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Bedrich Smetana: Sonata in one movement
  Allegro energico in E minor
  Allegro Moderato in C mayor

Rondo in C, Mladì (1849), and Sonata in E minor in one Movement (1851) were composed by Bedrich Smetana during the years 1846-56 of what was perhaps his darkest and most difficult period. The year 1846 saw three important formative experiences: the acquaintance with Robert Schumann and Clara, the direct impact with the transcendental virtuosity of Liszt, and the symphonies of Hector Berlioz. These three encounters caused the young Smetana to meditate over his own musical career. His work as music teacher with count Leopold Thun, carried on for two years, isolated from the rest of world in Ronsperg castle near the Giant Mountains, became unbearable. In 1847, after a successful tour as a piano soloist, he realized that not even a concert career was what he really wanted. Hence he convinced himself that the road to follow should be to start his own music school at Prague, along the lines of that of his teacher, Joseph Proksch. However, unable to finance this project alone, on 23 March 1848 he wrote a desperate letter to Liszt requesting a loan to open the musical institute at Prague. In April the outbreak of an uprising for the independence of Bohemia forced Smetana to set aside the project (he too supported the revolt by composing marches, songs, anthems and overtures for the rebels). When the last signs of revolt ended, on 8 August he finally managed to open the new 'Lehr-Institut im Pianoforte-Spiele'. Within a few months the number of students had grown considerably; the school was also becoming increasingly popular with Prague's upper middle classes. Considerable admiration was aroused above all with the studentsí concerts for their high artistic level. For these concerts, Smetana himself arranged famous orchestral scores for 2 or 4 pianos in order to involve the greatest possible number of students. He also composed several original pieces, including the Rondo in C and Sonata in E minor. Rondo in C bears the title Mladì (youth). In effect, it is bright and carefree music full of inner grace, and springs forth like clear, fresh water. These qualities, together with the great care with which it is finished, earned it the nickname of Mozart-Rondo. The subject, acting as a refrain, consists of a playful and rather bold part followed by a nimble and flowing answer (winking syncopation - galloping dactyl rhythms). In the intermediate sections, with their repeats of the first subject, the contrapuntal interplay becomes involves, but not excessively, and at times thanks to the intervention of a fragment of folk melody or an unexpected harmonic change, the mood becomes tinged with particular flavours, then suddenly, just for a moment, new suggestive scenarios open up. Allegro energico, the only Movement making up Sonata in E minor, takes on a broader structural plan, as boldly heralded by the initial impelling arpeggios. The structure is that of the classic sonata form: exposition-development-recapitulation-coda. The exposition section contains practically three subjects instead of the usual two. In effect, the initial arpeggios should only act as an introductory passage. However, once in view they stay and enter more than expected; to the point of taking on the lead role 'off the script'. The first subject, with its less lively character and popularizing movements vaguely recalling a dance, struggles to depends itself from such impetuosity and just manages to make way. The second subject (two repeated notes followed by a short descending run with a '4 short + 1 long' rhythmic motif repeated constantly in the background), however, finds its space easily and naturally. The development, introduced by a series of dramatic modulations, proceeds in a brilliant manner, with a certain heroic halo, but without rhetoric abundance. The protagonist is above all the first subject, which eventually comes through in all its charm, on the highly lyrical long, arpeggiated tremolos. This is a fantasy-digression in typical orchestral style; a foretaste of the symphonic style of his last years. After a triumphant recapitulation, the Sonata is sealed by a short but shining Coda prepared in an effective manner by changing harmonic colours recalling distant memories, lost in time and space.

Angelo Chiarle


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