Saturday, 24 October 2020
7:30 p.m. MST
(2020-10-25 1:30 a.m. UTC/GMT)
AARP HomeStream Your Helena Symphony

Conflict, hope, despair, and salvation are all captured in Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont – a testament to heroes who are willing to stand up to tyranny and sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity.   Beethoven 250 continues with his First Symphony that started so much of his legacy.  From Moscow to Paris, Carnegie Hall to performances throughout the world, Russian Pianist Anna Kislitsyna makes her HSO debut with Shostakovich’s witty and heart-wrenching Second Piano Concerto.

Watch live on YouTube.
24 October 2020

Cameron Betchey Host
Allan R. Scott Conductor
Anna Kislitsyna Piano
HELENA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
BEETHOVEN Egmont, Op. 84: Overture
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102

Ms. Kislitsyna, piano
    I. Allegro
   II. Andante –
   III. Allegro

Intermission with backstage interviews
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21

I. Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
II. Andante cantabile con moto
III. Menuetto – Trio: Allegro molto e vivace
IV. Finale: Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace

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This concert is sponsored in part by generous support from:
Ms. Kislitsyna's appearance is sponsored by the generous support of:
ALLAN R. SCOTT
Music Director & Conductor

Currently in his eighteenth season as Music Director of the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale, Maestro Allan R. Scott is recognized as one of the most dynamic figures in symphonic music and opera today. He is widely noted for his outstanding musicianship, versatility, and ability to elicit top-notch performances from musicians. SYMPHONY Magazine praised Maestro Scott for his “large orchestra view,” noting that “under Scott’s leadership the quality of the orchestra’s playing has skyrocketed.”

Making her debut with the Helena Symphony Orchestra, Russian Pianist Anna Kislitsyna made her solo debut at age 10 with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra.  She remains in high demand as a soloist, collaborative pianist, and teacher.  Recent season highlights include returning to the Omsk Philharmonic, performance in Carnegie Hall, and a release of a new recording with PARMA Recordings.  Additionally, she has performed in the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia Academy of Music, Rachmanioff Hall of Moscow Conservatory, and Alfred Cortot Hall of Paris Conservatory.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

Born: Bonn, Germany, 16 December 1770
Died: Vienna, Austria, 26 March 1827

 “The Seventh Symphony is one of my very best and one of the happiest products of my poor talents.”
— Beethoven

Egmont, Op. 84: Overture
Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, and divided strings.
Duration: 9 Minutes

Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21
The First Symphony is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and divided strings.
Duration: 27 Minutes

Parallel Events / 1810

U.S. annexes West Florida from Spain

Chile and Columbia declare independence from Spain

Napoleon has marriage with Josephine annulled and weds Austrian Princess Marie Louis

First U.S. fire insurance is organized in Philadelphia

Showman P.T. Barnum and composers Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann are born

Parallel Events / 1800

A tie in the popular vote between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr causes the House of Representatives to narrowly elected Jefferson the 3rd U.S. President

U.S. Library of Congress is established

The White House is built and first inhabited by President John Adams

Abolitionist John Brown and U.S. President Millard Fillmore are born

Friedrich Shiller writes play Mary Stuart

Worcestershire Sauce is created and sold

Beethoven once described himself as someone “who did everything badly except compose music,” and yet he aroused intense personal devotion not only by his music but by his personality, rough and ill-mannered, violent and wrong-headed though his actions often were.  The nature of his personality and the fact he was virtually uneducated, gave his musical utterance simplicity and a sincerity that are without parallel among the great composers. It is these qualities, combined with his strong sense of humanity and his inexhaustible power of striving for the ideal, that have earned him his unique place in affections of music-lovers of all types.

Dedicating himself principally to composition from the early 1800s, he supported himself partly by public concerts, in which he presented his works and his skill as an improviser, and partly through dedication fees, sales of publications, and generous gifts from patrons. Determined to survive as a free-lance musician, Beethoven eventually ended his career as a performer for full time composing due to the gradual onset of incurable deafness.

