Page 1

Colorado Symphony 2017/18 Season Presenting Sponsor:

CLASSICS • 2017/18 STRAVINSKY'S THE RITE OF SPRING COLORADO SYMPHONY BRETT MITCHELL, conductor KIRILL GERSTEIN, piano Saturday's Concert is Gratefully Dedicated to Roger and Susan Bowles Sunday's Concert is Gratefully Dedicated to Celeste and Jack Grynberg

Friday, February 16, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 17, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 18, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. Boettcher Concert Hall

RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Moderato Adagio sostenuto Allegro scherzando — INTERMISSION — STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring Part One: The Adoration of the Earth Part Two: The Sacrifice

SOUNDINGS

2 0 1 7/ 1 8

PROGRAM 1


CLASSICS BIOGRAPHIES BRETT MITCHELL, conductor Hailed for delivering compelling performances of innovative, eclectic programs, Brett Mitchell was named the fourth Music Director of the Colorado Symphony in September 2016. He served as the orchestra’s Music Director Designate during the 2016/17 season, and began his fouryear appointment in September 2017. Mr. Mitchell concluded his tenure as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra in August 2017. He joined the orchestra as Assistant Conductor in 2013, and was promoted to Associate Conductor in 2015, becoming the first person to hold that title in over three decades and only the fifth in the orchestra’s hundred-year history. In this role, he led the orchestra in several dozen concerts each season at Severance Hall, Blossom Music Center, and on tour. Mr. Mitchell also served as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO) from 2013 to 2017, which he led on a four-city tour of China in June 2015, marking the ensemble’s second international tour and its first to Asia. In addition to his work in Cleveland and Denver, Mr. Mitchell is in consistent demand as a guest conductor. Recent and upcoming guest engagements include his debuts at the Grant Park Music Festival in downtown Chicago, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Auckland and Wellington, and the San Antonio Symphony, as well as appearances with the Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, National, and Oregon symphonies, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others. He has collaborated with such soloists as Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Rudolf Buchbinder, James Ehnes, Augustin Hadelich, Leila Josefowicz, and Alisa Weilerstein. From 2007 to 2011, Mr. Mitchell led over one hundred performances as Assistant Conductor of the Houston Symphony, to which he frequently returns as a guest conductor. He also held Assistant Conductor posts with the Orchestre National de France, where he worked under Kurt Masur from 2006 to 2009, and the Castleton Festival, where he worked under Lorin Maazel in 2009 and 2010. In 2015, Mr. Mitchell completed a highly successful five-year appointment as Music Director of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, where an increased focus on locally relevant programming and community collaborations resulted in record attendance throughout his tenure. As an opera conductor, Mr. Mitchell has served as music director of nearly a dozen productions, principally at his former post as Music Director of the Moores Opera Center in Houston, where he led eight productions from 2010 to 2013. His repertoire spans the core works of Mozart (The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute), Verdi (Rigoletto and Falstaff), and Stravinsky (The Rake’s Progress) to contemporary works by Adamo (Little Women), Aldridge (Elmer Gantry), Catán (Il Postino and Salsipuedes), and Hagen (Amelia). As a ballet conductor, Mr. Mitchell most recently led a production of The Nutcracker with the Pennsylvania Ballet in collaboration with The Cleveland Orchestra during the 2016-17 season.

PROGRAM 2

C O L O R A D O SY M P H O N Y.O R G


CLASSICS BIOGRAPHIES In addition to his work with professional orchestras, Mr. Mitchell is also well known for his affinity for working with and mentoring young musicians aspiring to be professional orchestral players. His work with COYO during his Cleveland Orchestra tenure was highly praised, and he is regularly invited to work with the highly talented musicians at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the orchestras at this country’s high level training programs, such as the National Repertory Orchestra, Texas Music Festival, and Sarasota Music Festival. Born in Seattle in 1979, Mr. Mitchell holds degrees in conducting from the University of Texas at Austin and composition from Western Washington University, which selected him in as its Young Alumnus of the Year in 2014. He also studied at the National Conducting Institute, and was selected by Kurt Masur as a recipient of the inaugural American Friends of the Mendelssohn Foundation Scholarship. Mr. Mitchell was also one of five recipients of the League of American Orchestras’ American Conducting Fellowship from 2007 to 2010. For more information, please visit www.brettmitchellconductor.com

