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feb 9, 10, 11

Ross, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky

Minnesota Orchestra James Gaffigan, conductor Anthony Ross, cello

Thursday, February 9, 2012, 11 am Friday, February 10, 2012, 8 pm Saturday, February 11, 2012, 8 pm

Modest Mussorgsky

Orchestra Hall Orchestra Hall Orchestra Hall

Dance of the Persian Maidens, from Khovanshchina

Sergei Prokofiev

ca. 7’

Sinfonia concertante for Cello and Orchestra, Opus 125

ca. 37’

Andante Allegro giusto Andante con moto – Allegretto – Allegro marcato Anthony Ross, cello

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Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opus 74, Pathétique Adagio – Allegro non troppo Allegro con grazia Allegro molto vivace Finale: Adagio lamentoso

ca. 20’ ca. 45’

Minnesota Orchestra concerts are broadcast live Friday evenings on stations of Minnesota Public Radio. The concerts are also featured in American Public Media’s national programs, SymphonyCast and Performance Today. Regional broadcasts are supported by the Minnesota Orchestra and by Patterson, Thuente, Skaar and Christensen.

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Artists

Concert Preview with Phillip Gainsley and Anthony Ross 2/9 at 10:30 am 2/11 at 7 pm Orchestra Hall Auditorium

Pre-concert Performance: North West Suburban Conference Festival High School Orchestra Courtney Lewis, conductor 2/10 at 6:30 pm Sibelius: Finlandia Mussorgsky: A Night on Bald Mountain Dvoˇrák: Slavonic Dance in C major, Opus 46, No. 1

Post-concert Q&A 2/11 Stay after the Saturday night concert for a Q&A with conductor James Gaffigan.

one-minute notes

James Gaffigan, conductor

Anthony Ross, cello

James Gaffigan has earned acclaim as one of the top emerging American conductors, having conducted major orchestras on national and international stages. He made his debut with the Minnesota Orchestra in March 2010. Posts: In 2011 he became chief conductor of Switzerland’s Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He previously held positions with the San Francisco Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra. Current season: During 2011-12 Gaffigan debuts with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and Sydney Symphony, among other ensembles, and conducts return engagements with the National, Dallas, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. Opera: He has led performances of the Zurich Opera and Vienna State Opera, as well as productions at the Aspen Music Festival and Glyndebourne; he will return to the latter this coming spring for a staging of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. More: imgartists.com, jamesgaffigan.com.

Anthony Ross, now in his 24th year as a Minnesota Orchestra member, assumed the principal cello post in 1991. While here he has drawn acclaim for his solo performances of many great concertos and chamber works, including, most recently, Walton’s Cello Concerto and the Brahms Piano Trio in B major. He has also performed on stages from Pensacola, Florida, to Rhodes, Greece. Festivals: Ross has performed at music festivals in the U.S. and Europe and has been a faculty member at the Grand Teton, Aspen, Madeline Island and Indiana University festivals. Discography: His recordings include Bernstein’s Three Meditations, made with this Orchestra, and Carter and Rachmaninoff sonatas for Boston Records. Awards: He has earned two McKnight Fellowships. Among his additional prizes is the 1982 bronze medal at Moscow’s prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. Of interest: Together with Assistant Principal Cello Beth Rapier, his wife, Ross organizes an annual concert benefitting Habitat for Humanity. More: minnesotaorchestra.org.

Mussorgsky: Dance of the Persian Maidens, from Khovanshchina From an opera depicting the turbulence of late 17th-century Russia comes this gentle, sinuous music of dancing girls entertaining an angry Prince Khovansky, who represents the old regime that soon will fall to Peter the Great.

Prokofiev: Sinfonia concertante for Cello and Orchestra The solo cello holds its own against substantial orchestral forces in this magnificent concerto, executing extraordinary shifts in range, style and mood while offering soaring lyricism and great warmth of character.

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathétique Darkly, tenderly, beautifully, Tchaikovsky’s final symphony communicates a mood of deep suffering. Brilliant touches include a waltz in 5/4 time, a dramatic scherzo and a lamenting melody that sinks away to silence. Of the Pathétique Tchaikovsky said: “I love it as I have never loved any of my other musical creations.” 30

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SHOWCASE

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Minnesota Orchestra


Program Notes

Modest Mussorgsky Born: March 21, 1839, Karevo, Pskov District Died: March 28, 1881, St. Petersburg

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Dance of the Persian Maidens, from Khovanshchina

odest Mussorgsky worked on and off for eight years (1872-1880) on his opera Khovanshchina, but at his death in March 1881, the work was still far from complete. The story, fashioned by the composer and his friend Vladimir Stassov, concerned a particularly turbulent period in Russian history, 16821689. It saw the clash between the old regime and the radical new one of Peter the Great, the conflict between Eastern and Western ideas, orthodoxy and iconoclasm. The dawn of a new age is portrayed symbolically in the opera’s most famous excerpt, the Prelude to Khovanshchina, which translates as “The Khovanskys,” who supported the old regime of Prince Khovansky. Mussorgsky himself titled the Prelude Dawn over the Moskva River. In the words of conductor Valery Gergiev, the opera is “a massive canvas of many conflicting tragedies, fears, ambitions and hopes for Russia.”

