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Anna’s Playlist

with the NAC Orchestra

2023-04-26 20:00 2023-04-26 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Anna’s Playlist

https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/30541

In-person event

Guest curator: Anna Petersen The National Arts Centre Orchestra is delighted to present the second edition of our new NACO Playlist series, curated by the NAC Orchestra’s own Anna Petersen (second oboe / English horn)—a joyful and intimate look at the music that has shaped her life and art.  About her playlist, Anna says, “these are my absolute favourite excerpts from the orchestral repertoire—music that fires me up and makes me feel.” This marvellous...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Wed, April 26, 2023

≈ 80 minutes · No intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: April 25, 2023

Anna's Note

For this NACO Playlist concert, I’ve selected my most favourite excerpts from the orchestral repertoire. This is music that elicits strong feelings in me—whether it be nostalgia or giving me a shot of energy, for example. It also connects me to special memories and milestones in my personal and professional life as a classical musician. Music has a special way of enabling us to access our emotions—it’s why I do what I do.

Read on for musical details and further reflections from Anna about each piece.

Program

PAUL DUKAS Fanfare to precede La Péri (2 min)

FRANZ KROMMER Oboe Concerto in F major, Op. 37 (10 min)
I. Allegro 

SERGEI PROKOFIEV “Montagues and Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet  Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter (4 min)

SERGEI RACHMANINOFF Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 (7 min)
II. Allegro molto

MAURICE RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin (5 min)
I. Prélude: Vif
IV. Rigaudon: Assez vif 

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93 (4 min)
II. Allegro 

SAMUEL BARBER Violin Concerto, Op. 14 (9 min)
II. Andante

IGOR STRAVINSKY Suite from The Firebird (1919 revision) (12 min)
III. Infernal Dance of King Kashchey
IV. Berceuse (Lullaby)
V. Finale

This concert is performed without intermission.

Repertoire

Paul Dukas

Fanfare from La Péri

I love the sound of loud, bombastic brass! This is probably because my dad is a trumpet player and a band director, and as a result, I grew up exposed to—and loving—music for wind ensemble and marching band. That wall of sound only a brass section can make is awesome!”

Paul Dukas (1865–1935) composed this scintillating opener to his ballet La Péri for its 1912 premiere in Paris, which took place at a series of “danced concerts” arranged by Natalia Trouhanova (the work’s commissioner and lead dancer) and the theatre director Jacques Rouché. It provides a glimpse into the composer’s masterful skill in writing for brass instruments—in this case, an ensemble consisting of three trumpets, four French horns, three trombones, and a tuba. Unfolding in three brief sections, the fanfare displays the bright and warm sonorities of these instruments. It opens with a brilliant “call-to-order”. An assertive theme follows, first played by French horns, then trumpets, then the rest of the brass join in, culminating in three confident chords; this is repeated, slightly varied. After a more flowing chorale-like section of bold harmonies, the “call-to-order” returns as a final summons.

Franz Krommer

Oboe Concerto in F major, Op. 37

I. Allegro

“This piece brings back many memories for me as it was formative in my development and early career as an oboist—I originally learned it in high school, performed it with my youth orchestra, then later with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. I love the first movement—it’s super sparkly, full of fireworks for the oboe. It’s so happy and fun—everything about it is pure joy.”

František Kramár (1759–1831), better known by his German name Franz Krommer, was one of the most successful among the many Czech composers who were active in Vienna during the turn of the 19th century. He was initially employed as a violinist and music director by various noblemen, eventually ending up as the director of music at the city’s court ballet, then imperial director of chamber music and court composer under Emperor Franz I. Krommer completed over 300 works in most of the major musical genres of his day, much of which was circulated and performed widely throughout Europe. While he rivaled Joseph Haydn as a leading composer of string quartets, today, he is perhaps best regarded for his solo concertos for wind instruments, such as Op. 37 from 1803, the first of two for oboe that he wrote.

