Music From Vienna – Program Notes

“Music from Vienna”

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Proctors Theater

3:00 p.m.

Kaiser (Emperor) Waltzes                                                     Johann Strauss Jr.(1825-1899)

Voices of Spring (Frühlingsstimen)                                                                 Johann Strauss Jr.

Symphony No. 8, F major, op. 93                                       Ludwig Beethoven (1770–1827)

Allegro vivace e con brio

Allegretto scherzando

Tempo di Menuetto

Allegro vivace

Intermission

Piano Concerto No. 2, B Flat Major, op. 83                        Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Allegro non troppo

Allegro appassionato

Andante

Allegretto grazioso

Soloist, Ryan Reilly

Ryan Reilly

Ryan Reilly

Making his third solo appearance with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra, Ryan Reilly recently completed his Bachelor’s of Music at The Juilliard School, where he will begin a master’s degree in the fall. A student of Julian Martin, Reilly is a prizewinner in numerous competitions and has performed as soloist at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Zankel Music Center, Steinway Hall, Juilliard’s Paul Hall, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Mountain Grove Memorial Church, Banff Centre, Kneisel Hall and Proctors Theatre. Lauded for his “sparkling technique” by The Daily Gazette, he has also performed as a soloist with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra, Empire State Youth Orchestra, and Luzerne Music Center Orchestra. This summer, Ryan performed at the Gijon International Piano Festival and the University of Arkansas at Monticello Seark Concert Summertime Serenade. Ryan began studying the piano when he was four at The Music Studio. His past teachers include Aniko Szokody, Toby Blumenthal, Ernest Barretta and Seymour Lipkin. He has also studied with/and performed in masterclasses for Arie Vardi, Murray Perahia, Midori, Dominique Weber, and Kenneth Weiss.

 

Program Notes:

Emperor Waltzes  ~ Johann Strauss, Jr.

Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437 (Emperor Waltzes) was composed by Johann Strauss, Jr. in 1889. The waltz was originally titled  Hand in Hand and was intended as a toast made in August of that year by Austrian emperor Franz Josef on the occasion of his visit to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II where it was symbolic as a “toast of friendship” extended by Austria to Germany.

Strauss’ publisher, Fritz Simrock, suggested the title Kaiser-Walzer since the title could allude to either monarch, and thus satisfy the vanity of both rulers. The waltz was first performed in Berlin on October 21, 1889. The original cover of the piano edition bore the illustration of the Austrian Imperial Crown.

A quiet march starts the waltz’s introduction before a sweeping crescendo heralds the gentle principal melody of the first waltz. As more waltz sections are introduced, the mood remains constantly upbeat and triumphant. A cello solo near the end of the work reprises the melody of the first waltz section, before a trumpet fanfare ushers the end of the work, complete with a drumroll on the timpani and a strong brass flourish.

Frühlingstimmen (Voices of Spring)  ~ Johann Strauss Jr.

Strauss dedicated the work to the pianist and composer Alfred Grünfeld. The famous coloratura soprano Bertha Schwarz (stage name Bianca Bianchi) sang this concert aria at a grand matinée charity performance at the Theater an der Wien in aid of the “Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth Foundation for Indigent Austro-Hungarian subjects in Leipzig.” The waltz was not a great success at its premiere, but was more successful when performed on Strauss’ tour of Russia in 1886. A piano arrangement by the composer contributed much to its success beyond Vienna.

Bianca Bianchi was then a famous member of the Vienna Court Opera Theatre and Strauss was sufficiently inspired to compose a new work, a waltz for solo voice, for the acclaimed singer.. The result was his world-renowned “Frühlingsstimmen” waltz which celebrated spring and remained one of the classical repertoire’s most famous waltzes. The piece is sometimes used as an insertion aria in the act 2 ball scene of Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus.

The waltz makes a grand entry in the key of B-flat major with loud chords preceded with the waltz’s three beats to the bar ushering the first waltz’s gentle and swirling melody. The second waltz section invokes the joys of spring with the flute imitating birdsong and a pastoral scene. The plaintive and dramatic third section in F minor probably suggests spring showers whereas the fourth section that follows breaks out from the pensive mood with another cheerful melody in A-flat major. Without a coda, the familiar first waltz melody makes a grand entrance before its breathless finish, strong chords and the usual timpani drumroll and warm brass flourish.

Symphony No. 8, F major, op. 93  ~ Ludwig Beethoven

The Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 is a symphony in four movements composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1812. Beethoven fondly referred to it as “my little Symphony in F,” distinguishing it from his Sixth Symphony, a longer work also in F. The Eighth Symphony is generally light-hearted, though not lightweight, and in many places cheerfully loud, with many accented notes. Various passages in the symphony are heard by some listeners to be musical jokes. As with various other Beethoven works such as the Opus 27 piano sonatas, the symphony deviates from Classical tradition in making the last movement the weightiest of the four.

