CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Friday, October 19, 2012 | 8 PM

World Orchestra for Peace

The Solti Centennial Concert

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
It is hard to find an orchestra as star-studded as this one, comprising top players from the Vienna Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Mariinsky Orchestra, and more. Hailed for its “unrelenting intensity and edge-of-the-seat excitement” (The Guardian), this intrepid ensemble makes its highly anticipated US debut in a spectacular celebration of its founder, Sir Georg Solti, performing a selection of opera’s most beloved arias with superstars Angela Gheorghiu and René Pape, as well as orchestral favorites under the baton of impassioned conductor Valery Gergiev.

Highlighting the influential conductor’s aims to nurture talented young singers and musicians through his academy programs, this special tribute is hosted by Lady Solti and features video vignettes with celebrated alumni from his prestigious training grounds.
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The Program

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Overture to Le nozze di Figaro

About the Composer


Mozart spent most of the 1770s as a member of the Salzburg orchestra, and his compositional activity yielded mainly symphonies, serenades, and church music. Then, a commission from Munich in 1780 resulted in his first great opera, Idomeneo. Its success prompted his move to Vienna, where he worked as a pianist, teacher, and freelance composer. His popularity as a soloist for his own piano concertos was matched only by the enthusiastic reception of his operas of the 1780s: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), Le nozze di Figaro (1786), and Don Giovanni (1787). However, by 1790 and the premiere of Così fan tutte, his popularity had waned, and he fell into considerable debt. He died in December 1791 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Mozart is loved for his beautiful melodies and structural clarity, but also his unmatched ability to juxtapose comedy and tragedy, reveal truth, and express a profound emotional vulnerability that connects us to our own humanity.


About the Music


Le nozze di Figaro was Mozart's first of three collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (who would later become a professor at Columbia University) and one of his greatest operatic successes. Based on the French play by Pierre Beaumarchais, Figaro is set in Seville, Spain, and presents a "day of madness" (in the full title Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata) in the palace of Count Almaviva. Figaro, the Count's servant, must thwart his master's plan to seduce Susanna, Figaro's own intended bride. Though an Italian opera buffa through and through, Figaro is also much more than a comedic farce, exposing truths of human nature and observations about love, politics, and sexual intrigue.

In only four minutes, the lively, effervescent overture, often performed as a concert piece, sets the mood perfectly—but, remarkably, without any actual themes from the opera. Unlike many overtures that feature a slow introduction, slow interlude, or both, Figaro's overture consists of a single, untiring presto movement that includes a double sequence of melodies-the bubbling textures and celebratory spirit providing no hint of the darker side of Mozart or Figaro.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

RICHARD STRAUSS
Don Juan, Op. 20

About the Composer


During an artistic career lasting nearly eight decades, the German conductor and composer Richard Strauss wrote in nearly every musical genre—from the concert hall to the stage—and was successful in all of them. Inspired by the principles and aesthetics of Berlioz, Wagner, and Liszt, Strauss-at once a composer, tone-painter, and narrator-sought to portray extramusical subjects through music. In exploring the poetic and expressive elements of music, Strauss turned to the genre of the symphonic poem (or tone poem) as a means of instrumental music based on nonmusical ideas, not beholden to any particular formal structure. Within this body of work, Strauss expanded and perfected the genre, honed his orchestration prowess, and explored to the maximum degree the narrative potential of instrumental music. The impact that these works have had on orchestral repertoire and orchestration techniques, as well as Strauss's later compositions, is incalculable.


About the Music


After finishing his first tone poem, Macbeth,  in February 1888, Strauss was composing at an extraordinary pace; just eight months later, Don Juan was complete. Because of the work's provocative subject matter and stunning musical content, its premiere earned Strauss quick fame and international stature as a modernist composer.

