NEWS, PROGRAM NOTES
May 2012 Concert
Beach Cities Symphony
Click here to see a concert announcement post card with pictures of the four soloists.
PROGRAM NOTES 25 May 2012
Overture to La belle Hélène
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)
When Jacques Offenbach was 14, his father brought him to Paris to study the cello at the Conservatoire. One year later young Offenbach entered the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique. He became especially well-known as a composer of operettas (featuring spoken dialogue, as opposed to Grand Opera, in which everything is sung), writing over ninety within a span of twenty-five years. His operetta La belle Hélène was first performed on December 17, 1864, and was an immediate success. Today, however, only the overture is commonly performed, and Offenbach is remembered chiefly for his operetta Tales of Hoffmann, for the overture to Orpheus in Hades, and for Manuel Rosenthal's arrangement of his melodies into the ballet entitled Gaîté parisienne.
In the overture to La belle Hélène, the melodies are frequently repeated and are easily remembered, with straightforward rhythms. Offenbach avoided harmonic and contrapuntal complexities common in much of nineteenth century music. As Offenbach himself observed: "Knowhow is better than knowledge," and his compositions are designed to entertain rather than to provide intellectual stimulation. French audiences loved them. If many of Offenbach's compositions are not masterpieces, they are, nevertheless, diverting works that in their day were immensely popular and that still retain much of their charm. Indeed, they influenced Gilbert and Sullivan and the twentieth-century musicals.
Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 271: “Jeunehomme”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
In 1772, age 17, Mozart returned to Salzburg, the city of his birth, after touring Italy for several years with his father and cementing his reputation as a musical prodigy. From 1773 to 1780, he developed as a composer and performer under the patronage of the court and church. In addition, he began to compose instrumental and vocal music for private patrons, among them the French pianist Victoire Jenamy (1749-1812); hence the folk etymology “Jeunehomme” by which this concerto is sometimes identified. The subtitle (French for “young man”) is descriptive of Mozart at this time, for he had just turned 21 in January of 1777, the month and year of its composition. This piece is often considered to be Mozart’s first great work; it was also the first of his works to be published, and Mozart himself performed it when he travelled to Mannheim and Paris later that year in search of further commissions. An unusual feature for the period is the soloist’s entrance almost immediately in the opening movement rather than after a substantial orchestral introduction. Also unusual is the piano’s participation in the closing ritornello, or recapitulation, following the dazzling, elegant solo cadenza.
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
A pianist and conductor as well as a composer, Rachmaninoff early on developed a musical style described by Geoffrey Norris in The Oxford Companion to Music as "a sure gift for soaring melody" combined with "a taste for succulent harmony and rich textures." Rachmaninoff’s musical legacy has enriched romantic film scores and has made him the favorite classical composer of countless moviegoers who don’t even know his name, but who have been drawn to explore serious music through his beautiful works for piano and orchestra. The Rhapsody, written in 1934 during Rachmaninoff’s annual summer stay on the shores of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, is a set of 24 variations on Nicolò Paganini's 24th Caprice for solo violin. Variations One through Eleven of the Rhapsody comprise a fast opening movement with cadenza and include the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) motif in Variations Seven and Ten. The slow movement consists of the Twelfth through Eighteenth Variations, the last containing the famous "big tune," an upside-down version of the Paganini motif. The last six Variations accelerate to a forceful crescendo, with horns and brass loudly reiterating the Dies Irae before the orchestra drops out. The soloist quietly brings the work to a close in a last salute to the original theme.
Cello Concerto in C Major, Hob. VIIb:1
Josef Haydn (1732-1809)
Although Haydn is fondly recalled as “Papa Haydn” and “Father of the Symphony” (between 1757 and 1794 he produced 108), we meet him through this splendid concerto as a composer and musician barely in his thirties, employed by the Austrian court and already establishing his reputation as one of the greatest figures in the Western canon. As vice-kapellmeister (music director) to the court of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy in Vienna and the family estate in Hungary, Haydn was writing several symphonies and concertos every year during the 1760s, among them the C Major Cello Concerto whose opening Moderato movement we are hearing tonight. Haydn’s musical lifetime spans several periods, and this work reflects Baroque elements in the long orchestral introduction (the ritornello), as well as Classical elements in the graceful overlapping of themes and melodies developed by the soloist and ensemble. This concerto has an intriguing history: lost for two centuries, the manuscript was discovered in Prague, in the Czech National Library, in 1961. Once authenticated, the work was performed in 1962 by cellist Milos Sádlo with Charles Mackerras conducting and has been part of the standard repertoire for the instrument ever since.
