Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann
SATURDAY, OCT. 13, 2018 AT 8 P.M.
Darko Butorac, conductor
Adele Anthony, violin
Beethoven’s Egmont Overture presents a musical equivalent of the hero’s journey, moving from chaos and darkness to blazing heroic victory. The same powerful narrative inspires Schumann’s blazing Fourth Symphony. The two are contrasted by violinist Adele Anthony’s performance of Mozart’s “Turkish” concerto, a work that combines radiant warmth with sprightly humor, and violin athleticism with sublime poetry.
Beethoven Egmont Overture
Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, “Turkish”
Schumann Symphony No. 4
Since her triumph at Denmark’s 1996 Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition Anthony has enjoyed an acclaimed and expanding international career. Performing as a soloist with orchestra and in recital, as well as being active in chamber music, Ms. Anthony’s career spans the continents of North America, Europe, Australia, India and Asia.
She has collaborated with Gil Shaham in the United States and Spain in concerts and recording marking the centenary of the death of legendary Spanish violinist and composer Pablo Sarasate. From the Kaplan Penthouse at New York’s Lincoln Center, this program was broadcast nationally on PBS, as part of its Live from Lincoln Center Series. This was Ms. Anthony’s second appearance in the series, having performed in the Emmy Award–winning “Lincoln Center Celebrates Balanchine” in 2004.
Ms. Anthony holds numerous awards and prizes. She has received awards from the Australia Council, the South Australian Government and The Queen’s Trust. In 1990 the National Arts Club in New York invited her to perform at the presentation of the Medal of Honor to Zubin Mehta. At age 13, she was the youngest winner of the ABC Instrumental and Vocal Competition. She performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. As part of the prize, she also played the Tchaikovsky Concerto in a live national telecast.
INTERACTIVE PROGRAM NOTES
Ludwig van Beethoven
Overture to Goethe’s Egmont, Op. 84
The German poet and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote the historical drama Egmont between 1775 and 1787. Based on historical events – although with considerable poetic license – the play conveys Goethe’s idealism and passion for political and individual freedom. Historically, Lamoral, Count of Egmont, was a Dutch patriot and a Catholic who unsuccessfully attempted to attenuate the power of the Inquisition in the Netherlands, which was under Spanish rule during the mid sixteenth century. Caught between the Dutch resistance and his loyalty to King Philip II, Egmont was imprisoned and hanged for treason.
Goethe’s Egmont bears only scant resemblance to the historical Count of Egmont. In the play, Egmont organizes a resistance movement against the Spanish forces who invade and occupy the Netherlands, led by the ruthless Duke of Alva. Egmont is cast as a martyr for freedom of thought, managing to rouse the populace to revolt as he is about to be executed.
In 1809 the director of the Imperial Theater in Vienna commissioned Beethoven to compose music to accompany Goethe’s tragedy. Sharing the ideals of the Enlightenment with the playwright, Beethoven went to work enthusiastically. In addition to the overture he wrote nine pieces of incidental music, including two soprano arias. He also added a narrator to bridge the gaps in the story and thus, according to Goethe, “…it can be performed as an oratorio.” Goethe was pleased with Beethoven’s efforts, commenting, “Beethoven has followed my intentions with admirable genius.”
The Overture, which quickly acquired a life of its own, captures the essence of the drama. It opens with snarling minor chords symbolizing the Spanish brutality, answered pleadingly by the oboe and upper woodwinds, representing the Dutch suffering.
The central allegro theme in 3/4 time has no specific narrative significance but rather, reflects the general dramatic tension, especially the sighing appoggiaturas in the violins.
The Overture ends with the “Victory Symphony,” the final section of the incidental music, signifying Egmont’s call for the Dutch uprising that eventually drove the Spanish out of the Low Countries.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, “Turkish”
There is some controversy among scholars as to whether Mozart himself was the soloist in the first performance of his A major Concerto, but there is no question that he was a master violin player. In fact, his father, Leopold – ever the “backstage mom” – was frequently after him to show off his skills by writing a virtuoso concerto for the instrument. When Wolfgang did finally knuckle down and write concerted pieces for the violin in 1773-75, he wrote a bunch of them; his five concerti are only 12 Koechel numbers apart. At that time, Mozart was in Salzburg in the service of Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, for whom he both composed and served as first violinist in the court orchestra. Colloredo was a strict taskmaster and had no truck with his young musician, however talented. Although Mozart was more than seven years in the archbishop’s employ, he spent nearly three of them on furlough, performing around Europe and none too diplomatically looking for another job. He eventually “escaped” to Vienna where he was lionized for a time but never offered the high position in the imperial court that he felt his abilities merited.
