Overture Magazine - 2018-19 Season BSO_Overture_JanFeb_19 | Page 28

MOZART SYMPHONY NO. 40 Kovner Fellowship at The Juilliard School, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees under Hyo Kang and I-Hao Lee. He plays on the 1742 ex-Wieniawski Guarneri del Gesù on loan through the generous efforts of the Stradivari Society of Chicago. ​ Paul Huang makes his BSO debut. About the Concert ESPAÑA Emmanuel Chabrier Born in Ambert, France, January 18, 1841; died in Paris, France, September 13, 1894 In the late-19 th and early-20 th centuries, prominent French composers like Bizet, Debussy and Ravel became enraptured with Spanish culture and Romani- influenced dances. Emmanuel Chabrier was among those who were ensnared. Chabrier was born and raised in the Auvergne in south-central France, a region also known for its strong folk culture. He became a member of a group of creative personalities that included the poet Paul Verlaine, the impressionist painter Édouard Manet and composers Henri Duparc and Gabriel Fauré. A six-month sojourn in southern Spain in 1882 inspired the vivacious short orchestral showpiece España, the work for which Chabrier is best known today. It exudes the composer’s best qualities: a fantastic sense of instrumental color, rhythmic vivacity and a light, even humorous touch. In evoking the Spanish malagueña dance, Chabrier continually teases our ears with conflicting suggestions as to whether the meter is in two or three beats (it is actually three beats). Each instrumental family and many individual instruments take their turn in the spotlight, as two harps, percussion and even strings strum like giant guitars. Instrumentation: Two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, four bassoons, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, two harps and strings. 26 OV E R T U R E / BSOmusic.org VIOLIN CONCERTO Aram Ilych Khachaturian Born in Tbilisi, Russian Georgia, June 6, 1903; died in Moscow, U.S.S.R., May 1, 1978 When Aram Khachaturian wrote his grandly anachronistic, Romantic-style Violin Concerto in 1940, the Soviet Union was facing dark days. Since the mid-1930s, Stalin’s purges had eliminated millions of Russians from all ranks of society. In 1939, the Russian leader signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler that temporarily kept the U.S.S.R. out of World War II, but by 1940 Russians were nervously eyeing their western borders. A bloody war with Finland from 1939 to 1940 preceded the Nazi invasion and cost 40,000 Russian lives. In such troubled times, Soviet citizens more than ever wanted positive entertainment to lighten their worries, which was firmly in line with the official Stalinist artistic policy of “Socialist Realism.” Soviet commissars directed Russian composers to avoid the “decadent” modern experiments of the West and decreed that proper Soviet music should be tuneful and uplifting. Blending folk material with the Russian classical style came naturally to Khachaturian, who could draw on his Armenian heritage for inspiration. He enjoyed a long and mostly very successful career under the Soviet system. His official honors included the Stalin Prize for the Violin Concerto (1941), the Lenin Prize (1959) and the title of “People’s Artist of the U.S.S.R.” (1954). With his Violin Concerto, Khachaturian created a virtuoso showpiece that picks up where Tchaikovsky left off. Its plethora of appealing melodies are colored by the exoticism of Armenian and Asian- Russian music, although all of them are the composer’s own inventions. There’s also an urban edge to the concerto’s bright, brass-flavored orchestration and syncopated rhythms that reminds us that Khachaturian loved the music of George Gershwin. First and foremost, this concerto celebrates a violinist capable of delivering Russian-Romantic virtuosity in the grand manner of its dedicatee, David Oistrakh. In the first movement, after a few gestures from the orchestra, the violin launches the principal theme: a lively folk dance of repeated notes and nervous, urban energy. Woodwinds and the syncopated strumming of the harp set the stage for the languid, sensual second theme. Armenian melismas decorate this lengthy song melody, ideal for showing off the violinist’s lyrical expressiveness. In the middle development section, listen for the cellos’ suave rendition of the sensuous second theme while the violinist executes an intricate free commentary. Khachaturian includes a big virtuosic cadenza for the soloist at the end of the development; it is introduced by a haunting duet with solo clarinet, full of Eastern embroidery. Eastern exoticism also rules the lyrical second movement, in which sensitive orchestral writing matches the soloist’s expressiveness. The dark orchestral introduction, featuring cellos and bassoons and a mournful bassoon solo, establishes the soulful atmosphere. The strings then set a swaying 3/4 beat for the violin’s sadly impassioned song. Later, when the violin in its seductive lower range returns to this melody, it is beautifully accompanied by the solo clarinet’s soaring arabesques. The music closes in hovering expectancy. This expectancy is released by the galloping energy of the Allegro vivace finale. Its recurring rondo refrain is another folk-dance theme for the violin, relentless in its high-speed virtuosity. Finally, the music eases a bit, and the violin takes up something that sounds very familiar. It is, in fact, the sensuous song theme from the first movement . But it affords only a brief moment of relaxation before the soloist resumes the taxing virtuoso feats that ultimately secure our applause. Instrumentation: Two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and strings.