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UMS Concert Program, May 1, 1975: The Ann Arbor May Festival -- The Philadelphia Orchestra

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Concert: Second
Complete Series: 3945
Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The University Musical Society
The University of Michigan
Eugene Ormandy, Music Director and Conductor William Smith, Assistant Conductor
Soloist RUDOLF SERKIN, Pianist
Thursday Evening, May 1, 1975, at 8:30 Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Second Essay for Orchestra, Op. 17 ...... Barber
Concerto No. 1 in C major for I 'iano and Orchestra, Op. 15 Beethoven
Allegro con brio Largo Allegro scherzando Rudolf Serkin
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73.....
Allegro non troppo Adagio non troppo
Allegretto grazioso, quasi andantino Allegro con spirito
The Philadelphia Orchestra records exclusively for RCA Red Seal 'Available on Columbia Records
Second Concert
Eightysecond Annual May Festival
Complete Concerts 3945
by Richard Freed
Second Essay for Orchestra, Op. 17.......Samuel Barber
(1910 )
In the last two decades Barber has become especially identified with music for voice; his operas Vanessa, A Hand of Bridge, and Antony and Cleopatra were produced in that period, as well as the choral Prayers of Kierkegaard and the scena for soprano, Andromache's Farewell. Indeed, one of his earliest works of importance was a setting of Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach for baritone and string quartet, which he composed at the age of twentyone (Barber himself sang the first per?formance, with the Curtis Quartet, and recorded the work with that ensemble). During his later twenties, though, Barber earned recognition for a stunning series of brief orchestral works--the Overture to Sheridan's School for Scandal, Music for a Scene from Shelley, the onemovement Symphony No. 1, the Adagio for Strings and the Essay for Orchestra (Op. 12). The "Adagio," transcribed in 1937 at the request of Arturo Toscanini from the slow movement of the String Quartet No. 1 composed the previous year, has become one of the most widely performed American works of any period.
The first Essay for Orchestra was introduced in the same NBC Symphony Orchestra broadcast in which Toscanini first conducted the "Adagio," and was performed shortly afterward by Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, who made the first recording of the work--a concise, dramatic piece which might be described as a tone poem without a specific "program." The success of the first "Essay" prompted the creation of a second at about the same time the revision of the First Symphony was completed, and both the "Second Essay" and the revised version of the Symphony were premiered by the New York Philharmonic under Bruno Walter on April 16, 1942. Neither of the two "Essays" has been performed as frequently as such works warrant, but the "Second Essay" has recently begun to receive a good deal of attention; no fewer than six American orchestras are performing it this season.
Like its predecessor, the "Second Essay" is a serious and thoughtful work--intense, dramatic, frequently lyrical, sometimes brooding--but not a tragic one; the story or remembrance on which it ruminates is perhaps both too familiar and too vague to be verbalized. A brief choralelike coda resolves these various moods in a convincingly affirmative summingup.
Concerto No. 1, in C major,
for Piano and Orchestra, Op. IS.....Ludwig van Beethoven
In a letter to the Leipzig publisher Hofmeister, dated December 15, 1800, Beethoven referred to "a pianoforte concerto, which I really do not give out for one of my best, as well as another which will be published here by Mollo (this as news for the Leipzig critics), because I intend to keep the better one for myself until I make a tour with it . . ." The work offered to Hofmeister (with the further comment that "it will not in any way disgrace you to print it") was the Con?certo in Bflat, composed in 1795 and eventually published as No. 2, Op. 19; the "better one" which Beethoven reserved for his own use was the Concerto in C major, composed about two years later than the Bflat but published in the same year (1801) as No. 1, Op. 15. There was a certain artistic justification for reversing the original chronological sequence in publication, for the Bflat had been substantially revised in 1798; there was no need to revise the C major, a work whose superior quality Beethoven estimated quite accurately.
Paradoxically, it is both a more highly individualized work than Op. 19, and at the same time the concerto in which Beethoven is closest to both the outline and the spirit of the typical Mozart concerto. The opening tutti is a characteristically Mozartean "ideal march," in which the prominent trumpets and drums evoke comparisons with Mozart's best known concerto in the same key (No. 21, K. 467); the various themes, as they are introduced, reinforce this impression, and there is even a rhythmic figure, familiar from Mozart's D minor Concerto (No. 20, K. 466). Once the soloist begins his comments on this material, however, it is clear that the young composer of this Concerto was in no sense an imitator, but had merely selected the best of all models for guidance in con?structing a wholly and provocatively original work.
