Concert Program for February 24, 25, and 26, 2012

Jaap Van Zweden, conductor Martin Helmchen, piano


Cyrano de Bergerac Overture, op. 23



Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 Allegro maestoso Andante Allegretto Martin Helmchen, piano Intermission



Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98 Allegro non troppo Andante moderato Allegro giocoso Allegro energico e passionato


Martin Helmchen is the Ruth and Ed Trusheim Guest Artist. Pre-Concert Conversations are presented by Washington University Physicians. These concerts are part of the Wells Fargo Advisors Series.

Jaap van Zweden Amsterdam-born Jaap van Zweden has risen rapidly in little more than a decade to become one of today’s most sought-after conductors. He has been Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 2008, and is also Honorary Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Radio Chamber Orchestras (having been Chief Conductor and Artistic Director from 200511). In January 2012 he was announced as Music Director Designate of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, where he will take up the post of Music Director in September 2012, for an initial contract of four years. Appointed at 19 as the youngest concertmaster ever of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, he began his conducting career in 1995 and held the positions of Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (1996-2000), Chief Conductor of the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague (2000-05), and Chief Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra (2008-11). In November 2011 van Zweden was named as the recipient of Musical America’s Conductor of the Year Award 2012 in recognition of his critically acclaimed work as Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and as a guest conductor with the most prestigious U.S. orchestras. Van Zweden has appeared as guest conductor with many outstanding orchestras across the globe, including the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, the Munich Philharmonic, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Orchestre National de France, Oslo Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and London Philharmonic Orchestra. Aside from an extensive symphonic repertoire, opera also plays an important part in van Zweden’s career, and he has conducted La traviata and Fidelio with the National Reisopera, Madama Butterfly at the Netherlands Opera, and concert performances of Verdi’s Otello, Barber’s Vanessa, and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, Parsifal, and Lohengrin at the Concertgebouw with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. Recent highlights have included highly acclaimed debuts with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich and the Boston Symphony (at the Tanglewood Festival) and his BBC Proms debut conducting the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8. Highlights of the 201112 season and beyond include subscription debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and return visits to the Orchestre National de France, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, and London Philharmonic Orchestra. Jaap van Zweden most recently conducted the St. Louis Symphony in March 2011.

Martin Helmchen Ruth and Ed Trusheim Guest Artist With his highly virtuosic yet unpretentious style, pianist Martin Helmchen is a rapidly rising star. Born in Berlin in 1982, he has already performed with several of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Japan.  Helmchen made his American orchestral debut in August with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnányi at Tanglewood. Future debuts in the U.S. include concert appearances with the symphony orchestras of Houston and Oregon, as well as recitals in San Francisco and Carnegie’s Weill Hall in New York (with cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker). Worldwide, Helmchen has performed with the Birmingham Symphony, BBC Symphony/London, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/ Bremen, DSO/Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, Giuseppe Verdi Symphony/Milan, Netherlands Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra. Upcoming engagements include the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Bournemouth Symphony, Cologne Philharmonic, Dresden Philharmonic, Hallé Orchestra/Manchester, London Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, NDR/ Hamburg, NHK Symphony/Tokyo, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. During the 2011-12 season, he will also serve as Artist-in-Residence with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. Also an enthusiastic recitalist, Helmchen has performed at prestigious venues throughout Europe and, in addition to Schubertiade, Lockenhaus, and Marlboro, appears regularly at all the major German festivals. Recital engagements for the 2011-12 season include the Frick Collection in New York, Wigmore Hall, and the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. Helmchen has a passion for chamber music. Largely ignited by his early collaborations with the late cellist Boris Pergamenschikow, he now performs regularly with Heinrich Schiff and Marie-Elisabeth Hecker. Other partners include Juliane Banse, Veronika Eberle, Julia Fischer, Sharon Kam, Gidon Kremer, Sabine Meyer, Christian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt, and Tabea Zimmermann. Last summer, Helmchen was re-invited to participate in Elena Bashkirova’s International Chamber Music Festival in Jerusalem. Helmchen studied at Berlin’s Hanns Eisler Conservatory with Galina Iwanzowa and later with Arie Vardie at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater (Hanover) and with William Grant Naboré. His career took off when he won the 2001 Clara Haskil International Piano Competition at the age of 19. Other distinctions include a fellowship from the BorlettiBuitoni Trust in 2005, the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2006, and participation in the BBC New Generation Artist program from 2005-2007. Martin Helmchen makes his St. Louis Symphony debut in these concerts.

