Concert III – Children’s Songs Program Notes

February 26, 2017

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953): Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67

Although the two composers on our program, Sergei Prokofiev and Maurice Ravel, are worlds apart in their musical styles and experiences, both take a similar approach in their works for children. They use strong musical voices to tell their stories, often focusing on the very distinct timbres and colors of the woodwind instruments, and they use clear and transparent orchestrations to portray the musical worlds and events they depict.

Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” represents a very bright spot in a very dark world. Prokofiev had left the new Soviet Union just after the Revolution and, from 1918, he spent the next decade working in Europe and the United States. But his ties to Russia remained strong, and beginning in 1927, he made a series of highly publicized visits back to his homeland. This culminated in his decision, in 1936, to move back to Moscow permanently. Historians have endlessly discussed his reasoning, for his final move was made during some of the most ominous of the Stalinist years, a time when his fellow Soviet composers, Dmitrii Shostakovich in particular, had been experiencing the full weight of the Party’s artistic and cultural controls. Prokofiev arrived back in Moscow in March 1936, and it was at this time that he began his work on “Peter and the Wolf.” In collaboration with the director of the Moscow Children’s Musical Theater, Natalia Satz, they worked out a story which, as Prokofiev said, should be “full of contrasts, something that makes a strong impression” for their young audience. They decided that the story would be read by a narrator, and they assigned a young poet to write this text. When this poet showed him her text, Prokofiev was, to put it mildly, dissatisfied. As Natalia Satz reported, she found the young poet “huddled against the door, or rather clinging to it. Sparks were flying from the composer’s eyes.” Prokofiev, a somewhat aloof and always unsentimental person, hated the cloying rhymes and language she had produced and decided to write the text himself, in prose.

The result was the timeless story of a boy, his animal companions, and his clever and brave actions on their behalf. The story, as Prokofiev envisioned it, would be told through the music: “The distinct characters,” he said, “will be reflected in the distinct quality of the various musical timbres; each character will have its own leitmotif.” Thus, we meet Peter, a forthright young hero who is represented by a forthright march played by the strings. We follow him as he goes out into the meadow and sees animals: a bird (depicted by the flute), a duck (oboe), and a cat who is stalking both (clarinet). Peter’s grandfather (bassoon) tells him to come back into their yard—the meadow outside the gate is dangerous because a wolf might appear. So Peter goes back inside and, naturally, the wolf appears right on cue (french horns). The wolf is indeed dangerous, for, after the two other animals escape from his reach, he turns to the duck, confused and slow, and he swallows it whole. Peter is able to stop the wolf by tying a rope around its tail so he can’t escape. Hunters (to a march-like motif) appear and help Peter take the wolf to the zoo, accompanied by the cat, the bird, and the grandfather, each with its by-now familiar motif. Even the duck is there, quacking softly inside the wolf’s stomach.

Along with some of his most popular works (for example, the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella), during his last twenty years in Russia, Prokofiev wrote with what historian Richard Taruskin calls “enormous technical flair and great stylistic originality,” abundantly illustrated by the music of “Peter and the Wolf.” In spite of the difficulties for himself and his family—and they were tremendous and relentless—this was a productive and creative period for him. And during this time, Prokofiev gave the world one of the most endearing (and enduring) children’s pieces ever written.

 

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937): Suite from Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose)

Ravel’s “Ma Mère l’Oye” (Mother Goose Suite) occupied the composer’s attention over several years. He originally wrote these five movements between 1908 and 1910 as a piano duet for children of some close friends. The piano works were inspired largely by the 17th-century French writer Charles Perrault, who wrote many eternally popular stories, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and the collection used in some of the movements we’ll hear today, Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye (The Tales of Mother Goose). The little set of piano pieces were simple, appropriate for performance by these lucky children. In the following year, Ravel orchestrated these works at the encouragement of his publisher, and in 1912, he expanded the initial set of movements to create a ballet based on these tales.

The orchestral version we’ll hear is a brilliant, although seemingly modest, tour de force demonstrating Ravel’s enormous skills as an instrumental writer. Each movement creates its own sound world, with precisely laid out voices, usually in the winds, articulating each of the characters and characteristics of the sequence of stories. The first movement is the “Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant” (Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty)—a pavane is a slow, stately dance that often unfolds in a long and flowing line, as this movement does. In depicting the outlines of the story, we hear a calm and curvaceous melody that is passed among solo woodwinds, underlaid with muted strings. This seems to depict the peaceful sleep of the princess after she has pricked her finger on the spinning wheel. Eventually this ever-unspooling melody builds to a brief climax in the violins, when, in the story, the old woman watching over the princess is revealed as the Good Fairy.

In the second movement, “Petit Poucet” (Tom Thumb), we follow Tom as he wanders through the forest, leaving himself a trail of bread crumbs so he won’t get lost. The movement unfolds in continual, but off balance, motion, with shifts from two beats per measure to three, to four, to five, back to three, and then to two again, and this in the first six bars alone! Birds appear, marked by a brief series of harsh tweets, and steal his bread crumbs, leaving Tom to return, alone and disconsolate, as the movement tapers to a quiet end.

“Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes” (Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas), the third movement, is an orchestral feast, using pentatonic melodies (scale patterns based on five notes, like the black keys of a piano) to suggest the exotic locale, and with lots of colorful instrumentation: percussion, harp, gongs, and more. This is the longest of the movements, providing a kind of centering weight and structure to the more impressionistic images of the other sections.

A gentle waltz takes us into “Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête” (Conversations of Beauty and the Beast), depicting Beauty as she enters her room holding her mirror. The Beast is represented by her timbral and registral opposite, the contrabassoon, and we hear their interactions as first she hesitates, and then they come together in the waltz, a sweet final dance that emphasizes not only their differences but their compatibility as well.

