Saturday, January 27, 2018, 8 pm
 at Jordan Hall


Pi-Hsien Chen 陳必先, pianist






~ Program ~

W. A. Mozart  : Fantasie c-Minor KV 475
W. A. Mozart : Sonata c-Minor KV 457
Molto Allegro
Allegro assai

Arnold Schoenberg : Five pieces, Op. 23

Pierre Boulez :   Third Sonata
Formant 2: Texte - Parenthèse - Commentaire - Glose
Constellation Miroir

~ intermission ~

Lei Liang
梁雷 : My Windows 我的窗
 Tian (Heaven)
 The seven Rays of the Sun
 Pausing, Awaiting the Wind to Rise

Franz Schubert : Sonata E-flat Major D 568
Allegro moderato
Andante molto
Menuetto Allegretto
Allegro moderato


David Moran -
“Mozart’s Fantasy K.475 combined into the K.457 Sonata creates gripping C-minor
melodrama, ... it was an effective start.”

Lee Eiseman
“Walking unceremoniously to the piano with such little apparent diva attitude that her first offering,
Mozart’s dark Fantasia in C Minor KV475, completely surprised us with waves to terror as if from
the Commendatore’s burning hand. She grabbed us and would not let go.”

photos: Chuze Chou, Esther Ning Yau, Julia Chia Li, Cathy Chan

Program Notes - Pi-Hsien Chen
All program except the piece by Mr. Lei Liang (notes).

In 1784, two years after his marriage, Mozart started compiling a list of his works
("Verzeichnis aller meiner Werke"), recording the date of each piece with an incipit.

He regarded the Quintet for Piano and Wind Instruments KV 452 as "the best work I have com-posed in this year”. After encountering the music of Christoph Willibald Gluck, Mozart was in-spired to write variations based on a theme by Gluck. This was a time in his life when he was quite content. The Piano Concerto KV 456 in B
b major expresses a playful happiness; he wrote this concerto just before the Sonata in C minor KV 457 included in the program today. This so-nata starts dramatically: phrases going up and down with strong contrasts. All repetitions must be observed – the piece is like a long race that cannot be restrained!

The second movement is in E
b major, a key Mozart often uses for peaceful and consoling music. The themes are presented with slight ornamental variations. The restless third movement makes me feel as if I were seeking, questioning, hesitating, and searching in the silence created by the sudden pauses.

Eight months later (during which the piano concertos KV 459 and the famous KV 466 were composed), Mozart composed the Fantasie KV 475, which is not only an introduction to the C minor sonata, it tells the whole story of contradictions between hardness and gentleness, doubt and confidence, desperation and hope through its shifting and clearly differentiated moods.

Each one of the five pieces of Schoenberg's Op. 23 is a character piece; each one tells a little story (during this period – 1920 to 1923 – Schoenberg was also working on his Suite Op. 25). The pieces are:
1. Sehr Langsam - Very Slow
2. Sehr Rasch - Very Fast
3. Langsam - Slow
4. Schwungvoll - Lively
5. Walzer - Waltz
Schoenberg was an autodidact, who oriented himself first to Brahms and also made music in Viennese salons with the violinist Fritz Kreisler and other friends.

Expression was of the utmost importance to Schoenberg. He taught his students always to take seriously their own sense of expression, just as he did. We can recognize the style of the self-portraits he painted of himself in the Viennese spirit of the time. The technique of using twelve tones was a necessity for the precise expression of his meaning. The fifth piece, "Walzer", is the first instance where he used a twelve-tone row.

In the fifties, Pierre Boulez wrote, "Schoenberg is dead!" What did he mean? He was indicat-ing that composers were already searching for new compositional procedures beyond Schoen-berg's ideas. In Darmstadt in 1949, Olivier Messiaen had demonstrated the serial organization of pitches, durations, dynamics, and articulations in his piano etude "Mode de valeurs et d'intensités". John Cage was also already engaged with the Chinese I-Ching and seriously influ-encing young composers with his ideas. Cage gave Joyce's Ulysses to Boulez: their profound friendship is documented in their letters.

