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Itzhak Perlman with the Oregon Symphony

Program Listing

THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2023, 7:30 PM

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Norman Huynh, Conductor
Itzhak Perlman, Violin

Samuel Barber

Overture to The School for Scandal

Johannes Brahms

Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Opus 98
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Andante moderato
III. Allegro giocoso
IV. Allegro energico e passionato

Max Bruch

Concerto No. 1 in G minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 26
I. Prelude: Allegro moderato
II. Adagio
III. Finale: Allegro energico
Itzhak Perlman


Program Notes

Samuel Barber: Overture to The School for Scandal, Op.5
Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26

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Samuel Barber

Overture to The School for Scandal, Op. 5

Work composed: Summer 1931-32
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Carlos Kalmar led the Oregon Symphony on September 23, 2018
Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, bells, cymbals, triangle, celesta, harp, and strings
Estimated duration: 8 minutes

Throughout his life, Samuel Barber found inspiration for his music in works of literature. Barber’s first work for full orchestra, composed during an Italian summer holiday with his lover Gian Carlo Menotti in Cadegliano, was inspired by Richard Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, an 18th-century comedy of manners. Barber’s music effectively captures the topsy-turvy plot and biting social satire of the play, something he emphasized in his later comments about the work and his motivation for writing it. Far from program or incidental music, Barber said his Op. 5 was “a musical reflection of the play’s spirit.”

Barber was still enrolled as an undergraduate at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia when he completed Op. 5, but Fritz Reiner, then conductor of the Curtis Orchestra, showed little interest in Barber’s work, and it did not premiere until August 30, 1933, with Alexander Smallens leading the Philadelphia Orchestra. Audience and critical reactions were favorable, and The School for Scandal established the young Barber as a rising star.

One reviewer wrote, “A work robustly scored – indeed, almost excessive in instrumentation at times – marked by a certain melodic facility and a sure sense of design, neither purely freakish in effect in the modern manner, nor complacently old-fashioned.”


Max Bruch

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26

Work composed: 1864-67, rev. 1868
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Guest conductor Robert Spano led the Oregon Symphony and violinist Joshua Bell on February 20-22, 2016
Instrumentation: solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Estimated duration: 24 minutes

Max Bruch was a compositional prodigy who began writing music at age 11 and completed his first symphony at 14. By 1864, when Bruch was in his 20s, the relative ease with which he had turned out his early works had abated, and Bruch found himself struggling to write his first violin concerto. “It is a damned difficult thing to do,” Bruch admitted to his publisher. “Between 1864 and 1868 I rewrote my concerto at least half a dozen times, and conferred with x violinists before it took the final form in which it is universally famous and played everywhere.”

Bruch was both successful and prolific during his lifetime, but today he is known primarily, if not exclusively, as the author of the G minor violin concerto. Interestingly, Bruch himself predicted as much when asked to compare his reputation with that of Johannes Brahms: “Fifty years hence, Brahms will loom up as one of the supremely gifted composers of all time, while I will be remembered chiefly for having written my G minor violin concerto.” This prescient assessment infuriated Bruch (even though it was his own), both because he composed more than 100 works, and also because of the shortsighted arrangement he made regarding the sale of his violin concerto to his publisher. Instead of negotiating for royalties, Bruch accepted a one-time payment, thus forfeiting income that would have continued even after his death.

Bruch was dissatisfied with the concerto after its premiere and made extensive revisions, with the help of violinist Joseph Joachim. Bruch wrote to Joachim, “I am indebted to you for your detailed letter about the concerto; nothing makes me happier or more comforted than the certainty that you are prepared, after carefully and sincerely looking through it, to take an interest in it.” On January 5, 1868, Bruch reintroduced the concerto to audiences with Joachim performing the solo part and Karl Martin Rheinthaler conducting. Joachim, one of the finest violinists of the 19th century, placed Bruch’s concerto in the company of those by Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn, and described it as “the richest, most seductive” of the four.

As the music took shape, Bruch contemplated titling Op. 26 a fantasy for violin, because of its unconventional structure, but Joachim convinced him it was in fact a concerto. Joachim declared, “The designation ‘concerto’ is completely apt … the separate sections of the work cohere in a lovely relationship and yet – and this is the most important thing – there is sufficient contrast.” The seemingly inexhaustible supply of gorgeous melodies for the violin and the combination of virtuosity and delicacy in the solo writing has endeared audiences and violinists to this concerto since its premiere.

© Elizabeth Schwartz