Concert Program for October 14 and 15, 2011

David Robertson, conductor James Ehnes, violin

WAGNER
(1813-1883)

The Flying Dutchman Overture (1840-43) Synapse (2010)—United States premiere

PHILIPPE MANOURY
(b. 1952)

James Ehnes, violin Intermission

SIBELIUS
(1865-1957)

Symphony No. 1 in E minor, op. 39 (1898-99)

Andante, ma non troppo; Allegro energico Andante (ma non troppo lento) Scherzo: Allegro Finale (Quasi una fantasia): Andante; Allegro molto

David Robertson is the Beofor Music Director and Conductor. James Ehnes is brought to you through the generosity of the Whitaker Foundation as part of the Whitaker Guest Artist Series. The concert of Friday, October 14, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Rothberg in memory of Nolan Crane. The concert of Saturday, October 15, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. David A. Baetz. The commission and performances of Philippe Manoury’s Synapse are supported by a grant from The French-American Fund for Contemporary Music, a program of FACE with major support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, SACEM, Institut Français, and the Florence Gould Foundation. Pre-Concert Conversations are sponsored by Washington University Physicians. These concerts are part of the Wells Fargo Advisors Series.

David Robertson Beofor Music Director and Conductor A consummate musician, masterful programmer, and dynamic presence, David Robertson has established himself as one of today’s most sought-after American conductors. A passionate and compelling communicator with an extensive knowledge of orchestral and operatic repertoire, he has forged close relationships with major orchestras around the world through his exhilarating music-making and stimulating ideas. In fall 2011, Robertson began his seventh season as Music Director of the 132-year-old St. Louis Symphony, while continuing as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, a post he has held since 2005. Robertson’s guest engagements in the U.S. include performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Ensemble ACJW, and the New York Philharmonic, where Robertson is a regular guest conductor. In May 2012, Robertson returns to the Metropolitan Opera to conduct Britten’s Billy Budd with Nathan Gunn and James Morris in the leading roles. Internationally, guest engagements include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, where Robertson appears regularly, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, as part of Music Viva, and several concerts with the BBC Symphony. In addition to his fresh interpretations of traditional repertoire, this season Robertson conducts world premieres of Graham Fitkin’s Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma; John Cage’s Eighty with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Providence, a newly commissioned work by Dutch composer Klaas de Vries, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; and new works by Yann Robin and Michael Jarrell with the New York Philharmonic. A champion of young musicians, Robertson has devoted time to working with students and young artists throughout his career. On February 5, 2012, he conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and a chorus of New York City students in the Carmina Burana Choral Project at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium. The program will include Orff’s cantata, as well as new works written by three high school-aged composers based on musical themes of Carmina burana.

Michael TaMMaro

James Ehnes Whitaker Guest Artist Born in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, James Ehnes has established himself as one of the foremost violinists of his generation. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes is a favorite guest of many of the world’s most respected conductors. Ehnes’s long list of orchestras includes, amongst others, the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York, London Symphony, Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, and the NHK Symphony orchestras. Highlights of the 2011-12 season include return engagements with the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, Swedish Chamber and Residentie orchestras, and debuts with the Oslo Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, Tonkünstler, Hamburg Philharmonic, and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. North American highlights this season include performances with the Philadelphia and Minnesota orchestras, and the Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta, Montreal, and Toronto Symphony orchestras. Other forthcoming concerto appearances include the NDR Hannover, SWR Stuttgart, Strasbourg, and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestras. Alongside his concerto work, Ehnes maintains a busy recital schedule. He has appeared at festivals such as City of London, Ravinia, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, the White Nights in St. Petersburg, and in 2009 he made a sensational debut at the Salzburg Festival performing the Paganini Caprices. Ehnes is a regular guest at the Wigmore Hall in London, and at the 2007 BBC Proms he premiered a new work for violin and piano by Aaron Jay Kernis. As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with leading artists such as Leif Ove Andsnes, Louis Lortie, Jan Vogler and Yo-Yo Ma. Ehnes is the Associate Artistic Director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society. Ehnes began violin studies at the age of four, became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin at age nine, and made his orchestral debut with the Montreal Symphony when he was 13. Ehnes graduated from the Juilliard School in 1997, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. Ehnes plays the “Ex Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715 and gratefully acknowledges its extended loan from the Fulton Collection. James Ehnes most recently performed with the St. Louis Symphony in October 2009.

