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“Escape to Delight” – Signature Concert No. 3
February 4 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm MST
“Escape to Delight” with a concert of classic and delightful works.
Saturday, February 4, 2023
Pre-Concert Lecture at 6:30
Lincoln Center Main Stage
417 W. Magnolia St.
Fort Collins, CO 80521
$25-67 adult, $10 student/child
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This evening’s performance includes Guadeloupean Creole classical composer Joseph Bologne’s dance-like Symphony No. 1, Joseph Haydn’s fanciful Symphony No. 103, Drum Roll, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s precocious Piano Concerto No. 24, featuring “Curtis to Colorado” pianist Avery Gagliano, and American composer Amy Beach’s delightful waltz, Bal Masqué.
Featured Pianist: Avery Gagliano
Featured Violinist: Heather MacArthur, FCS Concertmaster finalist
What’s interesting about this concert:
– This concert features 47 professional FCS musicians, plus our conductor Maestro Kenney and guest pianist Avery Gagliano. The orchestra spent 7.5 hours in rehearsal. This means over 367 total hours of meticulous rehearsal by dedicated and passionate musicians have gone into this two-hour concert.
– Joseph Haydn, Joseph Bologne, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are three of the most important composers from the classical period. Haydn is considered the “Father of the Symphony.” Joseph Bologne was the first significant Black classical composer and one of Haydn’s supporters. And Mozart is one of the most famous composers in history.
– Because of his virtuosity as a composer, conductor, and violinist, and the fact that the two were active at the same time, Joseph Bologne was often called the “Black Mozart.” He was actually 11 years older than Mozart and most likely inspired the younger composer.
– Before becoming a professional musician, Joseph Bologne achieved fame as a fencer. It is said that he was only ever defeated once. At age 17, he was appointed an officer of King Louis XV’s guard, earning him the title “Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges.” The upcoming film “Chevalier,” opening in theaters on April 7th, tells the dramatic story of his life.
– Haydn’s 103rd symphony is called the “Drum Roll” because it begins with a drum roll. This is a very odd way to begin a symphony, especially when it was written. The 2nd movement features a violin solo, which is also rarely heard in a symphony, even today. Concertmaster candidate Heather MacArthur will perform this violin solo.
– Mozart wrote 28 piano concertos, mostly for himself to perform with an orchestra. His Piano Concerto No. 24 is believed by some historians to be his greatest concerto. The final movement is a set of variations, which means that Mozart transforms the tune into many different shapes and forms. It will be performed by renowned pianist Avery Gagliano.
– Amy Beach was the first significant female composer in American History, and one of the first American composers to not earn her reputation by studying in Europe. She worked exclusively in America. Her piece Bal Masqué is a short, delightful waltz that will end the concert evening.
On this concert:
Joseph Bologne – Symphony No. 1 in G Major
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor
Featuring pianist Avery Gagliano
Franz Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 103, Drum Roll
Amy Beach – Bal Masqué
Learn more about “Escape to Delight”
Keep scrolling to learn more about pianist Avery Gagliano and read the introductory and in-depth program notes by Dr. K. Dawn Grapes and Dr. William E. Runyan.
Just click the buttons below to skip down to the program notes.
Or join us for:
Join CSU professor Dr. K. Dawn Grapes on the Wednesday prior to most Signature concerts for an entertaining and informative lecture about the upcoming featured composers. Light refreshments. Sponsored by the Friends of the Symphony.
Wednesday, February 1
12 noon, at the Old Town Library
Learn firsthand what it takes for an orchestra to bring live music to the stage. Houselights remain on during this comfortable preview of each upcoming Signature concert. The rehearsal closes to the public at 8:30 p.m. intermission.
Thursday, February 2
7:00 PM, at the Lincoln Center
Prior to each Signature concert, join Maestro Wes Kenney for his musings on what you are about to hear.
Saturday, February 4
6:30 PM, at the Lincoln Center
Included with ticket purchase
Escape to Delight is presented in memory
of Marilyn Cockburn and Roberta Mielke.
Guest Artist: Avery Gagliano
Avery Gagliano appears by special arrangement with Curtis on Tour, the Nina von Maltzahn global touring initiative of the Curtis Institute of Music. Also sponsored by Curtis to Colorado, Lawrence M. Moskow, HHSB Family Fund.
Avery Gagliano is a distinctive young talent who has already graduated to the big league of professional pianists while still a student at music college.International Piano Magazine
Having just made her Carnegie Hall debut and released her debut album “Reflections” on the Steinway & Sons label, 20-year-old pianist Avery Gagliano captures audiences with her sensitivity, emotional depth, and musical expression. Avery gained international attention as the First Prize and Best Concerto Prize winner of the 2020 10th National Chopin Piano Competition, and was the only American semifinalist at the 18th International Chopin Competition in 2021. Most recently, she was selected as one of this year’s two Bravo!Vail Piano Fellows.