at the same time... Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante premieres in its final form in 1954, the year: • Color TVs go on sale to the public—for roughly $10,000 in today’s dollars • The U.S. Senate censures Joseph McCarthy, signaling the decline of McCarthyism • J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the first volume of his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy

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Mussorgsky left only a vocal score for Khovanshchina. The task of orchestrating and completing the work for performance was undertaken by Rimsky-Korsakov, who had edited most of Mussorgsky’s other orchestral works as well. Rimsky-Korsakov “corrected” Mussorgsky’s supposedly crude harmonies and smoothed out some dissonant, primitive-sounding passages that gave the music its bold originality. It is in this version that the Prelude (indeed, the entire opera) is usually heard today, but other orchestrations exist by Stravinsky/Ravel and by Shostakovich. The first performance of the opera was given on February 21, 1886, in St. Petersburg by an amateur company; the first professional production, also in St. Petersburg, waited until November 7, 1911.

a sensuous dance episode

The Dance of the Persian Maidens comes from the fourth of the opera’s five acts. As the curtain rises, we see Prince Khovansky in the banquet hall of his palace. A messenger arrives to inform him that his life is in danger, but the Prince angrily dismisses the threat and orders the messenger beaten. The Prince is in a turbulent state of mind. He calls for his Persian dancing girls to come entertain him. This they do during a sevenminute episode that to some listeners brings to mind the Polovtsian Dances in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, written almost concurrently with Mussorgsky’s opera. However, Borodin’s dances are provided as a public spectacle, while Mussorgsky’s are for a private audience. Furthermore, the styles are quiet different. Instead of the barbaric splendor found in the Polovtsian Dances, we find a gentler, more sinuous and sensuous tone to Mussorgsky’s music, something more akin to the ministrations of a Scheherazade, perhaps. This was to be Prince Khovansky’s last pleasure, for moments later he is struck down by an assassin’s knife. Instrumentation: 3 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, field drum, tambourine, triangle, cymbals, harp and strings

In 1893, when Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is first performed: • The words to America the Beautiful are penned by Wellesley professor Katharine Lee Bates • Norwegian artist Edvard Munch paints his best-known work, The Scream • New Orleans hosts the longest-ever boxing match— 110 rounds in more than seven hours

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Program Notes

a ‘gold mine of precious themes’

Sergei Prokofiev Born: April 23, 1891, Sontsovka, Ekaterinoslav Province, Ukraine Died: March 5, 1953, Moscow

Sinfonia concertante for Cello and Orchestra, Opus 125

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ew major symphonic compositions have gone through a gestation as long, convoluted and tortuous as this one. Prokofiev conceived the idea of a cello concerto in 1933 in Paris, just as he was preparing to return to his native Russia after an absence of some 16 years. Its completion was delayed until 1938, and on November 26 of that year it was performed as Cello Concerto, Opus 58.

Within two years the concerto underwent the first of its many modifications. It was then set aside until 1950, when Prokofiev reworked the original material to the extent that he now called it Concerto No. 2. In the meantime he had met and befriended Mstislav Rostropovich, when the cellist was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory. In fact, it was at Rostropovich’s urging that the composer undertook this task at all. The premiere of Concerto No. 2 took place in Moscow on February 18, 1952, with Sviatoslav Richter, better known as a great pianist, making his podium debut, conducting the Moscow Youth Symphony. After still further revisions, Prokofiev renamed the work SymphonyConcerto, in accord with his view that the orchestral, or symphonic, nature of the work was of greater importance than one usually encounters in a concerto. The title Sinfonia concertante was assigned by the first publisher, Boosey and Hawkes, in 1951, and western orchestras most frequently use this edition. In its final form, the Sinfonia concertante was first heard in Copenhagen on December 9, 1954, with Thomas Jensen conducting the Danish State Radio Symphony. The soloist for both the Moscow and Copenhagen premieres was of course Rostropovich, who continued to champion the work throughout the world.

