Violinist Simone Lamsma Plays Bruch with the Oregon Symphony

Program Listing

Saturday, April 20, 2024, 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, April 21, 2024, 2 PM
MONDAY, April 22, 2024, 7:30 PM

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David Danzmayr, Conductor
Simone Lamsma, Violin

Julia Perry

A Short Piece for Orchestra

Max Bruch

Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 26
Prelude: Allegro moderato
Finale: Allegro energico
Simone Lamsma
Béla Bartók
Concerto for Orchestra
Introduzione: Andante non troppo – Allegro vivace Giuocco delle coppie: Allegretto scherzando
Elegia: Andante non troppo

Intermezzo interrotto: Allegretto
Finale: Pesante – Presto


Conducted one hour before each performance, the Concert Conversation will feature Violinist Simone Lamsma, Associate Concertmaster Peter Frajola and Warren Black, host of All Classical Radio.


Program Notes

A Short Piece for Orchestra
Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 26
Concerto for Orchestra

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Julia Perry

A Short Piece for Orchestra

Work composed: 1952, rev. 1955, 1965
First Oregon Symphony performance Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, bass drum, suspended cymbal, snare drum, xylophone, celesta, piano, harp, and strings
Estimated duration: 6 minutes

American composer Julia Perry was the first Black woman to have her music performed by the New York Philharmonic. However, as happened with other composers of color and female composers in past decades, Perry’s music dropped out of sight after her untimely death. As part of the current racial reckoning taking place in cultural and artistic organizations worldwide, Perry and her music have been “rediscovered” by musicians and audiences alike, and her artful, accomplished works are regaining their place in the orchestral canon.

The daughter of a doctor and amateur pianist, Perry took both piano and violin lessons as a child growing up in Akron, oh. She later earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, nj, and continued her musical studies at Juilliard and Tanglewood. In the 1950s, Perry was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, which she used to study composition in Italy with Luigi Dallapiccola, and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

While working with Dallapiccola in 1952, Perry’s A Short Piece for Orchestra was performed for the first time in Torino, Italy. She reorchestrated it in 1955 and again in 1965, giving it a new title, Study for Orchestra.

The music opens with dramatic flair and three contrasting motifs; an agitated ascending scale for trumpet, followed by a taut theme in the strings, woodwinds, and horn, which leads to strong syncopated punches for lower brasses. Each motif repeats twice, generating material for the rest of the work. A pensive interlude for flute and strings leads to a reprise of the opening music, which Perry then subjects to a series of variations featuring xylophone and brasses, with contrasting tempos, timbres, and moods.


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 with violinist Joshua Bell on February 20–22, 2016, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
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 for 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, both because he composed more than 100 works, and also because of the shortsighted arrangement he made regarding the sale of the 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 in 1866 and made extensive revisions with the input of virtuoso 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, with its seemingly inexhaustible supply of gorgeous melodies and its combination of virtuosity and delicacy in the solo part.


Béla Bartók

Concerto for Orchestra

Work composed: Summer 1943, rev. 1945. Commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the Koussevitzky Foundation
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Carlos Kalmar led the Oregon Symphony on May 21–23, 2011, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Instrumentation:3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 3 clarinets (1 doubling bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (1 doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, snare drum without snare, triangle, tam-tam, two harps, and strings
Estimated duration: 35 minutes

The last five years of Béla Bartók’s life were dominated by political upheaval, financial difficulty and illness. Bartók’s mother died in December 1939, and ten months later Bartók and his wife fled Nazi-occupied Hungary. Grief-stricken over his mother’s death and overwhelmed by the many obstacles confronting him as a newly-arrived immigrant to America, Bartók fell into a deep depression in 1940. Financial hardship caused by lack of interest in and performances of Bartók’s works added further to his despondency. The ultimate blow came in 1942 when Bartók was diagnosed with leukemia. In a letter to his publisher, Bartók wrote, “Artistic creative work generally is the result of outflow of strength, high-spiritedness, joy of life, etc. – All these conditions are sadly missing with me at present. Maybe it is a breakdown.

Until 60 I could marvellously bear all annoyances and mishaps. But lately, I often wondered how long I will be able to endure all those sad experiences continually exposed to. Maybe [sic] I reached the limit.”

Early in the summer of 1943, conductor Serge Koussevitzky came to visit Bartók in the hospital and offered the composer $1,000 to write an orchestral work for the Koussevitzky Foundation. Bartók agreed, used the money to pay for his medical treatment, and began composing what would become the Concerto for Orchestra in mid-August. In his letters, Bartók noted a parallel between his improving health and his productivity; he completed the Concerto in just seven weeks.

Music reviews noted the general absence of folk influence and the lack of harsh dissonances typical of Bartók’s earlier works. The critic for the Boston Globe wrote, “The style is fairly light, the dissonance is expressive rather than idiomatic, and the five movements are, on the whole, engagingly emotional.” However, many musicians felt Bartók had irretrievably compromised his artistic aesthetic by writing a more “accessible” work clearly tailored for an American audience. Bartók responded, “In order to express our ideas and sentiments through music it is necessary to forsake all that weighs down its flight and to make use of all the means within our reach.” Bartók’s instincts proved correct; critical and audience reception of the Concerto for Orchestra was unequivocally positive. The day after its premiere, the Boston Herald raved, “His [Bartók’s] Orchestral Concerto, given yesterday for the first time, is a work which must rank as the composer’s masterpiece, which is to say it must also rank among the musical masterpieces of recent years.”

In the Concerto for Orchestra, Bartók’s most performed and most popular work, the entire orchestra is the featured soloist, with each family of instruments taking turns in the spotlight. Bartók described the emotional mood of the movements as a progression: the somber, inescapable theme of the first movement, the joking second, the death lament of the third and the sarcastic, biting wit of the fourth all culminate in a life-affirming finale.

The cyclical nature of the music is also commonly interpreted as Bartók’s response to his battle with leukemia. He died in the autumn of 1945, ten months after the Concerto’s premiere.


© Elizabeth Schwartz