Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor renaud Capuçon Violin ravel

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Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor renaud Capuçon Violin ravel
Program
OnE HunDRED TwEnTiETH SEASOn
Chicago Symphony orchestra
riccardo muti Music Director
Pierre Boulez Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus
Yo-Yo ma Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant
Global Sponsor of the CSO
Thursday, January 13, 2011, at 8:00
Friday, January 14, 2011, at 1:30
Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 8:00
Sunday, January 16, 2011, at 3:00
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor
renaud Capuçon Violin
ravel
Valses nobles et sentimentales
Modéré
Assez lent
Modéré
Assez animée
Presque lent
Assez vif
Moins vif
Epilogue (Lent)
Korngold
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Moderato nobile
Romance: Andante
Finale: Allegro assai vivace
REnAuD CAPuçOn
INtermISSIoN
tchaikovsky
Symphony no. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)
Adagio—Allegro non troppo
Allegro con grazia
Allegro molto vivace
Finale: Adagio lamentoso
The appearance of Yannick Nézet-Séguin is endowed in part by the Nuveen Investments
Emerging Artist Fund.
Steinway is the official piano of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
This program is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
1
CommeNtS By PHiLLiP HuSCHER
maurice ravel
Born March 7, 1875, Ciboure, France.
Died December 28, 1937, Paris, France.
Valses nobles et sentimentales
F
ranz Schubert was the first
important composer to write the
word “waltz” on a score. By then—
the early 1820s—waltzing had lived
down its reputation as a scandalous
demonstration of excessive speed
and intimate physical contact on
the dance floor. Schubert knew the
waltz (from the German walzen,
to turn about) as a charming social
dance, more upbeat than the
traditional ländler—although he
knew it only from the safety of his
piano stool, where he was spared
romantic encounter, the hazards
of severe nearsightedness (he kept
his spectacles on even in bed), and
the embarrassment of standing less
than five feet tall in his dress shoes.
From his seat at the piano, Schubert
observed the life that eluded him.
ComPoSed
1911, for piano; orchestrated
in 1912
FIrSt PerFormaNCe
May 9, 1911, piano version
February 15, 1915, orchestral version
FIrSt CSo
PerFormaNCe
november 12, 1920,
Frederick Stock conducting
2
(He improvised waltzes throughout
the wedding festivities of his dear
friend Leopold Kupelweiser, letting
no one else near the piano; by a
fortuitous stroke of fate, one of the
tunes remembered by the bride and
passed down through her family
was sung to Richard Strauss, who
arranged it for piano in 1943.) In
the last years of his pitifully brief
life, Schubert published many of his
waltzes, including the thirty-four
Valses sentimentales and twelve Valses
nobles that Maurice Ravel would
play some seventy-five years later.
Ravel had little in common with
Schubert, aside from the slight stature that disqualified both of them
from military service. Ravel had
the social graces and the wardrobe
to shine at parties, as well as the
moSt reCeNt
CSo PerFormaNCe
December 5, 2006, Pierre
Boulez conducting
INStrumeNtatIoN
two flutes, two oboes
and english horn, two
clarinets, two bassoons,
four horns, two trumpets,
three trombones and tuba,
timpani, bass drum, side
drum, cymbals, triangle,
tambourine, glockenspiel,
celesta, two harps, strings
aPProxImate
PerFormaNCe tIme
18 minutes
CSo reCordINg
1957, Fritz Reiner
conducting, RCA
money to enjoy the fine life and to
collect antiques, mechanical toys,
and endless bric-a-brac. This same
sensibility encouraged a passion
for Viennese waltzes at an early
age. In 1911, after Ravel discovered Schubert’s piano waltzes, he
decided to write his own set of
noble and sentimental waltzes, taking his cue from the title and classic
simplicity of his predecessor’s
pieces. He dedicated the score to
the “delicious and ageless pleasure
of a useless occupation.”
The eight Valses nobles et sentimentales for piano were first performed
in May 1911, at a “Concert sans
noms d’auteurs,” a kind of concert
quiz show not unlike Name That
Tune, where audience members
were asked to guess the composer
of each piece on the program.
