On the Upbeat November 2012 • Volume 6, Edition 2
French Connections November 10 & 11, 2012 Nir Kabaretti, Conductor Demarre McGill, Flute DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Syrinx for Unaccompanied Flute
Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
IBERT Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1890-1962) Allegro
Andante Allegro scherzando
— INTERMISSION —
In preparation for our November concert, Maestro Nir Kabaretti took some time out to discuss a little bit about the program and his young family.
SAINT-SAËNS Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, “Organ” (1835-1921) Adagio — Allegro moderato —
Q: What is the difference between French symphonic music and music from other regions?
Poco adagio Allegro moderato — Presto — Allegro moderato — Maestoso — Allegro sponsored by
Nir: In the Symphonic repertoire, France has a very important and special place. The form of the classical symphony was mainly an Austro/Germanic structure, starting with Haydn, then Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and others—until the greatest, Mahler. French composers, instead, were more interested in other forms, mainly opera, and symphonic poems. In other words, the repertoire of French symphonies is quite small, but nevertheless very significant! We all know Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” Franck’s Symphony in D, and on that short list the place of Saint Saëns’ “Organ” Symphony should absolutely not be absent.
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Q: You chose two Debussy pieces for this performance. What’s the connection for you?
Nir: My first and most profound connection to Debussy was through the piano. As a teenager, I was fascinated by his musical world, his language, and in general the
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NIR, From Page 1 Impressionism movement. The search for different colors, different musical forms, harmonies, etc. all of that opened for me a different and unknown world. His symphonic pieces are not often played (with the exception of La Mer), and this, his anniversary year (150 years from his birth), was a good opportunity to play Debussy in our season.
to the front of the stage instruments that are also less known as soloists. In the past we have had a harp concerto, percussion, guitar, french horn and now a flute. I am sure the audience will love these beautiful pieces. Q: Congratulations on being a new father again! We wonder what type of music the Kabaretti children are exposed to in the home?
Q: You selected a first half which highlights the flute, both as soloist and in the orchestra. What is your design for the first half?
Nir: Thank you. The kids are exposed in a passive way to all the music I need to learn! Recently they heard me on the piano struggling with Rach #2... Their mom is a graduated singer, so they hear Italian lullabies every night before bed, and now that our son Adam uses the iPad, he is addicted to Sesame Street, and knows all of Elmo’s repertoire.
Nir: Part of my vision in terms of programming is to introduce our audience to pieces and soloists they are not familiar with. If you look at concert programs world-wide, you will often find a piano or violin as a soloist. Here in Santa Barbara I try to bring
Demarre McGill flute Winner of a 2003 Avery Fisher Career Grant, flutist Demarre McGill has performed concerti with the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Baltimore Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony, among others. An active chamber musician, Mr. McGill is a member of the Jacksonville, Florida based Ritz Chamber Players and has been a member of Chamber Music Society Two, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s program for emerging young artists. He has been featured on a PBS Live From Lincoln Center broadcast with the Chamber Music Society performing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 as well as on an Angel Records CD playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with pianist Awadagin Pratt and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Mr. McGill has participated in the Music from Angel Fire, Santa Fe, Kingston, Cape Cod, Music@Menlo, Bay Chamber Concerts, Mainly Mozart, La Jolla and Marlboro music festivals. He has also performed on the Ravinia Festival’s “Rising Star” series, the A&E Network Series The Gifted Ones, and was special guest on the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood television program. Currently principal flutist of the Seattle Symphony, Mr. McGill has held the same position with the San Diego Symphony, the Florida Orchestra and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. He also served as acting principal flutist of the Pittsburgh Symphony during the 2005-06 season. In addition to his performance schedule, Mr. McGill is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Art of Élan, a chamber music organization in San Diego that aims to expose new audiences to classical music. Mr. McGill received his Bachelor’s Degree in Flute Performance from The Curtis Institute of Music where he studied with Julius Baker and Jeffrey Khaner. He continued his studies with Mr. Baker at the Juilliard School, where he received a Masters of Music degree.
