Writings by Eric Himy
Homage To Mozart - CD Notes
Salieri / Himy Vieni a me sull'ali d'oro from Armida. (Come to me on Golden Wings)
Antonio Salieri - (b. August 18, 1750, Legnago, Italy ; d. May 7, 1825, Vienna, Austria)
This year (2000) marks the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth 1756 and while there is no questioning the greatness of Mozart, the most famous composer in Europe at the end of the 18th century was probably Antonio Salieri. "It is a masterly composition," declared the London Morning Post of La scuola de' gelosi, "and does great honour to Salieri, whose reputation as a composer must rise infinitely in the musical world, from this very pleasing specimen of his abilities."
Antonio Salieri wrote his last opera in 1804, retiring from the stage at the age of 54 after producing about 40 operas in three languages and in a wide variety of genres. Eventually his style became old-fashioned and his works lost popularity. He composed relatively little after 1804, but he remained an influential figure in Viennese musical life. Indeed his many pupils included Beethoven, Schubert and Lisat. There is little evidence of any intrigues against Mozart and still less of the charge of poisoning him.
Armida (Vienna, 1771) was Salieri's first serious opera turning toward the dramatic ideals of Gluck. Salieri's very own description of Armida in his autograph score was “opera di stile magico-eroico-amorosa toccante il tragico”- that is to say an opera combining a variety of emotions and techniques. Working with the French dancer and ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre, he produced an opera notable not only for its beautiful music, but also for its choruses, ballets, and spectacular scenery. Salieri wrote the role of the Knight Rinaldo for the castrato Giuseppe Milliu. In Act II, there is a lovely aria Vieni a me sull'ali d'oro, (Come to me on Golden Wings) featuring a beautiful oboe solo, in which Rinaldo begs to be overcome with sleep, so that he may dream of his beloved. His prayer is answered as the aria closes. I recently made this transcription of Salieri's aria, which I discovered housed in the Vienna State Library. This aria, along with many of his manuscripts has never been published.
W.A. Mozart - Sonata in B-flat Major no. 13 K.333
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(b.January 27, 1756 Salzburg, Austria; d. December 5, 1791, Vienna, Austria)
Mozart achieved fame for his piano playing as a child, and throughout his life he performed concerts as a pianist. More importantly for us today, the instrument remained central to many of his most important works. We would probably think first of the solo works and concerti, but much of his chamber music also includes the piano. Approximately one hundred works for solo piano by Mozart survive, including eighteen sonatas and seventeen sets of variations.
The Sonata in B-flat major K.333 was thought initially to have been composed in 1779, but later studies by Alan Tyson on Mozart's handwriting and the paper he used have suggested a later date of 1783. It is an interesting sonata in that, despite sounding truly Mozartean, the influence of Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) is clearly perceivable: they met on two occasions, in London in 1764 (where Bach was a leading figure of musical life) and again in Paris in 1778.
Mozart's respect for JC Bach is documented, and his death in 1782 came as a sad shock. Bach spent time in Germany and Italy before settling in England, and the influence of his travels is clearly heard in a musical language that displays a solid German technique enhanced by Italian grace and melody. The latter, gallant style, emerged during the early 18th century, of which Bach was an exponent. In a letter of 1778, Mozart's father Leopold encouraged his son to write in Bach's “natural, flowing and easy style” and the admiration of Mozart is evident by his quoting of several Bach themes in his works. It is precisely this “flowing and easy style” of a melodic nature that can be found in K.333. Interestingly, there is a remarkable similarity between the opening motif of K.333 and those of JC Bach's piano sonatas Op.8 no.3 and Op. 17 no.4.
Cadenzas are a musical flourish, frequently created on the spot by the performer, which occurs when an aria or a section of an aria seems to be coming to its close and until the time of Verdi, cadenzas were expected to be improvised by the singer or the performer and were seldom notated precisely by the composer. The delightful cadenza that has been added in the third movement was written by Wanda Landowska and is a tribute to the improvisational style of the times when Mozart and others were expected to spontaneously express something personal and imaginative and which could often prove to be a high point of the performance.
