September 24, 2017: Mark Holloway, viola; Michael Brown, piano
One of the world’s great violin prodigies, Henry Vieuxtemps also grew equally proficient on the viola, which he sometimes played in string quartets, a genre he loved. As a composer he developed largely on his own after some preliminary instruction from Simon Sechter in Vienna and Antoine Reicha in Paris. He gravitated naturally to the violin genres, but he also wrote chamber music—his three string quartets stand out in particular—and a select few viola compositions. His gently flowing La nuit for viola and piano draws on the “rêverie du soir” from Le désert, the programmatic ode-symphonie by Félician David that took Paris by storm in 1844. David had spent some years in Egypt to preach the Saint-Simonian gospel in hopes of restoring Egypt to its ancient greatness. His explorations there led to this descriptive work for soloists, male chorus, reciter and orchestra, which won extravagant praise from Berlioz.
© Jane Vial Jaffe