Rachel Barton Pine, violin

Matthew Hagle, piano

Matthew Hagle, piano
Friday, April 19, 7:30 p.m.
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine inspires audiences worldwide with artistic excellence, boundless energy, unforgettable interpretations, and passion for philanthropy. Through her Rachel Barton Pine Foundation, she has championed, commissioned, and created educational materials to support the performance and study of music by Black composers, creating The String Student’s Library of Music by Black Composers. Accompanied by Matthew Hagle on piano, Pine performs an expanse of violin repertoire treasures at the Terrace Theater. Hear Sonata in G Major by Dvořák, the Bridgetower Sonata by Beethoven (premiered by George Bridgetower, a Black violinist and contemporary of Beethoven’s), and works by Black composers including Blues Dialogues by Dolores White, Incident on Larpenteur Avenue by Billy Childs, and Here’s One and Suite for Violin and Piano by William Grant Still.

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Program Details

Antonin Dvořák – Sonata in G Major, op. 100
Ludwig van Beethoven – Sonata No. 9 in A Major, op. 47 (“Bridgetower”)
Dolores White – Blues Dialogues
William Grant Still – Here’s One
Billy Childs – Incident on Larpenteur Avenue
William Grant Still – Suite for Violin and Piano

More about the Artists

Rachel Barton Pine, violin

Heralded as a leading interpreter of the great classical masterworks, violinist Rachel Barton Pine thrills audiences with her dazzling technique, lustrous tone, and emotional honesty. With an infectious joy in music-making and a passion for connecting historical research to performance, Pine transforms the audience’s experiences of classical music. She frequently performs music by contemporary composers, including major works written for her by Billy Childs, Mohammed Fairouz, Marcus Goddard, Earl Maneein, Shawn Okpebholo, Daniel Bernard Roumain, José Serebrier, and Augusta Read Thomas. In addition to her career as a soloist, she is an avid performer of baroque, renaissance, and medieval music on baroque violin, viola d’amore, renaissance violin, and rebec. Her RBP Foundation assists young artists through its Instrument Loan Program and Grants for Education and Career, and since 2001, has run the groundbreaking Music by Black Composers project. She performs on the “ex-Bazzini, ex-Soldat” Joseph Guarnerius “del Gesù” (Cremona 1742), on lifetime loan from her anonymous patron.

Matthew Hagle, piano

Pianist Matthew Hagle’s performances are often noted for their musical understanding, imaginative programming, and beauty of sound. The New York Times has described him as “a sensitive pianist,” Clavier Magazine has praised the “rare clarity and sweetness,” of his playing, and the Springfield (MA) Republican remarked he “played with unaffected brilliance and profound understanding.”

Matthew Hagle is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory (BM) and Yale University (MM, DMA), receiving faculty prizes in piano, accompanying, and music theory and a Fulbright Scholarship to study privately in London. He has studied with Claude Frank, Robert Weirich, Donald Currier, and Maria Curcio Diamand. A dedicated teacher of piano, music theory, and composition, Hagle’s students have won prizes in local and national competitions. He is currently on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago serving as the director of the Musicianship program in addition to his teaching duties.

“An exciting, boundary-defying performer – Pine displays a power and confidence that puts her in the top echelon.” 

The Washington Post

Program Notes

DVOŘÁK – Sonatina in G Major

Sonatina in G Major for Violin and Piano, op. 100
Born September 8, 1841, Muhlhausen, Bohemia
Died May 1, 1904, Prague

The Violin Sonatina dates from Dvořák’s American period: he wrote it in the space of two weeks during November-December 1893, while he was serving as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. Earlier that year he had composed the New World Symphony, which would receive its premiere on December 16 in Carnegie Hall. Exciting as Dvořák found life in the new world, he remained profoundly homesick for his Czech homeland, where four of his six children had stayed behind. He dedicated the Sonatina “To my Children,” telling his publisher that this music was “intended for young people (dedicated to my children) but grown-ups, too, let them get what enjoyment they can out of it.” And over the last century countless grown-ups have had considerable pleasure in this charming music.