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Opus 26
Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Like Rachmaninoff, Max Bruch is a Late Romantic composer who bridges the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Unlike Rachmaninoff, however, his music is seldom heard today, with the exception of this stunningly opulent concerto. Bruch was born in Cologne, where he studied music (including the violin); he later moved to Berlin and taught composition at the Academy of Music. The G Minor Concerto is his first major work, and its history reflects the composer’s struggle and initial dissatisfaction with the results. After its first performance in 1866, the celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim--who later influenced the Brahms violin concerto as well--made some valuable suggestions that Bruch gratefully incorporated. The final version premièred in 1868 with Joachim as soloist. In a poll of all-time classical favorites published in April of 2000 by The Guardian of Great Britain, entitled the “Millennium Top 20,” Bruch’s First Violin Concerto was voted number one, ahead of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (in second place), Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A (third), three works by Beethoven (seven through nine), and Handel’s Messiah (a distant number 18).
Overture to Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant)
Franz von Suppé (1819-1895)
Suppé is the earliest Viennese composer of musical farces whose stage scores and popular overtures still survive. He became the first master of the classical Viennese operetta, following in the general style of the French composer Offenbach. Suppé composed 31 operettas and 180 other works that include farces, ballets, and incidental music for plays. The Poet and Peasant Overture is his most celebrated single work. It was the first of several pieces that were incidental music for a play Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant), first performed in Vienna in August, 1846. When researching Franz von Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture, one notices first the vast number of transcriptions of the work. Arrangements exist for everything from accordion to steel drum band. The popularity of this work may be attributed to its posthumous use in many cartoons and commercials, or that the start of the cello solo (about one minute in) is nearly an exact match to the start of the folk song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” which was probably borrowed from the overture.
YOUNG AUDIENCE PRESENTATIONS (Mezzanine Level)
For the benefit of the young members of the audience, a presentation enhancing understanding the music to be performed tonight will take place at 7:30 P.M. in the upstairs mezzanine.
Thomas Crow is 13 years old. He began piano lessons at age five and has been a student of Sandy Garcia for two years. Thomas has continued to play and sit annually for the Certificate of Merit Exam and has participated in the Baroque Recital and the Bach Festival. He has also played the trumpet, French horn, and baritone horn for Rancho Vista Elementary School and the Miraleste Orchestra. Thomas is very active in Boy Scouts and especially enjoys backpacking and hiking. Tonight he will be speaking on Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
Janine Fu, age 16, is in the 11th grade at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. She studies cello with Dorothy Muggeridge and will be the presenter for the Haydn Cello Concerto in C. Kristi Kim, tonight’s cello soloist, will assist Janine by playing excerpts to illustrate her talk.
Kastur Koul is 12 years old and a seventh-grade honor roll student at Ridgecrest Intermediate School. She studies piano with Dr. Linda Govel and this year successfully completed Certificate of Merit Level 5. She will be speaking on Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, K.271, and she is very excited that her best friend, Erica Mineo, will be the soloist performing it.
Irene Sun is 15 years old and attends Peninsula High School. She started violin at age five and currently studies with Linda Rose. Irene participated in the Young Musicians Foundation Chamber Music Series live broadcast on KUSC on May 20. Two years ago she was awarded a Beach Cities Symphony Association Instrumentalist Scholarship; she also volunteers in the lobby at every BCSA concert. Tonight her presentation will be on Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor.
This Young Audience Preview Lecture is sponsored by the Music Teachers' Association of California (MTAC) South Bay branch and the Beach Cities Symphony. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon (International Music Fraternity) has awarded the Young Audience Project a grant for this program. Thanks also to Sandra Clay of A-Muse Music Center in Palos Verdes for donating gift certificates to each of the young presenters.
This page last modified on May 12, 2012.