Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique

Program Listing

Saturday, November 4, 2023, 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, November 5, 2023, 2 PM
MONDAY, November 6, 2023, 7:30 PM

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Sponsored by Jordan Schnitzer
The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer Care Foundation


David Danzmayr, Conductor

Antonin Dvořák

Othello Overture, Op. 93

Andy Akiho

Sculptures: Concert for Orchestra and Video (Oregon Symphony Co-commission and West Coast Premiere)
Bronze I
Bronze II
in that space, at that time

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique”
Adagio – Allegro non troppo
Allegro con grazia
Allegro molto vivace
Finale: Adagio lamentoso

Conducted one hour before each performance, the Concert Conversation will feature composer Andy Akiho and Christa Wessel, host of All Classical Radio.

Program Notes

Othello Overture, Op. 93
Sculptures: Concert for Orchestra and Video
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique”

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Antonin Dvořák

Othello Overture, Op. 93

Work composed: December 10, 1891–January 18, 1892
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: James DePreist led the Oregon Symphony on November 19–21, 1995, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
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: 15 minutes

Antonín Dvořák’s Othello is the third in a trilogy of concert overtures, which he originally titled Nature, Life, and Love. Later he changed the names to In Nature’s Realm, Carnival, and Othello, and gave each its own opus number. Dvořák used the same musical theme in all three overtures and intended them to be performed together, which is how he conducted them at their premiere.

Today, the three overtures are usually programmed individually, with the Carnival Overture heard most often.

The idea of nature runs like a throughline throughout Dvořák’s music, and these three overtures are no exception. Each overture explores different facets of nature: the natural world; the life- affirming energy of love; and, in Othello, the often destructive consequences unleashed by human nature.

Dvořák translated the primary themes of Shakespeare’s Othello – love, jealousy, and manipulation – into musical ideas, which he indicated by penciled comments in the score. Even without Dvořák’s commentary, however, the characters of Othello and Desdemona emerge clearly, with Iago’s Machiavellian scheming subtle but ever- present. After a somber opening chorale, we hear a foreboding exclamation, followed by Desdemona’s gentle melody. Winds declare a recurring “jealousy” theme, and Othello’s brooding insecurity, which rapidly escalates to rage, boils up out of the orchestra.


Andy Akiho
b. 1979

Sculptures: Concert for Orchestra and Video (West Coast premiere)

Work composed: 2022–3. Co-commissioned by the Oregon Symphony
First Oregon Symphony performance Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, celesta, piano, and strings
Estimated duration: 35 minutes

Oregon Symphony Composer-in- Residence, Creative Alliance member, and Portland resident Andy Akiho spent a year immersed in the work and ideas of Japanese-born American visual artist Jun Kaneko, best known for his vast ceramic, bronze, and glass sculptures. Kaneko, who lives and works in Omaha, NE, collaborated with Akiho on Sculptures, nine compositions that reflect Kaneko’s artistic philosophies.

In an interview earlier this year, Akiho said, “Having Jun’s positive energy physically at the studio has been instrumental in this process. We talked about all sorts of things: art, music, and even life. One thing I found interesting are his philosophies on color and space, many of which are parallel to musical concepts, because as musicians, we also think about harmony, pitch, and rhythm in terms of color and space … it has been eye-opening to find parallels between our two art forms.

“Another highlight was having [Kaneko’s wife] Ree and Jun encourage me to tap on the sculptures and experiment with different sounds using mallets, bows, and sticks. Something Ree and Jun believe, as do I, is that these sculptures want to sing, they want to make sound … [which] gives the sculptures a new life.”

Dani Meier wrote the liner notes for the recently released recording of Sculptures. “Translucent refers to Kaneko’s transformation of … ceramics and clay pieces to new iterations in glass …

“Bronze i and Bronze ii – the second and penultimate movements – are performed on one of Kaneko’s 2015 Untitled cast bronze and stainless steel Heads. Kaneko created his Heads in pairs deliberately; the experience of viewing them together is equally as important as taking in each individual Head … The 2015 pair features keys played by Akiho and the Oregon Symphony percussion section, which lets the Head sing, groan, growl, and hum.

