G’froerer Plays Mozart

& Stephanie Childress conducts Mendelssohn

2024-01-17 20:00 2024-01-18 21:45 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: G’froerer Plays Mozart


In-person event

As the world’s oldest instrument, the flute appeared in Greek mythology and ancient Hindu tradition long before finding its way into classical music, where it has remained a fixture. Tonight, Joanna G’froerer, NACO’s principal flute since 1992, demonstrates what all the fuss is about.  The flutes of Mozart’s time were nothing like the fine instruments of today, and legend has it that Mozart didn’t really care for them. But like everything the great composer...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
January 17 - 18, 2024

≈ 1hour and 45 minutes · With intermission

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Last updated: January 8, 2024


CAROLINE SHAW Entr’acte (10 min)

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K. 313 (285c) (25 min)

I. Allegro maestoso
II. Adagio ma non troppo
III. Rondo: Tempo di menuetto 

Joanna G’froerer, flute


FELIX MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, “Scottish” (43 min)

I. Andante con moto – Allegro un poco agitato –
II. Vivace non troppo –
III. Adagio –
IV. Allegro vivacissimo – Allegro maestoso assai


Caroline Shaw


Caroline Shaw (b. 1982) is a musician who moves among roles, genres, and mediums, trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed. She is the recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, several Grammy Awards, an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She has worked with a range of artists including Rosalía, Renée Fleming, and Yo-Yo Ma, and she has contributed music to films and TV series including Fleishman is in Trouble, Bombshell, Yellowjackets, Maid, Dark, and Beyoncé’s Homecoming. Her favourite colour is yellow, and her favourite smell is rosemary.

Shaw’s Entr’acte was inspired by a specific moment of transition in the second movement of a Haydn string quartet. As she describes:

It was written in 2011 after hearing the Brentano Quartet play Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2—with their spare and soulful shift to the D-flat major trio in the minuet. It is structured like a minuet and trio, riffing on that classical form but taking it a little further. I love the way some music (like the minuets of Op. 77) suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass, in a kind of absurd, subtle, technicolor transition.

In a theatrical production, such as a play or opera, the word “entr’acte” indicates an interval between two acts. Historically, this pause, signalled by the closing of curtains, was to facilitate changes in scenery and costumes in preparation for the next act. Eventually, “entr’acte” also came to mean a musical piece or dance inserted for performance during this pause; indeed, such works were distinctly intended to create a break in the action or mood. Shaw’s piece is thus aptly titled, in its exploration of transitional moments to “absurd, subtle, technicolor” ends. They are brought to particularly sharp relief in the string orchestra version she created in 2014 that you’ll hear in tonight’s concert.

Entr’acte begins with a pulsating heartbeat motif, which unfolds in a sweeping manner as the main theme of the minuet. In the minor mode, it has a somewhat mournful quality. Later, it seems to disintegrate into dissonance, then into pitchless noise, through which the full-bodied bowed version alternately emerges with increasing emphasis. The central trio section brings fresh contrast, starting with a plucked melody, to sound “like granite,” in a brighter major mode. Things then seem to get surreal, as motifs are developed. First violins and cellos in a duet of long notes over plucked triplets in the second violins and violas lead into a passage of pizzicato counterpoint. The mood intensifies into an acid bright moment featuring sustained chords in the violins over rippling viola arpeggios; it darkens, becoming more anxious, but then the tension is released through a flurry of plucked strings. Via ethereal harmonics and sighing gestures, the minuet returns. After its reprise, the music ascends into the ether, leaving a lone cello strumming an extended sequence of chords like, as Shaw indicates it to be played, “recalling fragments of an old tune or story.”


Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K. 313 (285c)

I. Allegro maestoso
II. Adagio ma non troppo
III. Rondo: Tempo di menuetto

In 1777, Mozart (1756–1791) petitioned for release from the Archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus Colloredo, for whom he had been working the last five years. Colloredo fired him instead, so Mozart went travelling with his mother to seek, at his father Leopold’s insistence, a permanent position elsewhere. They arrived in Mannheim in October that year, and during their time there, Mozart befriended the eminent flutist Johann Baptist Wendling, who played in the city’s famed court orchestra. Through Wendling, he received a significant commission from Ferdinand Dejean (1731–1797), a physician and amateur flute player, for “three short, simple concertos and a couple quartets for the flute.” This G major Flute Concerto, completed in early 1778, is one of these works.

K. 313 (285c) is the only completely original concerto for solo flute that Mozart wrote (No. 2, or K.314 (285d), is an arrangement of his oboe concerto). He had struggled to fulfill Dejean’s commission; in fact, he would never complete it. Upon learning this, Leopold sent his son a chastising letter, to which Wolfgang responded:

“It is not surprising that I have not been able to finish them, for I never have a single quiet hour here. I can only compose at night, so that I can’t get up early as well; besides, one is not always in the mood for working. I could, to be sure, scribble off things the whole day long, but a composition of this kind goes out into the world, and naturally I do not want to have cause to be ashamed of my name on the titlepage. Moreover, you know I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.”

