Notes on the Program
by Dr. Richard E. Rodda
(b. Northampton, Massachusetts, 1980)
Composed in 2014.
Premiered on April 11, 2014 by the Lexington (Kentucky) Philharmonic, conducted by Scott Terrell.
Instrumentation: woodwinds, horns, trumpets and trombones in pairs, percussion, piano and strings
Duration: approximately 7 minutes.
Adam Schoenberg, born in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton in 1980, grew up in a musical environment, improvising and playing piano from age three. Schoenberg received his baccalaureate in music composition from Oberlin (2002) and his master's degree (2005) and doctorate (2010) from Juilliard, where he was a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow; his teachers have included John Corigliano, Robert Beaser, Jeffrey Mumford, Lewis Nielson and George Tsontakis. He has taught at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and lectured at Juilliard, Oberlin, Aspen and other noted schools and conservatories, and in 2015 was appointed to the faculty Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he teaches composition and film scoring.
Schoenberg has received awards and grants from ASCAP, Meet the Composer, International Brass Chamber Music Festival, Southern Arts Federation and Society for New Music, as well as the prestigious Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006. He was a MacDowell Colony Fellow in 2009 and 2010, Guest Composer at the Aspen Music Festival and School in 2010 and 2011, and 2012 BMI Composer-in-Residence at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University; he has also held residencies with the Kansas City Symphony and Lexington Philharmonic, and serves as Composer-in-Residence with the Fort Worth Symphony during the 2015-2016 season. His commissions include those from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, New West Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, IRIS Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival and School, Blakemore Trio and New Juilliard Ensemble. In 2012 Schoenberg became the first American classical composer to sign with Universal Music Publishing Classical Group and Ricordi London. An accomplished film composer, Adam Schoenberg has scored two feature-length movies and several shorts.
Schoenberg wrote of Canto, composed in 2014, "On August 11, 2013, my son Luca was born, and in that single moment, my life changed forever. The past six months have brought the greatest joys I've ever known, and I can no longer imagine life without him. When it was time to write a new piece for the Lexington Philharmonic, I knew that this would be a very different work for me. My son embodies many different cultures and religions (e.g., Judaism from me, Catholicism from my wife, and Chinese, Peruvian and Iranian blood). He is being raised bilingual, as Spanish is my wife's first language. Knowing that my son is part of so many different cultures, I wanted the spirit of this new work to embody the spirit of others. Canto can mean singing, chant or song.
"Ever since Luca was born, I have been writing him lullabies. I play them while he sleeps and often sing them to him before he goes to bed. In many ways, I envision Canto as a dream within a dream, a lullaby that emerges from a chant. The music is the slowest I have ever written, and it's very atmospheric and textural. The piece opens in a harmonically ambiguous way before announcing the chant-like feeling in the key of G. As the piece unfolds, the music moves from one texture to another, while always stating the presence of G. The German poet and theologian Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart wrote a book in 1806 called Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst ('Ideas of Aesthetics and Music') in which he discussed the expressive characteristics of each key. Of G, he says: 'Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love — in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.'
"Canto is about family and love, and it's dedicated to my wife, Janine, and son, Luca."
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Opus 11
(b. Zelazowa-Wola, Poland, 1810; d. Paris, 1849)
Composed in 1830.
Premiered on October 11, 1830 in Warsaw, conducted by Carlo Soliva with the composer as soloist.
Instrumentation: woodwinds in pairs, four horns, two trumpets, bass trombone, timpani and strings.
Duration: approximately 37 minutes.
Chopin, the greatest poet of the piano, left a slim catalog of works involving the orchestra, and all of those include parts for solo keyboard: two concertos (Opp. 11 and 21), a set of variations on "La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni (Op. 2), Grand Fantasie on Polish Airs (Op. 13), Krakowiak (Op. 14) and Grand Polonaise Brilliante (Op. 22). Despite the opus numbers, which indicate the sequence of publication rather than composition, these are all very early works, completed by 1830. In other words, Chopin did not write a note for orchestra after his twentieth year. The reasons for this illuminate not only Chopin's career, but also the musical milieu in which he was spawned.
