UMS Concert Program, March 11, 1986: International Presentations Of Music & Dance -- San Francisco Symphony
Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
fHE UNIVERSITY MUSICAL SOCIETY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
San Francisco Symphony
Music Director and Conductor
Geraldine Walther, Violist
Tuesday Evening, March 11, 1986, at 8:00 Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Viola Concerto in G major ......................................Telemann
Largo Allegro Andante Presto
Geraldine Walther, Violist
Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 ("Jupiter") .....................Mozart
Allegro vivace Andante cantabile Menuetto: allegretto Molto allegro
Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 ("The Inextinguishable") ................... Nielsen
Poco adagio quasi andante Allegro
Philips, Telarc, ECM, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA, and CRI Records. Sixty-third Concert of the 107th Season 107th Annual Choral Union Series
by Michael Steinberg San Francisco Symphony, 1986
Viola Concerto in G major ........................Georg Pi-hupp Telemann
The exact date of this concerto is not known; however, it is presumed to have been written for the " Weekly Grand Concerts" that Telemann led for the Gesellschaft Frauenstein, a Frankfurt merchants' association, from 1712 until 1721. This evening, Geraldine Walther plays cadenzas written for her by Mark Volkert.
Not the least interesting thing about Telemann is the history of his reputation. Once routinely dismissed as a scandalously prolific and fairly inconsequential scribbler, he is, just now, the benefi?ciary of rehabilitation. In the historiography of a generation or so ago, we are likely to find Telemann mentioned in the course of discussions of Bach, often with some sense of outrage that their contemporaries valued Telemann so much more. And he was -there is no doubt about it -the most successful German composer of his day.
As for that difference between himself and (as seems so clear to us) the infinitely greater Bach, it is not like the difference between, say, Dittersdorf and Mozart: two people working the same mine, one immeasurably superior to the other. Telemann and Bach -who were, by the way, on friendly terms (Telemann was godfather to Bach's second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel) -intended to be quite different. Bach worked in a learned, difficult style that was regarded as a bit out of date. Telemann also began as a learned composer who, according to Handel, could work out an eight-part motet as quickly as most people might write a letter; later, however, and ever more conscious of fashion and public taste, he composed a less dense and demanding sort of music.
The Viola Concerto is, as far as we know, the first concerto for an instrument that had no solo tradition at the time, though composers had long recognized its usefulness for church and stage, particularly when it was time to give expression to such emotions as melancholy and lovesickness. Telemann's design here is that of the church sonata -slow-fast-slow-fast. In the tender opening Largo, the little three-note motif played by the violins in the first measure provides all the material Telemann needs to spin out the entire movement. There follows a vigorous and virtuosic Allegro. The flowing Andante brings the contrast of a minor key, as well as the textural freshness of passages without any bass instruments. A bright bouree concludes this delightful work.
Symphony No. 41 in C, K. 551 ("Jupiter")......Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart completed this symphony on August 10, 1788; nothing is known about its early performance history. Its title is thought to have been coined by the impresario fohann Peter Salomon, the German-born violinist most famous for having twice enticed Haydti to London.
The very perfection of Mozart's last three symphonies -No. 39 in E-flat, the great G minor, and the Jupiter-is miraculous, and it seems the more so given the speed with which they were composed. In view of how much Mozart's compositions arc, as a rule, bound to particular occasions, commissions, or concerts, another wonder is that these symphonies exist at all. They were com?pleted respectively in June, July, and August 1788. By then Mozart's public career had begun to go badly.
The Jupiter is noble, at once subtle and grand, "classical." The opening gestures, with their orderly contrasts and symmetries, are more formal, indeed more formulaic, than anything else in the last three symphonies. But whatever Mozart touches becomes personal utterance. After an im?pressive drawing up to halt (that "rattling of dishes at a feast" of which Wagner was wont to complain in eighteenth-century pieces), the opening music reappears; but what was assertive before is now quiet and enriched by softly radiant commentary from the flute and the oboe. After another cadence of extreme formality, a completely new theme appears; this, too, is not so innocent as at first it seems, being full of gentle, unobtrusive complexities such as the imitation in the bass of the violin melody or the deft addition to the texture of bassoon and flute. One tune in this movement is catchier than the rest, more singable, and for the best reason: Mozart is quoting one of his own arias Un bacio di mano, K. 541, written a couple of months earlier for Francesco Albertarelli, his first Viennese Don Giovanni, to insert in Anfossi's opera Lcgelosiefortunate.
When he comes to his slow movement -the strings are muted now -Mozart becomes more overtly personal, writing music saturated in pathos and offering one rhythmic surprise after another. The destiny of the thirty-second note serpents that the violins add to the first theme when the basses initially take it over is especially wondrous. The coda, which adds wonders at a point when we can hardly believe that more wonders are possible, was an afterthought appended by Mozart on an extra leaf.
