(‘Preludes and Interludes’ CD review, June 2009, GRAMOPHONE)
This year Graham Caskie will release a new CD recording comprising the Chopin E minor Concerto with the Badke String Quartet and the Chopin Cello Sonata with Thomas Carroll. This recording will be available on the Cadenza label. Caskie’s first recording for Cadenza was the critically acclaimed CD, Preludes and Interludes, for which composer Stephen Goss was commissioned to write nine Interludes, designed to be played amongst the Twelve Debussy Preludes, Book One.
Particularly renowned for his interpretations of the piano music of Debussy, Ravel, Brahms and Schubert, Graham Caskie is also a keen advocate of contemporary music; his first CD recording in 1993 for the Metier label included the Tippett Third Sonata, a work which he had previously studied with the composer. Current chamber music partnerships include a duo with cellist Thomas Carroll, introducing into their programmes new works specially written for them by Stephen Goss; the Orpheus Foundation has commissioned Stephen Goss to write a Concerto for Piano, Cello, Saxaphone and Double Bass) which will be premiered this July in London at Cadogan Hall. Several of Graham Caskie’s recitals last year celebrated the piano music of Debussy, including performing both Books of Preludes; this year he turns his attention to the piano music of Brahms, in particular the late pieces, op.116, op.117, op.118 and op.119.
Graham Caskie was born in Darlington in 1967, and studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire and Royal Academy of Music under Frank Wibaut, Hamish Milne and Alexander Kelly. Graham currently teaches at The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Chetham’s School of Music.
Arresting, thoughtful and energetic
THE SUNDAY TIMES
Stunning playing, both technically and interpretively... a masterclass in pedaling
Sensitive and evocative performance… an intriguing, impressively realised idea
Thomas Carroll, cello; Graham Caskie, piano
Please click on the following links for some recently posted youtube videos, featuring Graham Caskie and Thomas Carroll, cello...
A collaboration with composer Stephen Goss...
Notes from Stephen Goss
Gymnopedies after Erik Satie (2010) – Stephen Goss
Nocturne in Blue and Silver
Preludes and Interludes Recording
Préludes and Interludes is a collaboration between pianist Graham Caskie, artist Brian Dunce and composer Stephen Goss. Brian Dunce has painted a performance installation of large canvases inspired by Debussy’s Préludes, Premier Livre to accompany recitals given by Graham Caskie. Stephen Goss’s Interludes, to be performed in amongst the Préludes, complement and contrast with both Brian Dunce’s paintings and Debussy’s music. Rather than being designed to stand shoulder to shoulder with Debussy’s timeless masterpieces, the paintings and interludes are intended to act more like footnotes or asides, whose function is to pay fleeting homage.
In Brian Dunce’s performance installation, the canvases themselves form the structure in a series of self-supporting units. Each canvas is six feet high and then either two feet or four feet wide. The entire installation is six feet high and fifty-four feet wide (1.83 m x 16.47 m). Thepaintings are reproduced to scale between pages 7 and 13 of this booklet. Brian Dunce’s Debussy: Préludes, Premier Livre(2007) was commissioned by the 2007Guildford International Music Festival with funds from Arts Council England. Stephen Goss’s Interludes (2008) was commissioned and funded by the R C Sherriff Trust. The first completeperformance of Préludes and Interludeswas given at Riverhouse Barn, Walton-on-Thames, 2008.
Influences and References, an introduction by artist Brian Dunce
Debussy’s music has always been closely associated with painting. However, the orbit of his influences and references extends far beyond the visual arts into literature, mythology and Far Eastern culture, as well as into children’s stories, the circus and popular music. Brian’s paintings unveil some of the sources that lie embedded in Debussy’s Préludes and offer some additional references of their own. Many of the starting points for making the paintings came from looking at the same visual sources which Debussy is thought to have admired:
 Danseuses de Delphes (Dancers of Dephi): There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that this prélude embodied Debussy’s impressions of a relief stone carving of dancers from the first century BC that was exhibited in the Louvre.
 Voiles (Sails or Veils): Brian has chosen to depict the veils of Loïe Fuller, an American dancer much admired by Debussy.
