Chicago Symphony Orchestra Riccardo Muti Zell Music Director


Chicago Symphony Orchestra Riccardo Muti Zell Music Director
Please note that due to health-related reasons, harpsichordist Kristian Bezuidenhout
has withdrawn from these concerts. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra welcomes
Mahan Esfahani, who has graciously agreed to perform. The program remains the same.
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, April 30, 2015, at 8:00
Friday, May 1, 2015, at 8:00
Saturday, May 2, 2015, at 8:00
Harry Bicket Conductor
Mahan Esfahani Harpsichord
Dance Suite from Platée
Orage (Storm)
Air, pour des fous gais—Air, pour des fous tristes
First Menuet—Second Menuet
Air Pantomime (Fièrement)—First Rigaudon—Second Rigaudon
First Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances
Concert champêtre for Harpsichord and Orchestra
Adagio—Allegro molto
Finale: Presto
Bach, arr. Stravinsky
Four Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier
Prelude and Fugue No. 10 in E Minor from Book 1
Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in C-sharp Minor from Book 1
Prelude and Fugue No. 11 in F Major from Book 2
Prelude and Fugue No. 24 in B Minor from Book 1
First Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
Gavottes 1 and 2
The appearance of Mahan Esfahani is made possible in part by the John Ward Seabury Distinguished Soloist 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
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Born before September 25, 1683, Dijon, France.
Died September 12, 1764, Paris, France.
Dance Suite from Platée
Jean-Philippe Rameau is
one of the orchestral
world’s neglected masters.
Although he is regularly
acknowledged as one of
the most important and
influential composers of
the French baroque,
modern symphony
orchestras today rarely
play his music. When the Chicago Symphony
performed Rameau’s music for the first time in
1900, the program book painted him as a worthy
companion to Bach, pointing out that when he
died “all France mourned for him; Paris gave him
a magnificent funeral, and in many other towns
funeral services were held in his honor.” The
Orchestra played selections from his opera Castor
et Pollux the next season, but Rameau’s music was
rarely performed again after that. (From 1963 to
2006, his name did not appear on Chicago
Symphony subscription programs once.)
A contemporary of Bach, Handel, and
Vivaldi, Rameau was the greatest
French composer of the eighteenth century and one of the giants of the Enlightenment.
Like Bach, he was trained as a church organist
and choirmaster. After working in the cathedrals in Avignon, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon
(he succeeded his father in the post there), and
Lyons, he settled in Paris in 1722. That year, his
treatise on music theory, the Traité de l’harmonie,
was published, and it proved to be one of the
1745, revised 1748–49
March 31, 1745; Versailles, France
most widely studied textbooks in the history
of music.
Like Bruckner, another composer whose career
began in the church, Rameau was a late bloomer.
His success as a composer dates from 1733, when
Hippolyte et Aricie, his first major stage work,
was given a triumphant reception at its Paris
Opéra premiere only six days after the composer’s
fiftieth birthday. (It was not without its critics,
who found his style an affront to the tradition
established by Lully in the late seventeenth century, and the score became the first musical work
to be called “baroque” in the critical sense of the
word.) Hippolyte et Aricie changed the direction of
Rameau’s career, and, over the next thirty years,
he turned out another two dozen works for the
stage, representing the many kinds of French
dramatic music of the day—a number of hybrid
forms that combine elements of opera and ballet.
T he late 1740s were the most productive
time of Rameau’s career, and between
1745 and 1749 alone he composed nine
stage works. Platée was written, largely in 1745,
for the dauphin’s wedding festivities, which
took place at Versailles that March. The theme,
regarding a mock marriage between Jupiter and
an ugly nymph, Platée (played by a male singer),
seems oddly ill-suited to the occasion, particularly since the bride, the Spanish princess Maria
Teresa, was herself famously unattractive. But
apparently Rameau’s delightful music and the
riotously comic nature of the plot—highly unexpected in French opera at the time—charmed
January 16 & 17, 1931, Orchestra Hall.