The music of the first half of the 19th century was ruled in large part by the touring virtuoso. With the advent of Paganini in 1805 and Liszt in 1823, the performance standards, methods of concertizing and show business savvy of the master executant were established. If any young hopeful wanted to crash the gates of such elite company, he not only had to play like a wizard, but he also had to play his own music. Such music was of three sorts: improvisations, composed solo works and concerted pieces with orchestra. All were included on a typical concert of the early 19th century, along with a miscellany of vocal and orchestral compositions. The actual pieces chosen for these programs were dictated by the crossing paths of performers, the availability of certain instrumental combinations and the current love affairs of the participants. (Chopin's inamorata of 1830, a soprano, shared the bill with the premiere of the E minor Concerto.) Chopin had determined to make his mark in the world as a pianist, so he needed to produce the required works for solo piano with orchestral accompaniment if he was to have thoughts of organizing successful concerts across Europe.
So why, then, did Chopin stop composing concertos? He stopped precisely because he was Chopin. He was probably the most sensitive piano player ever to walk the earth, but he was not a showman, at least not in the extravagant manner needed to attract attention in such a highly competitive field. He was unable to create the thunderous avalanche of sound required to: 1) acoustically fill a large hall; 2) be heard above the orchestra; and 3) drown out the competition. Berlioz said that to appreciate Chopin's playing, "It is necessary to hear him at no great distance, rather in the salon than in the theater." The Pole was a good judge of his own talents, and when fate beckoned him to abandon the public concert platform in 1835 by becoming the darling of Parisian society and its private salons, he bought himself some fancy clothes and waded right into the aristocratic whirl. The need for concerted pieces evaporated, and he never wrote another.
The E minor Concerto was premiered at Chopin's third public concert in Warsaw, a performance that was not only to be his last in that city but also the final one he would ever play on his native Polish soil. Soon after he departed for Vienna three weeks later, the political ferment blowing across Europe swept into Warsaw and insurrection broke out. Prevented from returning, Chopin was drawn eventually to Paris and never to set foot in his homeland again.
The E minor is actually the second of Chopin's two piano concertos, but because it was published before the F minor it is known as No. 1. Its three movements follow the Classical pattern of fast–slow–fast, but it is considerably expanded in length from the Mozartian model. For the work of a twenty-year-old composer, it is an amazing accomplishment. All the characteristics of the mature Chopin are found here: the sure melodic sense, the beautiful harmonic felicity, the perfect understanding of the piano's sonorities and the ineffable quality of generating exactly the mood appropriate for the material and the genre. The opening movement begins with a long orchestral introduction that presents the thematic material: a melodramatic main theme in E minor and a perfect, grandly arched second theme in E major. The piano enters for the reprise of the themes to complete the exposition. The development is largely occupied with the main theme, around which the soloist strews exquisite scales and chords, proving that Chopin was a master of keyboard figuration from his earliest works. The recapitulation commences with the orchestra alone while the pianist returns only with the second theme, heard, rather curiously, in G major. An abrupt unison closes the movement.
Of the second movement, entitled "Romanze," Chopin wrote, "[It is] of a romantic, calm and partly melancholy character. It is intended to convey the impression which one receives when the eye rests on a beloved landscape that calls up in one's soul beautiful memories, for instance, of a fine moonlit spring night." This lovely soliloquy, in E major, is the closest of this Concerto's three movements to the finely wrought mastery of Chopin's later works. The rondo-finale partakes of the jubilant character of a native Polish dance, the Krakowiak, with the returning theme separated by several glittering, tuneful episodes.
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Opus 36
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
(b. Votkinsk, Russia, 1840; d. St. Petersburg, 1893)
Composed in 1877-1878.