Like his musical idol, Handel, Beethoven embodied his own musical era and at the same time contributed to the overall progression of music in technique and artistic form.   Unlike Handel (and even Mozart) however, Beethoven did not have the luxury of speed and instantaneous perfection in his composing; several drafts, versions, and he needed to make edits to most of his works.  Certain pieces were often started, interrupted by other projects, and finished much later, at times several years later.  Beethoven’s large output of works in all genres includes much occasional music, some of which is rather mediocre.  In every genre, however, there are works of the greatest mastery, and the finest of them are unmatched in originality and expressiveness.  His works include one opera (Fidelio), incidental music (Egmont, The Ruins of Athens), two ballets, nine symphonies, two mass settings (Mass in C and Missa Solemnis), oratorios, including Christ on the Mount of Olives, and other choral works, five piano concertos, a violin concerto, string quartets and quintets, chamber music with winds, sonatas for violin and cello, piano trios, 32 piano sonatas, many variation sets for piano, works for solo and duet piano, dance sets, concert arias and songs, and canons.
What chiefly distinguishes Beethoven from his predecessors is his personal connection to his art. Recognized as the father of the Romantic Era in music (the period between 1820 and the early 1900’s), Beethoven is best understood by gaining an insight to his works, particularly his symphonies, string quartets, and the Missa Solemnis.

With Romanticism, the art and the artist are inseparable. This connection between art and artist is the driving force that most music has thrived on for the past two centuries, whereby music strives to attain the unattainable, the ideal, and the larger-than-life.

This is not to suggest that Beethoven surrendered the structures and forms established by Haydn and Mozart; on the contrary, Beethoven is regarded as the link between the Classical Era of form and reason and the Romantic Era of emotion over reason and art for art’s sake.

Beethoven’s own personal ideas, hopes, and faith, or lack of faith, are represented in his symphonic output. He wrestled with his own fate in Symphony No. 5; he strove to obtain ideal heroism in Symphony No. 3; and held true to the notion that the city of man can and should be equal to the city of God in Symphony No. 9.
While Beethoven was not a man of the theatre (he only wrote one opera), he often accepted commissions to compose incidental music for plays.  When offered to write music for the premiere performance in Vienna of Goethe’s Egmont, Beethoven immediately accepted.  Beethoven read and greatly admired Goethe’s works, saying “I would have gone to my death, yes, ten times to my death, for Goethe.” Beethoven was fascinated with the concept of individual freedom, as seen in his Eroica Symphony.  His life was spent struggling to compose what he wanted, when he wanted, despite the dictates of demanding patrons.  It was only natural that he was drawn to Egmont’s subject – the struggle for freedom, the defiance of tyranny, and the triumph of righteousness Set in the mid 1500’s, Goethe’s play depicts the Spanish persecution of the people of the Netherlands during the Inquisition.  Count Egmont, a Catholic who is loyal to the Spanish, nevertheless sees the injustice of the Inquisition and pleads for tolerance from the Spanish King.  Greatly displeased, the King sends the cruel Duke of Alva to command the Spanish forces in the Netherlands to do the King’s will.  Egmont is arrested and sentenced to death, yet he knows that rebellion is in progress, and he goes proudly to his death confident in the righteous and the coming triumph of his cause. While the complete incidental music to the play includes the overture along with four entr’actes, and two songs, it is only the overture that has become a staple in the concert hall, namely because of its Beethovenian hallmark: strength, nobility, and triumph.  Beginning with a somber and serious mood and perhaps representing the tyrant of the play, the opening to the Overture to Egmont conveys the profound oppression that the protagonist pleads to end.  As the overture progresses an exciting and vigorous tempo ensues suggesting the hero’s confidence and defiance until the overture becomes increasingly rhythmic and dark when Egmont’s execution interrupts.  Without warning, the darkness turns to triumph and celebration with the shimmer of the strings in the highest register coupled with the decorative colors of the piccolo.  Like so many of Beethoven’s works, the Overture to Egmont rejoices in Egmont’s conviction and death, as it is not an end when hope thrives, and ideals remain.
Composer Robert Schumann remarked that the “early works of great men are to be regarded in a quite a different light from those of writers who never had a future.”   This fits brilliantly with Beethoven and his First Symphony. It is worth noting that at age 30, Beethoven premiered his First Symphony; however, at the same age Mozart had already composed 38 of his 41 symphonies and Franz Schubert (who died at the of 31) already composed nearly 600 works, including nine symphonies.  If Beethoven died or did not lose his hearing and remained a professional pianist, the First Symphony would have different connotations today, as it would most likely not be the start of a string of nine prolific works of music. Between Haydn’s 104 symphonies and Mozart’s 41, the form and originality of the symphony seemed to be quite exhausted and perhaps impossible to surpass. Beethoven’s First Symphony is indeed a continuation of the Haydn and Mozart.  It maintains clarity, order, symmetry, and a politeness that is the hallmark of the Classical Era of Haydn and Mozart.  The work is orchestrated for a typical Mozart or Haydn work.  The use of the sonata form in the first and second movements is right out of the textbook of a Haydn work.  Moreover, this was Beethoven’s first attempt at a symphony (in fact, one of his first attempts using an orchestra this large), so one would expect the work to be merely adequate. Closely related to Haydn’s Symphony No. 97 (written less than ten years earlier and also in C major), the opening movement begins in a truly Haydn-like fashion with a slow and brief introduction working towards the key of the C major that springs forth in a fanfare style.    The second movement (the traditional slower section) resembles the spirit of Mozart with the fugue-like passages in the strings.  Unlike Beethoven’s later symphonies that contained a much faster triple meter third movement (scherzo), Beethoven does maintain the traditional courtly dance of the minuet yet laying an undercurrent that points towards the more energetic scherzo.  The final movement opens with a short comical introduction until the violins stumble, almost as if by accident, on the main theme until the dance theme brings the symphony to a conclusion. Despite the undeniable influence or even imitation of Beethoven’s predecessors, his First Symphony has a convincing originality and youthful vitality.  While the critics thought the symphony was too heavy in the winds, the symphony seems to bid farewell to the musical politeness of the 18th century and launches into the 19th century, preparing for a century of Romanticism.  As musicologist Sir George Groves summarizes, “in hearing this Symphony we can never forget that it is the first of that mighty and immortal of the nine symphonies which seem destined to remain the greatest monuments of music.”

