Chicago Symphony Orchestra Riccardo Muti Zell Music Director Edo



Chicago Symphony Orchestra Riccardo Muti Zell Music Director Edo
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti Zell Music Director
Pierre Boulez Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus
Yo-Yo Ma Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant
Global Sponsor of the CSO
Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 8:00
Saturday, March 28, 2015, at 8:00
Edo de Waart Conductor
Orion Weiss Piano
Nocturne for Orchestra
First Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Allegro maestoso
Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Allegro con brio
Poco allegretto
The appearance of Orion Weiss is endowed in part by the Nuveen Investments Emerging Artist Fund.
This program is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
COMMENTS by Phillip Huscher
Michael Ippolito
Born January 28, 1985, Tampa, Florida.
Nocturne for Orchestra
Michael Ippolito is both a
composer and a performer
whose still-young career
has ignored the old-fashioned boundaries: he has
collaborated with classical,
folk, and jazz musicians—
in everything from
experimental improvisation to traditional klezmer
music. He studied at the Juilliard School (with
John Corigliano, the CSO’s first-ever composer-in-residence, from 1987 to 1990) and at the
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of
Music, and was a composer fellow at the Aspen
Music Festival. Ippolito is now assistant professor
of composition at Texas State University.
Not surprisingly, given the variety of his
musical experiences, the range of sights and
sounds that generate Ippolito’s own music is
wide: an Ansel Adams photograph, a field
recording of a Croatian folk song, poems by Carl
Sandburg and Siegfried Sassoon, three Japanese
haiku about mushrooms. Recent works include
a string quartet inspired by Bruce Chatwin’s
book The Songlines; a large ensemble piece, West
of the Sun, which takes its name from a novel by
Haruki Murakami; Lights Out!, for violin and
piano, inspired by old-time radio shows; and A
Feast of Fools, a piece for large ensemble based
on the medieval celebration of “drunkenness and
bawdy humor, of social inversion, ceremonial
parody, and licensed foolishness.” His Nocturne,
originally a chamber work for flute, violin, and
piano, and later rescored for orchestra, takes its
initial cue from the work by the Spanish surrealist painter and sculptor Joan Miró, who died in
1983, two years before Ippolito was born.
My Nocturne was originally inspired by Joan
Miró’s 1940 painting of the same name. I was
first drawn to the pure visual appeal of Miró’s
fantastical figures and swirling lines, but I was
also intrigued by the idea of a “nocturne” with
so much energy and whimsy. As I thought about
the tension between the title and the image, the
other approaches to the nocturne came to my
mind—from the Whistler paintings and the
dreamy world of Chopin and Field that inspired
him, to the colorful and diverse Debussy pieces,
to the creaking and sliding “night music” of
Bartók. In the end, my piece is about the different connotations of the title as much as it is about
an imagined nocturnal scene.
Nocturne is in three large sections. The
opening evokes a hazy world, with allusions to
familiar nocturnal imagery floating in and out
of focus. The middle section is a wild scherzo
inspired by Miró’s bizarre nocturne. At the end,
the music from the opening section returns, with
a brief nod to Chopin before the music evaporates
to nothing. COMPOSED
2010, for flute, violin, and piano
2011, for orchestra
These are the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra’s first performances.
horns, two trumpets, three trombones,
tuba, timpani, percussion, harp,
piano, strings
February 27, 2012, New York City
two flutes and piccolo, two oboes,
two clarinets, two bassoons, four
10 minutes
Wolfgang Mozart
Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, Austria.
Died December 5, 1791, Vienna, Austria.
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Mozart wrote twelve
piano concertos in less
than three years. We can
follow his extraordinary
progress almost day by
day, because in 1784 he
began to catalog his
works, entering each of
his compositions in a
small, hand-bound
volume as soon as he finished it. (He even took
the book with him on trips, since he never knew
when he might complete one of several works in
progress.) He listed six piano concertos that year
alone, an astonishing creative achievement and
something of a logistical feat as well, since during
those same twelve months he worked on several
other substantial scores; maintained a heavy
teaching schedule; gave many concerts; entertained a number of house guests; suffered from a
kidney infection; recorded the birth of his second
son; and moved his entire family, not once, but
twice, to new lodgings.
This was the busiest, most productive period
of Mozart’s life, and he consistently worked
at the peak of his powers, both as a composer
and as a performer. He apparently thrived on a
high-energy existence and a packed calendar—on
March 3, when he wrote to his father that he
had twenty-two concerts in thirty-eight days,
he couldn’t fail to see the bright side of such a
1786, completed on December 4
date unknown, possibly in
December 1786
December 13, 1955, Orchestra
Hall. Rudolf Serkin as soloist, Fritz
Reiner conducting
July 13, 1956, Ravinia Festival.
Leon Fleisher as soloist, Igor
Markevitch conducting
grueling schedule: “I don’t think that this way I
can possibly get out of practice.” The three years
beginning in 1784 marked Mozart’s heyday as a
performer, and these twelve concertos were his
main performing vehicles.
T he C major concerto we now know
as K. 503 wraps up this exceptional
period—it is the twelfth and final work
in Mozart’s outpouring of concertos, and the
last one he would write for more than a year.