 Le vent dans la plaine (The wind on the plain): is an evocation of landscape, and
continuing the theme of movement, Brian has glued string in swirls to the canvas on
which is a faintly described image of Cézanne’s continuing motif of Mont Ste-Victoire.
 Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir (Sounds and scents turn on the evening air): is a line from Baudelaire’sHarmonie du Soir, a poem which exploressynesthesia.
 Les collines d’Anacapri (The hills of Anacapri): Brian had no visual information about this prélude but read that Debussy had seen a picture on a wine label which might have inspired the work. He plays his own visual joke by including a reference to the Titian painting Bacchus and Ariadnefrom the National Gallery, London.
 Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the snow): Brian has treated this prélude as a desolate snow scene.
 Ce qu’a vu le vent de l’ouest (What the West Wind saw): takes its title from a story by Hans Christian Anderson, The Garden of Paradise. Debussy was a great admirer of illustrated books from England and gave many to his young daughter. Brian’s painting is also a portrait of Debussy (see inside cover).
 La fille aux cheveux de lin (The girl with the flaxen hair): shares its title with a poem by Leconte de Lisle but is closer in character to Wordsworth’s The Solitary Reaper. The girl is pictured in Brian’s painting but we can’t see her face, she is distant and remote. The landscape in the painting suggests Renoir’s The Gust of Wind.
 La sérénade interrompue (The interrupted serenade): refers to Le Mezzetin, a painting by Watteau.
 La danse de Puck (Puck’s Dance): is derived from an illustration by Arthur Rackham for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
 Minstrels (Minstrels): may have been seen by Debussy in Eastbourne while he was working on La Mer. In his painting, Brian suggests that they could have been a ragtime group of street musicians.
 La cathédrale engloutie (The sunken cathedral): For Brian, this was the major work in the group so he made it the largest. The music is based on an ancient Breton myth of the sea engulfing a cathedral which reappears at dawn.
Notes on ‘Interludes’, by Stephen Goss
My Interludes draw on many of these references: highlighting some, hinting at others. Early in our discussions about the collaboration, Graham requested that I make the most of the Moorish, Andalusian flavour of Debussy’s music. He also suggested that my version of Des pas sur la neige should become a focal point in the whole programme. We had already decided with Brian that the programme would finish with La cathédrale engloutie.
Préludes and Interludes opens with The Gust of Wind  which tempers Debussy’sLe vent dans la plaine and Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest with the gentle summer breeze of Renoir’s The Gust of Wind.
I am that merry wanderer of the night  is the title of the Arthur Rackham illustration that Debussy used as a source for La danse de Puck.
The two ‘Spanish’ interludes, Colloque Sentimental  and Le Mezzetin  relate to Brian’s La sérénade interrompue canvas, which in turn, is based on Watteau’s painting Le Mezzetin. Watteau was a master of tragic irony – the pathetic guitar player in this painting is faintly absurd in his richly coloured Commedia dell’Artecostume, yet we are left in no doubt thatthe hopelessness of his love (symbolized by the cold stone statue facing away from him) has the intense pain of the loss of life itself.
The musical material for my Colloque Sentimental interlude comes from Debussy’s La Puerto del Vino (fromPréludes, Deuxième Livre) and the Le Mezzetin interlude makes subtle references to Bizet’s Carmen. In his book Images, the Piano Music of Claude Debussy, Paul Roberts conjectures that La fille aux cheveux de lin might have been inspired, at least in part, by Wordsworth’s The SolitaryReaper. “Debussy, whose identification with exotic, faraway scenes is manifested throughout the Préludes, would have found Wordsworth’s evocation of the girl’s solitary song, ‘Breaking the silence of the seas / Among the farthest Hebrides’ deeply satisfying”. The Solitary Reaper is a drastically stylised poem. Wordsworth simplifies it by omitting particularities. The girl is seen only in the bold outline of essential gesture. In the interlude Breaking the silence of the seas , I took Wordsworth’s poem as my starting point and also borrowed and adapted material from the Pastorale movement of Debussy’sSonata for flute, viola and harp to recreate the pastoral atmosphere of Brian’s La fille aux cheveux de lin painting.