Dvořák called this music a Sonatina rather than a Sonata for several reasons. It is a little shorter than most full-scale sonatas, it is not terribly demanding technically, and it is without the complications of construction, harmony, and development that usually mark sonatas. Yet it is not really a “student” piece, for it has musical substance and demands a fairly accomplished player. The question of American influence on the music Dvořák wrote in this country has been debated endlessly. Dvořák himself said that the main theme of the Sonatina’s slow movement was inspired by a visit to the Minnehaha Falls in St. Paul, and some have heard the rhythmic snap and syncopation characteristic of American music throughout the Sonatina. But Dvořák remained quintessentially Czech throughout his years here, and it is far more useful to enjoy this music for itself than to search for “influences.”

The marking for the opening movement, Allegro risoluto (“Fast and resolute”), may seem a little stern, given the music’s melodic nature and easy flow. This sonata-form movement alternates lyric ideas and bursts of energy before its quiet close. Many listeners will discover that they already know the Larghetto, which was made popular in an arrangement by Fritz Kreisler under the name Indian Lament, a title Dvořák never imagined or heard. The energetic Scherzo rips along in its outer sections (Dvořák demands a great deal of string-crossing here), but offers a more lyric trio section. The lengthy finale, marked Allegro, is built on three theme groups. The first is full of rhythmic snap, while the third–in E major–has the rising-and-falling theme-shape of the opening movement of the New World Symphony. Dvořák treats all three themes before driving the Sonatina to its rousing coda.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

BEETHOVEN – Violin Sonata in A Major

Violin Sonata in A Major, op. 47 (“Kreutzer” or “Bridetower”)
Born December 16, 1770, Bonn
Died March 26, 1827, Vienna

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Beethoven was beginning to get restless. The young man who had arrived in Vienna in 1792 was a tremendous pianist, but as a composer still had much to learn, and he spent the next decade slowly mastering the High Classical form of Haydn and Mozart. By 1802 he had composed two symphonies, three piano concertos, a set of six string quartets, and numerous sonatas for piano, for violin, and for cello. These had all been acclaimed in Vienna, but in in that same year Beethoven wrote to his friend Werner Krumpholz: “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve composed up to now. From now on I intend to embark on a new path.” That “new path” would become clear late in 1803 with the composition of the “Eroica.” That symphony revolutionized music–it engaged the most serious issues, and in music of unparalleled drama and scope it resolved them.

But even before the “Eroica,” there were indications of Beethoven’s “new path.” Early in 1803 the composer met the violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860). Bridgetower, then 25, was the son of a West Indian father and European mother; he had played in the orchestra for Haydn’s concerts in London a decade earlier and was now establishing himself as a touring virtuoso on the continent. Bridgetower and Beethoven quickly became friends, and when the violinist proposed a joint concert at which they would perform a new sonata, the composer agreed. But, as was often the case, Beethoven found himself pressed for time. He made the process easier by retrieving a final movement that he had written for a violin sonata the previous year and then discarded. Now, in effect working backwards, he rushed to get the first two movements done in time for the scheduled concert on May 22. He didn’t make it. The concert had to be postponed two days, and even then Beethoven barely got it done: he called his copyist at 4:30 that morning to begin copying a part for him, and at the concert he and Bridgetower had to perform some of the music from Beethoven’s manuscript; the piano part for the first movement was still in such fragmentary form that Beethoven was probably playing some of it just from sketches.

As soon as he completed this sonata, Beethoven set to work on the “Eroica,” which would occupy him for the next six months. While the sonata does not engage the heroic issues of the first movement of that symphony, it has something of the Eroica’s slashing power and vast scope. Beethoven was well aware of this and warned performers that the sonata was “written in a very concertante style, quasi-concerto-like.” From the first instant, one senses that this is music conceived on a grand scale. The sonata opens with a slow introduction (the only one in Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas), a cadenza-like entrance for the violin alone. The piano makes a similarly dramatic entrance, and gradually the two instruments outline the interval of a rising second (E to F#). At the Presto, that interval collapses into a half-step, the movement jumps into A minor, and the music whips ahead. Beethoven provides a chorale-like second subject marked dolce, but this island of calm makes only the briefest of returns in the course of this furious movement. The burning energy of that Presto opening is never far off: the music rips along an almost machine-gun-like patter of eight-notes, and after a hyperactive development, the movement drives to its abrupt cadence.

