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A Nakamatsu Premiere

Franz Joseph Haydn (b. Rohrau, Austria, March 31, 1732; d. Vienna, Austria, May 31, 1809)

Symphony No. 95 in C minor, H. I/95-1791

Franz Joseph Haydn spent most of his adult life-thirty continuous years-working for one man, Prince Nikolaus Esterhàzy.  His exclusive contract with that nobleman during those 30 years specified that he not write music for any other person or place without the express permission of his employer.  One can imagine that, when Nikolaus Esterhàzy died in 1790, Haydn was deeply grieved, concerned for himself and his orchestra, and perhaps somewhat relieved.

     Nikolaus's brother Paul, inheritor of the title, was not a music-loving man.  He quickly gave Haydn his freedom and disbanded the orchestra that had been in his extravagant brother's employ.  Johann Peter Solomon (1745-1815), an influential concert promoter from London, happened to hear of Nikolaus Esterhàzy's death while he was in Cologne.  Seizing the opportunity, he hastened to Vienna to secure Haydn as composer and conductor for his concerts in London.  Haydn accompanied the impresario to England and spent two concert seasons there, returning to Vienna in 1792 (and meeting the young Beethoven as he traveled through Bonn on his way back). During his stay in London, Haydn wrote six symphonies, Nos. 93-98, to be performed there under his leadership. These six symphonies (along with a later six) have therefore been dubbed his “London” Symphonies.

    Haydn wrote only one of those six symphonies in a minor key, and Symphony No. 95 holds that distinction.  It was composed in 1791 and performed for the first time in the Hanover Square Concert Rooms on April 29th of that year.  Scored for flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings, this Symphony is delicate and emotional.  Haydn was 24 years older than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but the two were friends and Haydn admired Mozart deeply, crediting him with a talent even greater than Haydn's own.  C minor was a favorite key of Mozart, and many scholars speculate that Haydn's use of this particular key for his symphony was a type of acknowledgement of his friend.

    Symphony No. 95 is the only one of the London Symphonies that does not have a slow introduction.  It begins with five short, unharmonized, staccato notes played fortissimo by the whole orchestra, followed by a dramatic silence.  Soft polyphonic development of that five note motive entices the listener to lean forward to catch the whispered interplay between the instruments. Solomon was the concert master of the orchestra and the decorative passages in this first movement were specifically written to please and promote the talent of the impresario.

    The second movement is similar to a theme and variation.  Scored almost exclusively for the strings, the theme is lyrical with unpredictable phrase lengths.  This demure melody is followed by a variation in which the solo cello emerges from the texture and essays forth with a beautiful, deep-toned elaboration of the original.  The movement is full of surprising pauses and unexpected harmonic motion. Eventually the music leads back to an unvaried presentation of the original melody only to twist quickly to yet another variation filled with brilliant thirty-second note arabesques for the entire violin section.  A musing, curiously chromatic coda ends the movement.

    The Menuetto is forceful, yet rich in humor, a dance movement that somehow sounds as though two particularly clumsy people are each trying to lead the other in the dance, stepping on each other's toes in the process. This effect is caused by the syncopated interplay between the string melody and the underlying chords in the brass and woodwinds. The third movement also features the solo cello voice in a treacherously difficult solo during the trio section.  Gracefully accompanied by plucked strings, the cello melody brings a moment of sophisticated elegance to the music.  The original Menuetto music returns to conclude the movement

    The Finale of Symphony No. 95 is one of Haydn's most radiant and inspired melodies.  Concentrated polyphony centered around fugal treatment of a light, gallant sounding theme is the intent of this movement.

    London audiences were surprised by Haydn's choice of C Minor for this work and were somewhat displeased by what they perceived as the more “serious tone” of the music.  Consequently, Symphony No. 95 did not receive the same eager acceptance enjoyed by the other five symphonies Haydn wrote for his first trip to London. Nevertheless, England embraced Haydn and he became a popular part of society, as well as a much anticipated entertainer on the concert stage.  He later returned to England and wrote six more symphonies for the concert-loving society he found there.  Haydn loved writing for intelligent, appreciative audiences who not only knew the conventions of symphonic form, but also could appreciate his momentary deviations from tradition.  His twelve London Symphonies all show him reveling in his new-found freedom to experiment; and the sophistication of the London audiences allowed him to explore and further develop the symphony as a genre.

