Mit Humor – Matthieu Cognet


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Mit Humor – Matthieu Cognet

The Spheres

Saturday, 7PM to 9PM
16 February 2019


The Spheres

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Mit Humor – Matthieu Cognet

The Spheres

Saturday, 7PM to 9PM
16 February 2019




30 Posti disponibili per Tessere WHITE



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Mit Humor

Matthieu Cognet


Il pianista francese Matthieu Cognet suona un programma di musica per pianoforte solo, con musiche di Schumann, Haydn, Prokofiev, e Bartok, legate all’idea dello ‘Humor’ nelle sue molte accezioni, dalle caratteristiche ‘umorali’ della musica schumanniana alle venature sarcastiche e ‘diaboliche’ di Prokofiev.


Robert Schumann: Humoreske, Op. 20
Sergei Prokofiev: Quattro Pezzi, Op. 4
Joseph Haydn: Sonata per pianoforte in Do maggiore, Hob XVI:50
Bela Bartok: Sonata per pianoforte Sz. 80


The program I elaborated for this project gravitates around the concept of humor in piano music. The German expression “Mit Humor” (“with humor”) has an interestingly ambiguous meaning, which not only depicts a feeling of amusement and laughter but also means “state of mind”. I chose four composers who have been drawn to experiment with this concept and infuse “Humor” (in the German sense) into their music: Joseph Haydn, Robert Schumann, Sergei Prokofiev and Bela Bartok. The program starts with Joseph Haydn’s facetious Sonata in C Major Hob XVI:50, followed by Robert Schumann’s Humoreske in B-flat major op. 20, which is the centerpiece of this program. To complete the program, I chose the rather rare set of Sergei Prokofiev’s Four Pieces Op. 4, and Bela Bartok’s Piano Sonata BB 88 (Sz. 80). These pieces all have in common a variety of moods and “humeurs”, to use an equivalent French word, which shows the versatility of this concept. I thought it would be interesting to pair these four composers together, in pieces of highly variable architecture (smaller classical forms in Bartok and Haydn, more concise episodes in Prokofiev and bigger form in Schumann).


Here are some notes about the program:
Joseph Haydn’s Piano Sonata in C Major Hob XVI:50 was written in 1794-1795, during Haydn’s second visit to London, and was dedicated to Therese Jansen Bartolozzi. The eccentricity and witty content of the sonata, in three monothematic sonata-form movements, is reminiscent of Haydn’s “London” Symphonies. The piece is indeed infused with a lot of humoristic figures, in the form of short musical motives and frequent contrasting moments.
Robert Schumann’s Humoreske in B-flat major, Op. 20, was composed in 1839 and dedicated to Julie von Webenau. Schumann evoked the famous German writer Jean Paul as a source of inspiration for this cycle. He explains his choice of the word ‘humoreske’ in a letter to Clara of 11 March 1839: “I have been rhapsodizing about you, and have thought of you with a love such as I have never experienced before. The whole week I have been sitting at the piano, composing and writing, laughing and crying all at once. All this you will find nicely portrayed in my Op 20.” Imagination, sorrow, spleen and laughter are expressed in a colorful manner in this incredibly romantic work.
Prokofiev’s Pieces Op. 4 were written in 1908, shortly after the First Piano Sonata Op. 1, as a way for the composer and concert pianist to show his considerable keyboard skills and impress his audiences. Here is how music critic Robert Cummings describes the set: No. 1, “Reminiscences,” is a melancholy piece of some appeal, marked Tranquilo. While this contains echoes of Scriabin, the ensuing “Elan” (Molto Allegro) is pure Prokofiev — early, sassy Prokofiev. “Despair” is the longest piece here and perhaps the greatest in depth. Marked Andante con agitazione e dolore, its gloom reminds one of a thick fog of depression in a pre-Prozac world. Without doubt, one of his most famous piano compositions is No. 4 here, the “Suggestion diabolique,” a wild, spooky display piece that, in performance, manages to please both eye and ear. Bartok’s Piano Sonata BB 88 (Sz. 80) was composed in the year of 1926, known to musicologists as Bartók’s “piano year”. The sonata’s language is direct, polytonal, and uses folk-like motives and percussive dissonances, which create a lot of relief and somehow contrasts with the classical form of the piece in three contrasting movements.


French pianist Matthieu Cognet is an active soloist and sought-after chamber player who performs extensively in Europe and the United States. He has appeared in major venues and festivals in Europe and the United States, including Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall, the Cultural Institute of Chicago (Dame Myra Hess Series), Hemptinne Festival (Belgium), Rushmore Music Festival, SD, Memphis in May Festival, and Prades Festival (France). He recently collaborated in concert with Juilliard and Stony Brook faculty and Grammy Award nominee Carol Wincenc.

He has been a soloist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Stony Brook University Orchestra, Indiana University Student Orchestra, and the Paris Sorbonne Orchestra. His recital and chamber music performances have been featured on Radio France and Chicago WMFT Radio broadcasts.

Matthieu Cognet is a laureate of the Concours Musical de France and won the 1st Prize of the Travel Grant Competition in Bloomington in 2010. In March 2015, he won the Stony Brook Concerto Competition with R. Strauss’ Burleske for piano and orchestra. He won 1st Prize in the Entraide Française Competition in New York in May 2017, which earned him a recital at the French Consulate in New York City in the spring of 2018.

Mr. Cognet received degrees from the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris–CNR (Bachelor of Arts) and the University of La Sorbonne in Paris (Master of Musicology). In 2007, he received his Master of Music in Piano Performance with High Distinction from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and a Performer Diploma from Indiana University under the guidance of Bulgarian-born pianist and composer Emile Naoumoff. At Indiana University he had the privilege to work as Janos Starker’s studio accompanist, and worked with Joshua Bell and Andre Watts. His other teachers include Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden and Bruno Rigutto in Brussels and Paris, respectively. He performed in numerous master-classes in Europe with Jacques Rouvier in Nice (1998), Aquiles Delle-Vigne in Salzburg (2001), Dominique Merlet in Courchevel (2002, 2005), Boris Berman and Paul Badura-Skoda in Vila-seca (2011). In May 2017, he graduated with his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook University, under the guidance of Professor Gilbert Kalish.

In addition to his performing activities, Mr. Cognet released his own arrangement of Maurice Ravel’s La Valse for piano solo under the label Lauren Keiser Publications (a group of Hal Leonard). He is also the Artistic Director and Masterclass Director of the French-American Piano Society.
He currently lives in New York City.