BOCA RATON PHILHARMONIC SYMPHONIA
December 17, 2006
The Roberts Theater at St. Andrewís School
Giancarlo Guerrero, Conductor
Bella Hristova, Violin
Sir Edward Elgar
Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op.20
I. Allegro piacevole
The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires *
I. Verano Porteno (Summer)
II. Otono Porteno (Autumn)
III. Invierno Porteno (Winter)
IV. Primavera Portena (Spring)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No.41 in C Major, K.551 (Jupiter)
I. Allegro Vivace
II. Andante cantabile
III. Menuetto: Allegretto
IV. Molto Allegro
*First local performance
By Lawrence Budmen
Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op.20
Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Great composers are best known for their large scale creations. Often years of writing smaller works (sometimes with an eye to their commercial value) and laboring in noncreative jobs (both musical and otherwise) precede that elusive fame. To Sir Edward Elgarís regret, he would become best known for the first of his Pomp and Circumstance marches. Yet he also penned such profound, mature masterpieces as the Enigma Variations (one of conductor Arturo Toscaniniís signature pieces), the serene Violin Concerto, and the eloquent Cello Concerto.
Before all of that compositional output, Elgar conducted amateur music societies and wrote pieces that were not too difficult for part time musicians. The genesis of the Serenade for Strings was probably a set of Three Pieces for Strings that Elgar completed for the Worcester Musical Union in 1888. Four years later (in 1892) Elgar reinvented the basic material as the Serenade. This was the most complex, ambitious score that he had turned out at that time. Strangely, the premiere occurred in Antwerp, Belgium in 1896. Elgar belatedly conducted the London premiere in 1905. (That was considerably after the public acclaim for the Enigma Variations.) In many ways a precursor of Elgarís stately Introduction and Allegro, the Serenade for Strings remained one of the composerís favorite works. At his last recording session in 1933, the Serenade was one of the scores he conducted. (Elgar became the first composer to leave an authoritative recorded archive of his own interpretations of his scores. His recording of the Violin Concerto with Yehudi Menuhin and the London Symphony Orchestra still remains the touchstone version of that score.)
The heart of the richly textured Serenade is the second movement Larghetto. A noble melody seems to unfold with spacious, unforced ebb and flow in this gem of orchestral string writing. The movement has often been compared to the Nimrod section of the Enigma Variations. Framing this serene outpouring is a beautifully sculpted Allegro piacevole Ė a lively theme followed by a wistful secondary subject Ė and pastoral Allegretto which concludes with a reprise of the workís opening motif. (The cyclical nature of that theme is comparable to Tchaikovskyís Serenade for Strings which was featured on the previous concert of the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia.)
The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Astor Piazzolla achieved fame as the father of the tango nuevo. With the quintessential hand of genius, Piazzolla combined the traditional Argentine tango with the astringent harmonics and instrumental color of Igor Stravinsky. Playing the bandoneon with his own ensemble, Piazzolla went from performing in dance clubs to the stages of the worldís foremost concert halls.
A musically inquisitive spirit, Piazzolla studied harmony, counterpoint, and orchestral writing with Alberto Ginastera, Argentinaís most renowned classical composer. In 1954 he went to Paris to continue his studies with the redoubtable Nadia Boulanger. A mentor to composers as diverse as Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, and Quincy Jones, Boulanger encouraged Piazzolla to return to the tango. While his compositions were criticized by Argentinaís traditionalists for their modernity, the enthusiastic support of both classical and pop oriented musicians made tango nuevo an international phenomenon. Piazzolla also composed film scores, symphonic works, the ballet Tango Orfeo, and the opera Maria de Buenos Aires. The enthusiastic support of Yo Yo Ma, Vladimir Spivakov, Gidon Kremer, and the Eroica Trio turned Piazzollaís music into the crossover soundtrack of the 1990ís.
Between 1967 and 1971 Piazzolla composed a series of four tangos that reflected the moods of the seasons in the city of Buenos Aires. The music has been arranged for numerous instrumental combinations. (The composerís associate Jose Bragato has made many of these arrangements.) At this performance we hear a version for violin and chamber orchestra.
Symphony No.41 in C Major, K.551 (Jupiter)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
After his initial success in Vienna as a composer, pianist, and teacher, Mozartís public acclaim took a downturn. Even as his fortunes waned (which would continue for the remainder of his tragically short life), he returned to composing works in large scale symphonic form. In 1788 he penned three symphonies Ė No.39 in E-flat, No.40 in G minor, and No.41 in C Major. These are three of the most extraordinary works in the output of the master from Salzburg. In form, scope, and deeply felt intensity (particularly in the musicís inner subtext), these symphonies surpass Mozartís previous efforts. In their visionary zeal, the scores look forward to Beethoven.
These final three symphonic essays have long been mired in historical mythology. Innumerable times writers and speakers have echoed the refrain that Mozart never heard these works performed in his lifetime. While there is no concrete evidence, that is unlikely. Records of concert performances in Vienna and its environs in that era are scarce. Nevertheless the noted Mozart scholar Stanley Sadie notes that Mozart usually performed or conducted his latest scores at his concerts. There was ample opportunity for him to lead his symphonic swan songs. In 1789 he gave concerts in Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin. The following year he presented a concert in Frankfurt for the coronation of Leopold II. In 1791 a Mozart symphony opened a charity concert of the Society of Musicians in Vienna conducted by none other than Antonio Salieri. For these occasions Mozart usually unfurled new scores. Therefore it is entirely probable that one or all three of the final symphonies were performed in Mozartís lifetime (and probably in his presence).
The London impresario Johann Peter Solomon (who so eagerly promoted Haydnís works) probably named the Symphony No.41 the Jupiter. There is a majestic quality to the score that makes that title particularly apt. Like Mozartís other scores in the key of C Major (particularly the Piano Concerto No.1), the Symphony features trumpets and timpani but no clarinet parts.
The initial Allegro vivace opens with a martial subject, answered by a gentile phrase in the strings. Further development turns the opening phrase into the movementís first theme. A witty second theme (suggesting Mozartís comic operas Ė especially The Marriage of Figaro)) for strings and winds is followed by yet a third theme of memorable important. An unusually dramatic development section precedes the recapitulation of the major thematic material and a festive coda. The Andante cantabile is one of Mozartís most expressive slow movements. A gentle opening belies the drama and poignant modulations of major and minor. Mozartís most symphonic Menuetto (the symphonyís third movement) is certainly not a mere courtly dance. A lively trio suddenly turns tempestuous. It is in the Molto allegro finale that Mozart achieves his greatest stroke of genius. No less than five themes are sounded, often in fugal form. In the coda, all five subjects are played simultaneously. A triumphant conclusion (with the sounds of trumpets and drums) brings the score and Mozartís symphonic output to an end.
Like Haydnís Symphony No.104 in D Major (London), Mozartís Jupiter Symphony far exceeds the composersí previous efforts. In complexity, instrumental mastery, and melodic and contrapuntal invention, the symphony looks forward to the romantic era. The symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms, Schumann and Mendelssohn were the Jupiterís artistic descendants.