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2016-2017 Masterworks Season Finale!
- Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring Gabriela Montero
- May 19-20, 2017 8:00 PM
- where: Dell Hall directions
- conductor: Peter Bay
The ASO concludes its 106th season with a performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s famous Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. This piece launched Sergei Rachmaninoff in superstardom and is considered a staple of repertory in concert halls all over the world.
Still want more? How about playing on some string instruments provided by our friends at Violin’s Etc.? We also have a wonderful pre-concert talk given by Bob Buckalew at 7:10 pm. How about “tweeting” with our musicians and ASO staff? Take a photo in front of our photo wall. The Austin Symphony wants you to get the most out of your concert experience!
May 19 will also be Military Appreciation Night at the ASO in conjunction with our Soldiers at the Symphony program (a year round program that offers free tickets to veterans). Tickets are given away through our partner, VetTix. The ASO is also offering a 25% discount on tickets* to military personnel and veterans who don’t receive tickets through VetTix. Use promo code “HERO17” at checkout.
*Discount is valid for the Friday, May 19, 2017 performance only. Offer is valid for all tickets priced $45 and below (Upper Mezzanine, Lower Balcony, & Upper Balcony). Tickets will be held at Will Call and a Military ID must be shown to pick up tickets.
All artists, programs & dates subject to change
|Sergei Rachmaninoff||Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18|
|Ottorino Respighi||Feste Romane|
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)/Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
Composed in 1930
Approx. 23 minutes
Rachmaninoff’s first set of Études-tableaux (Op. 33) dates from the summer of 1911, while the second set (Op. 39) was completed
in 1917. These atmospheric pieces for solo piano were essentially virtuoso showpieces for Rachmaninoff himself to play while touring the world as a soloist, and those of Op. 39 were the last he composed In Russia before emigrating.
While Rachmaninoff may have had thoughts of orchestration himself, at the end of 1929 the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, recently appointed as head of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a great champion of Respighi, suggested the Italian to him as an ideal choice as orchestrator of the piano Études.
Koussevitzky suggested to Respighi that he should orchestrate five pieces from the two sets of Études, and when Respighi agreed, Rachmaninoff was genuinely pleased. He wrote to Respighi (in French) in January 1930:
This good news gives me great joy, for I am sure that in your masterly hands these Études will be made to sound marvelous.
Will you permit me, Maître, to give you the secret explanations of their composer? These will certainly make the character of these pieces more comprehensible and help you to find the necessary colors for their orchestration. Here are the programmes of these Etudes:
The first Etude in A minor [Op. 39 No. 2] represents the Sea and Seagulls
The second Elude in A minor [Op. 39 No16] was inspired by the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf;
The third Etude in e flat major [Op. 33 No. 4] is a scene at a Fair.
The fourth Etude in D major [Op. 39 No. 9] has a similar character resembling an oriental march.
The fifth Etude in C minor (Op. 39 No. 7] is a funeral march …
That is all. If these details are not too boring to you and you see some advantage in having them – I can develop them further.
Koussevitzky conducted the first performance with’ the Boston Symphony Orchestra In December 1931. He had written to Rachmaninoff that the orchestrations were ‘very good’, but that they ‘demanded a lot of work’, requiring eight rehearsals.
It is difficult to judge how faithfully Respighi followed Rachmaninoff’s programmatic hints, but there is no doubt that in his unique way he entered into the spirit of Rachmaninoff’s music with remarkable understanding, and re-interpreted it. In the first Étude, for example, depicting the sea and seagulls, the brooding, rocking rhythm vividly recalls the haunting opening of Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead (1909). There Is a hint, too, in Respighi’s transcription, of the ‘Dies Irae’ motif, heard in more than one work by Rachmaninoff.
The scoring of the lovely first movement is dominated by high-pitched, undulating strings and woodwind, soaring clarinets in particular, the effect of the concentration of Instruments playing in their high register sometimes bordering on the dissonant. The movement ends with a lyrical reprise of the opening theme.
As so often, Respighi introduces a complete change of mood and tempo in the next movement, an urgent, fiery depiction of a fair. A bravura passage for brass brings this second Étude to an abrupt, but magnificent conclusion.
The substantial third movement, in C minor, said by Rachmaninoff to evoke a funeral march, is the musical heart of the suite. Unrelentingly somber, brass and percussion dominant, it maintains a mood that is overtly funereal. Respighi seems to adhere with particularly imaginative sympathy to Rachmaninoff’s ‘secret explanations’ for this Étude, ingeniously conveying in orchestral sound the singing of a choir and, through ostinato rhythms in strings and woodwinds, the ceaseless falling of a fine rain. Apart from Rachmaninoff, few composers can conjure up the sound of bells more poetically than Respighi, as he does in Fontane di Roma and Vetrate di Chiesa (Church Windows, 1925-26); here, in a middle passage, he does it once more before returning to the opening funeral march.