The fifth movement, “Le jardin féerique” (The Enchanted Garden), brings the suite to a conclusion. It features full strings writing, in contrast to the somewhat sparing use of the string section in the previous movements, and ends with a solemn processional that is warm and generous, rising to a full-throated conclusion with triumphant strokes of the timpani.

Bradley Clem and Claudia Jensen

Concert II – The Great Tradition Program Notes

November 20, 2016

Wolfgang Mozart (1756 – 1791): Don Giovanni Overture

Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni has had an immense impact on Western culture—artists, philosophers, and musicians have revered the work for its complexity, its beauty, indeed, for its perfection. Don Giovanni premiered in Prague in 1787, the result of the success of The Marriage of Figaro in that city the previous year. The plot concerns the resolutely unrepentant seducer Don Juan, his cold-blooded murder of the father of his most recent victim, and his terrifying end as he is dragged down to Hell. All of this is laid out in the overture, where the motifs heard at the outset prefigure the action to come. Although the bulk of the overture is typical of its genre, with a light-hearted busy-ness to prepare for the curtain opening, the enigmas and terror of the story are present in the short, powerful introduction, which features big leaps, unusual and unstable chords, and ominous pauses punctuated by syncopated offbeat rhythms. This culminates in the brooding upward and downward scales we hear just before the overture proper begins. After such an introduction, the dark and foreboding mood never quite leaves us.

One of the composers who especially admired this opera was Tchaikovsky, whose intense engagement with Mozart’s compositions is reflected in his “Mozartiana” Suite, our final work today. Tchaikovsky’s close friend, the famous singer Pauline Viardot, owned Mozart’s original autograph score of Don Giovanni. Tchaikovsky visited her in Paris in 1886 and, in the words of historian Mark Everist, “worshipped at the Don Giovanni shrine,” viewing the score with reverence. “I cannot express the feeling that overcame me when I was looking at this holy musical object!” he wrote later. “It was as if I had shaken the hand of Mozart himself and conversed with him.” It is no coincidence that the date of Tchaikovsky’s “Mozartiana” Suite is 1887, the centenary of Don Giovanni’s premiere in Prague.

 

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897): Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77

Brahms’ Violin Concerto confronts us immediately with the contradictions that form the essence of a concerto: the contrast (or confluence?) of the orchestra and soloist; the blend of the delicate and the forthright; the mingling of virtuosity with clarity. The work resulted from the composer’s collaboration with the famous violinist Joseph Joachim (1831‒1907); the two had been friends since both were young men, just barely in their twenties. Brahms’ discouraging experience with his first concerto, the Piano Concerto No. 1, written in 1859, caused him to wait for twenty years before attempting the genre again. He and Joachim corresponded intensively during the composition of the concerto, and their work shows in the masterly treatment of the violin throughout. Brahms, in the first movement, took the unusual decision not to write out the cadenza, reverting to the 18th-century practice that had largely been abandoned in his time. The cadenza was written by Joachim and, although other cadenzas have been composed over the years, Joachim’s is regarded as the gold-standard, and we will hear it in today’s performance.

The opening of the hefty first movement, which makes up over half the work’s total length, is a study in contrasts. It begins with a soft unison in the strings which is then echoed by the oboe, an instrument that will be highlighted throughout the piece. The strings introduce big unison leaps, which feature a Brahms stylistic fingerprint, playing with the tension between groups of two and three, moving fluidly back and forth and blurring our sense of a steady rhythm. The orchestra sets up the spectacular entrance by the soloist; indeed, this entrance is almost a cadenza in and of itself, elaborating on the initial thematic material, adding delicate exchanges with the winds. The tensions set up here play throughout the rest of the movement: the full orchestra vs. the soloist; strings vs. winds; two vs. three; bold leaps vs. extended melody, and the transformation of one into the other.

The second movement opens with a melting oboe melody, laying out intricate conversations among the rest of the winds. The soloist enters delicately and, in spite of the increasing rhythmic and sonic intensity, Brahms sustains the tranquil mood throughout. Thus the jubilantly physical main motif of the third movement provides another contrast. Brahms returns to the more massive writing of the opening movement, with prominent focus again on playful rhythmic ambiguities, which come to the fore near the end. The timpani initiates a propulsive drive to a conclusion that features complex manipulations of the rhythmic elements of the main theme, carrying us through to the final climax.

 

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Suite No. 4 in G Major, Op. 61 “Mozartiana” 

Tchaikovsky loved Mozart above all other composers, and his “Mozartiana” Suite is not just a respectful nod from one great composer to another, but is rather Tchaikovsky’s way of sharing the joys of this most beloved master. Tchaikovsky sets out his goals in the preface to his score: orchestrating some of Mozart’s smaller works in order to bring them to a wider audience. The first three movements are all quite short, especially the first movement, based on one of Mozart’s keyboard gigues. It is followed by a minuet and then by a prayer, based on Mozart’s Ave Verum (K. 455)—probably the best-known piece Tchaikovsky uses.

Tchaikovsky’s orchestral writing is not at all like Mozart’s, nor is it meant to be. You’ll hear this especially in the third movement in his use of the harp, which creates an overtly warm and “Romantic” flavor. Indeed, the treatment of the orchestra throughout takes us to the heart of Tchaikovsky’s suites, which are concerned with variety, contrast, and sprightliness. The historian Richard Taruskin, as usual, says it best when he describes Tchaikovsky’s shimmering orchestral suites as Fabergé eggs, invoking another of the highly cultivated arts at the Russian Imperial court.

The last movement is much longer, almost twice the length of the first three movements combined. It is a theme and variations, with the initial theme laid out clearly, and then elaborated, with clarinet embroidery entwining throughout in the second variation, and even introducing cymbals in the third. The structure becomes more complex as we proceed. Listen, for example, to the loud, obvious, and obviously “wrong” chords—this is a joke based on Mozart’s original: not only are the chords clearly “wrong” but they are different each time we hear them, which violates the repeating structure of the theme that both composers have so carefully set up. The two composers are clearly on the same comic musical wavelength.

