Over the past decade, Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi has gained attention and renown for her orchestral works, which are performed worldwide. In a 2019 interview for The Irish Times, she noted that her idea of a “musical heaven” was to have “an orchestra of my own in a really large auditorium.” Indeed, she prefers writing for orchestra, because of the broad range of sounds and timbres that are available to her. Moreover, her compositions are shaped by her synaesthesia, an ability to link various notes and chords with different colours. As she explained in a 2020 Classical Music profile, “I approach music from a visual perspective. I do sketches and drawings of the shape of the music before I write it and then always do a painting or illustration on the scores when I complete them.” She considers her music to be tonal, and notes that people often regard it as impressionistic in style.
Tarrodi composed Wildwood for orchestra in 2016 for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, and tonight’s performance constitutes its Canadian premiere. As she describes, “Wildwood was inspired by trees, especially oaks: how their roots grow deep into the ground and their branches reach up to the sky.” Throughout, she uses variety and texture to provide structure and interest during the work’s substantial arc—from the opening line, rising majestically through the lower strings and over the bass drum’s quiet rumblings, through to massive orchestral swells, and finally closing with harp and glockenspiel in otherworldly juxtaposition.
Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
I. Allegro moderato
III. Moderato –
IV. Allegro con brio
Dmitry Shostakovich composed his Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 35 between March and July in 1933. That it was originally titled “Concerto for Piano with the Accompaniment of String Orchestra and Trumpet” highlights the important role for the trumpet in the piece. At the work’s premiere on October 15, 1933, the part was played by Alexander Schmidt, principal trumpet of the Leningrad Philharmonic, which performed with the composer as soloist, with Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting.
The First Piano Concerto is a highly theatrical piece for which Shostakovich drew on his experience writing music for ballet, theatre, and film. There are numerous “in-joke” quotations throughout, many of them referencing Classical era works. But it’s not only hilarity and parody—there are significant lyrical elements too, which, within the arc of the composer’s career, this work is considered a stylistic turning point.
With a flourish on the piano and a small fanfare on muted trumpet, the Concerto begins. A semi-serious melody (alluding to Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata) follows, played by the piano, then first violins. The tempo picks up, and the piano, with a cheeky new theme, embarks on a frenzied chase with the strings; the trumpet interjects humorously as if to try to call things to order. First violins reprise the opening theme in the original mood, but the hijinks vibe returns with another sparkling little tune. After a lyrical moment in the lower strings, the piano presents the main melody one last time, with the trumpet intoning sustained low notes.
A very sad ghost of a waltz follows, with its main theme first introduced by muted strings. The piano enters on a trill (another nod to Beethoven) and takes up the melody. Gradually, it becomes more agitated, and builds to a powerful climax. Afterward, the trumpet, now muted, plays the waltz melody. The piano responds, then is joined by the cellos who sing poignantly before the piano closes the movement with an ethereal ascent to its upper registers.
The last two movements are played through without pause. First, there’s a fantasia for the piano (it hints at the finale of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata). The strings counter with a passionate theme, after which the piano rhapsodizes further, then launches forcefully into the finale. Another quick chase between orchestra and piano begins, skittering about on a nervous tune. Later, the trumpet joins, quoting from a Haydn piano sonata, to which the piano responds grandly; suddenly, piano and trumpet speed up the chase to a more frantic tempo. It comes crashing to a halt, setting the stage for a trumpet solo on the Viennese song “O du Lieber Augustin”, accompanied by strings on the wood of their bows. Following a return of the finale’s first theme, the piano presents its cadenza, which begins with a quote from Beethoven’s Rondo a capriccio (“Rage Over a Lost Penny”). The orchestra rejoins with the trumpet tootling rapid fanfares, and the Concerto hurtles to a finish of high hysterics.
Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
I. Allegro con brio
III. Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
During the late 1880s, Antonín Dvořák’s international fame as a composer was reaching its peak. In June 1889, he was bestowed the Austrian Order of the Iron Crown and went to Vienna to receive it from the emperor. In celebration of this honour, Dvořák composed his Eighth Symphony beginning in August, and completed it in November. He conducted the premiere on February 2, 1890, in Prague, and subsequently led many performances of it, including in London, Cambridge (when he received an honorary doctorate from the university), and Chicago, in a “Czech Day” concert at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
The Eighth Symphony is notable for its carefree character—it has a meandering, organic quality about it, in the way its many interrelated musical and rhythmic ideas unfold and are transformed. It is also masterfully orchestrated, with Dvořák using the distinctive timbres of instruments to reference certain ideas, such as bird calls in nature, the pastoral sound of a shepherd’s pipe, and dances courtly and rustic, among others. Throughout, the musicians are given ample opportunity to shine.
The work begins with the cellos singing a noble and slightly melancholy melody. The mood then brightens, with the flute piping a little shepherd’s tune—its dotted rhythms become the movement’s driving force. A series of melodic ideas follow, each building to a climax, including a transformation of the shepherd’s tune into a trumpet fanfare. Later, the dotted rhythms gain new energy, and reach an intense climax, with the trumpets blasting the opening theme, after which the woodwinds play with the shepherd’s tune. Earlier material is reprised but with more exuberance, and the movement ends jubilantly.
Like the first movement, the second consists of two melodic and rhythmic ideas from which the music develops: one, a rising triplet motif at the beginning of a warm melody richly scored for strings; the other, a bird-like call, intoned by the flute. The triplet motif is then adapted—as an accompaniment figure as well as incorporated into a rustic dance melody first sung by flute and oboe. A massive orchestral climax is reached, then subsides on a series of bird calls. Suddenly, the horns break through with the rising motif; the music progresses tensely with ominous strokes on the timpani. However, the mood soon relaxes again, with the violins playing the dance melody, and the movement progresses leisurely to its conclusion.
In the third movement, the typical Scherzo is replaced by an elegant waltz melody (perhaps in homage to the Austrian emperor), accompanied by warbling flutes and burbling clarinets. The central Trio section features a lilting tune, alternately played by flute with oboe and lush strings. After a reprise of the waltz, the movement closes wittily with a quick-stepping dance based on the Trio.
A brilliant trumpet fanfare announces the finale; the cellos then reveal a stately theme, which becomes the basis for seven variations. The first is a forceful version, intoned by cellos and basses with violins and violas in counterpoint. The theme then lets loose as an ecstatic dance for the entire orchestra, after which solo flute takes it for a virtuosic spin. After a reprise of the dance, the theme is transformed into a march tune in minor mode for oboes and clarinets; it’s further developed, reaching a climax with the return of the trumpet fanfare. Cellos reiterate the main theme, now given varied context, which then gives way to two variations of wistful character. Continuing in this vein, the seventh variation seems to wander off and get lost...but is then suddenly picked up by the ecstatic dance, which whirls joyfully to the end.
Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Soo Gyeong Lee*
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Tony Flynt (guest principal)*
Hilda Cowie (acting assistant principal)**
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Christopher Millard (principal)
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
Donald Renshaw (principal)
Chris Lee (principal)
Feza Zweifel (principal)
Non-titled members of the Orchestra are listed alphabetically