The next three interludes form a triptych. Baudelaire’s pantoun Harmonie du Soir was the source for Debussy’s mysterious prélude Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir. Debussy’s music suggests the faded, half-grasped memory of a popular waltz, which comes and goes throughout the piece. In Scented Waltz, I wanted to reassemble Debussy’selusive dance and place it firmly in the foreground. The Hatter  bringsMinstrels forward to the time of Miles Davis – who is pictured in Brian’s Minstrelscanvas. Nocturne in Blue and Silver  is based on the Voiles prélude, but also extends the Miles Davis connection with a veiled reference to Bill Evans’s Blue in Green from Davis’s Kind of Blue album.
Frozen Lake (Nederland, Colorado)  was the first piece in the set that I completed. It draws on the musical material and desolate atmosphere of Debussy’s Des pas sur la neige to portray the bleak emptiness and solitude of the Rocky Mountains.
Stephen Goss © 2008
By Judith Legrove
The year-long celebrations in 2010 of the bicentenary of Chopin’s birth have encouraged reflection on his status as pianist-composer, tortured Romantic, master of the salon miniature, musical prodigy, nationalist ambassador. Such multiple mythologies continue to fascinate, while arguably masking a more nuanced reading of the composer’s work. For Poland, Chopin remains the compositional revolutionary, the virtuoso; for Paris, perhaps, the master of the salon, famous for his delicate touch. But who is the real Chopin? Can we, in 2010, claim to be any nearer a definitive reading?
If the two works on this recording may be seen as bookends to Chopin’s brief musical career, they equally delimit a frame through which to examine his shifting musical concerns. The composer of the Piano Concerto in E minor, Op. 11 was scarcely twenty years old. His letters reveal him to be fiercely nationalistic, tied to his native Poland, but ambitious to prove himself beyond its boundaries. He frequently attended the opera, had a cultivated eye for pretty singers and was acutely conscious of his own image, both in portraits and concert notices (he reportedly let his moustache grow on the right – ‘there’s no need for it on the left side, because it’s the right that faces the public’). Two concerts in Vienna in August 1829 had established his credentials as pianist, improviser and composer. His Rondo à la krakowiak was judged to contain sparks of genius in its originality; his improvisation to demonstrate his pianistic dexterity to its fullest. And although some criticism was levelled against his delicacy of touch (lacking the customary brilliance of keyboard virtuosi), he was soundly applauded as ‘one of the brightest meteors on the musical horizon’. Returning to Warsaw, Chopin kicked his heels before planning a piano concerto to relieve the dreariness. The resulting work, in F minor, Op. 21 (1829), was the composer’s first concerto to be written and performed, although the second to be published, earning it the misleading title ‘No. 2’. Realising the medium’s potency to showcase his gifts as a pianist-composer, Chopin had begun a new concerto even before the F minor concerto received its premiere in March 1830.
The genesis of the E minor concerto can be followed through the composer’s letters. By 27 March 1830, Chopin anticipated completing the opening Allegro before the end of the holidays. On 15 May he wrote, again to his friend Tytus Wojciechowski, that although he had not yet finished the Rondo finale (for which he must be ‘in the mood’), he had set the Adagio in E major:
‘It is not meant to be loud; it’s more of a romance, quiet, melancholy; it should give the impression of gazing tenderly at a place which brings to mind a thousand dear memories. It is a sort of meditation in beautiful spring weather, but by moonlight. That is why I have muted the accompaniment … [to give] a sort of nasal, silvery tone.’
By the end of August the Rondo was complete. On the advice of his composition teacher, Józef Elsner, Chopin rehearsed first with string quartet: ‘I was pleased, but not altogether; people say the finale is the best part of it, because the most comprehensible’. The experience was evidently valuable, since Chopin planned to rehearse again with chamber forces before assembling an orchestra. Yet the following days were filled with misgivings, while Chopin ran errands to make sure of music stands and mutes. He was confident that the Allegro was powerful, the Rondo effective, but he was decidedly insecure about the Adagio. When the orchestral rehearsal took place, it was at Chopin’s own home, in the presence of friends and musicians. A review in the Warsaw press judged the concerto, simply, ‘a work of genius’.
