2019-02-13 20:00 2019-02-14 20:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2

https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/18710

David Fray makes his highly-anticipated debut on the NAC stage. The pianist is making waves for his ability to contrast explosive, muscular moments on the keyboard with sweet and fading sentimentality.  Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 serves as the perfect introduction to Fray’s polished finesse and panache: Chopin composed it as a piece intended to showcase his talents wherever he went as a traveling virtuoso. Fray has a particular affinity for the composer, having released an album of...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
February 13 - 14, 2019

≈ 2 hours · With intermission

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Last updated: February 5, 2019

A warm welcome to tonight’s concert, which, fittingly for Valentine’s Day, is infused with poeticism and romance. Two intertwined solo violins – none other than our extraordinary Yosuke Kawasaki and Jessica Linnebach – open the program in Jocelyn Morlock’s Cobalt, a fluid, touching rendering of the night sky moving into darkness. From this darkness appears Chopin’s lyrical, delicate and personal Piano Concerto No. 2, written at the tender age of 20, while in the throes of a romantic infatuation, brought to longing expression in the exquisite second movement. I am particularly delighted that you will hear this work in the hands of my friend David Fray, as he makes his first visit to the NAC Orchestra. We conclude with Schumann’s Symphony to his ‘Spring of Love.’ It is a work full of both joy and tenderness, and it is one of my very favourites!

NAC Institute for Orchestral Studies

The NAC Institute for Orchestral Studies (IOS) was established under the guidance of former NAC Orchestra Music Director Pinchas Zukerman, and is in its 12th season. During selected main series weeks of the 2018–2019 season, IOS apprentices rehearse and perform with the NAC Orchestra. The IOS is proudly supported by the RBC Emerging Artist Project with additional support by the NAC’s National Youth and Education Trust.

The RBC Foundation is proud to be the Presenting Supporter of the NAC Institute for Orchestral Studies.

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
The NAC Orchestra gave their first performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1969, with Mario Bernardi conducting and Witold Malcuzynski as soloist. Hans Graf was the conductor for the ensemble’s most recent interpretation of this concerto, given in 2010 with Garrick Ohlsson at the piano.

Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 38, “Spring”
Mario Bernardi led the NAC Orchestra in their first interpretation of Schumann’s Spring Symphony in 1977, and Alexander Shelley was conductor when the Orchestra most recently played this work, in 2010.

Repertoire

Jocelyn Morlock

Cobalt

Jocelyn Morlock / www.jocelynmorlock.com
Born St. Boniface (now incorporated into Winnipeg), Manitoba, December 14, 1969
Now living in Vancouver

Jocelyn Morlock received her Bachelor of Music in piano performance at Brandon University, and both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia. Among her teachers were Pat Carrabré, Stephen Chatman, Keith Hamel and the late Russian-Canadian composer Nicolai Korndorf.

“With its shimmering sheets of harmonics” (Georgia Straight) and an approach that is “deftly idiomatic” (Vancouver Sun), Morlock’s music has received numerous national and international accolades, including Top 10 at the 2002 International Rostrum of Composers, Winner of the 2003 CMC Prairie Region Emerging Composers competition and a nomination for Best Classical Composition at the 2006 Western Canadian Music Awards. She received a JUNO Nomination for Classical Composition of the Year (Exaudi, 2011), and more recently the Mayor’s Arts Award for Music in Vancouver (2016). In 2005, she was chosen to provide the required work for all contestants at the Montreal International Musical Competition. Amore, a tour de force vocal work, went on to receive more than seventy performances and numerous radio broadcasts. In 2008, she served in the same capacity for the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition. Morlock has been the Vancouver Symphony’s Composer in Residence since 2014, following a term as inaugural Composer in Residence for that city’s innovative concert series Music on Main (2012–2014).

