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STRING QUARTET

Harald Sæverud
(b. Nordnes/Bergen, 17 April 1897 – d. Bergen, 27 March 1992)
String Quartet No. 3, Op. 55
(1978)

Harald Sæverud was born as the son of a respected and modestly wealthy business man and a devout mother. When Sæverud was 12 years old, disaster hit the household: his father, with his business partners, was found guilty of tax evasion and went bankrupt. He was sent to jail for three months. It was at this time that young Harald began to write music, perhaps as an inner escape from grim reality. His first formal studies took place at the Bergen Conservatoire where his main teacher was the pianist and composer Borghild Holmsen (1865-1938). By the time he was 17 Sæverud was working on his first symphony, often skipping school in order to do so.

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ORCHESTRA

Georges Bizet
(b. Paris, 25 October 1838 — d. Bougival, 3 June 1875)
Variations chromatiques, pour piano (1868)

Arrangement for orchestra (1932/1933) by Felix Weingartner

The Variations chromatiques are Bizet’s last work for solo piano, and his only set of variations. Why he wrote them is not immediately obvious, although they are thought to have been inspired by Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80, a work that Bizet is known to have admired.1 Further inspiration reportedly came from the playing of Élie Delaborde, later Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire; however, this connection is perhaps less certain.2 The Variations are dedicated to the piano pedagogue, virtuoso and composer Stephen Heller, who had moved to Paris in the year of Bizet’s birth. Intriguingly, Heller later used the theme of Beethoven’s WoO 80 as the basis for his own set of 33 Variations über ein Thema von Beethoven, published in 1871 as his op. 130.

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OPERA

Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein
(28 November [O.S. 16 November] 1829, Vykhvatintsy, Podolia, Russia [now in the Transnistria borderland of Moldavia] – 20 November [O.S. 8 November] 1894, Beverly Hills, California, USA)
The Parrot
a German comic opera in one act with a libretto by Hugo Wittmann after a Persian fairy tale

Best known as the founder of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Anton Rubinstein was one of the great nineteenth-century keyboard virtuosos. The summit of his performing career was a series of seven consecutive “Historical Recitals” covering the history of piano music. He presented these throughout Eastern Europe and the United States as a “Steinway artist,” receiving as much as 200 dollars (in gold) per concert, plus all expenses. Each recital could feature as many as eight full piano sonatas, plus encores: they made powerful impressions on fellow pianists from Clara Schumann to the young Sergei Rachmaninoff. The first recital of each series included selections by Byrd, Bull, Couperin, Rameau, Scarlatti, and Bach: these contrapuntal and melodically-dominated pieces demanded a contrasting touch that Rubinstein became known for. In addition to virtuosity and an encyclopedic memory, he was praised for his tone, sensuous style of playing, and stamina: he gave a total of 215 American concerts in 239 days (some times as many as three per day), and invested the proceeds in real estate near Saint Petersburg.

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