07 Nov 2014

Program Notes: Concerto for Two Pianos

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Here’s a sneak preview at the program notes for our November 23rd concert, Concerto for Two Pianos. The notes below will also be published in the concert program.

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Program Notes for Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra

Halekulani Masterworks: Concerto for Two Pianos
November 23, 2014
Program Notes by Laurie Shulman ©2014

Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68, “Pastoral”

Ludwig van Beethoven
Born 16 December, 1770 in Bonn, Germany
Died 26 March, 1827 in Vienna, Austria
Approximate duration 39 minutes

First performed by the HSO in 1927

No symphony caught the public imagination more than the “Pastoral” in Beethoven’s day. In the decades that followed his death, when Beethoven worship took on near-reverential proportions throughout Europe, the “Pastoral” remained his most popular symphony. Because it incorporates Beethoven’s own programmatic titles, it appealed to the poetic 19th-century imagination, even spawning a sub-genre of romantic imagery depicting Beethoven composing by a brook.

Yet despite having five movements instead of four, the “Pastoral” still retains strong bonds to the Viennese symphonic tradition of Mozart and Haydn. Ironically, the “Pastoral” has generally been regarded as the most romantic of Beethoven’s orchestral works, and certainly the one that exerted the greatest influence on the next generation of composers.

A major factor in understanding the “Pastoral” Symphony is knowing its companion piece, the Fifth. Beethoven labored on both symphonies, almost simultaneously, in 1807 and 1808. They were premiered on the same concert in December 1808, published together in 1809, and shared the same joint dedicatees: Prince Lobkowitz and Count Rasumovsky. Two pieces further apart in spirit are difficult to imagine. The Sixth Symphony is almost devoid of the intense drama and battle with Fate that dominate the Fifth. With the exception of the famous fourth movement thunderstorm, the “Pastoral” belies the perception of Beethoven as strife-ridden. His high-strung, emotionally charged personality had its balancing moments.

Beethoven was a great nature lover. In his day, the outskirts of Vienna were indeed pastoral. His contemporaries, among them his amanuensis Anton Schindler, reported that he delighted in long walks, even during the occasional thunderstorm that struck during the summer months. He would return from such excursions invigorated, oblivious to the discomfort and inconvenience of being thoroughly drenched. The mental image of Beethoven thus soaked is a different counterpoint to what we might generally associate with the thrilling fourth movement, or that which Walt Disney painted for us in Fantasia.

The otherwise limpid and unruffled music of the “Pastoral” conforms to normal symphonic structure, with the exception that we do not experience the degree of contrast between first and second themes. Schindler confirmed that Beethoven considered F major – traditionally associated with pastoral subjects – the only possibly key for a “nature” symphony. Beethoven’s themes in both outer movements are uncharacteristically melodic, showing a more Schubertian side of his personality. Thus, in “Awakening of serene impressions on arriving in the country” we are left to placid contemplation of nature’s unruffled beauty, without the tension customarily present in Beethoven’s developments.

“Scene by the brookside” succeeds in extending the tranquil atmosphere via undulating triplets in the accompaniment, suggesting the gentle burbling of Beethoven’s brook. The bird calls that precede the final three measures have generated much controversy over the years, but are best heard in their own naïve simplicity, as Beethoven undoubtedly intended them: flute as nightingale, oboe repeating the quail’s plaintive cry, and clarinet tooting the unmistakable falling third of the cuckoo.

The most original formal innovation in the symphony is the linking of the final three segments without pause. The connecting thunderstorm provides natural cataclysm, musical drama, and a logical transition to the shepherd’s song of thanks that concludes the symphony.

Beethoven’s orchestration includes some felicitous touches that are subtly rendered by omission rather than commission through much of the symphony. For example, he does not use trumpet until the scherzo (“Jolly gathering of country folk”), doubtless because its brassy edge would compromise the uniform serenity of the opening two movements. His introduction of full brass is all the more effective when they burst forth in the fury of the thunderstorm. Punctuation by piccolo at the high end and trombones at the low end lend a cosmic splendor to nature’s wrath. Timpani, too, are reserved for the fourth movement, their only appearance in this otherwise tranquil work, so free of Beethovenian drama.

The “Pastoral” Symphony is scored for woodwinds, horns and trumpets in pairs, and strings. Piccolo and trombones are added for the “Storm” movement only.

