Zellerbach Hall Series
Date/Times: February 6, 2014, 8:00 pm
Prices: $15–$74 | Location: Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley
This program opens with Stravinsky’s delightful Pulcinella Suite, derived from his commedia dell’arte ballet by the same name, followed by the world premiere of Samuel Adams’ Violin Concerto, introducing British violinist Anthony Marwood to the Berkeley audience. The evening ends with Mendelssohn’s alluring “Scottish” Symphony. This Symphony No. 3 integrates the evocative power of early Romanticism with the composer’s mature admiration for classical balance and musical design.
Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Samuel Adams: Violin Concerto (world premiere commission)
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 “Scottish”
Born on June 17, 1882, in Oranienbaum, Russia; died on April 6, 1971, in New York City. Stravinsky composed the complete score for Pulcinella in 1919-20 for the Ballets Russes at the prompting of Serge Diaghilev. Two years after the complete ballet was premiered, in 1922, he prepared a concert suite, which he revised in 1949 and which has become a repertory piece. Stravinsky also published several chamber versions of this music (for violin and for cello, respectively, with piano), titled Suite italienne.
First performance: The complete ballet Pulcinella premiered on May 15, 1920, in Paris, with Ernest Ansermet conducting. The concert suite was introduced on December 22, 1922, with Pierre Monteux conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Pulcinella Suite is scored for 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet, trombone, and strings, including a small quintet of soloists (two violins, viola, cello, and bass) as a quasi-concertino group set against the ripieno of the string ensemble. Duration ca. 20 minutes.
Praised as the gateway work toward his “neo-Classical” phase, Pulcinella is far more than an attempt to imitate the long-vanished past or to showcase Stravinsky’s skills as a forger. The work began as a ballet intended to reunite the composer with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes after the tumultuous interruption of the First World War. Unlike the massive orchestras called for in his great “Russian” ballets (including The Rite of Spring), Stravinsky restricts himself to a chamber-sized ensemble for his orchestrations of 18th-century originals thought at the time to have been penned by Giovanni Pergolesi, though less than half of the source material turns out to be genuine Pergolesi (the rest originating from a handful of obscure composers of the 18th century).
The original ballet told the story of the trickster Pulcinella, a beloved character of the Italian commedia dell’arte tradition, and his triumph against his attackers to win the girl who loves him. Stravinsky extracted a shorter concert suite made up of dances and other 18th-century forms but using a unique approach to his small orchestra that interpolates his own early-20th-century perspective.
Born in San Francisco, Samuel Adams attended The Crowden School in Berkeley and currently resides in Oakland. The Violin Concerto is in four movements and is scored for 2 flutes (both doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 Bb clarinets (I=Bb bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets (Bb and D), trombone, percussion (vibraphone, 4 metal bowls, brake drum, riveted ride cymbal, snare drum, crotales, almglocken, tam-tam, gong, sandpaper blocks, whip), harp, piano, and strings.Duration ca: 26 minutes.
The composer has provided the following comments:
The exterior of the piece is similar to many violin concertos. A dynamic between the soloist and the ensemble unfolds over its duration, it has cadenzas, and it requires a high degree of virtuosity of the violinist. But to find relevance in these tropes, I had to reconsider their emotional profiles in my own terms. Here, cadenzas, which typically signify confidence, reveal vulnerability. Recapitulations, which typically signify comfort, reveal a suspicion of making the same mistake twice. Sequences, which typically signify assurance, reveal stubbornness.
The work is in two ‘acts,’ each of which contain two movements played without pause.
I.) expo is made from two contrasting materials: a set of translucent triads played by the strings and aggressive interjections by the solo violin. The shape of the movement quickly departs from a conventional subject/countersubject dialectic and proposes a completely different narrative. The movement is punctuated by several quiet and concise cadenzas.
II.) q=152 marks the tempo of this movement. Over its brief duration (c. 5 minutes) the solo violin is at its most virtuosic, gliding above the ensemble at intervals as wide as seven octaves.
III.) aria: patiently waiting for the past to come is made from fragments of a baroque ritornello form. After several statements of an unstable harmonic cycle, a failed recapitulation emerges.
IV.) coda, coda is less of a ‘movement,’ and more of a series of question marks. The statements presented in the first movement are reiterated above a texture that slips away like water. In the last moments of the work, the orchestra ascends and descends simultaneously, leaving the violin with only its open strings, oscillating.
Born on February 3, 1809, in Hamburg, Germany; died on November 4, 1847, in Leipzig, Germany. Mendelssohn first conceived his “Scottish” Symphony while traveling in Scotland in 1829, but over a dozen years passed before he finished his first version of the score in January 1842. Despite its numbering, the Symphony No. 3, dedicated to Queen Victoria, is actually the last of Mendelssohn’s five mature symphonies to be completed.
First performance: March 3, 1842, with the composer conducting the Leizpzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.The Symphony No. 3 is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. Duration ca. 43 minutes.
A feature of this alluring symphony is the balance it achieves between the composer’s classical sensibility and Romantic tendencies toward programmatic evocation. Mendelssohn left no explicit program for the “Scottish” Symphony, but his allusion to Mary Tudor is usually cited as a subtext for at least some aspects of the work (particularly the slow movement). Commentators have suggested that other impressions from the Scottish tour also play a role, ranging from Celtic legend and folklore to the Highland Games and the fiction of Sir Walter Scott. Yet for all its Romantic associations, the music refers to no specific literary source in the manner of, say, the Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream that Mendelssohn had written at 17. Rather, the Third Symphony integrates the evocative power of early Romanticism with the composer’s mature admiration for classical balance and internally consistent musical design.
Cafe Zellerbach: 6:30pm – View menu. Reservations can be made by calling 510.642.9988.
Pre-Concert Talk: 7:00 pm – Featuring Samuel Adams and Paul Dresher. Free admission for all ticket holders.
ZELLERBACH CONSTRUCTION UPDATES PARKING