It comes at the end of 1786, a very busy year
that began with two operas—The Impresario
and The Marriage of Figaro—and included two
other piano concertos and the last of the horn
concertos, as well as the E-flat piano quartet
and several other remarkable pieces of chamber
music. Mozart worked simultaneously on the
C major concerto and the Prague Symphony,
completing the former on December 4 and the
symphony two days later. (With a few days
left on the calendar, he turned out one of his
most original compositions, the concert aria
with obbligato piano, Ch’io mi scordi di te.)
For many years, the C major piano concerto
was seldom played, particularly compared to its
immediate predecessor in C minor, which immediately attracted attention with its unusually
dark and dramatic colors. K. 503 is quite unlike
any other concerto in the series. It’s certainly
the grandest and most symphonic of all. The key
February 23 & 25, 2006, Orchestra
Hall. Alfred Brendel as soloist, Daniel
Barenboim conducting
July 23, 2006, Ravinia Festival.
Andreas Haefliger as soloist, James
Conlon conducting
solo piano, one flute, two oboes, two
bassoons, two horns, two trumpets,
timpani, strings
Orion Weiss
32 minutes
1958. André Tchaikowsky as soloist,
Fritz Reiner conducting. RCA
itself—C major (the one Haydn later
picked for the depiction of light in The
Creation)—regularly inspired some of
Mozart’s most brilliant and majestic
music, such as the earlier piano concerto in the same key (K. 467), or the
Jupiter Symphony yet to come. K. 503
is, in fact, Mozart’s longest concerto,
the first movement alone running to a
more than generous 432 measures.
I n The Classical Style, Charles
In 1784, Mozart began to catalog his music (Index of all my works)
Rosen writes of the “almost
same pitch.) When, at the beginning of the
neutral character of the material”
development section, the piano seems to begin on
in the first movement, and for once, Mozart’s
the wrong notes (again in the knocking rhythm),
subjects seem deliberately conventional. The first
the effect is so striking that Beethoven decided
sixteen measures, for example, offer little more
than grand cadential flourishes—a commonplace to borrow it for his own Fourth Piano Concerto,
written twenty years later, at the same point in
series of chords that would seem more fitting
the movement and in the identical rhythm.
at the very end, to bring down the curtain.
The Andante is another sonata-form moveBut in the seventeenth measure, Mozart adds
ment, on a much more intimate scale, with piano
a tiny gesture in the oboes and bassoons, first
phrases so lavishly decorated that one can only
in C major, then in C minor, introducing an
wonder how Mozart would have further embelambiguity of mood that will color the entire
lished them in performance, as was common
movement with a continual flickering of light
practice at the time.
and shadow. And, in the very next measure, he
The rondo finale begins cheerfully enough, but
launches a plain rhythmic figure that will take
again the clouds roll in, and music that seemed
over the whole movement, much as Beethoven’s
buoyant at first soon appears less certain. A
famous knocking theme dominates his Fifth
particularly dark and passionate episode appears
Symphony. (The rhythm is the same—three
midway through. The ending is upbeat, inventive,
short hammer strokes followed by a longer
and brilliant. note—although Mozart places all four on the
Johannes Brahms
Born May 7, 1833, Hamburg, Germany.
Died April 3, 1897, Vienna, Austria.
Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
The Chicago Symphony
played Brahms’s Third
Symphony its very first
season. By that time,
Johannes Brahms, still
very much alive, had
stopped writing symphonic music. Little more
than a year before, he had
announced his decision to
quit work on his fifth symphony. It was a time of
tying up loose ends, finishing business, and
clearing the desk. (Brahms was a tidy man; he
left virtually no evidence of his unfinished
fifth symphony.)
It’s hard to imagine a time when Brahms’s
Third Symphony was contemporary music. To
many listeners today, it’s emphatically classic (in
the sense of a work of enduring excellence, cozily
familiar and harmless), but several hundred
people walked out of the first Boston Symphony
performance in 1884. (It had been introduced
to America a month before at one of Frank van
der Stucken’s Novelty Concerts in New York.)
But Brahms’s Third was once a novelty, tough for
orchestras and difficult for audiences.
Even when Brahms’s music was new, it was
hardly radical. Brahms was concerned with
writing music worthy of standing next to that
by Beethoven; it was this fear that kept him
from placing the double bar at the end of his
first symphony for twenty years. Hugo Wolf, the
December 2, 1883; Vienna, Austria
April 22 & 23, 1892, Auditorium
Theatre. Theodore Thomas conducting
July 11, 1936, Ravinia Festival. Hans
Lange conducting
adventuresome song composer, said, “Brahms
writes symphonies regardless of what has
happened in the meantime.” He didn’t mean that
as a compliment, but it touches on an important
truth: Brahms was the first composer to develop
successfully Beethoven’s rigorous brand of symphonic thinking.
