Robert Bernhardt, conductor
Robert Bernhardt served as Music Director and Conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera for 19 seasons. He was the second Music Director in the combined company’s history, and is now the first with the title Emeritus. A lover of all genres of music, he is equally at home in symphonic, operatic, pops, and educational performances. He also nears another milestone in his career with the Louisville Orchestra, with this year representing his 30th consecutive season with the LO, and his 15th as Principal Pops Conductor. This season, he will make his conducting debuts with the Dallas and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, return to the Cincinnati Pops and Detroit Symphony, and will conduct six Boston Pops concerts. His vast symphonic repertoire covers most of the standard canon and his commitment to the music of our time is significant. He has been a frequent guest conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Boston Pops. He has also been a guest with the Houston, Seattle, Phoenix, Nashville, Colorado, Iceland, and Pacific Symphony Orchestras, among others. He has recorded for Vanguard, First Edition, Carlton Classics, and RPO record labels. He has also conducted the Louisville Ballet, the North Carolina Ballet, the Jacksonville Ballet, and the Lonestar Ballet.
Born in Rochester, NY, Robert Bernhardt holds a Master's Degree with Honours from the University of Southern California School of Music where he studied with Daniel Lewis. He was a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Union (NY) College, where he was an Academic All-American baseball player. His son, Alex, lives and works in Seattle with his wife and new daughter, and his daughter, Charlotte, is a resident of New York City. He and his wife, Nora, live on Signal Mountain.
Robert Bernhardt holds a special place in the hearts of Edmonton Symphony Orchestra musicians and audiences. This year’s Symphony Under the Sky marks his seventh consecutive as the festival’s conductor, and he frequently leads the ESO in subscription series performances at the Winspear Centre. He last conducted the ESO in May 2012.
Sara Davis Buechner, piano
Pianist Sara Davis Buechner is one of the leading keyboard artists of our time. Winner of a bouquet of prizes at the world’s great piano competitions -- Reine Elisabeth of Belgium, Leeds, Salzburg, Sydney and Vienna -- she established her early career with the Gold Medal of the 1984 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, and a Bronze Medal in the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow. Now residing in Canada, Ms. Buechner enjoys a vibrant international performance and recording career. With an active repertoire of over 100 piano concertos, she has appeared as soloist with the world’s prominent orchestras: New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Saint Louis, San Francisco, Montréal, Vancouver, Japan Philharmonic, City of Birmingham (U.K.) Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, and Slovak Philharmonic. She has presented recitals in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Prague’s Dvořák Hall and Kyoto’s Alti Hall; she enjoys a special following throughout Asia where she tours annually.
Ms. Buechner’s numerous recordings have received prominent critical appraisal. The New York Times greeted her Koch International CD of piano music by Rudolf Friml as a “revelation,” and devoted the front page of its Sunday Arts & Leisure section to her world première recording of the Bach-Busoni “Goldberg” Variations. Her George Gershwin album was selected as a “Record of the Month” by Stereophile
magazine, and her recording of Hollywood piano concertos by Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman won Germany’s Deutsches Schauplatten Preis for best soundtrack. Ms. Buechner’s discography includes extensive recording work for the Yamaha Disklavier and PianoSoft systems. Ms. Buechner is currently Associate Professor of Piano at the University of British Columbia. She has presented lectures and masterclasses worldwide, notably at the Juilliard School in New York, the Royal Academy in London, Indiana University, Yong Siu Toh Conservatory in Singapore, National Taiwan Normal University, Senzoku Conservatory in Tokyo, and the Kobe-Yamate Gakuen in Osaka, Japan.
Ms. Buechner last appeared with the ESO in September 2009.
LAVALLÉE (Arr Allan Gilliland)
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Overture (8’)*
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 (34’)*
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Opus 23 (34’)*
Sara Davis Buechner, piano
Program subject to change.
*Indicates approximate performance duration.
Il barbiere di Siviglia
(“The Barber of Seville”): Overture
Gioacchinno Rossini (b. Pesaro, 1792 / d. Passy, 1868)
The overture with which we have come to indelibly associate Rossini’s comic masterpiece The Barber of Seville
(or, let’s be honest, its associations with Bugs Bunny massaging hair tonic on the bald pate of Elmer Fudd!) has, musically, nothing to do with the actual opera. For good reason, too. Gioacchino Rossini wrote the overture for another opera – a drama, in fact – which had flopped. Completely unapologetically, and quite typically for him, Rossini merely appropriated what was a fine curtain-raiser, and added it to his comic opera of the merry comings, goings and machinations of Figaro and his fellows.
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K.550
Wolfgang Amadé Mozart (b.Salzburg, 1756 / d. Vienna, 1791)
Mozart wrote a great deal of music, but none of it was written strictly for its own sake. Mozart lived before the romantic notion of an artist writing out of a need to produce music, whether it was played or not. So the fact that there does not appear to have been a compelling reason for him to have written his last three symphonies, all composed within six weeks of each other in 1788, does not mean that such a reason did not exist.
