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Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. The Book of Revelation 10:1-3 (ESV) How long can an audience be kept in suspense? That seems to be the compositional challenge Liadov gave himself. Composed in 1912, this “Symphonic Tableau” is truly a musical picture rather than a narrative. Using musical imagery from chant-like melodies to unearthly sounds, the listener realizes something epic is about to happen. Liadov focuses on the moment of anticipation, leaving the listener to ponder what’s next in this epic story. SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 1935 was an important year for Prokofiev. The composer was at a crossroads. Tired of living out of a suitcase, Prokofiev quipped that the Second Violin Concerto’s “principal theme of the first movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the second theme in Baku, while the performance was given Madrid.” Prokofiev felt a strong pull to return home to Russia after 18 years abroad, and this concerto’s international genesis represents a compositional no-man’s-land of sorts. It would be Prokofiev’s last commission from the West, and it foreshadows his new compositional ideals forged through a deliberate inner dialog between the aesthetic demands of Soviet Realism and his evolving compositional ideals. In November of 1934 during a visit to Moscow, Prokofiev wrote an article in Izvestiia, outlining his emerging aesthetics—and providing us with an aesthetic roadmap for this concerto: We must compose big music—that is, music, whose conception and technical execution corresponds to the breadth of our era. Such music should, above all, push us toward further development of musical forms. Unfortunately, contemporary Soviet composers run a real risk of becoming provincial. Finding the right language for our music is not easy. It should first of all be melodic, but the melody, though simple and accessible, shouldn’t become a refrain or a trivial turn of phrase. Many composers have difficulty composing melody in general— no matter what kind—and composing a melody for definitely stated goals is even more difficult. The same holds true for compositional technique and how it is set forth; it must be clear and simple, but not hackneyed. Its simplicity must not be an old-fashioned one; it must be a new simplicity. IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Song of the Nightingale Hans Christian Anderson’s tales were all the rage during Stravinsky’s childhood. It is not surprising then that the young composer chose Anderson’s Song of the Nightingale for his first opera. Appropriately, Stravinsky chose a story about real versus artificial music. But he was interrupted with three (rather important) consecutive commissions by Sergei Diaghilev: The

Stravinsky’s music aims to capture the essence of Anderson’s story. We enter the Chinese Emperor’s court full of splendor and noisy bustle. The nightingale enchants the Emperor with its beautiful song (flute cadenza followed by solo violin). Suddenly, a mechanical nightingale—a gift from the Japanese Emperor— dazzles the ministers with its mechanical tune (piccolo, flute, oboe), and the nightingale retreats to the fisherman. Angrily, the Emperor names the mechanical bird the First Singer. When the Emperor falls deathly ill (dark timbres, slow tempo), only the song of the real nightingale can revive him. When asked to stay, the bird declines in order to aid others in need. At the conclusion, the fisherman sings a melancholic song. STRAVINSKY Firebird Suite (1919) Liadov was initially commissioned to write the ballet music for The Firebird, but for unknown reasons, he never even got started on the piece, and the commission was withdrawn and offered to the then unknown Stravinsky. The ballet became a sensation, the young Russian composer became a celebrity, and the rest is history. The original ballet, first performed in 1910 in Paris with tremendous success, is a fifty-minute long story from Russian folklore about the miraculous Firebird’s rescue of princesses from the claws of the evil, ogre-like Kashchei the Immortal. Stravinsky created three different concert versions of the ballet. The 1919 version is most often performed, cutting the music to roughly 20 minutes. The 1919 version has five sections with several subsections. The story is told through Prince Ivan’s eyes. The Introduction begins with an atmospheric and spooky depiction of Kashchei’s dark realm. Stravinsky’s extraordinary use of the orchestra draws the listener into this magical kingdom. The appearance of the Firebird as he is dancing, stands in stark contrast, portrayed through bright colors and constantly changing meters. The Prince observes the captives in The Round Dance of the Princesses and falls in love with one of the princesses. The mood is tranquil and pastoral with pensive melodious woodwind solos. Having been enlisted by the Prince to help free the princesses, the Firebird has cast a spell on the ogrelike creature, and in The Infernal Dance of King Kashchei the captor dances himself to complete exhaustion. This section shows Stravinsky’s unmatched skills as orchestrator and innovator, depicting this growing frenzy with a rhythmic complexity never seen before. At the end of the section, the frenzy turns to exhaustion, allowing the Firebird to lull Kashchei to sleep in the Berceuse. A lazy tune is introduced by the bassoon and then taken up by the whole orchestra. Ivan destroys the giant egg containing the soul of the evil King. The Finale opens with a Russian folk tune in the horn. From there Stravinsky creates one of music history’s most exciting crescendos through dynamics and scoring, offering a climactic ending as the princesses have been freed. - Siegwart Reichwald

2019 Summer Institute & Festival



ANATOL LIADOV (1855-1914) From the Apocalypse, Op. 66

Firebird (see below), Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. By the time Stravinsky returned to the opera, his style had matured considerably, making for a rather uneven work. So Stravinsky decided to turn his opera into a purely symphonic work. Stylistically, Stravinsky picked up where he had left of with his three ballet scores—with a forward-looking approach to a more streamlined orchestration found in his works of the 1920s.



Profile for Brevard Music Center

2019 BMC Overture Magazine  

The seasonal publication for the annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Overture includes all festival programming and program notes,...

2019 BMC Overture Magazine  

The seasonal publication for the annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Overture includes all festival programming and program notes,...