Program note by Dr. Beth Fleming


David Amram  (b. Philadelphia, PA November 17, 1930)

“Three Songs” A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2009)
Composer’s notes on a world premiere work

    n the summer of 1948, when I was a carpenter's helper and drove a truck for Taylor Made Homes in nearby Los Gatos, I never dreamed that sixty years later I would return to hear my music performed in San Jose.  In fact, since 2005 this wonderful young orchestra has performed two of my pieces, both of them conducted brilliantly by Paul Polivnick.  And now, thanks to Marie and William Bianco's generous commission, I have been asked write a concerto for San Jose's own Jon Nakamatsu, to be premiered with the orchestra and with Paul once again conducting.

    I am delighted to compose a work for this exciting young pianist. And it was worth waiting 77 years to have the chance to write a concerto for the instrument that every musician loves and relies upon, no matter what they themselves play.  As I listened to Jon's splendid recordings, I was again reminded that in an age of electronics and electronic keyboards, the acoustic piano is more than ever
refreshing to hear and a joy to compose for.

    I have spent my life listening to the great concertos of the past and present, the treasures of Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Gershwin.   But in writing this work, I have tried to follow advice that Leonard Bernstein gave me when he appointed me as the New York Philharmonic's first composer- in- residence. "David," he said, in a stern tone, "Your job as a composer is not just to please yourself. You should always try to add to the repertoire. And use your own roots, your own life experiences. Sing your own song."

    I thought about Lenny the whole time I was writing the concerto.  I remembered Dimitris Mitropoulos, my first mentor, whom I met as a teenager in the mid 1940s -- like Lenny a gifted pianist as well as a great composer and conductor. I recalled the summer I spent as the Marlboro Music Festival's 1961 composer-in residence, invited by pianist Rudolph Serkin after he read through a piano sonata I had written -- a summer spent hearing some of today's master pianists when they were young.

    All of these masters and masters-to-be emphasized to me the lyric nature of the piano. Whatever genre of music they interpreted, they always wanted the piano to sing. When writing today's concerto, this is what I wanted it to bring to the repertoire. Each of the concerto's three movements explores a different way for the pianist to sing through his instrument.

    The first movement, Niggun (Song Without Words) is based on the classical sonata form. It opens with the melancholy principal theme introduced by the violas and cellos, then restated by the woodwinds, and finally by all of the strings. The first two bars of this eight bar phrase serve as a motif that recurs through the entire concerto.  After the various sections of the orchestra have been introduced, the piano enters with the principal theme.  The orchestra restates and develops it, leading to a climax and the concerto's only brief cadenza.  Following the cadenza the movement concludes, as we hear the return of portions of the opening motif.

    The second movement, Ballade, is a tribute to the great keyboard artists in the ever-changing worlds of Jazz and Latin music whom I have been blessed to play with over the past sixty years. Through long--forgotten nights, all those pianists had their own way of making the piano sing.

    The last movement, Jhaptal, pays homage to the sounds of music from India. These first inspired me throughout my trip to Pakistan and India in 1978 and have continued to do so ever since.  They guided the composition of my score for the 1991 ballet Chakra, which uses traditional Western instruments to perform traditional Indian folk and classical stylings.  The movement begins with a rhythmic introduction, leading to a melody based on Thilana, employing the *Raga Kedaragowla taught to me by Shanta Dhananjayan when we played together in New York. The song is restated, and leads to a 10/4 rhythm known as jhaptal, with a fragment of a melody in the *Raga Bopahli that I heard first in Pakistan and then in my head for years after.  **Tabla master Badal Roy showed me the fundamentals of putting some of these rhythms together long ago.  The eight bar theme that introduced the concerto is restated as a passacaglia, with the jhaptal rhythm and accompanying 10/4 melody superimposed; and the concerto draws to a joyous close.

