On the Upbeat JANUARY 2012 • VOLUME 5, EDITION 3
The Santa Barbara Symphony
Nir’s Notes Dear Music Lovers, Happy New Year! We kick off the 2012 musical year with a selection of works that represent an arc of almost 200 years of music history. The first half of the concert consists of two pieces featuring the string section and keyboard. In fact, both pieces even have the same title, “Concerto Grosso.” Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch took the challenge of composing a modern piece with the same means that the master of that genre Johann Sebastian Bach did 200 years earlier. Playing the two pieces back to back will show you how music in the same format with the same instruments and the same tonal language can sound so different! Haydn’s Symphony No. 83, nicknamed “The Hen,” will open the 2nd half of the evening. This four-movement piece, with contrasting themes and melodies, is one of the most popular and brilliant symphonies of the composer known as the “Father of the Symphony.” If the “Hen” title was added to the symphony by the audience after hearing the piece, the next piece in our program, Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending,” is a tone poem for violin solo and orchestra inspired by a poem of the same title by George Meredith. It begins: He rises and begins to round, He drops the silver chain of sound Of many links without a break, In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake In contrast to the meditative sounds of Vaughan Williams, we will close the program with Ravel’s virtuosic piece, “Tzigane.” Brilliantly orchestrated with Gypsy-styled themes, it is a challenge for every great violinist. I am very happy to welcome to The Granada Theatre stage, violinist Anne Akiko Meyer in her debut with our Symphony. Thanks for being with us in our Journey from “Bach to Ravel.” I am looking forward to welcoming you to our next concerts.
January 21 & 22, 2012 Nir Kabaretti, Conductor Anne Akiko Meyers, Violin
J.S. BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, (1685-1750) BWV 1048
BLOCH Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra (1880-1959) and Piano Obbligato
Allegro — (Adagio) — Allegro
Prelude: Allegro energico e pesante Dirge: Andante moderato Pastorale and Rustic Dances: Assai lento — Allegro giocoso Fugue: Allegro
— I N TE R M I S S I O N — HAYDN Symphony No. 83 in G minor, “The Hen” (1732-1809) Allegro spiritoso Andante Menuet: Allegretto Finale: Vivace
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The Lark Ascending, Romance for Violin (1872-1958) and Orchestra
RAVEL Tzigane, Rapsodie de Concert (1875-1937) for Violin and Orchestra
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ANNE AKIKO MEYERS violin Anne Akiko Meyers is one of the world’s premiere concert violinists. A celebrated and versatile soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and educator, she has collaborated with world-class musicians from both the classical and popular worlds, commissioned and premiered new works, and showcased underperformed works to new audiences. In 2011, Meyers was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by the Austin Critic’s Table. Last season, she returned to the KBS Symphony (Korea) and the Dusseldorf Symphoniker, and performed the Mozart G Major Concerto – with cadenzas composed for her by Wynton Marsalis – with the St. Louis and Grand Rapids symphony orchestras. To promote her critically acclaimed album, Seasons…dreams on eOne Records, she embarked on an extensive national tour, and at New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art, she performed the world premiere of John Corgliano’s “Lullaby for Natalie,” written to mark the birth of her daughter. This season, she performs with the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Austin Chamber Music Center, and with the Jupiter Chamber Players in New York City. Meyers’ debut disc includes the Barber Violin Concerto and Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, with Christopher Seaman and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Her catalogue of Red Seal Masterworks was re-released on iTunes last season. Other notable recordings include the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Andrew Litton and the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Prokofiev Concertos with the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt, Somei Satoh’s “Kisetsu” and the Joseph Schwantner “Angelfire” fantasy for amplified violin and orchestra, both written for and premiered by Meyers. Since making her debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 11, Meyers has appeared with the Boston Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, Warsaw Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony, Osaka Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, and New York Philharmonic. A passionate advocate of expanding the repertoire, Meyers has premiered works by composers including David Baker, Mason Bates, Jakub Ciupinksi, John Corgliano, Roddy Ellias, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Jennifer Higdon, Wynton Marsalis, Oliver Messiaen, Akira Miyoshi, Arvo Pärt, Manuel Ponce, Somei Satoh and Joseph Schwantner. Television credits include appearances on CNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” an A&E telecast from the Casals Festival with the Montreal Symphony, a PBS broadcast with the Boston Pops Orchestra and John Williams, “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and the “Primetime Emmy Awards.” Meyers was featured in a performance with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Holland that attracted an audience of 10,000, and performed in front of 750,000 people in Australia’s Sydney Harbour, celebrating their 250th Bicentennial. Born in San Diego, California, she began her studies at the age of four. She was a student of Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, Josef Gingold at Indiana University, and Felix Galimir, Masao Kawasaki and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School. At age 23, Meyers was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, the only artist ever to be the sole recipient of this annual prize. She plays the “Molitor” Stradivarius, dated 1697, believed to have been owned by Napoleon Bonaparte.