Avery’s success has taken her to world-renown stages such as the Warsaw Philharmonic, Verbier Festival, Gilmore Festival, Ravinia Festival, Aspen Music Festival, WQXR Greene Space, WRTI Performance Studio, the GRAMMY Salute to Classical Music at Carnegie Hall, and the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Salle Cortot in Paris.
This spring, Avery will perform with the Bravura Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony in C. She has collaborated with several other symphonies in the United States, including the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, Tuscarawas Philharmonic, MostArts Festival Orchestra, Capital City Symphony, and most recently, the Oregon Mozart Players. Avery is also an avid chamber musician. She frequently performs as a guest artist with the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, and will collaborate with the Balourdet Quartet this summer at the Bravo!Vail Music Festival.
Avery received the Audience Prize at the 2019 Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition, and was the winner of the Aspen Music Festival Concerto Competition, MostArts Festival Piano Competition, and 2019 National YoungArts Competition. She is an alumna of the Verbier Festival & Academy and the Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s Young Scholars Program, a four-year winner of the US Chopin Foundation Scholarship, and has made several appearances on Philadelphia’s WRTI classical radio and National Public Radio’s (NPR) From The Top.
Avery is originally from Washington, D.C., where she studied with Marina Alekseyeva. Avery currently resides in Philadelphia and studies at the Curtis Institute of Music with Robert McDonald. She has also studied with Gary Graffman and Jonathan Biss while at Curtis.
Learn more about Avery Gagliano at AveryGagliano.com, and watch her perform an excerpt from her album “Reflections” in the video below:
Avery Gagliano performs Chopin’s Nocturne in B Major, Op. 62 No. 1
Interview with Pianist Avery Gagliano:
Guest Concertmaster: Heather MacArthur
Heather MacArthur is a violinist who enjoys sharing her passion for life and music with others. Heather began playing the violin at the age of 4 in southern California. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music Degrees from the University of Maryland, studying with David Salness and James Stern. Before moving to Colorado, she was principal second violin of Reading Symphony, concertmaster of the NIH Community Orchestra, and a section violinist with Annapolis Symphony. She also played with Virginia Symphony, Williamsburg Symphony, Fairfax Symphony, Mid Atlantic Symphony, Lancaster Symphony, and Pennsylvania Philharmonic and Symphony in C. Summer festivals she attended include the National Orchestra Institute, Miami Music Festival, California Summer Music Festival, the American Institute of Music Studies (Graz, Austria), and Brevard Music Festival. She has enjoyed the opportunity to have lessons and master classes with Augustin Hadelich, David and Linda Cerone, Andres Cardenes, Michael Klotz, Gary Levinson, Lisa-Beth Lambert, Yuriy Bekker, Elizabeth Adkins, Jonathan Carney, Charles Castleman, Martin Chalifour, Ellen de Pasquale, the Diaz Trio, Kronos Quartet, the Miami Quartet, and the Guarneri Quartet, to name a few.
Heather moved to Colorado in 2018 and she now plays with Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Santa Fe Symphony, and New Mexico Philhamonic. Outside of violin, which will always be her first love, Heather also enjoys spending time at the gym and in the Rocky Mountains. You might also frequently find her on Pikes Peak, where she is a ranger.
“Escape to Delight” Sponsors:
Curtis to Colorado, Lawrence M. Moskow. Avery Gagliano appears by special arrangement with Curtis on Tour, the Nina von Maltzahn global touring initiative of the Curtis Institute of Music.
Gary and Carol Ann Hixon
Kenneth and Myra Monfort Charitable Foundation
Anne Yanagi and Scott Johnston
Center Stage Sponsor:
Dr. David and Alison Dennis
Dr. Ed Siegel
Dr. Peter Springberg
Drs. Ann Yanagi and Scott Johnston
The advertisers below help make our concerts possible. Please show them your support, and let them know you came from the Fort Collins Symphony. Click the logo to visit their website.
Program Notes: Dawn Grapes
Joseph Bologne: Symphony in G Major, op. 11, no. 1
Year of Publication: 1779, Duration: 12:30
A long, overdue revival of the music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799) has taken root in recent years. Saint-Georges, a mixed-race French courtier, musician, and military man, led a multi-faceted life, highlighted by his exceptional athletic and artistic skills. Bologne was born on the Caribbean island of Guadalupe, one of the Lesser Antilles sandwiched between Montserrat and Dominica. His father was a wealthy plantation owner and his mother was an enslaved Senegalese woman who worked for the lady of the household. To his credit, Georges de Saint-Georges recognized Joseph as his own and took his son at an early age to France in hopes of providing the boy the best education possible. When Joseph turned thirteen, he was enrolled in fencing school, receiving training from the best in all of France. He quickly showed aptitude in the sport, and went on to become one of the most accomplished fencers and horsemen in the nation. Upon his 1766 graduation from the Royal Polytechnique Academy, he was granted the position of Gendarme du roi, a personal bodyguard to the king, and bestowed the title chevalier.
