Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Serenade in D major, for flute, violin and viola, Op 25
I Entrata. Allegro II Tempo ordinario d’un Menuetto III Allegro molto (D minor) IV Andante con variazione (G major) V Allegro scherzando e vivace VI Adagio – Allegro vivace e disinvolto
Beethoven composed this work around 1795/96 while he was in Vienna for study with Haydn. While he was generally writing for piano and string groupings at this time, he occasionally made a foray into more novel combinations such as in his hugely popular Septet Op 20 for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass.
The Serenade Op 25 was designed as outdoor entertainment music in the tradition of Mozart’s Serenades. The work includes some delightful features – a march-like Entrata and a charming minuet. The Andante variations give each instrument opportunities to shine while a rustic dance concludes this airy, light-hearted piece.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Sonata for flute, viola and harp
I Pastorale. Lento, dolce rubato II Interlude: Tempo di Minuetto III Finale. Allegro moderato ma risoluto
When he composed this work in 1915, World War I was beginning its destruction of the old order in European society and Debussy himself was in the early stages of the colon cancer that would eventually kill him. The composer’s creativity had ceased and he also suffered the loss of his mother early in that year. During the summer he began composing again. First a Sonata for cello and piano was quickly completed at Pourville and the Sonata for flute, viola and harp was finished before his return to Paris in October.
Debussy’s inspiration went far back beyond his impressionism to the French Baroque. The mysterious opening Pastorale emerges from fragments of themes with 2 wistful motives allotted to the flute and the viola along with a drone-like one for viola and harp. These are developed and after a quicker middle section they are repeated towards the end. The 2nd movement makes the most obvious references to the Baroque but with modern harmonies. The Finale is carefully constructed developing from 3 motives presented in quick succession at the start, the music moving faster while combining duple and triple rhythms. There is a brief respite recalling the initial flute theme from the first movement before the close.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Fantasy in A major for violin and harp, Op 124
Cast in a single movement in 1907 when Saint Saëns was 72, the Fantasy was composed in the city of Bridger on the Italian Riviera. It is a virtuoso piece and one of 3 works that he wrote for the harp at that time. It features this composer’s distinctive characteristics – clarity of form and melodic charm -along with a special sonority from this scoring for the 2 string instruments. Some inspiration suggestive of the Italian Baroque can perhaps be discerned in the section featuring bass ostinato in the harp with variations for the violin.