Premiered on February 22, 1878 in Moscow, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.
Instrumentation: pairs of woodwinds plus piccolo, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion and strings.
Duration: approximately 44 minutes.
The Fourth Symphony was a product of the most crucial and turbulent time of Tchaikovsky's life — 1877, when he met two women who forced him to evaluate himself as he never had before. The first was the sensitive, music-loving widow of a wealthy Russian railroad baron, Nadezhda von Meck, who became not only the financial backer who allowed him to quit his irksome teaching job at the Moscow Conservatory to devote himself entirely to composition, but also the sympathetic sounding-board for reports on the whole range of his activities — emotional, musical, personal. Though they never met, her place in Tchaikovsky's life was enormous and beneficial.
The second woman to enter Tchaikovsky's life in 1877 was Antonina Miliukov, an unnoticed student in one of his large lecture classes at the Conservatory who had worked herself into a passion over her professor. Tchaikovsky paid her no special attention, and had quite forgotten her when he received an ardent love letter professing her flaming and unquenchable desire to meet him. Tchaikovsky (age 37), who should have burned the thing, answered the letter of the 28-year-old Antonina in a polite, cool fashion, but did not include an outright rejection of her advances. He had been considering marriage for almost a year in the hope that it would give him both the stable home life that he had not enjoyed in the twenty years since his mother died, as well as to help dispel the all-too-true rumors of his homosexuality. He believed he might achieve both these goals with Antonina. He could not see the situation clearly enough to realize that what he hoped for was impossible — a pure, platonic marriage without its physical and emotional realities. Further letters from Antonina implored Tchaikovsky to meet her, and threatened suicide out of desperation if he refused. What a welter of emotions must have gripped his heart when, just a few weeks later, he proposed marriage to her! Inevitably, the marriage crumbled within days of the wedding amid Tchaikovsky's searing self-deprecation.
It was during May and June that Tchaikovsky sketched the Fourth Symphony, finishing the first three movements before Antonina began her siege. The finale was completed by the time he proposed. Because of this chronology, the program of the Symphony was not a direct result of his marital disaster. All that — the July wedding, the mere eighteen days of bitter conjugal farce, the two separations — postdated the actual composition of the Symphony by a few months. What Tchaikovsky found in his relationship with this woman (who by 1877 already showed signs of approaching the door of the mental ward in which, still legally married to him, she died in 1917) was a confirmation of his belief in the inexorable workings of Fate in human destiny.
After the premiere, Tchaikovsky explained to Mme. von Meck the emotional content of the Fourth Symphony: "The introduction [blaring brasses heard immediately in a motto theme that recurs throughout the Symphony] is the kernel of the whole Symphony. This is Fate, which hinders one in the pursuit of happiness. There is nothing to do but to submit and vainly complain [the melancholy, syncopated shadow-waltz of the main theme, heard in the strings]. Would it not be better to turn away from reality and lull one's self in dreams? [The second theme is begun by the clarinet.] But no — these are but dreams: roughly we are awakened by Fate. [The blaring brass fanfare over a wave of timpani begins the development section.] Thus we see that life is only an everlasting alternation of somber reality and fugitive dreams of happiness. The second movement shows another phase of sadness. How sad it is that so much has already been and gone! And yet it is a pleasure to think of the early years. It is sad, yet sweet, to lose one's self in the past. In the third movement are capricious arabesques, vague figures which slip into the imagination when one has taken wine and is slightly intoxicated. Military music is heard in the distance. As to the finale, if you find no pleasure in yourself, go to the people. The picture of a folk holiday. [The finale employs the folk song A Birch Stood in the Meadow.] Hardly have we had time to forget ourselves in the happiness of others when indefatigable Fate reminds us once more of its presence. Yet there still is happiness, simple, naive happiness. Rejoice in the happiness of others — and you can still live."
©2015 Dr. Richard E. Rodda