CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 8 PM

European Union Youth Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Founded in 1976, the European Union Youth Orchestra brings together talented young musicians from all 27 EU countries. The orchestra has collaborated with some of the world’s most renowned soloists. For this performance it is joined by violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, playing the vivacious Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3.
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AARON COPLAND
An Outdoor Overture

About the Composer


Aaron Copland, for most of his long life, was often referred to as the "Dean of American Composers," an epithet he disliked. Yet it was probably Copland, more than any other American composer except Gershwin (who died young), who first gave his countrymen a kind of serious classical music written in an easily accessible style and whose melodies, colors, and rhythms reflected a specifically American folk heritage.


About the Work


Not many well-known classical composers have written orchestral music specifically for young musicians to tackle. Copland's An Outdoor Overture is one such case (his opera The Second Hurricane is another), composed in 1938 for New York's High School of Music and Art. Alexander Richter conducted the first performances in the school auditorium on December 16 and 17 of that year. As Copland related, "when Mr. Richter first heard me play [the overture] from the piano sketch, he pointed out that it had an open-air quality. Together we hit upon the title."


A Closer Listen


Bright colors, catchy rhythms, a sense of spontaneity, and an invigorating spirit of youthful enthusiasm infuse the overture. "The piece starts in a large and grandiose manner with a theme that is immediately developed as a long solo for the trumpet with a string pizzicato accompaniment," wrote the composer. "A short bridge passage in the woodwinds leads imperceptibly to the first theme of the Allegro section, characterized by repeated notes. Shortly afterwards, these same repeated notes, played broadly, give us a second, snappy march-like theme, developed in canon form." Two more themes, one lyrical, one march-like, go into this highly spirited, tuneful overture.


—Robert Markow

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216

About the Composer


Mozart's talents, over and above musical composition, included proficiency on the piano, organ, violin, and viola. Proficiency, however, is not really the right word. He was indisputably one of the greatest keyboard virtuosos of his day. His violin playing was cultivated by his father, Leopold, himself a famous pedagogue who encouraged young Wolfgang with the words, "If you would only play with boldness, spirit, and fire, you would be the finest violinist in Europe."

Wolfgang, at the age of 19, spent most of the year 1775 in the service of Count Colloredo, Archbishop of Salzburg. Here, within the period of six months, he wrote four of his five authentic violin concertos (No. 1 was probably composed in 1773; two additional spurious ones exist). We are not certain whether they were initially intended for Mozart's own use as a soloist or not, though he certainly performed them all at one time or another.


About the Work


In style, these concertos grow out of the Italian violin tradition as found in Tartini, Geminiani, Nardini, and Boccherini. The music is steeped in the qualities of the stile galant—grace, elegance, charm, and gentle sentiments. The third of the set, completed on September 12, 1775, just three months after the second, represents an enormous advance over the mere rococo prettiness of the first two concertos.

Mozart biographer and scholar Alfred Einstein comments as follows: "What had happened in the three months that separate the second concerto from the third? We do not know. Suddenly there is a new depth and richness to Mozart's whole language … Suddenly the whole orchestra begins to speak, and to enter into a new, intimate relation with the solo part. Nothing is more miraculous in Mozart's work than the appearance of this concerto at this stage in his development."


A Closer Listen


The first movement opens with the expected orchestral ritornello to expose the principal themes. The movement is written in the classic sonata-allegro form. In fact, everything about the movement is classic—in its perfectly balanced phrases, sense of symmetry, effortless flow, and poise.

The Adagio has inspired numerous commentators to heights of praise. Einstein says that "it seems to have fallen straight from heaven." John Burk, in his Mozart monograph (1959) wrote that it "attains a new height as, under its cantilena, the orchestra—in muted triplets, with pizzicato bass—supersedes the rather straightforward accompaniment of the earlier slow movements." And Edward Downes calls it music "of such ravishing beauty that one can only bow one's head and be thankful." The concerto is scored for pairs of oboes and horns plus strings (as are all Mozart's violin concertos); in this Adagio, however, flutes replace oboes, lending a softer, gentler quality to the orchestral sonority. In Mozart's day, it was really no extravagance to require the flutes for just one movement and oboes for the other two, as both instruments were often played by the same musicians.

The final movement is a cheerful rondo filled with smiling, insouciant melodies, suave orchestration, and suggestions of Austrian and German folksongs.


—Robert Markow 

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

RICHARD STRAUSS
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

About the Composer


Strauss was one of the most remarkable and imaginative orchestrators of all time. There was virtually nothing, either spiritual or physical, that he could not depict in sound. He once casually remarked that, if necessary, he could describe a knife and fork in music. Into his colossal Eine Alpensinfonie he poured the purest essence of his orchestration skills, incorporating every aspect of the ascent and descent of an Alpine peak over a time span of 24 hours.

Strauss loved the Bavarian Alps, where he eventually built a villa in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but he was never much of a mountaineer. Nevertheless, at the age of 14, he once spent a day with some friends climbing a mountain, and later wrote to Ludwig Thuille (a friend who missed the expedition) in terms that closely parallel the events described in the composition he was to write more than 30 years later.


About the Work


Eine Alpensinfonie was completed on February 8, 1915, and Strauss conducted the premiere himself in Berlin on October 28 of that year. The orchestra was the Dresden Court Orchestra (today the Staatskapelle Dresden), which had over the past 14 years given the premieres of four of Strauss's operas. Although nominally a symphony, this work is a symphonic poem (like Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche,  and Ein Heldenleben) in all but name. One perceives it not as a series of movements in the standard symphonic format, but rather as an extended fantasia built on the Lisztian principle of thematic transformation within the context of a storyline or pictorial description. For this valedictory effort in the world of symphonic poems, Strauss created his biggest, most extravagant, and most sensational of all. Instruments are combined in unprecedented variety and pushed to the extremes of their range. Utmost virtuosity and stamina are required from every player.


A Closer Listen


Most listeners will have little difficulty identifying the various scenes and events as they pass by. Nevertheless, a few pertinent remarks can be made: The deep silence of "Night" is heard in thick, dark, B-flat–minor chords; at times, every note of the scale is being sustained. Against this opaque sound, low brass instruments present the first of many statements of a solemn chordal theme that suggests the massive, imposing mountain in all its stern majesty. "Sunrise" uses as its melodic material a bright, A-major derivation of the descending minor scale from the "Night" section. When the climbers begin their ascent, another principal theme, strongly rhythmic, is heard at the entrance of lower strings, climbs to successively higher levels, and is worked out in elaborate counterpoint. A hunting party is heard in the distance, represented by muted brass.

As the climbers continue their journey, orchestral colors, textures, and melodies depict thickening foliage, bird calls, yodels, waterfalls, the apparition of a water sprite, expansive flowery meadows, herds of cattle (the idea to use cowbells here is possibly derived from Mahler's Sixth Symphony), the idyllic calm and beauty of the slopes, the slippery surface of a glacier, the climbers transfixed by the awesome view from the summit, haze obscuring the sun, ominous stillness and calm before the storm, distant flashes of lighting, isolated raindrops (oboe), thunder, the fury of a blinding storm enhanced by a terrific explosion from the thunder sheet at the climax, the nostalgic glow of sunset, spiritual tranquility at the end of a fulfilling day, and finally, the gloom of night once more as the noble mass of the mountain recedes into darkness and memory 24 hours after we first encountered it.


—Robert Markow 

 

This performance is part of Turn of the Century Sounds - Students, and Concertos Plus.

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