About this Recording
8.559039 - FOOTE, A.: Piano Trios Nos. 1 and 2 / Melody / Ballade (Arden Trio)
English 

Arthur Foote (1853-1937): Chamber Music, Vol

Arthur Foote (1853-1937): Chamber Music, Vol.3

 

Arthur William Foote was born in the shadow of Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts on 5th March, 1853. A descendant of Yankee sea captains,

Foote's father, Caleb Foote, was orphaned at an early age. Largely self-educated, Caleb began as an apprentice at the biweekly newspaper the Salem Gazette and later purchased half-ownership, becoming editor in chief. In addition to his work with the paper, Caleb was active as a Sunday school teacher, a member of the church choir, served on the Salem School committee and was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It was within this comfortable environment that young Arthur was to learn the values of industry, perseverance, modesty and involvement with the community.

 

No child prodigy, Foote did not receive his first musical instruction until the age of thirteen. His interest in music was supported by the cultural life in his native Salem. Numerous lecture series, Glee clubs and even a chapter of the Mozart Society were regular features. A profound influence on Foote's early musical thinking was to come in the form of Dwight's Journal of Music. Published in Boston by the music critic, John Sullivan Dwight, the journal represented the most conservative musical tastes. The works of Berlioz, Liszt and naturally Wagner were dismissed for their harmonic complexity, chromaticism, and exaggerated expression. In 1867 Foote went to Boston to study harmony with

Stephan Emery at the newly founded New England Conservatory of Music where he made his first attempts at composition. Foote was accepted in 1870 to Harvard University where he continued his musical activities, becoming director of the Harvard Glee Club and in his senior year, began studies with the composer John Knowles Paine. Paine was thoroughly trained in the German tradition and was to become the teacher of Edward Burlingame Hill, Daniel Gregory Mason, Frederick Converse and John Alden Carpenter.

 

Following his graduation in 1874, Foote returned to Salem. During that summer he decided to take a few organ lessons from the local musician and educator Benjamin Johnson Lang. Exceptionally gifted both as a musician and an administrator, Lang was active as a concert promoter and choir director, and re-established the local Handel and Haydn Society. A student of Liszt, Lang was the first to introduce many new compositions to Boston audiences, including Berlioz's Damnation of Faust, Brahms's A German Requiem, and Wagner's Parsifal. Lang was also an ardent supporter of American music, presenting the premieres of music by Dudley Buck, George Whiting and George Chadwick. Lang encouraged Foote to pursue music as a full-time career. Foote returned to Harvard to continue study with Paine, receiving the very first Master of Arts degree in Music awarded by an American university.

 

In August 1875, upon completion of his studies at Harvard, Foote opened a studio for teaching the piano, which was to become his primary vocation for the next fifty years. The following year, Foote visited Bayreuth to hear a complete performance of Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen. The experience was to have a lasting impact upon him, influencing many of his finest choral works including The Farewell of Hiawalha, for men's voices and orchestra, and The Wreck of the Hesperus, a cantata for mixed voices and orchestra, both based upon poems by Long fellow. In addition to his work as a teacher, Foote was appointed as organist and choirmaster of the First Unitarian Church in Boston, where he was to remain until 1910.

 

During the 1880s, Foote's music began to receive wider recognition, finding a regular showcase with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The tone poem, In the Mountains, (1886) was so popular with both the orchestra and conductor Wilhelm Gericke, that it was featured when the Symphony performed at the Paris Exposition in 1889. During the 1890s Foote composed the Piano Quartet, Op 23 (1890) (Naxos 8.559014), String Quartet No.2, Op, 32 (1893) (Naxos 8.559009) and the Piano Quintet, Op, 38 (1897) (Naxos 8.559009). Throughout the remainder ofhis life, Foote was active as a teacher and concert promoter in addition to writing several texts on the subjects of harmony and piano technique. From 1909 to 1912 he was president of the American Guild of Organists, and served as president for the Cecilia Society of Boston. He received honorary doctorates in music from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., and Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. In 1913, he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

 

Foote found his musical vocabulary early in his career and stayed his course through out the 1890s into the twentieth century. Though he enjoyed the admiration of Boston's music-going public into the 1930s, he was deeply suspicious of jazz and the new musical ideas that were beginning to appear. On 8th April, 1937, Arthur Foote passed away quietly in Massachusetts General Hospital as a result of acute pneumonia,

 

In his 1900 publication, Contemporary American Composers, Rupert Hughes described the long-standing crisis of American music as one of lacking a tradition of its own. In his opinion nineteenth century American composers produced few concert works of merit and it was only though the influx of German and central European immigrants that a musical culture began to take root. Arthur Foote was a product of that early musical culture, and while he embraced the aesthetics of the German romantics, he was the first important American composer of concert music who was wholly trained in the United States. Though his own music seldom departed from the models of Brahms and Wagner, he found his own confident voice, instilling in his works a reflective quality not to be found in the works of many of his European contemporaries.

