American Romantics



American Romantics


dedicated to our spouses, Jeremiah Miller and Sarah Kairoff


and to WoodSparks II




Arthur W. Foote (1853-1937) and Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (née Amy Marcy Cheney) (1867-1944) share much in common. Both were pianists/composers whose families settled in Victorian Boston. Both were associated with "The Second New England School" of Paine, Chadwick, Parker, and Buck. Both experienced life-altering, difficult circumstances early on: in the case of Foote, the early loss of his mother and subsequently a self-reproachful attitude toward his own music; in the case of Beach, a controlling Congregationalist mother who withheld music and the piano from the musically prodigious Amy in attempts to teach submission to authority.




Performers Sarah Johnson and Peter Kairoff draw attention here to significant literature for violin and piano, much of it unavailable in recording until now, composed by Foote and Beach.




Arthur Foote's works of op. 9 nos. 1-3, op. 44, and op. 69 are freer formally than his better known compositions such as the Suite in E major op. 63. These five chamber works span twenty-four of his 39-year chamber music career, op. 9 appearing four years after the earliest and op. 69 eleven years before the last. All five are drawn from classicist tendencies toward cleanly defined architecture and romanticist traits of use of key and mode for expressive purposes, lyrical melody, and tertial tonal relationships. The musical contents are woven by both violin and piano.




Opus 9, composed in 1886, the year of Foote's first important orchestral work, In the Mountains, the composer counted among his "early works," all of which he judged to be "reminiscent and rather of a stencil pattern, but melodious." Years later Foote scolded himself for his limited early style:




My harmony was correct but with little variety, the structure of my pieces conventional; and it was only much later that I absorbed harmonic finesse and became sensitive to it. Somehow, although deeply moved by Wagner, [of whose complete Ring Foote had witnessed the premiere in Bayreuth], I did not have sense enough for a long time to learn from his music, and was late in appreciating the early Debussy. The idea that certain things [such as consecutive fifths or cross-relations] simply must not be had become too thoroughly ingrained.




His self-deprecation belies the surprising facility of op. 9 nos. 1-3, which are suitable as companion pieces or in isolation. All three show Brahmsian tendencies toward major-minor modal mixing (particularly obvious in no. 1) and rhythmic-metric ambiguity (e.g., no. 2 trio). All three endings are built upon broken chords by the violin, of wide melodic range (nos. 1 and 2), emotional delicacy (nos. 1 and 3), or dramatic intensity (no. 2).




Op. 9 no. 1, "Morgen-Gesang"




This rondo casts an optimistic G-major principal idea, shared by violin and piano, against a lyrical E-flat second plane and an emotion-charged e/a minor keystone. The work is driven by the peaks and valleys of the string melody; in the keystone the line lofts ever higher toward, first f3, then triumphantly b3. Foote adds a final masterful stroke in the closing four bars, wherein the range of the piece in its entirety is telescoped into a single embellished chord for violin, while the piano, slowly dimming to pp, presents a closing tertial progression reminiscent of the tonal context throughout.




Op. 9 no. 2, "Menuetto Serioso"




Introduced by a violin recitative, the minuet is built upon a rich and gripping theme, defined by its gracenote-laced melody, carried alternately by violin and piano. The trio, in E-flat, is marked by simplicity and quietude within a metrically ambiguous landscape. The dedicatée is Franz Kneisel, violin virtuoso and then-current concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.




Op. 9 no. 3, "Romanze"




The most substantial of op. 9, "Romanze" displays broad emotional range. Framed by a dignified melody, often set homophonically and typified by shifting harmonic contexts, the animated interior portion calls for virtuosic displays from both violin and piano. The work ends tranquilly in the rich lower tessitura of the violin whilst the piano concludes poignantly in a manner reminiscent of Schumann's Lieder. The dedicatée is Gustav Dannreuther, founder of the Beethoven String Quartet (later renamed the Dannreuther Quartet).




During the intervening fourteen years until op. 44 (1900), Foote wrote a number of chamber works, including the violin sonata (1889), a piano quartet (1890), the second string quartet (1894), and the piano quintet (1897). By the turn of the century, Foote clearly had set aside his earlier tendency toward harshly "grading" his own works. The seam between intellectual theoretical observation and intuitive musical insight he had smoothed out.




Op. 69, "Ballade"




Of the five works by Foote in this recording, the composer mentioned only the "Ballade" in his autobiography. He considered this work to be "the best [of several violin pieces he composed 1900-1915]." Undoubtedly, the "Ballade" is mature and significant. Defined by a plaintive, folk-like f-minor melody, it delicately caresses A-flat and D-flat while building toward dramatic or, at times, quiet violin double-stops. The motion forward leads to a charming, Debussyian calm in E (F-flat), designed upon broad melodic lines that flow, then ebb and eventually return to f minor and the original theme. The Debussyian calm re-enters, now in F (!), then recedes again to f minor for a last plaintive restatement before the expressive ending that features contrary motion between violin and piano. The "Ballade" is dedicated to the German violinist Willy Hess, who completed a six-year stint as concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the year of its composition.




Op. 44, "Melody"




Originally for viola and piano, this composition displays many attributes of Foote's style: lyrical, broad, and lovely melody; virtuosic, yet controlled string writing; modal and tonal shifts whose colors darken and sweeten the canvas. An occasional cloying romantic affectation appears, such as the melodic augmented second or the augmented dominant seventh chord.