BenjaMin ealovega

Innovative Voices
BY JAY GOODWIN

Ideas at Play

Tonight’s program features three pieces: two early works by innovative composers whose music broke completely away from that of their predecessors and contributed to the prismatic stylistic fragmentation of post-Romantic music, and one by a living composer who, more than 100 years later, has found his own voice in the resulting musical maelstrom, which still endures today. Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (1840–43) is one of the first works for which the composer wrote his own libretto, used his trademark leitmotifs, and began working toward opera as a marriage of music, poem, and drama—a total work of art. His later work would bring those ideas to fruition and fundamentally change music history, exploring and unlocking new harmonic possibilities and stretching the boundaries of musical expression. Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 (1898–99) shows the influence of the Great Romantics, including Wagner himself, but already proclaims that the young composer would blaze his own path. By the time Sibelius reached the apex of his mature style—motivically dense, harmonically adventurous, formally concise, yet still approachable and understandable through “traditional” musical ideas—25 or so years later, Schoenberg had broken the stranglehold of diatonic tonality on Western music. Composers are now confronted with infinite possibility. They can and must each create a new and unique musical language, or else be irrelevant. French composer Philippe Manoury, who studied with Max Deutsch (one of Schoenberg’s first students in Vienna), typifies the open-minded blending of styles and influences typical of today’s composers. Synapse, his new violin concerto, is decidedly modern, with a structure inspired by the detailed workings of the human nervous system. But at the same time, Manoury acknowledges in this work the influence of music as traditional and familiar to us as Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony.

Wagner The Flying Dutchman Overture
Born: Leipzig, Germany, May 22, 1813 Died: Venice, February 13, 1883 First performance: January 1843, in Dresden, conducted by the composer STL Symphony premiere: March 26, 1908, Max Zach conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: January 17, 2004, Carlos Kalmar conducting Scoring: Two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, and strings Performance time: Approximately 11 minutes

In Context 1840-43 Verdi’s opera I Lombardi premieres in Milan; Hong Kong proclaimed a British Crown Colony; Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” published

Wagner

When Wagner began work on The Flying Dutchman— the first of his operas to show significant signs of the genius to come—in Paris in 1840, his circumstances left much to be desired. Having fled Riga to escape his many creditors, Wagner and his wife took illegal passage on a ship to London. Storms blew the ship off course, and it temporarily took refuge in the Norwegian fjords. When they finally reached London, the Wagners hastily Wagner moved on to Paris, where Richard hoped to arrange for a production of his previous opera Rienzi. The Paris Opéra declined the piece, however, and Wagner scraped by on charity and occasional employment as a copyist and music critic. Inspired by his tempestuous journey at sea and determined to have an opera produced, Wagner started in on The Flying Dutchman, based on the legend of a captain doomed to sail the seas for eternity, coming ashore only once every seven years, as punishment for blasphemy. In Wagner’s version, the captain can win redemption only through obtaining the selfless and faithful love of a woman. Though the Paris Opéra also wanted nothing to do with this new work, Wagner was eventually able to have both Rienzi and The Flying Dutchman performed in Dresden. The earlier opera was quite well received, but Dutchman garnered little acclaim. Today, however, it is considered markedly superior to Rienzi and is generally thought to represent the beginning of Wagner’s mature oeuvre. The Music In The Flying Dutchman, we begin to see Wagner’s legendary system of leitmotifs, identifiable musical themes that recur over the course of an opera to represent characters, items, locations, and dramatic events. Its overture contains the work’s major leitmotifs and sets the mood for the stormy opera, but it also stands fantastically well on its own. It begins with the fearsome brass theme that signifies the coming of the Dutchman, perched atop rising and falling strings that represent the howling wind and crashing waves of a storm at sea. The soft, pastoral woodwind melody that follows is associated with Senta, the girl who falls in love with the Dutchman and eventually flings herself from a cliff out of love for him, thereby winning his freedom from the curse. These three themes, and fragments taken from them, form the majority of the material for the overture, and Wagner weaves them together in both harmony and opposition to create a turbulent, dramatically taut microcosm of the opera as a whole.

Philippe Manoury Synapse
Born: Tulle, France, June 19, 1952 First performance: February 13, 2010, in Stuttgart, Germany, with soloist Hae-Sun Kang, Jean Derroyer conducting STL Symphony premiere: This week Scoring: Solo violin plus three flutes and piccolo, three oboes and English horn, three clarinets, E-flat clarinet, and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, percussion, harp, and strings Performance time: Approximately 31 minutes

In Context 2010 Powerful 7.0 earthquake hits Haiti; workers stage strikes across France to protest government plans to raise the retirement age past 60; France deports nearly 100 Gypsies, or Roma, to their native Romania Composer Philippe Manoury provided the following note about his concerto: “Synapse” is defined as the chemical process by which a nervous impulse passes from one neuron to Manoury another. Without trying to draw a precise analogy, I would nonetheless say that something similar governs the construction of this composition for violin and orchestra. The entire structure of the motifs and themes are distributed among 18 different formulas that constantly nourish the musical discourse. These formulas are structured according to a specific “grammar” and are strung together in a highly controlled order. Thus two sequences engender a third which, joined with its preceding sequence, creates a fourth, etc. There is therefore a constant transmission of information from sequence to sequence, grouped into smaller and smaller blocks. The first block contains 10 sequences, which generates nine others, which give birth to the following eight, and the process continues in this fashion until the smallest block, containing only one sequence. All of the information contained in the preceding blocks is reassembled in this final block to form a dense and highly concentrated audio image, distantly reminiscent of the finale to Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony where five themes are superposed into a single polyphony, or the brilliant idea in “The Aleph” imagined by Jorge Luis Borges. Synapse was composed for the violinist Hae-Sun Kang, to whom the piece is dedicated. It was commissioned by the SWR Stuttgart Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony.

