UPCOMING SHOW AT THE PLAYHOUSE
Date: 29 February 2024 – 21 March 2024 Venue: Opera Theatre
Concert 1: 29 February 2024
Conductor: Talia Ilan
Soloist: Benedict Kloeckner (Cello)
Mendelssohn: Fair Melusina Op 32
Dvorák: Cello Concerto Op 104 in B minor
Schumann Symphony No 4 in Op 120 in D minor
Mendelssohn wrote his concert overture Fair Melusina in 1834 as a birthday gift for his sister. The composer dismissed the suggestion he’d been inspired by an ancient myth well-known in 19th century Germany in which a water nymph sometimes assumed the identity of a mermaid. Nevertheless, some aspects of the music have clear pictorial implications. Its opening passage, for instance, anticipates the river music of the opening of Richard Wagner’s opera, Das Rheingold. A German contemporary reviewer commented that the Overture ‘does not try to translate the whole tale into musical language … but only to conjure up for us, from the dreamworld of harmonic power, the happiness and unhappiness of two beings’.
The work first performed in London by the Philharmonic Society orchestra, conducted by Ignaz Moscheles. Dvorák’s Cello Concerto, the last solo concerto, was written in 1894 for his friend, the cellist Hanuš Wihan, while in New York City for his third term as the Director of the National Conservatory, but was premiered in London in March of 1896, by the English cellist Leo Stern. After the London performance, Stern again played the solo part in what may have been the second public performance, in Prague on 11 April 1896, and later again in London. It went on to become a hugely popular concert work with the successive ‘greats’ among cellists through the ages, as can be heard in the opening concert of our season, played by Benedict Kloeckner, one of today’s new generation superstars of the instrument.
Schumann completed his fourth Symphony in 1841 , but revised it extensively in 1851, and it was this version that it reached publication. The symphony is highly integrated with thematic material recurring between movements. The imminent music critic Tovey described the overall structure as ‘possibly Schumann’s greatest and most masterly conception’.
Concert 2: 7 March 2024
CONDUCTOR: Emmanuel Siffert
SOLOIST: Jan Jiracek von Armin, piano
Ravel, Maurice Le Tombeau de Couperin
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Concerto, Piano, No.23, K.488, A major
Jan Jiracek von Armin (piano)
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich Symphony No.2, op.17, C minor
Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin (Memorial to Couperin) was originally a piano suite composed between 1914 and 1917. Each movement was dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer who had died in World War I. Ravel then produced an orchestral version of the work in 1919. He skilfully evoked the sensibilities of the Baroque French keyboard suite. This is reflected in the piece’s structure, which imitates a Baroque dance suite. Its biographical and courtly historical perspective aside, the work forms a superb prelude to symphonic concert programmes such as here, ushering in Mozart’s great A Major Piano Concerto No 23. Best described as ‘the queen’ of the Austrian genius composer’s piano concertos. Completed on 2 March 1786, two months prior to the premiere of his opera, The Marriage Figaro, Mozart performed it at one of three subscription concerts given that spring. The work’s joyous first movement, written in sonata form, and its dazzling third movement rondo finale, bookend the hauntingly beautiful second movement. This foreshadows that of the composer’s immortal A Major Clarinet concerto, written in the last months of his life. Tchaikovsky composed his Symphony No 2 in 1872.
One of his joyful his compositions, it was a success right from its premiere, and won the favour of the group of nationalistic Russian composers known as ‘The Five’, led by Mily Balakirev. Because Tchaikovsky used three Ukrainian folk songs to great effect in this symphony, it was nicknamed the ‘Little Russian’ (Ukraine was at that time frequently called ‘Little Russia’). Despite its initial success, Tchaikovsky was not satisfied with the symphony, and revised the work extensively in 1879–80, substantially rewriting the opening movement and shortening the finale. This revision is the version of the symphony usually performed today, as it is here.