Boulez found relationships between Chinese philosophy and the poems of the French writer Stéphane Mallarmé, particularly (Un coup de dés) . Five movements were planned for Boulez’s Third Sonata (1955-1956), but only the second and third “Formants” (as he called the move-ments) were finished and published.

The idea was to create a piece without fixing its beginning and end: to give players the chance to make decisions themselves.

The order of the four pieces within the second Formant, TROPE, can be chosen by the pianist. The third Formant, MIROIR, is notated like a painting on one large sheet of paper. The music is notated using green and red patterns: green is for individual pitches, red is for chords. Special sounds are created by depressing the piano keys silently and suspending their dampers through the use of the middle sostenuto pedal. These strings are then made to sound through vibrations produced when other keys are played normally. In MIROIR, different combinations of the indi-cated musical patterns are possible.

Franz Schubert composed his Sonata D 568, along with drafts for other pieces, in June of 1817. For a brief period of nine months, he lived with his friend Franz von Schober, where he was unusually untroubled, without money worries, and not burdened with school duties for his father. Months before, he had set several Goethe poems (“Heidenröslein”, “Wanderers Nachtlied”, and the “Erlkönig”) and sent them to the famous poet, who returned the songs with-out comment. The Eb major Sonata was originally written in Db major, but Schubert transposed the entire Sonata up into Eb after the publisher told him a piece with so many accidentals would difficult to sell.

Schubert knew that composing was his calling and that he must hurry to dedicate himself to his task – he was aware that his time was limited. Wandering was a constant motif, going from one place to another; even with friends he was lonely – there always had to be a farewell.
In a letter to Leopold Kupelwieser, Schubert wrote in 1824, “… in a word, I feel I am the most unlucky, miserable person in the world … think of someone whose health will never be right again … who out of despair over the situation always makes things worse instead of better … whose shining hopes have come to nothing, to whom the happiness of love and friendship offers nothing more than pain ….”

Notes on the Program
by: Jannie Burdeti (DMA candidate at the Peabody Conservatory of Music)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Fantasia in C minor, K. 475; Sonata in C minor, K. 457

In 1781, after multiple attempts and complications, Mozart finally succeeded in leaving his position with the Archbishop of Salzburg and moved to Vienna to work as a freelance composer. According to musicologist Stanley Sadie, it was not long afterwards that he "had established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna.” Moreover, Mozart's ability as an improviser was unsurpassed. In 1785, Johann Friedrich Schink writes:

“And his improvisations, what a wealth of ideas! What variety! What contrasts in passionate sounds! One swims away with him unresistingly on the stream of his emotions.”

Though Schink's reaction is not directly attributed to this Fantasia, how apt it certainly would be. This work, presented in six contrasting sections, begins with a solemn melodic line in octaves. While its chromatic underpinnings recall the character of Bach’s Musical Offering, its drama certainly foreshadows Beethoven’s “C minor mood.” Mozart is able to provoke a sense of inevitability with his use of contrasting ranges, silences, and a descending chromatic bass line. What follows is an oasis of D major, but the moment is short-lived. A dark and stormy passage is soon unleashed with fast tremolos in the right hand. Mozart eloquently and masterfully ties together all the vacillating emotions and wandering keys with a recapitulation of the opening section.

The beginning of the Sonata parallels very much the Fantasia in both its use of stark octaves, as well as the corresponding “sighing” gestures, harmonized and contrasting in register. As a predecessor to his Piano Concerto in C minor, the Sonata holds many similarities beyond its obvious key, drama, and chromaticism. The first movement's brief development is followed by a recapitulation and a coda restating the opening theme in imitation between the two hands.

The second movement introduces a serene theme with a number of elaborate variations. In the middle, there is an A-flat major section which clearly shares similarities in terms of melodic line, range, and expression with the famous middle movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata.

