Symphony No. 4 in A major “Italian”:
First Movement (8’)*
Clarinet Concerto in A major:
Third Movement (8’)*
(Arranged by Carmen Dragon)
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for Violin in A minor
(Orchestrated by Albert Parlow)
Hungarian Dance No. 6 in D major
Young Composer Project: Longing for Restoration
(5’)* (World premiere)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major:
Third Movement (7’)*
Intermezzo sinfonico (4’)*
Variations for Trumpet on a Theme from Bellini’s Norma
Symphony No. 6 in B minor “Pathétique”:
Third Movement (8’)*
*Indicates approximate performance duration
Program subject to change.
Not only was the young Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) supremely gifted musically, he was also blessed with the good fortune to come from a well-to-do family. At the age of 20, he spent nearly five years travelling extensively, drawing inspiration for several major compositions during his excursions.
He visited Italy for the first time in 1830, and felt the inhabitants he met, “took a supreme delight in life.” Enraptured by the country and its people, Mendelssohn dashed off the original version of his “Italian” Symphony
in what was, for him, great haste. Ever one to question his own work, Mendelssohn greatly revised the last three movements of the symphony following its London premiere in 1833. The overall impression of the work matches the vivacity with which Mendelssohn described the Italians he met. The opening movement bursts out in an extroverted 6/8 main theme. The energy is sustained throughout this movement, though Mendelssohn deftly manipulates the orchestration, creating something very much like a dialog. A fugal theme is brought in as the development section, and the main material returns for the recapitulation.
The clarinet was still coming into its own as a member of the orchestral family in the 1770s, and Wolfgang Amadé Mozart (1756-1791) was enchanted by both the instrument and the skill of one player in particular. Anton Stadler, a close friend of Mozart’s, was the recipient of several works written toward the end of Mozart’s life, including a quintet and a trio, in addition to the Clarinet Concerto
The concerto’s final movement, as with the finales of so many Mozart concertos, is a rondo – a form in which a main melody keeps returning, interspersed with secondary ideas. While some of the detours away from the principal tune briefly take on darker shades, the main theme to this movement is a dancing, dotted-rhythm bit of effervescence, one which gives the clarinet’s sunny disposition free rein. Nearly the entire compass of the instrument’s range is also displayed in this showcase for an instrument for which Mozart always held a special place in his heart.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) is known for his chamber music, his piano works, and most of all, for his lieder (“art songs”). Despite writing much sacred music, however, he is not well-known for that – with one exception. Schubert’s setting of the Ave Maria
(“Hail, Mary”) is one of the most famous sacred works in music. However, the true story is not what you might expect. In fact, for a time, the Catholic church banned Schubert’s song.
You see, Schubert’s original version of the song was as a lied
. Its text was not the well-known Latin prayer, but a secular poem about a young maiden imploring the Madonna at a time of distress. It was only later that someone else replaced the secular words with the Latin ones. This afternoon’s version features neither sacred nor secular words – we will hear a lovely orchestral arrangement by Carmen Dragon.
Camille Saint-Saëns’ (1835-1921) popular Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
was written for one of the finest violinists who ever lived, Pablo de Sarasate. The greatest composers of the day wrote works for him, and he also wrote many for himself. Many of them, both his creations and those written by others, follow a pattern; they begin with a slow section designed to illustrate his supreme mastery of lyricism and expression, followed by a whirlwind cavalcade of breathtaking and breakneck virtuoso music in which a full bag of violin tricks is used. Such is the case here. Camille Saint-Saëns had originally intended to write his first violin concerto for Sarasate, and began sketching one as far back as 1859, when Sarasate would have only been 15. But the French composer, unsatisfied with what he had created, abandoned the plan. Four years later, he composed the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
. It has established itself as a favourite vehicle for prodigious violinists since its 1863 premiere.
In 1853 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), who at age 20 was known as a gifted pianist and a rising composer, embarked on a concert tour as accompanist to Eduard Reményi. More a showman than a serious musician, Reményi was a Hungarian who catered to the masses by playing arrangements of popular songs, Chopin nocturnes, and his own compositions, which were of a showy, faux-Gypsy style. What Brahms thought of Reményi we do not know; but what he gained from his time with the fiddler proved very beneficial.
