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David Robertson, conductor Christine Brewer, soprano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 70
Allegro maestoso Poco adagio Scherzo: Vivace Finale: Allegro
Intermission GEORGE CRUMB
A Haunted Landscape (1984)
Four Last Songs (Vier letzte Lieder) (1948) Frühling (Spring) September Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep) Im Abendrot (At Dusk) Christine Brewer, soprano
David Robertson is the Beofor Music Director and Conductor. Christine Brewer is the Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Eddy Guest Artist. The concert of Friday, January 13, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Dr. and Mrs. Wilfred R. Konneker. The concert of Saturday, January 14, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Mr. David W. Johnson. Pre-Concert Conversations are presented 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 YoYo 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.
Christine Brewer Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Eddy Guest Artist Grammy Award-winning American soprano Christine Brewer’s 2011-12 season highlights include singing Wagner and Beethoven for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert, then returning to Wagner for his Wesendonck Lieder with the New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, and Ring cycle excerpts with the San Francisco Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen. The soprano also revisits Beethoven in five accounts of the Missa solemnis with the Boston Symphony and James Levine, culminating in a March 2012 performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall. She also returns to the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis for concert performances of Weber’s Der Freischütz and makes her Los Angeles Opera debut with her celebrated portrayal of Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring. The soprano’s numerous 2010-11 season highlights included performances of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with both the Atlanta Symphony under Donald Runnicles and the San Francisco Symphony with Tilson Thomas, as well as Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass with the Toronto and Chicago symphonies led by James Conlon. She reprised Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Royal Concertgebouw and Detroit Symphony under Mariss Jansons and Leonard Slatkin respectively, as well as performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard with David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony. She debuted in the iconic title role of Puccini’s Turandot in a concert performance at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel and was the featured soloist for the New York City Opera’s opening night gala. On the opera stage, Brewer is highly regarded for her striking portrayal of the title role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, which she has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Théâtre du Châtelet, Santa Fe Opera, English National Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Attracting glowing reviews with each role, she has performed Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at San Francisco Opera, Gluck’s Alceste with Santa Fe Opera, the Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten at Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Paris Opera, and Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring at Santa Fe Opera. Actively involved in passing on a love of opera to the younger generation, Brewer introduced “Opera-tunities” to the sixth grade students of Marissa Elementary School, where she herself once taught, in Marissa, Illinois; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes this new educational outreach program as “an excellent lesson in music-making.” Christine Brewer most recently performed with the St. Louis Symphony in April 2011.
BY PAUL SCHIAVO
Ideas at Play
One of the most important genres of music to emerge during the 19th century was the heroic symphony. This type of composition originated with Beethoven’s aptly titled Sinfonia eroica, which appeared in 1804. Its implicit drama of struggle and ultimate triumph made a tremendous impression on listeners and succeeding generations of composers, many of whom wrote heroic symphonies of their own. Notable among them were Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Antonín Dvořák, whose Symphony No. 7 also suggests a narrative of crisis and obstacles overcome. The heroic symphony is invariably and unambiguously life-affirming, as well as characteristically Romantic. The latter quality has led modern composers to abandon it in favor of different musical, and metaphysical, perspectives. George Crumb’s A Haunted Landscape imagines a place where strange sensations, and perhaps ghosts from bygone times, lie at the periphery of our consciousness. Our final work, Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, considers human experience beyond consciousness, and finds in that prospect something comforting, even profoundly beautiful.