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So difficult is the solo role in the Sinfonia concertante that the work has been dubbed “the very Everest of the virtuoso cellist’s repertory.” It incorporates virtually the entire catalogue of technical challenges and special effects, including much writing in the violin range. It leaps across huge expanses of range and involves rapid shifts from pizzicato to arco (plucked to bowed), chordal writing, continuous double stops (playing two notes together) and almost impossibly fast passage work. But Prokofiev did not neglect the cello’s pre-eminent capacity for soaring lyricism and warmth of character. Incorporated into its unusual formal layout are also several humorous episodes, as well as some dance-like in nature, some grotesque, some capricious and even fantastical. In all, the Sinfonia concertante richly deserves the assessment of critic Louis Biancolli, who wrote in The New York World-Telegram and Sun that “this is a magnificent score, humming with life and variety, compactly put together, and a gold mine of precious themes and episodes.” Instrumentation: solo cello with orchestra comprising 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, tambourine, triangle, bass drum, side drum, celesta and strings

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Born: May 7, 1840, Votkinsk Died: November 6, 1893, St. Petersburg

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Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opus 74, Pathétique uch conjecture has surrounded the “program” of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. During its composition he wrote to his nephew Vladimir Davidov that “the program will be of a kind that will remain an enigma to all—let them guess… This program is saturated with subjective feeling…while composing it in my mind I shed many tears.”

SHOWCASE

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Minnesota Orchestra


Program Notes

passionate, not pathetic

Tchaikovsky considered calling it the “Tragic,” but when his brother Modeste suggested patetichesky, the composer exclaimed, “Excellent, Modya, bravo, patetichesky!” The word was inscribed immediately on the score’s title page and taken to the publisher Jurgenson. Within a day Tchaikovsky changed his mind. But Jurgenson, no doubt with an eye towards the sales potential of such a catchy title, let the work go out as Symphonie pathétique, and the name stuck. It is worth noting that the word pathétique derives from the Greek patheticos, which has a different flavor than in most modern English contexts, where it usually implies inadequacy and pity, as in “a pathetic attempt.” The Russian patetichesky refers to something passionate, emotional and, as in the original Greek, having overtones of suffering. Death seems to lurk in much of the work. The words “death” and “dying” occur in a letter Tchaikovsky wrote explaining the plan of the symphony. Some listeners hear an expression of a hypersensitive artist given to alternating moods of exaltation and dejection, and try to follow each emotional state in the music as a mirror of the composer’s soul. Others take their cue from critic Philip Hale, who wrote: “Here is a work that, without a hint or a suggestion of a program, sums up in the most imaginative language the life of man, with his illusions, desires, loves, struggles, victories, unavoidable end.” Jonathan Kramer offers this balanced view: “Tchaikovsky’s language is one of immediacy, not subtlety, and nowhere is his emotionalism more personal than in the Pathétique. His sentimentalism was symptomatic of his era, but today the excesses of late Romantic art can be appreciated in their historical context. We have known, in the wars of the 20th century, a deeper and far more devastating hysteria than is depicted in the Sixth Symphony. The unbridled outpouring of this music, especially in its last movement, is tolerable today because it does not seem to portray the deepest possible human despair. Although the composer may have intended high tragedy, the music itself does not seem to attempt such lofty heights. It is over-effusive, unstable, impulsive, yet it is immediate and spontaneous—it is, in a word, human.” Tchaikovsky began working on his last symphony in February 1893 and conducted the first performance on October 28 in St. Petersburg. It was only mildly successful, yet he felt that it was “the best and especially the most sincere of my works. I love it as I have never loved any of

my other musical creations.” At the second performance, three weeks later, conducted by Eduard Nápravník, the symphony left a powerful impression. But the composer was dead: his Symphonie pathétique had become his swan song.

adagio – allegro non troppo. The introductory bassoon solo, which crawls slowly through the murkiest colors of the orchestra, becomes the melodic material for the Allegro section’s principal theme. The second theme, presented by the violins, is probably the most memorable of the entire work, haunting in its beauty, poignancy and sad lyricism. The clarinet brings this theme down to the limits of audibility. A crash shatters the mood abruptly, and the development section ensues, one of the most violent and ferocious passages Tchaikovsky ever wrote. A brief recapitulation is followed by a consoling coda.

allegro con grazia. The second movement, in 5/4 meter, has famously been called a “broken-backed waltz, limping yet graceful.” A Trio section in the middle, also in 5/4, is noteworthy for the steady, pulsing notes in the bassoons, double basses and timpani. allegro molto vivace; finale: adagio lamentso. The Pathétique’s third movement combines elements of a light scherzo with a heavy march. So festive and exuberant does the march become that one is tempted to stand and cheer at the end, making all the more effective the anguished cry that opens the finale. The finale’s infinitely warm and tender second theme in D major works itself into a brilliant climax and crashes in a tumultuous descent of scales in the strings. The first theme returns in continuously rising peaks of intensity, agitation and dramatic conflict. Finally the energy is spent, the sense of struggle subsides, and a solemn trombone chorale leads into the return of the movement’s second theme, no longer in D major but in B minor—dark, dolorous, weighted down in inexpressible grief and resignation. The underlying heart throb of double basses eventually ceases and the symphony dies away into blackness… nothingness. Instrumentation: 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam and strings

Program notes by Robert Markow.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2012

All materials copyright © 2012 by the Minnesota Orchestra.

feb 9, 10, 11

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