Bologne also studied music. Between 1764 and 1766, composers Antonio Lolli and François-Joseph Gossec named him in their works, revealing his skills as a violinist. Gossec hired Saint-Georges in 1769 as a member of a new orchestra he founded, Le Concert des Amateurs. In 1772, the violinist made his solo debut, performing his own concertos. When Gossec left to oversee the Concerts Spiritual, Bologne took over as concertmaster-conductor, leading one of the most popular and respected ensembles in Europe. Not surprisingly, most of Saint-Georges’s own published compositional output was primarily string-related. In addition to a number of sonatas and string quartets, as well as pairs of violin concertos and symphonies, the musician is credited with perfecting the genre of symphonie concertante, a small symphonic work that featured a number of soloists—sort of an outgrowth of the baroque concerto grosso. In 1778, a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart traveled to Paris, where he may have been influenced by Saint-Georges’s symphonie concertantes, an inspiration for the Austrian composer’s own important forays into the genre.
Saint-Georges’s Symphony No 1 in G Major is a pristine example of the early classical symphony. Composed in the late 1770s, it was premiered by the Concerts des Amateurs and published as opus 11, alongside the composer’s second symphony. Written for strings plus pairs of oboes and horns, the music is charming and balanced throughout its three movements. The first violins dominate the musical conversation while the lower strings provide rhythmic momentum. The winds lend harmonic support and timbral variety. After his orchestra was disbanded in 1781, Saint-Georges went on to lead several other ensembles, including the Société de la Loge Olympique. In this position, he was largely responsible for the commission and premiere of Haydn’s six Paris Symphonies, an important contribution to the orchestral repertoire. He maintained his other careers as well, acting as right-hand man to the Duke of Orleans and serving as a colonel during the French Revolution, when he led the first regiment in Europe comprised of persons of color. His fame and reputation were noted by many during his lifetime, but faded quickly afterward. Fortunately, his music survived, leading the way to a rediscovery of this noteworthy composer.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Year of Composition: 1786, Duration: 31 minutes
In 1778, the twenty-one year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) was in Paris, performing and peddling his own music in hopes of finding employment outside his hometown of Salzburg. In the next decade, his desire for an appointment in one of the great European courts grew desperate. He had returned home and found the working conditions unbearable. Prince-Archbishop Colloredo refused to recognize Mozart beyond his status as a standard court musician and the younger Mozart could not forget the acclaim he had received across the continent since childhood. In early 1781, the archbishop demanded that Mozart join him in Vienna, where mid-year the two finally parted ways for good. The musician resolved he would make a living as an independent artist, a very risky proposition in an age when patronage was assumed—even necessary—to make ends meet. Yet Mozart remained optimistic. He wrote to his father: “I still think I can best be of help to myself and to you by remaining in Vienna. It looks as if good fortune is about to welcome me here with open arms … I pledge myself to succeed, or I never would have taken this step.”
As a prodigious virtuoso pianist, the instrument was key to Mozart’s subsistence. In addition to commissions for operas, sales of his compositions, and teaching piano lessons, the young man’s best means of making a living was through performances of his own works. One way he assured exposure was through the organization of subscription concert series featuring his orchestral compositions, songs, and concertos, for which he was, of course, the featured performer. Mozart wrote two concertos to highlight the 1786 concert season in Vienna: Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 and Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491. The latter was one of Mozart’s most unique concertos to that time. It was one of only two written in a minor key, and also only the second in which he concludes with a set of variations. Mozart called for his largest concerto orchestration to date, using an almost complete early-romantic woodwind section with flute, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons, enhanced by horns and trumpets, strings, timpani, and drums. Beethoven later admired the work so much that he modeled his own c minor piano concerto upon it. Mozart’s composition premiered April 7 at Vienna’s Burgtheater. The venue was built in 1741 next to the royal residence for Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, whom Mozart had charmed as a child. Her son, the next Emperor Joseph and Mozart’s main target for sponsorship in Vienna, later declared the venue the official German national theatre. In addition to the two 1786 piano concertos, three of Mozart’s most popular operas also saw their premiere on the theatre’s stage, one in that same auspicious year—a little commedia per musica called The Marriage of Figaro.
Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major, “Drum Roll”
Date of Composition: 1795, Duration: 30 minutes
Haydn’s nicknames—“Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet” are well earned. His sixty-plus quartets and over one hundred symphonies standardized the genres and inspired other great composers of the era such as Joseph Bologne, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Early in his career, Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) worked variously as a teacher and performer, but found financial security in 1761 when he accepted employment with the Esterhazys, a royal family he continued working for for over forty years. Most of his tenure was spent in the service of Prince Nikolaus, with whom Haydn became quite close—or at least as close as a top servant might come to a noble master. Haydn later credited his isolation in the Esterhazy courts for his prolific musical output. He told his first biographer, Georg August Griesinger, “My prince was satisfied with all my work, I received bonuses, I could experiment as the leader of an orchestra, observe what enhanced or weakened an effect, improve, add, cut, dare. I was isolated from the world … and so I had to become original.”
