Orchestra Roster, Soloist Bio, and Program Notes for
January 22, 2006 Musica Bella Concert
Musica Bella Orchestra Season Series Concert No. 25
Conductor: Phillip Gaskill
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
MOZART’S BIRTHDAY CONCERT:
MOZART and TCHAIKOVSKY
Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K.492
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35
Sarah Kapustin, violin
Mozart: Donna Elvira’s Aria from Don Giovanni, K.527
Sofia Dimitrova, soprano
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C, K.551 (“Jupiter”)
principal second violin
Jeremy Hwang, principal
Anahit Harutyunyan Gaskill,
Leonard Birnbaum, principal
Chih Hao Lin
Manager Anahit Harutyunyan-Gaskill
Assistant Manager Thomas Crane
Stage Manager Shoji Mizumoto
Music Director/Conductor Phillip Gaskill
|ABOUT OUR SOLOISTS
Please click on a soloist’s name above for a link to his/her bio and photo.
by Thomas Crane
Mozart: Marriage of Figaro Overture In just three and a half minutes, the overture to The Marriage of Figaro sets the stage perfectly for this sophisticated and witty opera brimming with many of Mozart’s most beautiful melodies. Although—unlike many overtures—it quotes no musical material from the opera itself, the overture’s breakneck tempo and bubbling high spirits echo the quick wits of the hero Figaro and his wife Susanna in dealing with their lecherous overlord, Count Almaviva. Though cast in a typical sonata form, the overture dispenses with the usual development section.
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Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto The year 1877 was one of the most tumultuous of Tchaikovsky’s life. One the one hand, he was feverishly working simultaneously on the Fourth Symphony and on his masterpiece, the opera Eugene Onegin. But the collapse of his sham marriage to Antonina Milyukova had brought him to an emotional breakdown capped by a clumsy attempt at suicide, and his brothers and friends agreed that it was essential that he spend some time away from Russia. In the fall of that year, Tchaikovsky’s brother Anatoly escorted him on a trip to western Europe, traveling via Berlin and Paris to Italy. At first the change of venue provided no relief, as the noise and bustle of the Italian cities ground on the composer's shattered nerves. Eventually, the brothers settled in the small Swiss village of Clarens, on Lake Geneva near Montreux (the same town where Igor Stravinsky would compose The Rite of Spring thirty-five years later). Here Tchaikovsky at last found tranquility; he completed the symphony, made considerable progress on Onegin, and began casting around for new projects.
Iosif Kotek, a brilliant young violinist who had been a theory student of Tchaikovsky’s at the Moscow Conservatory, had urged him to write a violin concerto; inspiration struck in March of 1878, and in less than two weeks the composer had completed the preliminary draft of the entire concerto. The orchestration occupied him for several more weeks.
Tchaikovsky dedicated the work to the great virtuoso Leopold Auer, who was slated to give the first performance but backed out on the grounds that the solo part was unplayable, and the concerto was premiered in Vienna on December 4, 1881, with Adolph Brodsky as the soloist. Initial reactions were mixed. Eduard Hanslick, the nemesis of Wagner, wrote a scathing review claiming that the concerto's apparent objective was the destruction of the violin (and this was one of his gentler comments). But despite its ferocious difficulties, the concerto gained popularity with both audiences and violinists—including Auer—and by the end of the century it was established as one of the four “great” violin concertos, along with those of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.
The work opens quietly with a typically Tchaikovskian descending phrase in the violins, but the principal theme appears with the entrance of the solo violin. The orchestral accompaniment pulsates with syncopations, another of the composer’s hallmarks. The Canzonetta—lyrical and nostalgic, with a distinctly Russian stamp—was composed the replace the original slow movement. The finale, in rondo-sonata form, draws inspiration chiefly from gypsy music. A whirlwind principal theme is contrasted with a slower, ponderous melody emphasizing the violin’s lower register, with a “bagpipe” drone in the orchestra. In true gypsy fashion, the music leaps between the two tempos without preamble.
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Mozart: Donna Elvira’s Aria from Don Giovanni Mozart subtitled Don Giovanni a “dramma giocoso,” a “merry drama,” and the opera’s mixture of passion, violence, sex, and uproarious comedy—and matchless music—have given it a special place in the repertoire. The hero is of course the notorious Don Juan, the most famous compulsive womanizer of history, who at last count (in his servant Leporello’s words) has “comforted” more than eighteen hundred women. Among them is the fiery Donna Elvira, the most psychologically complex character in the opera. Rather than hiding the shame of her seduction and abandonment, she openly follows Giovanni, torn between her rage and desire for vengeance on one hand and her hopeless love for him (which in turn fills her with self-disgust) on the other. In the present aria, which takes place near the end of the opera, Elvira—having witnessed other examples of Giovanni’s lies, brutality and cynicism—is haunted by premonitions of his awful end, and hopes that she may persuade him to repent. In a chilling moment, the winds suggest the sound of tolling bells, an effect that will recur in the final scene when the Don is confronted by the ghost of the man he murdered.
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Mozart: “Jupiter” Symphony Like many other great works, Mozart’s final three symphonies were produced in a time of personal desperation. In the summer of 1788, although recently appointed court composer to Emperor Joseph II, he was deeply in debt (probably the result of gambling), living in a cramped apartment on the outskirts of Vienna with a sick wife, and producing quantities of ballroom music and arrangements. Yet many of his greatest works, in all forms, date from this period. In his usual fashion, Mozart conceived entire works in his head and wrote them down whenever he had the opportunity; thus it was that his final symphony was set on paper in the space of two weeks.
The first movement rings with energy and optimism, following a typical sonata form but introducing some intricate counterpoint in the development section—a mere foretaste of what is to come later. In the slow movement, Mozart emphasizes chromaticism and dissonance, in a manner reminiscent of the final scene of Don Giovanni, with some startling alternation of loud and soft chords. It is the finale, however, that truly throws the work into relief. For many years, German musicians referred to it as “the C major symphony with the fugal finale” (the nickname “Jupiter” seems to have been coined by Johann Salomon, Haydn’s London patron). What at first sounds like a simple, agreeable melody with four long notes suddenly turns out to be a cantus firmus (possibly derived from a Gregorian chant) that serves as the underpinning for the most elaborate statement of fugal technique since the death of Bach. Mozart introduces some four other melodic elements: a rapid descending passage in eighth-notes, a agile ascending scale in quarter-notes, repeated quarters on one pitch, and a motive leaping jaggedly in half-notes. He then weaves them into an astonishing web of sound that never becomes remotely dry or mechanical. Although the composers of the Classic period for the most part had rejected the Baroque fugue, Mozart proved conclusively that the form was quite alive, and never more so than here.