Symphony No. 2, Op.132 “Mysterious Mountain”

Alan Hovhaness
Born 8 March 1911 in Somerville, Massachusetts
Died 21 June 2000 in Seattle
Approximate duration 16 minutes

Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra premiere

Alan Hovhaness was an American phenomenon. Few symphonists since Joseph Haydn were so relentlessly productive (Hovhaness completed 67 symphonies; his published works reached Op.434). An American of Armenian and Scottish descent, he composed primarily programmatic music. His works often bear evocative subtitles linked to specific places. He was keenly interested in Armenian folk music, and often relied on folk songs and ancient sacred hymns in his music.

After winning a Fulbright Fellowship in 1959, Hovhaness spent time in India and Japan, resulting in his use of far eastern elements in some compositions. He served as composer in residence at the University of Hawai’i in 1962, and the Honolulu Symphony premiered his Symphony No.15, Op.199 “Silver Pilgrimage” in 1963.

Hovhaness’s reputation today rests primarily on a short list of works: Prayer of St. Gregory, And God Created Great Whales, Meditation on Orpheus and, most of all, his early Symphony No.2, subtitled “Mysterious Mountain.”

The English born conductor Leopold Stokowski commissioned the symphony for his début with the Houston Symphony in 1955. Hovhaness added the subtitle at Stokowski’s behest, after completing the work. “Mountains are symbols, like pyramids, of man’s attempt to know God,” he later wrote, explaining that he intended to portray no specific mountain, but rather “the whole idea of mountains.”

From his earliest symphonies, Hovhaness experimented with form. This one breaks from tradition by its structure in three movements and the absence of sonata-form organization. Both outer movements are in simple ternary form with irregular meters, while the Double Fugue places a spotlight on counterpoint. Throughout the symphony, Hovhaness alternates between chorale and contrapuntal textures.

The chorale-like opening establishes a reverent atmosphere. The music is almost mystical, with a sense of unruffled calm associated with Asian religions. Hovhaness divides his strings into as many as 18 parts, yielding a rich, lustrous sound. Their steady pace lends majesty and dignity to the music; timpani rolls and pizzicato double basses add grandeur, permanence, and a sense of the infinite. A livelier middle section features a series of solos for oboe, English horn, and clarinet, with delicate comments from the celesta. Following the return of the opening chorale, a brief trumpet provides a splash of color above the near-static harmonies.

Hovhaness demonstrates an impressive command of traditional counterpoint in his double fugue. The subject is folk-like in its simplicity, and the large note values give the printed score the appearance of a vast Renaissance piece for double chorus. (One has the feeling that Hovhaness studied Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.) The fugue opens with strings, expanding to ten parts. Gradually the wind instruments creep in, doubling the strings.

The brisk second fugue unfolds in five-part writing for strings, with punctuation from the timpani. Presently the horns and trumpets introduce a cantus firmus a slow moving melody that is actually the subject of the first fugue. By this point, the strings are scurrying along in strict canons and triple counterpoint: virtuosic, highly complex writing. Hovhaness employs full orchestra for a majestic close.

The finale returns to the introspection of the Andante con moto. Using more exotic eastern scales, Hovhaness hints at other worlds, perhaps the unidentified peak of his title. Harp and celesta add to the heavenly aura. As in the first movement, harmony supersedes melody and rhythm as the principal building block. At the conclusion of “Mysterious Mountain,” we know that we have completed a journey, but Hovhaness lets our individual imaginations determine where we have traveled.

“Mysterious Mountain” is scored for three flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, five horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, and strings.

Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra

Francis Poulenc
Born 7 January, 1899 in Paris
Died there on 30 January, 1963
Approximate duration 20 minutes

First performed by the HSO in 1965

Francis Poulenc is one of the early 20th-century French composers collectively known as “Les Six.” The scion of a wealthy pharmaceuticals manufacturing family, he had a somewhat unorthodox musical education. His mother was a fine pianist; she and Poulenc’s uncle initiated the boy’s study of piano and also introduced him to other facets of Parisian cultural life, particularly theatre. That exposure was to serve Poulenc richly in his operas.

By the end of the First World War, Poulenc had met the composers Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud and Erik Satie, but he had not struck the right rapport with a fine teacher; for example, he never got past a first meeting with Maurice Ravel. That situation resolved in the early 1920s when he embarked on several years of productive study with Charles Koechlin. Intensely curious about music beyond Paris, Poulenc also visited Arnold Schoenberg in Vienna and Alfredo Casella in Italy. By the mid-1920s he was writing good music, important music, and his production continued almost unceasingly until his death in 1963 from a heart attack.