At the concerto’s premiere on 11 October, however, performance convention dictated that its movements would be interleaved with other music. Often this might mean a virtuoso or salon instrumental piece, played on violin, bassoon or clarinet; on this occasion Chopin managed to secure vocal music. Thus, the programme opened with a symphony by Görner, followed by the Allegro of Chopin’s concerto, an aria with chorus by Soliva (sung by Mlle Wolkow, ‘dressed like a cherub in sky blue’), the first half of the concert closing with the Adagio and Rondo of the concerto. Chopin’s experience of the National Theatre’s acoustic led him to choose a Viennese piano by Streicher, a light-actioned instrument with a clear tone, allowing him to ‘reel off’ the Allegro.
The concerto was received rapturously. Chopin, leaving Warsaw immediately after the premiere, continued to play the E minor concerto more frequently than its counterpart in F minor. Yet the warmth of its reception began to dim, such that oft-repeated criticism of the concerto’s orchestration, tonal plan and lack of musical development has become virtually inscribed into its reception, colouring encounters to this day, whether consciously or otherwise. Setting aside these preconceptions, however, we can rediscover the work’s conception and original performance context perhaps best through the chamber version for piano and strings.
In 1833 the score of the E minor concerto was published separately in Paris, Leipzig and London (to ensure maximum copyright protection), in piano solo format, with orchestral parts or string quintet accompaniment. Early printed sources for chamber versions of both concertos have long been considered problematic: in some places missing orchestral cues leave gaping holes in the texture, elsewhere the redistribution of melodies renders the string parts virtually unplayable. However, Chopin’s involvement in the transcription process is documented, and a close reading of the source material by Halina Goldberg has uncovered some surprising conclusions. In the first instance, the designation of ‘quartet’ was used in Chopin’s day not just to indicate four instruments, but chamber music in general and orchestral music performed by various salon-sized groups, including chamber orchestras. (A letter from one of Chopin’s publishers indicates that the wind cues in the chamber version of the E minor concerto were to facilitate performance ‘by a double quartet and bass’.) Secondly, it becomes clear that in performance Chopin expected the piano to reinforce the orchestral tuttis: thus, any material missing from the reduced string parts could be supplied from the ‘small notes’ in the piano score.
From this flexibility – as well as from Chopin’s own documented performances – we can infer that the concertos were as likely to be heard in the salon, with or without chamber strings, as in a larger hall with orchestra and winds, a realisation which, furthermore, may well have coloured decisions during composition. At any rate, we are left both with an enhanced recognition of the status of the concertos’ chamber versions and with their ability to repudiate questions of balance, orchestration and texture. Detailing the various performance possibilities, Goldberg describes the keyboard as the ‘binding glue’ in the texture, restoring any harmonic or motivic material which is lacking. Viewed differently, the chamber version lays bare the sheer beauty of the piano writing; the suppleness of its interchanges with solo or doubled strings increased by intimacy. George Sand memorably described Chopin as making ‘a single instrument speak a language of infinity’. The concerto’s sublime handling of line reminds us of Chopin’s early immersion in the sound world of opera, where melody unfolds as narrative across time, and where performance is all-important.
The placing of the Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 65, fifteen years after the piano concerto but barely four years before the composer’s death, encourages an assessment of it as a ‘late’ work, although given Chopin’s age of thirty-five this is somewhat misleading. The sonata has also been read as autobiographical, reflecting the turmoil and torpor induced by his deteriorating relationship with George Sand. What is certain, however, is that Chopin’s musical concerns were radically different from those which fostered the concerto. He had developed a heightened interest in counterpoint, studying treatises by Cherubini and Kastner. With the exception of a handful of exercises, these studies were not overtly incorporated into his music. (Chopin had Bach’s Preludes and Fugues beside him while composing his own twenty-four Preludes in 1838–9, but resisted any temptation to add fugues.) Rather, Chopin’s preoccupations manifested themselves in an increased sensitivity to line, and to counterpoint as implied by the internal movement of harmonies.