As the variations pile up, Tchaikovsky pulls out all the stops. The last big section is devoted to grand solo violin playing—we feel as if we’ve parachuted into a big Romantic violin concerto. This section builds up to a brass fanfare, at which point the clarinet, with some difficulty, pulls us back to the original theme. It isn’t an easy task; the clarinet has to try twice and even gets distracted itself, imitating that grandiose violin, but eventually it brings us back to the original theme, where we end the work comfortably, back to the world of Mozart as heard through the sensibilities of his biggest fan.

Bradley Clem and Claudia Jensen

Concert I – Drumroll, Please… Program Notes

October 23, 2016

Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868): La gazza ladra (overture)

Philharmonia Northwest begins its 41st season quite literally with a drumroll—the opening of Rossini’s overture to La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie). This was one of four (!) operas by Rossini that premiered in 1817, and the composer, at this time only twenty-five years old, had already written more than twenty (!!) operas. This particular overture is generally regarded as one of his finest and it illustrates perfectly the composer’s famous stylistic fingerprints. It opens, typically, with a grand slow introduction, which not only serves as a contrast to the rest of the movement but signals to the enthusiastic, even rowdy, opera audience that it is time to settle down. The opening drumrolls suggest a military march, replete with other percussion to punctuate the presentation of the opening motif. The drumrolls then take us into a quick crescendo after which we land on the overture’s two main themes; the second theme, as is typical in Rossini, introduced by a woodwind instrument, here an oboe. A brief buildup takes us to a truncated reprise of both themes. Although we can sense what is coming—that famous Rossini crescendo—we can’t resist the excitement as he increases the density of the orchestra and intensifies the rhythmic drive, building with relentless control and finally ending with a loud brass fanfare to conclude the music at its peak. Rossini’s nineteenth-century biographer, the writer Stendhal, said that “it would be almost impossible to describe the enthusiasm and the delirium of the Milanese audience on first hearing this masterpiece.” The magic still works and the overture is a brilliant way to greet our returning audience members and welcome our new ones.

Ney Rosauro (1952 – ): Concerto for Timpani and String Orchestra

The Rio-born Brazilian composer Ney Rosauro has written many pieces for percussion instruments, but the work on our program is his first concerto for timpani. The composer describes the piece as exploring “the lyrical potential” of the instrument, which “plays singing melodies rather than drum patterns.” Our soloist, Matt Drumm, echoes this, explaining that this focus on melody is one of the reasons he wanted to perform this concerto.

The work is laid out in the three movements—fast, slow, fast—that are typical for a concerto. The first movement is called “Bachroque,” which the composer explains “is a play-on-words describing its Baroque mood and is also an homage to Bach.” It features Baroque-style imitation, with incisive motifs stated first by the timpani soloist and then tossed back and forth by the orchestral ensemble. The lyrical middle section provides a release, and it introduces some unusual effects, for example, playing with the wooden ends of the mallets. The movement concludes with a reprise of the opening theme.

The second movement, “Aria,” introduces additional innovative techniques. As the composer says, the performer “must display fine pedaling skills, as the timpani sing lyric melodies.” The pedals at the base of each of the timpani can raise or lower the pitch, and we will hear how Matt accomplishes these pitch changes in several places in this movement. In addition, not only will Matt play the instruments with his hands, but he will also put a cymbal on top of one of the drums and then play a roll on the cymbal, which thus also vibrates the drum head. He also places small tuned cymbals or discs called crotales on top of one of the drums; by shifting the pedals while striking the crotales he creates a colorful glissando effect.

The jazzy finale is a tour de force in which, as the composer says, “the soloist must show off chromatic tuning abilities as well as quick drumming between the five timpani.” The phrase “quick drumming” is a massive understatement: the movement has a spectacular cadenza that produces a blur of sound and movement. Matt will also play on the rims of the timpani as well as on the sides of the bowls in order to produce still greater sonic variation. At the conclusion of the work, which features some prominent glissando effects by the soloist, we will all certainly agree that every jazz piece needs at least five timpani!

Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809): Symphony No. 103, “Drumroll” 

Franz Joseph Haydn made two trips to London in the 1790s, for which he wrote a series of twelve symphonies. The Drumroll Symphony (no. 103) premiered to great success in March 1795; Haydn himself conducted a well-trained orchestra of about 60 musicians. This work, along with his other compositions for these London concerts, revolutionized the genre of the symphony. As historian Richard Taruskin puts it: “When Haydn found it [in the 1760s] the symphony was just a distinguished sort of party music. He left it a monumental genre that formed the cornerstone of a canon, a publicly recognized body of works deemed by lovers of art to have universal or defining value within their culture.”

The Drumroll Symphony is obviously named after the opening timpani statement, which introduces a somewhat ambiguous motif: is it in duple or triple meter? major or minor? And how is the drumroll itself to be played—there are no dynamic indications in the score. One also hears what sounds like the “Dies irae” melody (from the Mass for the Dead) in these opening notes. At the end of this unsettling introduction, we move into a clearly defined presentation of the two primary themes, but in the transition between the bouncy first theme and the more dance-like second theme there is a burst of rhythmic displacement, as if Haydn continues to delight in keeping us off balance. This movement also features a series of dramatic pauses. In the central development section, a big pause introduces a rapid-fire presentation of the motif from the introduction, and this motif appears again, also after a big pause, at the conclusion of the movement.

The slow second movement continues the ambiguity. It is constructed as a set of variations on two different motifs, alternating one in minor and another in major. But how different, really, are these two motifs? As the historian D. Kern Holoman writes, “You will usually read that this is a set of variations on two themes, the minor one and the major one, but it all amounts to natural transformation of [just] the first theme.” There is a distinct folk element to the melodies, reinforced by the use of a drone effect (repeated held notes in the lower strings) in one of the variations.