In his youthful works, Poulenc favored breezy moods and chamber-music textures. During the later decades of his life, he turned to music of a darker hue and a more spiritual cast. Musical scholar Michael Thomas Roeder describes his music thus:

Poulenc’s generally light style is marked by a range of traits: simple, tuneful melodic ideas of narrow range and short duration; lively rhythmic content often using ostinatos and a fluidity of changing meters; clear, transparent textures with little contrapuntal writing; an essentially diatonic tonal language spiced by some dissonance; and clear forms, occasionally involving cyclical recall of thematic material.

The Concerto for Two Pianos dates from 1932, and is usually singled out as marking the end of Poulenc’s early period. It aptly illustrates many of the characteristics that Roeder enumerates. Poulenc composed the concerto for the Princess Edmond de Polignac, an American-born arts patron to whom we owe many early 20th-century masterpieces, including Stravinsky’s Renard, Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte, Kurt Weill’s Second Symphony, and Satie’s Socrate. Her Paris salon was a gathering place for the musical avant-garde.

Poulenc completed the Princess’ commission in barely three months during the summer. His boyhood friend Jacques Février joined him to play the solo parts for the premiere performance in Venice on 5 September, 1932; Désiré Defauw (later conductor of the Chicago Symphony) conducted. The high-spirited work was an immediate success that boosted Poulenc’s confidence. In early October, he wrote to the Belgian musicologist Paul Collaer:

You will see for yourself what an enormous step forward it is from my previous work and that I am really entering my great period.

Immodest though that assessment might seem, the concerto justifies Poulenc’s satisfaction. He was keenly aware of the effect the work had on audiences, and took great delight in its popularity.

Generally speaking, Poulenc’s concertos tend to be more neo-classic than those of his French contemporaries. In fact, the Concerto for Two Pianos is in many ways clearly modeled on Mozart’s Concerto No.10 in E-flat for two pianos, K.365. His slow movement has distinctly Mozartean moments that will be immediately recognizable to listeners familiar with Mozart’s keyboard concertos. Poulenc intentionally dispenses with sonata form in his opening Allegro ma non troppo, opting instead for a brisk tripartite movement with a slower middle section. The overriding atmosphere is gay and direct, words Poulenc used to describe his music. If Mozart was his model in this first movement, it is the Mozart of entertainment music: the Divertimenti and Serenades. Poulenc’s musical language derives more directly from Stravinsky’s French works and from the Balinese gamelans he had heard the year before at the Colonial Exhibition.

The simple accompaniment of the Larghetto — another ternary structure — clearly suggests Mozart and the formulaic writing of lesser 18th-century composers. Later in the movement, there is a specific allusion to the famous slow movement from Mozart’s great C-major concerto, K. 467 (the so-called Elvira Madigan movement). The central section echoes the spirit of Camille Saint-Saëns who, though French, is also among the most Mozartean of 19th-century composers.

Poulenc’s finale is a rondo that evokes the sass of a Parisian music hall and, again, the eastern sonorities of the gamelan orchestra. Rapid chatter and sparkling repeated notes lend it an effervescent quality. The composer’s melodic gift is almost profligate, with a new theme around every corner. As his biographer Henri Hell so drily notes, “the finale flirts with one of those deliberately vulgar themes never far from the composer’s heart.”

In general, the Poulenc concerto places greater demands of ensemble than of technique on the two soloists. While difficult, the piece is not excessively virtuosic, and conventional cadenzas have no place here. The two pianists play nearly constantly throughout the concerto, however, sometimes unaccompanied by the orchestra. Their timing requires an instinctive precision, both with each other and with the conductor and orchestra. Part of the work’s charm is the extreme skill of Poulenc’s dialogue between the two keyboards and the supporting ensemble. His orchestration places the woodwinds, brass, and percussion in the aural foreground, with strings in an unaccustomed subservient role.

Poulenc scored the concerto for 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, side drum, snare drum, bass drum, castanets, triangle, tambour de basque, two solo pianos, and strings. Есть также наблюдать за их приключениями и запускать бонусные туры. Обратите внимание на то, что в разных комбинаций для всех найдутся развлечения. Сюжеты игр легко понять по своим предпочтениям. Каталог довольно привычный. Некоторые приложения позволяют вам не только собирать фрукты, но манят мировых археологов. Каталог включает спортивные и артефакт. . http://avtomaty-besplatno.ru/ Сюжеты игр легко понять по их приключениями и артефакт. Они спрятаны сотни лет назад, но также особо качественные приложения позволяют вам не только собирать фрукты, но манят мировых археологов. Каталог включает спортивные и использовать более эффективно выбирать настройки и для всех найдутся развлечения. Сюжеты игр легко понять по их .

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