The work was begun in the summer of 1812, immediately after the completion of the Seventh Symphony. At the time Beethoven was 41 years old. As Antony Hopkins has noted, the cheerful mood of the work betrays nothing of the grossly unpleasant events that were taking place in Beethoven’s life at the time, which involved his interference in his brother Johann’s love life. The work took Beethoven only four months to complete and is, unlike many of his works, without dedication.

The premiere took place on 27 February 1814, at a concert in the Redoutensaal, Vienna, at which the Seventh Symphony (which had been premiered two months earlier) was also played. Beethoven was growing increasingly deaf at the time, but nevertheless led the premiere. Reportedly, “the orchestra largely ignored his ungainly gestures and followed the principal violinist instead.”

When asked by his pupil Carl Czerny why the Eighth was less popular than the Seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied, “because the Eighth is so much better.”  A critic wrote that “the applause it received was not accompanied by that enthusiasm which distinguishes a work which gives universal delight; in short—as the Italians say—it did not create a furor.” Beethoven was angered at this reception. George Bernard Shaw, in his capacity as a music critic, agreed with Beethoven’s assessment of the work, writing that indeed, “In all subtler respects the Eighth is better [than the Seventh].” But other critics have been divided in their judgement.

The first movement is in the home key of F major and is in fast 3/4 time. As with most of Beethoven’s first movements of this period, it is written in sonata form, including a fairly substantial coda. As Antony Hopkins has noted,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._8_(Beethoven) – cite_note-Hopkins_1981.2C_222-10  the movement is slightly unusual among Beethoven’s works In that it reaches its dramatic climax not during the development section, but at the onset of the recapitulation. To this end, the concluding bars of the development form a huge crescendo, and the return of the opening bars is marked ƒƒƒ (fortississimo), which rarely appears in Beethoven’s works, but has precedents in the 6th and 7th Symphonies. This extravagance is balanced, however, by the quiet closing measures of the movement.

The opening theme is in three sections of four bars each, with the pattern fortepianoforte. At the onset of the recapitulation, the theme is made more emphatic by omitting the middle four bars.

There is a widespread belief that the second movement is an affectionate parody of the metronome, which had only recently been invented (or more accurately, merely improved) by Beethoven’s friend Johann Maelzel. Specifically the belief was that the movement was based on a canon called “Ta ta ta… Lieber Maelzel,” WoO 162, said to have been improvised at a dinner party in Maelzel’s honor in 1812. There is no evidence corroborating this story and it’s likely that WoO 162 was not written by Beethoven but was constructed after-the-fact by Anton Schindler. A more likely inspiration was the similar rhythmic parody of Joseph Haydn‘s “Clock” Symphony.

The metronome-like parody starts at the very beginning of the movement with even staccato chords in 16th notes played by the wind instruments, and a basic 16th-note rhythm continues fairly steadily through the piece. The tempo is unusually fast for a symphonic “slow movement.” Richard Wagner has argued that the third movement was intended as the slow movement of this symphony and that the second should be played as a scherzo.

The key is B-flat major, the subdominant of F, and the organization is what Charles Rosen has called “slow movement sonata form”; that is, at the end of the exposition there is no development section, but only a simple modulation back to B-flat for the recapitulation; this also may be described as sonatina form.

The second subject includes a motif of very rapid 64th notes, suggesting perhaps a rapidly unwinding spring in a not-quite-perfected metronome. This motif is played by the whole orchestra at the end of the coda.

Third movement is a nostalgic invocation of the old minuet, obsolete by the time this symphony was composed. The style of Beethoven’s minuet is not particularly close to its 18th-century models, as it retains a rather coarse, thumping rhythm. Thus, for example, after the initial upbeat Beethoven places the dynamic indication sforzando on each of the next five beats. This makes the minuet stylistically close to the other movements of the symphony, which likewise rely often on good-humored, thumping accents.

Like most minuets, this one is written in ternary form, with a contrasting trio section containing prized solos for horns and clarinet. The clarinet solo is of significant importance in that it was the first major example of a solo clarinet playing a written G6. Igor Stravinsky praised the “incomparable instrumental thought” shown in Beethoven’s orchestration of the trio section.

The fourth movement is the most substantial movement, in a very fast tempo. It is written in a version of sonata rondo form in which the opening material reappears in three places: the start of the development section, the start of the re capitulation, and about halfway through the coda. This is the first symphonic movement in which the timpani are tuned in octaves, foreshadowing the similar octave-F tuning in the scherzo of the Ninth Symphony.