 

By 1882, Foote was ready to tackle an extended essay in the chamber music medium. The result was the Trio in C Minor for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op 5. Using similar works by Mendelssohn and Schumann as his point of departure, Foote determined to make his Piano Trio the work that would establish his artistic reputation. Composed swiftly and premiered on 8th April, 1882, the composer withdrew the piece for further revision. While on vacation in France in 1883, the trio was overhauled, simplifying many of the piano textures and was published in its final version in 1884. The opening Allegro con brio, in an orthodox sonata form, features a melancholy melody on the violin, later taken up by the cello, the piano providing a song-like accompaniment. A hymn-like second theme is stated confidently in the piano. The development section follows and immediately begins to combine to the two primary themes in numerous ways, often simultaneously. The recapitulation follows, with an expanded version of the opening theme, building in expressive power. The second theme returns, providing a noble contrast and the movement ends with an emphatic statement of the opening melody. The second movement displays a Mendelssohnian influence, with scurrying string writing over a wide-ranging piano part. The trio (Un poco meno allegro) returns to the hymn-like mood of the second theme of the first movement. A return to the opening material, slightly expanded, leads to the coda, with the violin and cello playing pizzicato in a breathless passage. The Adagio molto is undoubtedly the trio's lyrical core. A lilting melody begins in the cello, joined by the violin while the piano provides gentle figurations. Suddenly, the music shifts in F minor, and the music turns dramatic. The piano introduces a new theme that is combined with the lyrical melody from the first section to provide the movement's climax. A brief return to the opening material closes this lovely movement. The last movement opens with an oddly angular melody on the cello, accompanied by a restless pattern in the piano. The violin joins in, propelling the tune through several modulations and finally is joined by the piano, building excitement with a dotted rhythm. A broad, hymn-like contrasting theme is introduced, somewhat reminiscent of the melody to "O God our help in ages past." A return to the opening material and a brief fugato, lead to an extended "amen" cadence as if to emphasize the religious sentiment touched on in the previous movements.

 

Twenty-five years separate Foote's Trio No.2 in B flat Major, Op 65, from its predecessor. Whereas the earlier work was presented at the beginning of the composer's career, the later work reveals the refinement of a mature artist. While unmistakably in the romantic idiom, Foote expanded his harmonic language, freed up the rhythmic structure of his melodic lines and displayed an increased subtlety of instrumental color. The work opens with a rhythmically propulsive idea in the piano, while first the violin and then the cello weave compact melodies. This is followed by the second subject, a stark passage in octaves appearing first in the piano. Foote scholar, Nicholas Tawa finds this theme Native American in tone, a feature enhanced by the open sonorities. These ideas are systematically explored throughout the development and the movement ends with a quite seven-measure coda marked Tranquillo. The second movement begins with a subtle piano figuration, over which a rambling cello melody unfolds. Later, the violin enters with a new melody, hauntingly doubled two octaves above by the piano, creating a wonderful tone color. The third movement returns to the urgent expression of the opening. Broad melodies for the cello and then cello and violin are driven forward with staccato piano figures. This tumultuous climax gives way to a brief piano solo leading to the recapitulation. The trio concludes with a grandiose return to the opening material of the first movement.

 

The Melody for violin and piano. Op 44, composed in the last year of the nineteenth century, is as the title suggests, a straightforward song. Beginning with a piano introduction derived in equal parts from hymn-tunes and parlor songs, the violin spins a lovely melody, with just a hint of Schumann's lch grolle nicht suggested. A brief episode based on a rising motif provides contrast before an expanded return to the opening material. A couple of magical modulations and a wisp of violin melody bring the song to its conclusion.

 

Foote thought highly of his more compact works for violin and piano, considering the Ballade in F minor, Op 69, the best. The influence of Dvorak can be heard in the modal inflections of the melody, but it is Foote's characteristic reserve and distinctive piano writing that dominates. The work is in simple A-B-A form, opening with a song-inspired melody, leading to a more agitated middle section before returning to the opening material, ending with a brief coda based on the violin's triplet figure.

 

Joshua Cheek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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