MEET THE CONDUCTOR: Lidiya Yankovskaya, Orchestra Showcase, May 22, 2021, 5pm & 8pm

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Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor

Orchestra Showcase

May 22, 2021 at 5PM & 8PM

Background: Russian-American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya is a fiercely committed advocate for Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. As Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, Ms. Yankovskaya has led the Chicago premieres of Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, Rachmaninov’s Aleko, Joby Talbot’s Everest, Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and the world premiere of Dan Shore’s Freedom Ride. Elsewhere, she has recently conducted Ricky Ian Gordon’s Ellen West at New York’s critically acclaimed Prototype Festival, Il barbiere di Siviglia at Wolf Trap Opera, Pia de’ Tolomei at Spoleto Festival USA and the world premiere of Taking Up Serpents at Washington National Opera. On the concert stage, she has been recently engaged with Chicago Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Mobile, Flagstaff, Hawaii and Oviedo, Spain. Upcoming debuts include Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, Opera Vlaanderen, Opera Seville and the Glimmerglass Festival.

Ms. Yankovskaya is Founder and Artistic Director of the Refugee Orchestra Project, which recently performed at the United Nations in New York City and LSO St Luke’s in London. She has served as Artistic Director of the Boston New Music Festival and Juventas New Music Ensemble, where she led operatic experiments with puppetry, circus acts and robotic instruments, as well as premieres by more than two dozen composers. As Music Director of Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, she conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the U.S. Russian-language premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden.

An alumna of the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and Marin Alsop’s Taki Concordia Fellowship, Ms. Yankovskaya has also served as assistant conductor to Lorin Maazel, assisted Vladimir Jurowski via a London Philharmonic fellowship, and was featured in the Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. Ms. Yankovskaya has been a featured speaker at the League of American Orchestras and Opera America conferences, served as U.S. Representative to the 2018 World Opera Forum in Madrid, and received a 2018 Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award.

In-person and livestream ticket options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Mahler’s Symphony No.4

On May 15, soprano Laquita Mitchell will join Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for their fourteenth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Mahler’s Symphony No.4

Title: Symphony No.4 in G major [Stein reduction]

Composer: Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: Last performed May 3, 2008 with Larry Rachleff conducting and soloist Susan Lorette Dunn. This piece is scored for solo soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, percussion, piano, harmonium, two violins, viola, cello and double bass.   

The Story: 

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The Return to Innocence and to Innocent Faith — that is the topic of the Fourth Symphony by Gustav Mahler. And for the core of the symphony, completed in 1901, Mahler returned to an earlier piece of his music: a song completed in 1892 based on the poem Wir geniessen die himmlischen Freuden (All heavenly joys are ours) from the folkloric collection, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (From the Youth’s Magic Horn). Mahler had once considered placing this song at the very end of his Third Symphony, but the already lengthy work would not stand another movement, so the composer decided to build an entire new symphony around it. Rather than take up the song at the beginning of the Fourth Symphony, however, Mahler placed at the end with everything leading up to it — returning to it, as it were.

The childlike recurring motto for sleigh bells and flute, which opens the first movement, announces the idea of innocence. Both the form of the movement and elements of its ingratiating themes are a return to the Classic Period of music. Thus, the deceptively simple-sounding music of Mozart and Haydn probably also represented innocence to Mahler. He stated that this music “begins as if it didn’t know how to count up to three, but then it suddenly starts to multiply on a grand scale and ends up by calculating in dizzying millions.”

The second movement begins diabolically, as Mahler said,

. . . The gruesome dance of Death, led by a figure of popular demonology. . . It is the mistuned fiddle of the skeletal figure of death that is heard at the opening of the movement. . . Mysterious, intricate, and sinister, the Scherzo will make your hair stand on end, but it will be followed by the Adagio, which puts everything right again and shows that no harm was intended.

Mahler once told his protégé, Bruno Walter, that the serenity and beauty of the third movement Adagio “were caused by his vision of a church sepulcher showing a recumbent stone image of the deceased with his arms crossed in eternal sleep.” However, according to Mahler, this fully developed set of variations (on two themes) “also contains the features of St. Ursula,” one of the saints mentioned in the finale’s song. From time to time, Mahler had reflected on his own time of innocence, associating St. Ursula’s smile with “my mother’s infinitely sad face, as though she were laughing through her tears, for she too, in spite of her immense sufferings, always lovingly resolved and pardoned all things.” Mahler felt that in this movement he had achieved “the most complex mixtures of colors ever produced.” The ending he called “music of the spheres,” containing an “almost religious and Catholic atmosphere.”