Concert 3: 14 March 2024
CONDUCTOR: Leon Bosch
SOLOIST: Hyeyoon Park, violin
Grieg Holberg Suite, op.40
Schubert Symphony No.5, D.485, B-flat Major
Tchaikovsky Concerto, Violin, op.35, D Major
Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Op. 40, subtitled ;Suite in olden style’, comprises five movements based on eighteenth-century dance forms. Written in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dano-Norwegian humanist playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754), this prototype of nineteenth-century music evokes the preceding century. While it is not as famous as Grieg’s incidental music from Peer Gynt, which is itself usually performed as arranged in a pair of suites, many critics regard this work as of equal merit. It was originally composed for the piano, but a year later was adapted by Grieg himself for orchestra. The suite consists of an introduction and a set of dances. It is an early essay in neoclassicism, an attempt to echo as much as was known in Grieg’s time of the music of Holberg’s era. Schubert’s ‘slim-line’ Fifth Symphony is often said to resemble Mozart; Schubert was infatuated with the composer at the time he composed it in 1816. This is reflected particularly in the instrumentation which is similar to that of Mozart’s 40th symphony. Tchaikovsky composed his only violin concerto in 1878 in Clarens, a Swiss resort on the shores of Lake Geneva, where he had gone to recover from the depression brought on by his disastrous marriage to Antonina Miliukova. The concerto was influenced by Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. Tchaikovsky made steady progress on the concerto, as he had regained his inspiration. The work was completed within a month. The first performance was eventually given by Adolph Brodsky in 1881 in Vienna, under the baton of Hans Richter. The violinist Karel Halír was an early champion of the work which has long since been at the apex of popularity among the world’s virtuoso violin concertos, here showcasing the dazzlingly accomplishments of Hyeyoon Park under the baton of SA born conductor-bassist Leon Bosch.
Concert 4: 21 March 2024
CONDUCTOR: Daniel Boico
SOLOIST: Nina Schumann, piano
Megan-Geoffrey Prins, piano
Dvorák, Antonín Czech Suite, op.39, D major
Saint-Saëns, Camille Le carnaval des animaux (Carnival of the Animals) – Nina Schumann (piano) and Megan-Geoffrey Prins (piano)
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Symphony No.38, K.504, D major
Dvorák’s Czech Suite comprises five movements: a Praeludium-Pastorale; a Polka; a Czech folk-dance introduced by the clarinets and bassoons; a Romanza, featuring flute and English horn; and finally, the fifth movement Furiant, another lively Czech folk-dance. A delightful curtain-raiser, the Czech Suite premiered in Prague on May 16, 1879. The work is scored for two flutes, two oboes, one English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Camille Saint-Saëns’ enchanting Carnival of the animals is a celebration of nature. A party piece, written to celebrate Mardi Gras, the colourfully scored work is full of musical references and quotes, its graphic movements engaging the listener in a cavalcade of successive contrasting movements, as follows: Introduction and Royal March of the Lion; Hens and Roosters; Wild Donkeys—Swift Animals; Tortoises; The Elephant; Kangaroos; Aquarium; Characters with Long Ears; Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods; Aviary; Pianists; Fossils; The Swan; and Finale. Mozart composed his Symphony No. 38 in late 1786. It premiered in Prague on January 19, 1787, during Austrian composer’s first visit to the city he came to love. Because it was first performed in Prague, it is popularly known as the Prague Symphony.
Mozart’s autograph thematic catalogue records December 6, 1786, as the date of completion for this composition. Other Mozart masterworks roughly contemporary with this symphony include the B flat Piano Trio, the great C Major Piano Concerto K505, and the concert aria for soprano, piano and orchestra, Ch’io mi scordi di te?… Non temer, amato bene’. Although Mozart’s popularity in Vienna waxed and waned, he had a devoted following in Prague. Besides the Prague Symphony, other triumphs Mozart enjoyed in the capital were the world premiere of Don Giovanni. Prague was also the city in which Mozart’s last opera, La Clemenza di Tito. was born.