* “Raga” (Sanskrit, lit. color or mood): A series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is founded, and the set of rules for building the melody. These give a framework that can be used to compose or improvise, allowing endless variations within the set of notes.
**“Tabla” (Hindi): A percussion instrument consisting of a pair of hand drums of
contrasting sizes and timbres, used in the classical, popular and religious music of the Indian subcontinent.
Program Note by David Amram


Ottorino Respighi (b. Bologna, Italy, July 9, 1879; d. Rome, Italy, April 18, 1936)

Feste Romane (Roman Festivals), Symphonic Poem, P. 157-1928

    Ottorino Respighi wrote three great tone poems based around ideas relating to Rome.  The first two works are The Fountains of Rome, written in 1917, and The Pines of Rome, which followed in 1924.  Feste Romane is the last in that trilogy and as the final work, is the most ambitious.  It calls for an organ, a mandolin, two tavolette (a particular sort of resonating drum), along with three flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English Horn, two clarinets, piccolo clarinet, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, side drum, bass drum, tambourine, rattle, sleighbells, cymbals, triangle, gong,
glockenspiel, two bells, xylophone, harp, piano, and strings!  (It also demands three buccine, an ancient Roman trumpet-like military instrument with a circular tube which requires the bell to lie on the performer's shoulder.  Respighi indicated that if buccine were not available, they could be replaced with additional trumpets -- the option taken in today's performance)

    Resphighi's music celebrates orchestral gigantism, and it centers around the colorful use of orchestration to “paint” the picture he is trying to evoke with sound.  Respighi proudly declared that this work represented his “maximum of orchestral sonority and color.”  Feste Romane was completed in 1928, and the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York gave its premiere performance under Arturo Toscanini on February 21, 1929.

    Feste Romane is a single movement tone poem with four sections, or moods, that merge seamlessly.  The four sections are sound images of traditional public celebrations that range from the festivals of antiquity to celebrations begun during the composer's life.  Just as in the previous two works, Respighi provided descriptive intent in a note printed in the score.  

    The first section, “Circenses,” or “The Circus Maximus,” is a depiction of a festival that happens on 'the people's holiday.'  We hear great iron doors unlocked as the faint strains of a religious song are incongruously blended with the howls of the wild beasts of the circus, which hang in the air.   The ferocious wild beasts are the bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trombones, tuba, timpani, cellos and basses playing low, loud, very beastly growls.  The crowd is excited and agitated. The sound of the martyrs' song develops until it overtakes all other sound, and then is again lost in the sonic tumult.

     “Il Giubileo,” or “The Jubilee,” the second section, is announced by the sounds of pilgrims trailing along the highway to the city accompanied by the sound of meditative music.   At last, as the weary pilgrims reach the summit of Monte Mario, they behold the holy city and a hymn of praise bursts forth. They cry “Rome!, Rome!” and the bells of the churches ring out a jubilant reply.  This segment of the music is built largely around an Eastern hymn from the 12th century called “Christ ist erstanden” or “Christ is Risen.”

    Respighi's third festival depiction, “L'Ottobrata,” or “The October Festival.” is a harvest celebration in Rome. We hear the distant echoes of a hunt in progress, the tinkling of bells at the market stalls, and the expansive songs of blossoming love in a romantic serenade.

     “La Befana,” or “The Epiphany,” the fourth and final festival,is a musical depiction of the night before Epiphany in the Piazza Navone.   A trumpet fanfare sounds above the frantic clamor of activity.  The barrel-organ from a festival stand sounds and the street cries of the vendors can be heard simultaneously with the music accompanying various peasant dances.  Notable in this segment is a comically realistic portrayal of a staggering drunkard by the solo trombone.  One sonority is piled relentlessly upon another in this final segment, depicting the tumultuous cacophony of joy unleashed.

    Respighi vividly described the places and events in the Eternal City of Rome by using colorful, evocative orchestrations and by weaving small segments of ancient Italian music into the complex tapestry of colorful sound.  He was passionate about his country and this piece, along with the other two works in the trilogy, suggest the spirit of nationalism that revived in Italy in the early twentieth century.

                             Program note by Dr. Beth Fleming

 

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