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Sitt: Works For Viola & Piano

Sitt: Works For Viola & Piano

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Prague-born, Hans Sitt (1850–1922) enjoyed a decades-long career as a conductor, pedagogue, violinist, composer, editor, and arranger in France and Germany. As with his arrangements, which include the complete Beethoven and Schumann symphonies for violin and piano, many of Sitt’s original compositions were written to benefit students and amateurs. These compositions, firmly rooted in the German Romantic tradition, were praised for their pleasing melodies and solid craftsmanship.

Perhaps Sitt’s most progressive compositional approach was in his treatment of the viola as a solo instrument. After decades of neglect by both performers and composers, the viola began to see stirrings of life toward the end of the nineteenth century, and Sitt made valuable contributions to the instrument’s revival.

Composed with an accompaniment for orchestra or piano, the Romance, Op. 72, differs from his earlier works with orchestral accompaniment—the Concertstück and Viola Concerto—both of which rely more heavily on virtuosic devices. Here, lyricism reigns supreme, with the inherently vocal nature of the viola fully on display.

The set of three Fantasiestücke, op. 58 (1894)  is serious in tone and harmonically complex with each movement displaying a high degree of chromaticism.

Given its origin as a piece for solo violin, it is not surprising that the Romanze, Op. 102/1, makes extended use of the viola’s upper register. The work also features fancy passagework of sixteenth notes, a favorite virtuosic device of Sitt’s.

The opening Elegie of the 3 Morceaux, Op. 75, in the somber key of F minor, turns to the major mode in the piece’s concluding moments. After a serene opening, Rêverie is disrupted by a stormier middle section, though the viola soon returns to its dreamlike musings. As a further study in contrasts, the concluding Barcarole starts off in rather turbulent manner (set in the key of G minor) before finally encountering calm waters.

The Gavotte and Mazurka, Op. 132, as the final works that Sitt composed for viola, these lighthearted dance movements demonstrate his skill at writing music in diverse styles and for different markets.

His admiration for his predecessors (notably Schumann) can be heard throughout the Albumblätter, op. 39, as he presents charming scenes of great beauty (No. 1), wistfulness (No. 2), and melancholy (No. 5). The contrasting sections of the third piece (No. 3) are suggestive of his Czech heritage, while the rhythmic complexities of the following piece (No. 4) provide variety and disorient the listener. In the final movement (No. 6), the viola’s opening whirlwind of eighth notes gives way to a 'dolce' middle section (with the eighth notes transferred to the piano) before returning to the dramatic opening material. Sitt forgoes a flashy ending by reining things in during the final eight measures, coyly returning to music from the middle section.

One of Sitt’s most enduring compositions is also among his most virtuosic concert works, the Concertstück, op. 46 (1892). Taken together with his Viola Concerto, Op. 68, these works feature beautiful cantilena lines, effective use of the viola’s various registers, and minimal use of double stops, and would have have been well suited to amateurs and students alike.

Ann Marie Brink has served as Associate Principal Viola of the Dallas Symphony for two decades. Pianist Marta Aznavoorian is known for her inspiringly spirited playing and vast emotional reach.

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    • UPC/Barcode: 044747395128
    • Item Number: CRC3951