The fourth movement, depicting the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, is pure tone poetry, inevitably inviting comparison with Prokofiev’s’ later Peter and the Wolf (1936). Growling brass and percussion and relentlessly skipping woodwind rhythms strikingly suggest the predatory wolf snapping at the heels of his fleeing prey.
With its insistent rhythmic interplay of brass; chattering woodwind and pounding percussion, all culminating in a thunderous flourish, the final oriental march is similar in character to ‘The Fair’.
One cannot help feeling that Rachmaninoff would have been well pleased with the Italian Maestro’s imaginative orchestration of his piano Études-tableaux.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Composed in 1900-1901
Approx. 34 minutes
After the failure of his first symphony, in 1897 (it was not to be revived for some 50 years), Rachmaninoff fell into a state of depression that nearly ended his career. In 1900 his family and friends sent him for help to Dr. Nicolai Dahl, who practiced a kind of hypnotic auto-suggestion. Fortunately Dr. Dahl was also an understanding, sophisticated music-lover, a talented amateur violinist who was often joined by conservatory students in chamber music parties at his home. In his memoirs, Rachmaninoff described the treatment and its results: “My relations had told Dr. Dahl that he must at all costs cure me of my apathetic condition and achieve such results that I would again begin to compose. Dahl had asked what manner of composition they desired and received the answer, ‘A concerto for piano,’ for this is what I had promised to the people in London, and I had given it up in despair. Consequently, I heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day while I lay half asleep in an armchair in Dahl’s study. ‘You will begin to write your concerto …. You will work with great facility … . The concerto will be of excellent quality …. ‘It was always the same, without interruption. Although it may sound incredible, this cure really helped me. At the beginning of the summer I began to compose again. The material grew in bulk, and new musical ideas began to stir within me-far more than I needed for my concerto. By the autumn I had finished two movements of the concerto- the Andante and the Finale . … I played the two movements of the concerto during that autumn at a charity concert. They had a gratifying success. This buoyed up my self-confidence so much that I began to compose again …. By the spring I had already finished the first movement of the concerto and the suite for two pianofortes. I felt that Dr. Dahl’s treatment had strengthened my nervous system to a miraculous degree. Out of gratitude I dedicated my second concerto to him.”
The successful performance of the last two movements took place in December, 1900. The Second Concerto had its first complete performance at a Philharmonic Society concert in Moscow on October 14, 1901, with the composer as soloist. The concerto opens with a powerful, vital first movement in moderate tempo. The slow second movement is a quiet nocturne of great beauty. The
soloist is accompanied by a small orchestra except at a single climactic chord. The lively finale, Allegro scherzartdo, has a contrasting second theme in moderate tempo that is one of the best known melodies in all the repertoire.
Program notes by Leonard Burkat and Paul Affelder.
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
Composed in 1928
Approx. 25 minutes
Coming from a family of professional musicians, Respighi inherited a rich talent as part of his birthright. His earliest lessons were with his father, but he progressed so rapidly that he began his professional training in violin, piano and composition at the age of thirteen. As a young man, he was torn between ambitions to become a concert violinist and a composer, and for several years he led a dual life as a performer and a creator. He got a job as violist with the orchestra of the St. Petersburg Opera, and took advantage of his time in Russia to study with Rimsky-Korsakov, whose brilliant orchestral technique was a lasting influence on his music. From St. Petersburg he moved to Berlin to work with Max Bruch on violin and composition, and while there he befriended Busoni, Fritz Kreisler, Caruso, Paderewski and Bruno Walter.
Except for a brief stint back in Berlin in 1908-1909 teaching piano at a private school, Respighi spent the years from 1903 to 1925 in Italy, first as a performer, then as professor of composition and finally as head of the Saint Cecilia Academy in Rome. He left the Academy in 1925 to devote himself to composition and touring, and made four trips to the United States over the next seven years. He died of a heart attack in 1936 at the age of 56.
Roman Festivals of 1928 was the third of Respighi’s trilogy of symphonic poems inspired by the city of Rome, preceded by The Fountains of Rome in 1916 and The Pines of Rome in 1923. He said that this work was a vivid musical depiction of “visions and evocations of Roman fetes.” Its four scenes span the history of that great city, from the chilling struggle of the early Christians in the coliseums of ancient times (“Circus Maximus”), through the Medieval pilgrimage (“The Jubilee,” built around the old German hymn “Christ ist erstanden”) and the Renaissance merriment of the wine festival and the moonlight serenade (“The October Festival”), to the revelry of modern-day Rome (“Epiphany”). As with Respighi’s other Roman tone poems, this one juxtaposes music of intimacy and sensitivity with episodes of overwhelming sonority to make a work as rich in orchestral color as the subjects it portrays.
Gabriela Montero’s visionary interpretations and unique improvisational gifts have won her a devoted following around the world. Anthony Tommasini remarked in The New York Times, “Montero’s playing had everything: crackling rhythmic brio, subtle shadings, steely power…soulful lyricism…unsentimental expressivity.”