According to scholar William Kinderman, the last movement
Allegro assai is marked with more extreme contrasts than any other movement in Mozart’s sonatas, perhaps not unlike the mercurial moods of the corresponding Fantasia in C minor. The movement opens with a breathless melody marked by syncopations and followed by an alternation between tutti, fanfare-like music and a solo, quiet response. In the last return of the main theme, Mozart writes rests and fermatas between each phrase, writing a piacere (as the performer pleases). The coda quite incredibly includes the main theme of the Fantasia (C-Eb-F#-G-Ab) as a culminating line.

While the Fantasia and Sonata can stand alone (and it is known that Mozart sometimes performed them separately), this culminating line at the end of the sonata clearly demonstrates its coherence. Moreover, Robert Levin, Katalin Komlos, and others have noted that the destabilization of the ending of the Fantasie, namely the deceptive cadence four measures from the end, as well as the large outburst in the last measure, creates the perfect conditions for the Sonata to follow. Musicologist Mario Mercado alludes to the pairing of the two pieces as being a Classical analogy to the baroque Fantasy and Fugue; the fantasy brings about improvisation and freedom that contrasts with the well-known structure of the sonata.

Arnold Schoenberg: Five Piano Pieces Op. 23

Perhaps no other composer in the twentieth-century shaped the future of classical music as much as Schoenberg did with his approach to composition. The composer, mostly self-taught, saw himself as the direct heir to Brahms and Wagner’s legacy but felt he could not express himself the way he wished with the traditional means available. Since the beginning of the century, Schoenberg had been exploring new grounds and experimenting with expanding tonality. The highly chromatic lines and lack of key signatures of his String Quartet No. 2 (1908) already marked a departure from tonality to a chromatic expressionism, lacking a tonal center. The creation of his groundbreaking method of composing called “twelve-tone technique” came at the height of these experiments in the early 1920’s. Between 1920 and 1923, Schoenberg was occupied with shorter pieces, including Five Piano Pieces, Op. 23, Serenade, Op. 24, and his Suite for Piano, Op. 25 (his first forays into purely twelve-tone writing where the entire series of twelve notes are repeated only after the whole set has been heard).

Op. 23 contains five distinctly different pieces and lasts a total of roughly ten minutes. The lyrical expressivity of the first piece masquerades a sense of humor which become more apparent in the later pieces. Additionally, Schoenberg makes use of his “developing variations” technique borrowed from Brahms. This can be heard in the return of the theme: as the pitches remain the same, the rhythms, the shape, and the tessitura all vary. The second piece has often been described by scholars as being in sonata form. The third piece of the set is sometimes referred to as a fugue and making use of the variation technique with a series of five tones.The fourth piece hints at dance whereas the last piece is the only fully serial piece in the set, which he labels a waltz. According to musicologist Johanna Frymoyer’s recent article, “The Musical Topic in the Twentieth Century: A Case Study of Schoenberg’s Ironic Waltzes,” there is a constant dissonance between form and content in the fifth piece.

Pierre Boulez: Piano Sonata No. 3
  Formant II – Trope – Texte
  Formant II – Trope – Parenthèse
  Formant II – Trope – Commentaire
  Formant II – Trope – Glose
  Formant III – Constellation Mirroir

After composing his first two piano sonatas in 1946 and 1948, Boulez went on a piano-writing hiatus, focusing his compositional efforts on orchestra, string quartet and voice. His interest in writing for piano however, was renewed after hearing Stockhausen's first four Klavierstücke. The two composers had numerous discussions about the piano and how they could apply their ideas to the instrument. Boulez, who was quite familiar with French literature and with the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé rooted one of his ideas in the poet's work. Inspired by the line, "un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard" (a throw of the dice will never abolish chance), Boulez took the concept of chance and decided to apply aleatoric elements to the structure of his Third Piano Sonata, allowing the performer to build his own form by assembling pieces together like lego blocks. In literature and more specifically Mallarme's 1885 poem, this type of “open-form” functioned in a similar fashion where all the possible outcomes were written down and the performer had to make some formal choices about the order of the text. The goal was to have a work that was familiar upon each hearing, yet renewing itself every performance.

