Virtuoso group endeavors this week. Moldavian pianist Alexandre Paley is joined by cellist Alexandre Dmitriev, Amiram Ganz, violin and David Gaillard, viola for a concert of reasonably rare material (the Rachmaninov is not so rare, but . . .).
It was all recorded in concert by the inimitable Radio France Musique on October 17, 2010 as part of its Romantic Russians series.
Starting off with the Sonata Tragica by Nicolas Medtner – followed by the opus 8 Sonata by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov and then joined by Dmitriev, Ganz and Gailliard in performances of Rachmaninov’s Trio Eligaic and Georgy Catoire’s Quartet op. 31.
I admit to drawing a blank when I saw the name Georgy Catoire, as I suspect many of you may too. So here’s what I found out (Thanks Wikipedia):
Georgy Lvovich Catoire (Moscow 27 April 1861 – 21 May 1926) was a Russian composer of French heritage. Catoire studied piano in Berlin with Karl Klindworth (a friend of Richard Wagner) from whom he learned to appreciate Wagner. He became one of the few Russian ‘Wagnerite’ composers, joining the Wagner society in 1879.
Catoire graduated from Moscow University in mathematics in 1884 with outstanding honours. Upon graduating, he worked for his father’s commercial business, only later becoming a full-time musician. It was at this time that Catoire began taking lessons in piano and basic harmony from Klindworth’s student, V. I. Willborg. These lessons resulted in the composition of a piano sonata, some character pieces, and a few transcriptions. The most famous of these transcriptions was the piano transcription of Tchaikovsky’s Introduction and Fugue from the First Orchestral Suite (which Jurgenson later published at the recommendation of Tchaikovsky).
Not satisfied with his lessons with Willborg, Catoire went to Berlin in late 1885 to continue his lessons with Klindworth. Throughout 1886, he made brief trips to Moscow, and on one of these trips, he became acquainted with Tchaikovsky, who was greatly pleased with Catoire’s set of piano variations. Tchaikovsky told the younger composer that, “it would be a great sin if he did not devote himself to composition”. It was during this visit to Moscow that Catoire was introduced to the publisher Jurgenson. Catoire continued to study piano with Klindworth in Berlin throughout 1886, and simultaneously studied composition and theory with Otto Tirsch. Not satisfied with Tirsch’s instruction, he began study with Philip Rufer. These lessons were also short-lived but resulted in the composition of a string quartet.
Catoire returned to Moscow in 1887. He declined to make a debut as a concert pianist, despite Klindworth’s recommendation. Catoire met Tchaikovsky again, and he showed him (along with Gubert and Sergei Taneyev) the string quartet which he had written in Berlin for Rufer. They all agreed that the work was musically interesting but lacking in texture. On Tchaikovsky’s recommendation, Catoire went to Rimsky-Korsakov in St Petersburg with a request for composition and theory lessons. In a letter to Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky later described Catoire as, “very talented… but in need of serious schooling.”
Rimsky-Korsakov gave Catoire one lesson before passing him to Lyadov. This single lesson resulted in three piano pieces which were later published as Catoire’s op.2. With Lyadov, Catoire studied counterpoint and wrote several pieces, including the lovely Caprice op.3. Lyadov’s lessons concluded Catoire’s formal schooling.
After returning to Moscow, Catoire became quite close to Anton Arensky. It was during this period that he wrote his second quartet (which he later rewrote as a quintet) and his cantata, “Rusalka”, op.5, for solo voice, women’s chorus and orchestra.
Catoire’s family, friends, and colleagues were not sympathetic to his choice of career in composition, so in 1899, after a series of disappointments, he withdrew to the countryside and nearly gave up composing altogether. After two years of withdrawal from society, and having broken off almost all connections with musical friends, the opus 7 Symphony emerged in the form of a sextet as a result of this seclusion.
Today Catoire is very little known, although a few recordings exist of his piano works by Marc-André Hamelin, Anna Zassimova and Alexander Goldenweiser, while David Oistrakh and Laurent Breuninger have recorded the complete violin music. His music has a certain semblance to the works of Tchaikovsky, the early works of Scriabin, and the music of Fauré. Catoire’s compositions demand not only high virtuosity but also an ear for instrumental colour.
So there you have it; a bit of information on a name which may not ring a lot of bells. As for the rest of the concert; it’s wonderful and I would wholeheartedly vote this a prime example of anti-Road Rage Wednesday music.
Turn it up and relax for the next 90 minutes.