Most of Morlock’s compositions are for small ensembles, many of them for unusual combinations like piano and percussion (Quoi?), cello and vibraphone (Shade), bassoon and harp (Nightsong), and an ensemble consisting of clarinet/bass clarinet, trumpet, violin and double bass (Velcro Lizards). Cobalt is her third work for full orchestra. An NAC Orchestra/CBC co-commission, it received its world premiere in Ottawa in April 2009 as part of the NAC’s BC Scene Festival, with Jonathan Crowe and Karl Stobbe as violin soloists, and Alain Trudel conducting. In May 2016, the NAC Orchestra premiered Morlock’s My Name is Amanda Todd, one of four NAC-commissioned compositions that make up the Orchestra's multi-media project Life Reflected. My Name is Amanda Todd won the JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year in 2018. Also in 2016, the Vancouver Symphony premiered her Earthfall.

Morlock’s first full-length CD, released on the Centrediscs label in 2014, is entitled Cobalt, and includes seven of the composer’s works. This disc was nominated for three Western Canadian Music Awards, for Classical Composition, and Classical Recording, of the Year. The composition Cobalt won Classical Composition of the Year. 

Here is the composer’s description of the seven-minute work: “Cobalt – the colour, the element, and indeed the goblin – has a kaleidoscopic array of associations. The element was originally named after a kobold, a mischievous and possibly evil goblin or sprite found in German folklore, for its troublesome nature. (Cobalt is poisonous, magnetic, and radioactive.) Though it is a necessary element found in both humans and animals, in large amounts it is highly toxic, and the cobalt salts used to create this vivid shade of blue in pottery or glasswork can be fatal if touched or inhaled. The luminous cobalt blue of the night sky, just before it becomes completely dark, is one of the most beautiful colours found in nature, yet it is visible only for a very short time every evening. What sustains life can also destroy it; beauty is transient and fleeting.

“The inspiration behind the piece was the myriad, contrasting emotional possibilities all contained within the associations behind cobalt. Fear, exhilaration, tranquility, beauty, and a melancholic sense of the passing of time are all contained therein. Musically, the piece is something of a collection of variations, but rather than a specific theme, what is varied is the use of (primarily) tonal melodies which focus on the minor second. The minor second is ambiguous (like cobalt) in that it may sound ominous and fearful (think of Jaws!), or anticipatory, or very resolved (as in a cadence.) Fanfare-like motifs also appear with relative frequency, as they too can be both ominous and exhilarating, depending on context.”

Program notes by Robert Markow

Chopin

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21

Born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, March 1, 1810
Died in Paris, October 17, 1849

In July 1829, the nineteen-year-old Chopin spent three weeks in Vienna. The publisher Haslinger encouraged him to give a recital, which was so well received that a second was quickly arranged, and proved equally successful. Upon returning to Poland, Chopin realized that if he were going to pursue a career as a concert pianist (a career move he soon abandoned), he would need some major display pieces of his own in his repertoire. To this end he soon set about writing the F-minor concerto, which he premiered in Warsaw on March 17, 1830 to great acclaim. Hence, Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor, the so-called No. 2, was actually his first, preceding the E-minor concerto by about a year. The reversal in numbering came about because the orchestral parts of the F-minor concerto were lost before it was published, and by the time they were recopied, the E-minor concerto had been published.

The enduring appeal of a Chopin concerto lies in the piano writing – sweetly lyrical melodies, a quality of intimacy, the expressive nuances of colour and dynamics, the improvisatory character provided by such techniques as rubato, arpeggios and delicate ornamentation of the melodic lines.

The first movement’s two main themes are stated in the opening orchestral exposition – a strongly rhythmic idea with a quasi-military flavour (a rhythm also found in so many Italian operas of the period) and a more lyrical, bel canto subject announced by the woodwind choir, the first of several felicitous uses of woodwind colour in this concerto.

The Larghetto is a nocturne of heavenly beauty and midnight poetry. The central episode of this ternary form (ABA) movement momentarily disturbs the placid waters, but the mood of quiet reverie is restored well before the movement ends.

The finale is a rondo imbued with the spirit and rhythm of the mazurka, a Polish country dance in triple metre with a characteristic accent on the third beat.