Early on in the compositional process, Boulez settled on organizing his piece into five movements: a central one that would be preceded and followed by two movements. However, since the term “movement” had implied associations with rigid classical forms, he decided to label them “formant” to emphasize the open-ended structure. In physics, at a given frequency, “formants” represent the partials of a sound at their strongest and are responsible for the tone qualities of a sound. Analogous to the functionality of formants for sound, Boulez saw the structure of his work as a result of unfolding elements that derived from one initial structure being constantly renewed.

Boulez premiered the piece in 1958 in Cologne with a repeat the following year in Darmstadt, but was not fully satisfied with some of the formants. Over the next few years up until 1963, he made changes and elaborations to the piece but only two complete formants (i.e., Trope and Constellation-Mirroir) out the five (i.e, Antinomie, Trope, Constellation-Mirroir, Strophe, Sequence) were published.

In the second formant, Trope, the performer is given four sections labeled (Parenthese, Commentaire, Glose and Texte) and given the choice of their order without being allowed to repeat any of them.

With the third formant, “Constellation-Mirroir” Boulez takes on a slightly different approach to structure. The music fragments that formed Constellation-Mirroir are separated on multiple pages carefully labeled either “points” or “blocs” depending on their structural role. The “blocs” and “points” are to be played in alternation, with “blocs” being a selection that could work as an even number selection and “points” as an odd number selection.

The other three incomplete formants exist in various form and stages but are not usually performed and considered unfinished. The third most complete formant is called “Antiphonie.” The fourth formant, “Strophe” has never been published and is the least developed of all formants. Finally, the fifth formant, “Sequence” exists in facsimile form based on the manuscript. Boulez also envisioned additional formal complexity on the larger scale that would arise in a complete performance setting by allowing to interchange the order of some of the formants.

Boulez's unfinished third sonata is like a window into his life's work. It was not uncommon for the composer to continually revise his pieces over the course of his life. For Boulez, a piece or work of art that had meaning was ever expanding, always in progress or in other words, infinite.

Schubert Sonata: E-flat Major, D. 568

The year 1815 marked a great outpouring of creativity from Franz Schubert. Like Mozart, Schubert had recently seized the opportunity to give up his job (teaching, which he quite disliked) in order to spend all his time as a freelance composer. The composer accepted an invitation to live at the home of a wealthy lady, who’s son was Franz von Schober, an aristocrat of many talents. At this time, there was an ever-increasing demand for piano music to be played by the general public in their homes and it thus meant that there was a higher chance to turn in some profit. As such, 1817 saw the output of six piano sonatas. Among the more successful of the six works was the Piano Sonata in D-flat major, D. 567 presented in three movements with the third movement being but a mere fragment. Schubert must have felt the potential of the sonata and reworked it into another sonata almost a decade later in 1826. The composer added a fourth movement, slightly embellished some of the phrases, and transposed the piece to Eb, although the piece was published posthumously (in fact, only three piano sonatas were published during his lifetime). The Eb major Sonata features four movements all in E-flat major except for the second movement in G minor.

The first movement begins with a Mozartean gesture, characterized by a melody outlining a chord. It begins in unison and Allegro moderato not unlike a number of his other sonatas. The textures are lean and the music exudes a Viennese elegance. The second theme is ländler-like, reminiscent of the Austrian folk-dance. The revised version of the first movement has an extended development, while the recapitulation is also elaborated.

According to pianist Vladimir Feltsman, the theme of the Andante is the predecessor to his Arpeggione Sonata. It was transposed into G minor from C-sharp minor and is in A-B-A-B-A form.

During Schubert’s transpositions, he added a charming scherzo movement and trio, the latter which he would reuse in the middle of his Scherzo D. 593 #2 as noted by Feltsman.