KIRILL GERSTEIN, piano Pianist Kirill Gerstein’s curiosity and versatility has led to a powerful engagement with a wide range of styles. From Bach to Adès, his playing is distinguished by its clarity of expression, discerning intelligence, and virtuosity. Gerstein’s energetic and imaginative musical personality has taken him to the top of his profession. An American in Berlin, Kirill Gerstein’s career is balanced between the US and Europe. Highlights of his 2017-18 season include performances with the Pittsburgh, National, Boston, Chicago, and Colorado symphonies; summer festival in Ravinia, Aspen, and at the Mostly Mozart Festival; and a tour with cellist Clemens Hagen. Autumn 2017 marks the release of Scriabin’s Piano Concerto in F-sharp minor and Prometheus: The Poem of Fire with the Oslo Philharmonic and Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko (LAWO Classics). Early 2018 brings Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and David Robertson for Myrios classics. Brought up in the Soviet Union studying both classical and jazz piano, Gerstein moved to the US at age 14 where he was the youngest student to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He studied with Solomon Mikowsky in New York, Dmitri Bashkirov in Madrid, and Ferenc Rados in Budapest. Gerstein has won a series of prestigious accolades: First Prize at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Competition; in 2002, a Gilmore Young Artist Award; and in 2010 both an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Gilmore Artist Award, which provided funds for him to commission new works from Timothy Andres, Chick Corea, Alexander Goehr, and Brad Mehldau. Gerstein taught at the Stuttgart Hochschule Musik from 2007-2017. Beginning in 2018, he will teach at the Kronberg Academy’s new Sir András Schiff Performance Program for Young Artists.

SOUNDINGS

2 0 1 7/ 1 8

PROGRAM 3


CLASSICS PROGRAM NOTES SERGEI RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943): Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Sergei Rachmaninoff was born April 1, 1873 in Oneg (near Novgorod), Russia and died March 28, 1943 in Beverly Hills, California. His Piano Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1900-1901 and premiered on October 14, 1901 in Moscow, conducted by Alexander Siloti with the composer as soloist. The score calls for pairs of woodwinds, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum and strings. Duration is about 34 minutes. Last performance by the orchestra was on October 18-20, 2013, with Natasha Paremski at the piano and Rossen Milanov conducting. When he was old and as mellow as he would ever get, Rachmaninoff wrote these words about his early years: “Although I had to fight for recognition, as most younger men must, although I have experienced all the troubles and sorrow which precede success, and although I know how important it is for an artist to be spared such troubles, I realize, when I look back on my early life, that it was enjoyable, in spite of all its vexations and bitterness.” The greatest “bitterness” of Rachmaninoff’s career was brought about by his Symphony No. 1, a work that had such a disastrous premiere he forbade any other performances of the piece while he was alive. The total failure of the Symphony at its premiere in 1897 was a traumatic disappointment to him, one that thrust him into such a mental depression that he suffered a complete nervous collapse. Such a hyper-emotional attitude was not unusual at the turn of the 20th century for the Russian aristocracy of which Rachmaninoff was a member. Melancholia was virtually a way of upper-class life at the time, as the Russian critic and composer Leonid Sabaneiev described: “The famous Moscow restaurants, the no-less famous Gypsy choruses, the atmosphere of continuing dissipation in which perhaps there was no merriment at all, but on the contrary, the most genuine, bitter and impenetrable pessimism — this was the milieu. Music there was a terrible narcosis, a sort of intoxication and oblivion, a going-off into irrational places.... It was not form or harmoniousness or Apollonic vision that was demanded of music, but passion, feeling, languor, heartache. Such was Tchaikovsky’s music, and such also the music of Rachmaninoff developed into.” After the failure of his First Symphony, Rachmaninoff was mired in exactly such an emotional abyss as Sabaneiev described, and he showed little inclination of ever climbing out. His family, alarmed at the prospect of the brilliant young musician wasting his prodigious talents, expended their own capabilities to help him, and then sought out professional psychiatric counsel. An aunt of Rachmaninoff, Varvara Satina, had recently been successfully treated for an emotional disturbance by a certain Dr. Nicholas Dahl, a Moscow physician who was familiar with the latest psychiatric discoveries in France and Vienna, and it was arranged that Rachmaninoff should visit him. Years later, in his memoirs, the composer recalled the malady and the treatment: “[Following the performance of the First Symphony,] something within me snapped. All my selfconfidence broke down. A paralyzing apathy possessed me. I did nothing at all and found no pleasure in anything. Half my days were spent on a couch sighing over my ruined life. My only occupation consisted in giving a few piano lessons to keep myself alive.” For more than a year, Rachmaninoff’s condition persisted. He began his daily visits to Dr. Dahl in January 1900. “My relatives had informed Dr. Dahl that he must by all means cure me of my apathetic condition and bring about such results that I would again be able to compose. Dahl had inquired what kind of composition was desired of me, and he was informed ‘a concerto for pianoforte,’ which I had given up in despair of ever writing. In consequence, I heard repeated, day after day, the same hypnotic formula, as I lay half somnolent in an armchair in Dr. Dahl’s consulting room: ‘You will PROGRAM 4

