Storgårds Conducts Tchaïkovsky

NACO Live

2022-10-05 20:00 2022-10-06 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Storgårds Conducts Tchaïkovsky

https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/30529

In-person event

The NAC Orchestra is pleased to present an evening of contemporary and classical beauties under the baton of our cherished Principal Guest Conductor, John Storgårds.  Pyotr Ilyich Tchaïkovsky’s hauntingly beautiful Symphony No. 5 confirms his reputation as one of the finest composers of the Romantic era. Remarkably, initial audience and critical response to this lovely work was muted, but the eyes of the world soon opened to Tchaikovsky’s ability to evoke the...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
October 5 - 6, 2022

PROGRAM

Last updated: October 5, 2022

BETSY JOLAS Onze Lieder for trumpet and orchestra
J. HAYDN Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major, Hob. VIIE:I
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

Repertoire

BETSY JOLAS

Onze lieder for trumpet and orchestra

At 96 years old, Franco-American composer Betsy Jolas is a formidable and venerated figure in contemporary classical music. Her long career has spanned both sides of the Atlantic, having studied and taught composition in the United States and in France (notably, at the Paris Conservatory). Consisting of operas, orchestral pieces, chamber music, and solo and choral works, her catalogue of compositions has been widely performed internationally by distinguished ensembles and artists, including tonight’s soloist, Håkan Hardenberger, which whom she has frequently collaborated.

Jolas’s compositional style may be described as modernist, drawing on an eclectic mix of musical styles and techniques, both historical and current. As she said in a 2016 interview, “My roots are in the whole history of music, not just in the music of my own time. It is a privilege that I can have a relationship with all the great music of the past.” From a young age, Jolas was drawn to song—her American mother sang German lieder and “also knew black songs, Creole, Irish, Scottish.” “I have always read also with great pleasure Goethe, Heine,” she has noted, “and I was the first to analyze the lied at the Paris Conservatory.” Thus, it’s not surprising she has often returned to song, translating its characteristics into pieces solely for instruments, such as this work, Onze Lieder for trumpet and orchestra.

Jolas composed Onze Lieder in 1977; it was premiered by Ensemble Intercontemporain and the trumpet player Pierre Thibaud (who was one of Hardenberger’s teachers). The 11 songs unfold continuously, with only brief pauses demarcating them. Economically wrought, each has a distinctive character, by turns dreamy, tender, caustic, playful, nostalgic, mysterious. Jazzy elements feature at times in the solo part, a nod to trumpeter Miles Davis, whose playing, Jolas has mentioned, was a major influence on the piece. To complement the expressive lines of the trumpet, the orchestra provides subtle layers of colour, creating interesting sonic juxtapositions.

Joseph Haydn

Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major, Hob. VIIE:I

I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Allegro

The development of a musical tradition is often inextricably linked to technological advancements in instrument making. Inspired by new possibilities for making sound, composers would create works to highlight these instruments as well as the abilities of the musicians who played them. Until the late 18th century, the notes of the trumpet were limited to those of the harmonic series, which meant only leaps could be played in the lower register, with melodic lines sounding only in the high register where the notes were closer together. In the 1790s, Anton Weidinger, a trumpet player in the Vienna Court Orchestra and a friend of Joseph Haydn’s, devised a solution to increase the number of notes on the instrument. He invented a “keyed” trumpet (a predecessor of today’s valved instrument), in which holes were made in the tubing, and the notes were produced by opening and closing them with keys.

Haydn wrote his Trumpet Concerto for Weidinger and his keyed trumpet in 1796, though it wasn’t performed until 1800 (perhaps Weidinger was still tweaking the instrument’s design). The premiere was quite highly anticipated, with the Wiener Zeitung reporting that Weidinger wanted “to present to the world for the first time…an organized trumpet which he has invented and brought—after seven years of hard and expensive labour—to what he believes may be described as perfection. It contains several keys and will be displayed in a concerto specially written for this instrument by Herr Joseph Haydn.”

In this Concerto, Haydn explores the expressive range and versatility of the new trumpet, giving it everything from brilliant passages and bright fanfares to warm, singing melodies, which are complemented by richly sonorous orchestral writing. Notably, the ability to play chromatic notes on the instrument is highlighted, for example, in the first movement, through the gracefully winding phrases of the second theme (a contrast to the straightforward opening theme), and in tension-building moments in the central development section. In the Andante, chromatic tones enrich the trumpet’s climbing melody in the brief development and add a touch of poignancy to the low motifs intoned at the movement’s conclusion.

The finale is an energetic rondo, full of Haydn’s signature wit. For the trumpet, there are not only bold virtuosic leaps and quicksilver runs but also quiet moments requiring subtle, delicate playing. Listen also for trills, details that were designed specifically for the keyed trumpet. Near the end is a particularly dramatic section of surprising contrasts for soloist and orchestra. After a suspenseful silence, the theme returns one last time, softly in the trumpet, out of which grows the final orchestral flourish and fanfare.