The minuet, aside from having the proper meter and speed, is not particularly minuet-like. Certainly it is, in its quiet way, wonderful, for here, too, is music that constantly blossoms into richesses Mozart carefully leads us not to expect.
The finale, moving at a tempo swifter than any we have yet heard, picks up a four-note idea that made a brief but startlingly forceful appearance in the trio of the minuet. As Mozart is quick to remind us, it lends itself to contrapuntal elaboration. All the themes in this finale are short; they are
material to work with more than objects presented for the sake of their intrinsic charm. Mozart whirls them by us with a fierce energy that is rooted in his dazzling polyphony. In his exuberantly energetic coda, Mozart unfurls a dazzling glory of polyphony, capping a movement that is one of the most splendid manifestations of that rich gathering-in we call the classical style.
Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 ("The Inextinguishable") ..............Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen was born in Sortelung near Nerre-Lyndelse, Fyn, Denmark. He began to sketch the Symphony No. 4 in 1914 and completed it in January 1916. He himself conducted the first performance of the work the following month in Copenhagen.
Nielsen's reputation outside Denmark dates from the 1950s, the time of the first international tours of the Danish State Radio Symphony and the publication in 1952 of Robert Simpson's essential study Carl Nielsen: Symphonist. Nielsen was born into a large family beset by extreme poverty. At fourteen he became a bandsman in the Sixteenth Battalion of the Royal Danish Army. When he was fifteen, a kindly older musician showed him for the first time the central classics of European music -Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. With these models, he began to compose. After two years at the Copenhagen Conservatory he continued theory studies privately while supporting himself by playing the violin in the orchestra at the Tivoli Gardens. For many years he depended financially on his playing and conducting. Meanwhile, the catalogue of his compositions grew.
A prefatory note in the score of the Fourth Symphony explains the title, The Inextinguishable: "Under this title the composer has endeavored to indicate in one word what music alone is capable of expressing to the full: The elemental Will of Life. Music is Life and, like it, is inextinguishable. The title given by the composer to this musical work might therefore seem superfluous; the composer, however, has employed the word in order to underline the strictly musical character of his task. It is not a program, but only a suggestion as to the way into this, music's own territory."
The Fourth Symphony begins with strings and woodwinds (plus an initial blast of brass to reinforce the explosive opening). The two lines sound independent, though they are in fact different views of the same matter. Syncopation, the unexpected distribution of long notes and short, and sheer speed all convey a sense of wild energy. The music does, however, calm down to the point where clarinets sing a long, smoothly molded melody. It is a spacious paragraph, whose gentle dying away is rudely interrupted by a cross comment from the violas. The unruffled clarinets offer to recommence their song, but almost the whole orchestra breaks in with a rambunctious variant.
A long development and an extraordinarily compressed recapitulation subside into music rather in the manner of those intermezzi, neither slow nor fast, that Brahms often put in place of a scherzo. It is, however, soon over, and all the violins, sparely accompanied by plucked strings and drums, begin the slow movement with a melody of great breadth and intensity. Violas and cellos continue the thought. The woodwinds, though, clamor for more action, and the ensuing fugued discussion leads to the most sonorous climax so far. Fragments of both themes move throughout the orchestra, some stated with urgency, some reticently. Violins disport themselves in grand preparatory gestures, and after a suspenseful pause the new allegro begins. The theme is the sort that wants to run freely, but everywhere it meets with interference; there are rhythmic disruptions, tense dissonances, and suddenly a ferocious onslaught from both timpanists. Nielsen marks his victory musicglorioso; but the victory is only provisional. After a long diminuendo, the drums renew their attack. The piccolo, the clarinets, and all the violins scream in protest. The high strings and woodwinds gain support from the brass, who intone the beginning of a familiar melody -it is the lyric clarinet theme from the first movement. The rest of the orchestra quickly catches on, and the music drives home to its destination.
About the Artists
The San Francisco Symphony will celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary at the beginning of the 1986-87 season. In its early years, the Symphony made a name for itself by presenting the professional orchestra debuts of many aspiring young artists, who included Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Ruggiero Ricci, and Leon Fleischer. Composers who have conducted the Symphony include Igor Stravinsky, Serge Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Ottorino Respighi, Darius Milhaud, Aaron Copland, Pablo Casals, Ernest Bloch, David Del Tredici, Roy Harris, Leon Kirchner, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Virgil Thomson, and the current composer-in-residence, Charles Wuorinen.
While honoring the musical masters of the past, the San Francisco Symphony has traditionally championed the music of the present. It has received five ASCAP awards for adventuresome programming of contemporary music, and in 1980 the Symphony created the model for the present nationwide composer-in-residence program. Each year since then, it has presented a week-long festival highlighting the works of a living composer.
