The timings shown are not exact and are provided only as a guide.

Save this PDF as:

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "The timings shown are not exact and are provided only as a guide."


1 PROGRAMME NOTES By Peter Back 2015 SUNDAY 11 OCTOBER PM BARRY WORDSWORTH Conductor STEPHEN HOUGH Piano TCHAIKOVSKY Francesca da Rimini Op.32 [25 ] BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.1 in C Major Op.15 [34 ] INTERVAL [20 minutes] KALINNIKOV Symphony No.1 in G Minor [35 ] The timings shown are not exact and are provided only as a guide. THE PERFORMERS STEPHEN HOUGH Piano One of the most distinctive artists of his generation, Stephen Hough combines a distinguished career as a pianist with those of composer and writer. Named by The Economist as one of Twenty Living Polymaths, Hough was the first classical performer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year s Honours Since taking first prize at the 1983 Naumburg Competition in New York,

2 Hough has performed with many of the world s major orchestras and has given recitals at the most prestigious concert halls. He is a regular guest at festivals such as Salzburg, La Roque d'anthéron, Mostly Mozart, Edinburgh and BBC Proms, where he has made over 20 concerto appearances. Highlights of Stephen Hough s 2015/16 season include performances with the Cleveland, Finnish Radio Symphony, London Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony and Singapore Symphony orchestras, the Hallé, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Taiwan Philharmonic and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. In recital he will appear in London, New York, Chicago, Tokyo and Beijing, and on tour in Australia with Musica Viva. Hough s extensive discography has garnered international awards including the Diapason d Or de l Annee, several Grammy nominations, and eight Gramophone Awards including Record of the Year and the Gold Disc. His forthcoming releases include a live recording of Schumann and Dvořák s piano concertos with Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and a solo disc of Scriabin and Janáček, both for Hyperion Records. His award-winning ipad app The Liszt Sonata was released by Touch Press in As a composer Hough has been commissioned by Wigmore Hall, Musée du Louvre, London s National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. He premieres his latest work, Piano Sonata III Trinitas, at the Barbican in London in October 2015, commissioned by The Tablet magazine. His music is published by Josef Weinberger Ltd. As a writer Stephen Hough has been published by The Times, The Guardian, The Independent and The Telegraph where he is author of one of the most popular cultural blogs worldwide. A Governor of the Royal Ballet companies, Hough is a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music, the International Chair of Piano Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music and is on the faculty of The Juilliard School in New York.

3 THE WORKS FRANCESCA DA RIMINI OP.32 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( ) The story of Francesca da Rimini, a real-life figure from 13th century Italy, is told in Canto 5 of the Inferno from The Divine Comedy by Dante. Francesca was secretly married by proxy to Gianciotto, the undesirable heir of the Lord of Rimini. Unaware that she had been married, she falls in love with Gianciotto s handsome brother Paolo. While reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere together, the couple give in to their passion and are discovered by Francesca s husband. He murders them both, and they spend eternity whirling through the Second Circle of Hell (reserved for those who sin through sensual pleasure), near enough to touch but never together. Tales of doomed love had an inevitable attraction for Tchaikovsky, and he gave expression to several in various musical forms for example, the Manfred Symphony, the ballet Swan Lake, the opera Eugene Onegin and the fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet. He had listened with interest to proposals for an opera on the story but nothing came of it. And then, in 1876, Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modeste, Early this morning I read through the fifth canto of the Inferno and was beset by the wish to compose a symphonic poem, Francesca da Rimini. Three months later he wrote again, I have just finished the composition, a symphonic fantasia, Francesca da Rimini. I have worked at it con amore and believe my devotion has been successful. The public agreed, and gave it a rapturous reception at its premiere in Moscow in A slow introduction, gradually accelerating, sets the scene Hell s gloom, and the first stirrings of the punitive whirlwinds. The remainder of the piece falls into three sections. In the first and third sections, stormy scale and brio passages depict the turbulent infernal regions. Tchaikovsky acknowledged Wagner s influence here; as in the summer of 1876 he had been present at the inaugural production of The Ring cycle in Bayreuth. The middle section is a portrait of Francesca her beauty, her melancholy, her hopeless situation and, finally, her passion. Tchaikovsky s emotional connection to the story is obvious in the music, particularly in the plaintive clarinet solo that introduces this section. It speaks for Francesca, who in Dante s poem says, There is no greater sorrow than to recall a happy time in misery.

