Beatrice Rana, piano

Mon, Feb 26, 7:30 p.m.
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

After winning the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medal, Italian concert pianist Beatrice Rana quickly became one of the most sought-after pianists of her generation, earning praise for her “underlying calm command” (The New York Times) and refined, unpretentious pianistic approach. In the last decade, she has solidified her place and standing in the classical music world, performing with the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, and in venues including London’s Barbican Centre and Vienna’s Konzerthaus. Rana made her recital debut with Washington Performing Arts on the Hayes Piano Series in 2014 and this past spring, her Kennedy Center Concert Hall debut with the National Symphony Orchestra. Her Washington Performing Arts recital is a rich, rare opportunity to experience the breadth and depth of her playing in an intimate space.

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Program Details

Alexander Scriabin – Fantasie in B Minor, op. 28
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco – Cipressi, op. 17
Claude Debussy – “La Terrasse des audiences au clair de lune” from Préludes, Book 2
Claude Debussy – “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” from Préludes, Book 1
Claude Debussy – L’Isle Joyeuse
Franz Liszt – Piano Sonata in B Minor, S.178

More About the Artist

Beatrice Rana, piano

Beatrice Rana continues to shake the international classical music world, arousing admiration and interest from concert presenters, conductors, critics, and audiences internationally.

In the 2023-2024 season, Rana tours in Europe with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Antonio Pappano, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. She will debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Cleveland Orchestra with Lahav Shani, and will return to the New York Philharmonic with Manfred Honeck.

Rana records exclusively for Warner Classics, and in 2023, she presented her fifth album featuring Clara and Robert Schumann’s concertos with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

In 2017, Rana started her own chamber music festival Classiche Forme, and she became Artistic Director of the Orchestra Filarmonica di Benevento in 2020. Rana won Silver at the Van Cliburn Competition in 2013 and attracted international attention at 18 when she won First Prize at the Montreal International Competition in 2011. She has studied with Benedetto Lupo, Marco della Sciucca, and Arie Vardi. Beatrice Rana records exclusively for Warner Classics. Management for Beatrice Rana: Primo Artists, New York, NY.

“You couldn’t take your ears off Rana.”

– The New York Times

Program Notes

Scriabin – Fantasy in B Minor, op. 28

Fantasy in B Minor, op. 28
Alexander Scriabin
Born January 6, 1872, Moscow
Died April 27, 1915, Moscow

Scriabin composed his Fantasy in B Minor in 1900, when the 28-year-old composer was living in Moscow and teaching at the Moscow Conservatory. The Fantasy was one of Scriabin’s last purely abstract works, composed just before his thoughts and his art turned to mysticism and theosophy. It is a virtuoso work, clearly intended for his own use on recital programs.

The brief Fantasy is a powerful piece of music and–for the performer–a very difficult one: much of the writing is chordal or in octaves, the music is full of rhythmic complexities (it includes many of those rhythmic “sprays” so typical of Chopin), textures are thick, and Scriabin can at moments generate a truly thunderous sonority–this piece may give us some hint of what he was like as a performer. The Fantasy begins quietly but soon begins to project its characteristically full-throated sonority. Scriabin alternates this powerful opening episode with a more lyric idea marked Più vivo, the music builds to an overwhelming climax marked both triple forte and appassionato, and the Fantasy concludes with two powerful chords.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

Castelnuovo-Tedesco – Cipressi, op. 17

Cipressi, op. 17
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Born April 3, 1895, Florence
Died March 17, 1968, Los Angeles

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco studied piano and composition at the Florence Conservatory and later studied composition with Pizzetti and Casella. He then made his career in Italy and Europe, but by the late 1930s the political climate was changing in Europe, and the composer (who was Jewish) came to the United States. He settled in Los Angeles in 1940 and was soon composing for the film industry. His music was used in hundreds of films (the most famous of which was And Then There Were None in 1945), and Castelnuovo-Tedesco became an influential teacher of film-composers: among those who studied with him were John Williams, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, and Andre Previn. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a vastly prolific composer whose  list of opus numbers runs to well over 200.

As a young man, Castelnuovo-Tedesco spent his summers in the tiny village of Usigliano in Tuscany, and it was there during the summer of 1920 that he wrote his Cipressi (“Cypresses”), a brief mood-piece for piano. Cipressi is based on a single rising-and-falling theme that repeats throughout, harmonized chromatically, and embellished in different ways as it proceeds. This all seems normal enough, but Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s markings in the score suggest a hidden drama playing out here. Cipressi begins quietly (Lento e grave), but quickly the composer’s instructions become more animated: triste, intenso, appassionato, lamento, disperatamente (“desperate”), piangente (“weeping”). The music rises to a climax marked violento and agitato, then falls away to the calmo conclusion. A mood-piece that evokes the beauties of the trees around the young composer–or a private drama? Cipressi may be enjoyed in many different ways, and the composer himself liked it well enough that he arranged it for orchestra the following year.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

Debussy – Selections from Préludes, Books 1 & 2

“La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune” from Préludes, Book 2
“Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” from Préludes, Book 1
Claude Debussy
Born August 22, 1862, Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Died March 25, 1918, Paris

Debussy composed his 24 piano preludes relatively late in life. The first book of 12 preludes appeared in 1910, and he composed the second book over the next three years. Though he has been inescapably tagged an “impressionist,” Debussy disliked that term. He would have argued that he was not trying to present a physical impression of something but instead trying to create in sound the character of his subject. So little was he concerned to convey a physical impression that he placed the evocative title of each prelude at its end rather than its beginning – he did not wish to have an audience (or performer) fit the music into a preconceived mental set but rather wanted the music heard for itself first, identified with an idea or image later. Some have gone so far as to say that perhaps Debussy wanted the music to suggest the title.