The first movement opens with a splendid orchestral exposition—jubilant and outgoing, with fanfares and energetic string passages, plus a contrasting elegant second theme. After this rather noisy opening, the orchestra remains mostly in the background, quietly accompanying the oboe rather than interacting with it. Throughout, from the peppy main theme through graceful melodies to virtuosic arpeggios and runs, the soloist remains completely in the spotlight—a superb showcase of an oboist’s technical mastery and musical finesse.

Sergei Prokofiev

“Montagues and Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter

“‘Montagues and Capulets’ is another piece that just resonates with my ‘inner brass player’. It’s also tied closely to a memory of my first year at the Eastman School of Music, when I got to play principal oboe in the school’s orchestra. On the first day of rehearsal, we played 'Montagues and Capulets' in the grand theatre—it was such a powerful, terrifying, yet exciting experience!”

Composed in 1935, Romeo and Juliet was Sergey Prokofiev’s (1891–1953) first full-length ballet. While complications, both political and artistic, prevented it from being realized on the Soviet stage until 1940, audiences were already hearing the music in the form of the two orchestral suites the composer had compiled from the score. Whether in the concert hall or in the ballet theatre, Prokofiev’s music for Shakespeare’s enduring story about the two star-crossed lovers from feuding families is one of his greatest-ever artistic successes.

“Montagues and Capulets” is the first movement from the second suite, and it’s a prime example of Prokofiev’s formidable gifts as a dramatic composer. It opens with a powerful evocation of the longstanding bitterness between the families: two crescendos build to stridently dissonant chords, out of which very softly sustained strings materialize. The music of the Dance of the Knights follows—a ponderous march, featuring an aggressive theme played by the violins, against a menacing backdrop of low woodwind and brass instruments (plus bass drum). There’s a brief contrasting episode of ethereal atmosphere with a delicate flute solo, after which the main march theme returns, on saxophone, then the violins take it forcefully to the end.

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27

II. Allegro molto

“I love the energy of this movement—the way it starts kind of hits you in the face, with the big brass sound and snappy flourishes…I find it really exciting! And then, as a contrast, you get this super, gooey, over-the-top romantic melody—it’s so satisfying, like the way a good romcom makes me feel.”

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) wrote his Second Symphony between 1906 and 1907, during a fruitful period in his life when he was able to devote his full attention to composition. The work shows the emergence of his mature style, characterized by passionately expressive melodies, opulent harmonies, rich instrumental textures, and an inventive handling of traditional forms and structures. All of these elements are on clear display in the Symphony’s substantial scherzo movement.

The Allegro molto sets off with galloping violins, on top of which the horns blow the spirited main theme; the mood has the lively determination of a hunting scene, with glockenspiel adding sparkle. Momentum subsides, giving way to a luscious melody sung by the violins, rising and falling like waves. After reaching a peak, oboes, clarinets, and horns saunter in on a clippity-clop rhythm; they muse hesitatingly and then suddenly, we’re rushed back into full gallop and the horns reprise their call. Again, the energy peters out…and suddenly, the trio section is launched with a loud crash, and the strings embark on a fugue, with each of the sections intoning the rigorous subject (a version of the horn theme sped up). The structured counterpoint breaks off and becomes a relentless perpetuum mobile. Later, an off-kilter march tune quietly materializes, like a brass band off in the distance; soon, the perpetual motion moves again to the foreground, builds up and accelerates back into a full reprise of the scherzo’s main motifs. Near the end, the brass twice intone a solemn chorale, after which the gallop disappears into the ether.

Maurice RAVEL

Le tombeau de Couperin

I. Prélude: Vif
IV. Rigaudon: Assez vif

“Every oboist knows Le tombeau because it has a lot of solos for the instrument. These parts immediately reveal an oboist’s control over their instrument, their technique and musicianship. I remember being so excited to play this piece for the first time with my youth orchestra, when I was in Grade 11. It’s such a beautiful piece—I just love the colours of French music.”