Eric DeLamarter conducting Felix
Mottl’s arrangement of the Menuet
There are the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra’s first performances of
Nicholas McGegan’s arrangement of
the Dance Suite from Platée.
two oboes, two bassoons, harpsichord, strings
15 minutes
both the assembled crowd and the happy couple.
Following that single performance, Platée was
not performed again until it was given at the
Paris Opéra four years later, with a revised
libretto. It quickly became one of Rameau’s
greatest successes.
Dance music lies at the heart of all Rameau’s
stage works and is effortlessly integrated into the
action, not isolated as a special attraction, as in
later opera. The selection of dances from Platée
that Harry Bicket conducts this week includes
numbers drawn from the prologue as well as
the first two of three acts. Rameau’s knack for
writing lively, rhythmical music that naturally
invites dance is readily apparent, as is his gift
for generous melody. The suite opens with an
orchestral storm (Orage), already raging in the
very first measure and driving forward in a
steady stream of sixteenth notes to its conclusion.
(Rameau’s mastery of special effects, particularly
in the weather department, is comparable to that
of his one-time colleague Vivaldi.) The storm
gives way to two genteel dances, the airs for
the happy and sad lunatics. (According to the
libretto, the happy characters were costumed as
babies and the sad ones as Greek philosophers.)
A pair of minuets (one in the major mode, the
other in minor), and an animated pantomime
number follow. Two lively rigaudons (based on a
folk dance for couples, said to have been created
by the Marseille dance master Rigaud in 1485)
conclude the suite on a note of good cheer. 3
Francis Poulenc
Born January 7, 1899, Paris, France.
Died January 30, 1963, Paris, France.
Concert champêtre for Harpsichord and Orchestra
Wanda Landowska, who
introduced the harpsichord to the concert stage
at the beginning of the
twentieth century,
appeared with the
Chicago Symphony on
March 14, 1924. In a
program designed to show
off the still-unfamiliar
instrument, she played a concerto by Handel and
solo works by Bach, Scarlatti, and Handel on the
harpsichord (and, to demonstrate her versatility,
Mozart’s E-flat major piano concerto on the
piano). Just the previous year, Landowska had
been introduced to Francis Poulenc in Paris at the
home of Winnaretta Singer, heir to the sewing
machine fortune. Better known by her fancy
married name, the Princess Edmond de Polignac
hosted one of Paris’s most celebrated salons,
where many of the early twentieth century’s
artistic giants regularly gathered.
P oulenc was no stranger to Parisian high
society. He was born into a wealthy
family and grew up in the city center,
near the Élysée Palace. His father ran the huge
Rhône-Poulenc pharmaceutical firm (his family
name was as well known as Singer’s in business
circles), and his mother came from a long line of
native Parisians. He started studying the piano
with his mother at the age of five, and later took
lessons from Ricardo Viñes, the great pianist and
friend of Debussy and Ravel. He soon began to
meet the artistic celebrities of the day, including
Satie, Cocteau, and Stravinsky. He missed the
1927–September 1928
May 3, 1929; Paris, France
scandalous premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1913
(he was just fourteen at the time), but he caught
up with it the following year and was intoxicated
by Stravinsky’s music. In 1917, he attended the
historic opening of Satie’s Parade, with sets and
costumes by Picasso, and quickly fell under
Satie’s spell—Poulenc’s op. 1, a Rapsodie nègre,
unveiled that same year, is dedicated to Satie. In
1920, Poulenc and five of his composer friends
were dubbed Les Six, earning him a handy
label in all the music history books, but also
unfairly branding him forever as a frivolous,
cheeky sophisticate inspired by the antics of
Jean Cocteau.