For one thing, Brahms was drawn to the music of Hungary, and toured there himself in 1867. Two years later, his first set of ten Hungarian Dances
was published – and proved wildly successful. Originally composed for piano four-hands (two pianists at one keyboard), there were versions produced for piano, for violin and piano, and for orchestra. The Sixth Hungarian Dance
is one of the most often performed, in an orchestration by Albert Parlow. Its main section begins slowly, then builds in energy and pace. Its central section has a grander feel than the main section’s sense of frivolity.
, by Canadian composer Glenn Buhr (b. 1954) was commissioned by the CBC for a premiere performance by the Toronto Symphony under Mario Bernardi in May 1989. Of his work, Mr. Buhr writes: “Akasha is the sanskrit word for space - the fifth element after earth, air, fire, and water - but the word akasha is sometimes translated more poetically as ‘sky.’ This short work is very gentle, with a steady, quiet rhythm played by the strings and glockenspiel, and a floating chorale in the brass which gradually rises to a pivotal climax with the woodwinds scurrying up and around in the background.”
Samantha Semler began playing piano at the age of four while enrolled in a music program that encouraged composing at a very young age. Her more recent compositions, including music for church services and weddings, have earned her first place in various provincial composition festivals. She has played flute in concert band for six years, and while at Strathcona Composite High School, she was also involved in the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble. Samantha will be attending the University of Alberta this fall studying business and communications. She will continue to pursue her love for music through composition, performance, and teaching.
Of her work Longing for Restoration
, Ms. Semler writes: “Longing for Restoration
is a piece inspired by Psalm 13, in which the author David cries out to God, asking how long his suffering and turmoil will last. The listener experiences David's struggles throughout the middle section of the piece with mixed meter, dissonant intervals and minor harmonies. However, by the end of the Psalm, David's demeanour turns from despair to hope, which is paralleled in the section of relief and restoration at the end of the piece.”
Franz Josef Haydn’s (1732-1809) own instrumental skills were, by his own admission, fair but not spectacular. He could get by on keyboard or violin, and as a boy, had been a soprano in church choirs. But at the court of the Esterházys, where he was given his own hand-picked orchestra for which to write, Haydn could take advantage of some of the best musicians in Europe when he wrote concertos.
So we can say with certainty that Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto
was written for Josef Franz Weigl. He was, at the time the work was written (which we can narrow down to about 1762-63) the only cellist in the court orchestra of the Esterházys, and a few years later, Haydn became godfather to Weigl’s son. We see sonata form in the way the opening movement features separate expositions for soloist and orchestra – but a baroque sprightliness in the dotted rhythms. Phrases here are allowed to find full expression, and a brief section the concerto’s relative minor key (A minor) brings a sense of reflection on the principal material.
Jean-Baptiste Arban (1825-1889) is credited with bringing cornet playing into "the modern age." Credited with being the first virtuoso of the valved cornet, Arban was inspired by the virtuosity of Paganini's violin playing to show that the cornet could also be a bravura solo instrument. He wrote many showcases for his instruments, some of which were based on pre-existing works. The most famous is a set of variations on the popular tune Carnival of Venice
The idea of a "concert paraphrase," in which a well-known melody by another composer was treated to dazzling variations by a master of a particular instrument, is an old one in music. Norma, which premiered in 1831, is the most popular opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), and the aria Casta diva
("Pure goddess") is its most famous melody. In his Variations on a Theme from Bellini’s Norma
, Arban fashioned a true cornet showcase based on the main theme of the aria.
The famous Intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni’s (1863-1945) only “hit” opera, Cavalleria rusticana
(“Rustic Chivalry”), is one of music’s most famous excerpts. The opera itself is short (often paired with another popular one-act opera, I Pagliacci
by Ruggiero Leoncavallo), and is a dark tale of infidelity and revenge among a village of Sicilian peasants. The exquisite Intermezzo is a stark and poignant moment of contrast in its operatic context – the inevitable tragedy that is to come is delayed by this serene music, played to an empty stage while the story’s characters attend Easter mass.
Pretty much from its first performances, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) final symphony has produced a barrage of conflicting rhetoric. People tend to hear what they want in a work, so for those who must insist that this great, tragic work is Tchaikovsky’s suicide note, they cite mounds of evidence. Just as there is equally compelling evidence to those who believe that the symphony was simply the next work in what he hoped would be many more. Tchaikovsky himself is not much help, either. Always a bit of an emotional weather vane, the composer’s own writings could be seen to support either point of view. We know that the first performance of the work (presented at its premiere without a sobriquet) was met with reasonable success. And we also know that within a week of that first performance, Tchaikovsky was dead. Nine days after that first performance, the work, now called the “Pathétique” Symphony
, was given again, and to great acclaim. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest claims to have suggested to Piotr the name for the work.
