Scheherazade -



Scheherazade -
R I M S K Y - K O R S A K O V ’S
EST. 2013
GILBERT VARGA, conductor
Symphony No. 1 in D major
Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 450
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Scheherazade, Op. 35
Largo e maestoso - Allegro non troppo
Lento - Allegro molto
Andantino quasi allegretto
Allegro molto
This weekend's concerts
made possible in part
through the generosity of
David and Diane Black.
Yamaha CFX concert grand piano provided by Yamaha Artist
Services, New York, in association with Miller Piano Specialists in
Franklin, TN.
Symphony No. 1 in D major
• “The Father of the Symphony,” Austrian composer Joseph Haydn didn’t actually
invent the symphony, but he did establish it as the quintessential classical
music form. In his lifetime, he penned more than 100 symphonies — and these
concerts mark the very first time that the Nashville Symphony has performed
his Symphony No. 1. Written while the composer was in his mid-20s, the work
already has the energy and sparkle of his later symphonies.
• A former boy soprano, Haydn struggled to make ends meet after his voice broke,
and his job as Kapellmeister (musical director) for the court of the Austrian
Count Morzin was his first full-time employment as a musician and composer.
This piece must have reassured the Count that he made the right hire!
• Though we typically consider the symphony to be a four-movement form,
in this piece, as with other early symphonies by Haydn, there are only three
movements. The key is D major — also the key of his 104th and final symphony.
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major
• The pairing of Haydn and Mozart on these concerts is a fitting combination, as
the two became friends after Mozart — who was 24 years younger — relocated
to Vienna in the 1780s. His Piano Concerto No. 15 dates from this era. It’s a
beautiful example of the “grand concerto” style that he was exploring at the
time. Listen for the winds in the first movement as they introduce the jaunty
first theme in conversation with the strings.
VIENNA, 1700s
• Although this piece is considered one of the most technically demanding of
Mozart’s 27 piano concertos, the soloist is expected make it sound as elegant
and effortless as possible. Guest pianist Anne-Marie McDermott is certainly up
to the task. An accomplished performer, she gives over 100 concerts a year and
recently released an album of three Mozart Piano Concertos performed with
string quartet.
• Rimsky-Korsakov was a member of the Russian composer collective known as
“The Five,” who helped to establish a uniquely Russian musical identity in the
19th century. His best-known works — including Scheherazade — are for full
orchestra, and he is remembered today for his especially vibrant and creative
use of orchestral colors.
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• Written in 1888, by which time he was well-established as a composer,
Scheherazade is inspired by the tales from The Thousand and One Nights, with
each of the movements titled after episodes from the collection. In spite of
this, Rimsky-Korsakov didn’t want listeners to be too attached to the plot of
the stories as they listened to the piece. In his autobiography, he wrote that the
real reason he kept the title Scheherazade is for the way it evokes “the East and
fairy-tale marvels.”
Born on March 31, 1732
in Rohrau, Lower Austria;
died on May 31, 1809
in Vienna
Symphony No. 1 in D major, Hoboken I/1
Composed: c. 1759
First performance: date unknown; possibly 1759
at the estate of Haydn’s patron Count von Morzin
First Nashville Symphony performance:
These are the orchestra’s first performances.
Estimated length: 12 minutes
hrough a happy coincidence, Franz Joseph
Haydn was born just a month before George
Washington. Both, of course, are regarded as
major founding figures. In Haydn’s case, this
reputation stems from his role in establishing both
the symphony and the string quartet as the most
prestigious genres of classical instrumental music,
elevating what had been entertainment to a lofty
status that has endured up to the present.
Haydn didn’t invent these genres — a paternity
test would reveal their complicated, multinational
lineage, with roots going back to the overtures
written for Italian opera. Moreover, the
symphony was attracting interest from numerous
contemporaries around the time he essayed his
own official first works in the genre. Yet during
the period of transition from the Baroque to what
later became understood as “the Classical era,” no
other figure did as much as Haydn to transform
this form of music-making into a vehicle for
cutting-edge creativity. This is the sense in which
Haydn “invented” the symphony.
The first known mention of the Symphony No.
1 is from November 1759, when Haydn was in his
mid-20s. It was in the late 1750s that he landed
his first full-time job, a post as Kapellmeister —
the person in charge of musical affairs — for the
estate of Count Morzin, located in what is today
the Czech Republic. The musicologist David Wyn
Jones points out that the new responsibility was
a game-changer: “Becoming a Kapellmeister at a
secular court must have been a challenge that was
both new and unexpected. It signaled a turning
point for Haydn and, ultimately, the whole course
of music history.”