Prince Nikolaus died September 28, 1790, almost thirty years after he took the throne. Son Anton dismantled the Esterhazy orchestra. Haydn was left as one of a few remaining musicians on the payroll—a Kapellmeister without performers. He resettled in Vienna. While there, he met Johann Peter Salomon, an English promoter looking for performers for the upcoming London concert season. When Salomon read of the prince’s death, he dropped all his plans and hurried to Vienna to entice Haydn to return with him. “I am Salomon of London and have come to fetch you,” he proclaimed. Salomon commissioned an opera, six symphonies, and many other works that Haydn was contracted to conduct himself in London the following season. When Haydn arrived in the city in early 1791, his music immediately charmed the English populace, in spite of his inability to speak their native language. The feeling was mutual, for Haydn spoke of his London travels with warmth and affection. After two successful seasons, he returned to Vienna, but was lured back to the English capital in 1794 for another two years, a tour in which his acclaim exceeded the first.
The twelve London Symphonies, numbered 93 through 104, were Haydn’s final contributions to the genre, and certainly represent the composer at his best. Six of them were given descriptive titles, mostly to help identify them, a sort of pre-catalog measure. Symphony No. 103, “Drum Roll,” premiered at the King’s Theatre in March 1795. The piece gained its nickname from the opening timpani gesture. Bassoons, cellos, and basses follow in a slow introduction that segues into a lively Allegro theme. Not to be forgotten, the iconic drum roll and ominous bass theme reappear toward the end of the first movement, upsetting typical classical sonata-allegro form expectations and proving that Haydn had in no way lost his ability to create original material. A slow double theme and variations follows in the second movement, leading into a minuet and trio featuring clarinets, instruments Haydn did not have at his disposal in the Esterhaza orchestra. Haydn’s finale takes advantage of four horns that sound an initial call, which proceeds to one of the most satisfying conclusions of any work of the time. Haydn had once again thrilled his new English fans. Salomon hoped Haydn would stay on, but Prince Anton died in early 1795. His son, the new Prince Nikolaus II, summoned his Kapellmeister back to Vienna in hopes of rebuilding the Esterhazy musical establishment. Haydn complied. Although a return to London did not materialize, the musician never forgot his newly adopted city nor those who helped him through an uncertain time, propelling him from “Father of the Symphony” to “Perfector of the Genre.”
Amy Beach, Bal Masqué
Date of Composition: 1893, Duration: 5 minutes
Pianist-composer Amy Cheney Beach (1867–1944) was a remarkable woman whose life and career may have turned out very differently had she lived at a different time. Beach was born on her grandfather’s New Hampshire farm just after the American Civil War, the only child of a paper maker and his wife. Amy’s mother Clara was a talented singer and pianist, and Amy’s own extraordinary musical gifts became apparent early on. By the time she turned one she could sing dozens of melodies perfectly. Within the following year, her mother noticed that the toddler had the ability to harmonize when she sang to her. It was the piano, however, that caught Amy’s attention. She sat rapt as she listened to her mother play and longed to participate. Her mother, however, feared that recognition of her daughter’s prodigious talents would corrupt the child. She forbade Amy from touching the instrument at all. Yet Clara could not stop Amy from composing or playing the piano in her head, which is just what she did. Finally, an aunt convinced her family that it was pointless to keep the child from doing what came so naturally to her. Clara relented, but strictly controlled the amount of time Amy was allowed to play. Amy later recalled: “At last, I was allowed to touch the piano … I played at once the melodies I had been collecting, playing in my head, adding full harmonies to the simple, treble melodies. Then my aunt played a new air for me, and I reached up and picked out a harmonized bass accompaniment, as I had heard my mother do.”
In 1875, the family moved to Boston. Most aspiring performers in the U.S. at the time eventually went to Europe to train, but Amy’s family found teachers close to home. Unsurprisingly, her parents were not keen on public performance and Amy’s first real public debut did not occur until she was sixteen years old. Two years later, she made her orchestral debut with the Boston Symphony, playing a Chopin concerto. That same year, she married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a much older suitor. At his request, Amy stopped performing, with the exception of yearly charity recitals. Instead, she concentrated on composition. She was mostly self-taught through frequent concert attendance, independent study of great masterworks, and reading theory texts and treatises. Her breakthrough work was a mass performed by the Handel and Haydn Society in 1892. Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, as she was identified on her sheet music, became quite well known through her compositions, most of which were published. Many were performed by various artists and ensembles, thanks to her own initiative. She wrote over 150 works, mostly for piano, voice, or choir. After her husband died in 1910, she resumed performing and continued composing. One of her most important legacies was her status as co-founder of the Society of American Women Composers, laying the groundwork for support of female artists in years to come.
