BOCA RATON PHILHARMONIC SYMPHONIA
January 8, 2006
FAU University Theater
GIANCARLO GUERRERO, Conductor
SHUNSUKE SATO, Violinist
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No.35 in D Major, K.385 (“Haffner”)
I. Allegro con spirito
III. Menuetto. Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
Violin Concerto No.1 in D Major, Op.19
I. Andantino – Andante assai
II. Scherzo: Vivacissimo
III. Moderato – Allegro moderato – Moderato – Piu tranquillo
Three Latin American Sketches*
II. Paisaje Mexicano
III. Danza de Jalisco
Dimitri Shostakovich Arr. Rudolf Barshai
Chamber Symphony, Op.110a*
II. Allegro molto
*First local performance
By Lawrence Budmen
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No.35 in D Major, K.385 (“Haffner”)
Siegmund Haffner (a member of a prominent Salzburg mercantile family) commissioned Mozart to write a serenade for his sister’s wedding in 1776. The Haffner Serenade (with its ornate, extended solo violin part) is one of Mozart’s most significant works in that genre. When Haffner was elevated to the nobility in 1782 he again turned to Mozart for music to honor the occasion. Mozart wrote the piece quickly and dispatched the score to Salzburg one movement at a time. When Mozart needed some new works for his Vienna concerts in 1783 he asked his father to return the score from Salzburg. Mozart made substantial revisions. He omitted the opening march and a second minuet (which is now lost). Most significantly he added two clarinets and two flutes to the outer movements. The Haffner Symphony is the first of Mozart’s six great final masterpieces in that form.
Mozart instructed that the opening Allegro con spirito “must be played very fierily.” A commanding main theme dominates the
movement. Relaxed aristocratic elegance in the Andante forms a strong contrast. The Minuet is strong, yet stately with surprising pauses. The final Presto spotlights sudden contrasts of soft and loud with a suggestion of the Turkish influenced music from the Abduction from the Seraglio. A charming second theme leads to a brief development and sparkling conclusion.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D Major, Op.19
The young Sergei Prokofiev was the enfant terrible of Russian music. At the Moscow Conservatory he infuriated his teachers Glazunov (who also taught Shostakovich), Rimsky-Korsakov, and Lyadov with the wild rhythms and acerbic harmonies of his compositions. His Second Piano Concerto marked the apex of Prokofiev’s early modernist period. By 1917 the composer was prepared to try a different approach. While vacationing at a resort near Petrograd Prokofiev worked on three scores simultaneously – the opera The Gambler (a modernist work composed almost entirely in recitative), the Classical Symphony, and the First Violin Concerto. The latter two works are written in a gentler, wittier style. Prokofiev allowed his melodic gift full expressive force in his first major solo violin work.
The Polish violinist Paul Kochanski, professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, advised the composer about bowing and technical problems. Kochanski was to have given the premiere of the new concerto in November, 1917 but the October Revolution forced an abrupt change of plans. The first performance was finally given in Paris on October 19, 1923 with Marcel Darieux of the Paris Opera Orchestra as soloist and Serge Koussevitzky conducting. Three days later Nathan Milstein and Vladimir Horowitz played the violin-piano reduction in Moscow. (It would be difficult to imagine artists on that exalted level collaborating on a new work today.) Joseph Szigeti soon became the score’s most fervent advocate and the work assumed repertoire status.
The two contrasting themes of the opening movement are marked (by the composer) sognando (dreaming) and narrante (narrating). The music’s lyrical essence casts a magic spell. The Scherzo is a brilliant, rapid fire pyrotechnical display for the solo violin. Echoes of Prokofiev’s early modernist ballet score Chout abound. The concluding movement begins with a witty theme by two bassoons which the solo violin turns into a lyrical line. Brilliant orchestral climaxes lead to an ethereal conclusion as the violin (supported by soft strings and winds) thins down to a slender tonal thread.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Three Latin American Sketches
Although he was most acclaimed for his Americana pieces Aaron Copland was deeply involved with the music of Latin America. He visited the Southern Hemisphere on numerous occasions. His essays on Latin composers and musical trends are classics. Two of his most popular short works sprang from his travels to Mexico (El Salon Mexico) and Cuba (Danzon Cubano). Less familiar but equally colorful and lively are the Three Latin American Sketches. Copland composed the second and third –Paisaje Mexicano and Danza de Jalisco – in 1959 in Acapulco. When Copland conducted the two pieces on April 20, 1965 he felt they were too short for concert performance. When Andre Kostelanetz commissioned the composer to write a work for his Promenade Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, Copland added Estribillo to the set. Kostelanetz led the premiere on June 2, 1972.
Copland said the work “is just what the title suggests. The tunes, the rhythms, and the temperament of the pieces are folksy, the orchestration is bright and snappy and the music sizzles along.”
Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Chamber Symphony, Op.110a
In July, 1960 Dimitri Shostakovich was in Dresden writing the score for Soviet director Leo Arnstham’s film Five Days and Five Nights – a drama about the Allied bombing of the German city during World War II. In a mere three days he composed his Eighth String Quartet. He wrote to his friend Isaak Glikman “I was staying in the town of Gorlitz…forty kilometers from Dresden. I wrote a quartet that is ideologically flawed and of no use to anybody. I was thinking about the fact that if I die sometime or other, it is pretty unlikely that someone will write a work in my memory. So I decided to write such a piece myself. You could even write on the cover ‘Dedicated to the memory of the author of this quartet.’ The basic theme of the quartet consists of the notes DSCH, i.e. my initials. The quartet makes use of themes from my works and the revolutionary song Tormented by Grievous Bondage.”
On the score’s title page the composer inscribed “To the memory of the victims of fascism and war.” Shostakovich said that the quartet was inspired by the ghostly devastation he had witnessed in the bombed city of Dresden. Yet this work is autobiographical. Shostakovich is quoted by Solomon Volkov in Testimony: the Memoirs of Dimitri Shostakovich (admittedly a disputed book) as saying “When I wrote the Eighth Quartet, it was also assigned to the department of ‘exposing fascism.’ You have to be blind and deaf to do that, because everything in the quartet is as clear as a primer. I quote Lady Macbeth (of Mtsensk), the First and Fifth Symphonies. What does fascism have to do with these? The Eighth is an autobiographical quartet.” Indeed the fifteen string quartets are Shostakovich’s most personal works.
The powerful score also quotes themes from the composer’s Eighth Symphony, the Piano Trio, and the Cello Concerto No.1. There are also illusions to Wagner and Tchaikovsky. Regarding the Jewish folk theme from the Piano Trio (which is quoted in the second movement of the Eighth Quartet) Shostakovich is quoted by Volkov as saying “I think, if we speak of musical impressions, that Jewish folk music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it. It’s multifaceted. It can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It’s almost always laughter through tears.” That is an apt description of the sarcastic waltz of the score’s third movement. The opening theme of the Cello Concerto No.1 opens the fourth movement only to disintegrate into chaos. (At times the score turns to atonality.) An ominous three note figure ascends like a hammer blow repeatedly. The final Largo is a song of desolation and despair.
The work’s premiere took place on October 2, 1960 by the Beethoven Quartet. Working under Shostakovich’s supervision Rudolf Barshai transformed the quartet into a Chamber Symphony (for string orchestra) – with the opus number 110a. Barshai had been a composition pupil of Shostakovich at the Moscow Conservatory. He was the violist of the legendary Borodin Quartet (which championed the composer’s string quartets) and founder of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra which gave the premiere of the orchestral version. It was in Barshai’s arrangement that the score first drew world wide acclaim. (Now in his eighties Barshai is still active as a symphonic conductor.)