In terms of originality, and of depth as well, the slow movement is the crown of this work. It is an expansive Largo in a cantabile style Beethoven had already made his own; in its general outline, and even in the shape of its angelically simple theme, it looks forward directly to the cor?responding movement in the work with which Beethoven would end his series of concertos in 1809.
Concerning the vigorous, goodnatured final Rondo, in the style Beethoven was later to describe as aujgeknopjt ("unbuttoned"), his pupil Ferdinand Ries left this interesting note: "I recall only two instances in which Beethoven told me to add a few notes to his composition: once in the theme of the rondo of the Sonatc Pathetique, (Op. 13), and again in the theme of the rondo of his First Concerto in C major, where he gave me some passages in double notes to make it more brilliant. He played this last rondo, in fact, with an expression peculiar to himself. In general he played his own compositions very freakishly, holding firmly to the measure, however, as a rule and occa?sionally, but not often, hurrying the tempo. At times he would hold the tempo back in his crescendo with ritardando, which made a very beautiful and highly striking effect. In playing he would give a passage now in the right hand, now in the left, a lovely and absolutely inimitable expression; but he very seldom added notes or ornaments. . . ."
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73......Johannes Brahms
Brahms did not approach the idea of symphonic creation lightly. As early as his twentyfirst year, he made some starts in the direction of a symphony, but those early efforts were either abandoned or converted for use in other works (most notably the First Piano Concerto). He was to a degree genuinely intimidated by the spectre of Beethoven, as indicated by his wellknown remark on "how the likes of us feels to hear the tread of such a giant behind us," and he did not produce a completed symphony until 1876, when he was fortythree. Once the First was ac?complished, though, Brahms produced his next symphony quickly and confidently. He started work on the Second while completing the piano duet arrangement of the First, in the summer of 1877, and the new Symphony was not only completed but actually performed before the year ended. The First had had a hard birth, and emerged as though chiseled from hardest granite; the Second flowed with cheerful spontaneity and is the most lyrical and sunlit of all the Brahms symphonies. The First was spoken of as "Beethoven's Tenth" when it appeared--an intended compliment hardly pleasing to Brahms; the Second might be described as a Pastoral Symphony, but without reference to the works of any other composer, whether so titled or not.
The radiant mood of the work is established at once by the threenote motif in the lower strings and the answering horncall which open the first movement. The second theme is one of Brahms's most characteristic outpourings of warm, glowing contentment, related in both shape and spirit to the wellloved Cradle Song (Op. 49, No. 4) and the piano Waltz in Aflat (Op. 39, No. 15). There is a rhapsodic effect in the soaring and intermingling of these themes. The first theme is treated fugally in the development, and new motifs spun off by variations in the rhythm are hailed and dismissed by clipped utterances from the brass. The horns enjoy prominence throughout the movement, and in the coda there is a lovely horn solo before the movement ends even more tenderly than it began.
The mood turns more serious in the second movement, redolent of forest depths at twilight and all the thricefamiliar but nonetheless endearing woodland scenes of pastoral romances. With the second theme, a hymnic quality begins to pervade the music.
The pastoral element is especially strong in the Allegretto, which is not a scherzo but an inter?mezzo of great charm and intimacy. The unexpectedly animated middle section serves to heighten the serenity of the Allegretto itself. At the premiere this movement had to be repeated.
"Invigorating" is the word for the final movement. Following the energetic and rather myste?rious opening, the first theme is restated in an exhilarating orchestral outburst and then, the way cleared by the humorously snarling and crackling winds, the broad second theme makes its entrance, almost like a benediction but totally free of solemnity, in lambent sunset colors. The coda, to which Brahms builds with subtle ingatherings of strength, is a paean of sheer exuberance, in which the lyrical second theme of the finale is transformed into a blazing fanfare which ends the work on a note of Dionysiac exultation unparalleled among Brahms's compositions.
Gail V. Rector, President Harlan Hatcher, Vice President Erich A. Walter, Secretary E. Thurston Thieme, Treasurer
Richard S. Berger Allen P. Britton Douglas D. Crary Robben W. Fleming
Peter N. Heydon Paul W. McCracken Wilbur K. Pierpont Sarah G. Power
director emeritus -Oscar A. Eberbach
elected December 21, 1974
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