≈ 1 hour and 30 minutes · With intermission
Last updated: March 28, 2023
RICHARD STRAUSS Overture and Dance from Ariadne auf Naxos (10 min)
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 (30 min)
I. Allegro maestoso
FELIX MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11 (27 min)
I. Allegro di molto
III. Menuetto: Allegro molto
IV. Allegro con fuoco
I. Allegro di molto
III. Menuetto: Allegro molto
IV. Allegro con fuoco
Composer, conductor, pianist, and organist Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47), one of German music’s leading figures of the early 19th century, was a child prodigy of extraordinary musical talent. As a teenager, he composed prolifically; by 1823, he had written in nearly all the main genres of the time, including much chamber music, several Singspiels, twelve string sinfonias, and more than a handful of concertos. Already in these early works he showed a strong command of technique and an assured sense of style, influenced by his exploration and absorption of the music of J.S. Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart.
At the end of 1823, Mendelssohn was writing his 13th string sinfonia, but by the following year, he had changed it to include woodwinds and brass, and the work thereby became his first symphony. Completed soon after he turned 15 years old, it was initially performed on March 31, 1824. Five years later, while on his grand tour of Italy, France, and England, he made his official English debut on May 25, conducting this symphony at the London Philharmonic Society’s seventh subscription concert of the season. Although successfully received with repeated performances, Mendelssohn withheld it from publication for another five years.
Symphony No. 1, as Mendelssohn scholar R. Larry Todd has observed, draws upon “a variety of influences, including the complex chromatic counterpoint of Bach, the formal clarity and gracefulness of Mozart, and the dramatic power of Beethoven and Weber.” The latter is certainly evident in the first movement—its tempestuous energy contains hints of Weber’s opera Der Freischütz (the 1821 premiere of which Mendelssohn had witnessed), and the vigour and drive of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. As contrast, the lyrical second theme is all Mozartean lyricism and elegance. Along with a judicious use of bold dissonances and modulations, there are instances of clever counterpoint, and even a moment of Haydn-esque surprise, when, just before the coda, the rest of the orchestra drops out, leaving two horns holding a long note in suspense, after which the movement pushes forth stormily to the end.
The ensuing Andante, in E-flat major, has the warmth and noble character of a Beethovenian slow movement. Here, Mendelssohn demonstrates his mastery of writing for strings and woodwinds, as the former’s rich sonorities and the latter’s delicately variegated timbres are juxtaposed in alternating passages.
A rather stern Menuetto, the third movement is reminiscent of the one in Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 (a likely influence) and dominated by energetic strings. (Interestingly, for the English premiere, Mendelssohn replaced it with an orchestral arrangement of the scherzo from his String Octet, which, by contrast, has a quicksilver, fairy-like quality.) It frames a trio that is of another world—a slow, reverent melody in the clarinets and bassoons, hovering over gentle waves of arpeggios in the strings. A mysterious transition with ominous timpani taps (similar to the passage between the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Fifth) lead us out from the reverie, and, via an inexorable crescendo, back into the brusque dance.
The contrast between bustle and repose that appear in the earlier movements also characterizes the finale. It opens with fiery agitation and reaches a noisy peak, after which a surprising extended passage featuring only plucked strings becomes the backdrop to a simple clarinet tune. Later, in the central development section, the Bachian influence comes to the fore, as Mendelssohn demonstrates his knack for writing fugal counterpoint for strings. After a reprise of the main material, listen for the fugue’s dramatic return, after which the mode turns to major, and the symphony comes to a rollicking finish.
Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD
Angela Hewitt occupies a unique position among today’s leading pianists. With a wide-ranging repertoire and frequent appearances in recital and with major orchestras throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia, she is also an award-winning recording artist. Described as “one of the record glories of our age” (The Sunday Times), Hewitt’s cycle for Hyperion Records of all the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach have established her as one of the composer’s foremost interpreters. Her discography also includes all 32 Sonatas of Beethoven, and albums of Couperin, Rameau, Scarlatti, Chopin, R. Schumann, Liszt, Fauré, Debussy, Chabrier, Ravel, and Messiaen. The first of three Mozart albums, dedicated to the composer’s complete sonatas, was released in November 2022.
The 2022–23 season sees her performing with orchestras in Finland, Denmark, Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria, Prague, Germany, and New York. Recitals take her to, among others, Barcelona, San Francisco, Seattle, Vienna, Amsterdam, Cambridge, Leipzig, and the famous Teatro La Fenice in Venice. She is also an artist-in-residence at London’s Wigmore Hall.
Hewitt studied with Jean-Paul Sévilla at the University of Ottawa, and in 1985 won the Toronto International Bach Piano Competition, which launched her career. In 2018 Angela received the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2015 she received the highest honour from her native country—becoming a Companion of the Order of Canada (which is given to only 180 living Canadians at any one time). In 2006 she was awarded an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, has seven honorary doctorates, and is a Visiting Fellow of Peterhouse College in Cambridge. In 2020 Hewitt was awarded the Wigmore Medal in recognition of her services to music and relationship with the hall over 35 years. Also in 2020, she received the City of Leipzig Bach Medal: a huge honour that for the first time in its 17-year history was awarded to a woman.
Angela lives in London but also has homes in Ottawa and Umbria, Italy where, 18 years ago, she founded the Trasimeno Music Festival—a week-long annual event that draws an audience from all over the world.
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Mintje van Lier (principal)
**Winston Webber (assistant principal)
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Darren Hicks (principal)
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
**Karen Donnelly (principal)
*Michael Fedyshyn (guest principal)
Steven van Gulik
Chris Lee (principal)
*Aaron McDonald (guest principal)
Assistant Personnel Manager