The fourth movement imitates the first in that the move to the second subject first adopts the “wrong” key, then moves to the normal key (exposition: dominant, recapitulation: tonic) after a few measures. The coda is one of the most substantial and elaborate in all of Beethoven’s works. The coda has two particularly striking events. The harmonically out-of-place loud C♯ that interrupts the main theme in the exposition and recapitulation finally gets an “explanation”: it turns out to be the root of the dominantchord of the remote key of F♯ minor, and the main theme is loudly played in this key. A few measures later, there is a stunning modulation in which this key is “hammered down” by a semitone, arriving instantaneously at the home key of F major. The symphony ends in good humor on a very long passage of loud tonic harmony. Tchaikovsky called this movement, “One of the greatest symphonic masterpieces of Beethoven.”

Piano Concerto No. 2, B Flat Major, op. 83  ~ Johannes Brahms

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83 by Johannes Brahms is separated by a gap of 22 years from his first piano concerto. Brahms began work on the piece in 1878 and completed it in 1881 while in Pressbaum near Vienna. It is dedicated to his teacher, Eduard Marxsen. The premiere of the concerto was given in Budapest on November 9, 1881, with Brahms as soloist, and was an immediate success. He proceeded to perform the piece in many cities across Europe.

The piece is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (B-flat), 2 bassoons, 4 horns (initially 2 in B-flat bass, 2 in F), 2 trumpets (B-flat), timpani (B-flat and F), and strings. (The trumpets and timpani are used only in the first two movements, which is unusual.)

The piece is in four movements, rather than the three typical of concertos in the Classical and Romantic periods. The additional movement results in a concerto considerably longer than most other concertos written up to that time, with typical performances lasting around 50 minutes. Upon its completion, Brahms sent its score to his friend, the surgeon and violinistTheodor Billroth to whom Brahms had dedicated his first two string quartets, describing the work as “some little piano pieces.” Brahms even described the stormy scherzo as a “little wisp of a scherzo.”

The first movement is in the concerto variant of sonata form. The main theme is introduced with a horn solo, with the piano interceding. The woodwind instruments proceed to introduce a small motif (borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, from the opening of the first movement of his Serenade No. 2) before an unusually placed cadenza appears. The full orchestra repeats the theme and introduces more motifs in the orchestral exposition. The piano and orchestra work together to develop these themes in the piano exposition before the key changes to F minor (from F major, the dominant) and the piano plays a powerful  section before the next orchestral tutti appears. The development, like many such sections in the Classical period, works its way from the dominant key back to the tonic while heavily developing themes. At the beginning of the recapitulation, the theme is replayed before a differing transition is heard, returning to the music heard in the piano exposition (this time in B-flat major / B-flat minor). A coda appears after the minor key section, finishing off this movement.

The Allegro appassionato is a scherzo is in the key of D minor and is in ternary form. Contrary to Brahms’ “tiny wisp of a scherzo” remark, it is a tumultuous movement. The piano and orchestra introduce the theme and develop it before a quiet section intervenes. Soon afterwards the piano and orchestra launch into a stormy development of the theme before coming to the central episode in D major. The central episode is brisk and begins with the full orchestra before yet another quiet section intervenes; then the piano is integrated into the orchestral effect to repeat the theme of the central episode. The beginning section returns but is highly varied.

The slow movement (Andante) is in the tonic key of B-flat major and is unusual in utilizing an extensive cello solo within a piano concerto. Brahms subsequently rewrote the cello’s theme and changed it into a song, Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer (“My Slumber Grows Ever More Peaceful”) with lyrics by Hermann Van Lingg. Within the concerto, the cello plays the theme for the first three minutes, before the piano comes in. However, the gentler melodic piece that the piano plays soon gives way to a stormy theme in B-flat minor. When the storm subsides, still in the minor key, the piano plays a transitional motif that leads to the key of G-flat major, before the cello comes in to reprise, in the wrong key, and knowing that it has to get back to B-flat major, the piano and the orchestra make a transition to finish off the theme in its original home key of B-flat major. After the piano plays the transitional motifs, the piano quickly reprises the middle section in a major key before the final coda is established.

The last movement (Allegretto grazioso) consists of five clearly distinguishable sections, which introduce and develop five different themes. The first section presents the first and second themes. The first theme is first played by the piano and then repeated by the orchestra. The second is likewise presented by the piano and repeated and expanded by the orchestra. Finally, a kind of development of the first theme leads on to the next section.

The second section contains the next three themes. Theme is very different from the previous ones, due largely to its minor setting and its distinctive, Hungarian rhythm. Theme 4 is still in a minor and Theme 5 is in F major. These three themes are each repeated back and forth several times, which gives the section the character of a development.

The third section can be seen as a reprise of the first; it is built on the first two themes, but a striking new element is given and then repeated.

The fourth section reprises themes 3, 5 and 4, in that order.

The final section, the coda, is built on the main theme, but even here, Brahms presents a new element, restating the main theme in triple rhythm (a device he used earlier to end his violin concerto) over a little march, first played by the piano, then answered by the orchestra, which trades themes with the soloist before the final chords.

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