Program Notes

Johan Wagenaar Cyrano de Bergerac Overture, op. 23
Born: Utrecht, The Netherlands, November 1, 1862 Died: The Hague, June 17, 1941 First performance: Unknown STL Symphony premiere: This week Scoring: Three flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and percussion, and strings Performance time: Approximately 12 minutes

In Context 1905 Mutineers seize battleship Potemkin on the Black Sea; Parisian subway inaugurated; Debussy’s La Mer premieres Though Dutch composer Johan Wagenaar is something of an obscurity in today’s concert hall, his work was rather well received in its time and enjoyed frequent performances. The charming and melodious Cyrano de Bergerac Overture, the composer’s most successful and enduring work, demonstrates why. A stand-alone concert piece based on the 1897 play of the same name by Edmond Rostand, the overture paints a musical portrait of the title character, a soldier, poet, musician, and brave duelist. Wagenaar, who was born in Utrecht and throughout his career served variously as an organist, violinist, and teacher, admired Berlioz and especially the great late Romantics Strauss and Mahler, and it shows in the lush, richly colored, and imaginative orchestration of this unabashedly Romantic overture. The composer helpfully supplied a guide to the programmatic content of the work—depicting various aspects of Cyrano—in the way of inscriptions made in the score, which progress as follows: “Heroism”; “Love, Poetry”; “Rejoicing, Strength of Character”; “Cheerfulness, Chivalry”; “Humor”; and “Satire.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503
Born: Salzburg, January 27, 1756 Died: Vienna, December 5, 1791 First performance: March 7, 1787, Mozart performed the solo part, conducting from the keyboard STL Symphony premiere: February 15, 1973, Charles Rosen was soloist with Jerzy Semkow conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: February 25, 2007, Jeffrey Kahane conducted from the keyboard Scoring: Solo piano and an orchestra of flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings Performance time: Approximately 30 minutes

In Context 1786 Frederick II “The Great” of Prussia dies; Shay’s Rebellion protests the seizure of property for non-payment of debts in Massachusetts; Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro premieres in Vienna

In the broadest terms, Mozart’s brief life can be divided into two general periods. In his first 25 years, the young composer chafed under the influence of his conservative father and the unsympathetic and constrictive rule of his employer, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Feeling that his talents and originality were being wasted in an unsophisticated musical backwater, Mozart was filled with wanderlust and resentment. Mozart, posthumous He made multiple tours of Europe hoping to find portrait, 1819 more fulfilling employment (and even resigned his Salzburg position briefly) but in every case returned to his hometown unsuccessfully. In 1781, the frustrated composer finally left Salzburg for good (given a fond farewell by way of a literal “kick in the ass” as decreed by the Archbishop) and settled in Vienna, a cosmopolitan paradise by comparison, where he would take the revolutionary step of establishing himself as an independent artist, relying solely on the incomes of his work rather than the support of a patron. Mozart would soon learn that his newfound freedom was a doubleedged sword. Although he did indeed receive significant acclaim and achieve many successes, the public was fickle, and Mozart often found himself scraping by, hoping that the next piece or the next concert would be enough to keep him out of debt. We remember him now as a master of virtually every significant musical genre of his time, but in Vienna his livelihood rested chiefly on his works for the theater and his renown as a composer of and soloist in keyboard concertos, of which he turned out masterpiece after masterpiece at unbelievable speed and, at first, made a healthy living. But by the end of the 1780s, Mozart’s star had waned, and the economic conditions of the city had declined with the outbreak of the Austro-Turkish War. He began borrowing heavily from friends, and though he continued to compose works of genius—albeit at a slower pace—he was unable to make ends meet. By the time his financial woes finally began to lessen in 1791, bringing renewed creative energy and productivity, he had just months left to live. Mozart fell ill in September, and his illness steadily worsened until his death in the early-morning hours on December 5, at age 35. The Music The Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, emerged from one of the most successful periods of Mozart’s life. The last of the 12 great concertos the composer wrote in Vienna over the course of three massively productive years, 1784–86, Mozart dated the score December 4, 1786, just two days before he completed the Symphony No. 38, “Prague,” and six months after the premiere of The Marriage of Figaro. One of the lengthiest and weightiest of Mozart’s concertos, the work has a monumental yet dignified character, evoking a sense of gravity without blustering. The first movement is highly symphonic, opening with an elaborate orchestral tutti and only gradually assimilating the soloist, who begins by tentatively echoing melodies introduced by the orchestra before asserting himself as the ensemble’s equal. The music flits deceptively between major and minor,

