American Music for Cello



Steven Honigberg




Kathryn Brake






















For his début recording, Steven Honigberg has chosen a program of music for cello composed in the United States during our nearly completed centuryfive works in diverse forms and styles spanning the years 1932 through 1989. These are strong characterized works that have provoked deep personal response on Mr. Honigberg's part, and in several cases he has had the benefit of coaching or conferring with either the respective composer or the senior colleague for whom the music was created.




Lukas Foss (b. 1922): Capriccio




Lukas Foss composed a Duo for cello and piano in 1941, at the age of 18, and shortly after the success of his Prairie, the Sandburg cantata for which he received the New York Music Critics' Circle Award in 1944, he turned to this instrumentation again. He composed his Capriccio for the celebrated cellist Gregor Piatigorsky in 1946 under a commission from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation. Piatigorsky, who edited the cello part for publication, gave the premiere at Tanglewood the following year, with Foss at the piano, and several years later they made the first recording of the piece.




The Capriccio has remained one of Foss's most frequently performed works for nearly 50 years, and the composer has remained as fond of it as the many cellists who have assured its place in the repertory. Even now, Foss observes, "I like its combination of Bach, humor and American characteristics."




David Diamond (b. 1915): Kaddish




A word of explanation is in order regarding the title of this work. Kaddish is the part of the Hebrew liturgy traditionally chanted by those in mourning. The prayer itself, however, is in no way a lamentation. It is said in honor of the departed, but contains no mention of death, no allusion to mourning; instead, it praises God as the Author of Life. But the Kaddish, whatever its actual content, is a memorial gesture, and has understandably come to be regarded as a prayer for the dead; it is in that sense that David Diamond gave the title to this piece for cello.




Diamond's Kaddish, which he categorizes as one of his "ritual" pieces, was composed in versions with orchestral accompaniment and with piano. Yo-Yo Ma gave the premiere of the orchestral version on April 6, 1989, with Gerard Schwarz conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Steven Honigberg had the benefit of working directly with the composer to prepare the performance of the version with piano which he gave as part of a program honoring David Diamond at the Kennedy Center in Washington in October 1991.




Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Three Meditations from "Mass"




When plans were being made for the Kennedy Center in Washington, President Kennedy's widow determined that the performing arts complex dedicated to her husband's memory should be opened by a new work composed by Leonard Bernstein. The work Bernstein created for that occasion was the impactive Mass, which he designated "A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers"; it opened the Kennedy Center on September 8, 1971, with Maurice Peress conducting. It was from that score that Bernstein subsequently derived the first work he created for his friend Mstislav Rostropovichthe Two Meditations for cello and piano; and in 1977, to mark another event at the Kennedy Centerthis time the beginning of Rostropovich's tenure as music director of the National Symphony OrchestraBernstein produced a concerted work for him, drawn from the same source. The first performances of the Three Meditations for cello and orchestra were given by the National Symphony in October 1977, with Rostropovich as soloist and Bernstein conducting; they subsequently recorded the work with the Israel Philharmonic, and Bernstein brought out the version for cello and piano which Steven Honigberg has recorded here. Mr. Honigberg has performed under Rostropovich as a soloist as well as a member of the orchestra, and had the maestro's direct encouragement and counsel in preparing this performance.




The first two Mediations may be regarded as transcriptions of instrumental interludes more or less as they originally appeared in Mass. The first (Lento assai, molto sostenuto) occurs between the "Confession" and the "Gloria," fairly early in the work, and the second comes between the "Gloria" and the "Epistle." Jack Gottlieb, the composer's longtime literary associate, notes that "this second Meditation is a set of four variations with a coda, based on a sequence from the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, on the words leading to the great outburst of 'Brüder!' ('Brothers!'). The 'Epistle' which follows is based on the more ancient outburst of St. Paul to his Christian brothers."




The third Meditation, Mr. Gottlieb points out, is not a direct transcription, but "is derived from various parts of Mass: the 'Epiphany,' a kind of solo fantasia; 'In Nomine Patris,' a trance-like dance; the 'Communion: Secret Songs,' and the Chorale 'Almighty Father.' Although some of these sections are widely separated in Mass, there is an underlying thematic unity, particularly between the Dance and the Chorale."




Gunther Schuller (b. 1925): Fantasy for Solo Cello, Op. 19




It may safely be said that no instrument has escaped Gunther Schuller's creative attention. Among his several works for cello are a Concerto (1945, revised 1985), a Fantasy Quartet for four cellos (1959) and, more recently, Hommage à Rayechka, for eight cellos or multiples of eight (preferably 32), composed in 1990 in honor of the celebrated cellist Raya Garbousova. The Fantasy for unaccompanied cello was composed in 1951, and the premiere was given by László Varga, in a program broadcast that year as part of the annual American Music Festival presented by the New York radio station WNYC. It was under Schuller's guidance that Steven Honigberg first performed the Fantasy, in a program of Schuller's music introduced by the composer in Bethesda, Maryland, in April 1988.




Schuller says of the work, "My Fantasy is a 12-tone piece, and yet it has a tonal underpinning; it is conceived basically in the key of C. All through the piece there are subtle references to that tonal centerfor example, in the numerous dominant-tonic cadenceswhich always bring the music back to the key of C. The result is that the listener can appreciate it as a chromatic piece and yet as one with foundations in a sense of tonal mooring.