Hommage à Mozart - Premiere 2006
(World Premiere performance was given in Salle Cortot, Paris, France-May 24, 2006)
Elisenda Fábregas (b. July 30, 1955, Terrasa, Barcelona)
(For this specific piece, the notes are by Elisenda Fábregas)
Hommage à Mozart was commissioned by concert pianist Eric Himy to be performed in a worldwide concert tour in 2006 - the year of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. In Hommage à Mozart I wanted to honor Mozart's gift for melody, his love for the vocal line, his wide emotional range and the incredible feeling of spontaneity and improvisation of his music in spite of being highly structured. This work is not a theme and variations: Mozart's themes are integrated within the music so they seem to grow out of the musical fabric. Two characteristics of the selected Mozart themes (a rhythmic motif and repeated notes) are an integral part of the work.
Hommage à Mozart has three distinct sections organized in a modified rondo form that flows without interruption. The main theme of this work is varied every time it returns, sometimes with Mozart motifs embedded in it and indistinguishable. These contrasting sections are based on Mozart's themes. The first section laments Mozart's sudden and untimely death and the sad circumstances of his burial. The main theme is a slow poignantly lyrical melody based on the descending interval of minor second, perfect fourth and repeated notes (referencing the dark side of the Queen of the Night Aria), surrounded by colorful and mysterious cascading passages. This section introduces three Mozart quotations: a brief partial quotation of the dramatic orchestral theme of the beginning of the first movement of Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, the theme from the first movement of Piano Concerto #19 and Aria #2 (Ein Madehen oder Weibehem). The end of this first section is the climax and the center of gravity of the whole work and the dramatic silence that leads into the second section is a resigned and painful breath.
The atmosphere of the second section is full of resigned acceptance but it eventually brings warmth and hope by introducing and developing the theme of the second movement (Larghetto) of Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. The third section celebrates Mozart's humor and lightheartedness by introducing Aria #14 (Konigin der Nacht) from the Magic Flute and the rhythmic theme in F major from the first movement of Piano Concerto #19. The work stops suddenly at the end of a mad Queen of the Night laughing passage, followed by a brief slow passage (sostenuto e con dolore) bringing us back to the reality of death, where then the mad neurotic laugh begins again and ends finally with a whimsical capricious laugh from Mozart himself!
Yves Ramette - Variations on the Second Movement of the Mozart Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545 (Premiere 2006)
Yves Ramette (b. February 6, 1921 Bavay, France)
From a very young age composer Ramette was instinctively attracted towards music. When he was seven years old he started learning musical notation as well as to play the violin and the piano. At age fourteen, while pursuing his secondary studies at the Beauvais Lycée, he also began taking advanced lessons in harmony. After finishing his studies in humanities, he entered the Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris to obtain training in harmony from Jacques de la Presle, and in contrapuntal and fugue from Simonne Caussade. He also took lessons in composition from Arthur Honegger at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris ( in the same class as Pierre Boulez) and was awarded first prize in 1945 with one of his early works. Ramette studied the violin with Robert Leforestel, the piano with Lelia Gousseau and Lazarre Levy and the organ with George Jacob. Under the able guidance of Eugene Bigot, he took lessons in conducting and orchestration.
From 1943 to 1953 he was the director of courses as well as organ and notation classes at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. Named the "Maitre de Chapelle" and organ player at the Saint Ferdinand de Temes Church in Paris, he resigned in 1990 following a disagreement with religious authorities on the discontinuation of the devotional music. He founded the mixed choir "Voix Ardens" to promote devotional and secular choral music of the traditional romantic and modern maestros and gave many concerts as the head of this choir from 1968-1987. Since 1990 he has been devoting himself to composing music and he continues to practice the organ as well as his favorite instrument, the piano. He is the author of a book entitled "Grandeur et Decadence d'un Tribune" (Grandeur and Decadence of a Tribune). This work is a simple and tender affectionate homage to possibly the most famous Mozart Sonata for piano.