Fresh from her BBC Proms debut with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop, Gabriela commenced the 2016/2017 season with an appearance at MusikFest Bremen with the Cadaqués Orchestra and Jaime Martin, recitals at the MiTo Festival in Milan and Turin, and a week of chamber music and collaborative workshops at the Trondheim Festival in Northern Norway. Gabriela also undertakes a European tour this season with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico and their Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto, which includes performances of Gabriela’s newly-composed piano concerto and concerts at the Salzburg Festspielhaus, Vienna Musikverein, and Frankfurt Alte Oper. Other season highlights involve performances of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on a UK tour with the Zürcher Kammerorchester and trumpeter Alison Balsom, two engagements with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, including the world premiere of a work by Catalan composer Jordi Cervelló, and concerts with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and their new Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Gabriela also continues giving recitals, featuring her acclaimed improvisations, in such places as Madrid, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Verona, Heidelberg, and the Dominican Republic.
In recent years, Gabriela has been invited to perform with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including: the Royal Liverpool, Rotterdam, Dresden, Oslo, Vienna Radio, and Netherlands Radio philharmonic orchestras; the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and Australian Chamber Orchestra; the Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Toronto, Baltimore, and Lucerne symphony orchestras; the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada, Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn, and the Stuttgart Chamber, Cleveland, Philharmonia, Komische Oper Berlin, Vienna Symphony, Residentie, and Sydney Symphony orchestras.
Gabriela is also a frequent recital artist, giving concerts extensively and at such distinguished venues as Avery Fisher Hall, Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonie, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Cologne Philharmonie, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Herkulessaal, Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Luxembourg Philharmonie, Lisbon Gulbenkian Museum, Tokyo Orchard Hall, Manchester Bridgewater Hall, and at the Edinburgh, Salzburg, Lucerne, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Gstaad, Saint-Denis, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Rheingau, Ruhr, Bergen, and Lugano festivals.
In addition to her brilliant interpretations of the core piano repertoire, Gabriela is also celebrated for her ability to improvise, composing and playing new works in real time. She says, “I connect to my audience in a completely unique way – and they connect with me. Because improvisation is such a huge part of who I am, it is the most natural and spontaneous way I can express myself.” Whether in recital or following a concerto performance, Gabriela regularly invites her audiences to choose themes on which she improvises.
Gabriela is also an award-winning and bestselling recording artist. Her most previous album, released in summer 2015 on the Orchid Classics label, featured Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and her first orchestral composition, Ex Patria, winning Gabriela her first Latin Grammy® for Best Classical Album (Mejor Álbum de Música Clásica). Previous recordings include Bach and Beyond, which held the top spot on the Billboard Classical Charts for several months and garnered her two Echo Klassik Awards: the 2006 Keyboard Instrumentalist of the Year and 2007 Award for Classical Music without Borders. In 2008, she also received a Grammy® nomination for her album Baroque, and in 2010 she released Solatino, a recording inspired by her Venezuelan homeland and devoted to works by Latin American composers and her own improvisations on Latin themes.
Gabriela made her formal debut as a composer in 2011 with Ex Patria, a tone poem for piano and orchestra and her emotional response to Venezuela’s descent into lawlessness, corruption, and violence. The piece had its world premiere tour in October of that year with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and in 2015 was recorded and released internationally with the YOA Orchestra of the Americas and conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto. In March 2016, Gabriela premiered her first full-length composition for piano and orchestra, entitled Piano Concerto No. 1, “Latin“, in Leipzig with the MDR Sinfonieorchester and conductor Kristjan Järvi. Further performances of the work have taken place with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico and at the Klavier-Festival Ruhr.
A staunch advocate of human rights, whose voice regularly reaches beyond the classical music sphere, Gabriela was recently named an Honorary Consul by Amnesty International and was also selected as a Nominee for Outstanding Work in the Field of Human Rights by the Human Rights Foundation, all in recognition of her ongoing commitment to human rights issues in Venezuela and beyond. She was invited to participate in the 2013 Women of the World Festival, held at London’s Southbank Centre, and has spoken and performed twice at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters. She was also awarded the 2012 Rockefeller Award for her contribution to the arts and was a featured performer at Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Inauguration.
Born in Venezuela, Gabriela gave her first public performance at the age of five. Aged eight, she made her concerto debut in her hometown of Caracas, which led to a scholarship from the government to study privately in the USA. She continued her studies under Hamish Milne at the Royal Academy of Music in London, graduating with highest honours. She currently resides in Barcelona with her husband and two daughters.
Maestro's choice recordings, Purchase recommended recordings from Amazon.com and help support the ASO
Respighi: Rossiniana / Burlesca / Preludio, Corale E Fuga / Rachmaninov - 5 Etudes-TableauxPurchase at Amazon
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18 - Montero: Ex Patria, Op. 1 & ImprovisationsPurchase at Amazon
Respighi: Pini Di Roma (Pines of Rome), Feste romane (Roman Festivals), Fontane di Roma (Roman Fountains)Purchase at Amazon