JACQUES LACOMBE CONDUCTS THE SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE
|Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 8:00 PM||Done|
|Saturday, February 13, 2016 - 8:00 PM||Done|
|Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 2:30 PM||Done|
Presentation of the concert
Ravel, Miroirs, “Alborada del gracioso” (approx. 9 min.)
Dvořák, Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104 (approx. 40 min.)*
Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18 (approx. 33 min.)**
Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique, op. 14 (approx. 49 min.)
Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz makes its enduring mark once again in a program featuring the work of three incomparable composers. On February 13 and 14, Gautier Capuçon returns to the OSM with his interpretation of the Cello Concerto by Dvořák. On February 10, the Grand Prize winner of the OSM Manulife 2015 competition makes his triumphant debut with the Orchestra. Experience the OSM in all its splendour!
February 10 | 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
February 13 | 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
February 14 | 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Pierre Grandmaison, organ
Organist in residence at Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal
Maurice Duruflé: Prélude (from the Suite op. 5)
César Franck: Fantaisie en la majeur
Ours cheeses, privileged partner of talks and organ preconcerts
Networking event by the Club des jeunes ambassadeurs for ages 34 and under.
*Concerts on Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14 only
**Concert on Wednesday, February 10 only
Born in Ciboure, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, March 7, 1875 – Died in Paris, December 28, 1937
Miroirs (excerpt) : IV. Alborada del gracioso
Alborada del gracioso is the fourth number in the set of Miroirs, originally composed for piano in 1904 and 1905. Ravel orchestrated the work in 1918, in which form the first performance was given in Paris on May 17, 1919 by the Orchestre des Concerts Pasdeloup and conducted by René-Emmanuel Baton.
An alborada is a Spanish song of Galician origin sung by a man to his ladylove in the early morning hours. In his Alborada, Ravel depicts a gracioso (the buffoon or jester of the Spanish stage), who makes a fool of himself in singing an alborada in hopes of seducing a young lady who has rejected his advances. The music underscores the disconnect between the poetry of the serenade and the absurdity of the jester through sharp contrasts of dynamics and through infusing the music with a playful, lyrical or ironic character as befits the gracioso’s changing emotions.
This ternary-form (ABA) work opens with a short introduction of pizzicato strings and harp suggestive of the guitar-like accompaniment to a gracioso’s song. Woodwinds supported by strings present the first theme, followed by a wild, dance-like effusion from the full orchestra. Rhythmic patterns and percussion, especially the castanets, lend a Spanish flavor to the music. The contrasting central episode, in recitative style, is the jester’s dawn song, sung by the bassoon with frequent explosive interruptions from the orchestra indicative of the mocking reactions of the young lady toward her poor rejected lover. The opening material returns, the rhythmic activity becoming ever more frenzied as the final bars approach.
Ravel came to know Spain through reminiscences of his mother, who had lived in Madrid in her youth, and the songs she sang to him. This was no pale imitation. The innate feeling and delicacy with which Ravel invested his scores induced the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla to note the “subtly authentic Spanish-ness of Ravel’s music.
CONCERT ON FEBRUARY 10 ONLY
Born in Semyonovo, April 1, 1873 – Died in Beverly Hills, California, March 28, 1943
Piano Concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18
Writing his Second Piano Concerto provided Rachmaninoff with the opportunity to experiment with the therapeutic power of music as a means of regaining confidence and inspiration lost following the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897. As a result of the nervous depression brought on by the sound critical drubbing of the symphony, Rachmaninoff consulted the neurologist Dr. Nicolai Dahl, who cured him through hypnosis and encouraged him to begin composing again.
This concerto is particularly notable for the lyrical quality of its richly melodic ideas, for the interchangeability of motifs between movements, and for the unusual relationship of piano and orchestra. Here one does not find the sense of rivalry and imperious display from the soloist, who sometimes relinquishes his role to accompany the orchestra. The first movement’s introspective melancholy, heard in the frequent reiteration of the same motifs, as well as the intense feeling that underscores the work, demand from the performer a deep well of expressivity rather than a mere display of virtuosity.