The Allegro moderato finale architecturally counterbalances the first movement in both length and scope. The opening statement is a reworking of the theme from the beginning of the sonata. A flow of sixteenth-notes that traverse the entire movement lends itself to modulations and themes of graciousness, agitation, and ultimately contentment. To the keen listener, one hears references to his Impromptu D. 935, No. 3 as well as runs that find origin from the last movement of his “small” A major sonata, D. 664.


Program Notes - Lei Liang 梁雷

My Windows

  1. Tian (heaven)
  2. Seven Rays of the Sun 光波
  3. Magma 焰戲
  4. Pausing, Awaiting the Wind to Rise… 佇聽風聲起
“Tian” (heaven) is the first of six interludes in my earlier piano piece, Garden Eight (1996-2004). It consists of six relative durations and six pitches that are each permutated six times.

“Seven Rays of the Sun” (2007) was inspired by an image in the Naimittika pralaya in Vishnu Purana: after the suns burn up the three worlds, a hundred years of rain pours down to envelop the worlds in one ocean. In the last section of the piece, I imagine the mysterious rays of light sinking into the deep seas while Vishnu sleeps on the waters.

In the opening section of “Magma,” (2007) the right hand plays mostly on the black keys, while the left hand plays on the white keys. This division is dissolved in the second section where the music builds up to an explosive ending.

“Pausing, Awaiting the Wind to Rise…” (2002) is based on the first movement “Tian.” It is a reflection of the sound I encountered while strolling in the woods.

My Windows is dedicated to my wife Takae.

-- Lei Liang


Pi-hsien Chen
,  陳必先 pianist

Pi-hsien Chen was born in Taipei in 1950. When she was nine, she left Taiwan and one year later entered the University of Music in Cologne, Germany. She grew up in the home of her teacher, Hans-Otto Schmidt-Neuhaus, who was also the teacher of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Christoph Eschenbach, and Péter Eötvös. She later studied with Hans Leygraf and also with Wilhelm Kempff, Claudio Arrau, Geza Anda, and Tatjana Nikolajewa. In 1972, her carrier as pianist began when she won the First Prize at the International ARD Competition in Munich. Her special interest in Schoenberg and Bach also enabled her to win the Arnold Schoenberg Competition in Rotterdam and the Bach Competition in Washington, D.C.

She has performed in most of the major concert halls and with many of the world’s major orchestras, particularly almost every orchestra within the German radio system. Among the orchestras with whom she has appeared are the Royal Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the BBC Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and Tonhalle Orchestra, as well as the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo. She has also been a partner in the Asko Ensemble in Amsterdam, Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, and Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris.

She has appeared in the festivals in Lucerne, Schwetzingen, Hong Kong, and Osaka, as well as the Berliner Festspiele, the Wien Modern festival, the Festival d’Autumne in Paris, the Strasbourg Festival, the South Bank Festival in London, the Huddersfield Festival, the BBC Proms, the Ruhr Piano Festival, and the festival in Roque d'Antéron. She represented German music at EXPO 2000 in Hanover, appearing with Alfons Kontarsky. She has been a frequent guest at the Donaueschingen Festival, and was one of six piano soloists in the world premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas's limited approximations in 2010.

Her dedication to new piano music evolved out of her collaboration with composers such as John Cage, Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Kurtág, John Patrick Thomas, and Péter Eötvös, to whom she was married. An IRCAM documentary film by Walter Schels shows Boulez assisting Pi-hsien Chen as she prepares for the world premiere of his Douze Notations. In "Black and White", a documentary film about Elliott Carter, Pi-hsien Chen is the pianist in his Double Concerto for Harpsichord & Piano and Two Chamber Orchestras.

She was a professor specializing in contemporary piano music at the Universities of Music in Cologne and Freiburg. She has taught and performed at the "International Summer Courses” in Darmstadt, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and the Chinese Foundation for Performing Arts Summer Music Festival in Boston. The documentary film "Himmel voller Geigen" (shown on the German/French arts channel ARTE in 2014) examines Pi-hsien Chen’s role as a pioneer in Taiwan's musical life.