Das himmlische Leben (Heavenly Life) was the original title of Mahler’s 1892 song, a child’s vision of heaven filled with good things to eat. As the final movement of his symphony, Mahler called it “the tapering spire of the edifice.”

What I had in mind was extremely hard to achieve, the uniform blue of the sky being much more difficult to render than all its changing and contrasting hues. Well, that’s the general atmosphere of the piece. Occasionally, however, it darkens and becomes phantasmagorical and terrifying. . . one suddenly takes fright, just as on the most beautiful day in a sunlit forest, one can be seized with terror or panic.

Innocence and peace, however, are always restored, and at the end, the symphony comes to rest quietly in the depths of the low harp and contrabasses.

The translated text runs as follows:

All heavenly joys are ours,
Pleasures of earth we disdain.
No worldly strife
Mars our heavenly life.
We live here in sweetest peace.

We lead an angelic life,
Yet are merry as can be.
We dance and spring,
We jump and sing
While St. Peter in Heaven looks on.

(orchestral interlude)
		
The lamb we have from St. John.
Herod, the butcher will be.
We lead the meek and innocent
Little lamb to the death.

St. Luke slaughters the oxen
Without any worry or heed.
The wine costs us naught
From our heavenly draught
And the angels bake us our bread.

(orchestral interlude)
		
Fine vegetables grow
In the garden of Heaven.
Good asparagus, good beans,
Whatever we please.
Whole plates of them wait to be eaten.

Good apples, good pears, good grapes!
The gardeners give what we wish.
And roebucks and hares
Run into our arms
Here in the open streets!

St. Peter he runs
With his net and bait
To fish in the heavenly pond.
St. Martha must cook the catch.

(orchestral interlude)

On earth there is no music
To be compared with ours.
The eleven thousand virgins
Make bold to dance.
And St. Ursula smiles on the scene.

Cecilia, her kith and her kin
Play like a royal band.
And choirs of angels
Lift up our spirits
To the highest of heavenly joys.

(translation by Edward Downes)

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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MEET THE SOLOIST: Laquita Mitchell, soprano; MAHLER, May 15, 2021, 5pm & 8pm

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Laquita Mitchell, soprano

Performs Mahler’s Symphony No.4

May 15, 2021 at 5PM & 8PM

Background: Soprano Laquita Mitchell consistently earns acclaim on eminent opera and concert stages worldwide. A native of New York City, Ms. Mitchell was a 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Prize Winner, and was awarded a Sara Tucker Award. She was also the First Prize Winner of the Wiener Kammer Oper’s Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, making her the first American to win this competition in over 20 years. Ms. Mitchell holds a Master of Music degree and the Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music, and completed undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College.

Highlights:

  • Made her début as Bess in Porgy and Bess with the San Francisco Opera, and has since reprised the role with The Atlanta Opera, The Tanglewood Festival, Madison Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Toledo Opera, Springfield Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Sheboygan Symphony, Traverse City Symphony, the Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their summer festival, and as the season opener for the Energa Sopot Classic Festival with the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra. Additionally, PBS invited Ms. Mitchell to perform a solo recital, including excerpts from Porgy and Bess with pianist Craig Terry, for the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles in preparation for the broadcast and DVD release of SFO’s Porgy and Bess.

  • An active concert artist, Ms. Mitchell recently performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Performing Arts Center; Over the Rainbow – an evening honoring Harold Arlen at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Louisville Orchestra; a début with the New World Symphony in Alberto Ginastera’s Cantata para la América Mágica; the world première of composer Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964 with Dallas Symphony Orchestra; her Boston Symphony Orchestra début as the soprano soloist in Wynton Marsalis’ All Rise under the direction of Kurt Masur; and the soprano solo in Tippett’s A Child of our Time with the Washington Chorus at Kennedy Center.