World renowned soloists and guest conductors appear regularly with the Symphony during its 26-wcek subscription series. Completing the Symphony's year-round schedule are an annual Beethoven Festival, the West Coast edition of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart, annual tour?ing, recording, free concerts, educational programs, and Pops concerts. The ensemble is heard live in 200 performances a year and is broadcast over more than 200 radio stations nationwide and in Europe.
Early music directors of the Symphony were Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Basil Cameron, and Issay Dobrowen. In 1935 Pierre Monteux, former conductor of the Boston Symphony and Ballets Russes, began his 17-year tenure, during which he led the Symphony on its first transcontinental tour and produced a series of acclaimed recordings that catapulted the Symphony to international prominence. Following Monteux were Enrique Jorda and Josef Krips, prior to Seiji Ozawa's appointment in 1970. During Ozawa's directorship, the Symphony recorded regularly and toured worldwide, and in 1973 Ozawa founded the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
With the dream of a new concert hall nearing realization, Edo de Waart was appointed to lead the musicians in 1977, this partnership generating one of the greatest periods of growth in the Sym?phony's history. A nationwide television audience watched in September 1980 as de Waart led the ensemble in the inaugural concert of the new Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. The new hall made possible the expansion of the orchestra's season to 52 weeks and allowed visiting orchestras and recitalists to be heard under the auspices of the Symphony. Mr. de Waart began the yearly presenta?tion of the New and Unusual Music series and initiated an extensive program of commissioning new works. He also founded the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in 1981; this summer it will tour Europe and participate in the Fifteenth International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna. In 1985 Edo de Waart relinquished his directorship to return to his native Holland to become music director of the Netherlands Opera.
Herbert Blomstedt, who this season became the tenth music director of the San Francisco Symphony, first conducted the Symphony in February 1984, revealing immediate rapport both with musicians and audience. Their partnership was hailed again last June, when he led the nine Beethoven symphonies to overwhelming critical acclaim, and last fall, in his first concerts as music director. He came to San Francisco after ten years as music director of the Dresden Staatskapclle, the oldest orchestra in the world. During that decade he led the Dresden musicians throughout the concert halls and major festivals of Europe; took them on tour in Asia and on their first visits to the United States; and recorded extensively, including symphonies of Bruckner and Mozart, the complete symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert, and, in an ongoing project, the complete orchestral music of Richard Strauss.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1927, Herbert Blomstedt moved with his family to Sweden in 1929. He studied at Stockholm's Royal College of Music and at the University of Uppsala for work in musicology. He continued conducting studies with Igor Markevitch, with Jean Morel at Thejuilliard School, with Leonard Bernstein at the Berkshire Music Center, and at the New England Conservatory of Music. Honors and accomplishments followed quickly, and in subsequent years Mr. Blomstedt held positions as music director of the Oslo Philharmonic and the Danish and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras.
Maestro Blomstedt regularly conducts many of the world's great orchestras, among them the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Berlin, Israel, and Los Angeles Philharmonics, and the Boston Symphony. He has established an international reputation as a teacher of conducting, and his many awards and distinctions include membership in the Royal Musical Academy of Stockholm.
Geraldine Walther has been principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony since 1976, after serving as assistant principal of the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Miami Philharmonic, and the Baltimore Symphony. The first prize winner of the William Primrose International Viola Competi?tion in 1979, she frequently appears as soloist with Bay Area orchestras and chamber music ensembles, as well as solo appearances with the San Francisco Symphony. She made her most recent solo appearances in Davies Symphony Hall last December, when she played the Hindemith Trauer-musik and the Telemann Viola Concerto, which she performs this evening.
Ms. Walther studied viola with Michael Tree at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music and with Lillian Fuchs at the Manhattan School of Music. She has performed at the Marlboro Music Festival and, for the past four summers, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Tonight's concert is part of the San Francisco Symphony's first tour under Maestro Blomstedt's direction. It is the Symphony's second Ann Arbor appearance (the first, in 1980 under Edo de Waart); Mr. Blomstedt's third appearance (1979 and 1983 with the Dresden Staatskapelle); and a second solo performance with the Symphony by Ms. Walther.
Benny Goodman and his Big Band
Opening Act: James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band
Saturday, March 22, at 8:00 p.m., Hill Auditorium
Tickets at $25, $20, $15, and $12
Thursday, March 27, at 8:00 p.m., Hill Auditorium Tickets at $16, $13, $10, and $8
UNIVERSITY MUSICAL SOCIETY
Burton Memorial Tower, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1270 Phones: (313) 665-3717, 764-2538