Her recordings include:

J.S.Bach Goldberg Variations (Naxos), Six Partitas (JazzWerkstatt)
  "The Art of the Fugue" (Feldgen)
Jean Barraqué Sonata (Telos)
John Patrick Thomas "Lost Landscapes" (Emrick Music)
W.A. Mozart Complete Sonatas and other Variations and Piano Pieces (6 CDs for Sunrise)
A. Schoenberg Complete Piano Music (Hat[now]Art)
O. Messiaen "Harawi" with Sigune von Osten, soprano (JazzWerkstatt)
Pierre Boulez Complete Sonatas and Notations (Hat[now]Art)
Pierre Boulez
John Cage
Structures I & II and
"Music For Piano" with Ian Pace
John Cage
Domenico Scarlatti
"Music of Changes" and
Nine Sonatas of Scarlatti 
Klavierstücke I-Vl and
Sonatas Op. 101 and Op. 111 
Xiaoyong Chen "Invisible Landscapes" (Radio Bremen)
York Hoeller Piano Works   (EDA)
Lei Liang "Tremors of a Memory Chord" (Naxos)
A newly released box set with live recordings of five recitals in Cologne’s Kolumba Museum (February-July 2017) (Telos)


"Chen creates a masterful "Art of the Fugue". (Richard Buell, Boston Globe)

"...Ms Chen's recording of Jean Barraqué's Sonata is remarkable. She takes a sparkling, crystalline view of the music in a way that brings it near the music of Barraqué's principal French contemporary, Pierre Boulez...." (Paul Griffiths, The New York Times)

"...Pi-hsien Chen's opening to Beethoven's Bagatelles announced that the audience would be treated to musical universes that were clear and clean, contained and carefully considered and phrased…. In the carefully curated and bigger-scope-than-normal Scarlatti sonatas, Chen wielded a rich palette while expressing an enlightening variety of characters, lines, and moods within each sonata (which makes me think her Mozart might be special)....", 2004

"...Pi-hsien Chen interleaves the four books of the Music of Changes with nine Scarlatti keyboard sonatas.... The juxtaposition works wonderfully with the irregular multilayered sound masses of Cage's pieces. What links them here, though, is the sense of buoyancy and alertness that characterises all of Chen's playing... " (Andrew

Clements, The Guardian, U.K.)

“Pi-hsien Chen's playing was strikingly colorful and exciting, and the duo with Nicholas Kitchen played Mozart's Sonata with real Mozartian elegance....” 2016

“... Beethoven’s late works, with their startling degree of subjectivity, form a fascinating contrast to Stockhausen’s impersonal, coolly constructed world. One reason this functions without problem is because Pi-hsien Chen possesses a remarkable ability to inhabit both of these worlds. Unexpected contrasts take place; above all, the transition from Op. 101 to Klavierstück V is sensational. Everything fits, even better than in Pollini’s version….” (Max Nyffeler, NMZ, Schott Phono)

Lei Liang 梁雷

Chinese-born American composer Lei Liang is the winner of the Rome Prize, the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Koussevitzky Foundation Commission, two National Endowment for the Arts grants and a Creative Capital Award. His concerto for saxophone and orchestra “Xiaoxiang” was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2015.

Lei Liang was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert for the inaugural concert of the CONTACT! new music series. Other commissions and performances come from the Fromm Music Foundation, Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Taipei Chinese Orchestra, among others. Lei Liang’s six portrait discs are released on Naxos, New World, Mode, and Bridge Records. He edited and co-edited four books and editions, and published more than twenty articles.

Lei Liang studied composition with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Robert Cogan, Chaya Czernowin and Mario Davidovsky, and received degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music (B.M. and M.M.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.). Lei Liang serves as professor of music and chair of the composition area at the University of California, San Diego. His catalogue of more than seventy compositions is published exclusively by Schott Music Corporation (New York).


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