Oregon Symphony

 

Concert Information

Tchaikovsky’s
Romeo and Juliet

Saturday, January 28 2017, 7:30 pm
Sunday, January 29, 2017, 7:30 pm
Monday, January 30, 2017, 7:30 pm


Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Carlos Kalmar, conductor
Stefan Jackiw, violin

SEAN SHEPHERD SERGEI PROKOFIEV
Concerto No. 2 in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra
  • Allegro moderato
  • Andante assai
  • Allegro, ben marcato
  • Stefan Jackiw


Intermission


IGOR STRAVINSKY
Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss
(1949 version)

  • Sinfonia
  • Swiss Dances
  • Scherzo
  • Pas de Deux (Adagio, Variations, and Coda)
PYOTR ILYICH
TCHAIKOVSKY

THE CONCERT CONVERSATION, conducted one hour before each performance, will be presented by Music Director Carlos Kalmar and Robert McBride, host for the stations of All Classical Portland. You can also enjoy the Concert Conversation in the comfort of your own home. Visit AllClassical.org to watch the video on demand.

SEAN SHEPHERD
Magiya (Magic)

Vital Stats

Composer: Born July 1, 1979, Reno, NV.

Work composed: 2013, for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States.

World premiere: Valery Gergiev led the National Youth Orchestra of the United States in the premiere on July 11, 2014, at the Performing
Arts Center, SUNY Purchase College, Purchase, NY.

First oregon symphony performance.

Instrumentation: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cabasa, castanets, claves, crotales, cymbals, glockenspiel, maracas, metal coil, ratchet, sandpaper blocks, slapstick, sleigh bells, snare drum, tambourine, tam-tam, temple blocks, 2 triangles, vibraphone, vibraslap, woodblock, xylophone, and strings.

Estimated duration: 7 minutes

An exciting composer of the new American generation” (New York Times), Sean Shepherd has quickly gained admiration and return engagements with major ensembles and performers across the U.S. and Europe. From 2011-2013, he served two terms as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow of the Cleveland Orchestra. In recent years, Shepherd’s music has also been performed by the New York Philharmonic, the National, BBC, and New World symphony orchestras, and with leading European ensembles, including Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble, and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

“In anticipation of my new piece for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America in its inaugural season and tour with the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, my thoughts naturally drifted eastwards,” writes Shepherd in his program notes for Magiya. “In writing a piece to precede two pillars of the Russian repertoire, and to be performed also in cities in Russia, I immediately thought of so much music that I adore in the great tradition of the Russian overture—from those of Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet through those of Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, and many of the 20th century, includ- ing Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. I also find myself drawn to a specifically Russian sense of magic—or magiya—in the stories, folklore and literature (old and new) of the country, a kind that often gets no explanation or justification; a ‘normal’, everyday magic. When these tales find their way to the stage (as, for example, in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel and Stravinsky’s Petrushka), some of most colorful and most exotic—and some of my favorite— music of the age is the result.

Magiya is a celebration of a wonderful new orchestra and an exciting tour, and is a humble nod to a brilliant musical tradition.”


SERGEI PROKOFIEV
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63

Vital Stats

Composer: Born April 23, 1891, Sontsovka, Bakhmutsk region, Yekaterinoslav district, Ukraine; died March 5, 1953, Moscow.

Work composed: Prokofiev composed the Violin Concerto No. 2 in 1935 as a commission for the French-Belgian violinist Robert Soëtens.

World premiere: Enrique Fernandez Arbós conducted the Madrid Symphony Orchestra in Madrid, with Soëtens as soloist, on December 1, 1935.

Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: September 25, 2011; Carlos Kalmar, conductor; Elina Vähälä, violin.

Instrumentation: Solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, bass drum, castanets, cymbals, snare drum, triangle, and strings.