The third movement features a strongly accented opening section and, in the center section (called the trio), we hear lovely melodic braiding that is particularly effective because the texture is, according to tradition, much thinner. The lively last movement masterfully demonstrates the powerful effect of economy of means. The entire movement is based on a single theme, a procedure for which Haydn is justly famous, with continual melodic and imitative invention spun out from this main idea. It opens, like the first movement, with a solo statement, this time by the french horns, after which this motif is fully integrated into the remaining elements of the theme. Although we never hear the solo horns again, this initial presentation makes it possible for us to follow this idea throughout the movement.

Bradley Clem and Claudia Jensen

Auditions for the 2016-2017 Season

violin

Come join us! We currently have the following openings in the orchestra for the upcoming 2016-2017 season:

Violin
Viola
Cello
Horn
Trumpet

If you are interested in scheduling an audition, please contact auditions@philharmonianw.org or call 206-675-9727.

Concert III Outreach

Ballard-HS_Chamber-OrchestraPhilharmonia Northwest is proud to welcome students of the Ballard High School Chamber Orchestra to this Sunday’s performance. Led by Brittany Newel and Allison Kanter, these thirteen students join Philharmonia Northwest in Dvorak’s Nocturne in B major, op. 40, as part of our Outreach Program. The Ballard High School Music Program includes over 300 students who participate in concert bands, concert choirs, chamber and symphonic orchestras, percussion and jazz ensembles. In 2015, the Ballard Chamber Orchestra was selected as one of the nation’s top ten high school chamber orchestras to perform at the 2016 National Festival. The Ballard students performing today would like to express their gratitude to Philharmonia Northwest, and to Julia Tai, for this enriching performance opportunity.

dance-fremontPhilharmonia Northwest is also proud to welcome students of Dance Fremont’s composition class to today’s performance. Led by Mary Kay Bisignano-Vadino, these nineteen students join Philharmonia Norhtwest in SibeliusValse Triste, op.44, no.1, as part of our Outreach Program The choreography for Valse Triste was created collaboratively by the Composition class at Dance Fremont. The class, drawn from Dance Fremont’s advanced students, introduces different compositional methods for dance, and gives the students the opportunity to choreograph their own dances. To create the choreography for Valse Triste, they started by listening repeatedly to the music and brainstorming ideas about what it made them see and feel. They learned about the intention of the music, and refined their goals of what they wanted to see as an end product. Then they divided into small groups, each coming up with individual elements of the choreography. Finally, they combined and interwove their individual sections, building a structure that reflected the changing moods of the music while maintaining the thematic through lines that the music has.

Concert III Program Notes

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904): Nocturne in B Major, Op. 40

DvorakAntonín Dvořák’s Nocturne, Op. 40, began its life as the middle section of a single-movement string quartet written early in his career. Although Dvořák eventually discarded the quartet, he kept the haunting central section, which he had originally labeled “Andante religioso” and, retitling this section as a nocturne (notturno), he eventually produced the version for strings that we hear on our program today. The rich string writing (probably influenced by the fact that Dvořák was a violist himself) reflects not only its original setting as a kind of religious contemplation, but it perfectly embodies the mood of a nocturne, which is meant to reflect on the mysterious and peaceful feeling of the night. In this short piece, the composer draws us in with a rich opening, introduced by the lower strings, that gradually intensifies until gently leading us into the more pulsating central section, which suggests a swirling dance in the night. Cascades of falling scales return us to the original, more static, first idea, and it ends with a gentle embrace back into the mood of the night. The Nocturne premiered in 1885, with Dvořák conducting, at London’s Crystal Palace.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): Valse Triste, Op. 44, No. 1

Sibelius_edelfeldtLike Dvořák’s Nocturne, the next work on our program, Sibelius’s Valse Triste, was originally written for a different context and only later performed as a separate concert piece. Sibelius’s career was established around 1900 with a series of important and acclaimed works, including incidental music for a 1903 play by the Finnish playwright Arvid Järnefelt, Kuolema (Death). The setting is a dream image experienced by an exhausted son, as he sits at his mother’s deathbed. He hears music, full of hesitations and pauses, and his mother seems to rise and dance a waltz, her nightgown transformed into a flowing ball gown. Guests arrive, couples dance, the energy increases, and finally, after a frenzied climax, all fades away—only death awaits. The music historian James Hepokoski has called this piece a “dreamscape evocation of the faded salon style” of the late nineteenth century; it was immediately popular and, the next year, it was published separately and performed widely.

Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998): Concerto Grosso No. 1 for two violins, prepared piano, harpsichord and 21 strings

Alfred_schnittkeIt may not come as a surprise that the great Soviet-era composer Alfred Schnittke is known, especially in his early works from the 1970s and 1980s, for his “polystylism”—that is, a mixture of various styles, musical approaches, and techniques derived from many different chronological periods. After all, his life itself represented a kind of blending. Born in 1934 to German-speaking parents in the Soviet Union, he first studied in Vienna (when his father was transferred there) and then moved back to Russia in 1948, where he continued his musical studies at the Moscow Conservatory. Indeed, he later described his polystylistic approach as his attempt to “fill in the gaps” of his somewhat fragmented early musical education. The Concerto Grosso No. 1 (1977) is one of the best-known works representing this approach. As the composer famously said, the Concerto uses “formulae and forms of baroque music; free chromaticism and micro-intervals; and banal popular music which enters as it were from the outside with a disruptive effect.” He employs the typical form and construction of a Baroque concerto grosso, featuring a group of soloists (the two violinists and the keyboard player) alternating with the orchestral ensemble. The structure of each of the six movements is highly formal (apart from the improvisational cadenza movement), with themes laid out, repeated, developed, and reprised in the individual movements and across the piece as a whole. Yet the musical language is, in places, far from the Baroque origins of the form, with micro-tones (intervals less than the traditional half-steps), sharp juxtapositions of dissonant pitch clusters, and—as the composer said—even the “banal” which, in this context, might be represented by the sudden appearance of a tango in the middle of the Rondo. (The tango was a popular genre in the early Soviet era and it is frequently used, often ironically, in later Russian compositions.) One of the immediately striking features of the work is the use of a prepared piano, in which the performer is instructed to place objects between the strings in order to produce a hollow, dry sound. Part of the fascination of hearing this work is tracing its juxtapositions and disruptions, following the composer’s logic as he uses this disparate material to create something wholly new, yet still reflecting its varied origins.