I n June of 1923, Poulenc sat in the music
room of the Princess de Polignac’s Paris
estate, along with Picasso, Stravinsky, and
the poet Paul Valery, for the first staged performance of Falla’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show,
a puppet opera with a prominent harpsichord
part—introducing him both to the exotic sounds
of the antiquated instrument and to the magnetic
performing style of Landowska. (This was such
a star-studded event that no less an artist than
Viñes was enlisted as a stagehand.)
T hroughout her career, Landowska
was largely known as an early music
specialist—in 1959, her New York Times
obituary concluded that “In a world where
everyone was looking to the future, Wanda
Landowska found her element three centuries
backward in time.” But she was in fact very
much attuned to the latest developments in the
music world, and following the Falla premiere
June 5 & 6, 1975, Orchestra Hall.
Igor Kipnis as soloist, Henry
Mazer conducting
solo harpsichord, two flutes and two
piccolos, two oboes and english horn,
two clarinets, two bassoons, four
horns, two trumpets, trombone, tuba,
timpani, percussion, strings
25 minutes
in the princess’s home, she asked both Falla
and Poulenc to write concertos for her to play.
(In time, she also commissioned works from
Stravinsky, Fauré, Ravel, and Debussy, who
called her Madame Machine à courdre [Madame
Sewing Machine].)
Poulenc did not begin composition at once,
perhaps uncertain how to incorporate a sound
he associated with the music of earlier centuries
into his own sparkling modernist language. He
first studied the recordings Landowska made
in 1923 and 1926 of music by Bach, Rameau,
Handel, and Mozart. But it was not until he
visited Landowska at her country home in
Saint-Leu-la-Forêt later in 1926 that he began
to imagine how to write a concerto for this novel
instrument, of which his hostess was the greatest
champion. Throughout his stay, Landowska
played music for Poulenc—to stir his imagination, acquaint him with the harpsichord’s
technical possibilities, and introduce him to
the pre-Revolutionary French rage for music
designed for elaborate outdoor entertainments—
the so-called fête champêtre. (Jean-Antoine
Watteau’s Fête champêtre, in the collection of
the Art Institute of Chicago, is one of the most
famous paintings on the subject.) In Landowska’s
lovely rural setting, the idea of writing rustic,
pastoral music was apparently intoxicating even
to such a devoted urbanite as Poulenc (he had
barely ventured beyond the Paris suburbs before
the age of eighteen), and so he began his own
Concert champêtre at once—a country concerto
from the point of view of a true Parisian.
After returning to Paris, Poulenc often
consulted with Landowska as he worked—this
was not only Poulenc’s first concerto, but his
first major orchestral score as well—and she
insisted that he visit her regularly to go through
the score, sometimes nearly note by note, talking
through details or adjusting the instrumentation
in order preserve the delicate balance between
a modern orchestra and the eighteenth-century
harpsichord. In the final score, the harpsichord
rarely plays with the full ensemble, but with
varying chamber-music combinations. (Poulenc
eventually made a piano version of the concerto,
perhaps fearing that the harpsichord would never
catch on as a concert instrument. He performed
the piano version regularly for many years, but
today it has all but disappeared from concert
programs.) Landowska also nagged him, in her
persistent yet charming way, to finish the piece.
In the process, they became the best of friends.
(Years later, Poulenc would delight party guests
with his Landowska imitations, sometimes
complete with wig and somber attire, right down
to the sensible shoes.)
P oulenc writes three movements, in the
conventional fast-slow-fast pattern. He
begins with a stately, baroque introduction
to raise the curtain on his view of a concerto that
is at once a modern concoction and a homage
to the French harpsichord tradition of Rameau
and friends. Despite his early enthusiasm for
the radical, rebellious composers of Paris—and
even though he went to Vienna in 1921 to meet
Schoenberg—Poulenc himself was essentially a
traditionalist, although one with wit and a healthy
streak of irreverence. “I am not the kind of
musician who makes harmonic innovations, like
Igor, Ravel, or Debussy,” he later said, insisting
that “there is a place for new music that is content
with using other people’s chords.” That is the
essence of Poulenc’s own brand of neoclassicism.
(Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, the defining neoclassical
score of the era, premiered in Paris in 1920.)
Each movement proceeds, in fits and starts,
with a profusion of musical ideas, sometimes
stumbling over each other to be heard. The architecture is quirky, disjointed, and modern, but
the material itself evokes an age long gone. The
spirit of the baroque sicilienne, a slow dance in
6/8, hovers over the middle movement; the finale
is a kind of gigue. Poulenc’s signature style is, in
fact, a captivating kind of pastiche, full of genial
harmonies, impertinent gestures, and big tunes.
“I’ve often been reproached about my ‘street
music’ side,” he once admitted. “It’s genuineness
has been suspected, and yet there’s nothing more
genuine in me.” In fact, the way Poulenc marries
serious musical ideals with the wit and style of
Parisian café society is the essence of his unique
language. The trumpet calls in the finale—the
concerto’s most obvious gesture to a pastoral
tradition—are nothing more than memories of
the bugle calls he heard as a boy in the woods
surrounding the Fort Neuf de Vincennes, a quick
taxi ride from the center of Paris. 5
Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. Stravinsky
Born March 21, 1685, Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany.
Died July 28, 1750, Leipzig, Germany.
Four Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier
In 1955, J.M. Coetzee,
who would later win the
Nobel Prize for literature,
was a bored fifteen-yearold living in the suburbs
of Cape Town, South
Africa. One Sunday
afternoon, he heard music
that he had never heard
before coming from the
house next door, where transient students lived.
“As long as the music lasted, I was frozen,” he
later wrote. “I dared not breathe. I was being
spoken to by the music as music had never
spoken to me before.” Much later, Coetzee
learned that it was Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier
that he heard—at the time he knew it only “in a
somewhat suspicious and even hostile teenage
manner—as ‘classical music’.” But he realized
that afternoon—the afternoon when “everything
changed”—that he had discovered something he
would one day identify not as “classical music,”
but as a “classic”—one of our civilization’s
defining works of art.
B ach was the first great composer to be
forgotten by the general public and
then to reemerge to take his place as
one of the masters. Even so, The Well-Tempered
Clavier, his encyclopedic two-volume keyboard
collection, never went unplayed. Within thirty
years of Bach’s death, Mozart was busy studying The Well-Tempered Clavier and Beethoven
was learning to play the piano by practicing its
twenty-four preludes and fugues. Both Mozart
1722 (publication of volume 1),
ca. 1740 (volume 2)
April–June, 1969,
Stravinsky arrangement
and Beethoven eventually arranged several of the
fugues for string ensemble as a way of giving this
extraordinary music wider exposure.
The entire generation of composers born around
1810—Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and
Liszt, just to mention the headliners—came to
think of Bach as essential to their art, if not as the
foundation of music itself, and they considered
The Well-Tempered Clavier as both the first of
music’s “great books” and the bedrock of their
keyboard technique. Bach’s collection remained a
touchstone for the most adventurous composers of
the twentieth century as well. Charles Ives played
one of the fugues every morning before breakfast,
to start the day fresh. Arnold Schoenberg, who
made a full orchestral transcription of Bach’s
E-flat major prelude and fugue (Saint Anne),
liked to call Bach “the first composer with twelve
tones,” thinking of the B minor fugue from
book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, in which all
twelve steps of the chromatic scale appear in the
opening subject.
T he Well-Tempered Clavier was Igor
Stravinsky’s daily fare at the end of
his life—he loved to begin the day by
playing a page or two as a way of exercising his
fingers and jump-starting his thoughts. Robert
Craft, Stravinsky’s long-time colleague and
amanuensis, said that after the composer died, he
found the music of Bach’s E-flat minor prelude
still open on the piano. It was the last piece
Stravinsky had played, just days earlier.