Hans Richter, a musician of considerable
perception, called this F major symphony
Brahms’s Eroica. There’s certainly something
Beethovenesque about the way the music is developed from the most compact material, although
the parallel with the monumental, expansive
Eroica is puzzling, aside from the opening tempo
(Allegro con brio) and the fact that they are both
third symphonies. Brahms’s Third Symphony is
his shortest and his most tightly knit. Its substance came to him in a relatively sudden spurt: it
was mostly written in less than four months—a
flash of inspiration compared to the twenty years
he spent on his First Symphony. Brahms was
enjoying a trip to the Rhine at the time, and he
quickly rented a place in Wiesbaden, where he
could work in peace, and canceled his plans to
summer in Bad Ischl. The whole F major symphony was written nonstop.
T he benefit of such compressed work is a
thematic coherence and organic unity
rare even in Brahms. Clara Schumann
wrote to Brahms on February 11, 1884, after
having spent hours playing through the work
March 13, 14, 15 & 18, 2003, Orchestra
Hall. David Robertson conducting
July 15, 2011, Ravinia Festival.
Christoph von Dohnányi conducting
two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets,
two bassoons and contrabassoon, four
horns, two trumpets, three trombones,
timpani, strings
36 minutes
1940. Frederick Stock conducting.
1957. Fritz Reiner conducting. RCA
1976. James Levine conducting. RCA
1978. Sir Georg Solti conducting.
1993. Daniel Barenboim conducting.
in its two-piano version: “All the movements
seem to be of one piece, one beat of the heart.”
Clara had been following Brahms’s career
ever since the day he showed up at the door
some thirty years earlier, asking to meet her
famous husband Robert. By 1884, Robert
Schumann—Brahms’s first staunch advocate—
was long dead, and Brahms’s on-again-off-again
infatuation with Clara was off for good. But
she was still a dear friend, a musician of great
insight, and a keen judge of his work.
Surely, in trying to get her hands around the
three massive chords with which Brahms begins,
Clara noted in the top voice the rising F, A-flat,
F motive that had become Brahms’s monogram
for “frei aber froh” (free but joyful), an optimistic response to the motto of his friend Joseph
Joachim, “frei aber einsam” (free but lonely). It’s
one of the few times in Brahms’s music that the
notes mean something beyond themselves. That
particular motive can be pointed out again and
again throughout the symphony—it’s the bass
line for the violin melody that follows in measures three and four, for example. Clara also can’t
have missed the continual shifting back and forth
from A-natural to A-flat, starting with the first
three chords and again in the very first phrase
of Brahms’s cascading violin melody. Since
the half step from A-natural down to A-flat
darkens F major into F minor, the preeminence
of F major isn’t so certain in this music, even
though we already know from the title that it
will win in the end.
In four measures (and as many seconds),
Brahms has laid his cards on the table. In the
course of this movement and those that follow,
we could trace, with growing amazement, the
progress of that rising three-note motive, or the
falling thirds of the violin theme, or the quicksilver shifts of major to minor that give this music
its peculiar character. This is what Clara meant
when she commented that “all the movements
seem to be of one piece,” for, although Brahms’s
connections are intricate and subtle, we sense
their presence, and that they are unshakable.
For all its apparent beauty, Brahms’s Third
Symphony hasn’t always been the most easily
grasped of his works. Brahms doesn’t shake us
by the shoulders as Beethoven so often did, even
though the quality of his material and the logic
of its development is up to the Beethovenian
standards he set for himself. All four movements
end quietly—try to name one other symphony
of which that can be said—and some of its most
powerful moments are so restrained the tension
is nearly unbearable.
Both the second and third movements hold
back as much as they reveal. For long stretches,
Brahms writes music that never rises above
piano; when it does, the effect is always telling.
The Andante abounds in beautiful writing for the
clarinet, long one of Brahms’s favorite instruments. (The year the Chicago Symphony first
played this symphony, Brahms met the clarinetist
Richard Mühlfeld, who inspired the composer’s
last great instrumental works, the Clarinet Trio
and the Clarinet Quintet.) The third movement
opens with a wonderful, arching theme for
cello—another of the low, rich sounds Brahms
favored—later taken up by the solo horn in a passage so fragile and transparent it overrules all the
textbook comments about the excessive weight of
Brahms’s writing.
There is weight and power in the finale,
although it begins furtively in the shadows and
evaporates into thin air some ten minutes later.
The body of the movement is dramatic, forceful,
and brilliantly designed. As Donald Tovey writes
in his famous essay on this symphony, “It needs
either a close analysis or none at all.” Two things
do merit mention. The somber music in the
trombones and bassoons very near the beginning
is a theme from the middle of the third movement (precisely the sort of thematic reference we
don’t associate with Brahms). And the choice of
F minor for the key of this movement was determined as early as the fourth bar of the symphony,
when the cloud of the minor mode crossed over
the bold F major opening. Throughout the finale,
the clouds return repeatedly (and often unexpectedly) and Brahms makes something of a cliffhanger out of the struggle between major and
minor. The ending is a surprise, not because it
settles comfortably into F major, but because, in
a way that’s virtually unknown to the symphony
before the twentieth century, it allows the music
to unwind, all its energy spent, content with the
memory of the symphony’s opening. Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra.
© 2015 Chicago Symphony Orchestra