Page 67

HENRY VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881) Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, Op. 37 Premiered on September 24, 1861 by the composer as soloist with the Brussels Conservatory Orchestra.

DID YOU KNOW? A decade prior to Fantasia, The Wizard’s Apprentice was produced as a short film based on the music of Paul Dukas.

“The orchestra, transported, was tempted to stop playing in order to listen, and the audience, intoxicated with pleasure and admiration, acclaimed him and obliged him to return three times to thunderous applause!” This concert review from music critic François-Joseph Fétis exemplifies the success of Vieuxtemps’s most often performed work. Vieuxtemps was one of the most highly celebrated violin virtuosos of his day. Yet as a composer he had not yet left his mark. According to another critic, however, with his Fifth Concerto “Vieuxtemps’s compositional talent has reached the same level of perfection, and the same grandeur, as his talent as a performer.” Composed as an exam piece for the Brussels Conservatory, Vieuxtemps might not have anticipated its unparalleled success. Maybe it’s the work’s fluid design of three integrated movements, or maybe the two stunning cadenza options, that have captivated audiences everywhere. Doubtlessly, much of the work’s success lies in the expertly conceived solo part that explores violin techniques for their expressive qualities rather than mere virtuosic display. That does not mean, however, that this concerto is not challenging. Hubert Léonard, who had commissioned the concerto, wrote to the composer that “I shall only give my pupils the violin part, so that they will not massacre your concerto before it has been published!”

ORCHESTRA

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, “Organ” Premiered in London at St. James Hall on May 19, 1886 under the direction of the composer.

DID YOU KNOW? The Finale’s opening can be heard in the France pavilion of Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort.

“There goes the French Beethoven!” was Charles Gounod’s response to the 1886 Paris premiere of Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony. At the pinnacle of his career, Saint-Saëns was a central player in French music as composer, pianist, and organist. He combined all three talents in this unusual work for orchestra, piano, and organ. The work is first and foremost a symphony, however, with the piano and organ adding to the composer’s timbral arsenal. The composer stated that, “with it I have given all I could give. What I did I could not achieve again.” That is a strong statement for one of the most prolific composers of his time, indicating the importance of the work. The work’s unusual structural design underscores Saint-Saëns’s innovative approach to the genre that brought Beethoven to mind. For the premiere the composer explained the structure of the work: This symphony is in two parts. Nevertheless, it embraces in principle the four traditional movements, but the first is altered in its development to serve as the introduction to the Poco adagio, and the scherzo is connected by the same process to the finale. What ties the movements together are common themes that reappear and are transformed—much like a Liszt symphonic poem. In fact, when Liszt died during the composition of this symphony, Saint-Saëns dedicated the work to his friend’s memory. At the slow opening a four-note motif is announced which becomes the central idea for the work. It reappears as part of the memorable allegro theme. A second, lyrical theme enters only to be drowned out quickly by the closing theme of the exposition of this compact sonata-form movement. Just as the composer explained, the first movement also fulfills an introductory function for the ensuing Poco adagio. Saint-Saëns describes the main theme of the second movement as an “extremely peaceful, contemplative theme,” played first by the strings over sustained organ chords. Throughout the movement the composer explores the lyric quality of the theme with constant transformations. The Scherzo begins the second part of the symphony with a tempestuous theme based on the symphony’s main material. According to Saint-Saëns, “there is struggle for mastery, which ends in the defeat of the restless, diabolical element.” The finale opens with an organ blast and a triumphant theme, announcing “the approaching triumph of calm and lofty thought.” The main theme appears now in triumph, leading to a spectacular ending. - Siegwart Reichwald

2019 Summer Institute & Festival

67

JULY 7

1940) of Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice faithfully adapts the composer’s programmatic reading of Goethe’s ballad under the same title. In doing so, Disney opened up the complex and beautiful sound world of post-romantic program music to generations of casual listeners around the globe. In the poem, the apprentice casts a spell on the broom to help him with his chores. Not being able to control the broom, he decides to “kill” it with an ax, having forgotten the spell to stop the broom. Unfortunately, the split broom merely divides itself, causing an ever-greater mess. Just in time, the sorcerer appears and restores order. Goethe wrote the poem in 1797 as part of a friendly competition with Friedrich Schiller. Goethe’s poem is still taught in German schools for its beauty of composition and its expressive language. The educational benefit of Disney’s Fantasia (besides the exposure to great music) is the sorcerer’s scolding— which is not found in Goethe’s original.

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,...