warping the listener’s expectations and providing mystery and subtlety alongside its march-like pomp. Entertaining for the modern listener are two striking musical allusions—or more-accurately, predictions—in this movement, both apparent almost immediately. After the opening fanfare, Mozart introduces a basic rhythmic pattern very similar to that of the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, which then pervades the rest of the movement. Shortly thereafter, a melodic tail, rising in pitch every two notes, is added to the end of that rhythm, and suddenly one hears the opening strains of La Marseillaise (which would not be written until 1792)—a connection made explicit by Alfred Brendel’s oft-used cadenza. The Andante lacks the grandeur of the first movement but offers instead a captivating serenity, seducing the ear with its long, breathy phrases. Elegant passages for the winds weave through and between the soloist’s capricious episodes of passagework, and everything seems to be suspended in midair, floating on a cloud of strings. A sort of delightfully pure musical palate cleanser, it gently fades and gives way to the finale. The most formally traditional movement of the three, the Allegretto is a cheerful rondo that shares the most with Mozart’s more “typical” piano concertos, if such a thing exists. Almost operatic in its dialogue for solo instruments, it points to Mozart’s theatrical past in borrowing a theme from Idomeneo, as well as toward his future in its rapid-fire conversational phrasing, used to such great effect a few years later in Così fan tutte. But comparisons aside, this movement stands tall on its own terms. Playful and inventive melodically, and breathtakingly scored, it conjures moments of magical texture and layering—such as when the wind instruments drop away after a passage of perky imitation, leaving the soloist dancing above the sultry voices of cellos and basses alone. It is just one of many splendid moments, but it is a bewitching effect and, as Michael Steinberg observes, “a sound that occurs nowhere else in Mozart.”

Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98
Born: Hamburg, May 7, 1833 Died: Vienna, April 3, 1897 First performance: October 25, 1885, in Meiningen; Hans von Bülow conducted the renowned Meiningen Orchestra STL Symphony premiere: November 15, 1912, with Max Zach conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: January 17, 2009, Philippe Jordan conducting Scoring: Two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani and other percussion, and strings Performance time: Approximately 39 minutes

In Context 1884-85 Colonial empires expand in Africa with Belgium, Great Britain, and Germany taking control of Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other territories; German treaty calls for humane treatment of Africans; Renoir paints In the Garden