Haydn remained in that position for only
three years (at the most — documentation of
this period is sketchy) before running into the
usual occupational hazard of the time: money
problems forced the Count to downsize, which
meant cutting his musical staff. But the excellent
recommendation Haydn presumably received led
to one of the greatest strokes of fortune in his long
life: soon after, he was hired to join the staff of the
Esterházy family.
Working for this noble Hungarian family, which
commanded immense wealth and influence,
gave Haydn the security that was essential to
his temperament. At the Esterházy estate the
composer had at his disposal a fine orchestra to
serve as his laboratory for trying out different
ideas in the symphonic format. He would
eventually write 104 symphonies, including
commissions he took up independently.
The widespread image of Haydn’s position as
being the equivalent of a servant — working at
something like a mid-18th-century Downton
Abbey — turns out to be not quite accurate.
According to the New Grove Dictionary, Haydn
“was no servant, but a professional employee.”
The musicologist Daniel Heartz points out that
the First Symphony’s home key of D major — “the
most brilliant of orchestral keys” — is the same
key Haydn chose to launch his symphonies under
Prince Esterházy, as well as the key of his very final
symphony (written for London in 1794, by which
time the composer had become an international
ount Morzin’s house orchestra is believed
to have numbered about 15 players, with
the bassoon as part of the basso continuo, laying
out the harmonic foundation of the musical
Limited as these means seem in comparison
with the lush orchestration we’ll hear from
Rimsky-Korsakov on the second half of our
program, the variety and dynamic texture Haydn
manages to elicit is yet another facet of this
composer’s innovative art.
The First Symphony is limited to three
movements: Haydn is still working out the
major parameters for what will he will burnish
into the ideal of the mature Classical symphony,
including large-scale architecture, presentation
and development of thematic ideas, and how to
balance individual instrumental voices with the
full ensemble.
Heartz speculates that the piece’s brief
proportions indicate that it “may have functioned
as the curtain raiser” to a spoken play in Vienna,
while at the same time doing double duty as music
for the enjoyment of his patron, to be played by
Morzin’s private musicians.
The first movement shows Haydn’s familiarity
with current trends in court orchestras —
particularly the elegant but energetic crescendo
that launches the work and defines its mood.
The buoyantly ascending first theme brims with
confidence and seems well-suited, in hindsight, to
Haydn’s meteoric career as a symphonist. For the
not-really-slow middle movement Haydn restricts
his instrumental palette still further to just strings
and continuo, drawing on a dance-flavored idiom
that would not have fazed listeners who hadn’t
updated their music libraries scene the heyday
of the Baroque. The finale is marked presto, like
the first movement, and returns to the attitude of
esprit and freshly discovered energy heard at the
beginning of the Symphony.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 is scored for a small
orchestra of flute, 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns,
strings, and continuo.
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Born on January 27, 1756,
in Salzburg, Austria;
died on December 5,
1791, in Vienna
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major,
K. 450
Composed: 1784
First performance: March 24, 1784, with the
composer as soloist
First Nashville Symphony performance:
These are the orchestra’s first performances.
Estimated length: 25 minutes
generation younger than Haydn — with
whom he became friends during the 1780s,
after moving to Vienna — Mozart left behind his
own impressive catalogue of symphonies, totaling
more than his 41 officially numbered symphonic
works. His later symphonies explore still other
areas of the genre’s potential, offering a parallel to
the finest of those by Haydn. But his achievement
with the piano concerto is on a par with what the
elder composer did for the symphony: Mozart
transformed an incipient genre into one of the
quintessential statements of the Classical style.
For a long time, though, the majority of
Mozart’s 27 piano concertos suffered neglect. It
took the composer’s bicentennial in 1956 to spur
renewed interest in these masterworks — along
with a deeper appreciation of Mozart’s musical
It was with his preceding Concerto in E-flat
major, K. 449 (composed less than two months
before) that Mozart inaugurated a system of
keeping track of his works with a dated catalogue.
His entry for the B-flat Concerto is March 15,
1785, which was followed by two more similarly
large-scaled concertos that spring: Nos. 16 and 17
(K. 451 and 453, respectively).
ozart was well aware of the new ground he
was breaking — and eager to know what
his father and sister thought of these new works.
In a letter from May 1784, he says he finds it
“impossible to choose between the two Concertos
[Nos. 15 and 16]. I think they are both concertos
that make you sweat. — But as far as difficulty is
concerned, the B-flat has the advantage over the D
Note the composer’s choice to launch the
orchestral introduction with the woodwinds,
which are entrusted with the perky first theme.
