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feb 17, 18, 19

Vänskä Conducts Brahms’ Fourth

Minnesota Orchestra Osmo Vänskä, conductor Martin Fröst, clarinet

Thursday, February 17, 2011, 11 am Friday, February 18, 2011, 8 pm Saturday, February 19, 2011, 8 pm

Sergei Prokofiev

Kalevi Aho

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Johannes Brahms

Orchestra Hall Orchestra Hall Orchestra Hall

Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Opus 33a The Ridiculous People The Magician Celio and Fata Morgana Play Cards March Scherzo The Prince and the Princess Flight

ca. 15'

Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra Tempestuoso Cadenza Vivace, con brio Adagio, mesto Epilogo (Misterioso) Martin Fröst, clarinet

ca. 30'

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Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Opus 98 Allegro non troppo Andante moderato Allegro giocoso Allegro energico e passionato

ca. 20' ca. 40'

Violinist José-Maria Blumenschein serves as guest concertmaster for these performances. 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; Patterson, Thuente, Skaar and Christensen; and DTS Digital Entertainment.

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All materials copyright © 2011 by the Minnesota Orchestra.

Minnesota Orchestra


feb 17, 18, 19

Artists

Concert Preview: Brahms’ Fourth Symphony with Phillip Gainsley 2/17 at 10:30 am 2/18 at 7 pm 2/19 at 7 pm Orchestra Hall Auditorium

Martin Fröst, clarinet

Ask Osmo! 2/19, post-concert Stay after the Saturday night concert for a Q&A with Music Director Osmo Vänskä

Osmo Vänskä, conductor

one-minute notes

Profile appears on page 14.

Swedish clarinet virtuoso Martin Fröst, now welcomed for his Minnesota Orchestra debut, is in demand as a guest soloist with major orchestras on four continents. Currently: His recent and upcoming engagements include debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Tokyo’s NHK Symphony, a tour with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, a recital at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and a major residency at the Cologne Philharmonie. In addition, he is artistic director of two major music festivals in Sweden and Norway and is active as a conductor. New music: In 2006 Fröst premiered Aho’s Clarinet Concerto with Osmo Vänskä and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. More recently, he gave the first performance of Victoria Borisova-Ollas’ Golden Dances of Pharaohs. Of interest: He was the only classical instrumentalist to perform in a televised gala concert celebrating the marriage of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Daniel Westling in June 2010. More: harrisonparrott.com, martinfrost.se.

Prokofiev: Suite from The Love for Three Oranges Prokofiev’s comic opera bewildered its first audiences, but its music found new life in this witty suite, which is characterized by acerbic harmonies, droll tunes, rhythmic angularity and satirical twists.

Aho: Clarinet Concerto This clarinet showpiece explores the instrument’s full emotional range in five movements that flow together without pause. Highlights include a rollercoaster opening movement alternating between stress and calm; a segment full of complex shifting rhythms; and a virtuoso finale built on multiphonics—two or more notes sounded simultaneously.

Brahms: Symphony No. 4 Brahms’ Fourth is a passionate work filled with high drama. From a first movement both warm and tragic, the symphony proceeds through a moody intermezzo and a rambunctious scherzo to a most unusual conclusion: a beautifully abstract set of variations on a Bach cantata. F E B R UA RY | M A R C H 2 0 1 1

All materials copyright © 2011 by the Minnesota Orchestra.

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Program Notes

three are dying of thirst, but one of them is revived with a bucket of water and—no surprise to opera aficionados— falls in love with the Prince!

Sergei Prokofiev Born: April 23, 1891, Sontzovka Died: March 5, 1953, Moscow

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Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Opus 33a n 1918, the 27-year-old Prokofiev set out eastward across Russia en route to America via Vladivostok and Yokohama. That fall his concert tour landed him in Chicago, where he was commissioned to write a new opera, The Love for Three Oranges.