OTES JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048 Composed around 1720. Strings only. Approximately 12 minutes. Brandenburg, in Bach’s day, was a political and military powerhouse. It had been part of the Holy Roman Empire since the mid-12th century, and its ruler— the Markgraf, or Margrave — was charged with defending and extending the northern imperial border (“mark,” or “marche” in Old English and Old French), in return for which he was allowed to be an Elector of the Emperor. The house of Hohenzollern acquired the margraviate of Brandenburg in 1415, and the family embraced the Reformation a century later with such authority that they came to be regarded as the leaders of German Protestantism; Potsdam, near Berlin, was chosen as the site of the electoral court in the 17th century. Johann Sebastian Bach met Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, in 1719, during his tenure as music director at the court of Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Bach worked at Cöthen from 1717 to 1723, and early in 1719, he was sent by Leopold to Berlin to finalize arrangements for the purchase of a new harpsichord, a large, two-manual model made by Michael Mietke, instrument-builder to the royal court. While in Berlin, Bach played for Christian Ludwig, who was so taken with his music that he asked him to send some of his compositions for his library. Bach lost an infant son a few months later, however, and in 1720, his wife died and he rejected an offer to become organist at the Jacobkirche in Hamburg, so it was more than two years before he fulfilled Brandenburg’s request. By 1721, Leopold had become engaged to marry a woman who looked askance at his huge expenditures for musical entertainment. Bach seems to have realized that when she moved in, he would probably be moved out, so he began casting about for a more secure position. He remembered the interest the Margrave Brandenburg had shown in his music, so he picked six of the finest concertos he had written at Cöthen and sent them to Christian Ludwig in March 1721 with a flowery dedication in French — but to no avail. No job materialized at Potsdam, and in 1723, Bach moved to Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, where he remained for the rest of his life. The Third Brandenburg is a special type of the Baroque concerto grosso — the orchestral concerto. Rather than a specific group of concertino instruments being set off against the ensemble, the orchestra is, in effect, a collection of soloists. Each of the nine instruments comprising the ensemble (three each of violins, violas and cellos) may act as soloist, but more frequently a single group is featured while the others serve as accompaniment. Lacking, as it does, a slow movement, the Third Brandenburg becomes a virtual dynamo of rhythmic energy. The opening measures not only introduce the movement, but also serve as a storehouse of motives from which the ensuing music is spun. The work’s “conversational” quality is much in evidence as the Concerto unfolds, with special care taken to contrast the subtle timbres of the three instrumental groups. The movement bounds along with great good humor and high spirits to its conclusion. After a brief respite of a lone Adagio measure, the whirling motion resumes with a vigorous gigue, the fast, triple-meter dance often used as the closing movement of Baroque instrumental pieces. Like all such 18th-century dances, this movement is divided into two large sections, each of which may be repeated.
ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959)
Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra and Piano Obbligato Composed in 1924-1925. Premiered on June 1, 1925 in Cleveland, conducted by the composer. Approximately 24 minutes. Ernest Bloch was actively composing from 1920 to 1925 while he was Director of the Cleveland Institute of Music. The works he produced during that period were mostly for chamber ensembles or solo piano, but his farewell to the city and the Institute — the Concerto Grosso No. 1— was scored for string orchestra and piano. The piece was a direct result of his teaching duties, which included conducting the student orchestra. The composer’s daughter, Suzanne, recounted the work’s genesis in her biography of her father: “In 1924, my father became concerned with some of his students who expressed their doubts about the validity of tonality and form in contemporary music. Some of them were skeptical when Bloch told them that
one could still write alive and original music with the means that had existed for so long. He felt that he had to prove his point, so one evening he wrote a Prelude for strings. At the rehearsal, we read the piece, Bloch conducting us with a broad smile. We all played with gusto, and at the end the whole orchestra shouted with glee. Bloch said: ‘What do you think now? This is tonal with not a single new noise or harmony. It has just old-fashioned notes!’ Thus, the First Concerto Grosso was born.” The opening Prelude demonstrates fine rhythmic energy and harmonic thrust. The deeply felt Dirge is in three-part form, the outer sections employing snapping, dotted rhythms while the central portion is smoothly flowing and ethereal. The third movement, Pastorale and Rustic Dances, ingeniously combines a slow shepherd’s call with lively folk dances, melodies such as Bloch admitted recalling from his childhood in Switzerland. The concluding Fugue exploits the tone colors of the strings, both soloists and ensemble, and displays Bloch’s contrapuntal skills in the manner in which the theme from the opening movement is woven into the texture near the end.
JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 83 in G minor, “La Poule” (“The Hen”) Composed in 1785. Premiered in 1787 in Paris. Flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings. Approximately 22 minutes. In 1786, Claude-François-Marie Rigoley, Comte d’Ogny, one of the directors of Les Concerts de la Loge Olympique in Paris, sought to capitalize on Haydn’s stellar European popularity by commissioning from him a series of six symphonies for his ensemble’s performance. In fulfilling the commission from d’Ogny for what became known as the “Paris” Symphonies (Nos. 82-87), Haydn seems to have drawn on two already finished works (Nos. 83 and 87) and complemented them with four pieces expressly written for the Olympique concerts. These masterful creations, then, are products of 1785 and 1786, years when Haydn had little time for composition because of his hectic schedule as Prince Esterházy’s opera producer and director in Hungary — he prepared and conducted at least 125 opera performances in 1786 alone. The superb quality of the “Paris” Symphonies is as great a testimony to Haydn’s stamina and energy — he was 53 when the commission arrived — as to his wondrous musical talent. The Symphonies were apparently first played in Paris in 1787, and published there the following January by Imbault. Haydn, having learned during the preceding decade how to play the challenging but lucrative game of music publishing in those pre-copyright times, also sold the scores for publication to William Forster in London and Artaria in Vienna. The sobriquet of the Symphony No. 83 (“La Poule” — “The Hen”) was attached to the music by its first Parisian audiences, who detected a reflection of avian precise strutting and halting motion in the second theme of the opening movement. The Symphony begins in the rather ominous key of G minor, with music reminiscent of the proto-Romantic experiments in stormy emotional expression that Haydn, Mozart and other of their contemporaries had undertaken in the 1770s. But then comes the second theme — the stuttering farmyard motive — as a teasing rejection of such pomposity. The music circles back through G minor to fulfill the sonata-form requirements of the movement, but eventually tosses away completely the façade of solemnity, and ends in the perky tonality of G major. The Andante, spread across a full sonata form, achieves the masterly balance of decorous reserve and tender emotion that marks the best of Haydn’s slow movements. The following Menuet is one of his least boisterous essays in the form, though it is considerably enlivened by clever rhythmic interplay between downbeat and upbeat accents. The finale is a galloping, outdoor affair, rousing music that would not be out of place at a hunting picnic or a festive garden party.
