Orchestra Roster, Soloist Bio, and Program Notes for
May 21, 2006 Musica Bella Concert
Musica Bella Orchestra Season Series Concert No. 27
Conductor: Phillip Gaskill
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
MOZART and SIBELIUS
Mozart: Overture to Idomeneus, King of Crete, K.366
Sibelius: Concerto in d minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 47
Cecee Pantikian, violin
Mozart: Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, K.543
Eui Young Chon
principal second violin
Yolanda Wu, concertmaster
Jeremy Hwang, principal
Anahit Harutyunyan Gaskill,
James Mark Pedersen
Mort Cahn, principal
Lori Ann Taylor,
Derek Crosier, bass
Ron Hay, principal
Manager Anahit Harutyunyan-Gaskill
Assistant Manager Thomas Crane
Stage Manager Shoji Mizumoto
Music Director/Conductor Phillip Gaskill
|ABOUT OUR SOLOIST
Please click here to view Ms. Pantikian’s bio and photo.
by Thomas Crane
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed Idomeneo, King of Crete in 1780 on commission for the Hoftheater of the Bavarian court at Munich, where it had its premiere on January 29, 1781. The opera’s title role is a character from Homer’s Iliad—Idomeneus, king of Crete—who promises the sea-god Neptune that if he arrives safely home from Troy, he will sacrifice the first person he meets; predictable difficulties ensue.
Idomeneo has never enjoyed the popularity of Mozart’s other large-scale operas; it largely vanished from the repertoire in the nineteenth century, and did not reach the Metropolitan Opera until 1982. However, the overture was often performed as a standalone concert item. The original overture ran straight into the first act of the opera, and therefore did not have an ending suitable for performance as a concert item; the version heard today has a concert ending composed by the nineteenth-century composer Carl Reinecke.
|¶ ¶ ¶ ¶
Much in Jean Sibelius’s life grew from improbable beginnings. Born into a Swedish-speaking family in a small town in what was then a backward western province of Russia—a region with little history of high culture—Sibelius was to become not merely a prominent figure, but the veritable symbol of his country, a Finnish counterpart of Uncle Sam. His parents had the foresight to enroll him in the country’s first (!) school to give instruction in Finnish (rather than Swedish and Latin). The young man was soon caught up in the Finnish nationalist movement that reflected similar renaissances all over nineteenth-century Europe—the renaissances that produced Dvorák, Smetana, Yeats, and countless other artists—and embarked on a conscious career of expressing these feelings through music. Although he wrote his first composition at the age of eleven, Sibelius long dreamed of becoming a concert violinist. Years of study in Helsinki and Berlin, however, convinced him that his talents in that direction were limited, whereas his compositional imagination was expanding. He first sketched the Violin Concerto, his only full-scale work for solo instrument and orchestra, in 1902, and completed it in 1903. The concerto’s premiere, in Helsinki the same year, was an unmitigated fiasco, compounded of soloist Viktor Novácek’s inability to master the part, the orchestra’s struggle with the score’s difficulties, and too little rehearsal time. Sibelius revised the work extensively, and the new version was performed in Berlin in 1905 under the baton of Richard Strauss, with violinist Karl Halir. After a favorable initial reception, the concerto fell into obscurity until Jascha Heifetz revived it in the 1930s. It has never been out of the repertoire since.
Sibelius’s hallmarks—his strong sense of overall structure, his use of ostinati (constantly repeated figures) and pedal points (long sustained notes in the bass register)—are evident in the opening bars of the concerto, as is his intimate knowledge of the instrument. The soloist emerges from a soft cloud of harmonies in the violins, in a very long principal theme that exposes all of the instrument’s main registers. A brief cadenza leads to a secondary theme in 6/4 meter, in which triple and quadruple rhythms are superimposed. A third theme, with a dramatic march-like character reminiscent of the famous Finlandia, leads into the main cadenza, which may be said to take the place of a development section in more traditional sonata form. The solo bassoon recapitulates the opening theme; the reappearance of the 6/4 theme now stresses the quadruple rhythm; and the “march” section brings the movement to a powerful close. The second movement follows an A-B-A song form, with a lyrical and tender melody contrasted with a darker, brooding section reminiscent of the first movement. The finale is a thunderous dance, whose 3/4 meter and dotted rhythms strongly suggest a polonaise. Structurally, it is a very stripped-down sonata form with two principal thematic sections alternating.
|¶ ¶ ¶ ¶
The summer of 1788 was a difficult time generally in Vienna. The declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire the previous February had rattled the city’s economy, and musical activity slowed accordingly. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, already in financial straits, found few students or commissions, and was forced to move to a small suburban apartment. He tried to put a good face on things, remarking that he could now get some peace and quiet. Nevertheless, Mozart’s fiscal situation and the recent death of an infant daughter depressed him, and he composed little during those months except his final three symphonies, No. 39 in E-flat major (performed today), No. 40 in g minor, and No. 41, the “Jupiter” Symphony in C major. As there is no evidence that these masterworks were written on commission, Mozart probably intended them as a “portfolio” of new works; deeply disenchanted with Vienna, he was seriously considering a tour and possibly even a permanent relocation to London, and would not have wanted to show up empty-handed. Although the London trip never came about, Mozart performed the symphonies in Leipzig and Frankfurt, and Antonio Salieri (of whom more will be said on our June 17 and 18 concerts) conducted one of them in Vienna in 1791. (Printed programs from that time being notoriously imprecise, it is unclear which pieces were performed when.)
The 39th Symphony is one of the sunniest of Mozart’s late works, and indeed has much in common stylistically with Haydn’s popular “London” symphonies of the 1790s. E-flat major was one of Mozart’s favorite keys, the same one he had used for his first symphony, written at the age of eight. This was the only late symphony in which Mozart dispensed with oboes (although three of his middle symphonies—Nos. 18, 21, and 27—use flutes instead of oboes), handing their role over here to the new-fangled clarinets; the virtuoso Stadler brothers had piqued Mozart’s interest in the possibilities of the clarinet’s tone colors, as evidenced by his Clarinet Quintet and Concerto. The opening Adagio, punctuated by some striking dissonances, leads to a cheerful Allegro in typical sonata form. The Andante follows a rondo-sonata form, with the main theme stated the second time in the original key but with variations. The Menuetto has a boisterous rustic aura, which is reinforced by a Lándler-like trio featuring the solo clarinet. The final Allegro is essentially monothematic, characterized by a single motive that runs up and down the scale and generates the musical material of the entire movement. To emphasize the motive’s importance—while sticking his tongue in his cheek—Mozart gives it the last word, letting it sound beyond the final chord.