Orchestra Roster, About Our Soloist, and Program Notes
for June 2, 2002 Musica Bella Concert

Concert No. 3

Conductor: Phillip Gaskill

Sunday, June 2, 2002
Our Lady of Good Counsel Church
Mozart: Symphony No. 20 in D, K. 133
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K. 216
Rachel Varga, violin
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in g minor, K. 550

Click on a musician’s name to see his/her bio and photo.

Laura Chang
Hubert Chen
Michelle Des Roches, principal second violin
Clare Detko
Alfiya Koval
Whitney La Grange
Niki Matsoukas
Katie Morton
Paul Sabatino
Uli Speth, concertmaster
Rachel Varga
Yolanda Wu, associate concertmaster

Ken Clark, principal
Nicholas Flowers
Stephen Salchow

Marlan Barry
Linda Harrison
Anahit Harutyunyan-Gaskill, principal

Bill Nealon
Kathleen Brisotti, principal
Susan Lowance

Thomas Crane
Alexander Lesokhin, principal

Phil Fedora, principal
Cornelia McGiver

Christophe Gillet, principal
Bill Hinson, principal in 40th Symphony

Benjamin Hankle, principal
Tom McGee

Rachel Varga, violin, the daughter of concert violinist Ruben Varga, began her musical studies at the age of three with her parents, first performing in public at the age of four. She was soon giving recitals throughout New York and, in 1983, made her debut at Carnegie Hall as soloist with the Senior Concert Orchestra of New York. Since then, she has performed in concerts and recitals in the United States, Europe, Japan, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. She was a winner of the 1987 Artists International Competition, and made her debut the following season at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. Since then, she has been a prize winner in many competitions, including the Palm Beach International Invitational Competition, the Vianna da Motta International Competition in Portugal, the Szigeti International Competition in Hungary, and the Washington International Competition. In 1993, after a national search, she was chosen to become the first woman and one of the youngest violinists ever selected for the position of Fellow and Concertmaster of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra in Alabama. The following year she was awarded the Waldo Mayo Award for an Outstanding Young Violinist. In 1995, she won, by a unanimous vote, the First Prize and the Audience Prize in the XXII International Competition of Musical Performance in Viña del Mar, Chile. She has appeared as soloist with many orchestras, including the Zagreb Symphony, La Orquesta Filarmonica de Jalisco, the Budapest Radio Symphony, the Manhattan Symphony, La Sinfonica Nacional de Bolivia, La Sinfonica de la Republica Dominica, La Sinfonica Nacional de Puerto Rico, La Orquesta Filarmonica de Bogota, and La Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica. She holds the degree of Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music. She has been a faculty member at Huntingdon College in Alabama, and is currently teaching privately and at the Queens Music School. She has also taught several international master classes. She is a recipient of two Superior Teaching Awards from the Queens College Young Performers’ Competition. Her repertoire currently includes about thirty concertos and several complete recital programs. Her expressive performances and beautiful tone have inspired comparisons to such artists as Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman, and Midori.

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus [translated “Gottlieb” or “Amadeus”] Mozart (1756-1791) was, as everyone knows, a child prodigy the likes of which the world has never seen, before or since. But perhaps even more amazing than his “quick start” is how he progressed and grew from there, rather than resting on his laurels or burning out early (as many other child prodigies have done). His first symphony, for example, composed at the age of six, although it’s simply amazing — no one else has ever done anything remotely similar at such a precocious age — does sound a bit, well, childish; but by the time he was at the “advanced” age of fifteen or so, he was writing fully mature music. We feel that his twentieth symphony is nearly as mature as his fortieth; we hope you agree.

Symphony No. 20 was written in Salzburg in July 1772 (when Mozart was 16 years old). It opens with the three “hammer-blow” chords that typically appeared at the beginning of Italian opera overtures of the period and even much later (and Mozart wrote quite a few Italian operas). The strings have most of the themes in the exposition of the first movement; the winds are prominent in the development section. This movement is not in the now-typical sonata-allegro form (which wasn’t “decided upon” until later, by Mozart, Haydn, and others); the beautiful first theme isn’t heard again until the coda, which follows a deceptive “fake” ending. Note that the first horn plays the melody in the coda, a rare thing for the valve-less horns of the period.

The second movement uses only strings (the upper strings are muted) and one obbligato flute. As one commentator said, this movement “continues to tap the rich melodic vein Mozart has come upon while composing this symphony. Even upon first hearing, this Andante sounds like a piece we have always known.” The minuet is energetic while having an almost maestoso flavor, featuring the brass; the trio, on the other hand, is lyrical and almost dreamlike in feeling. The last movement is a gigue, written in 12/8 time; it has the feeling of a perpetuum mobile.

Violin Concerto No. 3 was written in 1775 (Mozart was 19). He wrote all five of his violin concertos between April and December of that year (unless, perhaps, some historians are correct and Concerto No. 1 dates from a couple of years earlier). Mozart was himself a virtuoso violinist, as was his father, and he seems to have written these concertos for himself to play. This one is generally considered the best of the five. The first movement is a true classic; the slow movement is one of the most beautiful ever written; and the final rondo has enough verve and energy to keep the sleepiest listener awake.

Symphony No. 40 was written in 1788 (Mozart was 32). It is only the second symphony he ever wrote in a minor key (the other being the well-known Symphony No. 25, also in g minor). It is usually considered a tragic work, although Robert Schumann focused on its elegance and grace.

This is some of Mozart’s most chromatic work. The first and last movements best exemplify this, especially in the middle (development) sections, and especially that section of the last movement. This chromaticism seems pretty tame to our 21st-century ears, but it must have sounded like Schoenberg to Mozart’s audiences.

James Levine says about this symphony: “A seraphic performance of the Mozart g-minor is very like a prayer, or a hymn to the glory of all things beautiful.” We humbly hope to approach Maestro Levine’s standard.

Mozart originally composed the symphony with the instrumentation we are using today: that is, no clarinets. He later added two clarinet parts, giving the clarinets much of what the oboes play in the original version. The two versions (with clarinets and without) are both totally authentic.