Wolfgang Mozart (1756 – 1791): Symphony No. 40, in G minor, KV. 550

Mozart was 32 years old in the summer of 1788 and at the height of his powers. Within three months he completed Symphonies No. 39 (June 26), No. 40 (July 25), and No. 41 (August 10). As our conductor emeritus, Roupen Shakarian, once said, “That’s one masterpiece per month!” These three works must serve as Mozart’s final thoughts on the symphony as a genre, since he died just three years later without writing another. The brooding and powerful first movement is both a model of thematic development and a passionate exploration of emotion—as music historian Richard Taruskin says, this special atmosphere of pathos is “conjured up by two highly contrasted, lyrical themes, a wealth of melting chromaticism, and a high level of rhythmic agitation.” The opening three-note motif is presented, inverted, truncated, and displaced throughout the movement. The second movement, Andante, preserves echoes of the three-note motive, with its lilting 6/8 meter and its slippery chromatic inflections, but with a relaxation in the rhythmic intensity. As always in Mozart, there is a prolific generosity in melodic material offered in the unfolding series of themes, all circling back around to the opening idea. The movement is formally expansive, with room to elaborate and develop the themes—a true counterpart to the imposing and restless first movement. The Minuet and Trio, although in a standard tripartite form, is somber and forceful, with its minor-mode opening theme, whose outlines are not only echoed later in this movement, but which also form the basis of the thematic material for the opening of the final movement. The symphony is thus tightly knit, with seams invisible yet pervasive; to quote Taruskin again, “it is the balance between ingenious calculation and (seemingly) ingenuous spontaneity … that can so astonish listeners.” With its incisive motivic manipulation and powerful passages of imitative writing, one inevitably thinks of Beethoven and the future of the symphony that Mozart did not live to see.

Bradley Clem and Claudia Jensen

Interview with piano soloist Yuliya Minina

Interview with Yuliya Minina, piano:

(1) Howdownload and why did you start playing the piano? 

I started to do rhythmic gymnastics when I was about 5 years old. My mom thought it would be a good idea to introduce me into some music lessons “to improve my sense of rhythm.” Apparently, I was a much better musician than I was a gymnast. I gave up gymnastics when I was 13 or so, but music has not only captivated me for life, but also became my profession.

(2) What inspires your music? 

Music itself is usually my biggest inspiration. Visual or sensual associations that music evokes in me inspire me to communicate these images to my audience. I cherish memories of sad and joyful events in my life and use these memories to make my performances more powerful and meaningful. Working with other musicians is another source of inspiration for me. I love adding to my music new and fresh ideas that I get from my colleagues.

(3) Beyond the piano, what do you like to do for fun? Do you have a favorite place to spend time in Seattle?  

I enjoy doing things that require a lot of concentration: knitting, cross-stitching, completing jigsaw puzzles, doing yoga. I am what you can call an “urban hiker.” I love walking with my family and exploring new neighborhoods in Seattle. I especially like my Phinney Ridge neighborhood with its great coffee-shops, cafes, and small stores.

Philharmonia Northwest presents…

“The Old and the New”

November 22nd, 2:30pm in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (4805 NE 45th St., Seattle)

Concert Prelude at 2:00 pm

Caputo: A Trip Takes Us (2015)

1. by design

2. emergence

Outreach Performance Featuring…

Mercer Island High School Brass Quintet
First place at Washington State Solo and Ensemble’s Large Brass Division

Trumpet (12th)-  Kira Newell

Trumpet (12th)-  Zeke Larsen

Horn (10th)- Kathryn Ristuben

Trombone (12th)-  Alison Rosenman

Tuba (12th)- Nabeel Gaber

Director – Parker Bixby

The Mercer Island Brass Quintet is made up of five members of the Mercer Island High School band program. This select group has been chosen as the winners of the Washington State large brass ensemble category in each of the last three years of the WMEA State Solo and Ensemble Contest. The quintet is proud to be performing the world premiere of the new work for brass quintet entitled “A Trip Takes Us” written by MIHS alum Dan Caputo. The brass quintet would like to extend its thanks to Philharmonia Northwest for its support of music education in the public schools.

Meet the Composer…

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Dan Caputo (b. 1991) is a composer of instrumental and electronic works that explore influences ranging from other visual, written, and performing arts to the human cognition of musical structure. His music is further inspired by physical location, with numerous works intended to evoke or be performed in environments outside of the concert hall.

Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Caputo holds a B.M. from the University of Southern California and an M.M. from the University of Texas at Austin; he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Southern California. He has studied under composers Sean Friar, Dan Welcher, Donald Crockett, Frank Ticheli, Stephen Hartke, Donald Grantham, and Samuel Adler.
Caputo’s Southwest Landscapes was performed at the 2015 “Oh. My. Ears.” new-music marathon in Phoenix, AZ, and Caputo had an electronic work featured at the 2014 Electric LaTex Festival in Denton, TX. His works have been additionally performed and recorded by the University of Texas New Music Ensemble, the UT Percussion Ensemble, and the USC Thornton Wind Ensemble, with world premieres occurring in five states and in Berlin, Germany.