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The Lark Ascending, Romance for Violin and Orchestra Composed in 1914; revised in 1920. Premiered on June 14, 1921 in London, conducted by Adrian Boult with Marie Hall as soloist. Two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, percussion and strings. Approximately 13 minutes. The Lark Ascending was composed in 1914 for Marie Hall (1884-1956), a protégé of Elgar and one of the leading violinists of her generation. Vaughan Williams had known her and admired her playing since at least June 1908, when she appeared at a concert in Cambridge that also included a performance of his Toward the Unknown Region. The title and peaceable mood of The Lark Ascending grew from the following verses, excerpted from George Meredith’s Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of
Earth and inscribed on the flyleaf of the score: He rises and begins to round,/He drops the silver chain of sound,/Of many links without a break,/In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake. Though it seems almost too theoretical a description for music of such ethereal beauty, The Lark Ascending is in what would be called in the compositions of Bartók and other 20th-century modernists an “arch form,” i.e., a movement symmetrical around its central section. The opening and closing portions are cadenzas for the soloist, high, floating music that Vaughan Williams’ biographer Frank Howes said sounds like the lark’s expression of “joi de vivre on a spring morning with a slight haze in the air.” Three musical paragraphs comprise the main body of the work. First comes a lilting strain of a subtle delicacy and a pastoral simplicity at which Vaughan Williams has never been surpassed. A brief passage for the soloist leads to a gentle dance melody first entrusted to the flutes. (The themes in this piece, though sprung in their very essence from folk music, are based on no known models.) At the center comes a restive paragraph that Howes thought sounded “as though someone had disturbed a whole bushful of birds.” The dance melody is heard again and then the lilting theme from the beginning before The Lark Ascending closes contentedly with a final gossamer flight for the soloist.
MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane, Rapsodie de Concert for Violin and Orchestra Composed for violin and piano in spring 1924; orchestrated later that year. Premiered in the original version on April 26, 1924 by Jelly d’Aranyi in London; Mlle. d’Aranyi was also soloist in the premiere of the orchestral version on November 30, 1924 in Paris; Gabriel Pierné conducted. Woodwinds and horns in pairs, trumpet, percussion, celeste, harp and strings. Approximately 10 minutes. Exoticism had a great appeal for Maurice Ravel: he was fascinated, as was Debussy, by the Oriental and Russian music he heard as a young lad at the Paris International Exhibition of 1889; he harbored a special fondness for stimulating condiments and unusual dishes; he filled his home with chinoiserie and quaint knick-knacks from earlier times and other cultures. Among his musical compositions, his interest in exotic themes is evidenced by Daphnis et Chloé (ancient Greece), Le Tombeau de Couperin (rococo France), Mother Goose (fantasy tales), and the “Concert Rhapsody” for Violin and Orchestra, Tzigane, which evokes the colorful Gypsy idioms of Eastern Europe. While in England in July 1922, Ravel was a guest at a soirée at which the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi participated in a performance of his Sonata for Violin and Cello. When the formal part of the evening’s entertainment had been accomplished, Ravel asked Mlle. d’Aranyi to play some Gypsy melodies from her native land, and she filled the night until dawn with music that enthralled the composer. Ravel, though captivated by the passionate Hungarian music and determined to compose a new work of Gypsy cast for Mlle. d’Aranyi, had been mired in a fallow period since the end of World War I, and it was almost two years before he was able to complete Tzigane. Tzigane, which follows in the tradition of the Gypsy-inspired compositions of Liszt and Enesco, comprises several structural sections played without pause following an extended introduction for unaccompanied violin. Each section is a virtual miniature dance movement which reaches its own climax before making way for the next dance-section. The tempo of the last section goes from faster to fastest, and Tzigane ends in the bedazzling whirl of the soloist’s moto perpetuo pyrotechnics. The work is filled with more than enough virtuosity to gratify the violinist and to electrify any audience: harmonics, multiple stops, pizzicati, trills and appoggiaturas abound. Ravel, with his perfect craftsmanship, set this dizzying display against a subtle orchestral background to produce a composition rich in atmosphere and filled with fiery, Gypsy enthusiasm. ©2011 Dr. Richard E. Rodda
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©On the Upbeat, JANUARY 2012 VOL. 5, EDITION 3. Published for Symphony Series concert subscribers by the Santa Barbara Symphony, 1330 State Street, Suite 102, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 898-9386 — A non-profit organization.