Maurice Ravel’s (1875–1937) Le tombeau de Couperin originated as a six-movement suite for piano, which he composed mostly in 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War. When he completed the suite in 1917, much in his life had changed irrevocably. He was recently discharged from military service as a truck driver due to exhaustion and a heart condition; his mother had died suddenly; and many of his friends were killed in the war. The suite thus became a tribute to his fallen friends, which each movement carrying a dedication. In 1919, at the request of his publisher, Ravel created an orchestral version comprising of four of the movements, of which you’ll hear the Prélude and the Rigaudon.

According to Ravel, Le tombeau “was an homage to the heritage of 18th-century French music more than a memorial to the composer” whose name is in the title—François Couperin, of the late Baroque period, who was best known for his keyboard works and chamber music. While the movements refer to the forms and dance styles typically found in an instrumental Baroque-period suite, the colourful harmonies and refined use of orchestral textures and timbres are distinctively Ravel’s.

The Prélude (dedicated in memory of Lieutenant Jacques Charlot, the cousin of Ravel’s publisher) features running triplets, like those characteristic of 18th-century keyboard suites. They’re first a part of the burbling main theme, played by the oboe, after which the violins take them up. The triplets then accompany a confident, rising melody, and later appear in the harp’s flowing arpeggios. Overall, the Prélude has a satisfyingly fluid feel.

The rigaudon was a lively duple-time dance that was popular in 17th- and 18th-century French society, and the outer panels of Ravel’s Rigaudon have this energetic spirit. (The movement is dedicated in memory of the brothers Pierre and Pascal Gaudin, lifelong friends of the composer). It opens with a bold “call to attention” that recurs throughout the first animated section. In the contrasting middle episode, delicately plucked strings accompany the oboe as it serenades with a lithe melody, to which the English horn responds. Flute, then clarinet continue the song, after which muted strings and oboe intone a sustained phrase whose calm mood is suddenly interrupted by the call, and the animated music is reprised.

Dmitri Shostakovich

Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93

II. Allegro

“This is my pump-up song! Every time I hear this scherzo, every time I play it, I’m sitting forward in my chair and I’m raring to go—it’s so fun. With all the brass, woodwind (including three oboes!), and percussion, it has a marching band quality to it, which brings back fond memories of when I was in high school band in the United States.”

The music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–75) was shaped by the conditions of political surveillance and interference under which he worked in Soviet Russia, and this context is essential to understanding his musical style. To simultaneously conform to the aesthetic principles dictated by state cultural officials and stay true to his own personal and artistic ideals, he forged a powerful musical language that can hold multiple layers of meaning, including self-critique.

Shostakovich wrote his Tenth Symphony between June and October 1953, and it was premiered in December that year, by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky. It was a significant moment, as it was the first symphony he had completed since facing his second denunciation in 1948 for his Ninth Symphony, which had been criticized for not appropriately conforming to Socialist Realist principles. Moreover, months earlier, in March, Joseph Stalin, under whose rule the composer had endured campaigns of intimidation, had died. Shostakovich was alleged to have said that the second movement of this symphony was a portrait of Stalin, but whether this was his actual meaning is up to interpretation. What is evident is that this is one ferocious scherzo, short, but relentless and savage, its frenetic pace creating a terrifying rush from start to finish. Mid-way, the brass loudly blow an ominous theme, like a distorted version of the Dies Irae (“day of wrath”) chant from the Requiem Mass liturgy.

Samuel Barber

Violin Concerto, Op. 14

II. Andante

“This movement from Barber’s Violin Concerto evokes, to me, nostalgia…nostalgia tinged with angst. He does this beautifully in the way he uses the colours of the orchestra. It also has one of the most gorgeous oboe solos of all time, so, of course, I had to include it on my playlist!”

While many of his contemporaries were experimenting with the various avant-garde aesthetic trends of the 20th century, Samuel Barber (1910–81) remained steadfast to a more traditional harmonic palette, creating deeply expressive works. Several of them, such as his Adagio for Strings (1936) and the Violin Concerto (1939) have become modern classics and audience favourites, beloved for their poignant melodies and lush orchestral timbres.