Stravinsky’s final project—in a career
that stretched over seventy years—was an
April 14 & 15, 1938, Orchestra Hall.
Frederick Stock conducting his own
arrangement of Prelude no. 4 in
C-sharp minor
These are the first Chicago Symphony
Orchestra performances of
Stravinsky’s arrangement of Bach’s
preludes and fugues.
three clarinets and bass clarinet, two
bassoons, strings
25 minutes
orchestration of four of Bach’s preludes and
fugues. He began work in April 1969, a year
largely given over to serious illness and to treatments in New York and Los Angeles. His wife
Vera’s diary suggests how difficult it must have
been for Stravinsky to compose—her entries for
April and May alternate progress reports on the
Bach project (April 27: “Prelude XXIV completed”; May 27: “Fugue XXIV completed”) with
medical updates (April 22: “very disagreeable
night nurse $60 a night!”; May 15: “Igor so weak,
so thin”). There is only the occasional reference
to something outside the worlds of music and
medicine (April 29: “Dinner: caviar tequila”).
Photographs taken by Dominique Nabokov in
the Pierre Hotel on May 1 show Stravinsky looking all-business, with the draft of the B minor
fugue orchestration on his desk. Stravinsky
completed the Bach project that June. “My transcriptions from The Well-Tempered Clavier were
finished in the hospital,” he later told Craft, “and
the next day, my birthday, as it happened, I was
paroled back to the hotel.”
Stravinsky’s objective, like that of Mozart
and Beethoven before him, was “to make the
music available in an instrumental form other
than the keyboard.” Stravinsky originally
signed a contract with his publisher, Boosey
& Hawkes, to orchestrate two preludes and
fugues, and then later decided to add two more.
(The pencil manuscripts were never delivered;
they now reside in the Paul Sacher Collection
in Basel, Switzerland.) Stravinsky picked three
prelude-and-fugue pairs from Bach’s first
set of twenty-four (including Schoenberg’s
“twelve-tone” favorite, in B minor), and one from
volume 2. His original plan was to set the preludes for strings and the fugues for solo winds,
but he broke the pattern when he realized that
the B minor fugue was better suited to strings.
The composer who once made history completely
redecorating Pergolesi’s music in Pulcinella is
remarkably faithful to the Bach scores he loved.
T hese final pages from the great twentiethcentury master were unknown for many
years after Stravinsky’s death. They were
not discussed in the Stravinsky literature, and
remained unpublished until 2012. More than
just the last thoughts of a dying man, they are a
testament to the enduring quality of music and
the nourishing spirit of the creative act. 7
J. S. Bach
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
When the young
Mendelssohn played the
first movement of Bach’s
Third Orchestral Suite on
the piano for Goethe, the
poet said he could see “a
procession of elegantly
dressed people proceeding
down a great staircase.”
Bach’s music was nearly
forgotten in 1830, and Goethe, never having
heard this suite before, can be forgiven for
wanting to attach a visual image to such stately
and sweeping music.
Today it’s hard to imagine a time when Bach’s
name meant little to music lovers and when
these four orchestral suites weren’t considered
landmarks. But in the years immediately following Bach’s death in 1750, public knowledge
of his music was nil, even though other, more
cosmopolitan composers, such as Handel, who
died only nine years later, remained popular. It’s
Mendelssohn who gets the credit for the rediscovery of Bach’s music, launched in 1829 by his
revival of the Saint Matthew Passion in Berlin.
A very large portion of Bach’s orchestral
music is lost; the existing twenty-some solo
concertos, six Brandenburg Concertos, and
four orchestral suites no doubt represent just
the tip of the iceberg. We’re probably lucky to
have these four suites at all, in fact, since they
aren’t mentioned—even in passing—either in
the extensive obituary prepared by Carl Philipp
Emanuel Bach, the composer’s son, or in
J. N. Forkel’s pioneering biography published in
ca. 1731
date unknown
October 23 & 24, 1891,
Auditorium Theatre. Theodore
Thomas conducting
1802. And so when Mendelssohn tried to interest Goethe in the magnificent unfolding of the
opening of Bach’s third suite, this was recently
discovered music, unknown to all but the most
serious musicians.