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH

Born: St. Petersburg, Russia, 25 September 1906
Died: Moscow, Soviet Union, 9 August 1975

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102
Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is scored for solo piano, piccolo, three flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, timpani, snare drum, and divided strings.
Duration: 25 minutes

Parallel Events / 1957

Dwight D. Eisenhower begins second terms as the 34th U.S. President

USSR launches Sputnik

U.S. first reports link between smoking and lung cancer

Jimmy Hoffa becomes president of the Teamsters Union

Jack Kerouac writes On the Road

John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage wins the Pulitzer Prize

Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story debuts

Jack Paar debuts as host of the Tonight Show

Leave It To Beaver and American Bandstand debut on television

Baseball team Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles

Actor Humphrey Bogart, comedian Oliver Hardy, conductor Arturo Toscanini, and bandleader Jimmy Dorsey

Some composers are often identified by their nationality or a national movement than by their own music.  Verdi was uniquely tied with Italian unity, Copland with the American frontier, and Shostakovich with the former Soviet Union. Described as “the conscience of the Soviet Union,” Dmitri Shostakovich has become one of the most discussed figures in music since the composer’s death, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the turn of the 21st century.  Publicly Shostakovich was a member of the Communist Party and, unlike his Russian colleagues Prokofiev and Stravinsky who lived abroad, Shostakovich emerged because of, rather than despite of, the Soviet regime. Shostakovich’s upbringing was rooted in music as his parents were both amateur musicians.  After graduating from the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Shostakovich felt the need to choose between a career as a pianist or composer.  Although composing did not come easily, he chose a career as a composer and quickly gained international attention with his First Symphony, which he composed when he was eighteen years old. Like any artist, Shostakovich’s curiosities led him to seek other influences, especially the works of Prokofiev and Stravinsky who had become “Western-ized.”  Shostakovich’s discovery of modernism and post-modernism was quickly squashed by the Soviet government, as everything in the Soviet Union was viewed in political terms.  Soviet musicologists proclaimed that the new Soviet Union awaited “a composer whose melodies will touch the hearts of all sections of the populations and…will not only warm the concert hall but the streets and fields as well, because it will be music with roots deep in Russian life…” As Shostakovich’s early musical efforts became internationally recognized, the Soviet Union was quick to capitalize on Shostakovich’s success (how ironic!) and adopted Shostakovich as the country’s “musical spokesperson.”  His music would provide propaganda for the Soviet government and the communist way of life to an international community. The relationship between the Soviet government and Shostakovich was complex.  His music suffered two official denunciations and periodic bans of his work.  At one point, the Communist Party declared Shostakovich’s music offensive and harmful to Soviet citizens as it contained “decadent Western manners” and “formalist perversions.”  At the same time, he received a number of accolades and state awards, and served in the Supreme Soviet.  Shostakovich was reminded by the Stalin regime that his duty was to compose for the Soviet people and his works should provide inspiration for the communist way of life.   Despite the official controversy, Shostakovich remained the most popular Soviet composer of his generation. Shostakovich reacted, at least publicly, by accepting the political ideology of the Soviet government and composed several works that, at least superficially, embraced the communist regime.  He proceeded to speak out against Western music.  Looking back and seeing the dreadful alternatives, he had no choice.  