The soloist enters with a call to attention before
deigning to take up the actual theme. What
follows involves a fascinating give-and-take
between the piano and orchestra.
For the middle movement, Mozart touches
again on the more chamber-like style that had
characterized his preceding piano concerto. His
plan here is a theme with just two variations —
but deliciously elaborated and decorated ones.
The solo part requires a type of virtuosity different
from that of the outer movements: the ability to
make the keyboard breathe and sing in a mood of
sustained rapture.
The piano sets the finale in motion by sounding
its playful, rhythmically irresistible theme. But
it’s a deceptively simple-sounding start. Mozart’s
virtuosic demands include fearsome scales and
rhythmic accents. Timing it all precisely and
cleanly is a bit like skating on a thin crust of ice.
The piano part gives a flavor of how thrilling it
must have been to belong to those first audiences
in Vienna.
In addition to the solo piano, the Concerto No. 15
is scored for flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two
horns, and strings.
significance overall. This turnaround of opinion is
an interesting case of how the work of illustrious
performers (Clara Haskil and Edwin Fischer,
for instance) can converge with the insights
of scholars (and, dare one say, even program
annotators — especially the legendary Donald
Francis Tovey) to reawaken curiosity about music
long assumed to be irretrievably “old-fashioned.”
Mozart did not share Haydn’s luck with the
system of patronage. He searched in vain for a
suitable permanent position after his post at the
Prince-Archbishop’s court in Salzburg became
unbearable. Picking up and moving to Vienna
allowed Mozart a far greater measure of the
creative freedom he yearned for, but he was forced
to adapt to his new situation as a freelance artist.
As a result, he blazed the trail Beethoven
would emulate of finding success as a performercomposer: a virtuoso who expanded his public
following through concerts that he himself
organized. In one letter to his father around
the time he introduced the Piano Concerto
No. 15, Mozart complained that “I’ve been
feeling somewhat tired lately — from so much
performing; and it’s not the least of my credits that
my listeners never are.…” [Mozart’s emphasis]
In Vienna Mozart depended for his income on
a combination of private teaching and these public
events. The latter typically featured a fresh batch
of piano concertos, ideal to shine the light on
Mozart’s virtuosity at the keyboard — including
his remarkable gift for improvisation. “The acts
or professions of composing and performing,”
observes the musicologist Richard Taruskin, “were
[for Mozart] not nearly so separate as they have
since become in the sphere of ‘classical’ music.”
Mozart didn’t write his piano concertos as
pure “art for art’s sake,” but as market-driven
commodities. Yet he did so while pushing the
boundaries of that market. The Concerto No. 15
marks a significant departure in its prominent
use of the woodwinds, for example. Moreover,
observes concerto expert Simon P. Keefe, Mozart
here embarks on a new vision of the genre with
a perfect balance of “the grand, brilliant, and
intimate,” referring not just to the composer’s new
style of orchestration and orchestral participation
in the argument, but also to the intensified
virtuosity that is a signature of the Concerto No.
Born in Tikhvin, near
the Russian city of
Novgorod, on
March 18, 1844; died in
Saint Petersburg on
June 21, 1908
Scheherazade, Op. 35
Composed: 1888
First performance: October 28, 1888, in Saint
Petersburg, with Rimsky-Korsakov conducting
First Nashville Symphony performance:
January 30, 1951, at the Ryman Auditorium with
guest conductor Virgil Thomson
Estimated length: 48 minutes
t’s fun to speculate about what adventures
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov might
have encountered during his early years sailing
around the world as midshipman aboard a
Russian military clipper. That’s a temptation
certainly indulged by the kitschy 1947 Hollywood
film Song of Scheherazade. This cinematic
spectacle includes a scene that shows RimskyKorsakov “dashing off the main themes to
Scheherazade on the back of an art sketch hanging
on the wall of a Moroccan bordello,” as Charles
P. Mitchell describes it in The Great Composers
Portrayed on Film. And there are episodes in the
composer’s own life that might even be at home
in The Arabian Nights, the collection of tales from
across the Middle East and South Asia that first
started spreading in Europe in the early 18th
But in real life Rimsky-Korsakov didn’t write
Scheherazade until more than two decades after
his sea voyage in the early 1860s (which included a
stop in New York). He had long since been serving
as an influential professor at the Saint Petersburg
Conservatory. In fact, the composer had learned
early on to combine his passion for music with
his career in the Imperial Russian Navy. In 1873
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he was able to resign his commission and take on
the civilian post of Inspector of Naval Bands. On a
trip the next year to southern Crimea, he became
intrigued by the sound of “Oriental music in its
natural state, so to speak,” as he later described it
in his memoir.