Relief comes in the Andante con Variazioni. The piano introduces the melody, amiable but already fairly complex, the violin repeats it, and the two instruments briefly extend it. There follow four lengthy and highly elaborated variations, and while the gentle mood of the fundamental theme is never violated, these variations demand some complex and demanding playing. For all its complexities, this is a lovely movement, and Beethoven and Bridgetower had to repeat it at the premiere.

The final movement opens with a bang–a stark A-major chord–and off the music goes. Beethoven had composed this movement, a tarantella, a year earlier, intending that it should be the finale of his Violin Sonata in A Major, Opus 30, No. 1. But he pulled it out and wrote a new finale for the earlier sonata, and that was a wise decision: this fiery finale would have overpowered that gentle sonata. Here, it dances with a furious energy that makes it a worthy counterpart to the first movement. At several points, Beethoven moves out of the driving 6/8 tarantella meter and offers brief interludes in 2/4. These stately, reserved moments bring the only relief in a movement that overflows with seething energy, a movement that here becomes the perfect conclusion to one of the most powerful pieces of chamber music ever written.

Beethoven was so taken with Bridgetower’s playing that he intended to dedicate the sonata to him, and it is a measure of the playful relations between the two that Beethoven inscribed the manuscript to the violinist: “Mulattic sonata written for the mulatto Brischdauer, a complete lunatic and mulattic composer.” And so we might know this music today as the “Bridgetower” Sonata but for the fact that the composer and the violinist quarreled, apparently over a remark that Bridgetower made about a woman Beethoven knew. The two eventually made up, but in the meantime Beethoven had dedicated the sonata to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, and so we know it today as the “Kreutzer” Sonata. Ironically, Kreutzer did not like this music–Berlioz reported that “the celebrated violinist could never bring himself to play this outrageously incomprehensible composition.”

Program note by Eric Bromberger

WHITE – Blues Dialogues

Blues Dialogues
Born 1932, Chicago

Dolores White first attended Howard University and then transferred to Oberlin, where she received her bachelors degree. She earned her masters from the Cleveland Institute of Music and later studied piano with James Friskin at Juilliard. She has taught at Wooster College, Hartt School of Music, Cleveland Music School, and Cuyahoga Community College. White has created a small but well-crafted body of music that combines the European classical tradition with folk music of different nations and traditions, and her works have been performed by the Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and others. White’s husband Donald, a cellist, was the first African-American musician to be hired by one of the leading American orchestras when he joined the Cleveland Orchestra in 1957; he played with that orchestra until his retirement in 1995.

White’s Blues Dialogues is a suite of four brief movements for unaccompanied violin, each in varying blues styles. Composing blues without the harmonic resources of the piano is a challenge, and that challenge is compounded when they are written for a linear instrument like the violin. White writes music of some brilliance here, as the violin becomes a blues instrument, sliding expressively between keys as it sings these varied movements. The music is easily followed: two moderately paced movements–Blues feeling and Expressive–give way to two more dynamic movements: Fast and funky and Moderately fast. The last of these shows the influence of Bartók, himself a strong believer in combining classical music with folk idioms.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

STILL – Here’s One

Here’s One
Born May 11, 1895, Woodville, Mississippi
Died December 3, 1978, Los Angeles

William Grant Still grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, where his mother was a schoolteacher. Still left college to pursue a career in music, and–after service in the navy during World War I–moved to New York, where he worked with W.C. Handy, Paul Whiteman, and Artie Shaw. He also studied composition with two teachers who could not have been more unlike each other: the conservative Boston composer George Chadwick and the visionary Edgard Varèse. In New York Still played the oboe in theater orchestras and was attracted to the ideals of the Harlem Renaissance, but in 1930 he moved to Los Angeles, which would be his home for the rest of his life. In Los Angeles he worked first as an arranger of film scores but later devoted himself entirely to composition and conducting. Still was a trailblazer in many ways. He was the first Afro-American to conduct a major orchestra (the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 1936) and the first to have an opera produced by a major opera company (Troubled Island, by the New York City Opera in 1949). His catalog of works includes nine operas, five symphonies, numerous other orchestral works, and music for chamber ensembles and for voice.