The work was first performed in part (second and third movements only) on December 2, 1900. Its warm reception encouraged Rachmaninoff to continue working on the first movement, and the concerto was finished in April of 1901. The first complete performance was given on October 27 in Moscow with Alexander Siloti on the podium and the composer at the piano. Rachmaninoff dedicated the work to Dr. Dahl. It went on to become one of the most popular of all piano concertos, and won the composer the Glinka Prize in 1904.
CONCERTS ON FEBRUARY 13 & 14 ONLY
Born in Mühlhausen, Bohemia (today Nelahozeves, the Czech Republic). September 8, 1841– Died in Prague, May 1, 1904
Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104
Dvořák’s Cello Concerto follows in the line of concertos for this instrument that have been written since the Baroque era. But it was really during the Romantic period that the repertory of cello concertos really blossomed. Schumann, Brahms, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Dvořák and Offenbach, among others, contributed to this repertory, followed by several leading composers of the 20th century.
Dvořák’s concerto, composed in 1894 and 1895, dates from the end of his New York sojourns. However, unlike the “New World” Symphony of two years earlier, there is nothing in it suggestive of this side of the Atlantic. Dvořák’s curiosity and inspiration derived from discovering a new world when he wrote his most famous symphony in 1893, but during the three years he spent in the United States (1892-1895), he yearned for his native Bohemia, as we know from letters of the time. Hence, we see in the Cello Concerto a combination of melancholy caused by exile and hope for a speedy return to his homeland.
Dvořák uses a large orchestra but also features instruments in solo capacities, especially the winds, to enrich the tonal palette. The first theme of the opening movement is presented by clarinets and bassoons, then extended by violins and violas, after which the full orchestra takes over. The second theme is announced by the horn. The solo cello part, which often ascends to the instrument’s uppermost range, demands great technical expertise from the performer. Dvořák exploits the full expressive potential of the cello by giving it long melodic lines, particularly in the second movement. The last movement, with its many contrasts of mood and color, calls for virtuosic technique and great expressivity from the soloist. A long, meditative coda eventually leads to the concluding bars, which are played “in an uproar,” as Dvořák wrote in a letter to his publisher Simrock. The work was first performed by cellist Leo Stern in London, on March 19, 1896, under the direction of the composer.
Born in Côte-Saint-André, December 11, 1803 – Died in Paris, March 8, 1869
Symphonie fantastique, op. 14
Politically and culturally, the year 1830 was lit up in France by three major events: In February Victor Hugo’s play Hernani was given its tumultuous premiere at the Comédie française. A few months later the July Revolution deposed the existing monarchy, and on December 5 Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique resounded throughout the concert hall of the Paris Conservatoire. This program symphony – the first great symphony by a French composer – brought France into the age of musical Romanticism.
Although motivated by Berlioz’ passionate attraction to the actress Harriet Smithson, the Symphonie fantastique, despite its subtitle “Episode in the Life of an Artist,” is less descriptive than it is evocative, expressing and synthesizing the composer’s emotional response to dramatic events. In this work, we find in Berlioz, as in Beethoven, the desire to write music of poetic and philosophical import rather than merely something entertaining.
Berlioz attached descriptive comments about each of the five movements. A young musician of morbidly sensitive temperament and fiery imagination poisons himself with opium in a fit of lovesick despair. The dose of the narcotic, too weak to kill him, plunges him into a deep slumber accompanied by the strangest visions, during which his sensations, his emotions, his memories are transformed in his sick mind into musical thoughts and images. The loved one herself has become a melody to him, an idée fixe as it were, that he encounters and hears everywhere. This program, which served as a listening guide for the audience, allowed Berlioz to incorporate a number of formal elements like the waltz, the march and the hymn, the latter taking the form of the Dies irae used in the last movement. It also gave him free reign to deal with subjects dear to the Romantics: love, opium and death.
Berlioz shows his genius in his use of the idée fixe, a motif that runs throughout and unifies the entire work. The idée fixe motif, borrowed from Berlioz’ 1828 cantata Herminie, is presented in the opening movement, then transformed in successive movements until by the finale it becomes distorted. Berlioz’ originality is seen also in the range and variety of the orchestration, and in the use of instruments until that time found more often in opera (English horn, harps, bells). Already obvious in this work of a young man is a predilection for intensity of expression and the power of great blocks of orchestral sound.
© Florence Leyssieux
English translation by Robert Markow
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