  • Notable engagements include her creation of the role of Josephine Baker in Tom Cipullo’s Josephine for Opera Colorado, Coretta Scott King in I Dream with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina, Violetta in La traviata Opera Memphis, New York City Opera, and Edmonton Opera, and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera and Portland Opera. Recent concert engagements include the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Berkeley Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Missoula Symphony, the world première of Moravec’s Sanctuary Road at Carnegie Hall with Oratorio Society of New York and her return to the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform in its Academy Ball alongside Steve Martin and led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Critical Praise:

  • “Laquita Mitchell, in her first outing as Bess, dazzled the SFO [San Francisco Opera] audience with her purity of tone and vivid theatrical presence.” Opera News

  • “Laquita Mitchell showed off a supple and refined soprano as Bess, infusing the role with a touching vulnerability and innocence.” The Boston Globe

  • “Perhaps the stand-out Sunday was soprano Laquita Mitchell as Donna Elvira, the woman tortured by her love for a man she knows to be a lying scoundrel. Mitchell’s acting is good, catching both Elvira’s lust and her righteous devotion to the cause of love in each glance and gesture. Her voice is even better, with focused fullness, purity and control across its entire range.” Asbury Park Press


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THE STORY BEHIND: Coleridge-Taylor’s “Novelette” No.1

On May 1, Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra will present their thirteenth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Coleridge-Taylor’s Novelette No.1

Title: Novelette, op.52, No.1, A major

Composer: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Orchestra premiere. This piece is scored for percussion and strings.

The Story: 

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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a Black English composer-conductor of considerable talent and, in his day, a widespread reputation. Educated at the Royal Conservatory of Music (largely under scholarship), Coleridge-Taylor began to compose and achieve performances as early as 1893. Soon after leaving the Conservatory in 1897, he began to make a reputation as both a composer and conductor of choral music. Commissions from many English choral festivals came his way, and by 1910, he was famous enough as a conductor to be dubbed “The Black Mahler.”

At the time Coleridge-Taylor lived, exoticism was in high fashion and many composers were finding an identity in the music of their cultural roots. His idol was Anton Dvořák. Like Dvořák, he became fascinated with American Indians, especially in presentations like Longfellow’s poetry. Thus, his most famous works were a series choral and orchestral pieces based on Hiawatha.

Coleridge-Taylor felt drawn to the United States in spite of prevailing prejudices. After a tour in which he was feted by no less than the President himself, the composer thought of emigrating, writing to a friend, “That which you and many others have lived in for so many years will not quite kill me. I am a great believer in my race.” The Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society, established in Washington, DC in 1901, is testimony that his race was (and is) also a great believer in him.

As the German spelling suggests, the four Noveletten were inspired by Robert Schumann’s piano miniatures, the eight Noveletten, op. 21. Composed in 1901-02 for strings, triangle, and tambourine, Coleridge-Taylor’s small essays explore many coloristic possibilities in a string ensemble, seasoned with light percussion. No. 1 evokes the gaiety of the European ballroom of the composer’s youth. Structured in four sections, each has its own personality (“character”), yet each is also a strongly rhythmic waltz. The final section is an imaginative recap of the first, bringing with it forceful, emphatic new rhythms and string effects that have often evoked audience applause.


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


You’ve Seen the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in THEIR home. Now see It in YOURS! Subscribe to the Spring 2021 Virtual Season for $150 – that’s less than $30 per concert! Enjoy 3 virtual livestreamed concerts between May 1 and May 22, plus access to our archived concerts! Single event in-person or livestream options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Wirén’s “March” from “Serenade”

On May 1, Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra will present their thirteenth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Wirén’s March from Serenade

Title: Serenade, op.11, Mvt. IV (Marcia)

Composer: Dag Wirén (1905-1986)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Orchestra premiere. This piece is scored for strings.

The Story: 

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Dag Wirèn was a Swedish composer who attended the Stockholm Conservatory (1926-1931). However, he received his most influential education in Paris, where he lived from 1931-1934, partly on scholarship. Paris afforded him the chance to hear “neo-classic” music by such composers as Stravinsky and Honegger. In this period, his own neo-classic style began to evolve.

On returning to Sweden, Wirèn held various music-related jobs in radio and concert music organizations. He composed concert and dramatic music of various sorts, including five symphonies, nine film scores, and music for 15 dramatic productions, among many chamber music and solo instrumental works. His Serenade for Strings (1937) has become his most famous work.