Don Juan was inspired by the legend of the great womanizer and, more specifically, by a verse play by 19th-century German poet Nikolaus Lenau. Strauss prefaced his score with three quotations from the poem spoken by Don Juan himself. As an attempt to delve into Don Juan's psyche and show his character through his own words, Strauss explored the hero's philosophy: the quest for the most ideal woman and the foremost moment in life without regard for the consequences. The poetic passages are not action-based, though ironically the tone poem does, to a certain degree, portray dramatic episodes-including the confident, vigorous élan of Don Juan's conquests, several love scenes, a duel, and, finally, his deliberate defeat.

Not discounting the virtuosic writing and pyrotechnics for all of the orchestral instruments, the flash and brilliance of Don Juan can be largely attributed to the horn parts, which represent the hero throughout the work. But Don Juan also makes a significant musical impression with the less showy, more sentimental music: the evocation of the females in his life. Two solos, one for the concertmaster and the second for the principal oboe, portray these mistresses. In a piece that is often a musical cyclone, there are also moments of magnificent beauty, elegance, and affection.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
"In diesen heil'gen Hallen" from Die Zauberflöte

About the Music


Despite his declining health and increasing poverty, Mozart remained prolific during the last year of his life. Among his last works was Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), considered by many to be the greatest operatic success of his career (though its success mattered little to Mozart, who died only 10 weeks after its premiere). For a composer who traditionally wrote formal opere serie or stylish opere buffe, Die Zauberflöte was a new approach. Based on a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, Die Zauberflöte is a Singspiel, incorporating both music and dialogue. It is imaginative, unique, and full of fantasy, religious allegory, and Masonic references.

The calm, lyrical aria "In diesen heil'gen Hallen," appears in Act II, Scene 3. The high priest Sarastro confronts, consoles, and forgives the weeping Pamina, the daughter of the tyrannical Queen of the Night who has ordered Pamina to kill him.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

GIUSEPPE VERDI
"Teneste la promessa … Addio del passato" from La traviata

About the Composer


From Oberto (1839) to Falstaff (1893), all of Verdi's works offer expressive vocal melodies in both arias and ensemble numbers. His subject matter had wide appeal among both the privileged and the general public, opera being the main entertainment for both. Whether serious or light-hearted, his operas are fast-paced and driven by intense emotions-contempt, love, envy, and ambition.


About the Music


Set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, La traviata is based on the play La dame aux camélias, an adaptation of the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Verdi had originally planned to call his 19th opera-commissioned by the prestigious Teatro La Fenice-Amore e Morte (Love and Death). The change to La traviata, literally "The Fallen Woman," turns the focus to Violetta, the main character and famed courtesan.

"Teneste la promessa … Addio del passato" occurs near the end of the final act, when Violetta has but minutes to live (she is dying from tuberculosis). She is waiting for her lover Alfredo to arrive to pardon her for leaving him in order to preserve his family's honor. In her aria, she bids farewell to her happy times of the past, praying for redemption and comfort as her body fails her. Her aria is both forceful and vulnerable, and the soaring and arching vocal melodies are often echoed by short sentiments in the oboe.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
"Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni

About the Music


The second of Mozart's three collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, Don Giovanni is set in Seville, Spain, and based loosely on the Don Juan legend and his conquests of women. Mozart himself called the work a dramma giocoso because of its combination of comedy and malice. The opera offers a moral lesson; its music is light and humorous, but the dramatic situations and consequences are severe.

The duet "Là ci darem la mano" occurs in Act I when the insatiable Don Giovanni attempts to seduce the servant girl Zerlina, only minutes after her intended husband Masetto has left her side. The tune is so flirtatious, charming, and fluid that it is almost possible to believe the womanizer's feigned sincerity.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

GIUSEPPE VERDI
"Bella figlia dell'amore" from Rigoletto

About the Work


Another collaboration between Verdi and Piave, Rigoletto is set in Mantua during the 16th century. The opera tells the tale of the shamelessly immoral Duke of Mantua, his court jester Rigoletto, and Rigoletto's daughter Gilda, who falls in love with the Duke and ultimately surrenders her life to save him from the assassins her father has hired.