It’s likely that Mozart had performances in mind, or at the very least, hoped that publishing the scores would bring in some money. However practical the motivation, the three symphonies he created in this time stand as supreme examples of their art. The middle of the three, No. 40
, certainly did not get its first performance until after Mozart had revised it by adding a pair of clarinets to his previous orchestration.
The first movement’s generally lively tempo is contrasted by the minor home key, the unsettledness underlined right at the outset by a dark whisper less than a bar long by the violas before the main tune is heard in the violins. This theme dominates the entire movement, moving through a series of different keys, always slightly angular and a little ominous. The second movement is an Andante which shifts into E-flat Major, but is still dominated by a dark and somber mood. There is an air of a serious, though dignified procession in the music.
The next movement pits a minor-key Menuetto against a contrasting trio in G Major. The latter has a calming effect after the stresses and eddies of the preceding movements, though it is supplanted by the return of the Menuetto theme once again. The final movement, like the first movement, contrasts a lively tempo with a minor key theme. A bucolic theme given out by the winds again offers a respite, but the overall sober and introspective mood never leaves the symphony for long.
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op.23
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (b. Kamsko-Votinsk, 1840 / d. St. Petersburg, 1893)
So, you write a concerto for someone, hoping he’ll play it, and he writes of it, “The music is vulgar…unplayable…unworthy of its composer,” among other things. Chances are, you’d remove the dedication, and find someone else. That’s exactly what Tchaikovsky did with his First Piano Concerto
, crossing out Nikolai Rubinstein’s name, and adding Hans von Bülow’s, as the German musician praised the music highly. Completing the score in late 1874, the concerto was finally premiered on October 25, 1875, in Boston.
The concerto’s remarkable and very famous opening begins with strong horn pronouncements, followed by a rich, romantic melody for strings, punctured by powerful piano chords, and that followed by the piano taking up the rich melody itself. The real surprise is that, following that sweeping opening, that lush melody never shows up in the work again. Instead, a secondary theme, based on a Ukrainian folksong, becomes the basis for the direction the music takes for the rest of the movement. Using a technique often employed in Russian concertos, Tchaikovsky uses repeated statements of the folksong theme to add decorative elements, growing more ornate, while the orchestra – which seldom plays along with the soloist – handles many of the movement’s dramatic flourishes.
The second movement’s A-B-A format combines a slow movement with a Scherzo. The A section is a lovely Andantino in D-flat Major first presented by the flute, then taken up by the piano. That is contrasted by a Prestissimo B section in a quick waltz tempo, the theme of which Tchaikovsky said was based on a French song, Il faut s’amuser, danser et rire
. The finale is dominated by two main thematic ideas. A strongly Russian-flavoured dance introduced by the piano alternates with a passionately romantic secondary idea – one of those gorgeously rapturous melodies at which Tchaikovsky excelled.
As a footnote, it’s worth mentioning that, following the concerto’s enthusiastic reception at its first performances, Nikolai Rubinstein had a change of heart, and became one of the work’s greatest champions, performing it several times in his career.
Program notes © 2012 by D.T. Baker
Park your vehicle for only $5 at the U of A’s Stadium Car Park (116 St & 89 Ave), and ride ETS buses for free directly to Hawrelak Park! Parking is very limited at Hawrelak Park and not guaranteed. Free, supervised bike racks will also be available at Hawrelak Park, courtesy of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society.
View Symphony Under the Sky Park 'n' Ride in a larger map
On-site Box Office
Please note: advance sales will be to the full capacity of Hawrelak Park Amphitheatre. Tickets may not be available at the door! The on-site Box Office Tent is cash only. There will be an ATM machine on site. The on-site Box Office at Hawrelak Park opens two hours prior to each performance for sales and ticket pick-up. If you would like to pick up your tickets prior to the festival, please visit the Winspear Centre box office by 3pm on Friday, August 31st.
Admission & Seating
The gates to the Heritage Amphitheatre open one hour prior to each performance. Lawn chairs and blankets are allowed in grass seating area. Lawn chairs may be placed on the audience-left side of the amphitheatre, and the audience-right side is reserved for blankets.
Food & Drink
Food vendors will be located in the Heritage Amphitheatre and the Winspear Concession stand will offer snacks, hot and cold drinks, wine & beer. You may bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages, but all alcohol must be purchased inside the amphitheatre.
Symphony Under the Sky Online
If at all possible, all performances will remain at Hawrelak Park
. In case of inclement weather, festival concerts may take place at the Winspear Centre. The decision to change venues will be made 3 hours prior to the performance. Venue change information will be announced on 92.5 JOE FM, posted on this website and our Twitter feed
, and noted in a recorded message at 780-428-1414 and 1-800-563-5081.
Festival Suppliers and Supporters
Thank you to our volunteers who help Symphony Under the Sky run smoothly every year!
Thank you to the City of Edmonton through the Edmonton Arts Council for their ongoing support of Symphony Under the Sky.