Wirèn’s Serenade is easy-going, straight-forward music, so analytic or academic descriptions are unnecessary. The best commentary is this brief statement by the composer himself: “The purpose of this little Serenade is simply to amuse and entertain, and if the listener, when the last note has faded, feels cheerful and happy, then I have reached my goal.”


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


You’ve Seen the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in THEIR home. Now see It in YOURS! Subscribe to the Spring 2021 Virtual Season for $150 – that’s less than $30 per concert! Enjoy 3 virtual livestreamed concerts between May 1 and May 22, plus access to our archived concerts! Single event in-person or livestream options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Britten’s “Simple Symphony”

On May 1, Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra will present their thirteenth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Britten’s Simple Symphony

Title: Simple Symphony, op.4

Composer: Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Orchestra premiere. This piece is scored for strings.

The Story: 

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Benjamin Britten’s drive to compose surfaced at an early age. Later, he was proud enough of his youthful work not only to keep it but also to adapt some of it into a mature composition. At the age of 20, Britten chose several snippets from piano pieces and songs he had written earlier — at age 12 or younger — and reworked them into the Simple Symphony for strings. Here, we have a most interesting evolution: a set of very simple, sometimes childlike, themes and musical ideas later seen through the eyes of a mature, musically educated man. Apparently, the man also saw some humor in what he was doing, for he gave each movement a tongue-in-cheek alliterative title.

Boisterous Bourrée. The complex counterpoint and melodic figures reveal a youthful admiration for J.S. Bach. The contrasting middle section with its drone bass is like a peasant dance played on a hurdy-gurdy.

Playful Pizzicato. This is the symphony’s scherzo. If the first movement was homage to Bach, the opening section of this movement pays tribute to Mendelssohn. The central Trio section, however, is more like English folk music.

Sentimental Saraband. Here, Britten’s eloquent melancholy harks back to Elizabethan composers such as John Dowland, but his own unique qualities of sentiment are also prominent. In some passages, we can hear pure youthful innocence.

Frolicsome Finale. This movement gives the impression of perpetual motion. A sprightly main theme contrasts with more song-like subordinate themes. The forward motion is maintained to the end, bringing the Frolicsome Finale to a frothy finish.


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


You’ve Seen the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in THEIR home. Now see It in YOURS! Subscribe to the Spring 2021 Virtual Season for $150 – that’s less than $30 per concert! Enjoy 3 virtual livestreamed concerts between May 1 and May 22, plus access to our archived concerts! Single event in-person or livestream options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Purcell’s Chacony in G minor

On May 1, Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra will present their thirteenth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Purcell’s Chacony in G minor

Title: Chacony, Z.730, G minor (Ed. Britten)

Composer: Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Orchestra premiere. This piece is scored for harpsichord and strings.

The Story: 

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When the English restored their monarchy in the early 1660s (the “Restoration”), London’s theaters were re-opened after a hiatus of nearly 30 years. There followed a great demand for theatrical entertainment, which lasted for decades. England did not want Italian opera; instead, it developed a style of spoken musical theater that employed large amounts of music. Most music was “incidental” — overtures, dances, entrance music, and entr’actes — and inserted songs. Yet entire scenes involving ritual or pageant might be set to music.

Henry Purcell came along at just that time. He made greater musical contributions to Restoration theater than any other musician of the period.

The Chacony in G minor is believed to have originated as theater music. The chaconne procedure was a series of variations built on a short, repeated bass line (a “theme,” sometimes only four notes long). One popular example is the Pachelbel Canon, developed on top of a repeated eight-note bass pattern. In many chaconnes, the repeated pattern may move temporarily to some of the higher instruments.

In this six-minute work for strings, Purcell left very few markings or instructions for the players. Thus, it was left to British composer-arranger Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) to bring the work up to date with interpretive markings in an arrangement for string orchestra (or string quartet). In his introduction, Britten writes:

The theme, first of all in the basses, moves in a stately fashion from a high to a low G. It is repeated many times in the bass with varying textures above. It then starts moving around the orchestra. There is a quaver [8th note] version with heavy chords above it, which provides the material for several repetitions. There are some free and modulating versions of it, and a connecting passage leads to a forceful and rhythmic statement in G minor. . . . The conclusion of the piece is a pathetic variation, with dropping semi-quavers [16th notes], and repeated “soft” – Purcell’s own instruction.