While he composed some private works such as his string quartets and the tragic Tenth Symphony, Shostakovich mainly produced “acceptable” compositions, including the patriotic oratorio The Song of the Forests, the cantata The Sun Shines Over Our Land¸ and Symphonies five, seven (titled Leningrad), eleven (titled The Year 1905), and twelve (titled The Year 1917). After suffering from severe heart problems and from his life-long bout with tuberculosis, Shostakovich ultimately died a painful death from lung cancer.  His death coincided with the anniversary of the first performance of his Seventh Symphony and with the eleventh birthday of his grandson Dmitri, Maxim’s son. Three decades after Shostakovich’s death and less than twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the West has rediscovered Shostakovich as a composer of immense integrity and of fearless perseverance and courage.  Today we realize that he spoke through a mask of conformism using musical codes.  Shostakovich gave the Soviet authorities what they demanded, yet deliberately maintained a musical expression that spoke to this audience – the people who were suppressed by the communist government.
Among Shostakovich’s symphonic and chamber music output (fifteen symphonies, fifteen string quartets, operas, cantatas, etc.) it is surprising to find only two piano concertos, two violin concertos, and two cello concertos – and no others.  The violin and cello concertos were both written for particular soloists and friends – the violin concertos for violinist David Oistrakh, and the cello concertos for world renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.  Shostakovich wrote his second piano concerto in 1957 as a birthday gift for his nineteen-year-old son, Maxim, to perform.  The concerto is the last, and most significant, of the pedagogical works Shostakovich wrote for his children; he also composed a series of short pieces for his daughter, Galina, (Children’s Notebook) and a one movement piano concerto (Concertino for Two Pianos) for Maxim three years before the Second Piano Concerto. In many ways the Second Piano Concerto represents Maxim’s coming of age and it was his performance of the work that helped him gain entrance into the Moscow Conservatory.  Even though Shostakovich remarked that his Piano Concerto No. 2 lacked any “artistic-ideological” merit, the Second Piano Concerto remained a staple of his own performance repertoire – recording it and giving dozens of public performances of the work. Maxim gave the premiere performance on his nineteenth birthday.  The work seemed to be composed to best display his particular keyboard skills.  It avoids traditional virtuosity and downplays the conventional opposition between soloist and orchestra in favor of constantly passing the themes and variations between both.  In most respects, it conforms to the usual three-movement structure and traditional tempos of moderate opening, slow second movement, and brisk climatic finale.  The first movement opens with a sprightly bassoon theme, followed by the soloist’s entry with an equally perky tune.  As the movement merrily rolls along, the soloist exploits the extremes of the keyboard while the orchestra fills in the gaps until the movement makes a lighthearted march to the close of the first movement. In one of the loveliest movements Shostakovich ever wrote, the second movement is easily mistaken as a Rachmaninoff melody and void of the underlying melancholy that is usually associated with Shostakovich’s reflective movements.  There are no moments of grandeur; only strings, piano, and a single horn are heard exchanging tender, lyrical lines.  The piano immediately segues into a fiery, final movement with several sections of rippling scales and arpeggios taken from well-known finger exercises for pianists (Shostakovich said it was the only way he could get his son to practice them!).  The strings and winds often play either theme as counterpoint to the piano’s “exercises” until the movement races to a galloping conclusion with an infectious high spirit of youthful humor and mischief.

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