Claro de Luna


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Ballade, Op. 10 no. 4 in B Major — Andante con moto (1854)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Sonata in A minor | BWV 965 (circa. 1700)
Jan Adams Reincken (1623-1722)
HORTUS MUSICUS recentibus aliquot flosculis
Cum 2 Violin, Viola {da Gamba}, et Basso continuo (1687)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia Op. 27 no. 2 “Moonlight” (1801)

Gavin Gamboa (1984*)
Ballade I (2014)

Teatro Peón Contreras
Mérida, Yucatán, México
September 23rd, 2014


In this program I have attempted to field those pieces which most qualify as having a definite air of Nachtmusik, evocative of the brooding pathos that the night has historically represented. Beethoven’s well-known Moonlight Sonata, perhaps the most explicit nocturnal reference here (despite that byname originating from a critic and not from Beethoven himself) closes the program, while Brahms’ Fourth Ballade, severed from its context from the rest of the Op. 10 Ballades, provides the dreamy, lullaby-esque pivot from which the rest of the program proceeds.


Joseph Vernet — Night: Seaport by Moonlight (1771)
Joseph Vernet — Night: Seaport by Moonlight (1771)


The Four Ballades Op. 10 are something of an anomaly that tend to puzzle musical commentators, analysts, and listeners. Perhaps it can be assumed that the tragedy of Robert Schumann’s insanity and attempted suicide a few months prior to their composition are the principal reflections contained in them, an essence which must have been an elemental tragedy for Brahms. A loving warmth and intimacy also pervades the Ballades, an allusion to his admiration and complex relationship with Clara Schumann, Robert’s wife.



The Fourth Ballade in particular is replete with descending legato figurations not usually encountered in Brahms’ piano writing, as well as an idiosyncratic formal layout: A-B-A-C-B. The second theme – Più Lento — bears a resemblance to Schumann’s Romanze in F sharp major, Op. 28 No. 2. Is it a clandestine testament of love? … a dirge to a composer no longer capable of facing reality? … or the young Brahms’ meditations of death? Its delicacy and stasis made it seem appropriate for the murky atmospheres associated with the contemplative night.


Collage of J.A. Reincken (left of divider) and J.S. Bach (right of divider).
Collage of J.A. Reincken (left of divider) and J.S. Bach (right of divider).

Moving now to the early 1700s, to a time when the teenage Johann Sebastian Bach was devouring all the music at his disposal, fervently transcribing whatever he could get his hands on, and getting as deep as he could into the existing music of his day. An older contemporary, Jan Adams Reincken, hailing from the north, is thought to have been a significant influence on the young J.S. Bach. At a point, Bach improvised on a particular chorale in the form of Reincken, just before the latter’s death at an advanced age. It is said that after hearing the younger man’s improvisation, Reincken remarked: “I thought that this art was dead, but I see that it lives in you.” This indicates that Bach showed great respect for Reincken’s craft. In fact, the young musician from Thuringia had been intimately acquainted with Reincken’s music some years before, when he based a fugue and two sonatas for keyboard on pieces drawn from Reincken’s Trio Sonatas, Hortus Musicus.



These provide an extremely productive window into Bach’s early compositional practice — his transcriptions ranging from embellishments to entirely independent pieces based on Reincken’s subjects. The first of these Reincken Trio Sonatas, in A minor, is the one performed here, where Bach has kept the designation ‘Sonata’, and made the mere transcription of this chamber music into something more akin to a hybrid, where authorship is becomes blurred, hazy, and remarkably intertwined. Delving further into this relationship, Christoph Wolff in his ‘Bach: Essays on His Life and Music’ explains:

Without a doubt, Reincken represented a versatile and colorful musical personality of a special sort. He was a virtuoso of high order and an esteemed organ expert … At the same time, he also possessed theoretical interests and clearly had an encompassing professional knowledge of the musical literature. In this respect, Reincken must have appeared incomparably more fascinating to the young Bach than Buxtehude or Böhm … The very fact that Bach did not arrange any works by a North German composer other than Reincken, not even by Buxtehude or Böhm, underlines Reincken’s significance.


WV 2012-153 Ludwig van Beethoven/ Sonate Nr. 14 (Opus 27, Nr. 2) “Moonlight” Jorinde Voigt  Berlin 2012 86,5 x 140 cm Tinte, Bleistift auf Papier Unikat Signiert
WV 2012-153 Ludwig van Beethoven/ Sonate Nr. 14 (Opus 27, Nr. 2) “Moonlight”
Jorinde Voigt
Berlin 2012 86,5 x 140 cm Tinte, Bleistift auf Papier

Beethoven’s Op. 27 set of Sonatas are the only ones which he gave the title ‘Quasi una fantasia’. Categorically opposed in form to the sonatas of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, it did away with the thematically animated, sonata-allegro first movement. Moonlight, by contrast, contains a first movement which feels as though it were improvised, and one which is subdued to the point of acting as a prologue. Then, the cautiously lively second movement — Allegretto (which Liszt likened to a flower opening up in blossom) — leads attacca into a final movement which still startles and captivates 200 years later in its maximalistic perpetuum.