About the Quintet…

A Trip Takes Us for brass quintet uses a two-movement formal structure to create a musical metaphor for the ways in which people plan. The first movement, “by design,” acts in a modus operandi where some force attempts to urge musical materials to behave in specific ways. Opening fanfare gestures make way for a rhythmically active music that attempts to reach a satisfying peak before falling apart. The second movement, “emergence,” employs a more humble approach; simple musical materials are allowed to run their course until a desirable destination is reached. Similar to a theme and variations, this music uses repeating phrase structures to generate organic growth.

Commissioned jointly by Mercer Island High School Band Boosters and Philharmonia Northwest, A Trip Takes Us was completed in the fall of 2015 to be performed by the MIHS Brass Quintet during Philharmonia Northwest’s 40th anniversary season.

 Concert Program

Poulenc: Suite Française (1935)

Meet the Composer…

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) began his musical journey with piano lessons from his mother at five years old. Later, while living through WWII, he composed  antiwar and anti-Nazi works. His works included inspiration from banned authors and freedom hymns.

Poulenc also belonged to  Les Six. Les Six was a group of 20th-century  French Composers. Darius Milhaud,  Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis  Durey, and Germaine Tailleferre were the other  five members of this group.

Their music was devoted to turn away  from the  heaviness of German Romanticism, evident in compositions by  Richard  Wagner and Strauss, and chromaticism,  evident in compositions by Claude Debussy.

About the Suite…

Originally written for solo piano, Suite Francaise was composed through the transcription and re-imagining of Claude Gervaise’s six Renaissance dances from Livre des Danceries, written in 1545.

Each of the seven movements highlights a French dance form.  Below are three examples:

      (1) Bransle de Bourgogne

Bransle, or Branle, was the name of a popular couples French dance. It was typically danced in a swaying line or circle in duple meter. Variations in choreography were specific to region. This particular Bransle is influenced by Bourgogne, the east-central region of France.

This dance evokes a playful mood. Poulenc captures this quality with a constant back-and-forth interplay between woodwind instruments. In the opening, trumpet and oboe share the first conversation. Then, more brass, oboe, and eventually bassoon join in on the fun!

      (2) Pavane

The Pavane is another couples dance, typically in a duple meter. This dance is greatly contrasted from the playful Bransle as the Pavane tempo is typically quite slow.

The hymn-like use of brass instrumentation creates a dignified atmosphere. Despite the slow tempo, the Pavane is not trudging and dull.

      (3) Petite Marche Militaire

This marching dance movement is greatly animated with Poulenc’s composition of pointed articulation. He also highlights the militaristic nature of the march through the opening instrumentation, brass and snare drum.

      (4) Complainte

Translated from French, complainte means “lament”. Though also slow like the pavane, the complainte supports less forward motion. The melody remains very circular, repetitive, and static. The lament does not last long, however, as Poulenc quickly transitions moods back to the animated Bransle de Champagne.

      (5) Bransle de Champagne

Similar to the first dance, this Bransle is influenced by Champagne, the northeast region of France.

      (6) Sicilienne

Unique to all the other dance movements, the sicilienne exhibits itself in a compound meter. Though slow, the lilting and dotted rhythms give life to the dance. Though the movement could be interpreted as almost jig-like, the lush colors of Poulenc’s instrumentation definitely suggest a pastoral mood as well.

      (7) Carillon

Translated from French, carillon means “bells” or “chimes”.  This dance is one of the most rambunctious and fun. Couples dance in circles, clap their hands, stamp their feet, all while trading partners when the time is right!

 

Shostakovich: Concerto for Piano and Trumpet and String Orchestra  (1933)

Meet the Composer…

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975),  born in St. Petersburg, lived during the reign of Stalin. His compositions led him to fear imprisonment, as they caught the attention of soviet censors. After his opera, The Nose, Shostakovich’s work was stamped as an appeal to the bourgeois aesthetic. Shostakovich had no choice but to make reparations. For a time, he resulted to composing pieces that outwardly glorified Soviet life and history.

Looking to avoid any more troubling attention from the government, Shostakovich avoided commenting on the meaning of his works. His comments would only glorify the state. As he is quoted in an issue of Sovetskoye Iskusstvo: “I am a Soviet composer. Our age, as I perceive it, is heroic, spirited and joyful. This is what I wanted to convey in my concerto. It is for the audience, and possibly the music critics, to judge whether or not I succeeded.” Though many of the true reasons behind his writing are unknown, it is implied that under his cloak of state compliance hides the tragic realities and tantalizing struggles of his country. 

 About the Concerto…

On October 15, 1933, Shostakovich premiered the piece himself on piano and with trumpet player Alexander Nikolaievich Schmidt. The piece was imagined at first as a trumpet concerto with supporting piano and orchestra. As he composed the concerto, the score involved a more prominent solo piano part with an accompanying trumpet and orchestra.

Compositionally, this concerto blends a mixture of different styles. It especially carries classical motivic inspirations from composers like Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart. The instrumentation of solo trumpet and piano accompanied by strings almost suggests a Baroque concerto grosso ensemble.  Shostakovich also adds sprinkles of popular Russian songs and jazz riffs. These are particularly interesting in their ability to catch the audience’s ear. Noticing familiar vernacular melodies through national songs, and catchy memorable melodies through jazz, ultimately rewards the audience’s aural participation.

Though the piece is made up of four movements, there is no indication that Shostakovich wanted a break between them. Within the movements, dance patterns are emphasized. In the Lento, for instance, critics often point it out as a melancholy waltz. The melancholy atmosphere is especially highlighted with the muted trumpet.

