Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante

Program Listing

Friday, October 27, 2023, 7:30 PM
Saturday, October 28, 2023, 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, October 29, 2023, 2 PM
MONDAY, October 30, 2023, 7:30 PM

Return to concert page

 

 

David Danzmayr, Conductor
Sarah Kwak, Violin
Amanda Grimm, Viola

Elena Kats-Chernin

Dance of the Paper Umbrellas

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra
Allegro maestoso
Andante
Presto
Sarah Kwak
Amanda Grimm
INTERMISSION

Sergei Prokofiev

Selections from Romeo and Juliet Suites 1, 2, and 3
The Montagues and the Capulets (Suite No. 2)
Juliet – The Young Girl (Suite No. 2)
Tableau (Suite No. 1)
Minuet (Suite No. 1)
Masks (Suite No. 1)
Balcony Scene (Suite No. 1)
The Death of Tybalt (Suite No. 1)
Morning Dance (Suite No. 3)
Romeo and Juliet’s Grave (Suite No. 2)

CONCERT CONVERSATION
Conducted one hour before each performance, the Concert Conversation will feature Music Director David Danzmayr and Warren Black, host of All Classical Radio.

Program Notes

Dance of the Paper Umbrellas
Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra
Selections from Romeo and Juliet Suites 1, 2, and 3

Return to concert page

 

Elena Kats-Chernin
b. 1957

Dance of the Paper Umbrellas

Work composed: 2015
First Oregon Symphony performance
Instrumentation: 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet, 2 trombones, vibraphone, triangle, glockenspiel, 3 woodblocks, cymbals, marimba, piano, harp, and strings
Estimated duration: 4.5 minutes

One of Australia’s leading composers, Elena Kats-Chernin has created works in nearly every genre.

Through her prolific catalogue of works for theater, ballet, orchestra, and chamber ensemble, Kats-Chernin’s music has achieved a global audience. Her vivid style communicates a mixture of lightheartedness and heavy melancholy, combining strong rhythmic figures with elements of cabaret, tango, ragtime, and klezmer.

Born in 1957 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Kats-Chernin received training at the Gnessin Musical College before immigrating to Australia in 1975. Her music was heard at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and has been featured on a number of film and television scores.

Dance of the Paper Umbrellas was composed for the Hush Foundation, developed in 2004 by Dr. Catherine Crock, a pediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. The Foundation produces albums of music commissioned from some of Australia’s foremost musicians and is meant to reduce stress and anxiety for both patients and their families.

“The idea for [Dance of the Umbrellas] started when I visited the leukemia ward at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and witnessed what wonderful work Dr Catherine Crock (the head of hush Music Foundation) and her team do,” Kats-Chernin writes. “That experience was still with me a few days later as I wondered what kind of piece I could write that would be uplifting.

I wanted to enter the world of magic and dreams. I imagined a cake adorned with multi-coloured umbrellas. A dance formed in my head, starting with a pattern in harp, marimba, plucked strings, and flutes.”

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1756–1791

Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola, K. 364

Work composed: 1779
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Guest conductor Paolo Carignani led the Oregon Symphony on February 1–3, 2003, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Instrumentation: solo violin, solo viola, 2 oboes, 2 horns, and strings
Estimated duration: 30 minutes

In August 1777, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart resigned his position as concertmaster in the court of the musically conservative Archbishop of Salzburg. The following month, Mozart and his mother left Salzburg and traveled to several cities, including Mannheim, on their way to Paris in search of employment for the 21-year-old composer. Both mother and son had high hopes for a position at the court of Mannheim, which at the time boasted one of the finest orchestras in Europe. In addition to (and no doubt inspired by) the orchestra’s high level of musicianship, composers who wrote for the Mannheim orchestra introduced several musical innovations that quickly spread beyond Mannheim to cities as distant as Paris and London. Unfortunately for Mozart, no appointment was forthcoming in Mannheim or elsewhere, but the journey yielded other benefits. Mozart was duly impressed by the forward-sounding music he heard in Mannheim, and lost no time incorporating these new ideas into his own music.

