Orchestra Roster and Program Notes for
January 30, 2005 Musica Bella Concert
Concert No. 17
Conductor: Phillip Gaskill
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
SPECIAL LUCINE AMARA GUEST APPEARANCE,
SKOLNIK WORLD PREMIERE, and DAVID BAKAMJIAN, cellist
Robert Schumann/Robert Gaskill: Warum?, from Phantasiestücke, Op. 12†
Walter Skolnik: Serenade for Violoncello and Orchestra,†
David Bakamjian, cello
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in c minor, Op. 67
Operatic Arias and Songs with Special Guest Lucine Amara:
Puccini: “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi
Cilèa: “Io son l’umile ancella” from Adriana Lecouvreur
Muradian: “Sleep, My Dear”
Muradian: “Armenian Spring”
Korngold: “Gluck, das mir verblieb” (Marietta’s Lied) from Die tote Stadt
Verdi: “Pace, mio Dio” from La Forza del Destino
Michelle Des Roches,
principal second violin
Catherine Y. Koh*
Whitney La Grange
Yolanda Wu, concertmaster
Jeremy Hwang, principal
James Mark Pedersen
Ian Riggs, principal
Shoji Mizumoto, section leader
Thomas Crane, section leader
Christine Todd, section leader
Phil Fedora, section leader
Jenny L. Ruzow,*
Ron Hay, alto,
Darrell Hendricks, bass
Hitomi Yakata, tenor
Manager Anahit Harutyunyan-Gaskill
Assistant Manager Thomas Crane
Stage Manager Shoji Mizumoto
Music Director/Conductor Phillip Gaskill
|ABOUT OUR GUESTS AND SOLOISTS
Please click on our guests’ and soloists’ names above; doing so will take you to their biographies.
by Thomas Crane, unless otherwise indicated
Schumann’s Phantasiestücke (Fantasy Pieces) are a group of eight short pieces for solo piano written in 1837. As a class assignment in college (State University of Iowa, studying with the brilliant musicologist Philip Greeley Clapp, after whom I am named), my father orchestrated this one. He reports that he got the only “A” in the class. My father’s 87th birthday was the day before the scheduled date for this concert, so we are giving the first public performance of his orchestration as a slightly belated birthday present. —Phillip Gaskill
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|The Serenade for Cello and Orchestra started out as a work for cello and piano, but after writing the first movement, I thought the work had orchestral possibilities, so I orchestrated that movement, and then wrote the other three movements for cello and orchestra.
The first movement, Romanza, is a lyrical prelude. The inspiration for the second movement, Harlequin, came from early Picasso paintings in which he depicted rather sad-looking clowns, sometimes holding a guitar. The third movement, Elegia, was written while my father was in the hospital dying of cancer, and so had a personal meaning. The Toccata finale is intended to be a brilliant virtuoso showpiece for the solo cellist. —Walter Skolnik
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|The four-note phrase that ushers in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has many meanings for many different listeners. To some it signifies “Fate knocking at the door,” a conceit that originated with Beethoven’s associate and biographer Anton Schindler; others hear it as Romanticism announcing its challenge to the Classical ideal; and to millions of radio listeners during the Second World War, its coincidence with the Morse code for the letter V transformed Beethoven’s work into the “V-for-Victory Symphony.” Certainly, of the few compositions that are instantly recognizable by their first four notes — Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus, Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz, and “Happy Birthday to You” are other examples — the Fifth Symphony, by far Beethoven’s most popular work, undoubtedly stands at the pinnacle.
The first sketches for the Fifth Symphony were jotted down as early as 1804, and Beethoven began serious work on the symphony in 1806-07; the score was completed early in 1808, and the premiere took place in Vienna on December 22 of that year, a week after Beethoven’s 38th birthday. Many listeners — both favorable and hostile — at once perceived a program or story in the symphony, although Beethoven himself never suggested that there were any extramusical components. More significantly, the work stands as a paradigm of Beethoven’s compositional technique.
