For Immediate Release
April 8, 2013
A TRIBUTE TO THE GOOD IN MANKIND
Musical celebration concludes Music for the Spirit Festival.
The concerts will take place at 8 p.m., Friday, April 26, 2013, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27, 2013, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, 2013. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $98, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412.392.4900, or by visiting the PSO online at www.pittsburghsymphony.org.
Ticketholders are invited to participate in the following free pre-concert audience engagement activities prior to the weekend’s concerts: At 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, a choral workshop on Beethoven’s Ninth will be led by Singing City Project Coordinator Christine Hestwood in the Regency Rooms (lower level, Heinz Hall). No prior choral experience required – all abilities and experience levels are welcome. At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, join WQED-FM’s Jim Cunningham and PSO percussionist Jeremy Branson in a Music for the Spirit Book Club discussion of Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book in the Grand Tier Lounge. To reserve a seat for either event, call 412.392.4876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PSO would like to recognize and thank BNY Mellon for its 2012-2013 title sponsorship of BNY Mellon Grand Classics. Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the PSO. Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the PSO.
Manfred Honeck was born in Austria and studied music at the Academy of Music in Vienna. An accomplished violinist and violist, he spent more than ten years as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. It is this experience that has heavily influenced his conducting and has helped give it a distinctive stamp.
Honeck was appointed the ninth Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in January 2007, and began his tenure at the start of the 2008-2009 season. After a first extension in 2009, his contract was extended for the second time in February 2012, now through the 2019-2020 season. Following their successful European Tour in 2010 and the European Festival Tour 2011 with appearances at the major music festivals, such as BBC Proms, Lucerne, Grafenegg, Rheingau, Schleswig-Holstein or Musikfest Berlin, Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra returned to Europe in October-November 2012. The tour took them to Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Luxembourg, and Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart in Germany. During a week-long residency at the Musikverein in Vienna, the orchestra performed four concerts. Honeck’s successful work in Pittsburgh is captured on CD by the Japanese label Exton. So far, Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben have been released to critical acclaim. Their recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 has won a 2012 International Classical Music Award (ICMA).
Christopher Theofanidis has had performances by many leading orchestras from around the world, including the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Moscow Soloists, the National, Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit Symphonies, and many others. He also served as Composer of the Year for the Pittsburgh Symphony during their 2006-2007 Season, for which he wrote a violin concerto for Sarah Chang.
Mr. Theofanidis holds degrees from Yale, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of Houston, and has been the recipient of the International Masterprize (hosted at the Barbican Centre in London), the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, six ASCAP Gould Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship to France, a Tanglewood Fellowship, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Charles Ives Fellowship. In 2007 he was nominated for a Grammy for best composition for his chorus and orchestra work, The Here and Now, based on the poetry of Rumi. His orchestral concert work, Rainbow Body, has been one of the most performed new orchestral works of the last ten years, having been performed by over 100 orchestras internationally.
Mr. Theofanidis’ has recently written a ballet for the American Ballet Theatre, a work for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra as part of their ‘New Brandenburg’ series, and he currently has two opera commissions for the San Francisco and Houston Grand Opera companies. He has a long-standing relationship with the Atlanta Symphony, and has just had his first symphony premiered and recorded with that orchestra. He has served as a delegate to the US-Japan Foundation’s Leadership Program and is a former faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School. He currently teaches at Yale University.
Soprano Angela Meade is the winner of the 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Award from the Metropolitan Opera and the 2011 Richard Tucker Award. Less than five years after her professional debut, she has quickly become recognized as one of the outstanding vocalists of her generation. The New Yorker has stated, “Meade is astounding … She has exceptional dynamic control, able to move from floating pianissimos to sudden dramatic swells. The coloratura effects – rapid runs, trills, delicate turns, and so on – are handled with uncommon ease. She is a very musical singer, naturally and intelligently riding the phrase.” Angela Meade excels in the most demanding heroines of the nineteenth-century bel canto repertoire as well as in the operas of Verdi and Mozart.
