February 13, 2016: André Laplante

André Laplante, piano


Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 8 PM



Bach: Adagio in A minor, BWV 564  (Arr. Busoni)

Mozart: Piano Sonata in E-flat major, K. 282

Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales


Liszt: Ballade No. 2 in B minor

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major, Opus 81A “Les Adieux”


Dear friends,

The Great Romantic Virtuoso, André Laplante, returns to the Virtuosi stage after an absence of many years. Winnipeggers will be delighted with the variety of his programme.

Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) became so well known as a transcriber of Bach’s works that the name “Bach-Busoni” was sometimes mistaken for his actual surname. Indeed, Wikipedia informs us that his wife was once introduced to someone as “Mrs. Bach-Busoni”. As we are two months shy of his one-hundredth birthday, we should remember that he was a child prodigy and became one of the world’s most celebrated pianists early in the 20th century. As in many of Bach’s organ works which he transcribed, Busoni inspires pianists to enter a different zone where they can create the illusion of the sound and majesty of an organ – as you can readily discern in the Adagio in A minor.


For some reason, Mozart referred to his early keyboard sonatas as his “difficult” sonatas. He played them frequently in his early tours, and the Sonata in E-flat major, (K. 282), composed at age nineteen, was a favourite. Similarly strange is the fact that this is the only one of his sonatas that commences with a slow, lyrical movement. To be sure, what we hear reflects his interest in the dynamic possibilities of the new fortepianos. All else is mere speculation.


Ravel composed Valses nobles et sentimales in homage to Schubert, but the work bears no resemblance to Schubert’s separate sets of “noble” and “sentimental” waltzes. The piece was first performed in 1911 at a special concert of living composers who remained anonymous – “so as to not ‘burden’ the critics with the attached labels of authorship” (from Wikipedia) as they attempted to judge each new work on its own merits. Ravel’s composition was novel enough that it provoked a disturbing chorus of boos and catcalls. Some even thought it was a parody, but “a minute minority,” Ravel recalled, “ascribed the paternity of the Valses to me.”


Let us see if we can judge Ravel’s Sonatine in the spirit of the advice he once gave to a pianist: “You should not interpret my music; you should realize it.”


André Laplante is known as one of the supreme virtuoso performers of Liszt. The Ballade No. 2 in B minor (S. 171) was composed in 1853, inspired by a dark, macabre tale about a woman who marries the ghost of her dead fiancé in a cemetery! The piece reflects a fusion of drama and lyricism, soaring melody, and virtuosic, exultant Lisztian sonorities. It is considered one of Liszt’s finest piano works.


Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major, Op. 81A – Les Adieux – was one of only two sonatas entitled by him. (The other was the Pathétique.) But to Beethoven’s great annoyance, his publisher translated the title from German to French! The sonata was inspired by the necessary flight from Vienna of his friend, patron and sometime student, the Archduke Rudolph when the French invaded on May 4, 1809. He returned after peace was later declared on October 14. The music seems clearly to reflect Beethoven’s inscribed subtitle of “Farewell, Absence, Reunion” and is the only programmatic piano sonata that Beethoven wrote. However interesting, this backstory is quite irrelevant to the appreciation of the sonata and its emotional power. (I certainly never paid attention to it until I was preparing this High Note to you.) As Ravel might have argued, the music speaks for itself; its message is beyond words.

Click here to see Daniel Barenboim’s performance of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major, Op. 81A – Les Adieux

And opening the concert, as part of our Young Artist Program will be Aaron Hutton, tenor, accompanied by Cary Denby.  They will be performing two songs by Ivor Novello: Love is My Reason and Some Day My Heart Will Awake

See you soon,