Samuel Barber (1910-1981): Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6




Throughout the last three decades of his life, Samuel Barber was more closely associated with music for the voice than with instrumental music. He was, after all, a singer himself, skilled enough to perform and record his early setting of Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" for baritone and string quartet. But his early reputation was built mostly on orchestral works and chamber music. In the former category were the brilliant Overture to The School for Scandal, the First Symphony, the first Essay for Orchestra and the Violin Concerto; in the latter were the String Quartet form which he drew the now vastly beloved Adagio for Strings, and the Cello Sonata.




The Sonata was written contemporaneously with the Overture to The School for Scandal, as Barber completed his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He began work on it in the summer of 1932 during a visit to Europe and completed it in December of that year; his classmate Orlando Cole, who had given him valuable advice on writing for the cello (and who later became the cellist of the Curtis String Quartet), was his partner in the first public performance, given at a concert of the League of Composers in New York in March 1933, five months before the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the premiere of the overture under Alexander Smallens. One of the first established cellists to take up the Sonata was Felix Salmond, remembered now as a pre-eminent pedagogue.




There are three movements, fairly conventional in their form and their proportionsand already fully characteristic of Barber in their maturity as well as their unlabored lyrical expressiveness. Every section bears witness to Virgil Thomson's frequently quoted summing-up of Barber's style: "Romantic music, predominantly emotional, embodying sophisticated workmanship and complete carehis melodic line sings and the harmony supports it."




Notes by Richard Freed




One of Washington's most successful music collaborations is that of cellist Steven Honigberg and pianist Kathryn Brake. In recent seasons they have appeared together in recital on concert series at the National Gallery of Art, Phillips Collection Series, Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, Embassy of the Netherlands, Charles Sumner Museum, among others.




Heralded as a "sterling cellist" by the Washington Post, Steven Honigberg made his New York recital debut at Weill Hall in 1984. He has appeared as guest soloist with the Chicago Symphony and other orchestras throughout the U.S. He earned rave reviews when he and fellow cellist David Teie premiered David Ott's Concerto for Two Cellos in 1988 with the National Symphony Orchestra, Mstislav Rostropovich conducting. Following this extraordinary performance, Rostropovich nominated the


work for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. According to the Washington Times, the cellists to whom the work is dedicated, "reveled in the concerto's romantic melodies, its virtuoso cadenza, its brilliant allegros Their superb playing had even the orchestra members spellbound." The concerto was then performed on the National Symphony's 1989 United States tour. Since then, Honigberg and Teie have preformed Ott's Concerto for Two Cellos with the Sioux City (Iowa), Terre Haute (Indiana), Annapolis (Maryland), Billings (Montana), Reading (Pennsylvania), Bellevue (Washington), and Platteville (Wisconsin) Symphonies. A recent performance with the Nebraska Chamber Orchestra, taped by Nebraska ETV for national viewing, had the Lincoln Star calling the performance "the evening's highlight" in "The best concert of the season." Honigberg graduated from The Juilliard School of Music with a Master's degree in Music, where he studied with Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins. In 1983 he appeared as cello soloist in Alice Tully Hall with the Juilliard Orchestra in Strauss's Don Quixote with Sixten Ehrling conducting. Other important cello teachers of Mr. Honigberg's include Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron and Karl Fruh. In 1987 he was the only American winner in the International Cello Competition in Scheveningen, Holland. Mr. Honigberg was cited as a "Young Artist to Watch" by Musical America magazine in 1988. Honigberg, a member of the Washington Music Ensemble and currently director of the Lyceum Chamber Society in Old Town, Alexandria, has also performed at the Ravinia, Casals, Teton, and Elkhorn Festivals. He performs on a rare Stradivarius cello, known as the "Stuart," which was built in 1732. Mr. Honigberg has been a member of the National Symphony since 1984.




Kathryn Brake, born in Washington, D.C., attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York and holds a Masters Degree in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Her teachers include Julian Martin, Nadia Reisenberg and Leon Fleisher. She has also been a participant and performer at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, as well as at the Ernen Musikdorf in Switzerland. Ms. Brake has performed solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in Italy, France, Switzerland and Spain. A winner of the National Young Chopin competition, the Beethoven Competition, the Kociusko Foundation Awards and the Elizabeth Davis Award, she has performed as soloist with several orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony and the National Symphony. Ms. Brake has recorded broadcasts for France Musique and Radio Television Espanola. A much sought after chamber music player, Kathryn Brake has recently performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona.




Lukas Foss Capriccio published by Carl Fischer; David Diamond Kaddish published by G. Schirmer, Inc.; Gunther Schuller Fantasy for Solo Cello, Op. 19 published by Rongwen Music; Leonard Bernstein Three Meditations from "Mass" published by G. Schirmer, Inc.; Samuel Barber Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6 published by G. Schirmer.




Editing and mastering: David Glasser · Recording engineers: Mark Huffman & Ed Kelly (Schuller)




Cover art: Elizabeth S. Goldson






Steven Honigberg, cello


Kathryn Brake, piano




Lukas Foss (1943)


Capriccio (6:23)


David DiamonD (1989)


Kaddish (12:25)


Leonard Bernstein (1971)


Three Meditations from "Mass"


I - Lento assai, molto sostenuto (4:48)


II - Andante sostenuto (3:46)


III - Presto (7:08)


Gunther Schuller (1951)


Fantasy for Solo Cello, Op. 19 (9:05)


Samuel Barber (1932)


Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6


Allegro ma non troppo (7:55)


Adagio (4:33)


Allegro appassionata (6:17)




Total Time = 62:20