Ravel’s Valses were variously attributed to Kodály, Satie, Chopin, and
Gounod, among others, although
apparently no one suggested
Schubert. However, according to
Ravel, “a minute majority” correctly
identified his music.
The following year, Ravel agreed
to orchestrate the waltzes as a
ballet score for which he supplied the title—Adelaide—and
the scenario—a series of fleeting
romantic encounters during a party
in Adelaide’s Paris salon. Adelaide
is no longer staged, but Ravel’s
music, newly attired in shimmering
orchestral colors, quickly found a
home in concert halls.
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3
erich Wolfgang Korngold
Born May 29, 1897, Brno, Czechoslovakia.
Died November 29, 1957, Hollywood, California.
Violin Concerto in d major, op. 35
I
t could be argued that Erich
Korngold was destined to compose music; certainly he was aided
by a father who gave him Wolfgang
as a middle name, and, as Vienna’s
leading music critic, could ensure
his son what no other composer
in history could boast—one good
review for each new work. Erich
caused a sensation at an even
younger age than the precocious
Mendelssohn a century before. In
1907, at the age of ten, he played
through his cantata, Gold, at the
piano for Mahler, who called him a
genius. His fame was secure at thirteen, when the Vienna Court Opera
produced his ballet The Snowman.
The Munich Court Opera produced
ComPoSed
1945
FIrSt PerFormaNCe
February 15, 1947, with
Jascha Heifetz as soloist
FIrSt CSo
PerFormaNCe
April 3, 1947; Jascha Heifetz,
violin; Désiré Defauw
conducting
4
two one-act operas he composed
at sixteen. “One’s first reaction,”
Richard Strauss later wrote, “upon
learning that these compositions
are by an adolescent boy, is of awe
and fear . . . this firmness of style,
mastery of form, individuality of
expression and harmony, is truly
amazing.” With the opera he
composed at the age of twenty, Die
tote Stadt (The dead city), which
enjoyed extraordinary popularity
throughout the 1920s, it appeared
that, like Mozart or Mendelssohn,
Korngold might actually sustain the
remarkable success of his youth.
Although Korngold’s status
in the music world remained
high—a Vienna newspaper poll
moSt reCeNt CSo
PerFormaNCe
February 26, 1994; Orchestra
Hall; Samuel Magad, violin;
Mariss Jansons conducting
trombone, timpani,
cymbal, gong, bass drum,
tubular bells, glockenspiel,
xylophone, vibraphone, harp,
celesta, strings
June 28, 1997; Ravinia
Festival; Gil Shaham, violin;
Christoph Eschenbach
conducting
aPProxImate
PerFormaNCe tIme
24 minutes
INStrumeNtatIoN
two flutes and piccolo, two
oboes and english horn,
two clarinets and bass
clarinet, two bassoons
and contrabassoon, four
horns, two trumpets,
CSo reCordINg
A 1994 performance with
Samuel Magad, violin, and
Mariss Jansons conducting
is included on From the
Archives, vol. 21: Soloists of
the Orchestra III.
in 1932 ranked him and Arnold
Schoenberg as the two greatest
living composers!—his career
did not turn out the way his early
champions would have guessed. In
October 1934, the director Max
Reinhardt sent Korngold a telegram
inviting him to Hollywood to adapt
Mendelssohn’s incidental music
for A Midsummer Night’s Dream
for a new film version. Korngold
accepted, and, although he planned
to work there for six weeks, he
signed on with Warner Brothers
and ended up staying until May of
1935. (His first assignment was to
write the music for Captain Blood,
which made Errol Flynn a star.)
Beginning that year, he divided
his time between Los Angeles
and Vienna, and then, with the
Anschluss in 1938, he moved his
family (including his parents and
brother) to Hollywood. (He became
a U.S. citizen in 1943.)