In both Mannheim and Paris, Mozart also heard several examples of a newly popular concerto format featuring multiple instruments, known as a sinfonia concertante. These works combined elements of both symphonies and concerti, and could feature duos, trios, or even quartets of soloists, in the manner of a Baroque concerto grosso. Although discouraged about his inability to find work outside Salzburg, Mozart was also eager to write a sinfonia concertante of his own.

Of all the sinfonia concertantes written in the latter decades of the 18th century, Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola is perhaps the only one still regularly performed and recorded today. The soloists’ dialogue is an animated conversation that ranges through a series of topics and moods, each soloist contributing equally to the musical ebb and flow. The soloists enter together, playing the same phrase in octaves in the Allegro maestoso, before they begin to trade phrases back and forth. In this movement Mozart presents their parts as two halves of a larger, unified whole.

Mozart was himself a skilled violinist, but he preferred to play viola parts, particularly in chamber works. His love of the viola’s resonant sound is evident in K. 364, particularly in the melancholic beauty of the central Andante. The vivacious music of the Presto unleashes a playful competition between the two soloists, and between the soloists together against the full orchestra. The feather-light rapidity of the main theme evokes an irrepressible joy, and simultaneously demands the utmost in both technique and musicianship.

 

Sergei Prokofiev
1895-1937

 

Selections from Romeo and Juliet Suites Nos. 1, 2 & 3

Work composed: Romeo and Juliet was originally commissioned by the Kirov Ballet in 1934; Prokofiev completed it for the Moscow Ballet in 1935–6.
First Oregon Symphony performance of this suite assembled by Music Director David Danzmayr
Instrumentation:
piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, tenor saxophone, 4 horns, cornet, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bamboo wind chimes, bass drum, bells, cymbals, maracas, snare drum, tambourine, triangle, xylophone, celeste, piano, harp, and strings
Estimated duration: 35 minutes

Sergei Prokofiev's music for the ballet of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers is some of the most evocative music associated with the story of Romeo and Tuliet. The story of Prokofiev's efforts to complete the task were as fraught a the plot of the play itself, and resulted in controversy regarding his music. Commissioned by the Kirov Ballet in 1934, Prokofiev's score was later rejected as "undanceable."

Problems began with Prokofiev's original storyline, which dared to script a happy ending in which Romeo finds Juliet alive. Prokofiev justified this shocking reversal with the practical explanation that dead characte s cannot dance, but pressure from critics and ballet administrators, as welJ as the observation that Prokofiev's music was essentially tragic in nature, eventually persuaded the composer to retain Shakespeare's ending. Prokofiev's orchestration also caused problems for the dancers, who complained that they were unable to hear it from the stage. Although Prokofiev grumbled to the dancers that "you want drums, not music!" he eventually complied with their request for a fuller sound.

Because Prokofiev had such trouble getting Romeo and Juliet produced, he decided to arrange orchestral suites of music from the ballet, each with seven movements. Suites Nos. I and 2. were arranged in 1936; Prokofiev created a th.ird ten years later. In 1938, Prokofiev conducted two of the suites while touring Europe and the United States. The music was well received; one ew York critic stated, "Prokofiev has wiitten music for the masses and at the same time has attained extraordinary nobility."

Of his music, Prokofiev said, "l have taken special pains to achieve a simplicity which will, I hope, reach the hearts of all listeners." The episodic nature of the music effectively captures the essence of both characters and narrative: the brassy foreboding of The Montagues and Capulets; the quicksilver violin passages, lyrical interludes, and featured use of piccolo, flutes, and celeste to represent the Iissome young Juliet; the splendid pomp of the minuet as guests arrive at the Capulets' masked ball, followed by the playful marching music as the masked dancers mill about; the steadily growing intensity of the young lovers on Juliet's balcony; the frantic chaos of the moments leading to Tybalt's death; and Romeo's panic, the following morning, after he wakes in Juliet's bed and knows he must escape the Capulets' house before he is discovered. The strings' heartbreaking intensity and ominou brasses, periodically interrupted by fragments of the balcony love theme, accompany the grieving families to Romeo and Juliet's grave.

 

© 2023 Elizabeth Schwartz