Piotr Ilitch Tchaïkovsky

Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

I. Andante – Allegro con anima
II. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza
III. Valse. Allegro moderato
Iv. Finale: Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace

Tchaikovsky began composing his fifth symphony in May 1888, completing the initial sketches a month later. The work was finished in time for the premiere on November 17 in St. Petersburg, with the composer conducting. Critical reaction was mixed, the negative reviews of which stayed with the composer, despite positive responses from the audience. Plagued by anxiety and self-doubt about his creative prowess, Tchaikovsky’s own opinion about the symphony fluctuated over the ensuing months. “After every performance I come to the same conclusion that this symphony is a failure,” he initially wrote to his patron Nadezhda von Meck. “It turns out [it’s] too gaudy, too unwieldy, insincere, too long, and possesses insufficient appeal in general.” However, he appeared to have revised his opinion by March 1889, after a successful performance of the piece in Hamburg. As he wrote to his brother Modest, “Best of all, I have stopped disliking the symphony. I love it again.”

Tchaikovsky had revealed to Konstantin Romanov that his new symphony had no program. Yet only a month before he started composing, he had outlined ideas and themes for one:

Intro: Total submission before Fate, or, what is the same thing, the inscrutable designs of Providence
Allegro: 1. Murmurs, laments, doubts, reproaches against…XXX [possibly a coded reference to his homosexual yearnings]
2. Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith???
A wonderful programme, if only it can be fulfilled
[For the slow movement] A ray of light…No, there is no hope.

The extent to which any of this can be definitively applied to his Fifth Symphony is debatable; what’s clear, though, is that the work has a clearly defined emotional arc, seeming to draw on things deeply personal to the composer, very possibly these ideas. (For example, diary entries in the months before he drafted the program reveal that the Tchaikovsky was preoccupied with the death of Eduard Zak, his former student and friend who had committed suicide at age 19, and with whom he had a profound and likely complex relationship.)

A key element of the narrative is the symphony’s opening theme, which becomes a recurring “motto” that is transformed throughout the work. (One view is that it represents “Providence”, with its rhythm based on the Orthodox Easter hymn “Christ is risen!” Another is that it’s a quote from an aria in Mikhail Glinka’s opera The Life for the Tsar, “Turn not to sorrow”.) In the first movement, the motto, first intoned by two clarinets, has a chant-like, solemn quality in the minor mode. It becomes more threatening in the passionate second movement, bursting forth ominously in the trumpets midway and near the end. In the concluding moments of the waltz, the motto makes a quiet intrusion, played by low clarinets and bassoons. It then opens the finale, completely transformed. Now in the major mode, it’s grand and majestic, and after much vigorous energy and tumult, the motto makes a final return in the coda, triumphant.

The second movement is the emotional climax of the work; its two themes, the first played by solo horn, the second introduced by oboe and horn in duet, both begin tenderly, reflectively, then build to heart-bursting climaxes. (Tchaikovsky had apparently written over the horn solo “O que je t’aime! O mon amie!” [or more likely ‘ami’.] O, how I love…if you love me…With desire and passion.”) It’s during the second, greater climax of the second theme, that the motto interrupts. In light of this ravishing music, perhaps the triumphant integration of the motto theme in the finale seems uneasy—it may be the reason why Tchaikovsky was unsure of its sincerity, as if wrestling with the question “Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith???” Ultimately, there’s something in this symphony’s music that reaches towards hope—in living life passionately and to the fullest in each moment, despite the inevitability of grief, death, and loss.

Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

NAC Orchestra

First Violins
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Marjolaine Lambert
Jeremy Mastrangelo
Manuela Milani
Emily Westell
*Zhengdong Liang
*Erica Miller
*Martine Dubé
*Renée London
*Oleg Chelpanov

Second violins
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Leah Roseman
Frédéric Moisan
**Carissa Klopoushak
Mark Friedman
Karoly Sziladi
**Edvard Skerjanc
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
*Sara Mastrangelo
*Sarah Williams

Violas
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Thies-Thompson
Paul Casey
*Sonya Probst
*Kelvin Enns
*Wilma Hos

Cellos
Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Marc-André Riberdy
**Timothy McCoy
Leah Wyber
*Karen Kang
*Desiree Abbey
*Daniel Parker

Double basses
*Joel Quarrington (guest principal)
**Hilda Cowie
Max Cardilli
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier
*Travis Harrison

Flutes
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Stephanie Morin
*Kaili Maimets

Oboes
Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen

English Horn
Anna Petersen

Clarinets
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice
*Shauna Barker

Bassoons
Darren Hicks (principal)
Vincent Parizeau

Horns
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Elizabeth Simpson
Lauren Anker
Louis-Pierre Bergeron
*Olivier Brisson

Trumpets
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
*Michael Fedyshyn

Trombones
**Donald Renshaw (principal)
**Colin Traquair
*Charles Benaroya (guest principal)
*Hillary Simms

Bass Trombone
*Zachary Bond

Tubas
Chris Lee (principal)

Timpani
*Alexander Cohen (guest principal)

Percussion
Jonathan Wade
*Andrew Harris
*Robert Slapcoff

Harp
*Angela Schwarzkopf

Piano
* Frederic Lacroix

Principal Librarian
Nancy Elbeck

Assistant Librarian
Corey Rempel

Personnel Manager
Meiko Lydall

Assistant Personnel Manager
Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians/Musiciens surnuméraires
**On Leave/En congé

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