Korngold’s film work was an
unexpected departure from the
Mozart- or Mendelssohn-like
career for which he had seemed
destined, but it brought him new
fame. He won Academy awards
for scoring Anthony Adverse and
The Adventures of Robin Hood,
and nominations for The Private
Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and
The Sea Hawk. His last film was
Deception, with Bette Davis playing
Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata—
Korngold himself was the pianist—
and Paul Heinreid performing
Korngold’s own cello concerto
(actually played by Eleanor Aller,
Leonard Slatkin’s mother).
During his Hollywood years,
Korngold devoted himself to
writing for the movies. “It was as if
he had taken a vow not to compose
a single note outside the genre
of film music for as long as the
horror [World War II] was raging
throughout the world,” his wife
Luzi later suggested. As a result,
he continually ignored requests
from his friend, the distinguished
violinist Bronislaw Huberman, for
a concerto. In fact, he had sketched
a violin concerto as early as 1937,
but stopped work when a violinist
friend told him the solo part was
too demanding. Finally, in 1945,
when Huberman asked one more
time, Korngold “immediately stood
up, went to the piano and played
a theme,” according to Luzi, that
would turn out to be one of the
main tunes in the concerto he had
long refused to compose. Korngold
immediately retrieved his old
sketches and
his Violin
Concerto was
completed
before the end
of the year.
It marked
Korngold’s
return to composing for the
concert hall
rather than
the movie
theater.
As it
Jascha Heifetz
turned out,
it was Jascha
Heifetz, not Huberman, who gave
the premiere of Korngold’s new
concerto, became its first champion,
and recorded it in 1953. “In spite
of the demand for virtuosity in
5
the finale,”
Korngold
wrote, “the
work with its
many melodic
and lyric
episodes was
contemplated
rather for
a Caruso
than for a
Paganini.”
In Heifetz,
the composer
Alma Mahler
continued,
he had found
both Caruso
and Paganini in one person.
The concerto is the first concert
work of Korngold’s to put his film
music to new use. The dramatic,
eloquent opening theme was
6
recycled from Another Dawn, a
movie Warner Brothers made,
according to the composer’s son,
simply because they didn’t want to
waste the “elaborate and expensive
standing sets” from The Charge of
the Light Brigade. A second lyrical
theme is borrowed from Juarez. The
elegant second movement, titled
Romance, takes its main material
from the Frederick March–Olivia
de Haviland movie Anthony
Adverse. The dazzling finale
includes music from The Prince and
the Pauper. Korngold dedicated the
score to someone who provided a
significant link with his far-away
beginnings—Alma Mahler-Werfel,
who had been an admirer since his
prodigy days in Vienna and had
kept in close contact throughout his
Hollywood years.
Piotr tchaikovsky
Born May 7, 1840, Votkinsk, Russia.
Died November 6, 1893, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, op. 74
(Pathétique)
F
ive days after he conducted the
premiere of this symphony,
Tchaikovsky drank a glass of
unboiled water, a careless move
that year in Saint Petersburg,
where countless cases of cholera
had recently been reported. He
died four days later. When the
symphony was performed for a
second time the following week,
the hall was draped in black and
a bust modeled after the composer’s death mask was prominently
displayed. An eleven-year-old boy,
who would soon become Russia’s
most celebrated composer, attended
that concert with his father, the
great baritone Fyodor Stravinsky.
Little Igor, whose own music
would eventually refute much
ComPoSed
February–August 1893
FIrSt PerFormaNCe
October 28, 1893, the
composer conducting
FIrSt CSo
PerFormaNCe
April 27, 1894; Auditorium
Theatre; Theodore
Thomas conducting
of what Tchaikovsky’s glorified,
understood, even at the time, the
magnitude of this loss—not just to
his family (his father was famous
for his interpretations of several
Tchaikovsky roles) but to the larger
music world as well.