Beach wrote only two works for orchestra alone. Her most famous, the Gaelic Symphony (1895), was the first symphony by an American woman to be published. The four-movement composition’s embrace of Irish-inspired melodies and colorful orchestration provides a certain audience-accessibility and long-lasting appeal. Beach prepared for the piece by orchestrating her own piano waltz, previously composed in 1893 and published for piano in 1894. In 2017, to honor the 150th birth anniversary of Beach’s birth, the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy sponsored a printing of Amy’s orchestration. While Bal Masqué is perfectly charming as a piano miniature, the piece truly comes to life when enhanced by the colors of an orchestra.
* For more on Amy Cheney Beach, consider reading Adrienne Fried Block’s Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: The Life and Work of an American Composer.
Program Notes: William E. Runyan
Symphony No. 1 in G Major, op. 11—Joseph Bologne (Chevalier de Saint-George)
It is difficult indeed, to know just where to begin with the amazing life of Saint- George (a.k.a. Joseph Bologne). If any life were said to be colorful and improbable it would be his. He was variously the first successful Black classical composer; the champion swordsman of all Europe; colonel of his own regiment, which fought in the Revolution; virtuoso violin soloist; survivor of a slave revolt in the Caribbean; confidant and companion to Marie Antoinette; conductor of famed orchestras; patron to Josef Haydn—and much more! While in many ways constrained by racial attitudes and traditions of Royal France, he nevertheless successfully negotiated his way through the complex social labyrinths of the time as a respected and esteemed member of the lower nobility and intellectual and artistic circles of France.
Bologne was born on Christmas Day on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1745, the son of a wealthy planter, George Bologne, and Nanon, slave and servant of George’s wife. Acting unilaterally, his father had assumed the noble-sounding honorific, “de Saint-George,” after the name of one of his plantations—but only later was it formalized. And in a startling contrast to the times, Bologne embraced Joseph as his son, and took him—with his birth mother—off to France, where the youngster enjoyed a remarkable education. It began with training with one of France’s best fencing masters. He excelled famously—in that, as well as in his well-documented romantic affairs. By the age of twenty-one he was considered the best swordsman in all of France. No mean accomplishment.
But, concurrently, he must have engaged in serious music study, for he joined the orchestra of the important composer, François-Joseph Gossec in 1769, and he probably studied composition with the luminary, as well. By the age of twenty-seven, he was busy as a virtuoso violin soloist, performing his own rather difficult concertos. Add to that his burgeoning career as a conductor, and you must admit the young man was off to an impressive life. His many compositions, besides a dozen violin concertos, include string quartets (among the first in France) and ten symphonies concertantes. In addition, he wrote many works for the stage, including operas. He had been proposed as head of the Paris Opéra, but racial politics torpedoed that august appointment. Nevertheless, he rose to noteworthy positions in the intricate artistic and social world of pre-Revolutionary France. He went on to found the famous Concert de la Loge Olympique orchestra, and in this rôle he commissioned Haydn to compose his famous “Paris” Symphonies (c.1785). By the beginning of the French Revolution he had continued his remarkable career as premier swordsman, had gotten involved in the dangerous politics of the Revolution, and was named the colonel of his own regiment in the National Guard.
Notwithstanding his service to the Revolution, like so many of that parlous time, he ended up imprisoned in the Reign of Terror, but escaped the guillotine, and resumed his command after the death of Robespierre. After the Revolution he went back to the Caribbean, disappeared into the tumult of a slave revolt, and for two years given up for dead. But, he resurfaced, traveled back to Paris, and resumed his acclaimed career as a conductor until his illness and death in 1799—an astounding life by any measure.
The two opus 11 symphonies were most likely composed in the middle 1770s, when the composer was around thirty years old. They are almost perfect textbook examples of the “correct” model for the early symphony. Haydn had been busy for some time—along with others—establishing the norms for instrumental music in the early classic period. Baroque musical style, with its innate spinning out of long phrases, emphasis upon counterpoint, and rich harmonies had yielded to the simpler “style galant,”—an interim style with rather limited possibilities. And now, most everyone was looking to the more simple textures, harmonies, and balanced, square phrasing that characterized the steps to the classic style of mature Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven.
Bologne’s Symphony in G Major reflects a solid education in music composition, and while displaying all of the simplicities of most early symphonies, concomitantly does not evince any traits of a “student” work. It is a finely crafted example of what symphonies of the time were—or perhaps a decade earlier. Accordingly, it consists of only three movements—the obligatory minuet lay in the future—and is scored for the conventional two oboes, two horns, and strings. The first movement is an easy-to-follow sonata form, beginning with a spritely first theme, with punchy dynamic accents and pizzicato strings. The second theme is a bit more lyrical, leading to zippy closing material—all within the conventions of the time. The brief development has some diverting forays into various minor keys before the recapitulation.
