’s Noontime Concert Series, University of Minnesota Morris, and more. 2021–2022 highlights include solo recitals at Old First Concerts and National Christian Church (DC) and a chamber music recital at Sunset Music & Arts. Passionate in chamber music, Samantha has performed with members of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra and Houston Symphony, and she has also performed with Kenwood Symphony as winner of the 19th Annual Master’s Concerto & Aria Competition. Her performances have been broadcast on WFMT, Classical King FM, Arte TV, KTSF 26 and NBC Bay Area.
Samantha is currently an adjunct instructor of music at Southwest College, where she teaches class piano and music appreciation courses. She has also taught pre-college chamber music at San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 2016.
Samantha received her BM at Northwestern University, MM at Cleveland Institute of Music and DMA at University of Minnesota. She is grateful to her following teachers: Robert Turner, Alexander Braginsky, Sylvia Wang, Paul Schenly and Kathryn Brown.
For more information about Samantha Cho, please visit her website.