Angela Meade joined an elite group of history’s singers when she made her professional operatic debut on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera as Verdi’s Elvira in Ernani substituting for an ill colleague in March 2008. Ronald Blum of the Associated Press wrote of the debut, “she showed a vibrant voice with nice color and an assured technique and sang like an old pro from start to finish.” She had previously sung on the Met stage as one of the winners of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a process that is documented in the film The Audition, released on DVD by Decca. The New York Times singled out Angela Meade as “an impressive soprano who powered out a ‘Casta diva’ from Bellini’s Norma that left everyone breathless.”
Possessing a voice of uncommon allure, musical sophistication far beyond her years, and intuitive and innate dramatic artistry, the Grammy® Award-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor has emerged as one of the most compelling performers of her generation. During the 2012-13 season, the California native’s impressive calendar includes John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary in a world premiere staging by Peter Sellars performed in America and Europe with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel’s baton, and a role debut as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly in a new production by Lillian Groag at Boston Lyric Opera.
Concert appearances of the season include Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs both with Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony Orchestra and with Robert Spano and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Debussy’s La Damoiselle élue and the Duruflé Requiem with Donald Runnicles and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with David Robertson and the Saint Louis Symphony, Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony, and with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony, as well as Lieberson’s The World in Flower with Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The artist is pleased both to return to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Edward Gardner conducting a program of Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Britten’s Spring Symphony and to debut with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra with Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary led by Markus Stenz.
Four-time Grammy Award Winning American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey has captured critical and popular acclaim on opera, concert and recital stages around the world. The combination of his beautiful and powerful lyric tenor voice, gift of dramatic interpretation and superb musicianship have earned him the highest praise from critics and audiences alike.
Operatic engagements for the 2012-13 season include a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Renee Fleming and a semi-staged version of the same work at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Mr. Griffey will sing the world premiere of Theofanidis’ The Gift with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Manfred Honeck, where he will also perform in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Other symphonic highlights include Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink, Britten’s War Requiem with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Ludovic Morlot, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Nashville Symphony, Das Lied von der Erde with the Eastern Music Festival, North Carolina Symphony, and Columbus Symphony, Britten’s Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac with the Chamber Music Society in both Chicago and New York, and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the Milwaukee Symphony conducted by Edo de Waart. Mr. Griffey will also appear in recital opposite Warren Jones at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Mr. Griffey in collaboration with classical guitarist, Joseph Pecoraro will be releasing a solo Christmas album entitled “This Little Light” in October.
Alexander Vinogradov made his debut at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow at the age of 21. Since then he has established a remarkable career and has won numerous prizes in international singing competitions.
Mr. Vinogradov is a regular guest at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and he has also performed with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Dresden Semperoper, Teatro Teresa Carreño, Caracas, Opera Bastille Paris, Palau de les Arts, Valencia, Teatro Real Madrid, Opera National de Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet, the City of London Festival, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Ravinia Festival, Baltimore Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, just to name a few.
This season’s concert highlights will include the Glagolitic Mass with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra in San Sebastian, Shostakovich 13th Symphony at Paris Opera with Philippe Yordan, Shostakovich 14th Symphony with Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Shostakovich’s ‘Song of the Forests’ with Fundacion Principe de Asturias. Operatic highlights will include Escamillo in Carmen at Royal Danish Opera and Opera de Toulon, Don Basilio at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and Aalborg Kongres and Kultur Center, Gremin in Teatro Reggio di Torino. Alexander will also record songs by Rachmaninoff with pianist Iain Burnside at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall on the Delphian label.
Editors Please Note:
Friday, April 26 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 27 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 28 at 2:30 p.m. Heinz Hall PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MANFRED HONECK, conductor
ANGELA MEADE, soprano
KELLEY O’CONNOR, mezzo-soprano ANTHONY DEAN GRIFFEY, tenor ALEXANDER VINOGRADOV, bass Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
Christopher Thofanidis The Gift
Ludwig Van Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125, “Choral”
An Ode to Joy that I had been waiting for, and it approached my hearing in temporal time. And that precise placement on the timeline has passed and now it’s gone except for the memory, which is divine.
