Saturday, 26 March 2022
7:30 p.m. MST
Helena Civic Center

Watch live on YouTube. Saturday, 26 March 2022

Indulge in Elgar’s profoundly expressive Cello Concerto with worldwide acclaimed Israeli-American Cellist Amit Peled. Then experience the music that caused a riot – the provocatively primitive and viscerally powerful Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.

Allan R. Scott Conductor
Amit Peled Cello
HELENA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
This concert is sponsored in part by generous support from:
Guests’ appearances are sponsored by the generous support of:
ALLAN R. SCOTT
Music Director & Conductor

Currently in his nineteenth 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.”

About the Guest Artists

Praised by The Strad magazine and The New York Times, internationally renowned Israeli-American Cellist Amit Peled is acclaimed as one of the most exciting and virtuosic instrumentalists on the concert stage today. Having performed in many of the world’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., Salle Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London, and the Konzerthaus Berlin, Mr. Peled has released over a dozen recordings on the Naxos, Centaur, Delos, and CTM Classics labels.

A professor since 2003 at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, he has performed and presented master classes around the world including at the Marlboro and Newport Music Festivals and the Heifetz International Music Summer Institute in the United States, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany, International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove in England, and Keshet Eilon in Israel. Mr. Peled performs on a cello made by the Italian master Giovanni Grancino, ca. 1695, on generous loan from the Roux Family Foundation. For more information, visit www.amitpeled.com.

Keeping You Safe in the Concert Hall

Due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and new variants emerging in Lewis and Clark County and the United States, the Helena Symphony will take necessary precautions to keep our musicians, staff, and audience protected. The Helena Symphony will continue to follow CDC guidelines throughout Season 67 and monitor the daily transmission rates within our county. When the transmission rate is high or substantial, audience members will be required to wear a mask while in the concert hall. On concert nights when the transmission is moderate or low, individuals will be encouraged to wear a mask, but are not required to do so.

Each member of the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale will be tested prior to rehearsals and prior to each concert. This will ensure each musician present on stage is negative for COVID-19. The Helena Symphony will continue to work closely with the county health department and the city of Helena throughout the Season to ensure the safety of our musicians, staff, and audience. If you have questions about how the Helena Symphony will be adapting to the evolving COVID-19 situation this Season, please call our office at 406.442.1860.

About the Program – By Allan R. Scott © edited by Brain D. Sweeney

Parallel Events / 1919

Treaty of Versailles signed, ending World War I

Nazi Party and Fascist Party are formed

Prohibition begins in United States

Gershwin’s first musical La Lucille premieres

U.S. begins passenger flights

Telephones can be dialed from home 

Jack Dempsey becomes the heavyweight champ

Jazz singer Nat “King” Cole, Baseball great Jackie Robinson, author J.D. Salinger, and humorist Andy Rooney are born

Theodore Roosevelt and industrialist Andrew Carnegie die

SIR EDWARD ELGAR

Born: Broadheath, England, 2 June 1857 Died: Worcester, England, 23 February 1934

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 Elgar’s Cello Concerto is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, optional tuba, timpani, and divided strings. Duration: 30 minutes

For Edward Elgar, the premiere of his Cello Concerto in October of 1919 marked not only the end of World War I and the time when his wife fell ill (only to die five months later), but also the end of his career as a composer. 

Though he was only 62 years old and would live another fifteen years, Elgar completed no music of consequence after his Cello Concerto. After several successful decades, the self-taught composer was never to find again the music that had come with the years of his marriage in the pre-war world. Both the loss of his wife and the First World War seem to have sapped Elgar’s creative energies. 

During the thirty years he did compose, Elgar chiefly produced symphonic (large-scale) compositions. In all, his complete artistic output included large choral oratorios and cantatas, orchestral overtures, two completed symphonies, variations, marches (including the well-known Pomp and Circumstance march), a violin concerto, and a cello concerto.

What characterized Elgar’s works more than anything else was the composer’s attempt to understand himself through his music. For Elgar, composing was a journey toward an artistic self-discovery. Elgar’s popular First Symphony and the stirring Enigma Variations in particular capture stages of this journey. 

So, too, does the Cello Concerto. The scoring calls for the smallest number of instruments of all of Elgar’s larger works. The intimate orchestra provides for the most part a very loose structure through which the solo cello wanders alone as though through an empty landscape. 

The work resembles a symphonic poem in that the four movements (one more than the conventional three) run into each other. Its overall mood of restrained lament and nostalgia suggest Elgar’s sad valediction to the musical world. 