Mrs. H.H.A. Beach melded four elements into a musically prolific career: her prodigious native talent as a pianist and a composer; her early willingness to follow the wishes of her family, for example, by not studying abroad, despite the encouragement to do so of the poet Longfellow and others, or by developing "musically" (including as a composer, an avenue deemed suitable for the privacy of one's home) without fully becoming a performer, a public avenue of nonconformity unsuited to societal gender norms; her later insatiable appetite for devouring musical scores; and a willingness to follow until his death the wishes of her physician-husband, who specified in their marriage agreement that his spouse was to curtail public performance and devote herself instead to compositionand, no doubt, to him. Eleven years after their wedding, the violin sonata in a minor appeared, immediately after the first performance of her most important orchestral work, the Gaelic Symphony. Composed in only six weeks, the sonata was first performed as a tour de force by Mrs. Beach and Franz Kneisel in January 1897, in New York.




Sonata in A Minor, Op. 34




I. Allegro moderato




Although clearly founded on a double-octave theme in a minor, this serious movement shifts incessantly through tonal centers a third away, or a second, or of the opposite mode. It mixes lyrical song, meditative solitude, and dramatic display.




II. Molto vivace




The duple-meter scherzo charms the listener. Its contrapuntal texture and often hidden tonal context (in G) cleverly encourage both instruments toward playfulness. In contrast, the g-minor dorian trio in quadruple meter slows the interior and provides an almost chorale-like setting that soon, however, is overtaken by the return of playful banter between performers.




III. Largo con dolore




Within the sorrowful slowest movement, growth is revealed on several levels: within sections, (a) the gradual arch of either low-to-high-to-low tessitura or calm-to-agitated-to-calm tempo, and (b), across the movement, from timeless sorrow to energetic drive and, ultimately, the attainment of serenity.




IV. Allegro con fuoco




The last movement exacts great demands from both violin and piano. Its mood ever shifting between fiery (most often in a minor) and songful (in a disguised C), the finale eventually arrives at a marked, carefully constructed fugato before returning to furor and then beauty, through c-sharp minor and then resolutely ending in A.




Susan H. Borwick




Sarah Johnson




A gifted child performer, Sarah Johnson began studying the violin in her native Iowa and made her debut with the Minneapolis Symphony at the age of ten. She is a 1979 graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Ivan Galamian, Jaime Laredo and members of the Guarneri quartet. She is a member of the music faculty of the North Carolina School of the Arts and is a visiting faculty member at Duke University.




Before coming to North Carolina, she was founder and director for eight years of a successful chamber music series in Charleston, South Carolina, Sarah Johnson & Friends at the Dock Street Theatre. She was the first recipient of the South Carolina Performing Artist Fellowship, and has toured under the auspices of the South Carolina, North Carolina and Southern Arts Federation touring programs. For five years she was on the distinguished roster of Affiliate Artists, Inc. and in 1984 made her European debut at the Spoleto/Italy Festival




Before embarking on her career as a soloist and recitalist, she played with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Orpheus Ensemble. She is an active proponent of music by women composers and a frequent performer of new works. In 1994 she gave the world premiere of Robert Ward's First Violin Concerto to outstanding critical notice. Her performance of the work is available on an Albany Records label compact disc entitled, "Scarlet and Blue." She and her husband, artist Jeremiah Miller, live in Belews Creek, North Carolina.




Peter Kairoff




Peter Kairoff has been called by critics "one of America's finest keyboard players, combining meticulous accuracy with profound understanding of the music's architecture. Rare musicality." (Oxford Mail, England) He performs regularly throughout Europe and the United States.




A native of Los Angeles, Peter Kairoff received a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Brooks Smith and Jean Barr, graduating with highest honors. He spent two years in Italy as a Fulbright Scholar, performing frequently under State Department auspices.




Dr. Kairoff taught at the University of Texas at Austin and the State University of New York before coming to Wake Forest University where he is presently Associate Professor of Music. He resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah and children, Daniel and Anna.




A portion of the production costs of this recording was provided by the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The former home of Katharine Smith and Richard Joshua Reynolds, it opened in 1967, and is home to important works of major significance in the history of American art. Among those artists in the collection are John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, William Sidney Mount, Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Worthington Whittredge, Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, George Inness, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Georgia O'Keeffe, Thomas Hart Benton, Joseph Stella and many others. The museum presents interdisciplinary seminars, exploring the relationships between American art, music and literature.




Additional support was provided by grants from the North Carolina Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Wake Forest University.




Special thanks to Mrs. Barbara Millhouse and Mr. Nicholas Bragg of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Jean Barr of the Eastman School of Music, Sibby and Max Wood and Fredda and Jack Sparks for creating WoodSparks II, a soiree on the banks of Lake Michigan and the genesis for this recording.




Recorded and produced by William Allgood Productions, Atlanta, Georgia, on November 18 and 19, 1994.




Liner notes by Dr. Susan Borwick. · Cover Design by Henderson Tyner Art Co., Winston-Salem, North Carolina. · Photography by Lee Runion.




Cover: Worthington Whittredge "The Old Hunting Ground," 1864, detail, oil on canvas, 36 x 27 in., from the collection of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.






American Romantics


Sarah Johnson, violin · Peter Kairoff, piano




Arthur Foote (1853-1937)


Three Pieces, Op. 9


I. Morgen-Gesang (4:53)


II. Menuetto Serioso (4:58)


III. Romanze (5:52)


Ballade, Op. 69 (8:16)


Melody, Op. 44 (5:05)




Amy Beach (1867-1944)


Sonata in A Minor, Op. 34


I. Allegro moderato (9:00)


II. Scherzo (4:23)


III. Largo con dolore (8:50)


IV. Allgero con fuoco (7:56)




Total Time = 58:49




Cover: Worthington Whittredge "The Old Hunting Ground," 1864, detail, oil on canvas, 36 x 27 in., collection of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.




A portion of the royalties from the sale of this compact disc will be donated to the American Heart Association.