Last weekend’s concert with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra premiered Christopher Theofanidis’ “The Gift”. I enjoyed this PSO commissioned piece immensely for the music and this tenor singing.
The composition, based on it’s name got me to thinking, with every gift there is also a Giver. In this case the giver was board chairman, Dick Simmons, to whom this piece was dedicated. But in my mind I started thinking more generally as the piece progressed. I thought of a book I read a few years ago called “The Giver” about a boy growing up in some future society where everyone was equal and the same, and there was no individualism. Yet in the story, as there always typically is, one boy finds a way to rebel against this obvious restrictive nature setup in the beginning, restrictive to human and individual desires to excel. They even outlaw ‘color’ — no one is allowed to see color as it might make them strive for more. The boy begins by momentarily seeing the color red when an apple is thrown to him. The book goes on and on with his journey to rebel when he and a girl eventually leave this society to the wilderness to rough-it and build their own.
I heard colors and beauty in the composition. I did not read the text or try to hear the words from the tenor, because to me the music is what I came for, and the music is the real base for the conceptualization of beauty. And indeed there was beauty.
Beethoven’s symphony number 9 was the masterpiece I came to hear. I enjoyed it fully. Yet this version was an interpretation by Music Director Manfred Honeck. His idea was to use the metronome marks from Beethoven himself. He introduced the idea in a generous introduction to the audience. To me, these introductions are both informative and rewarding, and I always appreciate it when a conductor takes the time to do so. It also lets us see a little of their personalities, which for all the conductors witch have performed with the PSO, is entertaining and a treat in my opinion.
Honeck talked at length about tempo, for which he vehemently stressed in many ways was traditionally slow, and in his portrayal will be faster, adhering to Beethoven’s markings. Yet he did briefly delve into a few other changes he was to make. He talked about the ‘wording’ of the notes and choral parts and how they are accented. For instance the word ‘Bruder’ (which means Brother) was to be accented on the leading part and then softened at the end. I heard that during the concert. That word is used quite a lot in the ‘Ode to Joy’.
I did enjoy the tempo (he got a laugh when he said that the quicker tempo would make for a quicker ending to the concert). I enjoyed it as I always enjoy this composition, and I think either way I would not object. The rhythms and accents were also interesting, to this I did not bject. The tempo, especially for movements 3 & 4 were fast and enjoyable specifically because we could here the difference that he had demonstrated at the beginning, and I could sense that Honeck and the PSO must have spent a lot of time rehearsing for this.
I want to give particular kudos to Angela Meade, soprano, Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano, Anthony Griffey, tenor, Alexander Vinogradov, bass and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh for the beautiful vocal and choral parts in the 4th movement. To say that I’m a Beethoven “Ode to Joy” devotee is an understatement, I’ve heard it so very many times. I think that the first time that someone hears the 4th movement they might not fully appreciate it. Yet after a while it grows on you, then it becomes a part of you.
To me, for the first two movements, I could not sense a difference in the tempo between this version and the so-called ‘traditional’ versions. The famous second movement is a main-stay, and always brings a smile to my face.
My only complaint was with the first movement, not the tempo, not because it wasn’t well performed. There was something wrong that was difficult for me to place my finger on. The best I can say was that perhaps the trumpets in a few spots, even though they were soft, seemed out of place. I wanted to more fully enjoy the strings yet was distracted by the trumpets. Perhaps all the recordings I’ve heard mix it that way and I’m just used to more strings. Yes, the first is my favorite movement so I want it to be just right. Yet what is ‘just right’ is certainly objective.
The history with my Joshua Bell fascination kind of goes like this: baby blogger is entering her first season as a newbie concert-goer at the PSO. One of the very first concerts that I experience features the world-renowned (then unknown to me) violin superstar, the amazing Joshua Bell. I attend the concert and immediately become smitten with his boyish charm and gargantuan talent. I really, really wanted to meet him during that first season; alas, the stars did not align (and the autograph line didn’t MOVE quickly enough), and I was left with heart breaking disappointment and no autograph.
Fast forward to 2013 and my fifth season as a PSO blogger. Joshua Bell returns to Heinz Hall and this time, there’s no stopping me. I’m getting his autograph. My friend, Michelle, kindly offers to take a picture as evidence of the event. I buy a CD and slather on the hand sanitizer—it’s spring cold season and I will not be responsible for exposing Joshua Bell to cold germs. I bounce into the line and, to my surprise and delight, it’s moving at an unbelievably rapid pace. I barely have enough time to decide what I’m going to say and I’m a hot mess by the time it’s my turn.
And there he is. As I approach the table, I’m fervently praying that I can conjure a beguiling remark to enchant him; instead, THIS is all I can utter: “I’m Jen and you’re…amazing.” Even as I’m typing this, I’m cringing. I have a BA in English, yet all I could muster was a really kitschy-sounding pick up line that would have been better suited to Jack’s Bar in the South Side. Joshua Bell laughed indulgently and shook my hand. He signed my CD as Michelle captured the moment in a picture and I was ushered out of the line in a dreamlike whirlwind. I’d accomplished my goal to obtain the autograph and it would have been perfect, had I not been so gushy teenager about it. But I’m over it.
At last, the blogger adventure completes the circle. My JB autograph has been stored safely in an undisclosed, but highly secure, location. When I meet him again (and I WILL), I plan to have a speech written, memorized and well-rehearsed. Until then, I’ll pray that our first encounter fades from his memory.
Frequent movement all around, with percussion to astound. Harmonies give light to sound, christening a pluck redound. Subtle serenade subsists with symphonies and blades. Yet gentler rhythms spark the nightly shade. Listen to the flowing holographic chant: it’s just been made, moving over altitudes beyond the mere brocade. And it’s said, that nothing happens, unless an act can move from here to there, and then we’ll trade.
On the stage of Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra last weekend were three distinctly unique artists with great appeal.
First up, Mason Bates introduces his composition: “Desert Transport contemplates the dynamic Arizona landscape from the high flying perspective of a helicopter. The journey begins in the hubbub of an airport hangar but ultimately takes us to the mystic heights of an Indian cliff dwelling.” I remember being immediately drawn to this piece, it pulled me in and kept me anticipating the next pulse of the progression, the movement of the programmatic content in perfect harmony to the musical amalgamation. And thus the little poem up above is my tribute to this marvelous piece of music, and my congratulations to Mr. Bates for being here this season with the PSO, I enjoyed every bit of the new music, especially this one played last weekend.
Next Joshua Bell plays Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin and Orchestra. The ideal of this serenade seemed to aim for a more modern appeal. Yet my anticipation conflicted with the reality of the rendered aspect. It’s not that the playing wasn’t superb, nor that the constructs and mechanisms weren’t well portrayed. I just wasn’t in to this composition. Bell was superb, and I detected a hint of dissonance here and there, but I suppose that was the way it was supposed to be. All in all I can’t complain, hearing a premier musician with a world class orchestra play a less often played composition, that’s what I strive to hear. But the worst part was that Bell didn’t come back out on Saturday night and play an encore.
And last but not least, conductor Juanjo Mena provided immediate flavor with his long coat tails, curly long hair and riveting eyes. I read in the program that he has appeared worldwide with so many different orchestras – to me that’s not easy to imagine. When conducting he draws your attention with wit and slow concentration, leading the orchestra effectively with unhurried motions. With the Brahms Symphony number three I was drawn as much to his conducting as to the beautiful music.
My friend and I had a discussion of which ‘Symphony 3′ is better, Beethoven or Brahms. I chose Beethoven and my friend chose Brahms. Then we heard the music, and the way it was played by the PSO made me doubt my decision, the Brahms was wonderful.