Antonín Dvořák Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 70
Born: Nelahozeves, Bohemia, September 8, 1841 Died: Prague, May 1, 1904 First performed: April 22, 1885, in London; the composer conducted the Royal Philharmonic Society Orchestra STL Symphony premiere: February 24, 1911, Max Zach conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: September 26, 2004, Keith Lockhart conducting Scoring: Two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings Performance time: Approximately 35 minutes
In Context 1884-85 Serbian forces, with the support of Russia, invade Bulgaria; Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 premieres; van Gogh paints The Potato Eaters On December 13, 1884, Antonín Dvořák wrote to a friend from his home in the Czech countryside: “I am occupied at present with my symphony, and wherever I go I think of nothing except my work, which must be such that it will shake the world—and with God’s help it will.” The composition Dvořák referred to was his Symphony Dvořák No. 7 in D minor, which he completed in March, 1885. His ambitious, world-shaking intent is born out by the music. This is a dramatic, powerful, at times sternly tragic work, and it is regarded by many authorities as the greatest of Dvořák’s nine symphonies. Its creation was prompted by Dvořák’s triumphant visits to England in the mid-
1880s, which initiated a steady crescendo of international acclaim for the Czech composer and his music. During the first of these trips, in the spring of 1884, performances of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater and other works generated such enthusiasm that the Royal Philharmonic Society decided to commission a new symphony from him. The importance Dvořák attached to this request partly explains the seriousness with which he approached the work. (The composer’s draft of the score reveals a high number of false starts and revisions, and his correspondence concerning it suggests an unusually arduous labor.) But there were other factors. Chief among these was Dvořák’s now firmly established friendship with Johannes Brahms, who was widely considered the foremost living musician, and his desire to live up to that composer’s expectations. A letter Dvořák wrote to his publisher in February 1885 indicates that he had discussed his D-minor Symphony with Brahms: “I have spent a long, long time on my new symphony, but I want to justify Brahms’s words when he said ‘I imagine your symphony will be quite unlike this one [the placid Symphony No. 6 in D major].’ There will be no grounds for thinking him wrong.” The Music We can detect Brahms’s influence in the sober tone and expansive scope of Dvořák’s symphony. Yet there are more concrete signs of the affinity between the two composers. The opening moments of Dvořák’s symphony, with their stormy principal theme, sustained low D bass note, and restless meter, recall those of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, in the same key of D minor. And the second theme of this movement, a gentle melody given to the woodwinds, corresponds for its first nine notes exactly with the famous cello solo that begins the slow movement of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, which had been published in 1882. This is not to accuse Dvořák of plagiarism, nor to imply that his work lacks originality. On the contrary, he handles his melodic materials in a style distinctly his own. The initial theme hints at Bohemian folk music; and throughout the first movement, rustling figures in the strings, together with woodwind calls apparently inspired by birdsong, evoke the Czech countryside where Dvořák composed this symphony. Dvořák’s early training was not as a composer but as a church organist, and he had once served in this capacity at a modest church in Prague. The initial phrase of the second movement, a simple hymn-like melody in the low woodwinds, seems a remembrance of that experience. From this unassuming beginning, the movement unfolds with richness and depth of feeling, as indeed it must to balance the symphony’s substantial opening. Even more vividly than in the opening movement, the music of the ensuing scherzo has about it an unmistakably Czech flavor. Its music conveys the spirit of a Bohemian country dance and exalts this through symphonic textures. The central section brings more pastoral impressions. This prepares a dramatic finale that begins with stern music in D minor but turns, in the final measures, brightly to D major, allowing a triumphant conclusion.
George Crumb A Haunted Landscape
Born: Charleston, West Virginia, October 24, 1929 First Performance: June 7, 1984, at Avery Fisher Hall, in New York; Arthur Weisberg conducted the New York Philharmonic STL Symphony premiere: This week Scoring: Three flutes and piccolo, three oboes and English horn, three clarinets and Eflat clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and a large contingent of percussion (including such unorthodox instruments as Cambodian angklungs, Caribbean steel drum, kabuki blocks, and Appalachian hammered dulcimer), two harps, piano, and strings Performance time: Approximately 18 minutes
In Context 1984 President Reagan endorses development of permanently manned space station; Messiaen composes opera Saint François d’Assise; Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” premieres on MTV “I have always considered music to be a very strange substance,” George Crumb once observed, “a substance endowed with magical properties.” In light of this declaration, it is not surprising that this American composer’s chief concern has always been for what he George Crumb terms “the spiritual impulse, the psychological curve, the metaphysical implications” of music. Since the 1960s, Crumb has been creating works that are mysterious, sensuous, and suggest magical beings and events. These qualities are well suited with the dream-like poetry of Federico García Lorca, which has provided texts and inspiration for many of Crumb’s compositions. But even his pieces without an explicit connection to the Spanish writer often create impressions of ritual or sacred incantation, and the composer’s predilection for innovative vocal and instrumental sonorities, together with his keen sensitivity and inventiveness in devising these, often yields haunting, otherworldly sounds. Those sounds, and the highly original imagination they imply, brought Crumb a good deal of attention early in his career. His orchestral piece Echoes of Time and the River received the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for composition, and his music was widely performed and recorded during the 1970s. Since then, the composer has continued to cultivate his idiosyncratic style, producing a consistent and substantial body of work. Crumb says that he did not have a particular scene in mind when writing A Haunted Landscape, nor did he intend it to convey a program, or a narrative thread. Instead, the composer explains, both the title and the music reflect his feeling that certain locales “are imbued with an aura of mystery. I can vividly recall the ‘shock of recognition’ I felt on seeing Andalusia for the first time after having been involved with the poetry of García Lorca for so many years. I felt a similar sense of déjà vu on visits to Jerusalem and to Delphos, in Greece.” Even in the woods of his native West Virginia, Crumb senses the ghosts of the vanished Indians. The composer observes that “contemplation of a landscape can induce complex psychological states, and perhaps music is an ideal medium
for delineating the tiny, subtle nuances of emotion and sensibility which hover between the subliminal and the conscious.” The Music This notion of music inhabiting a psychological space between our awareness and our unconscious is at the heart of A Haunted Landscape. The first sounds we hear are low in pitch and dark in timbre: a gruff, percussive note that doesn’t quite fade to silence, despite its short, sharp articulation. Rather, two contrabass players extend its tone, playing a drone that continues unbroken, though only rarely perceptible, through the entire length of the piece. Slowly other sonorities float, it seems, to the surface of our hearing: soft growls, strange clicks and taps, a whispered flute phrase. The music is quiet, its utterances fleeting and aphoristic. Soon, however, drums and brass break the mood, sounding more extended and assertive gestures. Initially, their outbursts are stilled by widelyspaced chords in the strings, and later by bells and cloud-like sonorities formed by strings and woodwinds. For a while, the spare, quiet discourse is restored, only now it includes falling string figures, calls of distant bugles, bird-like trills, and exotic-sounding woodwind statements. A second outburst, this one stronger and more aggressive than before, is signaled by braying clarinets and includes the brass-and-percussion music heard earlier. But this sonic eruption also falters and subsides, and the music resumes its air of quiet mystery. Some of the events from early in the piece are recalled: the low growls, the bell tones, the far-off bugles, and the seemingly timeless string harmonies, now punctuated by an insistent five-note knock. The latter sonorities persist nearly to the end of the composition, whose musical landscape by now seems, indeed, haunted with intimations of phenomena just beyond our grasp.