“It’s only air (McGill) is working with, but he’s turning that air into sculpture.” – JEN GRAVES
Program Notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Syrinx for Unaccompanied Flute Composed in 1913. Approximately 3 minutes. In July 1907, the French writer and translator of Poe and Swinburne Gabriel Mourey offered Debussy an opera libretto based on the familiar story of Tristan and Isolde. The two considered the project for years, but by the fall of 1913 it was clear that it would come to nothing, so Mourey suggested that Debussy instead compose some incidental music to his new three-act dramatic poem on the ancient tale of Psyche. Debussy, pressed with finishing his “children’s ballet” La boîte à joujoux (“The Toy Box”) and obligated to conduct some concerts in Switzerland, was able to oblige Mourey’s request with but a single page of music, an atmospheric soliloquy for solo flute representing, according to the playwright, “the last melody that Pan plays before his death.” The piece, originally titled La flûte de Pan, was written in a few days at the end of November 1913, and first performed in the wings by flutist Louis Fleury during a staging of Psyché at the Parisian home of Louis Mors on December 1st. Debussy dedicated the score to Fleury, who seems to have taken the honor quite literally, and kept the manuscript to himself for years, playing it on his concerts in France and abroad with great success. To avoid confusion with the eponymous opening song of the Chansons de Bilitis, the title of the work was changed upon its publication by Jobert in 1927 to Syrinx, the nymph who was transformed into a reed by her sisters to save her from the lustful pursuit of Pan, who then made a flute from that selfsame reed upon which to pipe away his longing. Mourey told Debussy that Syrinx was “a real jewel of restrained emotion, of sadness, of plastic beauty, of discreet tenderness and poetry.” Claude Debussy
Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun Composed 1892-1894. Three flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two harps, antique cymbals and strings. Approximately 10 minutes. Stéphane Mallarmé was one of those artists in fin-de-siècle Paris who perceived strong relationships among music, literature and the other arts. A number of his poems, including L’Après-midi d’un faune (“The Afternoon of a Faun”), were not only inspired, he said, by music, but even aspired to its elevated, abstract state. The young composer Claude Debussy had similar feelings about the interaction of poetry and music, and he and Mallarmé became close friends, despite the twenty years difference in their ages. When Mallarmé completed his L’Après-midi d’un faune in 1876 after several years of writing and revising, he envisioned that it would be used as the basis for a theatrical production. Debussy was intrigued at this suggestion, and set about planning to provide music to a choreographic version that would be devised in consultation with Mallarmé. The projected work was described as Prélude, Interludes et Paraphrase finale to L’Après-midi d’un faune. Debussy completed only the scenario’s first portion, perhaps realizing, as had others, that Mallarmé’s misty symbolism and equivocal language were not innately suited to the theater. The premiere, given at an orchestral 3
concert of the Société Nationale in Paris on December 22, 1894, a few months after the score was finished, was meticulously prepared by the conductor Gustave Doret, with Debussy at his elbow giving instruction and inspiration, polishing details, retouching the scoring. So successful was the initial performance that the audience demanded the work’s immediate encore. L’Après-midi d’un faune was first staged by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe at the Théâtre du Châtelet on May 29, 1912; Nijinsky created the controversial choreography and appeared in the title role. Mallarmé’s poem is deliberately ambiguous in its sensuous, symbolist language; its purpose is as much to suggest a halcyon, dream-like mood as to tell a story. Robert Lawrence described its slight plot, as realized by Debussy, in his Victor Books of Ballets: “Exotically spotted, a satyr is taking his rest on the top of a hillock. As he fondles a bunch of grapes, he sees a group of nymphs passing on the plain below. He wants to join them, but when he approaches, they flee. Only one of them, attracted by the faun, returns timidly. But the nymph changes her mind and runs away. For a moment he gazes after her. Then, snatching a scarf she has dropped in her flight, the faun climbs his hillock and resumes his drowsy position, astride the scarf.” As the inherent eroticism of the plot suggests, the Debussy/Mallarmé faun is no Bambi-like creature, but rather a mythological half-man, half-beast with cloven hooves, horns, tail and furry coat, a being which walks upright and whose chief characteristic is its highly developed libido. Mallarmé’s poem is filled with the ambiguities symbolized by the faun: is this a man or a beast? is his love physical or fantasy? reality or dream? The delicate subtlety of the poem finds a perfect tonal equivalent in Debussy’s music. The Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is a seminal work in 20th-century music about which the eminent modernist Pierre Boulez noted, “The flute of the Faun brought new breath to the art of music.” Sinuous melodies, exquisite harmonies and a glowing range of orchestral colors were here combined with a jeweler’s precision to produce a limpid sensuality that had never before been broached in music. Like its phrasing and meter, the form of the Prelude is deliberately blurred, unfolding almost as a single, long, improvisational melody begun by the flute and caressed by the other instrumental colors — sometimes just a single tonal strand, sometimes enriched with parallel harmonies. Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra Composed in 1934. Woodwinds and horns in pairs, one trumpet, timpani and strings. Approximately 19 minutes. Jacques Ibert was the son of a Parisian businessman and it was his father’s intention that the boy follow in the paternal footsteps when it came time to choose a career. Jacques had other ideas, however, and he studied music in secret so as not to incur Papa’s displeasure. Curiously, Ibert chose to be admitted to the Paris Conservatoire not as a musician but as an actor, another of his ambitions since childhood, though he studied music along with histrionics. His musical instincts soon won out, however, and he decided that composition offered the more fruitful future course. He studied with Fauré and became friends with his classmates Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud. Ibert interrupted his studies during the First World War to serve with the French Navy, eventually becoming an officer in the Naval Reserve. He continued his education after the war at the Paris Conservatoire with Paul Vidal, and in 1919 won the Prix de Rome. It was during his residency in Rome that he produced the work that brought him his first recognition, the Ballade of Reading Gaol, based on the poem by Oscar Wilde. From 1937 to 1955, Ibert served as director of the Academy of Rome, then left Italy to become head of the united management of the Paris Opéra and the Opéra Comique, a post he held for two years. His only visit to the United States was during the summer of 1950 to conduct master classes at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. Though best known for his witty Divertissement and the set of orchestral tone poems Escales (“Ports of Call”), Ibert produced a sizable amount of music, including seven operas, five ballets, numerous orchestral and vocal scores, concerted works for cello, flute, saxophone and oboe, as well as chamber music and compositions for solo piano. Of his early compositions, which show the influence of Debussy and Ravel in their harmonic subtlety and colorful orchestration, he said, “The aim of music is to recall an impression rather than be directly descriptive.” His later music is more pointed and forceful, though without sacrificing his brilliant instrumental and harmonic panache. Ibert wrote his Flute Concerto in 1934 for the distinguished French virtuoso Marcel Moyse (1889-1984), professor at the Paris Conservatoire and principal flutist of the Opéra Comique. This work, like so many other concerted pieces by French composers of the 20th century, was intended for the competitions for solo instruments held each year at the Conservatoire, and is, indeed, a 4
challenging test of technique and musicianship for the performer. The first movement is a dazzling showpiece, employing a dancing main theme filled with flashing leaps and scales and a contrasting, legato subsidiary melody. The tender Andante is a wistful, longlimbed song filled with a subdued and touching nostalgia. The finale returns the virtuosity of the opening movement, and even surpasses it in its demands on the soloist. This work, one of Ibert’s most ingratiating creations, possesses brilliance, wit, sentiment and an abundance of invigorating melody set in a piquant, modern harmonic idiom. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, “Organ” Composed in 1886. Piccolo, three flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, organ, piano (four hands) and strings. Approximately 35 minutes. “There goes the French Beethoven,” declared Charles Gounod to a friend as he pointed out Camille Saint-Saëns at the Paris premiere of the “Organ” Symphony. This was high praise, indeed, and not without foundation. Though the depths of feeling that Beethoven plumbed were never accessible to Saint-Saëns, both musicians devoted much of their lives to the great abstract forms of instrumental music—symphony, concerto, sonata—that are the most difficult to compose and the most rewarding to accomplish. This was no mean feat for Saint-Saëns. The Paris in which Saint-Saëns grew up, studied and lived was enamored of the vacuous stage works of Meyerbeer, Offenbach and a host of lesser lights in which little attention was given to artistic merit, only to convention and entertainment. Berlioz tried to break this stranglehold of mediocrity and earned for himself a reputation as an eccentric, albeit a talented one, whose works were thought unperformable, and probably best left to the pedantic Germans anyway. Saint-Saëns, with his love of Palestrina, Rameau, Beethoven, Liszt and, above all, Mozart, also determined not to be enticed into the Opéra Comique but to follow his calling toward a more noble art. To this end, he established with some like-minded colleagues the Société Nationale de Musique in 1871 to perform the serious concert works of French composers. The venture was a success, and it did much to give a renewed sense of artistic purpose to the best Gallic musicians. Saint-Saëns produced a great deal of music to promote the ideals of the Société Nationale de Musique, including ten concertos and various smaller works for solo instruments and orchestra, four tone poems, two orchestral suites and five symphonies, the second and third of which were unpublished for decades and discounted in the usual numbering of these works. The last of the symphonies, the No. 3 in C minor, is his masterwork in the genre. Saint-Saëns placed much importance on this composition. He pondered it for a long time and realized it with great care, unusual for this artist, who said of himself that he composed music “as an apple tree produces apples,” that is, naturally and without visible effort. “I have given in this Symphony,” he confessed, “everything that I could give.” Of the work’s construction, Saint-Saëns wrote, “This Symphony is divided into two parts, though it includes practically the traditional four movements. The first, checked in development, serves as an introduction to the Adagio. In the same manner, the scherzo is connected with the finale.” Saint-Saëns clarified the division of the two parts by using the organ only in the second half of each: dark and rich in Part I, noble and uplifting in Part II. The entire work is unified by transformations of the main theme, heard in the strings at the beginning after a brief and mysterious introduction. In his “Organ” Symphony, Saint-Saëns combined the techniques of thematic transformation, elision of movements and richness of orchestration with a clarity of thought and grandeur of vision to create one of the masterpieces of French symphonic music. ©2012 Dr. Richard E. Rodda
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©On the Upbeat, NOVEMBER 2012 VOL. 6, EDITION 2. 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.
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