It was while working to complete his friend
Alexander Borodin’s exotically tinged opera Prince
Igor — left unfinished when Borodin died in 1887
— that Rimsky-Korsakov’s interest in the fantastic
world of The Arabian Nights was awakened, the
composer notes in his memoir. Largely selftrained like Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin had
been the senior member of the St. Petersburg
composer collective dubbed “The Mighty Five,”
who were bent on forging a national Russian style
of art music. Rimsky-Korsakov was regarded by
others in the group as a sell-out for believing in
the importance of conservatory training, but he
played a pivotal part in getting the word out on
the creative breakthroughs of fellow members
Borodin and Mussorgsky (a former roommate),
investing huge amounts of effort in editing and
preparing their manuscripts for performance.
By 1887-88, when he composed Scheherazade
following a dry spell in his own creativity, RimskyKorsakov had established a reputation for his
command of orchestration — a subject he taught
at the Conservatory, eventually distilling his ideas
into a textbook that is still in use, Principles of
Orchestration. On one level Scheherazade can
be enjoyed as a kind of concerto for orchestra,
featuring especially prominent parts for solo
violin and woodwinds. Even as Rimsky-Korsakov
and his peers grappled with the question of how
much their music should reflect an authentic
Russian identity, his extraordinary gift for eliciting
particular sonorities reminds us of another
controversial issue composers confronted during
this period: to what degree can (or even should) a
composition tell a story that is known from realms
outside music, such as literature or painting?
Against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman
(IV). Ultimately, Rimsky-Korsakov regretted the
“crutch” such programmatic links might become,
feeling that they would distract listeners from
paying attention to the music itself.
imsky-Korsakov’s musical framework sets
off the contrast between the cruel Sultan and
the masterful narrator Scheherazade from the
beginning. The aggressive, brass-laden music
we first hear is associated with the unyielding
masculine energy of the Sultan. This is followed
by a series of dreamy chords, curtain-raiser to
a sweetly melancholy, lengthy violin solo — the
voice of his new wife, teller of tales.
This dualism serves as a prelude but also
returns, in transmogrified forms, throughout
what follows. In fact, Rimsky-Korsakov uses
Scheherazade’s violin music as a threading device
between movements. The first movement includes
one of the great musical depictions of the sea in
the orchestral literature, while the second unfolds
As the general dramatic framework for his
orchestral suite, Rimsky-Korskav provided this
scenario, borrowing the narrative structure that
holds together the Arabian Nights collection: “The
Sultan Shahriar, convinced of the deceitfulness
and infidelity of all women, had sworn an oath
to put each of his wives to death after their first
night. But the Sultana Scheherazade saved her life
by the expedient of arousing the Sultan’s interest
in a series of tales she recounted over a period of
1,001 nights…. Driven by curiosity, the Sultan
postponed the execution of his wife from day to
day, and eventually renounced his bloody plan.”
Rimsky-Korsakov would later skirt the problem
of programmatic orchestral music by devoting
his attention to opera for the rest of his career.
But Scheherazade manifests his own ambivalence
toward this question. Though the composer
began with a more abstract plan loosely involving
the fairy-tale world he admired in The Arabian
Nights, he went on to add suggestive titles to
each of the suite’s four movements: The Sea and
Sinbad’s Ship (I), The Kalendar Prince (II), The
Young Prince and the Young Princess (III), and
Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks
as a kind of theme and variations, interrupted by
a faster section. The music glows with lyricism
in the third movement, as an ironic meta-layer
of ideal love implicitly contrasts with the Sultan’s
cruelty — Rimsky-Korsakov’s references to princes
and princesses here are not to specific tales, but to
more generic scenarios.
In the widely varied final movement, RimskyKorsakov continues to dazzle through his flair
for color and textural contrast. Dramatically,
musically, and emotionally, he achieves the longdelayed closure. The critic Tim Ashley beautifully
summarizes the process: “The wreck of Sinbad’s
ship near the end coincides with the collapse
of Shahriyar’s murderous resolutions and at the
close, his theme, now purged of all its intimidating
violence, joins with Scheherazade’s in an ecstatic
love duet.”
The score calls for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes (2nd
doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4
horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani,
bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, triangle,
tambourine, tam-tam, harp, and strings.
