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8.572378 - Takako Nishizaki Plays Suzuki Evergreens, Vol. 1

Takako Nishizaki plays
Suzuki Evergreens • Volume 1


The first volume of Takako Nishizaki Plays Suzuki Evergreens opens with variations on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a melody used by Mozart for his own 1778 variations on Ah, vous diraije Maman. The other well-known children’s songs are claimed by various countries, with words in various languages. Long, Long Ago was written in 1833 by Thomas Haynes Bayly and won wide popularity as a children’s song. It is here followed by a group of instructional pieces by Shinichi Suzuki himself. The second and third Minuets by Johann Sebastian Bach are taken from the compilation made for his second wife, Anna Magdalena. These simple pieces are in two parts, melody in the right hand and single line accompaniment in the left, making it possible to transfer the righthand keyboard part to the violin. In Minuet in G, BWV Anh. 114, the keyboard version includes some slight ornamentation, with inverted mordents and a longer appoggiatura in the eighth bar. In the repeated second half of the piece there is a mordent for the keyboard three bars from the end. It was in 1848 that Schumann turned his attention to a set of short pieces, intended, in the first instance, for the birthday of his eldest daughter, Marie. The project grew, as Schumann happily enlarged the collection, for which his growing children had a very practical use. The reluctance of his publisher was overcome and the final set of 43 pieces, Jugendalbum, Op. 68 (Album for the Young) was published to his profit, augmented, in a second edition, by a set of Musikalische Haus-und Lebensregeln (Instructions to Young Musicians). Schumann later added to this educational project a set of songs, Liederalbum für die Jugend, Op. 79, (Song Album for the Young), and in 1853 Drei Clavier-Sonaten für die Jugend, Op. 118 (Three Piano Sonatas for the Young), with a set of duets for children, Kinderball, Op. 130 (Children’s Ball). The Happy Farmer translates Schumann’s title for the tenth of his pieces for smaller children, Fröhlicher Landmann, von der Arbeit zurückkehrend (Happy farmer, coming back from work), once known widely as The Merry Peasant, a standard piece for beginners on the piano in music that is played legato, while the violin version offers more robust detached bowing.

Born in the South Netherlands in 1734, François-Joseph Gossec made his career in France at a particularly disturbed time, living through the turmoil of the French Revolution, the reign of Napoleon and the restored monarchy. He died in 1829, leaving a large number of compositions, operas, symphonies, chamber music and contributions, when necessary, for the Revolution. While much of his music may now be forgotten, his Gavotte, originally for flute and string quartet is familiar to many in various arrangements. The piano version heard here finds room for considerable decoration, much of which would be unsuitable for the singing tone of the violin.

Born in the German city of Halle in 1685, George Frideric Handel settled in London in 1712, making his early career primarily in Italian opera. In the 1730s, however, he turned his attention to what was virtually a new form, English oratorio. Italian opera had had its enemies in London, coupling as it did dramatic improbabilities with texts in a foreign language. Oratorio had the advantage of English words and largely English singers, with texts on subjects that generally had religious appeal to a Protestant public. Judas Maccabaeus, which takes its story from the biblical account of the Jewish hero of the title, was written in 1746 and intended to celebrate the exploits of the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden. The familiar melody given to the violin is taken from the chorus See, the conqu’ring hero comes, a theme also used by Beethoven in a set of variations for cello and piano.

The Musette from Bach’s English Suite No. 3, BWV 808, is in the original keyboard work framed by Gavotte I, itself with the alternative title of Gavotte II. The simple right-hand melody is taken straightforwardly by the violin, while in the original keyboard version the character of the Musette, a form of bagpipe, is characterized by the sustained bass note, a drone, while the middle part finds room for one little decorative mordent.

Weber’s opera Der Freischütz (The Marksman) has all the ingredients of German romanticism. Staged first in Berlin in 1821, five years before Weber’s death, it tells the story of the forester Max, who must win a shooting contest in order to gain the hand of his beloved Agathe, daughter of the Head Forester. He is persuaded by a fellow-forester, Caspar, to seek the help of the ghostly wild huntsman Samiel in the Wolf’s Glen at dead of night. There seven magic bullets are cast, sure of hitting their target, with the seventh going where Samiel wishes. The Huntsmen’s Chorus, with its characteristic horns, precedes the shooting contest at which Agathe is miraculously saved from death from the seventh bullet, which inflicts a fatal wound on Caspar.

Brahms wrote his Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39, in 1865, for piano duet, later re-arranging them for one player, with four of the pieces rescored for two pianos. The gently lilting Waltz No. 15 makes an admirable addition to violin repertoire.

A Bourrée by Handel, one of many such short French dance movements, leads to a version of Schumann’s setting of Heine’s Die beiden Grenadiere (The Two Grenadiers). The song sets all nine stanzas of the poem, and the violin version is shorter and makes various other changes, avoiding exact rhythmic imitation of the text. The two grenadiers of the poem make their way to France, after imprisonment in Russia after Napoleon’s ill-fated expedition of 1812. On the German border they hear of the capture of the Emperor and both are in despair, as one of them grows weak from his wounds, begging his comrade to have him buried in France, with his musket and sword. The song ends with echoes of the Marseillaise, as the dying soldier resolves to rise from his grave to see his Emperor triumph once more. Schumann wrote his setting in 1840, his so-called Year of Song, in which he made such a contribution to Lieder repertoire.

It was in 1813 that the demon violinist Paganini wrote his set of variations on Le Streghe (The Witches), a theme taken from Mozart’s pupil Süssmayr’s ballet Il noce di Benevento which marks the entry of the witches. Here only the theme is heard.

For his opera Mignon the French composer Ambroise Thomas drew on Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Year of Learning) in which the protagonist meets the mysterious gypsy waif Mignon, who falls in love with him. The opera was first staged in Paris by the Opéra-Comnique in 1866. The famous Gavotte, familiar from many adaptations, is originally given to Frédéric, an admirer of the actress Philine and the rival of Wilhelm Meister. It was some two hundred years earlier that the Italian-born Jean-Baptiste Lully, trained first as a dancer, established a dominant position for himself in French music, providing operas that, as always in France, had a considerable element of dance.

Beethoven’s Minuet in G, with its contrasting Trio section, offers a chance for generally cantabile violin playing, with an element of spiccato in the Trio. The difference between the violin and the piano is more than ever apparent, with the singing tone of the first and the percussive nature of the latter.

Born in 1743, the Italian composer and cellist Luigi Boccherini made his later career in Spain. By far the best known of his compositions is the famous Minuet from his String Quintet in E major, G. 275, for string quintet, dated 1771 in the composer’s catalogue of works and scored for two violins, one viola and two cellos. Following the usual pattern of the dance, the Minuet frames a contrasting Trio, the Minuet melody accompanied by the plucked strings of the lower instruments and the melody given in both versions to the violin.

Keith Anderson

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