Having worked on the cello sonata throughout 1845, by December Chopin had still not completed it, despite numerous drafts, sketches and reworkings. Almost a year later he wrote to his parents, ‘I play a little, I write a little. Sometimes I am satisfied with my violoncello sonata, sometimes not. I throw it in the corner, then take it up again.’ The work, completed in 1846, did not receive its premiere until February 1848, and then not in its entirety. Chopin had been engaged for a recital at Pleyel’s rooms in Paris. He was by this date extremely nervous of performing, but was assured that he need only play: that the venue would be decorated with flowers and that he would meet few but familiar faces. Pleyel even sent Chopin the piano in advance so that he could familiarise himself with it, although, cruelly, an attack of ’flu prevented him from practising. On the night, Chopin decided not to play the sonata’s first movement. He barely managed the first half of the concert (a Mozart piano trio and his own piano pieces), before needing to rest. The second half opened with the Scherzo, Adagio and Finale of the cello sonata, played with the work’s dedicatee, Auguste Franchomme. It would be Chopin’s only performance of the work.
A review described the sonata tersely as ‘gorgeous’. But what had impelled the decision to withhold its first movement? Anatole Leikin suggests a personal motive: that in the first movement Chopin had drawn heavily on Schubert’s Winterreise to reflect the pain of his break with George Sand, and that the Parisian audience might detect and mock such a reference. This argument seems musically unconvincing, and it may be that Chopin was simply not yet content with the movement’s form.
As published, however, Chopin’s cello sonata presents a highly individual approach to structure, building upon his piano sonatas in B flat minor (1837) and B minor (1844) by adjusting the traditional placing, development and recapitulation of themes. The concentrated Adagio balances the outer movements in intensity rather than length. Here, as elsewhere, counterpoint is paramount, but counterpoint in the sense illuminated by an exchange with the painter Eugène Delacroix in April 1849. Explaining Mozart’s superiority to Beethoven, Chopin stated,
‘Each part has its own movement which, although it harmonizes with the rest, makes its own song and follows it perfectly. This is what is meant by counterpoint, punto contrapunto.’
In Chopin’s music, and in the cello sonata’s Adagio in particular, the counterpoint is neither abstruse nor intrusive, making itself felt, through performance, in the subtle interplay and movement of the inner parts. Chopin’s preference for softer, more lyrical pianos matches this concern, allowing these inner voices to sustain their own ‘song’, as well as to bridge from one section to the next.
It seems clear that new research can alter our perception of works previously neglected: that a deeper understanding of source materials and performance context can rebalance once-critiqued elements of texture and form. In this process, the relocation of performance to a position of centrality is vital. Performances – or recordings – of chamber versions of Chopin’s orchestral works return them to their original milieu, in a format practical for disseminating the music to a wider audience. They also allow us to reconsider the music in the more intimate salon context preferred by Chopin for his own performances. Perhaps, above all, they open a dialogue with ‘true’ chamber works such as the cello sonata, encouraging a new hearing of both.
 Chopin, letter to his family (July 1831), Chopin’s Letters(Dover, 1988), 146.
 Der Sammler, Vienna (29 August 1829).
 Chopin, letter to Tytus Wojciechowski (15 May 1830),Chopin’s Letters, 88–9.
 Chopin, letter to Wojciechowski (18 September 1830),Chopin’s Letters, 103.
 Powszechny Dziennik Krajowy, Warsaw (24 September 1830), in W. Atwood, Fryderyk Chopin (Columbia University Press, 1987), 216.
 Halina Goldberg, ‘Chamber Arrangements of Chopin’s Concert Works’, The Journal of Musicology, XIX/1 (Winter 2002).
 George Sand, Story of My Life (State University of New York Press, 1991), 1092.
 Chopin to his parents (11 October 1846), Chopin’s Letters, 311.
 Anatole Leikin, ‘The sonatas’, The Cambridge Companion to Chopin, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge University Press, 1992), 187.
 The Journal of Eugène Delacroix (Phaidon, 1951), 96.