In the slow second movement of Barber’s Violin Concerto, muted strings set the stage for a haunting melody played by the oboe, which, supported by shifts in harmony, is alternately warm and melancholy. The cellos then take it on, and the melody continues to unfold via the clarinet, muted violins, and finally French horn, before settling on a chord. Here, the solo violin enters with a rhapsodic climbing passage, which leads into the middle section of more uneasy mood. Gradually, the violin winds through the mounting tension, and tempers it in a short cadenza before it eases into the main theme, which is played all on the G string (the instrument’s lowest string). Soon after, the orchestra breaks through with a soaring version of the melody, which the solo violin continues, impassioned. An anguished peak is reached, but eventually, the violin finds its way back to serenity on the final chord.

IGOR STRAVINSKY

Suite from The Firebird (1919 revision)

III. Infernal Dance of King Kashchey
IV. Berceuse (Lullaby)
V. Finale

“These three movements of  The Firebird Suite work so well together. I love that you go from the intensity of the Infernal Dance with its vibrant orchestral colour, to the desolate Berceuse, with the bassoon sounding so sad and echoing the oboes with its melancholy melodies…and then, in the Finale, it’s like a phoenix rising—it’s such a feel-good ending.”

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 (1882–1971) masterfully uses chromaticism and spicy dissonances to evoke the former, while the latter is characterized by diatonic harmony and Russian folksong, such as 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. 

Tonight’s concert ends with the last three movements of the Suite, beginning with the infernal dance of the evil Kaschey and his henchmen, instigated by the Firebird. After a sudden jolt, a menacing off-the-beat theme appears, punctuated by walloping chords. It gains intensity as it’s passed among the instruments, alternating with brief episodes featuring “grotesque” timbres like a squeaky E-flat clarinet and hammering xylophone (the latter evoking the common visual depiction of Kaschey as a skeleton). The dance gets faster and wilder until it finally collapses as if from exhaustion. In the aftermath, the Firebird sends Kaschey and his men to sleep, with a haunting lullaby (Berceuse) sung by the bassoon. Impassioned swells burst through midway, after which the bassoon resumes the lullaby, with violins soaring delicately above. Out of a shimmering canvas of tremolo strings, a horn quietly intones the traditional Russian folk melody “By the gate a pine tree swayed”. From this, the Finale unfolds as a series of variations on the tune, as the knights and princesses who had been frozen and enslaved by Kaschey are gradually brought back to life, eventually culminating in a triumphant full-orchestra blaze.

Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

Artists

  • dina
    Conductor Dina Gilbert
  • anna-petersen-2
    Oboe and English Horn Anna Petersen
  • Violin Yosuke Kawasaki
  • Featuring NAC Orchestra

NAC Orchestra

First Violins
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Emily Kruspe
Marjolaine Lambert
Frédéric Moisan
Carissa Klopoushak
Zhengdong Liang
*Martine Dubé
*Heather Schnarr

Second violins
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jeremy Mastrangelo
Emily Westell
Manuela Milani
Leah Roseman
Karoly Sziladi
Mark Friedman
**Edvard Skerjanc
*Renée London
*Andréa Armijo Fortin

Violas
**Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
David Thies-Thompson
Paul Casey
*Sonya Probst
*Ryan Vis

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

Double Basses
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier
**Hilda Cowie
*Paul Mach

Flutes
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Stephanie Morin
*Christian Paquette

Oboes
Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen
*Susan Butler

English Horn
Anna Petersen

Clarinets
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice
*Shauna Barker

Bassoons
Darren Hicks (principal)
Vincent Parizeau
*Ben Glossop

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

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

Trombones
*David Pell (guest principal)
Colin Traquair

Bass Trombone
*Scott Robinson

Tuba
Chris Lee (principal)

Timpani
*Aaron McDonald (guest principal)

Percussion
Jonathan Wade
*Dan Morphy
*Louis Pino

Harp
*Erica Goodman

Piano
*Vadim Serebryany

Principal Librarian
Nancy Elbeck

Assistant Librarian
Corey Rempel

Personnel Manager
Meiko Lydall

Assistant Personnel Manager
Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians
**On leave

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees