Concert Number 90, Podcast Number 95 Assessment

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Concert Number 90, Podcast Number 95 on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Web site features Tchaikovsky's "Meditation" and Dvorak's "String Quintet in G Major, Op. 77." The podcast, entitled "Recycling Tchaikovsky and Dvorak," includes performances by violinist Nicholas Kendall, pianist Robert Koenig, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. At the beginning of the podcast, a narrator explains the background of both pieces. Tchaikovsky's "Meditation" is in the key of D-minor, presumably reflecting the composer's melancholy mood. As the narrator to the podcast notes, the "melancholy D-minor theme was likely born out of the difficulties in the composer's personal life." Indeed, the piece is wrought with difficult emotion, in keeping with the overall themes of the Romantic era. Dvorak's "String Quintet in G Major, Op. 77" has an entirely different emotional impact on the listener. The Czech composer imbues the piece with lively folk music elements that inspire the desire to dance, whereas the Russian's "Meditation" conveys a more bittersweet, disillusioned tone.

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Tchaikovsky's "Meditation" opens with a solo piano introduction that is sad, solemn, and somber. At the onset of the piece, "Meditation" seems suitable for dinner or brunch music. However, the bittersweet tone likely renders it too depressing to be used in such a context. The piece opens with almost all the notes played in the lower register. The bass-heavy tones signal a low mood. After the violin comes in, the melody feels strained as if to parallel the emotional state of the composer. The effect on the listener is also one of emotional strain. The performers do an excellent job executing the sense of emotional strain, which is done with precision so as to come across as being clearly deliberate. The pianist and the violinist work well together, playing off each other or harmonizing as the composition demands. At times the piano serves as the melodic percussive instrument backing the melodic, wistful violin.

Assessment on Concert Number 90, Podcast Number 95 on Assignment

At other times, the two instruments seem to be in their own worlds. In fact, as the piece progresses, the distinction between piano and violin becomes clearer. First one instrument sounds agitated, then the other. The piano will be "saying" one thing, the violin something else -- just as if it were a married couple preparing for divorce and sharing their side of the story. Indeed, the story behind Tchaikovsky's "Meditation" is that the composer was going through a difficult divorce. Musical counterpoint is the ideal method of communicating the tension between emotional attachment and separation that divorce entails.

The piece finishes with a flourish as the violin screams out, as if to assert its independence. Tchaikovsky perfectly embodies the theme of divorce with the composition. Emotional agitation, sadness, longing for freedom,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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