Mozart/Kempff - Pastorale Variée, K. 209b
Wilhelm Kempff (b. November 25, 1895 Juterbog, Germany; d. May 23,1981, Positano, Italy)
Wilhelm Kempff came from a very musical family. His grandfather was an organist and his father was a Royal Music Director and organist of the St. Nicolai Church in Potsdam, while his brother Georg was director of church music at the University of Erlangen. Kempff grew up in Potsdam, studied music in Berlin where he completed his education as a pianist. In the 20's he began with an extensive touring activity which took him around the world. He performed in Japan as well as in South America and in the United States. His repertory ranged from the Baroque to the Romantic styles. Wilhelm Kempff gave his last public performance in Paris in 1981.Considered one of the greatest pianists of twentieth century, Kempff is celebrated today for his recordings of Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Mozart, Bach, Liszt, Chopin and particularly, of Ludwig van Beethoven. He recorded over a period of some sixty years.
Kempff was among the first to record the complete sonatas of Franz Schubert long before these works became popular. A lesser known activity of Kempff was composing. He composed for almost every genre. His Second Symphony was premiered in 1929 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus by Wilhelm Furtwangler. He also prepared a number of Bach transcriptions, including the Siciliano from the Flute Sonata in E and here is an example of an elegant touching tribute with some charming flute and harplike variations on a lesser-known tune by Mozart.
Mozart / Liszt - Don Juan Fantasy
Franz Liszt (b. October 22, 1811, Raiding, Hungary; d. July 31, 1886, Bayreuth, Germany)
Reminiscences de Don Juan is an operatic fantasy by Franz Liszt on themes from Don Giovanni by Mozart sometimes known as Il Dissolutu Punito (The Rake Punished). Liszt wrote the work in 1841 and it opens with music sung by the Commendatore, from the graveyard scene where he threatens Don Giovanni: "Di rider finirai pria dell aurora! Ribaldo audace! Lascia a' morti la pace! "(Your laughter will not last, even till morning. Remember, leave the dead in peace!), and from the finale where he condemns Don Giovanni to hell. The love duet of Don Giovanni and Zerlina follows ("La ci darem la mano"), along with two variations on this theme. An extended fantasy on the champagne aria ("Fin ch'han dal vino ) follows, and finally the Commendatore's threat concludes the work.
Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant, kept a list of the Don's many conquests which included 640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, only 91 in Turkey and an incredible 1,003 in Spain where of course Don Giovanni was at an evident advantage since it was his home. However in the Opera at hand, it seems that Don Giovanni is unsuccessful in his many pursuits and the grand list henceforth becomes questionable indeed!
Most opera fantasies or transcriptions are merely a string of popular arias connected in sequence together for virtuoso display. But what makes this particular one unique among all opera transcriptions, proving Liszt to be the true master of the genre, is that he is able to combine different parts of the opera in ways to give it new meaning. An actual new work emerges, yet he has transcribed the whole sense of the opera. We can hear the false promises of the ever-persistent Don Juan, the coquettish, but only half-willing Zerlina, and the voice of the terrifying Commendatore. We can actually hear them dueling and the last pages are unrestrained. Every phrase is Mozart, yet every note confirms Liszt's originality!
Some have found Mozart and Liszt an unlikely pair but many others including George Bernard Shaw have applauded Liszt's realization of an otherwise impossible task calling it "a stroke of genius". It is an affectionate tribute from one great composer to another. This work makes many extreme technical demands, such as fast double thirds, octaves, trills and leaps-apparently the composer Scriabin famously injured his right hand practicing this piece. But when the interpreter can transcend the technical barriers a grandiose and magnificent Homage to Mozart reveals itself.