— Thomas May, the Nashville Symphony’s program
annotator, is a writer and translator who covers
classical and contemporary music. He blogs at
ilbert Varga, son
of celebrated
Hungarian violinist
Tibor Varga, conducts
with distinctive
presence and flair.
A commanding and
authoritative figure on the podium, Varga is
repeatedly acclaimed for performances displaying a
broad range of colors, exquisite textures, and subtle
use of dynamics. Renowned for his elegant and
exceptionally clear baton technique, he has guestconducted and held positions with many major
orchestras across the world.
Varga works extensively with the symphony
orchestras of North America, enjoying regular
relationships with the Minnesota Orchestra and
St. Louis Symphony, among others. In Europe,
he works regularly with orchestras including the
Royal Scottish National Symphony, Frankfurt
Museumgesellschaft, and Royal Liverpool
Philharmonic. In the 2015/16 season, he looks
forward to debuts with the Tonkünstler Orchestra
at Vienna’s Musikverein and farther afield with
the Macao Symphony. In May 2013 Varga was
appointed principal conductor of the Taipei
Symphony Orchestra, an appointment that comes
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at an exciting time for the orchestra as it embarks
upon a journey to build its own concert hall, a
process in which Varga will be heavily involved as
Varga studied under three very different and
distinctive maestros: Franco Ferrara, Sergiu
Celibidache, and Charles Bruck. In the earlier part
of his conducting career, he concentrated on work
with chamber orchestras, particularly the Tibor
Varga Chamber Orchestra, before developing a
reputation as a symphonic conductor. He was chief
conductor of the Hofer Symphoniker (1980-1985)
and chief conductor of the Philharmonia Hungarica
in Marl, Germany (1985-1990), conducting their
debut tour to Hungary with Yehudi Menuhin. He
was also permanent guest conductor of the Stuttgart
Chamber Orchestra (1991-1995) and principal
guest conductor of the Malmö Symphony (19972000). In 1997 Varga became music director of the
Basque National Symphony Orchestra, leading
them through 10 seasons, including tours across the
U.K., Germany, Spain, and South America.
Varga’s discography includes recordings with
various labels, including ASV, Koch International,
and Claves Records. His latest recording, released in
January 2011, of concertos by Ravel and Prokofiev
with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and
Anna Vinnitskaya on Naïve Records, was given five
stars by BBC Music Magazine.
or over 25 years
McDermott has played
concertos, recitals,
and chamber music
in hundreds of cities
throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. In addition
to performing, she also serves as artistic director of
the Bravo! Vail and Ocean Reef music festivals, as
well as curator for chamber music for the Mainly
Mozart Festival in San Diego.
The breadth of McDermott’s repertoire
reaches from Bach, Haydn, and Beethoven to
Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Scriabin, to works by
today’s most influential composers. In the 2015/16
season she will premiere a concerto written by Poul
Ruders. Charles Wuorinen’s last solo piano sonata,
which she has recorded, was written for her and
premiered at New York’s Town Hall.
McDermott has recorded the complete Prokofiev
Piano Sonatas, Bach’s English Suites and Partitas
(Editor’s Choice, Gramophone Magazine), solo
works by Chopin, and Gershwin’s Complete Works
for Piano and Orchestra with the Dallas Symphony
(also Editor’s Choice, Gramophone Magazine).
Most recently, she recorded five Haydn piano
sonatas and two Haydn concertos with the Odense
Philharmonic in Denmark, including two cadenzas
written by Charles Wuorinen.
Other recent international highlights include
a performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto
with the São Paulo Symphony at the Cartagena
Festival and an all-Haydn recital tour of China.
McDermott gave special performances of works by
Charles Wuorinen in New York and at the Phillips
Collection in Washington, D.C., in celebration of
the composer’s 75th birthday.
McDermott has performed with many other
leading orchestras, including the Minnesota
Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,
Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the orchestras
of San Diego, Dallas, Columbus, Seattle, Houston,
Colorado, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Atlanta, New
Jersey, and Baltimore, among others. She is a
longtime member of the Chamber Music Society of
Lincoln Center, with whom she performs and tours
extensively each season.
McDermott enjoys touring as a member of
OPUS ONE, a chamber group with Ida Kavafian,
Steven Tenenbom, and Peter Wiley. Together, they
have commissioned more than 15 new works. She
also tours annually with violinist Nadja SalernoSonnenberg and performs as part of a trio with
sisters Kerry and Maureen McDermott. She studied
at the Manhattan School of Music and was winner
of both the Young Concert Artists auditions and an
Avery Fisher Career Grant.
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