Estimated duration: 26 minutes

Sergei Prokofiev was determined to make his second violin concerto “completely different from No. 1 in terms of both music and style.” Prokofiev also wanted the character of this second concerto to demonstrate that “lyrical thoughts preceded virtuosity;” he succeeded on both counts. The restless energy and contrasting moods of the concerto also reflect the composer’s peripatetic life at the time of its composition. As Prokofiev noted in his autobiography, “The main first movement theme was written in Paris, the main theme of the second movement in Voronezh [Russia], the orchestration was finished in Baku [Azerbaijan], and the premiere was in Madrid.” Under these circumstances, Prokofiev might have conceived his violin concerto as a musical travel diary, punctuated by musical nods to the different countries in which he wrote it. Instead, the Violin Concerto No. 2 serves as a musical farewell to the West, one of the last compositions Prokofiev wrote before he returned to live in the Soviet Union permanently. In this context, one can hear Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto as the composer’s last wholly un-self-censored work, music that displays his masterful ability to capture a whole spectrum of emotions: irony, wit, romantic intimacy, surprise, introspection.

The soloist opens with an unaccompanied melody, understated and somewhat melancholy; the contrast between this tune and the second theme, a relaxed, lyrical one in which the soloist pairs with a solo horn and then various winds, could not be more marked. Prokofiev was writing his ballet Romeo and Juliet at the same time as his second violin concerto, and this tender, starry-eyed theme would serve equally well in the ballet.

The mood of Romeo and Juliet continues in the Andante assai, as the violin sings a love song of heartbreaking vulnerability. This theme carries through the movement, building upon layers of harmony and texture. Hearing it is akin to watching a red rose unfurl and bloom through the medium of time-lapse photography.

The vigor of the Allegro ben marcato is a marked shift from the lyricism of the second movement. Flavored by castanets and snare drum, no doubt included by Prokofiev as a tribute to his Madrid audience, this bold, dynamic music pulses with rhythmic energy, punctuated by off-beat accents and highlighted by Prokofiev’s penchant for spiky, unexpected dissonances.


IGOR STRAVINSKY
“Divertimento” from Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss, 1949 version)

Vital Stats

Composer: Born June 17, 1882, Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov), Russia; died April 6, 1971, New York City.

Work composed: Stravinsky wrote the complete ballet Le baiser de la fée for Ballets Ida Rubenstein’s inaugural season, in 1928. “I dedicate this ballet to the memory of Peter Tchaikovsky,” Stravinsky inscribed on his score, “by relating the Fairy to his Muse, and in this way the ballet becomes an allegory, the Muse having similarly branded Tchaikovsky with her fatal kiss, whose mysterious imprint made itself felt in all this great artist’s work.” Four years later, Stravinsky made an arrangement of approximately half the ballet’s
music for violin and piano, on behalf of violinist Samuel Dushkin, which Stravinsky titled Divertimento. In 1934, Stravinsky arranged Divertimento for full orchestra.

World premiere: Le baiser de la fée premiered on November 27, 1928, at the Paris Opéra. Stravinsky conducted the first performance of Divertimento on November 4, 1934, in Paris.

Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: January 13, 1970;
Jacques Singer, conductor.

Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets,
bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, harp, and strings.

Estimated duration: 20 minutes

In one of Igor Stravinsky’s many interviews with his friend and colleague Robert Craft, the composer recalled the genesis for his ballet The Fairy’s Kiss: “In 1928 Ida Rubinstein commissioned me to compose a fulllength ballet. The thirty-fifth anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s death was 1928 ... and I therefore conceived my compatriotic homage as an anniversary piece. I chose [Hans Christian] Andersen’s The Snow Maiden because it suggested an allegory of Tchaikovsky himself. The fairy’s kiss on the heel of the child is also the muse marking Tchaikovsky at his birth, though the muse did not claim Tchaikovsky at his wedding, as she did the young man in the ballet, but at the height of his powers ... My only precept in selecting the music was that none of the pieces should have been orchestrated by Tchaikovsky—i.e., my selection would have to come from piano music and songs. I was already familiar with about half of the music I was to use; the other pieces were discoveries. At this date [1962], I only vaguely remember which music is Tchaikovsky’s and which mine.”

The Divertimento Stravinsky created from The Fairy’s Kiss includes approximately half the music from the full ballet, and is an ingenious blend of Tchaikovsky’s melodies stitched together with Stravinsky’s transitions from section to section. Its four movements condense the ballet’s plot but preserve its general outline. In the Sinfonia, a mother and child become separated during a violent storm, and fairies spirit the child away into the night. The Danses suisses provide a festive atmosphere for the child’s (now grown into a young man) engagement party. The twinklyeyed Scherzo is a blend of Tchaikovsky’s signature lyrical melodies with Stravinsky’s off-beat rhythmic energy, and the closing Pas de deux reveals the young lovers dancing to the plaintive combination of clarinet, harp, and cello.


PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

Vital Stats

Composer: Born May 7, 1840, Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia; died November 6, 1893, St. Petersburg.

Work composed: Tchaikovsky wrote the first version in 1869 and revised it twice: first in 1870, and ten years later, during the summer of 1880.

World premiere: The first performance was conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein in Moscow on March 16, 1870; the 1880 version heard on tonight’s concert was first conducted on May 1, 1886, in Tbilisi (now the capital of the Republic of Georgia) by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.

Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: December 4, 2011;
Pinchas Zuckerman, conductor.

Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, harp, and strings.

Estimated duration: 21 minutes

In 1869, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, then a music professor at the Moscow Conservatory, met and fell in love with a student, Eduard Zak. The two maintained a passionate affair for the next four years, until Zak committed suicide at the age of 19. Tchaikovsky’s love for Zak never wavered; fourteen years after his death, Tchaikovsky wrote in his diary, “The sound of his voice, the way he moved, but above all the way he used to look at me
… The death of this boy, the fact that he no longer exists, is beyond my understanding. I believe I have never loved anyone as much as he … his memory is sacred to me.”

A year earlier, Tchaikovsky had made the acquaintance of Mily Balakirev, the leader of “The Mighty Five,” a group of Russian composers that included Nikolai RimskyKorsakov. Although Tchaikovsky chafed at what he termed Balakirev’s stubbornness and “narrowness of view,” he nonetheless valued the older composer’s opinion and held him in high musical esteem. Balakirev not only suggested that Tchaikovsky write an overture to Romeo and Juliet, but also provided a detailed outline of the musical program, complete with suitable keys. Tchaikovsky was drawn to the story of Romeo and Juliet, which reminded him in some ways of his affair with Zak, particularly its heartbreaking conclusion.

Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy provided Tchaikovsky with a perfect outline for a single movement work of seamless artistry. The title Fantasy Overture is significant: rather than portray the specific storyline, Tchaikovsky created a musical dream incorporating the primary themes of love and conflict. The ferocity of the warring Montagues and Capulets and Romeo and Juliet’s famous love theme are woven into a colorful tapestry. Romeo and Juliet became the perfect vehicle for Tchaikovsky to express his love for Zak.

Popularity can be a mixed blessing. The love theme, in particular, due to its overexposure, has become an unfortunate cliché, spawning endless parodies across popular culture media, including the cartoons SpongeBob SquarePants and South Park, and the James Bond film Moonraker. It can be difficult for audiences today to hear this music with fresh ears, but in the context of the complete overture, this lush, intensely emotional theme works effectively as a powerful illustration of an all-consuming, star-crossed love.

© 2017 Elizabeth Schwartz

Program Notes by Elizabeth Schwartz

Elizabeth Schwartz is a writer and musician based in the Portland area. She provides notes for several organizations, including the Oregon Symphony, Portland Piano International and the Oregon Bach Festival, among others, and has also contributed to NPR’s “Performance Today,” (now heard on American Public Media). Ms. Schwartz also co-hosts the Portland Jewish Hour, heard Sundays at 10 am on KBOO 90.7 fm. classicalmusicprogramnotes.com.

Recommended recordings

Prokofiev–Violin Concerto No. 2

James Ehnes, violin
Gianandrea Noseda–BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
2-Chandos 10787

Jascha Heifetz, violin
Charles Munch–Boston Symphony Orchestra
RCA Victor Living Stereo 66372 (SACD)

Stravinsky–The Fairy’s Kiss Divertimento

Vladimir Jurowski–Russian National Orchestra
Pentatone 5186061 (SACD)

Igor Stravinsky–Columbia Symphony Orchestra
7-Sony Classical 884142 (complete)

Tchaikovsky–Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

Carlo Maria Giulini–Philharmonia Orchestra
2-EMI Classics 86531

James DePreist–Oregon Symphony Orchestra
Delos 3369

 

 

 


SSL