Richard Strauss Four Last Songs (Vier letzte Lieder)
Born: Munich, June 11, 1864 Died: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, September 8, 1949 First performance: May 22, 1950, in London; Kirsten Flagstad sang, and Wilhelm Furtwängler conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra STL Symphony premiere: November 5, 1976, Heather Harper sang the complete Four Last Songs, with Leonard Slatkin conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: May 1, 2005, Christine Brewer was soloist, with David Robertson conducting Scoring: Solo soprano and an orchestra of three flutes and two piccolos, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, and tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, and strings Performance time: Approximately 24 minutes
In Context 1948 Communists seize power in Czechoslovakia; Communist forces cut off water and land routes to and from Berlin, Berlin Airlift ensues; independent state of Israel created Richard Strauss enjoyed a long and eventful career, and he devoted himself to different genres of music at different times in his life. As a young composer in the late-1880s and 1890s, Strauss established his reputation
through a series of famous orchestral poems that includes Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, and Also sprach Zarathustra. Later, his interest turned to the theater—to music for plays, ballet, and especially opera. Strauss eventually established himself as one of the 20th century’s several great composers of opera, creating such important works as Salome, Elektra, and Der Rosenkavalier. But one compositional activity claimed Strauss’s R. Strauss, 1918 attention throughout his life: this was Lieder, or German portrait by Max art song. Prompted in part by the fine soprano voice of his Liebermann wife, Pauline de Ahna, Strauss wrote more than 200 songs over the course of his career. Not only the quantity of these works but their deep expressiveness distinguishes Strauss as one of the masters of Lieder writing, the heir of Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms. But unlike those earlier Lieder composers, who wrote only piano accompaniment for most of their songs, Strauss often created orchestral settings for his Lieder, a tendency he shared with his great contemporary Gustav Mahler. Strauss’s crowning achievement in the field of orchestral song composition also proved to be his final composition. Written when he was 84, Vier letzte Lieder, or Four Last Songs, closed the circle of Strauss’s career. In this work, which uses verses by Hermann Hesse and the 19thcentury poet Joseph von Eichendorff, the composer returned to the lush Romanticism that had been his signature as a young musician. The Music The musical references to Strauss’s youth find a literary counterpart in the text of the first song. “Frühling” is a hymn to young life, and Strauss sets it with soaring vocal lines and surging harmonies. But with the second song, “September,” it becomes clear that parting and death constitute the real theme of this cycle, the end of summer providing a metaphor for the mortality of all earth’s creatures. “Beim Schlafengehen,” the third song, shifts the focus from nature to the human realm. This is one of Strauss’s most moving songs, and it attains what seems an almost religious intensity of feeling in the melody, first heard as a violin solo, that represents the soul rising in flight. The intimations of death thus far implied become explicit in the final song. But death is not a grim or frightful prospect for Strauss. A feeling of deep peace runs through the music of “Im Abendrot,” and in its final moments the composer presents two important symbols of life and continuity. Rising in the horn at the mention of death is the “transfiguration motif” from Strauss’s 1889 tone poem Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration). As in that orchestral composition, this theme serves as an emblem of spiritual triumph over death. The music fades toward silence, and we hear the trilling of the two larks encountered earlier in the song. The meaning of this sound is unmistakable: life will continue after the composer, after each individual, is gone.
Program notes © 2012 by Paul Schiavo
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