Art of the Sonata vol. I (2008)

Franck, Lefkowitz

Petteri Iivonen, Kevin Fitz-Gerald

César Franck wrote his Violin Sonata in A Major as a wedding present for the great Belgian composer and violinist Eugène Ysaÿe in 1886. The story differs. In one version, Ysaÿe asked Franck to write a sonata for him. In another version, Franck surprised Ysaÿe with the sonata as a gift on the morning of his marriage. Ysaÿe rehearsed quickly and performed the sonata at the wedding itself later that day. The sonata soon took its place among the standard masterpieces. Franck wrote his best known works late in life. Indeed he completed his Symphony in D Minor two years after the violin sonata, and the symphony premiered less than two years before his death. 

The Franck sonata isn’t about a marriage, or even a wedding ceremony. But if we are lucky, great works of music can capture a unique image of an entire world. And in this composition one can almost hear the stages in a marriage and in a couple’s life together. The tentative, fragile opening, building slowly in confidence as the two instruments, two voices, begin to blend. The second movement opens with a storm in the piano. The violin joins in the storm. Listen as glimmers of sunlight, encouragement, stubborn optimism and resolution poke through the clouds, especially in Petteri’s hands. The final movement alternates between tenderness and exuberance until the story reaches its climax. 

David S. Lefkowitz’s Miniature VIII follows the Franck. Petteri is fond of David’s music. With generous help from the Jerry & Adi Greenberg Foundation, Yarlung commissioned Eli Eli for Petteri, which he recorded on our first album. David wrote Miniature VIII in 1994. A well-known violinist played it once at the premiere and then declared it nearly unplayable because of the demands it makes on the left hand, including several unison double-stops. Miniature VIII does not sound difficult. The slow, beautiful and haunting melody draws the listener toward the work’s mood and imagery, not to its virtuosity 

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Kevin Fitz-Gerald

Canadian pianist Kevin Fitz-Gerald performs in concert halls around the world as a soloist, has recorded with seven record labels including Yarlung Records, and performs regularly in partnership with other musicians including Patrick Gallois, Stephen Isserlis, Richard Stolzman, Petteri Iivonen, Alan Civil, Camilla Wicks, Midori Goto, Eudice Shapiro, Milton Thomas, Karen Tuttle, Donald McInnes, Ronald Leonard, and the Bartok, St. Petersburg and St. Lawrence String Quartets. Kevin also performs four-hands piano works with his wife Bernadene Blaha. In addition to his position as Professor of Piano Performance and Collaborative Arts at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, Mr. Fitz-Gerald is also a regular visiting artist teacher at the Banff School of Fine Arts, a frequent guest master class teacher at The Colburn School for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, and serves as visiting faculty at many other national and international music festivals and institutions throughout North America, South America, Asia and Australia. Kevin was born in Kelowna, British Columbia and received full scholarships to study at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, The Banff Centre School of Fine Arts and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto where his principal teachers were Marek Jablonski, Robin Wood and Alma Brock-Smith.

Petteri Iivonen

Petteri Iivonen was born in 1987, and began to study the violin at the Helsinki Conservatory when he was four years old. Petteri also studied the piano as a student and remains an accomplished pianist. Petteri won the Erkki Melartin chamber music competition when he was fifteen: Petteri’s nuanced talent as a musical collaborator (as a partner who listens) remains easy to hear even in his violin solo and concerto repertoire. Since 1997, Petteri’s principal teachers have been Tuomas Haapanen and Hagai Shaham. Petteri continues to study despite his increasingly busy concert schedule of solo recitals and concertos in the United States, Germany, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Israel, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Iivonen has performed with Paul Neubauer and David Grossman of the New York Philharmonic, and raised money for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a special Choral room benefit at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Petteri was invited to perform with pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough to open The Broad Stage in Santa Monica in 2008. Last year Iivonen performed the Tchaikovsky violin concerto under the baton of Zubin Mehta, and based on this performance was immediately invited to play the gala opening night concert with the Israel Philharmonic with whom Petteri performed the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1. As I write these notes, Petteri is preparing for a South American tour with Zubin Mehta and is scheduled for more concerto performances with major orchestras in Europe, especially the Tchaikovsky, Bloch and Sibelius concertos for which Petteri has become famous. Immediately after playing in South America, Petteri flies to Los Angeles to join Kevin Fitz-Gerald for a private concert and dinner in the home of Ann Moore Mulally to celebrate the release of this album. While much of Petteri’s playing is exceptionally beautiful, he never tries to make the sound "pretty," I have heard very few violinist’s with Petteri’s ability to control color and timbre, and even fewer who use this ability for such musical and appropriate ends. For our recording Petteri plays a Ferdinandus Gagliano violin, built in 1767, kindly loaned to him by OKO Bank Art Foundation. Kevin plays New York Steinway serial number 567908.
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Art of the Sonata vol. I (2008)

Franck, Lefkowitz

Petteri Iivonen, Kevin Fitz-Gerald

Mastering Engineer:

Yarlung makes recordings in concert halls, not studios. Our albums capture the sound of our musicians playing in real acoustic spaces. Yarlung recorded this album directly to two tracks of RMGI 468 analog tape running at 15 ips, with no mixer. We used the Hapi converter and Pyramix software from Merging Technologies in Switzerland to make these transfers to DSD. Our sincere thanks to The International Rectifier for making this project possible.

Microphones: AKG C24,CK12
Producer: Bob Attiyeh
Recording Engineer: Bob Attiyeh
Recording location: Alfred Newman Hall, Los Angeles
Recording Type & Bit Rate: Analog to DSD256

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