      (1) Allegretto

 

After a short introductory duo between piano and trumpet, the piano then goes into its own wandering melody. This cyclic and traveling motive is then answered by the upper strings. Then the piano interrupts the answer with jagged rhythms and growing rambunctious dynamic. As this movement continues, the piano dominates in a conversation with the strings while the trumpet briefly interweaves its voice into the texture. Sometimes the trumpet enters with light bubbling support, playful outbursts, and lyrical phrases. When the movement winds down, the beginning wandering motive appears again in the piano and is carried to a final close with pedal tones in the trumpet.

      (2) Lento

 

This movement begins with a lyrical, dance-like upper string melody. The transparent texture and minor key evokes a mysterious sonority right before the piano enters for the first time. The piano begins to wander in a more vulnerable way than in the allegretto. The melody cannot seem to find its way to a pinnacle destination, constantly swimming in the same range.

The movement then begins a new mood as the piano melody suddenly climbs with a sudden buoyant flurry into a higher register.  The melody glides more confidently, while the string accompaniment is momentarily suspended in silence. Then, as the upper strings enter again, they introduce a new, lush tonality. The piano melody becomes inspired, introducing more depth of sound and theatrical rhythms. Eventually, the movement winds its way back down, but never loses its earlier gained confidence.

      (3) Moderato

 

The piano gets started right away, without accompaniment, introducing a light, flourishing melody that grows with tension and weight until the orchestra entrance. The orchestra continues and expands upon the trudging, ominous melody. As if to lightly mourn their weight, the piano comes back with downward tinkering decorations.

      (4) Allegro con brio

 

Without stopping between movements, the piano plays a quick flourish to introduce a different mood. This time, the orchestra springs back in forth with the piano in a ragged joking conversation. Suddenly, after two movements of silence, the trumpet comes back to jest. Mid-way, the trumpet finally gets its own feature! Less playful than the beginning of the movement, the trumpet introduces a light hearted cadenza-like passage. The piano then introduces jazz-like riffs, teasing the trumpet before its final entrance. Ending with an exclamation mark, the trumpet is accompanied by piano and strings in a last boisterous melody.

 

Meet the Soloists…

Yuliya Minina, piano

(1) Howdownload and why did you start playing the piano? 

I started to do rhythmic gymnastics when I was about 5 years old. My mom thought it would be a good idea to introduce me into some music lessons “to improve my sense of rhythm.” Apparently, I was a much better musician than I was a gymnast. I gave up gymnastics when I was 13 or so, but music has not only captivated me for life, but also became my profession.

(2) What inspires your music? 

Music itself is usually my biggest inspiration. Visual or sensual associations that music evokes in me inspire me to communicate these images to my audience. I cherish memories of sad and joyful events in my life and use these memories to make my performances more powerful and meaningful. Working with other musicians is another source of inspiration for me. I love adding to my music new and fresh ideas that I get from my colleagues.

(3) Beyond the piano, what do you like to do for fun? Do you have a favorite place to spend time in Seattle?  

I enjoy doing things that require a lot of concentration: knitting, cross-stitching, completing jigsaw puzzles, doing yoga. I am what you can call an “urban hiker.” I love walking with my family and exploring new neighborhoods in Seattle. I especially like my Phinney Ridge neighborhood with its great coffee-shops, cafes, and small stores.

Brian Chin, trumpet

 chin-brianDr. Brian Chin is an associate professor of music at Seattle Pacific University, where he serves as director of Instrumental Studies and coordinator of Music Theory. He teaches many of the core music degree classes, including freshman Aural Skills and Advanced Music Theory with courses in Chromatic Harmony, Form and Analysis, and 20th Century Composition Techniques. Dr. Chin also directs an innovative Learning Assistant Program connected to aural skills, which is helping to redefine music teaching in higher education.

As an international trumpet soloist and advocate for new music, Dr. Chin has commissioned and premiered many works for trumpet and is the creator of theUniversal Language Project, an organization committed to creating art music for the 21st century. He also performs on baroque trumpet and is a co-founder of an early music ensemble, the Seattle Trumpet Consort. He also serves as principal trumpet for the Tacoma Symphony, records for film studio projects, and performs regularly with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Seattle Opera Orchestra. His two solo recordings are titled Universal Language and Eventide.

Haydn: Symphony No. 40 in F Major (1763)

Meet the Composer…

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) wrote over 100 symphonies over his life time. As a classical composer, Haydn was at the mercy of patron support throughout his career. He served Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy until Nikolaus’ death in 1790. Nikolaus was then succeeded by his son Anton. Prince Anton dismissed most of the court musicians. Though he did not unemploy Haydn, Prince Anton reduced Haydn’s compensation.

Not needed as much in Prince Anton’s court, Haydn traveled to London. There, he worked under Johann Peter Salomon’s offer to conduct his own symphonies. He then moved back to Vienna, and met Beethoven. In 1794, he took a second trip to England. Though he was in his sixties, Haydn composed some of his most famous works, 12 London symphonies: numbers 93-104.

About the Symphony…

Despite it’s number, Symphony No. 40 was actually composed well before the other symphonies in the 30-40 numbering range. Going in true chronology, Symphony No. 40 would be Symphony No. 13. The sonority of Symphony No.40 suddenly makes sense, matching the early classical style of Joseph Haydn’s hand.

      (1) Allegro

Like many other classical concertos, the first movement of Haydn’s 40th symphony is in sonata form. Sonata form, also known as sonata-allegro form, was a typical 3-part structure used to begin a large work.

Sonata Form

 

  • Exposition

Typically, an exposition begins with the first theme in a tonic, or home, key. Then, there is a transition that typically helps modulate into a new key area where the second theme is introduced. Often, the exposition then cadences in the new key and is repeated for a second run through.

  • Development

The development explores variations on previously introduced themes, new themes, and swims between any and all keys.

  • Recapitulation

Finally, the recapitulation reestablishes the first theme in the tonic key, and transitions without modulation into the second theme. This time, however, the second theme is put into the tonic key as well.