Enter more contradiction. The official cause of his death was cholera, from drinking unboiled water. There are many who just as adamantly maintain he took poison by his own hand. The latter hear in the work what must obviously be the torments of the composer. Again, letters from Tchaikovsky would seem to indicate that he was indeed unhappy; but then why did he write his publisher, saying, “I have never felt such self-satisfaction, such pride, such happiness, as in the consciousness that I am really the creator of this beautiful work.”? Ultimately, we are left with the music, regarded by many as the finest Russian symphony ever written. The third movement is dominated by a G Major march of fierce energy and intensity, which nevertheless enters on tiptoes.
Program notes © 2012 by D.T. Baker, except as noted
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.
Virginie Gagné, violin
Born in Montréal, Virginie Gagné started to play the violin at age three and entered the Montréal Conservatory of Music at eight, where she later received the Bachelor degree with honours both in violin and chamber music. She pursued her Master of music studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas with violin teacher Sergiu Luca.
Virginie has received several prizes in violin at the Montréal Symphony Orchestra Competition, the Canadian Music Competition and the Canada New Music Competition, among others. Beside violin, she won the first Prize in Canada at the Desjardins International Development Competition, in the writing category.
Her orchestral experience includes concerts with Les Violons du Roy, I Musici de Montréal, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and a one-year position, section first violin, with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. She was named to the First Violins of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra following auditions in April, 2006.
Robin Doyon, trumpet
A native of East Angus, Québec, Robin Doyon was appointed Principal Tumpet of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in September 2008. Since that appointment, he has appeared as soloist with the ESO, as well as the Red Deer Symphony, and the Alberta Baroque Ensemble. He received his Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Classical Interpretation at the University of Montréal with Jean-Luc Gagnon. He has studied with many masters of the trumpet, including Allen Vizzutti, Jens Lindemann, and James Thompson. In 2002, he was Laureate of the National Music Festival, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra Competition, and the Radio-Canada Young Artists Competition.
Mr. Doyon has also been the recipient of numerous other prizes, including the 2007 prix avec Grande distinction from the Montréal Conservatory of Music. He has been a member of the Grand Ballet of Canada Orchestra, and is a regular performer with the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Laval, Longueuil, and the Metropolitan orchestras. He also performed with the Contemporary Ensemble of Montréal and the Contemporary Music Society of Québec. Robin Doyon currently teaches at the University of Alberta, having also been a professor at the University of Sherbrooke.
Julianne Scott, clarinet
A native of Calgary, Julianne Scott is Principal Clarinet of the Edmonton Symphony. This follows her tenure (2007-2009) as Principal Clarinet with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. Ms. Scott graduated from the University of Southern California with her Masters, where she studied with Yehuda Gilad. She attained her Bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto in 2006 under Joaquin Valdenpenas. Julianne Scott as spent summers participating in festivals including the Sunflower Music Festival, the Aspen Festival, the Spoleto Festival, touring with the Canadian Youth Orchestra, and the Music Academy of the West. She has appeared as a soloist with Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
Ms. Scott last appeared as a soloist with the ESO in November 2010.
Kathleen de Caen, cello
Kathleen de Caen was born in Halifax Nova Scotia, and moved to Edmonton at three years of age. Starting cello at age five, her cello teachers have included Sharon Verchomin, Grazyna Sobieraj, Julie Amundsen, Marina Hoover, and most recently Tanya Prochazka and Colin Ryan. Kathleen has also performed in masterclasses for Raphael Wallfisch, Phillipe Muller, and Lynn Harrell. She was a member of the Edmonton Youth Orchestra for many years, and of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada during the summers 2009 and 2010, including co-principal cellist for this latter year.
Ms. de Caen is a member of the French music group La Rive Gauche (often seen at the Strathcona Market), and played with University of Alberta’s Enterprise String Quartet during the 2011-2012 season. She has performed as soloist with the ESO for their children’s education program in 2008 and 2011. Winning the University of Alberta’s Academy Strings Concerto Competition in 2010, Kathleen de Caen performed the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto in the spring of that year. She recently graduated from the University of Alberta with her Bachelor of Music degree, and is starting a Masters Degree in Cello performance with Matt Haimovitz at McGill University this fall.
Ms. de Caen last appeared with the ESO in May 2011.