The term “motive” literally signifies a propulsive force, and in a musical context it denotes a short, concentrated rhythmic-melodic cell of a few notes. For Beethoven, to whom melody (in the broad, spontaneous sense associated with so many other composers) often did not come easily, motives were not merely unifying devices but essential building blocks requiring immense effort. By way of illustration, the deceptively simple six-note motive that opens the first String Quartet (Op. 18, No. 1) went through well over a dozen versions before the composer was satisfied. In the Fifth Symphony, the opening fragment (three eighth notes on a repeated G-natural, followed by a long stressed E-flat) is subjected to innumerable variants: the melodic interval between the three eighths and the final note changes; the three eighths have different rather than repeated pitches; the weak first note becomes stressed along with the fourth; and all four notes use the same pitch. At the same time, the structural skeleton of the work is unmistakably that of the classical 18th-century symphony, with the first and last movements in traditional “sonata” form, the second in rondo-variation form and the third in the minuet-and-trio format. This scheme would not in itself have greatly startled Beethoven’s mentor Franz Josef Haydn, but what Beethoven does within it to play on his listeners’ expectations is a wholly different matter.
The Scherzo provides a colorful illustration. The 18th-century minuet, though still in triple time, is now much faster, with one beat to the bar, and the periodic structure of the old dance has all but vanished. The trio (the traditional contrasting section between the two statements of the minuet, usually quieter in tone and scored for fewer instruments) here becomes a boisterous contrapuntal romp focusing on the deepest instruments. Perhaps most surprising of all, the da capo (ordinarily a note-for-note reprise of the minuet, to conclude the movement) is now completely recast as a ghostly pianissimo parody, with pizzicato strings and solo woodwinds. The “final” cadence does not end the movement but initiates an eerie transition centered on C-natural, with the timpani softly reiterating the principal motive, that leads directly into the brilliant finale. Of all the symphony’s innovations, both playful and sinister, the almost unbearable tension of this latter passage seems to have made the single greatest impression on Beethoven’s listeners. (It is also worth mentioning at this point that this symphony marks the first-ever use in a symphony of the piccolo, the contrabassoon, and trombones, all previously instruments with only religious and/or theatrical associations; to heighten their effect, Beethoven reserved them for the final movement. Imagine the surprise felt by the first audience to hear this work performed!) And there is still another surprise in store: as the finale reaches its climax, the “parody” scherzo suddenly reappears briefly, only to give way to the finale’s recapitulation. Years later, Beethoven employed a similar device in the finale of the Ninth Symphony, transforming the monumental Ode to Joy theme into an absurd little “Turkish” march.
It is worth recalling that the young Beethoven, a brilliant improviser, enjoyed lulling his audiences into a meditative or deeply emotional state, only to break the spell with a crashing chord and a roar of laughter. His motto might well have been “Keep ’em guessing!”
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|Giacomo Puccini: “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi (1918)
A rich Venetian has died and left his fortune to a monastery. His panicked relatives appeal to Gianni Schicchi to find a way to circumvent the will. His daughter Lauretta here appeals to Schicchi (“O my dear little daddy”) to exert all his cleverness on her behalf, since her impending marriage depends on her receiving a share of the old man’s money.
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|Francesco Ciléa: “Io sono l’umile ancella” from Adriana Lecouvreur (1902)
Adriana Lecouvreur, a real-life star of the Comédie Française, is extravagantly praised by her admirers, but answers modestly that “I am the humble handmaiden of the arts.”
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|Vazgen Muradian: “Sleep, My Dear” and “Armenian Spring”
These songs were written for Miss Amara in 1956, and she has sung them many times since. They evoke, in Mr. Muradian’s personal and unique style, traditional Armenia. The lyrics are by the composer’s brother, Gevork Emin. —Phillip Gaskill
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|Erich Wolfgang Korngold: “Marietta’s Lied” from Die tote Stadt (1920)
The actress and singer Marietta sings a song of lost love (“Happiness that escaped me”) for Paul, who is obsessed with the memory of his dead wife Marie.
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|Giuseppe Verdi: “Pace, pace, Dio mio” from La Forza del Destino (1862)
The young Spanish noblewoman Leonora has accidentally caused the death of her father, who cursed her with his last breath. Overwhelmed with guilt and pursued by her vengeful brother, Leonora resolves to spend the rest of her life as a hermit in a mountain cave.