Still arranged a number of spirituals, and one of the most popular of these is Here’s One, a moving, slow spiritual whose first lines are:

Talk about a child
who do love Jesus,
Here’s one,
here’s one.

Still made a number of versions of his setting of Here’s One, including arrangements for mixed chorus, mezzo and soprano, flute and piano, and others. The music is heard at this concert in Still’s arrangement for violin and piano.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

CHILDS – Incident on Larpenteur Avenue

Incident on Larpenteur Avenue
Born March 8, 1957, Los Angeles

Audiences will most readily think of Billy Childs as a jazz pianist and composer. He studied piano and composition at the Community School of the Performing Arts sponsored by the University of Southern California, toured with J.J. Johnson and Freddie Hubbard, and eventually began to release solo albums that have won a number of Grammy Awards. But classical music remains important to Childs, and he has had works commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen, Detroit Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, Kronos Quartet, Los Angeles Master Chorale, American Brass Quintet, and others.

When Rachel Barton Pine commissioned a piece from Billy Childs in 2018, he turned to an incident that had caused a national furor. In July 2016 a young African-American man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. The officer was fired but later acquitted when charged with manslaughter; that acquittal provoked national outrage two years before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Childs composed Incident on Larpenteur Avenue as his response to the killing of Castile. The work is not so much a musical depiction of that incident as an emotional reaction to it, though there are moments of intense scene-painting here. In an interview, Childs said that he wanted the beginning, with its patterns of non-stop sixteenth-notes, to create an “unsettled feeling”; the violin has jagged outbursts in this section, but there is some beautifully lyric writing for the instrument here as well. The level of tension increases, and Incident on Larpenteur Avenue drives to its climax with the shooting of Castile: Childs depicts this with seven violent pizzicato strokes from the violin that echo the seven shots the officer fired. In the aftermath of this violence, the music continues with a slow section for piano that the composer says depicts “life slowly exiting Philando Castile’s body.” Now the work seems to exist on two different levels: the piano offers subdued and grieving music, while above it the violin reacts with angry outbursts. Incident on Larpenteur Avenue concludes as the violin recalls its lyric material from the very beginning.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

STILL – Suite for Violin and Piano

Suite for Violin and Piano

Still was passionately committed to African-American causes throughout his life, and his Suite for Violin and Piano, composed in 1943, celebrates the work of three African-American artists. The Suite was–like Pictures at an Exhibition–inspired by art in other forms, but where Mussorgsky was inspired by paintings and sketches, Still was inspired by the work of three African-American sculptors. The first movement, African Dancer, is Still’s response to a work of the same name by Richmond Barthé (1901-1989). Barthé made the early part of his career in New York City, where he was associated with the Harlem Renaissance. His African Dancer depicts a nude female frozen in motion as she dances, and Still’s music captures the energy of her dance. After a declarative opening statement by the piano, the violin sails in energetically; a bluesy middle section, full of slides, leads to a return of the opening material and a euphoric, full-throated climax.

Sargent Johnson (1887-1967) overcame a difficult childhood–he was sent to several orphanages, and he and his brothers were separated from their sisters when they were all very young. Johnson eventually made his home in San Francisco, where he worked as both sculptor and painter. He created a number of works titled Mother and Child, so the exact inspiration for this movement is uncertain. Still’s movement has invariably been compared to a lullaby, but this lullaby does not remain soothing and quickly grows to an animated passage full of double-stops before winding down to its quiet conclusion.

Augusta Savage (1892-1962) also had a difficult childhood, and like Barthé she was associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Her Gamin, of painted plaster, depicts the head and shoulders of a boy of about twelve. He wears a cap and loose clothing and seems to stare out at the viewer with a slightly defiant air. Still’s Gamin is a character study of the that boy, full of blues and sharply-syncopated rhythms. This movement–very short–has a particularly effective ending.

Program note by Eric Bromberger

Our Partners

This performance is made possible through the generous support of the Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts.

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

A companion master class with Rachel Barton Pine is/was made possible in part through additional support from The Bruce and Lori Rosenblum Music Education Fund.

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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