a thoroughly zany plot

The opera’s plot, derived from a story by the 18th-century Italian satirist Carlo Gozzi, is just as zany as the title— “merrily lunatic,” in the words of historian Donald Grout. Comedy, fairy tale and satire all combine in the story of a melancholy young Prince who is fated to die unless he can somehow be made to laugh. All kinds of outlandish tricks are attempted, but nothing works until, in the best manner of fairy tales, the one character who is conspiring to ensure the Prince’s death, the evil Fata Morgana, inadvertently trips and falls in a ridiculous heap during her entry to the palace. The Prince is cured, but Fata curses him by declaring he must now find and fall in love with three magic oranges. After a series of bizarre adventures, he finds them. Inside each is a princess: all

at the same time... In 2006, when Aho’s Clarinet Concerto is first performed: • The International Astronomical Union demotes Pluto to the status of “dwarf planet” • NASA reports that ice in the Arctic Sea is melting at a rate of 9 percent per year • The world’s biggest book fair opens in Frankfurt, Germany, with Indian authors taking center stage Brahms’ Fourth Symphony premieres in 1885, the year: • President Chester Arthur dedicates the Washington Monument • The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) is incorporated • The Statue of Liberty—a gift from France—arrives in New York’s harbor

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“The theatrical aspect of the opera interested me tremendously,” wrote Prokofiev. “The way in which the action developed on three distinct planes—the fairy tale characters, the creatures from the underworld, and the comic characters belonging to the theater itself—was absolutely novel.” In fact, though, something quite similar had been done in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, an opera Prokofiev certainly must have known, as well as in two he had probably not yet encountered: Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten. Prokofiev himself conducted the first performance—a qualified success—on December 30, 1921. He wrote: “The Chicago audience was both proud and bewildered. Proud of having first produced a ‘modern opera,’ and bewildered by the unusual music and by the fact that this enterprise should have cost some $250,000, as was reported in the newspapers. One person said: ‘Those oranges were the most expensive in the world.’ ” But the single New York performance a short time later was no success at all, and the opera went into hiding until it was revived in 1949 by the City Center Opera Company in New York. In 1923, however, Prokofiev prepared the six-movement Suite heard in these concerts, which was premiered in Paris on November 29, 1925. The music is full of the acerbic harmonies, droll tunes, rhythmic angularity, grotesque sounds and satirical twists characteristic of Prokofiev’s early style.

the music

The Suite opens with The Ridiculous People, depicting one of the oddball groups who in the opera serve as an onstage audience. They attempt to make the Prince laugh; they also argue, comment on and even try to interfere with the story. The second movement brings us the sorceress Fata Morgana at a card game, whose stakes are power. She wins. Next comes the well-known March, to which the court jester Truffaldino enters with the morose Prince. (Some listeners may recognize it as the theme music to an old radio show, The FBI in Peace and War.) During the Scherzo, scurrying strings suggest the fleet progress of the Prince and Truffaldino in search of the three oranges.

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All materials copyright © 2011 by the Minnesota Orchestra.

Minnesota Orchestra


Program Notes

The Prince and the Princess embodies the tenderly romantic love duet, with the vocal lines given over to instruments in the orchestra. This music occurs just after the prince liberates the third dehydrated princess from her orange tomb. Finally, The Flight portrays the chaotic shuffling about as Fata Morgana and her minions attempt to escape retribution. Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, suspended cymbal, gong, bells, tambourine, triangle, xylophone, 2 harps and strings

Program note by Robert Markow.

Kalevi Aho

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Born: March 9, 1949, Forssa, northwest of Helsinki: now living in Helsinki

Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra

egular subscribers to the Minnesota Orchestra over the past few years will recognize the name Kalevi Aho, one of Finland’s most important and most successful living composers of his generation. Since 2005, an Aho work has been performed by the Orchestra every year but one: Symphony No. 7 (Insect Symphony) in 2005, the Flute Concerto in 2006, Symphony No. 9 for Trombone and Orchestra in 2007, the same work during Sommerfest in 2008, Minea (a Minnesota Orchestra commission) in 2009, and Symphony No. 10 that same year. There was no work in 2010, but as if to make amends for this gap, two Aho works will now be heard in close succession: the Clarinet Concerto on this week’s classical programs, and the Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano immediately afterward, at the Orchestra’s Chamber Music at MacPhail concert on February 20.