Program notes by Robert Markow

ROBERT SCHUMANN

Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 38, “Spring”

I. Andante un poco maestoso – Allegro molto vivace
II. Larghetto –
III. Scherzo: Molto vivace –
IV. Allegro animato e grazioso

Robert Schumann’s (1810–1856) First Symphony came to fruition in a burst of productive creativity in 1841, during the first months of his marriage to Clara Wieck. Over four days in late January, he feverishly sketched out the entire work. Within another month, he had orchestrated it. (Even Clara was not prepared for the intensity of her husband’s activity, even though she had long encouraged him to write for orchestra. Unable to practice on the piano while he was composing and feeling overlooked, she admitted in their joint diary, “when a man composes a symphony, one really can’t expect him to concern himself with other things—thus even his wife must accept herself as set aside!”) The premiere took place on March 31 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, with Felix Mendelssohn conducting, and was warmly received by the audience. As was to become his practice, Robert made revisions after the first performances—to the first movement, scherzo, and finale—before the symphony’s publication.

Like many composers after Beethoven, Schumann was concerned with the future direction of the symphony and how to make his own contribution. As a critic reviewing the music of his contemporaries, Robert was aware of the prevailing “Beethovenian” methods of developing musical motifs to generate the “content” for a whole symphony, and of using inter-movement thematic recall to achieve coherence and to convey an emotional or psychological narrative, be that abstract (as in “absolute music”) or explicit (as in “program music”). For better or worse, how effectively composers employed these techniques in their works became a critical benchmark to which they were upheld. As music theorist Scott Burnham has noted, Schumann, in his four symphonies, appears to have carved a singular path that escapes easy classification. His music, and notably his First Symphony, lies “between worlds”: between lyricism and drama, between long-breathed melodies and motivic dynamism, between absolute and program music.

Robert called his first symphony “Spring” after a poem by Adolph Böttger. The text addresses the “spirit of the cloud”, imploring it to leave so spring can be revealed; as the final lines read: 

O wende, wende deinen Lauf [Oh turn, turn aside your course]
Im Thale blüht der Frühling auf! [In the valley spring is coming into bloom!]

Struck by these particular words, Schumann generated a musical motto based on the rhythm of the line “O wende, wende deinen lauf”, which is intoned by trumpets and horns at the beginning of the symphony. (He said he wanted it “to sound as if from on high, a call of awakening.”) Thereafter, the first movement proceeds with a vigorous energy that persists throughout. It adheres, for the most part, to formal conventions: two contrasting themes in the exposition, followed by a central section in which the snappy rhythm of the first theme is developed. But just at the start of the recapitulation, when we’d expect to hear the return of the first main theme, we get instead a grand statement of the musical motto by full orchestra, after which there's a pause, then the bustle resumes. At a similar point in the fourth movement, Schumann adds a bird-like flute cadenza, prefaced by a horn call. Such disruptions to expected symphonic processes is one innovative strategy he employed to imbue the form with a poetic sensibility.

Indeed, Robert had originally planned to give descriptive titles to each of the First Symphony’s movements: 1. The beginning of spring 2. Evening 3. Merry playmates 4. Full spring. However, not wanting to make it a work of “program music”, he dropped them, but knowing this now gives us an inkling of the ideas that inspired the piece. The second movement has a warm beauty while the third is a rustic dance of a serious air, with two contrasting trios. In between them is Schumann’s inventive approach to achieving large-scale unity: transitions that feature thematic recall and dramatic foreshadowing. Listen for how the trombone chorale at the slow movement’s conclusion anticipates the main theme of the ensuing scherzo. Near the end of the third movement, there are reminiscences of the scherzo and the first trio, before the music pauses expectantly. Then, a musical scenic change, as if the merry playmates are tiptoeing off the stage, and we arrive at an upward curtain-raising motif to introduce the finale. As the movement progresses with a spirited reveling in orchestral sonority, the motif’s rhythm becomes dominant, eventually joyously striding forward to bring the symphony to a jubilant finish.

Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

Artists

  • conductor Alexander Shelley
  • violin Yosuke Kawasaki
  • jessica-linnebach
    violin Jessica Linnebach
  • piano David Fray

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