The quartet "Bella figlia dell'amore" appears directly following the Duke's most famous aria, "La donna è mobile." Rigoletto must persuade Gilda that the Duke is in the assassin Sparafucile's house and is attempting to seduce Sparafucile's sister, Maddalena. The vocal lines intertwine elaborately, creating complex layers amid Verdi's masterful orchestral accompaniment.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

GUSTAV MAHLER
Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor

About the Composer


Known while living to be one of the leading orchestral and operatic conductors of the day (including a stint as the music director of the New York Philharmonic), Gustav Mahler's powerful and innovative compositional style brought him mixed success as a composer. Perhaps misunderstood during his lifetime, his works are now recognized as some of the most significant late-Romantic compositions. They also provided inspiration to the composers of the Second Viennese School.

Mahler had a complex personality and a difficult life, ridden with confidence issues, marital strife, and illness—all reflected by the depth of passion and emotion in his music. Mahler once remarked, "A symphony is like the world. It must contain everything." In that way, his music not only mirrors his life experience, but dissects and reconstructs it for the listener.


About the Work


In February 1901, Mahler had a severe health crisis, suffering an intestinal hemorrhage that nearly killed him. Though he recovered quickly, the impact of that experience is felt profoundly in his music of that time—for example, the first movement of Symphony No. 5 opens with a funeral march. Before he was able to finish the symphony, however, he met the woman who was to become his wife: Alma Schindler, the charming, beautiful, talented, and intelligent young composer (19 years his junior). Mahler's life was forever altered.

Wilhelm Mengelberg, the famous Dutch conductor and a close friend of both Gustav and Alma, asserted that the F-major Adagietto, the fourth movement from Symphony No. 5, was a declaration of Mahler's love for his new wife. Given the poignant, soulful melodies and enchanting counterpoint, it is not a difficult story to believe. The Adagietto has become one of the most popular pieces Mahler ever wrote, undoubtedly because of its accessible, love-song quality, but also because it was featured in Luchino Visconti's 1971 film Death in Venice and was conducted by Leonard Bernstein during a memorial to President John F. Kennedy. The movement also contains a quotation from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, further suggesting (given the content of Wagner's opera) that the relationship of love and death were imprinted in Mahler's mind.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

BÉLA BARTÓK
Concerto for Orchestra

About the Composer


Béla Bartók was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist. Drawn to folk music from a young age, he traveled widely to study the peasant music of Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Turkey, Ukraine, and Northern Africa. These studies permeate his compositions' melodies, rhythms, and orchestrations. Together with composer Zoltán Kodály, Bartók is considered a pioneer in the field of ethnomusicology. He was also influenced by Western music, especially that of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. His works often reflect this cultural, historical, and musical dualism.


About the Work


In 1940, Bartók fled Europe and the tyranny of fascism. He left the security and artistic inspiration of his native Hungary and arrived in the United States with bad finances and poor health. He spent the first two years in America without writing anything of importance and reported that he lost his desire to compose. Growing worried, fellow Hungarian émigrés conductor Fritz Reiner and violinist Joseph Szigeti approached Serge Koussevitzky, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a devotee of new music, to commission a work from him for his orchestra. Though he was suffering from as yet undiagnosed leukemia, the offer of a commission rejuvenated the composer, and he swiftly wrote what would become his most popular piece, the Concerto for Orchestra.

Bartók wrote, "The general mood of the work represents-apart from the jesting second movement-a gradual transition from the sternness of the first movement and the lugubrious death-song of the third, to the life-assertion of the last one." Like his fourth string quartet, the work is symmetrical, in arch form: The emotional core is the slow middle movement, surrounded by two diverting scherzos, which are themselves framed by two larger-scale movements.

The work is a concerto rather than a symphony in that each section of the orchestra is featured in a soloistic manner. It is also a testament to Bartók's own virtuosity as a composer, as demonstrated by the complex fugue in the finale. The Concerto for Orchestra is not only Bartók's most accessible and well-liked piece, but also the ultimate triumph of his unparalleled fusion of world music and Western art.


—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with World Orchestra for Peace.
Gratefully dedicated to the Centennial of Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Additionally supported by Yoko Nagae Ceschina.

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