  • Coda (optional)

Coda, translated to “tail” from Latin, helps extend the cadence of the recapitulation, and or help put a close to other previously introduced themes.

      (2) Andante piu tosto Allegretto

 

Fairly short, this movement is a great time to appreciate the very distinct roles each instrument carries within the classical orchestral style.

The upper strings and right hand of the harpsichord carry the main melody. Their role is to sing their line at the discretion of pacing established by the bass.  

The harpsichord left hand and lower strings carry the bass line. They greatly control the forward motion of the piece. Their articulation is especially important to communicate their sense of pulse. The shorter the bass strokes, the more brisk and light the upper line is influenced to be. If the bass decides to play a more weighted tenuto, they greatly influence the melody to interact with them in a more sweeping and lush way. The influence of the bass on the upper strings are detectable throughout this movement.

Different with every orchestra and every performance, notice how repeating sections are nuanced to sound different through articulation. The eight note pickups in the bass are a sign to both the musicians and the audience what kind of articulative mood each melodic paragraph is going to prevail in.

(3) Minuet & Trio

 

The third movement is a great example of a typical classical third symphony movement, minuet and trio. Just like Poulenc’s Suite Fracaise, the third movement exhibits the dance roots of music.

The minuet, typically an aristocratic dance, is in three-four time. This meter creates a strong sense of down beat, influencing the strong-weak-weak foot patterns of this particular dance. (Comically referred to as the OOM-pah-pah pattern) Unlike the minuet, the trio is typically lighter in texture than the minuet.

      (4) Finale-  Fuga: Allegro

 

Haydn’s final movement is written in a fugue form. The final movement’s fugue structure is especially unique to Haydn himself. He did not typically end his symphonies in this manner.

Very generally, fugues are contrapuntal compositions that introduce a subject, some sort of melodic phrase. Then, different voices take up the subject one by one. Sometimes, the voices will take the subject and present it at the fifth of the key.

The following video provides a great visual example of how fugues are constructed. Bach’s “Little” Fugue in g minor for organ, is anything but little. It is utterly sophisticated and complex. Try to follow all of the lines!

 

 

Pénélope, Faure’s only opera

PRESENTED BY UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF MUSIC, VESPERTINE OPERA THEATER & PHILHARMONIA NORTHWEST. DIRECTED BY DAN WALLACE MILLER & CONDUCTED BY DEAN WILLIAMSON

OCTOBER 22 & 24, 2015 – 7:30 PM

OCTOBER 25, 2015 – 2:00PM

MEANY STUDIO THEATER

TICKETS: $40 ($20 SENIORS/$10 STUDENTS)

 

Meet Gabriel Fauré …

faureWho? French Composer

What? Composed famous works like Pavane and Requiem. He also      composed Penelope. His only opera!

Where? France

When? 1845 – 1924

 

 

About Penelope …

Music by Gabriel Faure & Libretto by René Fauchois

What is a libretto? Text intended for an extended musical work.

Act I

Penelope waits a decade for her husband to return from war. While she waits, she is overwhelmed with suitors asking for her hand in marriage.

Act II

Penelope keeps waiting for Ulysses, King of Ithaca, her husband. In the meantime, Ulysses has come disguised as a beggar. He approaches Penelope in his masquerade and offers to help her defeat her suitors.

Act III

The suitors demand Penelope to decide who to marry. She holds a competition, whoever can draw Ulysses’ bow can have her hand. None of them succeed until the beggar steps forward, draws the bow, and proceeds to turn and kill the suitors. Penelope and Ulysses are finally united.

Meet Dean Williamson …

Williamson.D.Headshot


What sparked your interest in conducting opera? 

I never wanted to be a conductor, but was encouraged to do so by many famous singers I worked with as a pianist.   My training was in solo piano, I then worked as an accompanist and coach in NYC before beginning to work for opera companies.   Eventually the conducting opportunities presented themselves and I found a new home on the podium.   Ironically, I would always get very nervous as a pianist, but am never that way as a conductor.   So I guess this is what I should be doing! 

Tell us a bit about Penelope. Do you have a favorite part? 

Penelope is late in Faure’s oeuvre utilizing all sorts of compositional techniques and daring harmonies.   One of our cast members calls the score “slippery”, which is very apt.   At the same time, it’s quite beautiful and very French in its esthetic.   He uses the idea of the Wagnerian leitmotif, whereby a character or theatrical idea has a theme or melody which returns often.  However, it’s done in a very subtle French way….Faure never wrote in an outlandish or extreme manner.   His musical language reflects the French language, nuanced, elegant, unhurried, and always tasteful.   I also love how he uses several modal scales vertically and horizontally to reflect the “Greek-ness” of the story.   It’s as if we’re hearing snippets of ancient Greek melodies under the French veneer.

Beyond the life of conducting, what is your favorite spot in Seattle? 

I don’t have a favorite spot in Seattle, I love the entire city!   Every time I return from a gig and I look out the airplane window upon landing at SeaTac, I can feel my body relax.   The food culture is spectacular, and having 3 rescue Jack Russell’s I love the walks and hikes.   We really do live in the best city in the country.

Philharmonia is auditioning for string players

violin

We currently have openings in the violin and viola sections for the upcoming 2015-2016 season. We are also auditioning string players for our sub lists. If you are interested in scheduling an audition, please contact president@philharmonianw.org or call 206-675-9727.

You will need to play a solo piece of your choice plus the following 3 excerpts (one from Mozart 40 and two from Beethoven 9, both of which are on our season next year):

Violin:
Mozart: Symphony No. 40, first movement, mm. 191-225

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, first movement, mm. 380-407
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, third movement, mm. 99-114

Viola:
Mozart: Symphony No. 40, first movement, mm. 105-downbeat of 134

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, first movement, mm. 344-370
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, second movement, mm. 13-57