This recital offers one prelude from each of the two collections. From Book 2, La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune (The Balcony Where Moonlight Holds Court) was the last of the preludes to be composed. This portrait of shifting moonlight is extremely restrained: tempos are slow, and dynamics remain largely subdued. From Book I, Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest (That Which One Hears on the West Wind) was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Garden of Paradise,” a story full of the menace of death. Those who think of Debussy as the composer of delicate “impressionistic” music are in for a shock here – this is some of the most violent music he ever composed. Only three minutes long, it is also some of the most difficult music Debussy ever wrote. He marks the beginning Animé et tumultuex – a fierce

wind blows through this music–and along the way he instructs that the playing should be “strident,” “furious and rapid,” and “anguished.”

Program note by Eric Bromberger

Debussy – L’isle joyeuse

L’isle joyeuse
Claude Debussy

L’isle joyeuse dates from 1904, a year that brought the best and worst of times for Debussy. He had finally achieved success with his opera Pelléas and Mélisande in 1902, and now he was hard at work on La Mer. That year he also abandoned his wife of five years for Emma Bardac, a singer and the estranged wife of a wealthy banker, and in the aftermath his despairing wife shot herself. This unhappy incident, and Debussy’s failure to pay any of her medical bills, brought a scandal that cost him many friendships.

Debussy spent the summer of 1904 with Emma on the Isle of Jersey off the Normandy coast. It was here that he composed his L’isle joyeuse. Debussy drew his inspiration from an early 18th-century painting, L’Embarquement pour Cythère by the French painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Watteau’s painting depicts the moment of departure of a group of revelers for the island of Aphrodite, goddess of erotic love, and Debussy sets out to capture the sensual expectancy of such a scene. It is hard not to believe that the details of Debussy’s own life, spent on an island with a new lover, were the direct inspiration for this spirited music.

L’isle joyeuse opens with a brief introductory passage marked Quasi una cadenza, built largely on anticipatory trills. The main theme quickly appears, so full of triplets and dancing dotted rhythms that it seems to spill over with an almost arabesque elegance. The music, in rondo form, is fast and festive, and Debussy soon moves to a gently-rocking 3/8 meter, perhaps intended to suggest the motion of the boat (he marks this section “undulating and expressive”). Gradually the tempo accelerates, the music becomes more and more animated, and L’isle joyeuse rushes to a sonorous and exciting close.

Debussy was proud of L’isle joyeuse and wrote to his publisher: “This piece seems to embrace every possible manner of treating the piano, combining as it does strength with grace, if I may presume to say so.” Later he offered an even more succinct evaluation of this music: “Lord, but it’s difficult to play!”

Program note by Eric Bromberger

Liszt – Piano Sonata in B Minor, S.178

Piano Sonata in B Minor, S.178
Franz Liszt
Born October 22, 1811, Raiding, Hungary
Died July 31, 1886, Bayreuth

Liszt wrote his Sonata in B Minor in 1852-3 and dedicated it to Robert Schumann. This sonata is in all senses of the word a revolutionary work, for Liszt sets aside previous notions of sonata form and looks ahead to a new vision of what such a form might be. Schumann himself, then in serious mental decline, reportedly never heard the piece but could not have been especially comfortable with the dedication of a piece of music that flew so directly in the face of his own sense of what a sonata should be. Another figure in 19th-century music, however, reacted rapturously. Wagner wrote to Liszt to say, “The Sonata is beautiful beyond any conception, great, pleasing, profound and noble–it is sublime, just as you are yourself.”

The most immediately distinctive feature of the sonata is that it is in one continuous span rather than being divided into separate, discrete movements. Despite the single-span structure, Liszt achieves something of the effect of traditional three-movement sonata form by giving the work a general fast-slow-fast shape. The entire sonata is built on just four themes, all introduced in the opening moments: the slowly-descending scale heard at the very beginning, marked Lento assai; the jagged, leaping theme in octaves that follows immediately–this is marked Allegro energico; dove-tailed into this is a propulsive figure of repeated eighth-notes, played first deep in the left hand; and a powerful hymn-like theme marked Grandioso and stamped out over steady accompaniment. These themes undergo a gradual but extensive development–a process Liszt called “the transformation of themes” and are often made to perform quite varied functions as they undergo these transformations. At the end, Liszt winds all this energy down, and the sonata concludes with a quiet recall of the slowly descending Lento assai from the very beginning. After so much energy, the sonata vanishes on a very quiet B deep in the pianist’s left hand.

The Sonata in B Minor is extremely dramatic music, so dramatic that many guessed that it must have a program, as so much of Liszt’s music does. But Liszt insisted that this is not descriptive or programmatic music. He wanted his sonata accepted as a piece of “pure music,” to be heard and understood for itself.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

Our Partners

This performance is made possible through the generous support of the following sponsors: Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts; Susan S. Angell.

Washington Performing Arts’s classical music performances this season are made possible in part through the generous support of Betsy and Robert Feinberg.

Her Excellency Mariangela Zappia, Ambassador of Italy to the United States, is the honorary patron of this engagement.

This is one of fourteen 2023-2024 season performances included in Washington Performing Arts’s The World in Our City initiative, which promotes cross-cultural understanding and cultural diplomacy via the presentation of international visiting artists, globally inspired local programming, and the award-winning Embassy Adoption Program, a partnership with D.C. Public Schools. Support for The World in Our City is provided by The Boeing Company.

Special thanks to the following lead supporters of Washington Performing Arts’s mission-driven work: Jacqueline Badger Mars and Mars, Incorporated; D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts; and The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

This performance is an external rental presented in coordination with the Kennedy Center Campus Rentals Office and is not produced by the Kennedy Center.

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