Thus is the source of Mozart’s oft-quoted admission that he disliked the flute. Some additional context here, however, may provide nuance to the composer’s blunt statement. On one level, this was the knee-jerk reaction of a son feeling defensive about the dose of reality given to him by his father, who was deeply concerned about his family’s financial situation. Musically, though, Mozart’s aversion to the flute may have had little to do with the instrument itself and was more about how he heard it played at the time. As flute scholar Jane Bowers has discussed, during the 18th century, various treatises pointed out the challenge of playing the then-common one-key flute with good intonation; to produce notes outside the instrument’s basic scale of D major, flutists had to use cross-fingerings and importantly, had to know how to adjust those pitches so they were neither too sharp nor too flat. A good flutist, therefore, was distinguished by their ability to play in tune, and, in addition to being able to execute rapid virtuosic passages, to intone melodies expressively. Mozart said as much when he communicated to Wendling’s brother:

Well, you know, it’s different with your brother [Johann Baptist]. In the first place, he is not such a doodler, and then you don’t always have to be afraid with him when you know a note is about to come that it is going to be much too low or too high—see here, it’s always right. His heart is in the right place and so are his ears and the tip of his tongue, and he does not believe that you are done with just blowing and fingering, and then he also knows what Adagio means.

As Dejean was an amateur flutist (and there were many in the 18th century), Mozart was perhaps reluctant to provide works that would be performed by those whose playing he thought was less than ideal in terms of intonation and expressivity.

For flute players today, K. 313 (285c) is an essential work in the instrument’s repertoire. Even if Mozart composed it for an amateur in mind, the Concerto contains many elements that demand the best of the soloist. The spirited first movement, for example, is a varied showcase for a flutist’s technical virtuosity and expressive talents. It features lots of rapid figures and bold leaps that exploit the instrument’s brilliance and clarity in the upper register, alternating with melodic passages that require a beautiful and sustained tone.

The Adagio movement has the quality of an operatic aria, the singing line of which is to be interpreted by the flutist with fullness of sound and a certain tenderness. In the Rondo finale, a movement of lively elegance, the flute’s flashier side returns. For each successive return of the main theme, the soloist offers a slight variation on the original, while in the alternating episodes, including a central one set in the minor mode, its part grows progressively flamboyant with runs and leaps. Near the end, the orchestra brings back the poise of the opening to draw the concerto to a graceful close.


Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, “Scottish”

I. Andante con moto – Allegro un poco agitato –
II. Vivace non troppo –
III. Adagio –
IV. Allegro vivacissimo – Allegro maestoso assai

In July 1829, Felix Mendelssohn (1849–1847) embarked on a walking tour of Scotland with his friend, the diplomat Karl Klingemann. They arrived in Edinburgh on July 26, and over the next several days, as his letters reveal, he “scrambled up” Arthur’s Seat, made pencil drawings of the surrounding scenery, attended a competition for bagpipe musicians, and visited Holyrood Castle. The latter made an overwhelming impression on the 20-year-old composer: “The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there, and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens shine in,” he wrote. “I think today I have found there the beginning of my ‘Scottish’ Symphony.” Next to those words, he notated the opening notes of the piece.

Over the following years, Mendelssohn attempted to work on the symphony but struggled to make progress; writing from Rome in March 1831, “it’s not surprising that I find it impossible to return to my misty Scottish mood, I have therefore laid aside my Scotch Symphony for the time being.” He finally resumed in earnest during the autumn and winter of 1841–42, completing the symphony then, and conducted the premiere at the Leipzig Gewandhaus on March 3. Later that June, he led its London premiere, and subsequently dedicated the piece to Queen Victoria, a request he had directly made to her and she granted.

Although published as “No. 3”, the “Scottish” was the fifth and final symphony Mendelssohn completed. The subtitle was not his own nor did he sanction its use; while in the early days he called the work his “Scotch” symphony in his personal correspondence (probably to differentiate it from the “Italian” symphony he had been working on), from the mid-1830s, he referred to it as his “symphony in A minor”. In fact, as musicologist Thomas Schmidt-Beste has revealed, the work did not have any further association to Scotland during the composer’s life nor for years after his death. Not until the publication of Mendelssohn’s travel letters and various biographies, including the family one by Sebastian Hensel in 1879, in which the journey to Scotland is described in detail, did the title become universally acknowledged.

That Mendelssohn avoided adding a descriptive title stemmed from his belief that no text or word could sufficiently explain the “meaning” of a piece of instrumental music. Moreover, he was concerned that such a title would lead listeners to expect explicit references to Scottish music, folklore, or history. His view exemplified one side of a major aesthetic debate in the 19th century regarding the future direction of the symphony after Beethoven—whether the carrier of meaning in an instrumental work was solely in its forms and the development of musical ideas or in extramusical titles, explicit narratives, and tone-painting. But while Mendelssohn may have composed this symphony with the former principle in mind, it’s perhaps difficult for us now not to hear in the work certain ideas associated with “Scotland”—its folk music, a particular atmosphere or natural setting, or even historical events. Indeed, the “Scottish” Symphony is something rather distinctive: a compelling fusion of poetic elements and a thematic process with a meaning all its own, in a formal design that, as Schmidt-Beste notes, “plays with tradition in a strikingly imaginative way.”

Mendelssohn’s A minor Symphony has four distinct movements that are played through without breaks—a rare enough feature at the time that he specified “attacca” (no pauses) in the score. Each movement is, also unusually, in sonata form (or some version of it), with primary and secondary themes introduced in the exposition section, then developed and recapitulated, usually in varied fashion. The entire piece is further unified by a “cyclic” process of thematic transformation, with all the main themes derived from the opening melody. Adding a poetic layer are the various allusions to “Scotland”, which gives the impression of the Symphony unfolding like a series of vignettes or tableaux.

The Introduction evokes the “misty Scottish mood” at the ruins of Holyrood Palace (the only known association to Scotland in this symphony), with a sombre melody scored for low woodwinds, horns, and violas. Violins continue with recitative-like phrases and reach an impassioned peak, after which the sombre melody returns. The ensuing Allegro agitato features several themes based on this melody, their folksong-like lilt and flow alternating with more agitated passages. These are developed in turn, followed by a shortened recapitulation that gives way to a stormy coda, with the strings’ rising and falling chromatic lines suggesting sweeping wind and rain. After the storm dies down, the sombre opening melody appears once more…

…but soon emerges into a sunny Scherzo of “pastoral” music. Woodwind calls over string “drone” tremolos set up the clarinet to introduce a lively pentatonic tune, comprised of swirling phrases and dotted rhythms reminiscent of a Scottish reel. Eventually, the whole orchestra joins the energetic dance. In the central development section, Mendelssohn deftly layers the various phrases and motifs of the main tune in counterpoint, which ultimately arrive at a boisterous return of the second theme (the recap has been highly condensed). Culminating at an exuberant climax, the Scherzo then evanesces into the ether.

After a questioning transitional passage, the Adagio cantabile (Mendelssohn’s title) settles into a beautiful “song without words” sung by the first violins, accompanied by plucked strings. A starkly contrasting second theme follows; presented by woodwinds and horns, it has the mood and tread of a solemn procession, which builds to majestic grandeur. After a cycle of development, the song returns in the cellos and horns, eventually leading to a third climax on the second theme’s characteristic dotted rhythms. Gradually, the intensity winds down to a final tender reminiscence of the song.

The finale of the A minor Symphony has the effect of a two-part historical scene (though whether Mendelssohn took inspiration from Scottish events remains unknown). He titled the first part “Allegro guerriero”—the music, vigorous and relentless here, certainly suggests “warlike” combat; later in the movement, listen out for the fugue, whose layered entries evoke a chaotic battle sequence. The scene then recedes and is followed by a victorious “song of thanks” that in its orchestration Mendelssohn wanted to sound “properly clear and strong as a male chorus.” With its tune as the final transformation of the sombre opening melody, the majestic song closes the symphony in a glorious moment of reflection.

Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD


  • stephanie-childress
    Conductor Stephanie Childress
  • Flute Joanna G’froerer
  • Featuring NAC Orchestra

NAC Orchestra

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

Second Violins
*John Marcus (guest principal)
Emily Kruspe
Frédéric Moisan
Carissa Klopoushak
Leah Roseman
Winston Webber
Mark Friedman
Edvard Skerjanc
**Karoly Sziladi
*Erica Miller
*Heather Schnarr

Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
David Thies-Thompson
Paul Casey
Tovin Allers

Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Leah Wyber
Timothy McCoy
Marc-André Riberdy
*Thaddeus Morden
*Karen Kang

Double Basses
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier

Joanna G’froerer (principal)
Stephanie Morin
*Kaili Maimets

Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen

English Horn
Anna Petersen

Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice

Darren Hicks (principal)
Vincent Parizeau

*Allene Hackleman (guest principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Lawrence Vine
Lauren Anker
Louis-Pierre Bergeron

**Karen Donnelly (principal)
*William Leathers (guest principal)
Steven van Gulik

Colin Traquair

Bass Trombone
Zachary Bond

Chris Lee (principal)

*William Wozniak (guest principal)

Jonathan Wade

Principal Librarian
Nancy Elbeck

Assistant Librarian
Corey Rempel

Personnel Manager
Meiko Lydall

Orchestra Personnel Coordinator
Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians
**On leave

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees