Program Notes: A Festival of Strings

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Proctors Theater

3:00 p.m.

Program

Violin Concerto, E minor, op.64 Felix Mendelssohn(1809–1847)

Allegro molto appassionato

Andante

Allegretto non troppo; Allegro molto vivace

Soloist, Madalyn Parnas

Cello Concerto No. 1, E flat major, op. 107 Dmitri Shostakovich(1906–1975)

Allegretto

Moderato

Allegro con molto

Soloist, Cicely Parnas

Intermission

Three Dances from “The Bartered Bride” Bedřich Smetana(1824–1884)

Polka

Furiant

Dance of the Comedians

Sinfonia Concertante, op. 29 Miklos Rozsa(1907–1995)

II Movement; Theme and Variations

Theme – Andante

Variation I – Poco animato

Variation II –Poco animato

Variation III – Allegretto scherzando

Variation IV – Moderato ad appassionato

Variation V – Allegro vivo

Variation VI – Andantino

Variation VII – Tempo primo

Soloists: Madalyn and Cicely Parnas

Madalyn Parnas

Madalyn Parnas

Madalyn Parnas:

At 22, American violinist Madalyn Parnas has fixed her place on today’s concert stage as a player who brings a style, artistry, and musical vision all her own to each performance. From The New York Times in this regard, “Ms. Parnas gave a fiery account… and negotiated this [technical] minefield with assurance and vigor, but she also seized the opportunities offered by this changeable score’s lyrical interludes and fleeting touches of humor.” This past year Madalyn toured France performing the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3 with the L’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire under John Axelrod. She was a featured artist-in-residence at the El Paso Pro-Musica Festival, performing with the El Paso Symphony under Lawrence Loh and in numerous chamber concerts. Additionally, Ms. Parnas presented her final recital at London’s renowned Wigmore Hall before departing the UK with her M.A. with Distinction from the Royal Academy of Music. She will return to debut with the London Philharmonic in the ’14-’15 season. Madalyn made her orchestral debut at age twelve with the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra performing the Kabalevsky Violin Concerto. Though her formal musical studies began at four in piano, voice, and violin, at this time the violin became her voice, and numerous concerto competition prizes led to as many concerto engagements. Ms. Parnas has now performed more than 60 times as soloist throughout the U.S. and Europe. She has appeared with the New York String Alumni Orchestra under the baton of Jaime Laredo, with David Alan Miller’s Albany Symphony Orchestra, and Randall Fleisher’s Hudson Valley Philharmonic, among many others. In addition to her debut with the London Philharmonic next season, Ms. Parnas will perform with the Alexandria Symphony under Kim Allen Kluge, and the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra led by Charles Schneider. Ms. Parnas began performing chamber music with her life-long musical partner, cellist Cicely Parnas, in 1997, and ten years later the sisters took 1st prize in international chamber music competition at Carnegie Hall. They have concertized with Peter Serkin as the Parnas/Serkin Trio, and collaborated with Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, Peter Wiley, and Maxim Vengerov. The duo parnas has performed as soloists with orchestra, in recitals, and in festivals throughout North America, Europe, and Israel. Festival appearances include the American Composers Festival, Tannery Pond Concerts, Music Mountain, Tanglewood, and ShortGrass in the US; Banff and Lachine Music Festivals in Canada; and the ProQuartet Festival in France. Upcoming are debuts at Shanghai Musical Arts Festival while on tour in Asia, the Bravo Music Series in Montreal, and Maverick Concerts. The duo parnas will release their third album on the Sheffield Lab label this summer. duo parnas NOW features award-winning composers of the 21st century, including Lera Auerbach, William Bolcom, Paul Moravec, and Charles Wuorinen. Earlier releases, Parnas Double (2008) and Gare du Nord (2010,) have received international recognition, the latter named on Gene Gaudette’s “Top Ten New Releases of 2010.” On Albany Records, The Other Side of Time (2012), an album of works by composer Brian Fennelly, features the duo as soloists with David Dzubay’s New Music Ensemble in a live performance of Fennelly’s double concerto, Fantasia Concertante. The duo also recorded Fantasia Concertante with the Fauxharmonic Orchestra, an orchestra of digital instruments conducted by Paul Henry Smith. Ms. Parnas is a 2012 Marshall Scholar. She holds a M.A. in Violin Performance, graduating with distinction from London’s Royal Academy of Music, and an Artist Diploma from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she earned the Josef Gingold Award and twice the Artistic Excellence Award. She graduated summa cum laude majoring in Music Industry and French from The College of St. Rose. Her teachers include György Pauk, Jaime Laredo, James Buswell, Betty-Jean Hagen, and grandfather, legendary cellist Leslie Parnas. Ms. Parnas performs on a 1715 Alessandro Gagliano violin

Cicely Parnas :

Cicely Parnas

Cicely Parnas

20-year-old American cellist Cicely Parnas is recognized for bringing “velvety sound, articulate passagework and keen imagination” to her performances (The New York Times). As First Prize Winner of the 2012 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, she will be presented this season in debuts in New York in the Rhoda Walker Teagle Concert, and in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center. Ms. Parnas’ 2013-14 season also includes recitals at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Vanguard Concerts, the Jewish Community Alliance, and the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, and appearances as concerto soloist with the Long Bay Symphony, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Chamber Orchestra, and the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, where she performs the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s Concertino for Cello. In 2012, Cicely Parnas made her Carnegie Hall debut performing the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto with the New York String Orchestra under the baton of Jaime Laredo. The New York Times raved, “Cicely Parnas, a fast-rising young cellist, was the impressive soloist in a rhapsodic performance.” She has performed the Elgar Concerto with the Vermont Symphony led by Mr. Laredo, and has toured France performing the Saint-Saëns Concerto with L’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire under John Axelrod. Other international appearances include her participation in the 2013 Young Concert Artists Festivals in Tokyo and Beijing. Ms. Parnas has been heard as an inaugural Young Artist in Residence on NPR’s Performance Today Series. She holds the Anne and George Popkin Cello Chair of the YCA and was the recipient of YCA’s Mortimer Levitt Career Development Award for Women Artists in 2012. Among many other prizes, she won the 2011 Artistic Excellence Award and First Prize in the Cello Concerto Competition at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Ms. Parnas frequently performs and records with her sister, violinist Madalyn Parnas, in the duo parnas. The duo performed as soloists with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic under Randall Fleisher, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra at the El Paso Pro-Musica Festival under Lawrence Loh, and the Albany Symphony Orchestra under David Alan Miller, as well as in many recitals with Peter Serkin as the Parnas/Serkin Trio. Debut performances for the duo parnas in the upcoming season include a program of string trios with Timothy Kantor at Maverick Concerts, performances of the Brahms Double Concerto with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, and chamber music performances at the Shanghai International Music Festival. The duo parnas will release their third album on the Sheffield Lab label this summer. duo parnas NOW (2014) features award-winning composers of the 21st century, including Lera Auerbach, William Bolcom, Paul Moravec, and Charles Wuorinen. Earlier releases, Parnas Double (2008) and Gare du Nord (2010), have received international recognition, the latter also named on Gene Gaudette’s “Top Ten New Releases of 2010.” On Albany Records, The Other Side of Time (2012), an album of works by composer Brian Fennelly, features the duo parnas as soloists with the Indiana University New Music Ensemble under the artistic direction of David Dzubay in a live performance of Fennelly’s double concerto, Fantasia Concertante. The duo also recorded Fantasia Concertante with the Fauxharmonic Orchestra, an orchestra of digital instruments conducted by Paul Henry Smith. Granddaughter of the distinguished cellist Leslie Parnas, Cicely Parnas started playing the cello at the age of four and made her concerto debut at eleven with the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. She has studied with cellists Peter Wiley and Ronald Feldman, and earned an Artist Diploma from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where she worked with Sharon Robinson. Ms. Parnas performs on a 1712 Giovanni Grancino cello.

Program notes- January 11, 2015

Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major Op.107 Dmitri Shostakovich

The work has four movements in two sections, with movements two through four played without a pause:

The first concerto is widely considered to be one of the most difficult concert works for cello, along with the Sinfonia Concertante of Sergei Prokofiev, with which it shares certain features (such as the prominent role of isolated timpani strokes). Shostakovich said that “an impulse” for the piece was provided by his admiration for that earlier work.

The first movement begins with its four-note main theme derived from the composer’s DSCH (H equals B natural) motif, although the intervals, rhythm and shape of the motto are continually distorted and re-shaped throughout the movement. It is also related to a theme from the composer’s score for the 1948 film The Young Guard, which illustrates a group of Soviet soldiers being marched to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. It is set beside an even simpler theme in the woodwind, which reappears throughout the work. The woodwind theme takes on aspects of the DSCH theme itself just before the introduction of the second subject. The DSCH motive recurs throughout the concerto (except in the second movement), giving this concerto a cyclic structure. One further theme, originating in folk lullabies, is also found in the lullaby sung by Death to a sick child in Mussorgsky‘s Songs and Dances of Death.

The second, third and fourth movements are played continuously. The second movement is initially elegiac in tone. The string section begins with a quiet theme that is never played by the solo cello. The horn answers and the solo cello begins a new theme. The orchestra plays it after and the first theme is played again. The cello plays its second theme, which progressively becomes more agitated, building to a climax in bar 148. This is immediately followed by the first theme played loudly. The solo cello plays the first melody in artificial harmonics with answers by the celesta, which leads into the cadenza. The second movement is the only movement with no reference to the DSCH motive.

The cadenza stands as a movement in itself. It begins by developing the material from the cello’s second theme of the second movement, twice broken by a series of slow pizzicato chords. After the second time this is repeated, the cello’s first theme of the second movement is played in an altered form. After the third time the chords are repeated, a continual accelerando passes through allegretto and allegro sections to a piu mosso section. These sections are frequented by the first DSCH motive. The piu mosso section features fast ascending and descending scales.

The final movement begins with an ascent to a high D. The oboe begins the main theme, which is based on the chromatic scale. The cello repeats it, and presents a new theme. The cellos of the orchestra repeat this, accompanied by the solo cello playing fast sixteenth notes. At bar 105, a distorted version of Suliko, a song favored by Stalin and used by Shostakovich in Rayok, his satire on the Soviet system, is played. Then, the flutes play the first theme again. A new theme played in triple time is presented by the orchestra, which is repeated by the cello. Then, the orchestra repeats and alters the theme. The horn, bass instruments and solo cello follow. The bass instruments play a modified version of the theme, which is repeated by the solo cello after. The cello begins playing a new theme that uses exactly the same notes as the DSCH motif. The modified version that was just played by bass instruments is repeated by the solo cello, accompanied by oboes playing fragments of the new DSCH theme. The first theme of this movement is played by the string section after, followed by the new DSCH theme in the woodwinds. The DSCH theme of the first movement is played, answered by the cello. After the third time this is played, the horn plays the theme again in longer notes. Then, the cello plays a passage from the first movement, which is followed by the first theme of this movement played by the woodwinds. This is followed by the first theme of the first movement played by the cellos of the orchestra, accompanied by scales in the solo cello. Then, a modified form of the first theme of this movement is played in the cello. The concerto ends with seven timpani strokes.

Three Dances from “The Bartered Bride” Bedřich Smetana

The Bartered Bride is a comic opera in three acts by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, to a libretto by Karel Sabina. The opera is considered to have made a major contribution towards the development of Czech music. It was composed during the period 1863–66, and first performed at the Provisional Theatre, Prague, on 30 May 1866 in a two-act format with spoken dialogue. Set in a country village and with realistic characters, it tells the story of how, after a late surprise revelation, true love prevails over the combined efforts of ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker. The opera was not immediately successful, and was revised and extended in the following four years. In its final version, premiered in 1870, it gained rapid popularity and eventually became a worldwide success.

Czech national opera until this time had been represented only by a number of minor, rarely performed works. This opera, Smetana’s second, was part of his quest to create a truly Czech operatic genre. Smetana’s musical treatment makes considerable use of traditional Bohemian dance forms such as the polka and furiant, although he largely avoids the direct quotation of folksong. He nevertheless created music which was accurately folk-like, and is considered by Czechs to be quintessentially Czech in spirit. The overture, often played as a concert piece independently from the opera, was, unusually, composed before almost any of the other music had been written.

After a performance at the Vienna Music and Theatre Exhibition of 1892, the opera achieved international recognition. It was performed in Chicago in 1893, London in 1895 and reached New York in 1909, subsequently becoming the first, and for many years the only, Czech opera in the general repertory. Many of these early international performances were in German, under the title Die verkaufte Braut, and the German-language version continues to be played and recorded. A German film of the opera was made in 1932 by Max Ophüls

Sinfonia Concertante Miklós Rózsa

Rózsa’s Sinfonia concertante was composed between 1958 and 1963 for Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky , who were both living in the Los Angeles area near Rózsa at the time. These two artists had performed on innumerable occasions together in chamber music and in the Brahms Double Concerto. But, as Rózsa explains in Double Life, the super-sized egos of his soloists made life difficult for all of them: “I called Piatigorsky and told him the first draft was finished, and I thought we should all try it through [with the composer playing a piano reduction of the orchestral part]. The first movement began with a long passage for the cello alone before the violin entered. Heifetz pulled a face. ‘I can’t wait as long as that. Give him [Piatigorsky] about four bars and then I’ll take over.’” Things did not improve one iota in the second movement. It begins with a long theme in the solo cello. “Do you expect me to stand there like an idiot all that time?” Heifetz groused. “Yes, Jascha,” Piatigorsky retorted, “we expect you to stand there like an idiot!” As compensation, Heifetz won from the composer the return of the theme at the end in the high range of the instrument. Actually, Heifetz came to like this movement and requested that Rózsa rescore it for a classical orchestra of strings plus pairs of oboes and horns so that he and Piatigorsky could perform it at one of the Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts on September 29, 1963. In this form the two super soloists played (and later recorded) the movement, which now exists as the separate work Tema con variazioni. The first performance of the complete work, with the fully scored Tema con variazioni, was eventually given by two other soloists, concertmaster Victor Aitey and principal cellist Frank Miller of the Chicago Symphony, with Jean Martinon conducting that orchestra on September 22, 1966. The central theme-and-variations movement is based on a long, Hungarian-inspired theme first presented by the cello. For the first variation the violin takes over initially, then shares the theme with the cello. The second variation is livelier, with much give-and-take between the soloists. Sharp, biting attacks announce the third variation, which is dancelike and highly rhythmic in character. The full orchestra gets its moment in the spotlight for the fourth variation, with big, sweeping lines for the violins; there is also a quasi-cadenza for the soloists. An angry, aggressive dialogue between soloists united against the orchestra constitutes much of the fifth variation. Calm is restored at the beginning of the sixth variation, but the mood soon turns to one of intense yearning. As the solo cello announced the theme at the beginning of the movement, so the solo violin gets the final word in a re-presentation of that theme in its gleaming high range against a backdrop of gentle trilling from the woodwinds and solo cello.

Miklós Rózsa was a Hungarian-born composer  trained in Germany (1925–1931), and active in France (1931–1935), England (1935–1940), and the United States (1940–1995), with extensive sojourns in Italy from 1953.  Best known for his nearly one hundred film scores, he nevertheless maintained a steadfast allegiance to absolute concert music throughout what he called his “double life.”

Rózsa achieved early success in Europe with his orchestral Theme, Variations, and Finale (Op. 13) of 1933 and became prominent in the film industry from such early scores as The Four Feathers (1939) and The Thief of Bagdad (1940). The latter project brought him to America when production was transferred from wartime Britain, and Rózsa remained in the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1946. His notable Hollywood career earned him considerable fame, including Academy Awards for Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1947), and Ben-Hur (1959), while his concert works were championed by such major artists as Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, and János Starker.

Rózsa was introduced to classical and folk music by his mother, Regina Berkovits, a pianist who had studied with pupils of Franz Liszt, and his father, Gyula, a well-to-do industrialist and landowner who loved Hungarian folk music. Rózsa’s maternal uncle Lajos Berkovits, violinist with the Budapest Opera, presented young Miklós with his first instrument at the age of five. He later took up the viola and piano. By age eight he was performing in public and composing. He also collected folksongs from the area where his family had a country estate north of Budapest in an area inhabited by the Palóc Hungarians.

Rózsa found Budapest culture constraining and sought to study music in Germany. He enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1925, ostensibly to study chemistry at the behest of his father. Determined to become a composer, he transferred to the Leipzig Conservatory the following year. There he studied composition with Hermann Grabner, a former student of Max Reger. He also studied choral music with (and later assisted) Karl Straube at the Thomaskirche, where Johann Sebastian Bach had once been the organist. Rózsa emerged from these years with a deep respect for the German musical tradition, which would always temper the Hungarian nationalism of his musical style.

Rózsa’s first two published works, the String Trio, Op. 1, and the Piano Quintet, Op. 2, were issued in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel. In 1929 he received his diplomascum laude.  For a time he remained in Leipzig as Grabner’s assistant, but at the suggestion of the French organist and composer Marcel Dupré, he moved to Paris in 1932.

In Paris, Rózsa composed classical music, including his Hungarian Serenade for small orchestra, Op. 10 (later revised and renumbered as Op. 25), and the Theme, Variations, and Finale, Op. 13, which was especially well received and was performed by conductors such as Charles Munch, Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, Eugene Ormandy, and Leonard Bernstein.

Rózsa was introduced to film music in 1934 by his friend, the Swiss-born composer Arthur Honegger. Following a concert which featured their respective compositions, Honegger mentioned that he supplemented his income as a composer of film scores, including the film Les Misérables (1934). Rózsa went to see it and was greatly impressed by the opportunities the film medium offered.

However, it was not until Rózsa moved to London that he was hired to compose his first film score for Knight Without Armour (1937), produced by his fellow Hungarian Alexander Korda. After his next score, for Thunder in the City (1937), he joined the staff of Korda’s London Films, and scored the studio’s epic The Four Feathers (1939).

In 1939, Rózsa travelled with Korda to Hollywood to complete the work on the The Thief of Bagdad (1940) The film earned him his first Academy Award nomination. A further two followed with Lydia (1940) and Sundown (1941). In 1943, he received his fourth nomination for Korda’s Jungle Book (1942)

In 1943, Rózsa scored his first of several collaborations with director Billy Wilder starting with Five Graves to Cairo, the same year that he also scored the similarly themed Humphrey Bogart film Sahara. In 1944, his scores for his second Wilder collaboration, Double Indemnity, and for The Woman of the Town, earned him separate Academy Award nominations in the same year. However, Max Steiner won the Oscar for that year for Since You Went Away.

In 1945, Rózsa was hired to compose the score for Alfred Hitchcock’s film Spellbound, after Bernard Herrmann became unavailable due to other commitments. The score, notable for pioneering the use of the theremin, was immensely successful and earned him his first Oscar. However, Hitchcock disliked the score, saying it “got in the way of his direction.” Two of his other scores from that year, The Lost Weekend and A Song to Remember, were also nominated. Rózsa, who also reportedly hated the interruptions and interference by producer David O. Selznick, never worked for either Hitchcock or Selznick again.

Rózsa earned another Oscar nomination for scoring The Killers (1946) which introduced Burt Lancaster to film audiences. Part of the famed theme for the Dragnet radio and TV show duplicated part of Rózsa’s The Killers main theme, and he successfully sued for damages, and subsequently was given co-credit for the Dragnet theme. Rózsa received his second Oscar in 1947 for A Double Life, which also won Ronald Colman an Academy Award for Best Actor. That same year Rózsa and Eugene Zador orchestrated music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the film Song of Scheherazade, about a fictional episode in the composer’s life. Rózsa also wrote original music for the film. Among the other films scored by Rózsa during the 1940s were the prison drama Brute Force (1947), also with Lancaster, and The Naked City (1948), the latter also including music by Frank Skinner. Both of those films were directed by Jules Dassin.

Madame Bovary (1949) was Rózsa’s first important score for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which produced most of the later films that he scored. Other popular scores that he composed for MGM pictures include Quo Vadis (1951), Ivanhoe (1952), Ben-Hur (1959), King of Kings (1961) and The V.I.P.s (1963). For Ben-Hur, he received his third and final Oscar. His final two nominations (one each for Best Original Score and Best Original Song) were for the 1961 Samuel Bronston film El Cid.

In 1968, Rózsa was asked to score The Green Berets, after Elmer Bernstein turned it down due to his political beliefs. Rózsa initially declined the offer, saying, “I don’t do westerns.” However, he agreed to compose the score after being informed, “It’s not a Western, it’s an ‘Eastern’.” He produced a strong and varied score, which included a night club vocal by a Vietnamese singer Bạch Yến. However, one cue which incorporated stanzas of “Onward Christian Soldiers” was deleted from the film’s final edit.

His popular film scores during the 1970s included his last two Billy Wilder collaborations The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) and Fedora (1978), the Ray Harryhausen fantasy sequel The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), the latter-day film noir Last Embrace starring Roy Scheider, and the time-travel fantasy film Time After Time (1979) for which Rózsa won a Science Fiction Film Award, saying in his televised acceptance speech that of all the film scores he had ever composed, it was the one he had worked on the hardest.

After completing work on the music for the spy thriller Eye of the Needle (1981), Rózsa’s last film score was for the black-and-white Steve Martin film Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), a comic homage to the film noir of the 1940s, a genre to which Rózsa himself had contributed scores. Although Rózsa’s career as a composer for films ended following a stroke he suffered while on holiday in Italy later that year, he continued to compose various concert pieces thereafter; one of his last works being Sonata for Ondes Martenot, op. 45 (1989). He returned to California at the behest of his son, and remained sequestered at his home for the remainder of his life. Rozsa died on 27 July 1995 and is buried at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills.

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