The second movement is an elegant ballroom dance in two sections. Dance movements were conventional in all countries and styles during the eighteenth century, but this one exudes the perfumed atmosphere of the stylized culture of the court of France. It rather reminds one of a minuet, but only in duple, not triple time. The last movement is a scamper, in simple binary form, the tempo of which would certainly preclude any dignified dancers from participating. There’s a bit of frisson between first and second violins, adding interest along the way, and exuberant horns drive it all to the end.
This is a finely crafted work by a composer of striking, unlikely credentials. It reminds us that the history of music is, as are all human endeavors, usually much more nuanced and complex than later times perceive.
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart is largely responsible for the creation of the “modern” piano concerto. He wrote them primarily for himself to support his career as a performer. His spending habits consistently placed him in financial difficulties, and he usually needed desperately to concertize. Only his operas exceed his piano concertos in musical genius and historical significance. Although numbered from 1 to 27, there are some twenty-three of them for solo piano and orchestra, starting about 1767. No other genre of his is so consistently high in quality and maturity. Considered by some to be his best piano concerto, K.491 was finished in the Spring of 1786, along with another masterpiece, No. 23—so typical of Mozart to toss off two masterpieces in short order! It is one of only two piano concertos that Mozart wrote in a minor key.
While the concerto—employing a variety of solo instruments, or groups of solo instruments—had been a staple of concerts for over a hundred years by Mozart’s time, it was the advent of the piano by the late eighteenth century that enabled the genre to reach its highest expressive possibilities. Only the sonority and tonal weight of the piano really provides for an equal partner to the orchestra, and thus a foundation for the dramatic interplay between solo and accompaniment that is basic to the genre. Mozart’s contribution, other than his consummate musical genius, of course, was to “beef up” the role of the orchestra from one of simple accompaniment to that of co-protagonist in the musical drama. He also established a clear succession of sections in the form of the first movement (there are almost always three movements in a concerto, as opposed to generally four in a symphony).
Composed at the same time as his immortal opera, The Marriage of Figaro, Concerto No. 24 is decidedly darker in character than the sparkling opera. Interestingly, it has much fuller orchestra instrumentation than the other concertos. The addition of a pair of clarinets—relatively uncommon at the time, but beloved by Mozart—gives the score additional warm character.
The first movement is unusually long for the times, opening conventionally with the orchestra playing the main theme—quite the chromatic one, utilizing all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. Mozart typically resorted to a denser chromatic texture when he expressed more serious feelings, and so it is in this work. As with all accomplished composers, Mozart eschews the textbook dicta, bringing the solo piano in with new material—not the main theme—picking the latter up a bit later. And it’s not over. Later, the soloist ignores the second theme, but introduces completely new themes, as do the woodwinds, later. So much for the “rules,” but it definitely entertains with fresh ideas. The development is a complex one, but the main thrust is simply the passionate, stormy nature of the interplay between the orchestra and the soloist. The recap is a complicated affair, as well, with all of the material in the exposition to be covered. But, Mozart does it, albeit with some “telescoping” to keep it under control. Mozart didn’t compose a cadenza for the concerto, so soloists have usually provided their own. Finally, in another departure, the soloist joins the orchestra for the final drive to the end in the coda.
The slow movement is best just listened to and enjoyed, rather than analyzed, being one of Mozart’s moments of ethereal beauty. It’s in the relative major Eb, with two diversions in the middle, one to C minor and one to Ab. The themes are of the most disarmingly simple nature, obviously chosen to contrast with the heavy atmosphere and chromaticism of the first movement. The first theme heard is a convenient way to mark the transitions between the last three major sections. Throughout there are significant passages for the full wind section, often alone or with the soloist, which remind us of the composer’s elegant, magisterial writing for winds.
The last movement, unlike so many movements in the Classical period, is not a scampering rondo, but consists rather of a theme with eight variations. The orchestra alone opens with the square, straightforward theme. The soloist joins the simple accompaniment in the orchestra for the first variation. Right away you will notice two important elements from earlier in the concerto: melodic chromaticism and featured scoring for the wind section, often solo. After two more variations, the mood becomes a happier Ab , led by the wind section. Variation five returns to the basic C minor, with abundant chomaticism, often featuring the unaccompanied piano. The next variation brings another little respite in mood, this time in C major—again led by the winds. The following variation is abbreviated, leading to the cadenza by the soloist. The solo piano begins the last variation, soon joined by the orchestra. But note: the sense of conclusion is heightened by a change in meter, 6/8 time, which is a common meter for the rondos that usually characterize the last movements of concerti.
With all that one has heard in this remarkable composition—from the serioso melodic chromaticism, the expansive, intricate form, the crepuscular minor key, the imaginative orchestration, and the seemingly endless store of piano figurations—it’s easy to see why so many consider this concerto the zenith of those by Mozart.
