Allegro agitato – Andante – Scherzo – Finale: Allegro
The Russian composer Leokadiya Kashperova is currently enjoying a resurgence of interest after more than a century of neglect. She was born in 1872 and, to commemorate the occasion of her 150th Jubilee, a new Edition of her music has been published enabling performers – and audiences – to access her rarely-heard, thoroughly Romantic, music for the first time.
Since her death in 1940 Kashperova’s achievements have been forgotten by musical history, even in her native Russia. The Piano Trio in A minor was only discovered in 2019, its pencil manuscript requiring much editorial input before it could be published. The work was given its first broadcast in 2020, in a BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert from St David’s Hall in Cardiff, by the Gould Piano Trio – who had contributed significantly to the work’s restoration – followed by concert performances including at the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival.
The Trio’s opening Allegro agitato communicates a tremendous sense of drama to the listener: it is as if Kashperova, in that harsh decade of the 1930s, shared her compatriots’ anxieties and hardships. Yet, the music’s lyrical, yearning melodies also suggest that Kashperova wished to give her fearless emotions full expression.
The Andante presents an exceptionally delicate and graceful ensemble, its melodies gliding between the instruments in an endlessly weaving, sometimes agonizingly tender, procession. The ensuing Scherzo, a movement at which Kashperova excelled, presents a dazzling example of her technical agility and that infectious sense of humour for which she was well renowned.
The Finale returns to engage courageously with the turbulence of the composer’s final years. More than ever, it seems, Kashperova was determined to complete one last major composition - even though there was no hope of performance. The principle theme is a quotation from her earlier song ‘Night Prayer’ (Songs of Love, 1904): ‘Lord, have mercy! / Give us dreams of gold / During our nights of despair!’. Kashperova transforms this prayer into a rally-cry, energised by the challenge of composing for herself alone - and for posterity. Today, audiences are able at last to receive Kashperova’s long-concealed message and contemplate the achievements of this remarkable composer.
© Dr Graham Griffiths, 2022
(Editor: Kashperova Edition, Boosey & Hawkes, London)
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to Dr Graham Griffiths.