The Pines of RomeArlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
- Alban Gerhardt
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN
- Allegro spiritoso
- Finale: Presto
- The Pines of the Villa Borghese
- Pines near a Catacomb
- The Pines of the Janiculum
- The Pines of the Appian Way
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.
The Breezes (Les Éolides)
Composer: Born December 10, 1822, Liège, Belgium; died November 8, 1890, Paris.
Work composed: 1875–76.
World premiere: Édouard Colonne conducted the first performance at the Société Nationale in Paris on May 13, 1877.
First Oregon Symphony performance.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, cymbals, harp, and strings.
Estimated duration: 11 minutes
César Franck came late to orchestral composition after a career as a child piano prodigy. Franck began touring his native Belgium at age 11, wowing audiences with his Lisztian-styled improvisations on popular melodies. When Franck turned his energies to composition, his first works were naturally for piano and organ (another instrument upon which he excelled).
As a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, Franck had little time for composition; he taught organ during the school year and devoted his summers to writing. In the autumn of 1874, Franck heard Richard Wagner’s groundbreaking Prelude to Tristan and Isolde for the first time. Wagner’s iconoclastic approach to symphonic writing had a profound affect on Franck, whose first response, musically speaking, was Les Éolides, the first of several symphonic poems.
Franck borrowed the title and subject matter of Les Éolides from these lines in the eponymous poem by the French poet Leconte de Lisle:
O floating breezes of heaven
Sweet breaths of gentle spring
that touch with fitful kisses
The mountains and the plains
Aeolus’ virgin, peace-loving daughters
Eternal nature awakens to your songs.
In Homer’s Odyssey, the sea god Poseidon dispatches the Eolides, (daughters of Aeolus, Keeper of the Winds), to help ensure Odysseus’ safe passage home to Ithaca. Franck’s music effectively captures the graceful rise and fall of the waves and the gentle but insistent breezes blowing the ship westward.
A Whole Distant World Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
Composer: Born January 22, 1916, Angers, France; died May 22, 2013, Paris.
Work composed: 1967–70. Commissioned by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
World premiere: Rostropovich gave the premiere at the Aixen-Provence Festival on July 25, 1970, with the Orchestre de Paris, conducted by Serge Baudo.
First Oregon Symphony performance.
Instrumentation: Solo cello, piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, bongos, crotales, cymbals, glockenspiel, gongs, marimba, snare drum, tam-tams, tom-toms, triangle, xylophone, celesta, harp, and strings.
Estimated duration: 26 minutes
In the early 1960s, anticipating the 100th anniversary of the death of the 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire, the government of France commissioned a ballet based on Baudelaire’s most famous work, Les fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil), with music by Henri Dutilleux. In preparation, Deutilleux immersed himself in Baudelaire’s writings, rediscovering some, and reading others for the first time. Eventually, Dutilleux decided that creating a ballet based on Baudelaire’s poems did not make artistic sense to him, given his inclinations towards abstract rath- er than narrative expression.
Dutilleux withdrew from the ballet project, but when cellist Mstislav Rostropovich asked Dutilleux to write him a new concerto, Dutilleux agreed and channeled his renewed interest in Baudelaire into the project. The title, Tout un monde lointain, comes from Baudelaire’s prose poem, “La Chevelure (Hair)”—“Tout un monde lointain, absent, presque défunt, vit dans tes profondeurs forêt aromatique …” (A whole distant world, absent, barely alive, dwells in your depths, O scented forest …). In an interview, Dutilleux mentioned another Baudelaire poem, “Un hémisphère dans une chevelure” (A hemisphere in hair). “The poet is dreaming, wrapped in his mistresses’ tresses (‘Un hémisphère dans une chevelure)—what a beautiful title!’” Dutilleux exclaimed.
Dutilleux prefaces each of the concerto’s five movements with a title and a short quote from Baudelaire, but, interestingly, the Baudelaire quotes were added only after the music was written. In an interview with Roger Nichols, Dutilleux explained, “I didn’t initially think of the Baudelaire lines, but it is true that I was saturated with Baudelaire when I started the work. Then, I said to myself, ‘Very well, I’m in this atmosphere!’ and later, when I had nearly finished writing, I looked for connections [correspondences]. I thought about the poetry a bit when I was composing, the last thing I wanted was to illustrate the poems.” In the program notes for the concerto’s premiere, Dutilleux added, “I did not seek to illustrate the poems but to try, through music, to awaken some of their most secret resonances.”
Énigme (Engima)—“Et dans cette nature étrange et symbolique” (And in this strange symbolic nature)—introduces the music and the soloist with a solo cadenza and muted, restrained orchestral comments; later, cello and orchestra dialog in an animated, sometimes agitated manner. Regard (Gaze) goes “Tout cela ne vaut pas le poison qui découle/De tes yeux, de tes yeux verts/Lacs où mon âme tremble et se voit à l’envers …” (All that is not equal to the poison that flows/From your eyes, from your green eyes/Lakes where my soul trembles and sees its own reflection …). Poison, a recurring motif of Baudelaire’s, symbolizes not a deadly toxin but a means of escaping the mundane world through the “poisons” of alcohol, drugs, and sex. The sinuous quality of the cello solos and the orchestra’s replies suggests the inexorable progress of the poison working its way through, and altering, the poet’s consciousness.