Symphony No. 103 in Eb Major, H. 1/103 (“Drum Roll”)—Joseph Haydn
The symphony has been the major genre for orchestras since the eighteenth century. While its viability seemed questionable as the twentieth century waned, it still has its adherents among contemporary composers, and will probably survive, though not with the same universality and vitality as before. As one can well imagine, from its roots in the early eighteenth-century opera overture to the extended and monumental works of late Romanticism, such a long gestation period, growth, and maturity would produce many “parents.” Haydn has popularly been known as the “father” of the symphony, but, of course, no one is. It must be said though, that his contribution, at a critical time in its development was the most significant of anyone’s. He, who was responsible more than any other for what is known as the “classical” musical style, created the most extended series of imaginative innovations and developments in the genre as it reached early maturity under the “big three,” Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
Haydn had the good fortune as a young man to secure an appointment to the court of the wealthy Esterházy family not far from Vienna out on the Hungarian plains. There, he was charged with oversight of a daunting variety of musical activities at the extensive estate of a succession of music-loving princes. In the midst of a vigorous artistic environment at Esterháza, with a full schedule of sacred, theatre, chamber music, ballet, and large ensemble performances weekly, Haydn was charged with composing the music for much of the festivities. Taking advantage of his relative isolation, he had decades of opportunities to develop his style and grow his musical reputation from total obscurity to worldwide fame as Europe’s greatest and most respected composer. One of the happy results was the creation of over 100 symphonies that collectively illustrate the evolution of the genre. From the very early ones to the last great “London” symphonies, Haydn’s symphonies have remained central to the orchestra’s repertoire, even as they grew in sophistication and style, right along with the composer’s long life.
The culmination of this remarkable achievement, of course, are the twelve, so-called “London” symphonies that were the result of commissions that grew out of two visits to the city in 1791-02 and 1794-95. The set is sometimes called the “Solomon” symphonies, as well, owing to the impresario who made the acclaimed visits possible. No. 103 is part of the second group of six, and was composed in Vienna during the winter of 1794-95 in preparation for the première in London. The latter took place in March of 1795 at the King’s Theatre to a tumultuous reception by the audience and critical acclaim in the press. He was clearly enjoying the peak of his professional success.
The first performance was given by a large orchestra of about sixty players, preferred by Haydn and Mozart if available—contrary to today’s mistaken belief that small orchestras were always de rigueur. The symphony is typical of Haydn’s late symphonies: four movements in the usual forms and scored for a full complement of winds, strings, and timpani. It takes its moniker from the famous unaccompanied timpani roll that opens it.
In today’s hyper world of the senses, Haydn’s creative eccentricities and well-known sly sense of humor almost seems impossibly subtle. But they must be comprehended in the context of the times—a perspective almost lost to much of today’s generation. In the first movement the unaccompanied timpani roll sets up a sense of dark foreboding that the composer heightens with the following passage in the low strings—the first four notes of which parrot the famed Latin chant for the dead. The meter is ambiguous, enhancing the mystery, but the mood doesn’t last very long—ending with some ominous accents on the weak beat (you’ll hear this idea again later). The composer has set us up again, and a cheerful, boisterous theme announces the following Allegro con spiritu. Haydn’s material that leads us through the important transition to the second theme is not perfunctory, but has its own attractive significance, replete with dynamic, unison scales. When the so-called second theme arrives, it’s easy to spot, featuring the solo oboe in a decidedly waltz-like guise.
The development is a lucid example of the genius of the mature Haydn in maintaining a limited number of ideas, expanded and varied in a remarkable display of imaginative variants. The parade of ideas seems constantly new, yet vaguely familiar. Amidst the melodic gyrations we also hear a panoply of tonal areas, including the remarkable Db section. Some coy, soft dramatic pauses take us to the recap—conventionally lucid, and a fresh return to clarity. The brief coda is introduced, as at the opening, by the ominous drum roll and threatening bass instruments, but is considerably shortened here and interrupted by the “laughter” of the high-spirited, exultant final Allegro.
The following andante is a lovely example of Haydn’s favorite form, the double variation. It sounds complicated, but isn’t, consisting merely of a theme with two variations and a second, related idea with its two variations. The two themes, themselves, almost seem like variations of each other, but maintain their identity here by the first one being in a minor key, and the second in the parallel major key. You’ll hear the first theme with a variation, then the second one with its variation. Haydn then does another variation on each theme. Easy to follow, easy to enjoy. It’s an expansive movement, with an interesting coda.
The following minuet is certainly not a clichéd example of the elegant eighteenth-century ballroom dance. Rather, it is a somewhat rustic affair that features the accented “Scotch Snap” on the downbeat. In fact, it is more or less a bucolic Austrian Ländler. You can almost imagine the slapping of Lederhosen. There are startling excursions into some remote keys in the first section, the smoothly flowing figures of the second section giving the requisite contrast. A charming minuet, indeed.