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


You’ve Seen the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in THEIR home. Now see It in YOURS! Subscribe to the Spring 2021 Virtual Season for $150 – that’s less than $30 per concert! Enjoy 3 virtual livestreamed concerts between May 1 and May 22, plus access to our archived concerts! Single event in-person or livestream options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Elgar’s “Introduction and Allegro”

On May 1, Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra will present their thirteenth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro

Title: Introduction and Allegro, op.47

Composer: Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: Last performed March 23, 1991 with Andrew Massey conducting. This piece is scored for strings.

The Story: 

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In 1904, the recently formed London Symphony Orchestra planned an all-Elgar concert for the following year. The musicians suggested that Edward Elgar compose a new piece for the occasion, and the composer’s friend, August Jaeger, wrote him enthusiastically, “Why not a brilliant quick String Scherzo . . . ? a real bring down the House torrent of a thing such as Bach could write. . . . You might even write a modern Fugue for Strings. . . .” Elgar was then at the height of his creative powers. So, the following January, when his schedule permitted, he began the new piece, writing to Jaeger, “I’m doing that string thing in time for the Sym. Orch. concert. Intro: & Allegro — no working-out part but a devil of a fugue instead . . . with all sorts of japes & counterpoint.” The Introduction and Allegro was completed in mid-February, and premiered on March 8. “That string thing” soon became recognized for the brilliant work it is, and some critics rank it among Elgar’s finest music and among the top string orchestra works in history.

The Introduction begins with an Elgar-esque descending figure, and at once, the lush romantic treatment of the strings becomes apparent. Before long, a folk-like tune appears. Elgar derived this from a fragment that he noted down a few years before on one of his long holiday walks in Wales. The solo viola introduces the melody, and this is just one example of the masterful concertante writing for first-chair players that characterizes the Introduction and Allegro. The Allegro, a sonata form, begins with an upward-sweeping scherzando theme. The treatment is still lush and flowing. In contrast to this comes a spiky sixteenth-note second theme, and the final theme is big and romantic sounding with a striding accompaniment, suggesting Elgar’s own jaunts. After winding down with motives from the “Welsh” theme, the fugue (in place of development) launches a new scherzando theme. “All sorts of japes & counterpoint” include a big episode and a second fugue theme. When the excitement of the fugue settles down, a normal recapitulation follows, and the movement ends with a firm cadence and an emphatic pizzicato final chord.


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


You’ve Seen the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in THEIR home. Now see It in YOURS! Subscribe to the Spring 2021 Virtual Season for $150 – that’s less than $30 per concert! Enjoy 3 virtual livestreamed concerts between May 1 and May 22, plus access to our archived concerts! Single event in-person or livestream options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 (“Elvira Madigan”)

On April 10, conductor Leonard Slatkin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker will join the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for their twelfth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 (Elvira Madigan)

Title: Piano Concerto No.21, K.467, C major (Elvira Madigan)

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: Last performed February 21, 2015 with Larry Rachleff conducting and soloist Joyce Yang. This piece is scored for solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

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On Thursday, 10 March 1785, Kapellmeister Mozart will have the honor of giving at the I[mperial] & R[oyal] National Court Theater a Grand Musical Concert for his benefit, at which not only a new, just finished Forte piano Concerto will be played by him, but also. . .

So began the handbill announcing the premiere of the C Major Concerto. Concert life as we know it was only in its infancy then, and we have such events to thank for several of Mozart’s symphonies, concert arias, piano sonatas and, notably, the last 17 piano concertos.

In the C Major Piano Concerto, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart marks the first movement Allegro maestoso. Yet it is a comic opera-style maestoso, with a dominating main theme that foreshadows Don Giovanni’s Leporello character. Two graceful themes follow and are interwoven with the first. After a brief introduction by the piano, the main theme returns. Here the piano blends with the orchestra to set forth a whole new set of themes. The main theme is not forgotten but generally appears as support for the piano’s decorative filigree. The piano’s entrance in the central section announces an entirely new theme, pathetic in character but rhythmically derived from the main theme. Following this is a lengthy section of passagework, the harmony of which Alfred Einstein described as “modulations through darkness into light.” The light finally bursts out in a reprise that combines both rosters of themes. Like a character from the commedia dell’arte, the ubiquitous main theme keeps popping up, both before and after the solo piano cadenza.