C O L O R A D O SY M P H O N Y.O R G


CLASSICS PROGRAM NOTES start to compose a concerto — You will work with the greatest of ease — The composition will be of excellent quality.’ Always it was the same, without interruption.” Almost like a movie script from the Hollywood where Rachmaninoff eventually settled, the good doctor’s unusual cure worked. “Although it may seem impossible to believe,” Rachmaninoff continued, “this treatment really helped me. I started to compose again at the beginning of the summer.” In gratitude, he dedicated the new Concerto in C minor to Dr. Dahl. Rachmaninoff wrote the second and third movements of his rehabilitative Concerto in the summer and early autumn of 1900 in Italy, Novgorod, and Moscow; this incomplete version was heard at a charity concert in Moscow on October 14th, with the composer at the keyboard and Alexander Siloti conducting. The opening movement was composed by the following spring, and the premiere of the finished work was given on October 14, 1901 with the same two principals and the orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic Society. The C minor Concerto was the first orchestral work to carry the name of Rachmaninoff into the world’s concert halls. (His ubiquitous C-sharp minor Prelude of 1892 had been a piano-bench and recital favorite for a decade.) Other advances in Rachmaninoff’s life soon followed — many successful musical compositions, an appointment as the opera conductor of the Moscow Grand Theater, and a triumphant career as a concert pianist. There always remained buried away in his innermost thoughts, however, those ghosts of self-doubt and insecurity that Nicholas Dahl could never have totally exorcised from the dour composer’s psychological constitution. The C minor Concerto begins with eight bell-tone chords from the solo piano that herald the surging main theme, which is announced by the strings. A climax is achieved before a sudden drop in intensity makes way for the arching second theme, initiated by the soloist. The development section, concerned largely with the first theme, is propelled by a martial rhythm that continues with undiminished energy into the recapitulation. The second theme returns in the horn before the martial mood is re-established to close the movement. The Adagio, a long-limbed nocturne with a running commentary of sweeping figurations from the piano, contains some beautiful concerted instrumental writing. The finale resumes the marching rhythmic motion of the first movement with its introduction and bold main theme. Standing in bold relief to this vigorous music is the lyrical second theme, one of the best-loved melodies in the entire orchestral literature, a grand inspiration in the ripest Romantic tradition. (Years ago, this melody was lifted from the Concerto by the tunesmiths of Tin Pan Alley and fitted with sufficiently maudlin phrases to become the popular hit Full Moon and Empty Arms.) These two themes, the martial and the romantic, alternate for the remainder of the movement. The coda rises through a finely crafted line of mounting tension to bring this work to an electrifying close. Rachmaninoff once wrote, “I try to make music speak simply and directly that which is in my heart at the time I am composing. If there is love there, or bitterness, or sadness, or religion, these moods become part of my music, and it becomes either beautiful or bitter or sad or religious.” The heart of a true Romantic beat beneath the stern exterior of this man; his music is a direct link to the great traditions of the 19th-century masters.