Ostensibly, the theme of the smashing concluding movement is a Croatian folk song—for Haydn played around with the folk style. The horns open with a typical horn passage—we’ll hear much more of it later—and then repeated along with the principal theme. Most are used to hearing movements with “first theme” and “second theme,” but it certainly is not requisite, for Haydn had an established penchant for making do with just one, and so it is, here. When it’s time for the “second theme,” we hear a very slightly altered opening theme. In fact, the entire movement is based more or less upon the opening rhythm of the theme. It’s a veritable tour de force of economy-of-means and contrapuntal mastery. The simple little rhythm just cascades from everywhere in roulades of counterpoint. It is exactly what we are familiar with from the last movement of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. As the movement heroically drives to the end, the opening horn “fifths” constantly underpin it all, now joined by the trumpets to hammer out the smashing conclusion. Here, Haydn is at the zenith of his career—his astonishing talent reminding us that he’s not the genteel powdered wig “Papa Haydn,” and never was.
Bal masqué, op. 22—Amy Beach
Amy Beach was a remarkable woman by any measure. Without a doubt, she was this country’s first woman to have carved out an acclaimed musical career that equaled that of any important American male musician, and transcended most. She enjoyed a noteworthy life as a piano virtuoso, composer, and influential leader in music education, public music advocacy, and music journalism. But it was as a prolific and highly respected composer that she made her historical mark in American classical music. Simply put, she was our county’s first outstanding female composer. At the time of her early years, American classical music was still very much simply an outpost of Europe, European musicians, and European musical traditions. Our symphony orchestras were populated largely by Germans, French, and Italians and musical composition by American composers was in its infancy. A group centered around Boston and Harvard University, known later as the “Second New England School,” constituted the country’s initial efforts as an independent, internationally respected thrust in serious music composition. The names are still familiar to many (but mostly to musicians): George Chadwick, John Knowles Paine, Arthur Foote, Edward McDowell, and Horatio Parker. And in this all-male list of names is that of Amy Beach. Moreover, her membership was acknowledged in the contemporary stuffy times of Boston! While the music critics and pundits of those times characteristically simply could not resist couching much of their responses to her work in gender-obsessed language, they never doubted her brilliance and talent. She was, perhaps grudgingly, acknowledged as “one of the boys.”
The details of her life, living as she did in public scrutiny, are well known. But even under today’s close examination, she doesn’t fit any of our contemporary clichés and memes of cultural, political, and gender wars. On the one hand, she seems to have been stultified by nineteenth-century mores, social conventions, and marital norms. On the other, she refused to see herself as constrained and repressed. She may have been a pioneer in championing women’s pursuit of equality, but she was by today’s standards a decided conservative. She always voted Republican, hated FDR, happily went by the name of her husband on her published compositions (Mrs. HHA Beach), dallied with admiration of Mussolini during her Italian sojourn, and other than her determined efforts for musical equality, was not a poster child for liberal causes.
Born Amy Cheney in 1867 in a small town near the center of New Hampshire, Beach’s astounding musical talents were evident almost from the beginning. Obviously a prodigy, she was singing songs at the age of one, composing for the piano (without its aid) at four, and in general demonstrating amazing musical feats before most children could talk. Her formal study of piano started early, and she soon was performing in public concerts. But her musical studies were centered around her home—all her life her family insisted upon a more or less protected atmosphere. Even after they moved closer to Boston to further her studies, it was not in a conservatory. As Amy gained more and more of a public reputation, her parents stoutly resisted her move into a larger music circle. In a time when almost all talented Americans went abroad for advanced study, Amy stayed home. And it was always to be. She is one of the few significant composers that were largely autodidacts. She read, she studied scores, and translated important musical treatises and texts; she absorbed it all.
Her prowess as a performer led to a triumphal concert with the Boston Symphony in 1885, when she was eighteen. But she married a distinguished surgeon twenty-five years her senior right after that and her active career as a performer ended. True to the times, and his social class, her husband forbade her to perform actively anymore; to stay home and lead a proper life as a woman of high social status. He did encourage her to compose, and she most certainly did, but she later said that these years were happy ones. While the great majority of her life’s work were art songs and chamber music, three large works from the 1890s were highly praised: the Mass (1892), the Gaelic Symphony (1896), and the Piano Concerto (1899). Unlike so many female composers, she never endured obscurity—the Mass was premièred by the prestigious Boston Handel and Haydn Society, and both the symphony and piano concerto by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. All of these works met with wide and enthusiastic approbation in spite of most pundits’ silly twaddling over her gender.
While the mass, symphony, concerto, and chamber music were highly praised works of gravitas, like most accomplished composers, she had a lighter side as well. The Bal masqué is clear evidence of that. Written in 1893, originally for solo piano—an early work in that genre—it is a charming waltz in the best of the salon tradition. Later, it was artfully scored for full orchestra by the composer.