When looking back at the lives of important figures, it is instructive to remember that most such personalities did not examine themselves through the grandiose wideangle lens of history, considering the possible implications of each and every action as it may have effected their legacy. For the most part, they, like us, lived their lives in the moment, making decisions whose significance became clear only much later, often after their deaths. Such was not Brahms the case with Brahms. A student of history and collector of the original manuscripts of his greatest musical forebears, Brahms was constantly aware of where he fit in the musical tradition and the responsibility that therefore rested on his shoulders. He was anointed at a young age by the public and by critics as Beethoven’s awaited successor, and his work was mercilessly and microscopically dissected and compared against the greats. Early in his career, this sense of expectation and his fear of never being able to fulfill it paralyzed him, with the result that he was a late-blooming composer—Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Chopin all died at a younger age than Brahms was when he finally completed his Symphony No. 1. By the time he matured as a composer, however, Brahms turned this reverence for the past into his greatest strength, writing works that applied the forms, techniques, and wisdom of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven to the new Romantic idiom. Brahms’s critics derided this as uninspired conservatism. “The real Brahms is nothing more than a sentimental voluptuary,” said George Bernard Shaw. “He is the most wanton of composers ... Only his wantonness is not vicious; it is that of a great baby, rather tiresomely addicted to dressing himself up as Handel or Beethoven and making a prolonged and intolerable noise.” But this pretentious criticism widely misses the mark and reeks of the jealousy so common in critics enslaved to newness for newness’s sake. Brahms’s music teems with originality and genius, and though many of his contemporaries successfully blazed new paths to greatness, Brahms proved that there was still untapped potential in the “antiquated” forms of Classicism. History has certainly vindicated him. Even Schoenberg, perhaps the most revolutionary composer of all time, recognized Brahms’s achievements and gave a series of lectures in 1947 entitled “Brahms the Progressive.” The Music Brahms’s Fourth (and last) Symphony, written in the idyllic Austrian town of Mürzzuschlag during the summers of 1884 and 1885, is Brahms’s ultimate fusion of past and present. At a time when Wagner and his acolytes were pushing tonal harmony to its breaking point, Brahms begins his symphony with a simple pattern based on intervals of a third— specifically, falling thirds echoed by their inversion, rising sixths—the fundamental building block of tonality. But this pattern, which becomes the basis for the entire movement, is treated so organically and is allowed to travel so far afield that its simplicity and conventionality become just the opposite. The structure, too, is deceptive. Though the movement is cast in sonata form—the backbone of the Classical symphony—it is defined by

the ways it breaks that mold. After a repeat of the opening eight measures, seeming to indicate that we have started the standard repeat of the exposition, Brahms instead alters the harmony and whisks us away into the development section. Then, we hear a quiet variation of the opening theme (in the woodwinds and at half the original speed), which would suggest a gradual buildup to the movement’s climax. But without warning, the tempo launches forward and we are immediately thrust into the heart of the recapitulation. In the Andante, too, we hear Brahms as historian and progressive. Ostensibly in E major, the movement is indeed based on a theme that centers around E. But it incorporates the pitches of the C-major scale (all white keys on a piano) to essentially transform the harmonic structure into that of the Phrygian mode, one of the standard pitch sets used in medieval and Renaissance music. This offers Brahms a host of chromatic and melodic possibilities, both of which the composer uses to make this one of his most harmonically modern-sounding movements. Brahms’s music-history treatises would also have explained that the melancholy Phrygian mode should resolve to the sunny Ionian mode (identical to C major). Sure enough, the Allegro giocoso is in C and—with its pounding timpani, tingling triangle, and marching rhythms—is a rousing, energetic interlude to what is otherwise quite a weighty and solemn work. The Fourth Symphony’s finale distills Brahms’s genius to its purest form. Inspired by the composer’s Renaissance and Baroque idols, it is a chaconne—a form in which a melodic pattern and its harmonic foundation are repeated over and over but transformed by means of extensive variation limited only by the composer’s imagination. The movement begins with a severe and blustery statement of its fundamental eight-note theme and proceeds through a whirlwind of 30 exceptionally diverse and inventive variations that demonstrate Brahms’s mastery of the form. The theme finds its way through the entire orchestra, appearing everywhere from the low brass to the upper woodwinds and exploring seemingly every possible permutation of the pattern. Finally, the chaconne gives way, and a fittingly stentorian coda concludes the piece.

Program notes © 2012 by Jay Goodwin

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