The A major concerto has a number of unusual features, including a long solo in the middle of the first movement, almost like a melancholy aria for the violin that seems to cancel the momentum of the orchestral exposition.
The first movement in particular has a wealth of themes, making it more of a serenade than a regular sonata allegro form.
The Concerto is also known as the “Turkish” concerto. After the opening of the rondo Finale,
Mozart included a diversion in the final rondo of faux Turkish sounding music
similar to the overture to the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, but more gentle than the finale Rondo alla turca of the finale of the much later Piano Sonata, K.331.
Although bearing little resemblance to authentic Turkish music, this passage is supposed to reflect the jangling, percussive music of the Janissary soldiers of the Ottoman Turks. Many composers of the period were captivated by this exotic orientalism, especially composers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose eastern borders were continually threatened by their Ottoman neighbors. Among the most famous examples is the second movement of Franz Josef Haydn’s Symphony No. 100, the “Military.”
Despite his proficiency on the violin, Mozart left no written cadenzas, although it is more than likely that he would have improvised them in concert.
Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120
No other composer symbolized the romantic movement in music as did Robert Schumann. Talented both in music and literature, he used the latter to promote his romantic ideals about the future of music. He was a true elitist, pitting “us,” the enlightened (the Davidsbündler), against “them,” the masses, whom he called “Philistines”. The latter appellation has remained part of the international elitist vocabulary to this day.
Schumann’s five-year pursuit of his beloved, the brilliant Clara Wieck, had all the ingredients of a soap opera (or grand opera): A hostile father-in-law, an adoring young bride-to-be, secret correspondence, lawsuits and court battles, accusations of alcoholism, banishment from Wieck’s house, economic pressure, etc. Clara was an outstanding pianist and composer in her own right, and their eventual triumph led to a stormy but happy marriage unleashing a flood of creativity in both husband and wife – including seven children.
Although listed as Robert Schumann’s fourth symphony, the Symphony in D minor was actually his second, composed in 1841 during the happy first year of his marriage to Clara Wieck. In his diary the composer wrote “…my next symphony will be called Clara and I will portray her with flutes, oboes and harps.”
The Symphony broke with the prevailing symphonic traditions, being more of an orchestral fantasy on several related themes which undergo transformations and variations. In this way it forms a bridge between the classical symphony and the later tone poems of Liszt. Schumann himself referred to it as “Symphonistische Phantasie.”
The result of these innovations was a chilly reception at the premiere in Leipzig. Schumann withdrew the work and only returned to it in 1851, after the success of his Third Symphony. He revised and reorchestrated it, fusing all four movement to be played without a break, which made it even closer to a “Phantasie.” However, many conductors ignore this directive and separate the movements.
The opening movement of the Symphony can actually be thought of in two separate sections, each one dominated by a thematic group. The first, in D minor includes the theme of the slow introduction, marked Ziemlich langsam (quite slowly),
and three motives from the allegro.
The second thematic group, appearing well into the development, begins with three sharp chords in the orchestra, similar to a hammer blow,
in addition to a lyrical, romantic theme.
In this movement Schumann develops all the themes in various combinations. He revisits this complex of musical ideas in the finale movement as an sophisticated unifying device for the Symphony.
The second movement, Romanza, again marked Ziemlich langsam, introduces a melancholy theme on the oboes and cellos, alternating with the opening theme of the introduction.
A classic ABA structure, the movement introduces contrasting new material in its middle section.
The lively Scherzo pits a certain heavy-handedness
against a gentle Trio that uses the same music as the B section of the preceding Romanza.
The movement ends on a poetic and gentle note that merges imperceptibly with the slow introduction of the Finale.
The last movement is essentially a redefinition of the first movement, with some new music. At first, the slow introduction uses the first allegro theme, now in a completely different guise and making the listener believe that there will be a return to the first movement D minor section.
When the allegro of this final movement begins, it takes up the more joyous second section of the first movement to develop, this time with more confidence.
A new theme is critical to contributing a celebratory air to this movement that the first movement lacked.
It is as if here Schumann has reconsidered the tension and drama of the opening movement and converted it into a triumph.
Copyright © Elizabeth and Joseph Kahn 2018