Opus 1

(Sept 2016)
schubert erlkonig
Autograph of Franz Schubert’s Erlkönig (1815), The Morgan Library.

The Opus 1: A composer’s first published work. It is certainly not a composer’s first piece. Rather, it is their calling card to the world, the child designated (and distributed) to bear the name of its genitor.

What pushes this – as the pianist Glenn Gould once described them – “fragile” lot of creators from the safety of paper and ideas toward the critical eyes and ears of the public realm? For generations, composers’ works were catalogued for them. J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, W.A. Mozart, and the countless composers that pre-dated them, worked under the auspices of the Church or a patron. Their pieces were therefore collected and published, for the most part, with postmortem modesty. However, for the freelance musician (roughly from Beethoven onward), the burden of self-promotion lies squarely on their shoulders, and therefore the Op. 1 is seen as their debut into society.

The pieces on this program range from prodigious student ventures (Berg and Fauré), to grand projects (Schubert), to works birthed by the partnership of musical intelligence and commercial shrewdness (Beethoven). Still, all serve as a promising first yield in their designated plot – cultivating a new harmonic language, predicting a penchant for certain forms, acting out idiosyncrasies. For some (even fine) composers, their Op. 1 is a distorted echo they wish would fade into the canyon walls. But for these, they are heralding tones that would mark their authors as the musical prophets of their age.

Piano Sonata • Alban Berg
Erlkönig & Gretchen am Spinnrade • Franz Schubert
Le papillon et la fleur & Mai • Gabriel Fauré
Piano Trio in E-flat Major • Ludwig van Beethoven

Fri, Sept 23rd @ 8 p.m.
National Opera Center • Scorca Hall
330 Seventh Ave (betw 28th/29th)
Tickets: $20 cash only, at door

Katherine Whyte, soprano
Sean Clark, tenor
Patricia Davis, violin
Roland Gjernes, cello
Suna Chung, piano

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