Like Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto for piano, Elgar’s Cello Concerto forgoes the conventional orchestra introduction in order to open with the solo voice. After the cello solo emits an anguished cry, the orchestra consoles the solo with a lilting lullaby. The orchestra then builds and ultimately the movement returns to its opening line before it connects without pause to the second movement. 

From deep gloom and almost anger, the stuttering cello goes back and forth with the orchestra in the second movement until the work has its first real pause as the first two movements end with a beautifully weighted conclusion. The brief, contemplative third movement offers one of the most heartbreakingly poignant musical utterances in all of musical history. As the movement concludes, Elgar offers a bewilderment that begs for the final movement for resolution. 

The fourth and final movement opens with a vigorous orchestra brewing until the solo cello breaks into a musical soliloquy. Orchestra and solo intertwine until the anguish of the opening cello cry from the first movement is recalled nostalgically as the concerto culminates in a forceful conclusion.

There is a certain shyness to Elgar’s Cello Concerto says music historian Donald Tovey. More recently, musicologist Diana McVeagh explains that in his Cello Concerto, Elgar “confided his most private thoughts. In the tension between the risks taken by the craftsman and the shyness of the aging man, Elgar turned his disillusion to positive account.” 

The Cello Concerto can be brought into real perspective when pondering Elgar’s remark about this ghostly and melancholy work. “The trees,” he said, “are singing my music – or have I sung theirs.” Like Elgar’s popular Enigma Variations, we are left with the inability to explain the work, except through the abstract language of music. 

Parallel Events / 1913

Woodrow Wilson becomes 28th U.S. President

Henry Ford begins first moving assembly line

Panama Canal opens

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman dies

Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, athlete Jesse Owens, composer Benjamin Britten, singer Perry Como, union leader Jimmy Hoffa, football coach Vince Lombardi, actors Burt Lancaster and Lloyd Bridges, and U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford are born

Brillo pads are introduced

IGOR STRAVINKSY

Born: Oranienbaum, Russia, 17 June 1882 Died: New York, USA, 6 April 1971

Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring) Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is scored for two piccolos, three flutes, alto flute, four oboes, two English horns, three clarinets, E-flat clarinet, two bass clarinets, four bassoons, two contrabassoons, eight horns, two Wagner tubas, four trumpets, high trumpet, bass trumpet, three trombones, two tubas, timpani, bass drum, tambourine, cymbals, antique cymbals, triangle, tam-tam, güiro, and divided strings. Duration: 30 minutes

In Paris, on 29 May 1913, the audience at a ballet rioted; men in the audience challenged each other to duels; socialites slapped one another; people screamed and laughed; house lights flashed on and off. This was all within the first few moments of the second work on the evening’s program. Yet the orchestra played until the end of the 30-minute ballet. More importantly, music was forever changed.

Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) is remembered not only because of it riotous opening night, but also because it single-handedly altered the course of Western music. Because of works like Le Sacre, Stravinsky remains the most influential, most controversial, and most important composer        (if perhaps not the most beloved) of 20th century composers.

The essence of Stravinsky’s early compositional style was rhythmic exploration. Using asymmetrical patterns and compound meters, the composer broke down traditional balanced phrasing. The pulse of the music was often unwavering, but unevenly accented and articulated. 

Just as The Rite of Spring in a sense predicted or at least foreshadowed the chaos of World War I, so did Stravinsky’s compositional style after the War reflect the time. The end of World War I moved Stravinsky’s music into a pared-down style. With works such as L’Historie du Soldat, Tango, Ragtime, Pulcinella, and his oratorio Oedipus Rex, Stravinsky’s neo-classical period first seemed like an element of parody, but scholars have found in it a tendency toward “objectification,” like a Cubist collage with everyday objects painted by Picasso. 

Educated at St. Petersburg’s University in criminal law and legal philosophy, this son of a prominent opera singer carved out his own unique path in music. After privately studying with composer Rimsky-Korsakov (who advised Stravinsky against becoming a composer), Stravinsky began collaborating with ballet impresario, Serge Diaghilev. Between 1910 and 1913, Stravinsky initially composed the ballets The Firebird and Petrushka which immediately ushered him to the forefront of music lovers, musicians, and audiences in general. It was, however, the score to The Rite of Spring, that made him the controversial crown prince of the avant-garde.

