Friday, January 25, 2019 8 pm Glenn Gould Studio


... Mozart, Mendelssohn and a Marvelous soloist! 

MOZART Quartet No. 7 in E-flat Major K 160 
MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No. 2 
MENDELSSOHN Chamber Symphony 'Requiem for Fanny' 

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Hailed for her “magnificent singing line and an exquisite artistic sensibility”, Armenian-born pianist Sofya Melikyan is recognized as an artist with a unique voice, who combines “high-wire virtuosity” with “deep musical intuition and ability to connect with the audience” (Mundoclasico). To date, Ms. Melikyan toured throughout Europe, USA, Canada, Japan and Australia with performances at such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York, Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Belgrade Philharmonic Hall, Armenian Philharmonic Hall, Jordan Hall in Boston, Salle Cortot in Paris, among many others. She appeared as a soloist with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra of Spain, Cordoba Symphony Orchestra, Valencia Symphony Orchestra, New Europe Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra of Andalucía, Spanish National Orchestra.

Ms. Melikyan's performances have been broadcast by the National Radio and Television of Spain, National Radio and Television of Armenia, National Radio of Catalonia, Melbourne ABC Classic FM Radio Station, Chicago WFMT Radio station, Mezzo French Television Station, New York WXQR Radio Station. She has also released two CDs featuring music of Haydn, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Albeniz, Dutilleux and Khachaturian.

Sofya Melikyan has been awarded First Prize and a Prize for outstanding Music Talent at the Marisa Montiel International Piano Competition in Linares, First Prize at the Ibiza International Piano Competition in Spain, First Prize for Music Interpretation awarded by “Amigos del Colegio de España” Association in Paris. She was also a winner of “Artists International” Competition in New York and received top and special prizes at the José Iturbi and Maria Canals International Competitions in Spain. As a member of New York based Sima Trio, she was a Gold Medal winner at the New England International Chamber Music Competition in Boston and 2nd Prize winner at J.C. Arriaga International Chamber Music Competition in Stamford, USA.

Recent performance highlights include recitals at Izumi Hall in Osaka, Japan, Bulgaria Concert Hall in Sofia, “Return” Festival in Yerevan, Armenia, Guangzhou Opera House in China, Juan March Foundation in Madrid, Spain (live broadcast on Spanish National Radio), Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago (live broadcast on WFMT radio station), as well as appearances at Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Detroit, Schloss Wonfurt Musikfest in Germany and Joaquin Turina International Chamber Music Festival in Seville, Spain.

Sofya Melikyan completed her studies at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid with Joaquin Soriano (graduated with Honors), Ecole Normale de Musique Alfred Cortot in Paris with Ramzi Yassa and Manhattan School of Music in New York with Solomon Mikowsky. Other pianists who have mentored her are Brigitte Engerer and Galina Eguiazarova.


Quartet No. 7 in E-flat, K 160                               Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) 
Chamber orchestra version by Nurhan Arman                                              
Mozart wrote six string quartets in late 1772 and early 1773 while in Milan working on his opera Lucio Silla, so they have become known as the Milanese Quartets. He had composed only one previous string quartet, in 1770, resulting in this set receiving numbers 2 to 7. He apparently intended the set to be considered a unified cycle: the first five quartets progress through an overall harmonic scheme based on raising each next home key by four notes (D, G, C, F, B-flat) and this final quartet completes the cycle in E-flat. 

Like its cousins, the E flat quartet shows the influences the young Mozart absorbed during his stay in Italy, as compared to the quartets he wrote after returning to Salzburg and hearing Haydn’s Opus 17 and 20 quartets. K. 160’s melodies have an Italian aura, and it contains three movements, as was customary in Italy, rather than four as Haydn’s and in Mozart's own subsequent quartets. 

The first movement Allegro opens with a gently descending melody, which is answered by a more active, rhythmic motive with dotted rhythms and repeated notes. Subtle contrasts propel the movement as extended melodies are re-focused from time to time by changes in articulation. The second movement Un poco adagio starts tentatively, as if checking before entering the room, and once confident that all is well, strolls forward in a stately fashion with dignified dotted rhythms and a steady harmonic pace. The third movement Presto returns to the pleasures of contrast, as in the broad melodic sweep and louder dynamics of the second theme’s response to the opening theme of the movement’s narrower compass. A slowly building crescendo through a sequence of rapid figurations evokes a similar gesture in the first movement, rounding out the quartet and demonstrating again Mozart's Italian influences.

Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 40                     Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) 
Strings version by Paul Graf Waldersee (1831-1906)                                   
Mendelssohn composed his Second Piano Concerto for the Birmingham Festival of 1837 and was premiered there with Mendelssohn himself performing the piano solo. At 28, Mendelssohn was already famous throughout Europe, and was particularly popular in England, where he had been entertained by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Considering that he prepared the concerto just after his marriage and honeymoon, its solemn opening may seem surprising; but he had only just emerged, before his marriage, from a deep depression over his beloved father’s death. The concerto lightens and becomes more cheerful as it goes on, however, perhaps a creative reflection of an emotional recovery assisted by the love of his new wife.

Mendelssohn normally composed quickly and fluently, but this concerto took him more effort and time than usual. He worked on it from April through September 1837, and there are more working sketches for it than any of his other works for piano and orchestra. He must have wanted to make sure his new composition would be as well received as it was eagerly anticipated by the Birmingham Music Festival organizers and audience. 

The concerto opens rather atypically, with a quiet, sombre dialogue between the soloist and orchestra, followed by the orchestra’s dramatic announcement of the first theme and a continuing sense of mystery until the second shifts to D minor’s relative key F major. A more tranquil piano coda prepares listeners for a slow second movement in major, a lyrical interlude that dispels any lingering darkness. The Finale is marked Presto scherzando, and here Mendelssohn’s celebrated brilliance shines forth, bringing the concerto to a cheerful, sparkling conclusion.

Chamber Symphony in F Minor op. 80a                     Felix Mendelssohn  (1809-1847) 
Orchestral version by Nurhan Arman                                               
Mendelssohn described his mood as “grey on grey” while composing his Opus 80, and on hearing it his lifelong friend Julius Benedict wrote, “It would be difficult to cite any piece of music which so completely impresses the listener with a sensation of gloomy foreboding, of anguish of mind, and of the most poetic melancholy, as does this masterly and eloquent composition.”

Opus 80 was Mendelssohn’s last major composition, written during the last months of his life, while he was mourning the death of his beloved sister Fanny. When she died in 1847 from a massive stroke Mendelssohon was devastated, and was immediately felled by a stroke of his own. Unable even to attend Fanny’s funeral, he spiraled into depression. Traveling to the Interlaken region of Switzerland, at his wife’s insistence, he tried to recover his health and state of mind by hiking in the mountains, drawing and painting the landscape and composing Opus 80. But Opus 80 is evidence that his stay in Switzerland eased his anguish only on the surface. When he returned to Germany his grief came flooding back; he suffered a second stroke and died at the age of 38. 

Mendelssohn’s music is much loved for its pristine structures and melodic beauty, but occasionally criticized for emotional restraint. Opus 80 contradicts this impression of his work in the strongest possible way. It is a work of extreme intensity, profound and tragically beautiful from start to finish.

The first movement opens with quivering tremolos, a musical embodiment of the shock at hearing of Fanny’s death. Sudden bursts of volume and accentuation contrast with calmer passages as grief and acceptance fight for dominance, until a unison outburst protests her fate and the movement ends, inconsolable.

The second movement is not the typically light, playful scherzo for which Mendelssohn is celebrated. Agitated rhythms, fierce, off-balance syncopations, sudden accents and stark unisons argue with Death; and the Trio section consists of an ominous violin duet over a ghostly dance in viola and cello. After the reprise of the scherzo, the ghosts reappear and whisper away in the coda.

The Adagio is a nostalgic song without words, recalling piano pieces that Felix and Fanny often dedicated to each other. After beginning as a gentle elegy, it builds to a strident climax of funereal dotted rhythms. The dotted-rhythm funeral procession can still be heard, receding in the distance as the movement ends in soft resignation.
Resignation does not last: the final movement is shaken by harsh chords amidst desperately shuddering passagework. Great virtuosity is required to encompass all the technical and emotional content of this tragic conclusion.