The Andante contains a magical quality that only muted strings will allow. Over an accompaniment of “quivering triplets” (Einstein), the leisurely cantilena unfolds, first in the strings and then in the piano. (This theme became popular through the soundtrack to the 1967 Swedish film, Elvira Madigan.) The middle section of the movement is based loosely on fragments of this “ideal aria.” When the full theme returns, it is in a somewhat distant key, but Mozart deftly returns to the home key in the final pages of the movement.

In the finale, Mozart returns to the spirit of opera buffa, but this time the scene is a peasant round dance. The piano first joins in with a short solo cadenza and a brief statement of the rollicking rondo theme. Soon, however, the soloist takes a more commanding role, while contrasting episodes playfully alternate with the main theme. Mozart has saved most of his virtuosic writing for this movement, which calls for a full solo cadenza just before the final wrap-up.


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


You’ve Seen the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in THEIR home. Now see It in YOURS! Subscribe to the Spring 2021 Virtual Season for $150 – that’s less than $30 per concert! Enjoy 4 virtual livestreamed concerts between April 10 and May 22, plus access to our archived concerts! Single event in-person or livestream options starting at $35, click HERE  or call 401-248-7000 to purchase today!

THE STORY BEHIND: Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll”

On April 10, conductor Leonard Slatkin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker will join the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for their twelfth concert of the 2020/2021 Season.

THE STORY BEHIND: Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll

Title: Siegfried Idyll, WWV 103

Composer: Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: Last performed March 26, 1966 with Francis Madeira conducting. This piece is scored for flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns, trumpet and strings.

The Story: 

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“Triebschen Idyll, with Fidi’s Bird Song and Orange Sunrise, presented as a Symphonic Birthday Greeting to his Cosima by her Richard, 1870.” Thus read the original dedication of the chamber orchestra work that later would be known as the Siegfried Idyll.

In 1870, Richard Wagner had married Cosima von Blow, and she had born him their son (and third child), Siegfried, at their Swiss villa named Triebschen. Fidi was their nickname for the baby, and on the morning of his birth, the sunrise had shown brightly on the orange wallpaper by the bedroom door. Cosima’s 33rd birthday was Christmas Day of 1870, and Wagner had arranged secretly for the rehearsals and performance of the new music. That morning the musicians gathered on the staircase to serenade Cosima, who wrote in her diary: “As I awoke, my ear caught a sound, which swelled fuller and fuller. . . . Music was sounding, and such music! When it died away, Richard came into my room with the children and offered me the score of the symphonic birthday poem. I was in tears, but so was the rest of the household.”

Eight years later, under severe financial duress, Wagner was forced to sell the composition to a publisher, providing its present title and a completely synthetic program. Although the Siegfried Idyll does use themes from Wagner’s opera, Siegfried, the music’s personal significance for Richard and Cosima goes much deeper. It originated as a quartet movement that Wagner sketched in 1864 in his first blush of love for Cosima (then still the wife of conductor Hans von Blow).The first theme, originally from the quartet, found its way into Siegfried as Brunhilde’s yielding to Siegfried (“Ewig war ich Immortal”/ “I shall always be immortal”) in the last act. Other music from Siegfried and the Idyll also originated in the quartet sketches. Thus, the opera and the orchestral poem are related, but, in Donald Tovey’s words, “only by a private undercurrent of poetic allusion.”

The bucolic middle section of the Idyll stems from an old German cradle song, which Wagner had put down in his sketchbook when their first child was born. The oboe underlines the melody’s pastoral quality, and allusions in the song to sheep appear as the baa-ing mutter of horns.

Only as the Idyll readies for its culmination do we hear Fidi’s bird song in dialogue between flute and clarinet. In sum, this is a familial idyll, originally meant only for the ears of the Wagner family and a few close friends. Writing of its intimacy, Ernest Newman calls it “a series of domestic confidences centering in happy Triebschen as a whole. . . .”


Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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