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
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
Instrumentation: Two flutes, piccolo, two
oboes, two clarinets, four bassoons, four horns,
four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani,
percussion, two harps and strings.
OV E R T U R E / BSOmusic.org
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,
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 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
Instrumentation: Two flutes, piccolo,
two oboes, English horn, two clarinets,
two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets,
three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion,
harp and strings.