SOUNDINGS

2 0 1 7/ 1 8

PROGRAM 5


CLASSICS PROGRAM NOTES IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882-1971): The Rite of Spring, Pictures of Pagan Russia, Ballet in Two Parts Igor Stravinsky was born June 17, 1882 in Oranienbaum, near St. Petersburg and died April 6, 1971 in New York City. The Rite of Spring was composed in 1910-1913 and premiered on May 29, 1913 in Paris, conducted by Pierre Monteux. The score calls for piccolo, three flutes (third also doubling piccolo), alto flute, four oboes (fourth also doubling English Horn), English horn, E-flat clarinet, three B-flat clarinets (2nd also doubling bass clarinet), bass clarinet, four bassoons (fourth also doubling contrabassoon), contrabassoon, eight horns (seventh and eighth doubling Wagner tuben), trumpet in D, four trumpets, bass trumpet, three trombones, two tubas, two timpani, percussion and strings. The piece was last performed on May 24-26, 2013, with Andrew Litton on the podium. Stravinsky’s conception for The Rite of Spring, one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century, came to him as he was finishing The Firebird in 1910. He had a vision of “a solemn pagan rite; wise elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring.” Stravinsky knew that Nicholas Roerich, a friend who was an archeologist and an authority on the ancient Slavs, would be interested in his idea, and he mentioned it to him. Stravinsky also shared the vision with Serge Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballet Russe, the company which had commissioned The Firebird. All three men were excited by the possibilities of the project — Diaghilev promised a production and encouraged Stravinsky to begin work immediately. Having just nearly exhausted himself with the rigors of completing and staging The Firebird, however, Stravinsky decided to compose a Konzertstück for piano and orchestra as relaxation before undertaking his pagan ballet. This little “concert piece,” however, grew into the ballet Petrushka, and he could not return to The Rite until the summer of 1911. “What I was trying to convey in The Rite,” said Stravinsky, “was the surge of spring, the magnificent upsurge of nature reborn.” Inspired by childhood memories of the coming of spring to Russia (“which seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole earth cracking,” he remembered), he worked with Roerich to devise a libretto which would, in Roerich’s words, “present a number of scenes of earthly joy and celestial triumph as understood by the ancient Slavs.” Stravinsky labored feverishly on the score through the winter of 1911-1912, realizing by that time that he was composing an important piece in a startling new style. “I was guided by no system whatever in The Rite of Spring,” he wrote. “Very little immediate tradition lies behind it. [Debussy was the only influence he admitted.] I had only my ear to help me. I heard, and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which The Rite passed.” Diaghilev scheduled the premiere for May 1913, and Nijinsky was chosen to do the choreography. Stravinsky, however, objected to Nijinsky’s selection because of the dancer’s inexperience as a choreographer and his lack of understanding of the technical aspects of the music, but preparations were begun and continued through more than 120 rehearsals. Pierre Monteux drilled the orchestra to the point of anxious readiness. The guests invited to the final dress rehearsal seemed to appreciate the striking modernity of the work, but gave no hint of the donnybrook that was to roar through the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées at the public premiere on May 29th, driven in equal parts by the iconoclastic angular choreography and the revolutionary music. Almost as soon as the curtain rose, a riot broke out the like of which had not been inspired by a piece of music since Nero’s song of antiquity. Shouts, catcalls, whistles, even fisticuffs grew so menacing that often the orchestra could not be heard. Diaghilev flashed the house lights on and PROGRAM 6

C O L O R A D O SY M P H O N Y.O R G


CLASSICS PROGRAM NOTES off in a vain attempt to restore order; Nijinsky, when he was not on stage, pounded wildly on the scenery with his fists to keep the dancers together; Stravinsky ran out of the auditorium (“as angry as I have ever been in my life”) and spent most of the evening backstage pacing in the wings. Somehow Monteux (“cool as a crocodile,” recalled Stravinsky) guided the performance through to the end. Puccini thought The Rite “might be the creation of a madman” and the critic of the New York Sun nominated the composer as “the cave man of music.” No one could deny, however, the ferocious, overwhelming power of the music, and when audiences began to listen to the work on its own, revolutionary terms, they could not help but be swept away by its awesome and wonderful maelstrom of exquisitely executed sound. Within a year of its stage premiere, Koussevitzky in Russia and Monteux in Paris had conducted concert performances of The Rite, and the true value of the work began to be recognized. A somewhat edited version of the score in Disney’s animated cartoon movie of 1938, Fantasia, brought the music to a wide audience, and its position in the orchestral repertory was soon secured. E.W. White summarized the salient stylistic features of The Rite of Spring in his exemplary study of the life and works of Stravinsky: “A tremendous internal tension is set up in the score between the simplicity of the thematic material and the discordant complexity of the harmonic texture. This is exacerbated by the instrumentation, highly sophisticated means being employed to get a deliberately primitive effect.” The melodic material is often simple and contained within a range of four or five diatonic steps. The score is filled with sharp, often brutal dissonance piled upon the simple melodies and with galvanic rhythms, which Dame Edith Sitwell described as “the beginning of energy, the enormous and terrible shaping of the visible and invisible world through movement.” Stravinsky created the work’s rhythmic electricity with two compositional techniques: powerful, uneven groupings of beats with irregular accents or meters; and short ostinato (i.e., repeated) rhythms. This latter device charges much of the score with a primitive power unlike any music written before it. The most stunning evidences of the dynamism this technique engenders occur where an ostinato-based wall of sound suddenly collapses into a void of roaring silence. Such abrupt stops are the psychological equivalent of a head-on collision. The Rite of Spring is a work of consummate artistry and bold, innovative vision that won for Stravinsky a place among the greatest creative artists in the history of music.

* * *

Robert Lawrence, in his classic reference work, The Victor Book of Ballet, provided the following summary of the stage action of The Rite of Spring: “The plot is of the simplest. Dealing with archaic Russian tribes and their worship of the gods of the harvest and fertility, it falls into two separate yet mutually interdependent parts — the Adoration of the Earth and the Sacrifice. These primitive peoples assemble for their yearly ceremonies, play their traditional games, and finally select a virgin to be sacrificed to the gods of Spring so that the crops and tribes may flourish. “Stravinsky’s score serves at once as accompaniment and excitant for the pagan rites. Before the curtain rises, there is a prelude in which the composer evokes the primitive past when man was in intimate contact with nature. A soft bassoon solo, played high on the instrument to produce a strange tone quality, opens the work — like an immemorial chant heard far off. Other SOUNDINGS

2 0 1 7/ 1 8

PROGRAM 7


CLASSICS PROGRAM NOTES instruments enter, seemingly improvised against the solo melody of the opening, which still flows on; then the curtain rises on a savage daylight picture of an ancient land. Insistent, barbaric rhythms are heard in the orchestra, shifting accent with almost every bar. The first rites of Spring are being celebrated, and a group of adolescents appears. They dance until other members of the tribe enter. Then the full round of ceremonies gets under way: a mock abduction — performed with much solemnity — games of the rival tribes, the procession of the Sage, and the thunderous dance of the Earth. The curtain falls, and the orchestra plays a soft interlude representing, in its shifting planes of instrumental color, the pagan night. “Soon the tribal meeting place is seen again. This time, it is dark and the adolescents circle mysteriously in preparation for the choice of the virgin to be sacrificed to the gods. Suddenly their dance is interrupted, and one of the girls who has taken part is marked for the tribal offering. The others begin a wild orgy glorifying the Chosen One and — in a barbaric ritual — call on the shades of their ancestors. Finally the supreme moment of the ceremony arrives: the ordeal of the Chosen One, perhaps the longest and most complicated solo in the annals of ballet. It is the maiden’s duty to dance until she perishes from exhaustion. The rhythms of her sacrificial round move relentlessly forward, while a short, stabbing motive is repeated insistently in brasses and winds. Throughout the dance, the music keeps gathering power through the element of frenzied repetition until finally it spins like a top on its own axis, and ends with a crash as the Maiden dies.” ©2017 Dr. Richard E. Rodda

S TAY

#ColoradoSymphony

SOCIAL

#MusicElevated Make the most of your Colorado Symphony experience by connecting with us on social media. Find backstage features, concert announcements, musician updates, and special discounts! @coloradosymphony @coloradosymphony @CO_Symphony

COLORADOSYMPHONY.ORG

PROGRAM 8

C O L O R A D O SY M P H O N Y.O R G

Program - Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring  

FEB 16 – 18 | Stravinsky’s primal The Rite of Spring is renowned for inciting a riot at its 1913 Paris debut. The causes are still debated—w...

Program - Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring  

FEB 16 – 18 | Stravinsky’s primal The Rite of Spring is renowned for inciting a riot at its 1913 Paris debut. The causes are still debated—w...