Even the anticipation of the premiere of The Rite of Spring tantalized the world something was brewing. Newspapers referred to “stammerings of a semi-savage humanity” and “frenetic human clusters wrenched incessantly by the most astonishing polyrhythm to come from the mind of a musician.” A press release from the new Théâtre des Champs-Élysées promised “a new thrill which will surely raise passionate discussions, but which will leave all true artists with an unforgettable impression.”

Stravinsky had “fleeting visions” for what would unknowingly become the largest scandal if all of music in 1910 as he was finishing the score to The Firebird. “I imagined a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dancer herself to death. They were sacrificing her to the god of spring,” Stravinsky recalled. Before he wrote a note of music, he began to evolve the concept with Russian painter, archeologist, and folklore expert Nikolai Roerich (who designed the sets and costumes for the premiere). Stravinsky then began to compose in Clarens, Switzerland in the fall of 1911 -- in a small room at an upright, somewhat muted piano where he created the famous relentless pounding chords. The famous conductor Pierre Monteux who led the premiere performance remembers hearing Stravinsky play the score on the piano, saying: “Before he got very far, I was convinced he was raving mad.”

Even though the orchestra needed 17 rehearsals before working with the dancers, and rehearsals for the ballet itself lasted six months (as dancers had enormous difficulties with the music’s uncountable rhythms), all of it went on without incident. The Rite of Spring (or just Le sacre as some prefer to say) has no traditional plot but more of a choreographic sequence. Like Stravinsky’s previous two ballet successes, The Rite of Spring is rooted in Russian folklore, and it represents pagan Russia, conveying the mystery and emergence of the creative power of Spring. Stravinsky divided the 30-minute ballet sequence into two parts: “The Adoration of the Earth” and “The Great Sacrifice.” The two sections are described by Stravinsky and Roerich and reference the different subtitles of the sequences:

PART I: The Adoration of the Earth

The awakening of nature, the scratching, gnawing, wiggling of birds and beasts (Introduction). The Spring celebration. It takes place in the hills. The pipers pipe and young men tell fortunes (Augurs of Spring), the old woman enters. She knows the mystery of nature and how to predict the future. Young girls with painted faces come in from the river in single file. They dance the Spring Dance. Games start (Ritual of Abduction) and Spring Khorovod (Spring Rounds), the people divide into two groups opposing each other (Ritual of the Rival Tribes). The procession of wise old men (Procession of The Sage) follows. The oldest and wisest interrupts the spring games, which comes to a stop. The people pause, trembling before the great action. The old men bless the earth. The Kiss of the Earth (The Sage) follows and the people dance passionately on the earth, sanctifying it and becoming one with it (Dance of the Earth)

PART II: The Great Sacrifice

At night the virgins hold mysterious games, walking in circles (Mystic Circles of the Young Girls). One of the virgins honors her, the Chosen One, with a martial dance (Glorification of The Chosen One). They invoke the ancestors (Evocation of The Ancestors) and entrust the Chosen One to the old wise men (Ritual Action of The Ancestors). She sacrifices herself in the presence of the old men in the great hold dance, the great sacrifice (Sacrificial Dance). 

While millions of have certainly experienced Fantasia – Disney’s 1941 interpretation of Stravinsky’s score to The Rite of Spring, the work has nothing to do with prehistoric creatures evolving from primordial slime. It does, however, evoke a newly found primitivism complete with harmonic dissonances and incessant rhythms bending melodies until the entire concept of Western music explodes into a savaged frenzy. 

By many accounts, the audience’s outrage was more about the dance than then music itself. “I have never again been that angry,” wrote Stravinsky. “The music was so familiar to me; I loved it, and I could not understand why people who had not heard it wanted to protest so quickly.” At the first concert performance (without the choreography) a year after the premiere, the audience erupted with excitement and carried Stravinsky as a hero throughout the theatre and into the streets. Today it remains an iconic concert piece that is still equally as captivating, visceral, and at times, disturbing – grasping our physical and psychological attention. It remains one of the decisive turning points in all of music where everything from symphonic music to rock and roll are explained in their relationship to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. American legendary composer Aaron Copland said in 1951 that The Rite of Spring is “the foremost orchestral achievement of the 20th century,” and Time Magazine proclaimed in 1998 that “there is not a composer who lived during Stravinsky’s time or is alive today who has not been touched and sometimes transformed by The Rite of Spring.” Irrespective of our reaction to The Rite of Spring, we certainly realize the power of life, the power of creativity, and the vitality we have when we truly experience something evocative.

“Music is the sole domain in which humans realize the present. I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” – Igor Stravinski.

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