June 30, 2021 update on live performances and events at the NAC.
This event ended on: Jul 10, 2021

Unfinished

with the NAC Orchestra

Music Classical music

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  Jul 10, 2021 - 8 PM  EDT

Florence Price Andante moderato Schubert Symphony No. 8 in B minor, “Unfinished” Stravinsky Suite from The Firebird (1919)


NACO Live returns for a final concert of the season! The concert opens with a gorgeous work for strings by Florence Price, followed by Schubert’s famous “Unfinished” symphony. The two completed movements have long delighted audiences with their strangeness, surprise, and most of all their memorable melodies. Stravinsky’s incandescent Firebird Suite (1919) closes the program. Originally music for ballet, this tale of Russian folklore centres around the beautiful Firebird and weaves an exciting piece of orchestral music that allows the incredible artistry of our musicians to shine!

Programme Notes

Florence Price’s Andante Moderato is the second movement of her first String Quartet. Completed in 1929, the piece shows Price fusing music of her Black heritage with the formal structures and harmonic techniques of European art music. This movement opens with a warm melody clearly inspired by African American spirituals, richly harmonized. A moody, blues-inflected theme in the minor mode follows. A playful dance appears at the movement’s centre, after which the minor mode tune returns, before closing with the spiritual material. 

An aura of mystery has long surrounded the history of Franz Schubert’s B Minor Symphony. In 1822, he finished the first two movements, after which it remains unclear whether he considered the work complete as is, or abandoned a plan for a four-movement work (existing sketches for a Scherzo third movement suggest the latter). The two movements were eventually premiered in Vienna in 1865, 37 years after the composer’s death, and has endured since, in this “unfinished” form, as one of Schubert’s orchestral masterpieces. 

In the first movement, Schubert juxtaposes, to extreme contrast, two emotional “realms”: the anguished B minor one of the murky first theme and its anxious continuation, and the sunny G major one with a soaring cello theme. In the middle, a climax of unprecedented pathos is reached. The second movement begins with an ethereal E major section featuring an exquisitely tender theme. It alternates with a haunting clarinet and oboe melody accompanied by gently pulsating violins and violas. This delicate atmosphere is later broken by powerful full-orchestra eruptions, which subside before returning to the opening mood. 

Igor Stravinsky’s 1919 Suite from The Firebird is based on his score to the ballet that caused a huge sensation at its 1910 premiere in Paris. The music follows a Russian fairy tale about rebirth and renewal: a splendid firebird is summoned by the Prince Ivan Tsarevich to help save the men and women (including his beloved) who are being held captive under the enchantments of the evil monster King Kaschey. To distinguish the fantasy world of Kaschey and the firebird from the humanity of the Prince and his beloved, Stravinsky masterfully uses chromaticism and spicy dissonances to evoke the former, while the latter is characterized by diatonic harmony and Russian folksong (two tunes appear in the Princesses’ Round Dance, a third in the Finale). Compared to the original score, the 1919 Suite uses a reduced instrumentation, but the composer’s brilliant orchestration skills are still evident, indeed, put front and centre, as are the orchestra’s musicians, in this dramatic concert hall version. 

Programme notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley

NOTE: This performance will take place according to Ontario public health regulations step 2 guidelines.


The NAC Foundation is deeply grateful for the support of the Hon. Hilary M. Weston and the late Mr. W. Galen Weston on behalf of The Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation.

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