Sibelius Symphony No. 1 in E minor, op. 39
Born: Hämeenlinna, Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, December 8, 1865 Died: Järvenpää, Finland, September 20, 1957 First performance: April 26, 1899, by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the composer STL Symphony premiere: December 17, 1909, Max Zach conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: April 29, 2007, Robert Spano conducting Scoring: Two flutes and two piccolos, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and percussion, harp, and strings Performance time: Approximately 38 minutes

In Context 1899 First international radio transmission between England and France achieved by the Italian inventor Marconi; Johann Strauss, Jr., composer (“Waltz King”), dies; Claude Monet paints his first “Lily Pond” series. In 1892, Sibelius premiered his expansive, 70-minute symphonic cantata Kullervo, a dramatic work based on the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The piece appealed both musically and culturally to a proud nation chafing under the repression of the Russian empire and hungry Sibelius for artistic expression of its native culture. In the wake of Kullervo’s tremendous success, Sibelius became a musical celebrity and national icon virtually overnight. In the following few years, he continued to garner acclaim and composed a number of symphonic poems and orchestral suites, including The Wood Nymph and the Karelia Suite, which are still performed today. So by late 1898, though he was just beginning his First Symphony, the 32-year-old composer was by no means a novice and already had a significant amount of symphonic work under his belt. The Symphony No. 1 is in the traditional four movements with standard tempo relationships. Rather than the condensed, concentrated constructions and whispery forest rustlings associated with the later symphonies, we hear expansive music full of wide open spaces. Instead of motifs and melodies that slowly coalesce from swirling fragments, we hear mostly distinct, identifiable themes that are plainly introduced and traditionally developed. But there is still that trademark “Finnishness,” that uncanny sense of icy wilderness, that marks all of Sibelius’s music; whether it is truly “Finnishness” or rather simply “Sibeliusness” is irrelevant—the romantic assertion that this composer captured the very nature of his country in musical form has been made so often and for so long that it’s hard to hear it any other way. There are also many examples in this symphony of the brilliantly surging, ardent music for which Sibelius had such a talent and which he was—thankfully—unable to completely omit in even his most austere mature works. The Music Against a soft timpani roll, the opening movement begins with an ethereal, melancholy melody for solo clarinet. Though it sounds unlike anything else in the movement, this melody is in fact the foundation of all the main themes to come. The first of these bursts forth immediately after

Sibelius

the clarinet fades away, carried by glimmering strings. Slowly but steadily it builds momentum, adding instruments until arriving at a thrilling apex, trumpets blaring and blazing horns rising to tear through the orchestral fabric. Suddenly the tumult fades to a soft bubbling of pizzicato strings and nervy woodwinds. The lull is brief and marked by interjections of more energetic music, however, and after a period of conflict between the forces of calm and clamor, the strings lay the foundation for a return of the climactic music for brass. This time, the outburst ushers in the menacing coda, full of growling low strings and rumbling timpani, punctuated by a two-chord cadence of sharply plucked strings that foreshadows the final measure of the symphony. The Andante second movement establishes an altogether warmer, mellower mood, and is broken into a number of small sections, each characterized by a distinct personality. First we hear soft strings intone a wistful, elegant melody, then the reedy voice of the bassoon introduces a passage of imitative counterpoint in the woodwinds. Suddenly we hear an urgent outburst from the strings that combines the bassoon melody with the main themes from the first movement, followed by a section that moves from an uncertain, halting motif for flute and strings to a quiet, waltz-inflected passage complete with tinkling triangle. The music then swells once again in energy and volume, repeatedly accelerating then losing momentum until a sense of peace descends on the orchestra and the movement comes to a gentle close. The brief Scherzo establishes an entirely different mood, one of restlessness and spasmodic motion marked by tripping syncopation and cross-rhythms. Various instruments quickly jump to the forefront of the texture then fade to the background just as suddenly, and before we know it, pounding timpani and foul-tempered brass declare that the movement is at an end. The Finale begins with the opening clarinet melody from the first movement, transformed into a lush, Brahmsian declaration for unison strings. After an interruption, the melody is taken up by the woodwinds, then halted again. The music takes an agitated turn, accelerating in abrupt movement and sharp attacks from the percussion. From the echoes of that violent episode emerges a passionate yet dignified melody for violins. Again the agitated music breaks in, bringing things to a fever pitch before allowing the impassioned melody to return, this time introduced by a clarinet then traded between various instruments of the orchestra. The melody finally reaches its former glory in a breathtaking, soaring flight of strings and brass. The melody fades away, but the intensity remains, and as the pace slows to a crawl, the music takes a foreboding turn, imperiously building to what promises to be a calamitous ending. But at the last moment, the timpani and brass recede, and the symphony instead comes to an altogether more unsettling close with two hushed pizzicato chords.
Program notes © 2011 by Jay Goodwin

The St. Louis Symphony has invited four writers to produce program notes this season. New York City-based annotator Jay Goodwin writes for several ensembles across the United States and is on the editorial staff at Carnegie Hall.

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