4 Although initially Tchaikovsky thought highly of his new fantasia, his opinion of it changed radically, as was often the case with his own compositions. He talked of its shortcomings, commenting also on how the relationship of the music to the programme was not intrinsic, but merely extraneous. Be that as it may, the success of the piece repudiates his subjective judgement. Even during the composer s lifetime, Francesca da Rimini became one of the most celebrated pieces of Russian classical music. PIANO CONCERTO NO.1 IN C MAJOR OP.15 Ludwig van Beethoven ( ) Allegro con brio Largo Rondo: Allegro scherzando In November 1792 Beethoven left his native Bonn for Vienna, his permanent home from then on. He arrived with an introduction from his patron Count Waldstein, which was to open many doors for him. The count had written in farewell, with the help of assiduous labour you will receive Mozart s spirit from Haydn s hands. He did study with Haydn for a while, but their temperaments, personalities and outlook on music clashed. Beethoven, however, soon made an impact on Viennese musical life, rapidly becoming the leading piano virtuoso of the 1790s and taking the place Mozart had occupied during the previous decade. Initially he was known principally for his ability to extemporise at the piano, and less so as a composer. His first significant works weren t composed until Naturally these were works for the piano, the first sonatas and concertos. The piano concerto which he published as No.1 is not in fact his first. It was preceded by the work we now know as No.2. The C Major Concerto was probably composed in 1795, and performed by Beethoven during that year. He gave another performance in Prague in 1798, but seems to have gone on revising the work right up to its publication in The concerto is the work of a young man making his way in the world and, as such, is full of youthful energy. Intended to display the composer s prowess and grace at the keyboard, it aspires to entertain rather than indulge in

5 profound musical thought. Its zest for life is immediately established by the orchestral introduction, which introduces the listener to the concerto s thematic material. The influence of Mozart is revealed in the symphonic handling of this material, and in the piano passagework that utilises Mozartian figuration. The second theme, full of grace and delicacy, is announced in the somewhat irregular key of E flat. In the radiant Largo, a tender orchestral accompaniment supports the intimate musings of the piano. The two clarinets Beethoven added to Mozart s wind section are used to great effect here in combination with bassoons and horns, helping to create a mood of veiled serenity. The Rondo finale provides a sparkling contrast, rushing brilliantly towards its joyful conclusion. An audience member present at the first performance commented on the daring deviations and daring flights in Beethoven s improvisation a reference to the cadenzas that he tended to extemporise. SYMPHONY NO.1 IN G MINOR Vasily Sergeyevich Kalinnikov ( ) Allegro moderato Andante commodamente Scherzo: Allegro non troppo Finale: Allegro moderato; Allegro risoluto Vasily Kalinnikov is not widely known outside Russia. There, however, he is regarded as one of the major talents of his generation, albeit one whose promise was thwarted by the tragic course of his life. Born into a family of modest means, he was intended for an ecclesiastical career and entered the seminary in Oryol when he was 13. His aptitude for music soon asserted itself. Apart from taking lessons in musical theory and gaining some proficiency on several instruments, he also became director of the seminary s choir. When he was 18 he set off for Moscow to further his musical education. Unable to afford tuition at the Conservatory, he gained a scholarship at a school maintained by the Moscow Philharmonic Society. Though admitted as a bassoonist, he also studied composition and conducting.

6 For the next eight years he lived in distressed circumstances, eking out a meagre living by copying music and playing in theatre orchestras. In 1892 his fortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better with his appointment, on the recommendation of Tchaikovsky, as conductor at the Malïy Theatre in Moscow. Unfortunately, he was able to hold the position for only a year. The poverty he had endured throughout his life had seriously undermined his health, and a diagnosis of tuberculosis was confirmed. He abandoned Moscow for the warmer climate of the Crimea. He was to remain in Yalta for the rest of his short life, completing there his two symphonies and other orchestral works as well as piano pieces, some vocal music, and sketches for two operas, neither completed at the time of his death. Towards the end of his life he received some financial relief from the publisher Jurgensen through the intervention of Rachmaninov, who had visited Kalinnikov in Yalta and been appalled by the conditions in which he found him living. Amongst other agreements, Rachmaninov managed to negotiate payment for a piano arrangement of the Symphony No.1 in G Minor, which had received its first performance in Kiev in But Kalinnikov did not live to benefit from this new agreement with Jurgensen. He died in January 1901, before his 35th birthday. His death induced Jurgensen to offer Kalinnikov s widow an unexpectedly high sum for the rest of her husband s manuscripts. The composer s death had multiplied the value of his works by ten, a sad reflection on commercial reality. Kalinnikov s First Symphony was written in At its premiere the Ukrainian audience encored both the second and third movements. Such a positive reaction led to performances in Moscow, Berlin, Paris and Vienna; and it remains in the repertoire of Russian orchestras to this day. The Russian character of the symphony is established at the outset by the main theme, first heard in unison, which eventually gives way to a broad, sonorous melody introduced by the horns and cellos. The material is developed with colourful orchestration and even fugal treatment of the opening theme. The slow movement is more introspective, with a poignant oboe melody emerging, answered by the strings, and swelling to a climax before proceeding to a more lyrical section in which, again the woodwind assumes prominence. The movement ends with the serenity with which it had begun. The Scherzo contrasts a Russian peasant dance with the melancholy of the trio section. The Finale is a musical summing up, incorporating ideas first heard in the three preceding movements. The massive orchestral ending brings the Symphony to a triumphant conclusion.