Due to the pandemic, there will be no audience for this concert.
SYMPHONY PREVIEW with Maestro Grant Harville January 21 at 12pm. Click here to watch on YouTube Live.
ONLINE January 24
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Overture No. 2 in E-flat major
1804 - 1875
Born into a family of artists and intellectuals (her brother was an award-winning sculptor), Louise Farrenc was one of the few French composers of her day to devote significant energy to the “Germanic” genres of chamber music and symphony. (Opera was the principal ambition for most Parisian composers.)
An accomplished pianist, many of her compositions were either for solo piano or piano in chamber music settings. These latter works, particularly the piano quintets, earned her the most acclaim, alongside her Nonet, which is to this day one of the most celebrated examples of the genre. Later in life, she would move toward education and research, becoming piano professor at the Paris Conservatory (the first woman at the institution to hold a position of such importance) and editing and reviving keyboard works from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Farrenc’s two concert overtures for orchestra, while not as famous as her piano and chamber works, received multiple performances in several countries during her lifetime. They show her affinity–no doubt fostered by her teacher Anton Reicha, who knew Beethoven during his adolescence and studied in Vienna–for the Beethoven-influenced orchestral style also found in Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn.
1792 - 1868
Gioachino Rossini retired from opera composition at age 37, likely due to health issues and what may be called “extreme financial security.” This did not, however, discourage fans and promoters from all but begging him to continue composing; a new work with Rossini’s name on it would have been an event, and probably a lucrative one.
The complete silence surrounding the composition of the Bassoon Concerto has thus engendered some skepticism of its authorship. It’s true that Rossini spent much of his youth in Bologna, and included among his very few official post-retirement activities in the 1840s was an honorary consultant position at a Bolognese music school. The official story is that Rossini wrote the concerto as a final exam for Nazzareno Gatti, a bassoon student at the school. But if so, it’s odd that a work that would have garnered so much attention failed to receive any, with the manuscript being lost until the 1990s.
It’s certainly conceivable that Gatti, a composer himself, may have written the piece, or at least fleshed it out based on some of Rossini’s sketches. In short, there is no evidence to suggest Rossini wrote the piece, but neither is there any evidence that anyone else did. In any case, the concerto features in spades the lyricism and brilliant virtuosity that made Rossini rich and famous.
MATT EHNES PHOTOGRAPHY
“We may never know the true origin of this piece, but it rings with Rossini’s operatic style–from the
emotionally lyrical, to the dramatic
Symphony No. 2
Ludwig van Beethoven
1770 - 1827
As he was writing his second symphony in 1802, Ludwig van Beethoven had not yet become the iconic figure that would inspire worldwide birthday celebrations 250 years later, but he was arguably experiencing the highest point of his career. Having won over the Viennese crowds with his virtuosity as a pianist, he now had a bona fide hit under his belt with the E-flat Major Septet, and publishers were fighting to secure the rights to his newest works (or so he claimed). He was producing revolutionary and enduring piano sonatas such as those now known by the nicknames “Moonlight” and “Tempest,” and he was cautiously optimistic that troubling health issues affecting his digestion and hearing could be solved by a summer in the country. But they were not solved, and in the fall Beethoven wrote a letter to his brothers (never mailed) with elements of a will, an artistic manifesto, and a suicide note. Beethoven’s characteristic arrogance and contentiousness would henceforth be shot through with despair.
The sunny and playful Symphony No. 2, premiered in April 1803, thus feels like a bit of a throwback, or perhaps the end of an era. Beethoven first presented the work on one of his characteristic marathon concerts (the First, Fifth, and Sixth Symphonies saw first performances under similar circumstances) at the Theater an der Wien, where Beethoven was nominally composer in residence for the impresario Emanuel Schikaneder (most famous for collaborating with Mozart on The Magic Flute). Unlike the groundbreaking Third Symphony, which would follow immediately after, the Second represents less a departure from previous norms than an intensification of them. The four-movement structure familiar to Haydn and Mozart remains intact, and the humor and lyricism characteristic of both those composers is in full force. Much has been made of the supposed resemblance of the final movement’s principal melody to Beethoven’s gastrointestinal distress – it is left to the audience to evaluate the validity of such a comparison.
Ludwig van Beethoven
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