about the ProGraM
bAcH: bRANDeNbURg coNceRto No. 5 iN D MAjoR, bWv 1050
began life as a string quintet with two cellos and was destined to evolve through more versions before taking the form we know today.
We can trace the origins of Bach's fabled Brandenburg Concertos to approximately 1719, when Bach, who was in his early 30s, needed a new harpsichord. On his way to Berlin to order the instrument, he took the opportunity to perform for the margrave of the region, who commissioned several works. What happened next is less clear, but it seems certain that the compositions were submitted and remained unpaid for. After that, the scores lay ignored for more than a century without being played. They were discovered in the Brandenburg archives in 1849 and published in 1850.
When Brahms entrusted the violinist Joseph Joachim and the pianist Clara Schumann with the first three movements of the original scoring, they responded with praise, but also with specific reservations about the instrumentation. Brahms reworked it as a sonata for two pianos, which he performed with Karl Tausig in 1864, but Clara Schumann—an incomparably sympathetic and acute listener who was the love of Brahms's life—suggested further revision. Listening to the final version, for piano, two violins, viola and cello, it is difficult to imagine that the quintet ever took any other form.
In the Brandenburg No. 5, the concertino (roughly, solo instruments) comprises a standard combination of Bach's day: harpsichord, violin and flute. The harpsichord, always indispensably versatile, is deployed like a utility infielder in this concerto, playing in both the concertino and the ripieno (roughly, background instruments). In the central movement, marked affettuoso, the concertino instruments play without accompaniment. Here and in the final movement, the harpsichord provides an obbligato: a secondary, following line for a primary voice that serves to add color, context and emphasis. But in the first movement we hear a spectacular cadenza performed by the harpsichordist— a long, showy solo passage that has a spontaneous, improvised quality. The gorgeously fast runs of notes become even more impressive when we remember that the harpsichord soloist has fewer resources to work with than a modern pianist in coloring and phrasing: virtually no loud-soft variation in the note and a rapid decay time (the note disappears almost as soon as it's played, so the instrumentalist can't "shape" it as a pianist might). The challenge for the soloist, and for us as listeners, lies not just in the accuracy of the notes but in the expressiveness of the phrase. Bach was well known as a harpsichord virtuoso, and it seems likely that he wrote this part with himself in mind as soloist. In fact, musicologists believe he composed the part to showcase that fateful harpsichord he ordered in Berlin after calling on the margrave of Brandenburg. bRAHMs: PiANo QUiNtet iN F MiNoR, oP. 34 "I shall be born when and where I want, and I do not choose to be born in Lowell," the American artist J.M. Whistler famously declared. It's just incongruous in looking around the gritty German port of Hamburg to imagine it as the hometown of Johannes Brahms. In 1862, at age 29, Brahms left Hamburg for the city that would forever be more closely associated with his life and music: Vienna. It was in that year that he began work on his Piano Quintet in F minor, an early masterpiece that
Even in this phase of his career, Brahms was composing with the discipline and deep craftsmanship that give his music a sense of perfect flow. This suavity balances the quintet's power and passion; it doesn't sound like an "early" work. It begins intensely, with an opening movement that is energetic and dense—formally structured, dramatic and somber. But while the intensity never flags, the quintet's moods vary across a broad range: the impressive gravity of its opening gives way to a second movement of tender lyricism, while the third movement is a remarkable scherzo built upon three contrasting motivic statements. As is so often the case with Brahms, this movement carries us along with a sense of utter naturalness that belies its intricate craft, which juxtaposes a singing, artfully syncopated line above a pizzicato bass line. The fourth movement, a finale marked poco sostenuto, brings the quintet's many moods together: Brahms ratchets up the tension of its introspective, dark opening, then releases it with a joyful whirl of Magyar rhythm and melody. This kind of "gypsy music" inspired Brahms throughout his life. - Program notes by Michael Clive Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor in-chief for The Santa Fe Opera. cARl st.clAiR William J. Gillespie Music Director Chair Music Director, Pacific Symphony In 2014-15, Music Director Carl St.Clair celebrates his 25th anniversary season with Pacific Symphony. He is one of the longest tenured conductors of the major American orchestras, and has become widely recognized for his musically distinguished performances, commitment to outstanding educational programs and innovative approaches to programming. Among his creative endeavors with Pacific Symphony are leading productions of the operas La Bohème, Tosca, La Traviata and Carmen, commissioning and recording for CD a series of new works by American composers, and the creation of the highly acclaimed American Composers Festival. St.Clair led the orchestra’s historic move into the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and took the Symphony on