a prolific composer

Like Shostakovich earlier in the 20th century, Aho sprang to international recognition with his First Symphony

while still a 20-year-old student. Also like Shostakovich, whose music influenced Aho’s early works, the Finnish composer has set his sights on a catalogue that features large-scale chamber works, concertos and symphonies. In the latter category, he has written 15 to date—the first Finnish composer to do so—inviting still another comparison with Shostakovich. His newest symphony will receive its world premiere this March 26 in Manchester, England. There are also three “chamber symphonies,” each for exactly 20 strings (though one adds an alto saxophone). In the realm of concertos, too, Aho has composed 15 works, all but three written since 2000. Many are for instruments that rarely get time in the spotlight, including the tuba, bassoon, double bass, trombone, percussion and saxophones. One of his most extraordinary concertos is for the contrabassoon, a work with a huge emotional range, brilliant orchestration and solo writing that prompted its dedicatee, Lewis Lipnick, to call it “the most challenging work ever written for the contrabassoon…also the best.” Aho has been even more prolific in chamber music, having written more than two dozen works of this type. He has made the quintet his specialty in recent years, with no fewer than nine compositions written during the past decade, every one for a different combination of instruments. Four operas, miscellaneous other orchestral works and assorted choral pieces round out his catalogue. As if all this weren’t enough to keep one man busy, Aho communicates in words as well as in notes. He is the author of more than 500 essays, articles and presentations, mostly on music but also on art, esthetics, politics and social criticism. And he is one of the few composers who sees nearly everything he writes committed to disc. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra, of which he has been composer in residence since 1992, records every new orchestral work he writes, including the Clarinet Concerto performed this week at Orchestra Hall. Aho studied primarily with one of Finland’s senior composers, Einojuhani Rautavaara (whose Cello Concerto No. 2 opened the Orchestra’s concerts this season), and later with Boris Blacher in Berlin. From 1974 to 1988 he was a lecturer in musicology at Helsinki University, and from 1988 to 1993 a professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy. In 1994 he received a 15-year grant from the Finnish government. F E B R UA RY | M A R C H 2 0 1 1

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Program Notes

the clarinet concerto

Aho composed his Clarinet Concerto in 2005 for Martin Fröst, who was soloist in the first performance on April 22 of the following year, with Osmo Vänskä conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. This week’s concerts by the Minnesota Orchestra mark the concerto’s American premiere. The 30-minute score is laid out in five movements, all played without pause. All the movements are of approximately equal length (6-8 minutes) with the exception of the second, which is considerably shorter.

tonguing and tremolos are additional special effects used in this deeply meditative movement. The concerto dies away into nothingness. Instrumentation: solo clarinet with orchestra comprising flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, baritone horn, tuba, timpani, anvil, bass drum, hi-hat cymbals, gong, large and small tam-tams, triangle, xylophone, vibraphone, harp and strings

Program note by Robert Markow.

tempestuoso. The emotional curve of the opening movement runs from the high anxiety of the beginning (stabbing chords from the full orchestra seemingly intent on silencing the high jinks and rollercoaster antics of the soloist) to beatific stasis in the middle, then back to music of intense stress. Already in this movement we find numerous instances of Aho’s clever dovetailing of timbres from the orchestral palette with those of the soloist. cadenza. The brief second movement is given over to the soloist alone in a cadenza. Here we find the clarinet’s entire dynamic range, from the threshold of audibility to fiercely screaming intensity. Several series of tremolos (rapid fluttering between two different pitches) are also a prominent feature of the cadenza.

vivace, con brio. The orchestra reenters for the third movement, beginning with an effusion of brass, which set the tone for about six minutes of unabashed virtuosity for both orchestra and soloist. So complex are the meters that the conductor, too, has a virtuosic role to play. The movement ends with a fearsome climax capped by several roars of the tam-tam.

adagio, mesto. Horns in unison proclaim the broad, defiant line that opens the fourth movement. When the dust settles from the traumas recently experienced, the soloist begins a long, continuously unfolding song of haunting loneliness and poignant beauty.

epilogue (misterioso). The Epilogue, appropriately marked misterioso, is announced with softly repeated notes on the vibraphone and harp in alternation. The clarinet part is written almost entirely in multiphonics—the production of two or more notes simultaneously through the use of special fingerings, modifications of the embouchure, noises from the throat or a combination of these. Flutter46

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Johannes Brahms Born: May 7, 1833, Hamburg Died: April 3, 1897, Vienna

Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Opus 98

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rahms began his Fourth Symphony in summer 1884. That year he had chosen Mürzzuschlag in Styria for his annual holiday, that is to say, for one of those hardworking summer retreats when he got most of his composing done. “The cherries don’t ever get to be sweet and edible in this part of the world,” he wrote to several of his friends, adding that he feared his new piece had taken on something of their flavor. Hans von Bülow, 50 when he began his five-year stint as conductor of the superb orchestra in the duchy of Meiningen in 1880, was one of the most imposing and brilliant musical personalities of the 19th century. A remarkable pianist, conductor and polemicist, he was a prominent Wagnerian and led the first performances of Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger. He was caught in a wretched personal situation when his wife, the daughter of Franz Liszt, left him for Wagner. He continued to conduct Wagner’s music, but became one of the most fervent admirers and effective champions of Johannes Brahms, and thus one of the few to bridge what then seemed a vast gulf between musical ideologies.

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Minnesota Orchestra


Program Notes

“unparalled energy”

He was delighted to have Brahms come to Meiningen with his new symphony. “Difficult, very difficult,” Bülow reported after rehearsals had begun. “No. 4 gigantic, altogether a law unto itself, quite new, steely individuality. Exudes unparalleled energy from first note to last.” Brahms conducted the first orchestral performance at Meiningen on October 25, 1885, and the premiere went well. Bülow conducted a repeat performance a week later, after which the orchestra set off on tour, with Brahms conducting the new symphony in Frankfurt, Essen, Elberfeld, Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague, Krefeld, Cologne and Wiesbaden.

allegro non troppo. It is hard for us to think of a lovelier, more inviting opening to a symphony—of course, its familiarity helps—but Joseph Joachim, who knew Brahms’ music as well as anyone, found it disconcerting. Something preparatory, he suggested, even if it were only two measures of unison B, would help listeners find their way in. (Brahms’ correspondence with Joachim shows that originally there were preparatory measures of just that kind, and Brahms had struck them out.) This opening is immediately followed by a second statement of the melody, this time in broken octaves and in dialogue between first and second violins, with elaborate decorative material in violas and cellos. This was thought exceedingly difficult to unravel. Brahms’ friends were also upset by the way he gets into the development, seeming to start on a conventional repeat of the exposition, then changing one chord that opens undreamed-of harmonic horizons. All the early listeners admired the dreamily mysterious way Brahms leads us home. The music’s melancholy flow resumes in the expected way, and we realize we have crossed the border into the recapitulation. Brahms gives us a dramatic coda. The ending, on a kind of Amen cadence in minor and with powerful drum strokes, is magnificent.

andante moderato. The first movement comes to an emphatic, even grim close. The idyllic gives way to the impassioned, and finally a storm of triplet 16th-notes opens the way to a glorious cello melody which the other strings and the bassoons accompany with shameless wallowing in whipped cream.

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be hard to think of pieces orchestrated with more skill. The end of the movement sinks into a darkness to which the softly beating drums add a touch of something ominous.

allegro giocoso. The Andante began with a suggestion of C major, a false trail; however, the notion of a C-major beginning is not forgotten and is fully pursued in the massively rambunctious scherzo. For this movement Brahms introduces the giddy sounds of the piccolo and the triangle. The material is simple, but the harmonic strides are huge and adventurous.

allegro energico e passionato. The eight chords with which the finale begins are the theme of a set of 32 variations, plus coda. Woodwinds and brasses, joined at the last by rolling drums, proclaim the sequence of eight chords. Brahms has saved the trombones for this moment, and even now it is characteristic that the statement is forte rather than fortissimo. The finale falls into four large sections. First Brahms gives us 12 statements of the eight-bar set. This phase subsides to a contrasting section, comprising four double-size variations. The original pace is resumed with what sounds like a recapitulation. The passion and energy are released in an extensive, still developing, still experiencing coda at a faster speed. The symphony drives to its conclusion, forward-thrusting yet measured, always new in its details yet organically unified, stern, noble, and with that sense of inevitability that marks the greatest music. Instrumentation: 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle and strings

Program note excerpted from Michael Steinberg’s The Symphony: A Listener’s Guide (Oxford University Press, 1995). Before his death in 2009 Michael Steinberg contributed many program notes for use by the Minnesota Orchestra, and we are honored to have permission to continue using them.

It is difficult to think of another movement in Brahms’ orchestral music that is scored with so much uninhibited pleasure in the sheerly sensuous side of music. It would also F E B R UA RY | M A R C H 2 0 1 1

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