At the time he died, Tchaikovsky
was one of the great figures in
music: he was at the peak of his
creative powers, and he was both
famous and beloved far beyond his
native Russia. His death came as
a shock (he was only fifty-three)
and the suspicious circumstances
surrounding his fatal illness,
coupled with the tragic tone of his
last symphony—curiously titled
Pathétique—produced a mystique
about the composer’s last days
moSt reCeNt CSo
PerFormaNCe
September 21, 2007;
Riccardo Muti conducting
INStrumeNtatIoN
three flutes and piccolo, two
oboes, two clarinets and
bass clarinet, two bassoons,
four horns, two trumpets,
three trombones and
tuba, timpani, bass drum,
cymbals, tam-tam, strings
aPProxImate
PerFormaNCe tIme
45 minutes
CSo reCordINgS
1952, Rafael Kubelik
conducting, Mercury
1957, Fritz Reiner
conducting, RCA
1976, Sir Georg Solti
conducting, London
1984, James Levine
conducting, RCA
1986, Claudio Abbado
conducting, CBS
1998, Daniel Barenboim
conducting, Teldec
7
that still persists today. In 1979,
the Russian émigré musicologist
Alexandra Orlova published a nowinfamous article proposing that
Tchaikovsky had in fact committed
suicide by poison, on the orders
of his fellow alumni of the School
of Jurisprudence, to cover up his
alleged affair with the nephew
of Duke Stenbock-Thurmor. For
a time in the 1980s, suicide and
homosexuality replaced the quaint
old tale of cholera and drinking
water, and, as Tchaikovsky’s obituary was rewritten, the Pathétique
Symphony became the chief musical victim in this tabloid tale. Even
Tchaikovsky with his nephew and heir, Bob
Davydov, pictured in 1892
Tchaikovsky’s biographer David
Brown, writing in the sacrosanct
Grove, accepted Orlova’s theory.
But in recent years, scholars have
8
wisely backed off—evidence is
almost totally undocumented—and
a number of musicologists, including the biographer Alexander
Poznansky, have refuted
Orlova convincingly.
The circumstances surrounding
the composition of the Pathétique
Symphony are dramatic and mysterious, if less lurid than pulp fiction.
In December 1892, Tchaikovsky
abruptly decided to abandon work
on a programmatic symphony in
E-flat major on which he had been
struggling for some time—“an irreversible decision,” he wrote, “and
it is wonderful that I made it.” (He
eventually turned portions of the
abandoned symphony into his third
piano concerto, which the Chicago
Symphony played for the first time
in December.) But the failure of the
new symphony left Tchaikovsky
despondent and directionless, and
he began to fear that he was “played
out, dried up,” as he put it. (“I think
and I think, and I know not what
to do,” he wrote to his nephew Bob
Davydov, whose friendship and
encouragement would help see him
through this crisis.) Although he
felt that he should give up writing
“pure music, that is, symphonic
or chamber music,” within two
months he had begun the symphony that would prove to be his
greatest—and his last.
Renewed—and relieved—by
the old, familiar joy of composing, Tchaikovsky wrote frantically.
Within four days, the first part of
the symphony was complete and
the remainder precisely outlined
in his head. “You cannot imagine
what bliss I feel,” he wrote to Bob
on February 11, 1893, “assured that
my time has not yet passed and
that I can still work.” The rest went
smoothly and the symphony was
completed, without setbacks, by the
end of August.
Tchaikovsky conducted the
premiere of his new symphony on
October 16 in Saint Petersburg.
The audience—“all Saint
Petersburg”—rose and cheered
when the composer appeared on
stage. But after the symphony,
the applause was half-hearted; the
crowd didn’t know what to make of
this sober, gloomy music. Leaving
the concert hall, Tchaikovsky
complained that neither the audience nor the orchestra seemed to
like the piece, although two days
later he decided that “it is not that
it wasn’t liked, but it has caused
some bewilderment.”
The morning after the premiere,
the composer told his brother
Modest that the symphony needed
a title. (Tchaikovsky had originally
thought of calling it the Program
Symphony.) Modest first suggested
Tragic and then Pathétique, which
in Russian carries a meaning closer
to passionate, full of emotion and
suffering. Tchaikovsky agreed at
once, and in his brother’s presence
wrote on the first page the title that
“remained forever,” as Modest later
recalled, although the composer
himself soon had second thoughts.