The numbering of Bach’s four suites, like that
of Dvořák’s symphonies, is a convention that
has little to do with their order of composition.
The first suite is, apparently, the earliest, dating
from before 1725, but the second is the last and
the fourth suite was probably written around the
time of the first. The third suite can be dated,
with some certainty, from 1731. None of Bach’s
original manuscripts for the suites has survived,
which makes dating them unusually difficult. But
for the third suite we have a set of parts written
in three hands: by Bach himself (the last two
movements of the first violin and continuo parts);
by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who served
as his father’s copyist beginning in 1729; and by
Johann Ludwig Krebs, who often worked for the
composer around 1730. (The collaborative nature
of the writing out of the parts suggests that Bach
was unusually pressed for time.) And we know
that this suite was written for performance by
the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, which Bach
took over in 1729, for concerts given at Gottfried
Zimmermann’s coffeehouse every Friday night
from 8 to 10.
Bach didn’t call these works suites—he used
the conventional term of the day, overture,
after their grand opening movements. But they
are unmistakably suites—that is to say, sets of
varied popular dances. For the idea of starting
each one off with a large-scale overture, Bach
June 29, 1941, Ravinia Festival.
Frederick Stock conducting (Air and
Gavotte only)
August 5, 1948, Ravinia Festival. Pierre
Monteux conducting
August 28, 2000, Ravinia Festival.
Vladimir Feltsman conducting
April 3, 4 & 5, 2009, Orchestra Hall.
Pinchas Zukerman conducting
two oboes, three trumpets, timpani,
strings, continuo
21 minutes
was indebted to
Lully, the
French composer
who perfected what
we now call the
French overture:
a solemn, striding
introduction kept
in motion by the
brittle snap of dotted
Bach’s son Carl
rhythms, followed by
Philipp Emanuel
a quick, lively, imitative main section.
Bach borrows Lully’s boilerplate but makes his
overtures into magnificent, expansive pieces that
tower over the dances that follow. (In fact, Bach’s
overtures are nearly as long as the remainder of
the suites they introduce.) Mendelssohn picked
wisely when he played one of these overtures
for Goethe, for they are among the most
impressive and exciting of Bach’s instrumental
pieces—and he knew from previous experience
that Goethe didn’t easily fall under music’s spell.
(Mendelssohn finally admitted, to his surprise
and frustration, that the great poet wasn’t particularly sophisticated in his musical tastes.)
For the remaining movements, Bach used
many of the most popular forms of his day. (Each
© 2015 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
of the suites includes a different, hand-picked
selection.) The third suite includes the gavotte,
a gracious dance in duple meter that, despite its
origins as a French peasant dance, was regularly performed in court circles in the sixteenth
century; the bourrée, a lively French folk dance
in duple meter that was often danced at the court
of Louis XIV, who reigned from 1643 to 1715;
and the gigue, a fast dance that originated in
Ireland and England, where it was known as the
jig (Shakespeare calls it “hot and hasty”).
No single movement is as famous as the
Italianate aria of the third suite. This is one of
Bach’s most magnificent creations, the limpid
beauty of its melody overshadowing an accompaniment of unusual contrapuntal richness. (The
familiar title, Air on the G String, refers not to
Bach’s original, but to an arrangement for solo
violin made by August Wilhelmj in 1871 that
transposed the melody more than an octave
lower so that it could be played on the violin’s
lowest string, the one tuned to G.) Perhaps
Mendelssohn miscalculated in not picking this
movement to play for Goethe, for it has rarely
failed to move listeners since. Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra.