Menuet: allegro moderato
Rigaudon: assez vif
Between starting and finishing Le Tombeau de Couperin Ravel suffered the double trauma of the death of his much-loved mother and of a breakdown in his health after serving at Verdun in the First World War. Even so, it is characteristic of him that, although some of the work was written more or less as an amusement in 1914 and some in deep seriousness in 1917, there is little perceptible difference between the early movements and the late ones. In a stylish tribute to a master of the French baroque Ravel would have been even less inclined than usual to give expression to his own feelings. However, the title is not insignificant. In 1914 it was to have been Suite Française. In 1917, following the baroque tradition of erecting a ‘tomb’ to a revered predecessor, it became Le Tombeau de Couperin. How sombre Ravel’s thinking really was by then is confirmed by the dedication of each movement to a friend killed in the War (six movements in the original piano version, four in the orchestral suite).
The music itself, on the other hand, has its own life. While there is a certain wistful quality in the sound of the oboe, which carries much of the responsibility here, the Prélude is basically a graceful study in baroque-stye melodic decoration. The Forlane, written in 1914 as a witty comment on a Papal decree that the ancient Venetian furlana should henceforth replace the sinful tango, is both a clever pastiche on a Couperin model and a delightful expression of irony. The most emotional piece is the Menuet: a subtle melancholy, heightened again by oboe colouring, tinges the elegant line and clear textures of the outer sections, while in the middle section a positively outspoken anguish mounts in chromatic progressions on woodwind and brass over a persistent drone on lower strings. Though useful for adding expressive weight here, the brass instruments have had to be very discreet so far. In the final Rigaudon, extra brilliance derives from the liberated trumpet and, later, extra vigour from the two horns. A tender middle section, led again by the oboe, is unceremoniously swept aside by the re-entry of the trumpet and its boisterous companions.
Villano y ricercar
Españoleta y fanfarria de la caballería de Nápoles
Danza de las hachas
Considering that Rodrigo’s name is now synonymous with the guitar, it is remarkable that he never played the instrument himself. Rodrigo took lessons in the piano and violin at school, and did much of his composing at the keyboard, but his ongoing interest in the music and culture of his native Spain – the ‘home of the guitar’ – developed into a lifelong passion for guitar writing. The acclaim his music brought him saw him quickly established as one of Spain’s foremost composers and in 1947 the professorial post of the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music was created for him at the University of Madrid – a post he held until his death in 1999. He was so feted in his homeland that in 1991 Rodrigo, an ordinary commoner, was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos I and given the title of Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez.
Despite the great fame Rodrigo achieved during his lifetime, he came from humble origins and had a somewhat difficult childhood. Blinded at the age of three after contracting diphtheria, he composed his music in Braille, later having his scores transcribed into musical notation for performers. But Rodrigo did not consider his blindness a struggle: on the contrary, he later said that it was becoming blind that turned him to a life of music. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in the late 1930s, it was his job at the Institute for the Blind in Freiburg that helped him and his wife to scrape by until they could return to Spain in 1939.
Rodrigo remained indebted to the support his country showed him throughout his life, and much of his music reflects this by sampling its history and culture. His concerto (in all but name) for guitar and orchestra Fantasía para un gentilhombre (‘Fantasia for a gentleman’), was written for the renowned guitarist Andrés Segovia (the ‘gentleman’ of the work’s title), but the music is based on a series of short dances by the 17th century Spanish composer, Gaspar Sanz. As well as writing a good deal of guitar music of his own, Sanz wrote one of the earliest surviving guitar performance ‘manuals’ (published in 1674), from which the melodies in Rodrigo’s Fantasia are taken. The dances themselves are traditional tunes that pre-date even Sanz’s arrangements, but Rodrigo reinterprets these melodies in a newly modern style, one which he hoped would produce a sound in the same ‘manner of strong spices that were so popular in the victuals of the period.’ Combining elements of Baroque forms (such as the searching ricercare in the first movement and the mournful fantasia of the second) with excerpts of spirited Spanish folksong (the zesty third movement, ‘dance of the hatchets’, is traditionally performed with lit torches) the concerto paints an elegant picture of a Spain both old and new.
Rossini was all of twenty-one, already had ten operas under his belt, and then, under considerable pressure for time, produced the effervescent L’Italiana in Algeri. He had just had a big success at Venice’s La Fenice Opera House with his opera seria, Tancredi. The Teatro San Benedetto in Venice was in crisis after a couple of its offerings had bombed. Rossini was implored to write something vivacious to save the day. He obliged – in just eighteen days! Given the time constraints, there was obviously no time to create a new libretto, so Rossini used an old one, albeit revised, by Angelo Anelli.
The opening night of L’Italiana in Algeri on May 22nd 1813 was greeted with “deafening, continuous general applause” – an applause that has continued to this day. After all, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri still remains one of his very best comic operas.
It is a tale of an Italian girl in Algiers, trying to save her lover Lindoro from the clutches of Mustafà, the Bey of Algiers. She uses her feminine wiles to outwit the absurd old Bey and rescues the man she loves. Not an overly complicated plot, but enough to fire up the magic of Rossini’s genius.
The Overture is pure delight. It starts quietly, until abruptly interrupted by a fortissimo chord – picture Laurel and Hardy slowly tip-toeing ahead but suddenly looking over their shoulders apprehensively! Then the oboe begins a long, sinuous melody – followed by two further crashes. Rossini heats up the temperature with a transition passage that launches the Allegro. How this music laughs! There is much alternation between loud and soft, much scampering from the violins. Then comes one of Rossini’s most identifiable trademarks – a long crescendo. He applies even more inventive orchestration to the recapitulation of the Allegro themes before ending with a reprise of his mighty crescendo.
Rossini knew how to attract and keep the attention of his voluble audience – for whom a night at the opera was as much a social event (which required much gossiping) as an artistic one. Along the lines of “Anything you can sing, I can sing louder”, Rossini, with his final crescendo, guarantees that the chatting will cease and all eyes and ears will be focussed on the stage as the curtain rises for Act 1, Scene 1 of this delightful confection.
It is hard to stay glum after listening to such sparkling music.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No 38 in D major, K504 'Prague (1786)
Adagio - Allegro
Finale - Presto
Though Mozart’s European travels never brought him to Scotland, he did reach London in his childhood and during his adult years he went more than once to Prague – one of his journeys being fascinatingly chronicled by Eduard Morike in a short novel on the subject. In Prague, Mozart was more appreciated than in his native Salzburg or adopted Vienna. The Marriage of Figaro, which failed to please the Viennese in 1786, was a smash hit when it reached the Bohemian capital later that year. When Mozart arrived in Prague in January 1787 he reported that “here they talk about nothing but Figaro; nothing is played or sung or whistled but Figaro, nothing, nothing but Figaro”. It was the Prague Opera which commissioned him to write Don Giovanni, and it was for the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia that he later composed La Clemenza di Tito. As for the Symphony No 38 in D, though it was written in Vienna, it had what was almost certainly its premiere at a concert during Mozart’s visit to Prague in January 1787, when his mind must already have been reaching towards Don Giovanni – the two works share the same key, and the slow dramatic introduction to the symphony contains more than a whiff of the opera to come.
Mozart’s last three symphonies (Nos 39-41) are widely held to represent the high watermark of his achievement in the form, but their immediate predecessor is equally great. It is a work of profound animation, radiance and tension, its three movements being so self-sufficient that Mozart felt able to dispense with the inclusion of a minuet. The big introduction to the first movement is balanced by an intricately wrought Allegro – “saturated with polyphony”, as Einstein eloquently put it – grand and gracious in design, with a theme that was later to appear in a different guise as the fugato of The Magic Flute overture. In the Andante the writing remains contrapuntal, and the stabbing discords and chromaticisms give the music an intensity not found in Mozart’s previous symphonic slow movements. After this the final Presto may seem disconcertingly brief, but its taut rhythms and concentrated layout make it a match for the other movements, especially if the exposition repeat is included, as Mozart wanted.
© Conrad Wilson
The young and talented Alexandre Bloch conducts the SCO in a sublime programme of music. Bloch opens the concert with Ravel’s six movement work Le Tombeau de Couperin, followed by Rodrigo’s magical Fantasia para un gentilhombre with talented guitarist Sean Shibe as soloist. Rossini’s wonderful overture from The Italian girl in Algiers and the ever-popular Mozart Symphony No 38 ‘Prague’ completes this perfect summer evening of entertainment.
Tickets available from:
Phoenix Stores, Findhorn 01309 690110
www.wegottickets.com/UniversalHall (10% booking fee per ticket for online purchases)
£12.50 advance / £14 on the door
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Symphony No 3 in E flat major, Op 97, ‘Rhenish’ (1850)
Scherzo: Sehr massig (Very moderate)
Nicht schnell (Not fast)
Schumann’s symphonies, like Schubert’s, are faultily numbered, but attempts to correct their running-order seem eternally doomed to failure. Perhaps only pedants care that his Third Symphony is really his Fourth. What matters, as an identification tag, is that it is known as the 'Rhenish', a name reflected in various aspects of the music. The first movement is, in its way, as vivid a representation of the river Rhine as the prelude to Wagner’s Das Rheingold; the fourth movement grandly portrays an archbishop’s enthronement in Cologne Cathedral; and the work was the first major product of Schumann’s aspirational but ill-fated move from Dresden to the Rhineland city of Dusseldorf, where in 1850 he accepted the post of music director.
Yet only Cologne Cathedral, at this point in his career, really satisfied him. By 1852, when he was 42, his mental health had begun its heart-breaking decline. His erratic conducting of the Dusseldorf orchestra caused increasing concern. And the river Rhine, initially an inspiration, lured him in 1854 to attempt suicide in its depths. Though he was rescued by fishermen, his career as one of the nineteenth century’s finest, most progressive composers was over.
But the 'Rhenish' symphony, at least, was a masterpiece - and by no means his last. The verve and swing of its opening movement, its main theme a choice example of Schumannesque syncopation, sets the music in marvellous motion. The five-movement structure, with Beethoven's 'Pastoral' and Berlioz's Fantastique as precedents, incorporates not only a scherzo (which Schumann thought of calling ‘Morning on the Rhine’) but two succeeding slow movements. Of these the first is a characteristically songlike Schumann intermezzo, marked ‘not fast’ rather than slow, the second a monumental tribute to the composer’s trip (by train instead of riverboat) to Cologne for the installation of Archbishop Geissel. The movement’s architecture is underlined by the use of trombones, for the first time in the work. To this splendour the finale serves as a sort of flying buttress, bringing the symphony to its exhilarating close.
© Conrad Wilson
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No 5 in E flat major, Op 73, ‘Emperor’ (1809)
Adagio un poco mosso -
Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo
Beethoven did not intend his 'Emperor' concerto to be another 'Eroica' symphony. The title was not his own, and he would have been shocked to know that that was how posterity would identify his last completed piano concerto. Yet there is no doubt that when he composed it in 1809, Napoleon was on his mind. “What a disturbing life around me: nothing but drums, cannons, soldiers, disasters of all sorts”, he scribbled in response to the occupation of Vienna by French troops, while covering his head with blankets to protect the remnants of his hearing.
In such a context, the work’s nickname seems perfectly apt. There is an imperial splendour about the orchestra’s opening chords, each of them unleashing a torrential piano solo. After this preliminary trial of strength, the orchestra proceeds to deliver the first movement’s militant main theme, succeeded by a chain of clearly defined subsidiary themes, the most important of them played by the strings in the minor, and repeated smoothly by the horns in the major.
When the piano re-enters, it is with a quiet chromatic scale, a trill, and a decorated version of the main theme. But in the course of the taut central section of the movement, the forces are pitted more strenuously against each other, sometimes exploding in a giant burst of octaves, of a sort later composers would copy. When the solo cadenza is reached, it comes with another innovation – instead of being left to the pianist’s imagination, it is a built-in feature of the music.
In contrast, nothing could be more peaceful than the hymnlike beauty of the Adagio. Apart from the dreamily descending triplets with which the soloist enters, the movement is devoted entirely to its opening melody, which on each repetition is bathed in different light but which, for all its apparent simplicity, cost Beethoven immense trouble to write. In the closing bars of the movement, the piano gropes its way towards the robust but tricky main theme of the finale, a vigorous rondo which Beethoven asked to be played “not too fast”. A jerky rhythm, prophetic of the first movement of the Seventh Symphony, plays an important role. Towards the close this is softly tapped out by the kettledrums, against gradually fading chords from the soloist. Just as the music seems about to vanish, the players rally and bring the concerto to a resounding close.
Beethoven himself never played the Emperor concerto in public. Popular theory declares that he was by then too deaf to do so; but in fact his priorities were changing. His career as a composer was what now mattered most to him, along with his determination to ensure that his works were accurately published, sometimes (as in the case of the Fourth Piano Concerto) even before they were publicly performed. The man who had been the greatest pianist of his period was now very definitely the greatest composer.
© Conrad Wilson
Such are the heroic power and the beautiful, eloquent melodies of the 'Emperor' Concerto that it is hard to believe Beethoven wrote it in a Vienna under attack from Napoleon's invading armies. The strength and thoughtfulness of renowned German pianist Lars Vogt are an ideal match for this monumental concerto's virtuosic demands.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, famed for its refi ned performances under Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati, explores the glories of the Rhine in Schumann's Third Symphony, a work of songful beauty and spiritual wonder at the natural world.
To begin the concert, Brahms's Tragic Overture shows the composer at his most turbulent and emotional, and Webern's Langsamer Satz is a richly Romantic vision of nature and desire.
"sublime" -The Daily Telegraph
"a fantastic performance of the Third Symphony, the Rhenish... one of the finest, most exquisite performances by the orchestra in its 40-year history" -The Herald
Lawrence Foster Conductor
Ute Lemper Vocalist
The charismatic German chanteuse Ute Lemper, celebrated for her spellbinding performances of Kurt Weill and Marlene Dietrich, joins the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to explore the sensuous decadence and simmering passions of Weimar Republic Germany.
She sings seductive songs by Weill – including the famous Surabaya Johnny and Mack the Knife – as well as anti-Nazi numbers by Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht. 50 years on from Marlene Dietrich's own appearance at the Festival, Lemper finishes with songs made famous by the German star in the 1930s.
Under Lawrence Foster, the orchestra also performs the Suite from Weill's biting Threepenny Opera, and the catchy rhythms of Stravinsky's tuneful Scènes de ballet.
"Ute Lemper shines" -The Sydney Morning Herald
"Lemper grabs her audience by the throat" -The Guardian
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Missa in Angustiis (Nelson Mass), H XXII:11
Sanctus and Benedictus
Joseph Haydn spent the last fourteen years of his life in Vienna, in a house which he had bought with the proceeds of his two visits to London. He continued to hold the title of Kapellmeister, or director of music, to the Esterházy family, which had employed him for so long. But in his last years this was purely honorary, except that his Prince gave him a pension which allowed him a comfortable retirement. And even before that, although he had to spend some time at the family’s old palace at Eisenstadt, he was never required to travel to the massive summer palace of Eszterháza in the wilds of Hungary. The principal task which his position entailed was to compose and direct a new Mass each year to celebrate the name-day (the saint’s day corresponding to a person’s Christian name) of his patron’s wife Princess Marie Hermenegild. This duty he discharged in a series of six masterpieces composed every year except one between 1796 and 1802.
These late Masses are 'symphonic' in construction: instead of being divided into separate numbers as in Bach’s B minor Mass (and Mozart’s 'Unfinished' Mass in C minor), the five sections (with Kyrie and Christe combined, and also Sanctus and Benedictus) are treated as large-scale continuous entities. By the same token, the four soloists are not allocated separate arias, but emerge from the four-part chorus in short passages of solo and ensemble writing.
For the most part the music of these Masses reflects Haydn’s sincere, untroubled faith: a contemporary recorded him as defending their cheerfulness by saying that "at the thought of God his heart leapt for joy, and he could not help his music’s doing the same". But there is a greater seriousness and urgency about much of the third Mass in the series. It is the only one of Haydn’s late Masses in a minor key, D minor; and even its major-key music is often unusually stark – as in the first section of the Credo, with its orchestral introduction in octaves and its extended two-part canon in the voices.
The reason for this austerity – and for the title of Missa in Angustiis, or “Mass in time of peril” – lies in the date of the work’s composition. It was written during July and August 1798, for performance at the parish church in Eisenstadt in September. This was a time at which the Allies’ war against Revolutionary France was going badly, and much of Austria was occupied by the French. According to one contemporary account (which has been called into question by recent scholarship), the war also impinged on the work in a more specific way. Haydn, it is said, was at work on it when a courier arrived with the news of Admiral Nelson’s victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile (on 3 August 1798), and the announcement became translated into musical terms as the stirring trumpet fanfare at the end of the Benedictus section. The nickname of 'Nelson' Mass, however, stems not from this moment, but from a visit which Nelson, together with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, paid to Eisenstadt in September 1800 – a visit which is traditionally supposed to have included a performance of the Mass.
Haydn’s own scoring of the 'Nelson' Mass was for three trumpets, timpani, strings and organ – alternating between its traditional function as continuo accompanist and a written-out solo part. The organ in this obbligato role seems to have been no more than a makeshift replacement for woodwind and horns, which at that time had been removed from the Esterházy payroll in a wartime economy drive. Later – most probably for the 1800 performance – Haydn’s assistant and successor at Eisenstadt, Johann Nepomuk Fuchs (1766–1839), added parts for a wind section of flute, oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoon, which take over the organ’s solo passages and allow it to revert to its usual accompanying role. It is in this version, presumably authorised and supervised by Haydn himself, that the Mass will be performed this evening.
© Anthony Burton
Renowned worldwide for his invigorating interpretations that cast fresh light on classical masterpieces, conductor Philippe Herreweghe brings the exceptional singers of his Collegium Vocale Gent to join the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a concert of choral masterworks.
Haydn's 'Nelson' Mass, originally named 'Mass in Troubled Times', was written as Napoleon's invading armies were threatening Vienna, and gained its second nickname following Nelson's stunning victory over Bonaparte in the Battle of the Nile. Considered one of the composer's profoundest creations, it moves from darkness to a jubilant finale. Herreweghe gathers a quartet of remarkable British singers for the piece's virtuosic vocal solos.
Afterwards, Herreweghe directs three warm, reverential choral motets by Bruckner, and Stravinsky's hugely powerful Symphony of Psalms, which combines spiritual solemnity with sparkling wit.
The Edinburgh Mela is delighted to announce a major development to celebrate its 20th year. The festival has commissioned an innovative new musical work, a collaboration between the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and rising world music star Soumik Datta, which will premiere at the opening of the Edinburgh Mela before going on to tour Scotland.
Composed by Datta, co-composed, arranged, and conducted by Johannes Berauer, and working in development with musicians from the SCO, The King of Ghosts is a brand new piece of music inspired by the classic 1969 Indian art house film Gupi Gayen, Bagha Bayen, by Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray. The piece weaves Indian folk rhythms, rich orchestral textures and pulsing electronic beats into a gorgeous, atmospheric experience, as scenes from the film are projected above the musicians and the audience is transported into the fairytale.
Part of the Homecoming Scotland and Culture 2014 celebrations, The King of Ghosts will be performed live by Datta, multi-award-winning percussionist Cormac Byrne, and a 25-piece orchestra from SCO. Following its debut at the Edinburgh Mela The King of Ghosts will tour Scotland, with performances at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, Perth Horsecross, and at Inverness Eden Court.
Johannes Berauer is one of the most productive and diverse young composers of Austria, whose previous work has included commissions from the Vienna Musikverein, Konzerthaus Wien, Linzer Klangwolke, and the Bruckner Symphony Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies.
A percussionist since the age of four, Cormac Byrne developed a love for the bodhran and traditional music while studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He has since become an award-winning performer, touring to numerous festivals around the world and working with musicians throughout the UK.
The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert brings Edinburgh's summer festival season to a spectacular conclusion, celebrating courage, heroism and struggles for freedom through stirring, uplifting music and a breathtaking fireworks display specially choreographed by international fireworks artists Pyrovision.
Alongside the majesty of Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' from Die Walküre and Debussy's rousing March Écossaise, the concert takes in the stormy passions of Beethoven's Egmont Overture and the memorable 'War March of the Priests' from Mendelssohn's Athalie.
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, written to celebrate Russia's deliverance from Napoleon's invading armies, brings the evening to an electrifying conclusion, accompanied by a glittering display of pyrotechnics from the Edinburgh Castle ramparts.