(Tchaikovsky’s publisher, who
knew the marketing value of a good
title, ignored the composer’s urgent
request that it simply be printed as
Symphony no. 6.)
Like the abandoned E-flat major
symphony, the new B minor score
was programmatic, but, as he wrote
to Bob, “with such a program that
will remain a mystery to everyone—let them guess.” Bob was
only the first to ponder, in vain, the
meaning of this deeply personal
work. (And even he, to whom
Tchaikovsky would ultimately
dedicate the score, couldn’t draw a
satisfactory answer from the composer except that it was “imbued
with subjectivity.”)
Tchaikovsky carried his program
with him to the grave. Cryptic
notes scribbled among his sketches
at the time refer to a symphony
about life’s aspirations and disappointments—yet another manifestation of the central theme of both
Swan Lake and Eugene Onegin,
and in fact the great theme of the
composer’s life: the painful search
for an ideal that is never satisfied.
As scholars have learned more
about Tchaikovsky’s unfulfilled
homoerotic passion for his nephew
Bob—a mismatch of youth and
middle age, and a tangle of sexual
persuasions in a society fiercely
intolerant of homosexuality—the
temptation to read this symphony
as the composer’s heartbreaking
confession of a painful, repressed
life has inevitably proved irresistible. In the inexhaustibly expressive,
but sufficiently ambiguous language
of music, Tchaikovsky could tell
the story of his life—honestly and
unsparingly—without ever giving
up its secrets. The abstract nature of
music has, arguably, never been so
fearlessly tested.
The temptation to read something tragic into this score is as
old as the music itself. Even the
9
composer, who didn’t want to
divulge his meaning, admitted
before the premiere that it had
something of the character of a
requiem. (The trombone incantations in the first movement actually
quote a Russian Orthodox chant for
the dead.) And surely the first audience was stunned—or bewildered,
as Tchaikovsky noted—by the
unconventionally slow and mournful finale, trailing off into silence at
the end, with just cellos and basses
playing pppp. When Tchaikovsky
died so suddenly and violently
on the heels of the premiere, the
symphony became identified at
once, perhaps inextricably, with its
composer’s death. By the memorial
performance on November 6, the
Russian Musical Gazette had already
determined that the symphony
was “indeed a sort of swan song, a
presentiment of imminent death.”
(More than a century later, Orlova’s
devotees were to make much of the
slowly fading final pages as a depiction of suicide.)
© 2011 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
T
10
he score itself, though perhaps
dulled by familiarity, is one of
Tchaikovsky’s most inspired creations. All of its true masterstrokes
are purely musical, not programmatic. It begins uniquely, with the
sound of a very low bassoon solo
over murky strings. (This slow
introduction is in the “wrong” key,
but eventually works its way into
B minor.) The entire first movement
sustains the tone, although not
the tempo, of the somber opening.
The soaring principal theme, to be
played “tenderly, very songfully, and
elastically,” is one of Tchaikovsky’s
greatest melodies. (Tchaikovsky
carefully directs the emotional
development of this rich and
expansive tune all the way down to
a virtually unprecedented thread
of sound, marked pppppp.) The
recapitulation reorders and telescopes events so that the grand and
expressive melody, now magically
rescored, steals in suddenly and
unexpectedly, to great effect.
The central movements are, by
necessity, more relaxed. The first is
a wonderful, singing, undanceable
waltz, famously set in 5/4 time.
(There’s a real waltz, in 3/4, in
Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.)
The second is a brilliant, dazzlingly
scored march, undercut throughout
by a streak of melancholy.
The finale begins with a cry of
despair, and although it eventually unveils a warm and consoling
theme begun by the violins against
the heartbeat of a horn ostinato,
the mood only continues to darken,
ultimately becoming threatening in
its intensity. In a symphony marked
by telling, uncommonly quiet gestures—and this from a composer
famous for bombast—a single soft
stroke of the tam-tam marks the
point of no return. From there it is
all defeat and disintegration, over a
fading, ultimately faltering pulse.
Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.