10. More people at the Will Call stations. Every window was manned, and the huge crowd in the lobby seemed to go through with record speed. Or maybe they were just really excited about the program.
How big of a purse would I need to steal this????
All art has as its ultimate goal, union between material and the spiritual, the human and the divine. I believe that to be the reason for the very existence of art. In this context, I believe that the late and current composers featured on this program, the PSO, and featured soloist, violinist, Joshua Bell were chosen as “instruments” to infect our lives (the world) with love and harmony—to listeners of all ages.
This week’s PSO performances featured works and performances by Mason Bates, 2012-2013 Composer of the Year, violinist, Joshua Bell, and the PSO playing Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. Mason Bates’ piece Desert Transport opened the show. I always enjoy when the Composer of the Year’s piece is being played and they are able to be there to speak about the piece. It is always helpful and insightful to aid you in the best possible listening experience. Desert Transport is about a helicopter trip Bates took over the Arizona desert and it contemplates this incredible desert landscape from the perspective of this whizzing helicopter. I have not had the privilege (until this weekend) to see/hear any of Bates’ works live, but only from the YouTube clips, and from what I’ve heard there was a lot of use of electronics, so I expected Desert Transport to have electronics incorporated. However, Desert Transport was “unplugged” and I think is now one of my favorite contemporary, modern works yet. It sounded like movie music—I felt like I was listening to a song from John Williams’ E.T or Jurassic Park score. It was clearly not atonal, which was refreshing, as so many modern works lend themselves to. It was riveting, soulful, and passionate. Guest conductor, Juanjo Mena was fantastic in how he aided the PSO in pulling together every nuance and color that Bates had composed.
Joshua Bell was back this weekend with the PSO. He last performed with the PSO in June 2012, and will be performing with the PSO again in February 2014 playing Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 21. This weekend, Bell played a refreshing piece—Bernstein’s Serenade. It is not played as often as the Mendelssohn or Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. I think it is a one of Bernstein’s greatest works–one of the great 20th century violin works. It’s got everything in it. It’s “very Bernstein”. It hints towards West Side Story, virtuosic violin playing, beautiful melodies, a little bit of jazz, plus a lot of tender beautiful things. It’s unusual—in its five movements (based off Plato’s Symposium), not the traditional three. Plato describes it as “all different sides of love”. I’m a big fan of Bernstein—everything about him as conductor, as a composer. He was one of the great geniuses. Bell, is a genius here as well, tossing off the technically demanding passages and simply “dancing” on the wood of the violin. Yes, I am in sheer awe over the virtuosic flashy passages, but what I think really deserves awe is the generally slow in tempo and more introspective passages. Flashy is quite “manageable” to an extent, but it takes a true artist as Bell to capture the heart-wrenching, reflective music that requires you to pour your heart and soul (essentially your whole being) into a piece and effectively translate that to an audience, which is what Bell did.
The PSO and conductor, Juanjo Mena closed the evening with Brahms’ stunning Symphony No. 3. At this point in the program I realized that Mena conducted with no score in front of him! Bravo, Maestro Mena for the amazing art of conducting in general, but especially for giving to and shaping the orchestra with your incredible musicianship. Mena, once again pulled every nuance and color out of Brahms symphony and in turn generously gave to the audience. The music washed over and enveloped the audience to the fullest extent, that the Brahms was truly an intimate, “with one” experience for all involved.
Violinist Joshua Bell discusses the April 12-14, 2013 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concerts
Conductor Juanjo Mena discusses the upcoming April 12-14, 2013 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concerts.
This past weekend, Pittsburgh was treated to a rare musicological event – a performance of all 6 Brandenburgs.
Of course, being a trumpet geek, I primarily went to see George Vosburgh, the PSO’s principle trumpeter, play the 2nd Brandenburg. He did a great job by the way – very tasteful on a part that could have been, in lesser hands, brash and overwhelming.
Let me explain why.
In The Baroque (roughly 1600-1750) a trumpet would have been something like a long tube made of brass folded into a narrow oval with a mouthpiece on one end and the flare of a bell on the other – and no valves in between as on a modern counterpart. So without the valves, how did my baroque-age brethren hit all those notes? The answer is found in what the player’s lips do in the mouthpiece. By buzzing at different “speeds” the trumpeter excites the air inside the tube and that produces the different pitches. There’s a compositional problem, however. At the low end of the range the notes aren’t at all next to each other (there’s a perfect fifth between the first two, then the next note’s a fourth above that, then a major triad and so on). It’s not until you get to the instrument’s mid to high range do you get anything resembling a scale.
When you listen to the trumpet parts in, say, a Beethoven or Mozart symphony, they’re written further down in the range of the instrument. That’s the reason there’s not that much tunefulness going on then.
Bach to Bach. The instrument he wrote for was probably much had a much longer tube than does our modern trumpet. With the proper mouthpiece and a good player behind it, the scale part of this natural (i.e. valveless) trumpet is much easier to play than the valveless scale part of the modern horn. The sound is mellower compared to a modern horn.
With the advent of valves for trumpets sometime in the 19th century, the trumpet was also able to play a chromatic scale throughout its range, however its upper range was made much more difficult to play. Trumpet manufacturers came up with a solution – a really tiny trumpet (called a “piccolo trumpet”) to play those really high parts. These teeny tiny trumpets take a lot of air to play. A lot of air. In lesser hands, like mine, just getting out the notes is an accomplishment – and the (musical) danger being that in order to play the horn at all you have to, as I said, push a lot of air through it. But pushing a lot of air through it can make this teeny tiny instrument VERY VERY LOUD! And VERY VERY PIERCING!
Combine that with the more or less standard practice of having a reduced ensemble for a performance and you can see the musical danger involved.
But as I said, Vosburgh on a modern piccolo trumpet played great. Piano when the part was soft and a not so overpowering forte when it was loud.
It was a privilege to listen to.
As was the rest of the concert. The Jeannette Sorrell’s cadenza in the 5th Brandenburg was simply amazing. And her conducting was fluid and controlled.
The rest of the ensemble and soloists were just top notch. It was a privilege to see the performance.
One of the interesting things you can learn from the PSO’s program notes is the date the Symphony itself premiered a work. And one of the interesting things about the internet is (sometimes) being able to find a reference to one of those premiers online. And for that we turn to the 3rd Brandenburg. From the program notes we learn that its first performance with The Pittsburgh Orchestra (as the symphony was called then) took place on December 4, 1904.
According to this review in the Pittsburgh Gazette, it was also the debut performance of the Orchestra’s third conductor, Emil Paur (1855-1932). The reviewer, however, seemed more impressed with the other portions of the program:
The symphony for last night was Schumann’s no. 4 in D minor, played without pause between the five movements, The other orchestral numbers were Bach’s concerto for string orchestra No. 3 “Brandenburg,” and Smetana’s symphonic poem “Vltana,” both played for the first time in Pittsburgh, with dear old Rossini’s “William Tell” overture as the final selection. As has already been stated, the orchestra was at its best and in the rendition of the entire program left nothing to be desired. Smetana’s “Vltana” is the work of a genius, a lovely, dainty composition abounding in delicious passages which appeal strongly and swiftly as the rushing waters of the Bohemian river, whose winding course the music tells of. Bach’s concerto was another charming novelty – the entire program was on the novelty order, including even the “William Tell,” for it served to demonstrate what treasures the orchestra has in the new first flute and oboe players.
If the description of “Vltana” sounds familiar, you probably know the piece as “Die Moldau.” And as much as I like Smetana as a composer and “Die Moldau” as a piece, it’s jarring to see a reviewer heap loads of praise onto it (it’s “the work of a genius”) while in the same breath calling a Brandenburg (any Brandenburg) a “charming novelty.”
I noticed that two separate microphones were mounted above the two harpsichords, respectively, indicating that perhaps they were recording this performance, probably to be replayed next year on wqed.org
J’ai un question pour soi. Après. Quoi? J’ai sommeil
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