In Houles (Surges)—“Tu contiens, mer d’ébène, un éblouissant rêve/De voiles, de rameurs, de flames et de mâts” (Sea of ebony, you embrace a dazzling dream/of sails, oarsmen, flames and masts)—the percussion effects and the soloists’ running scalar passages evoke bright flashing waves as they rock a boat at sea. In Miroirs (Mirrors)— “Nos deux coeurs seront deux vastes flambeaux/Qui réfléchiront leurs doubles lumières/Dans nos deux esprits, ces miroirs jumeaux” (Our two hears will be two great torches/Which will reflect their double light/In our two spirits, twin mirrors)—the rippling harp arpeggios and static quality of this music create stillness, like a calm pool of water. The closing Hymne—“Garde tes songes;/Les Sages n’en ont pas d’aussi beaux que les fous!” (Guard your dreams,/ Those of wise men are no more beautiful than those of fools!)—restates musical ideas from the previous four sections, often in subtle new guises.
Symphony No. 80 in D minor, Hob. I:80
Composer: Born March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Lower Austria; died May 31, 1809, Vienna.
Work composed: 1783–84, part of a group of three symphonies (79, 80, 81) Haydn composed at Esterháza, home of his patron, Prince Nicholas Esterházy.
World premiere: Undocumented.
First Oregon Symphony performance.
Instrumentation: Flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, and strings.
Estimated duration: 21 minutes
What’s in a name? Or, in the case of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 80, what’s in the lack of a name? Many of Haydn’s symphonies bear interesting monikers; “Farewell,” “Surprise,” and “The Clock” are just a few of the more famous examples. Of Haydn’s more than 100 symphonies, those with nicknames are better known and more often performed, which begs the question: are the symphonies without nicknames less interesting in musical terms?
Symphony No. 80 answers this question with a resounding “No!” Despite its lack of catchy title, this symphony embodies the best of Haydn’s style: the off-beat syncopations that hiccup unselfconsciously and humorously throughout the Finale, the lyrical serenity of the Adagio, and the dramatic opening notes of the Allegro spiritoso all showcase Haydn’s masterful and unique approach to symphonic writing.
Little is known of the circumstances or inspiration for the writing of Symphony No. 80. It was one of a set of three (79, 80, and 81) that Haydn composed during his tenure at Esterháza, the country estate of his patron, Prince Nicholas Esterházy. Scholars suggest Haydn wrote these three symphonies specifically for publication and sale, to capitalize on his growing fame as a composer. No. 80 is a rarity among Haydn symphonies in its minor key designation, but most of the music in No. 80 explores different major tonalities. The portentous D minor introduction hints at a return to Haydn’s Sturm und Drang period of the 1770s, but Haydn doesn’t allow himself or his listeners to linger there for long. The first movement’s rapid-fire energy propels it through a number of harmonic realms.
Overall, Symphony No. 80 captures the essence of Haydn in a series of thumbnail sketches, particularly his restless creative impulses and his trademark sense of humor.
I pini di Roma (The Pines of Rome)
Work composed: May 1923–1924.
World premiere: The Pines of Rome was first performed in Rome at the Teatro Augusteo on December 14, 1924, under the direction of Bernardino Molinari.
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: September 8, 2012;
Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, orchestra bells, ratchet, snare drum, tambourine, triangle, celeste, organ, piano, harp, and strings.
Estimated duration: 26 minutes
When the New York Philharmonic gave the American premiere of The Pines of Rome in 1926, with Arturo Toscanini conducting, Ottorino Respighi, referring to himself in the third person, wrote the following program note:
While in his preceding work, Fountains of Rome, the composer sought to reproduce by means of tone an impression of Nature, in Pines of Rome he uses Nature as a point of departure, in order to recall memories and vision. The centuries-old trees which so characteristically dominate the Roman landscape become witnesses to the principal events in Roman life.
From the opening bars, the listener is enveloped in the brilliant colors of Respighi’s dazzling orchestrations. Each of the four movements portrays the celebrated pines in different locations at different times of day. Respighi paid specific attention to orchestral detail in the third movement, The Pines of the Janiculum, where the composer specifies a live recording of a nightingale be played over the music at the conclusion of the movement. This innovative blend of live vs. recorded music predates the concept of musique concrete or “found sound,” which gained popularity in the 1960s and ’70s, by 40 years.
Respighi includes a description of each of the four movements in the score: “The Pines of Villa Borghese (Allegretto vivace). Children are at play in the pine grove of the Villa Borghese, dancing the Italian equivalent of “Ring Around a Rosy;” they mimic marching soldiers and battles; they chirp with excitement like swallow at evening; and they swarm away. Suddenly the scene changes … Pines Near a Catacomb (Lento) … and we see the shadows of the pines which crown the entrance of a catacomb. From the depths rises a dolorous chant, which spreads solemnly, like a hymn, and then mysteriously dies away. The Pines of the Janiculum (Lento). There is a tremor in the air. The pines of Janiculum Hill are profiled in the full moon. A nightingale sings. The Pines of the Appian Way (Tempo di marcia). Misty dawn on the Appian Way. Solitary pines stand guard over the tragic campagna. The faint unceasing rhythm of the numberless steps. A vision of ancient glories appears to the poet’s fantasy: trumpets blare and a consular army erupts, in the brilliance of the newly risen sun, toward the Sacred Way, mounting to a triumph on the Capitoline Hill.”
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.
Yan Pascal Tortelier–BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Kurt Masur–New York Philharmonic
Dutilleux–A Whole Distant World
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello Serge Baudo–Orchestre de Paris
EMI/Warner Classics 552131
Christian Poltera, cello
Jac van Steen–Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Haydn–Symphony No. 80
Adam Fischer–Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
Ottavio Dantone–Accademia Bizantina
Respighi–The Pines of Rome
Fritz Reiner–Chicago Symphony Orchestra
RCA Victor Living Stereo 71614 (SACD)
James DePreist–Oregon Symphony Orchestra