“Petroglyph, for brass, refers to a trio of Kaneko’s earliest works … done in oil paint and sand on canvas. The 3d texture alludes to future uses of glazes and constructed shapes upon shapes ...

“Cylinders combines Akiho’s steel-pannist and percussionist skills with Kaneko’s Cylinders, each of which sounds a different pitch ...

“Kintsugi, for full orchestra, is the art of repair through the use of gold lacquer. Rather than hiding brokenness or mistakes, kintsugi highlights them …

“‘Ma’ is a Shinto concept Kaneko integrates into all of his work. Shot in one of Kaneko’s warehouses, Ma … reflects its meaning in both tangible and intangible ways: the constant awareness of space between creation and viewer, how the piece interacts with everything around it, and even the idea of when, how, and why the viewer and piece are in the same space together.

“Density, for orchestra, references Kaneko’s Slabs, solid glazed ceramics that weigh thousands of pounds and feature imposing patterns … Akiho uses long, growing tones in the strings, with patterned elements breaking out in other sections.

“ … Kaneko’s largest works, his Dangos, are referenced in Akiho’s orchestral finale, ‘in that space, at that time.’ … Dangos are … large, closed sculptures that … provide stillness, intimacy, and calm … Akiho worked to capture his initial, overwhelmed reaction to the pieces, akin to walking amidst calm giants.”


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique”

Work composed: 1893; dedicated to Tchaikovsky’s nephew Vladimir “Bob” Davidov
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Carlos Kalmar led the Oregon Symphony on February 10–12, 2018, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo) 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, (1 doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, tam tam, and strings.
Estimated duration: 44 minutes

In an 1893 letter to his nephew Vladimir Davidov, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote, “Last December I had the idea of writing a program symphony; but to a program that should remain an enigma to everyone but myself … I certainly regard it as quite the best – and certainly the ‘most sincere’ – of all my work.” Although Tchaikovsky declined to articulate the specifics of the program he attached to this symphony, many scholars and critics agree that this passionate, highly emotional music is a declaration of forbidden love; specificaJly, that of Tchaikovsky for Davidov.

Tchaikovsky's title supports this idea. ln Russian, the word "pateticheskaya" is closer in meaning to "ardor," rather than 'pathetic." Biographer John Warrack writes: "The Russian word ... carries more feeling of 'passionate' or 'emotional' in it than the English 'pathetic,' and perhaps an overtone, which has largely vanished from our world ... of 'suffering."'

The Adagio-Allegro ma non troppo begins with a forbidding bassoon solo, which the strings reiterate in agitated fashion; a contrasting theme of melancholy nostalgia follows. The music fragments as themes are developed, ripped apart, and jumbled. ln the Allegro con grazia, the strings sing a graceful waltz in 5/4 time. Although the mood of this movement is lighter than the first, Tchaikovsky infuses the music with sadness and hints of romantic despair. The vigorous march of the Allegro moIto vivace boldly proclaims itself with insouciant swagger. Anguished cries from the strings announce the Adagio lamentoso-Andante. which succumbs to a beautifu1Jy crafted fatalism. The strings are interrupted by a blast from the brasses, after which the strings continue on their mournful way to a subdued conclusion, with no suggestion of a happy ending.

Tchaikovsky conducted the Sixth's premiere, where it got a lukewarm reception. In a letter to his publisher, Tchaikovsky wrote, "It is very strange about this symphony. It was not exactly a failure, but it was received with some hesitation.'' Symphonies that end quietly often leave audiences puzzled or unsettled (Brahms' Third has the same problem). After the second performance, which took place just days after Tchaikovsky's untimely death, the Sixth received an overwhelmingly positive ovation.

The unconventional ending became, in the ears of audience and critics, indelibly associated with the composer's death – as if Tchaikovsky had composed his own demise. There is no documentary evidence to support idea, but the romance of a composer writing his own musical epitaph has proved durable, if inaccurate. The Sixth Symphony soon came to be regarded as a symphonic masterpiece, and today is Tchaikovsky's most popular symphony.


© 2023 Elizabeth Schwartz