BRUCH: Kol Nidrei
GERSHWIN: “Catfish Row Suite” from Porgy and Bess
Discovery Open Rehearsal - Saturday, November 9, 2013 - 2pm
Saturday, November 9, 2013 – 8 pm
Sunday, November 10, 2013 – 3 pm
Monday, November 11, 2013 – 8 pm
The captivating cellist Maya Beiser returns to perform two concertos that showcase her eclectic virtuosity: Osvaldo Golijov’s bittersweet elegy incorporating solo cello with pre-recorded electronics; and Bruch’s interpretation of traditional Jewish folk melodies—Kol Nidrei.
Alberto Ginastera, born in Argentina (as were both Golijov and Beiser’s father), evokes the gaucho life of his native land in his ballet Estancia. These multicultural threads interweave with a masterful Cuban-influenced overture by Gershwin and a suite from his renowned opera of African American life, Porgy and Bess.
Performances sponsored by Alan and Susan SeidenfeldMaya Beiser underwritten by Rabobank, N.A
“With virtuoso chops, rock-star charisma, and an appetite for pushing her instrument to the edge…Maya Beiser is the post-modern diva of the cello.” (Boston Globe)
Weill Concert Hall, Green Music Center
Corner of Petaluma Hill Road and Rohnert Park Expressway
1801 East Cotati Ave
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
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Single Tickets Available July 30, 2013.
PROGRAM NOTES by Steven Ledbetter
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Cuban Overture for Orchestra, Rhumba
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 26, 1898, and died in Beverly Hills, California, on July 11, 1937. He composed the Cuban Overture in 1932 and conducted the premiere that summer at an outdoor concert in New York. The score calls for three flutes and piccolo, three oboes and English horn, three clarinets and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and six percussionists (xylophone, glockenspiel, snare drum, bongos, guiro, maracas, cymbals, wood block, bass drum, claves), and strings. Duration is about 10 minutes.
Gershwin’s Cuban Overture was the result of a brief vacation the composer took to Havana in the spring of 1932. There he was intrigued by the music he heard around him, and he decided to try writing a work using typical Latin rhythms. In addition he brought several Cuban instruments with him when he returned to New York. He employed them in the new work, which he finished in time for an all-Gershwin concert at Lewisohn Stadium.
The original title of the work was Rhumba, but finally he gave it the name by which we know it today. The “Cuban” instruments that he included in the piece are now quite familiar to musicians; they were exotic at the time, and Gershwin felt it necessary to add a “Conductor’s note” to the score with a little drawing of each of the instruments—Cuban sticks, bongo, gourd, and maracas. The result is a colorful amalgamation of popular Latin styles with Gershwin’s increasingly sophisticated mastery of contrapuntal technique.
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
Estancia: Ballet Suite, Opus 8a
Alberto Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 11, 1916, and died in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 25, 1983. He composed Estancia in 1941 for Lincoln Kerstein’s Ballet Caravan, which toured with it throughout South America. The score of the dance suite calls for two flutes (one doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoon, four horns, two trumpets, timpani and seven percussionists, piano, and strings. Duration is about 13 minutes.
Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera showed precocious musical gifts and began to take piano lessons at the age of seven; by fourteen he was composing, though he eventually destroyed most of his juvenilia. He graduated with highest honors from the National Conservatory of Buenos Aires in 1938; even before graduation he attracted widespread attention with the ballet score Panambi (1936), following it up a few years later with Estancia (1941). Both works dealt with Argentine life and had a strong element of musical folklore enlivened by a brilliant ear for orchestral color and a strong sense of rhythm.
World War II forced Ginastera to postpone accepting a Guggenheim grant to study in the United States, but by 1945, as a result of Péron’s rise to power, he was dismissed from his position at the national military academy. He spent the next several years in the United States, including a summer studying in Aaron Copland’s class at Tanglewood. Though he returned to Argentina and worked at reforming the musical life of his native country, he spent most of his last years abroad, in the United States and Europe, owing to continuing political unrest at home. By the late 1950s he had established an international reputation, and many of his later works were commissioned by organizations north of the Rio Grande (two of his three operas, for example, had their first performances in Washington).
In his later years, when he was widely recognized as the most important Argentine composer of the century, Ginastera composed in a more “international” style derived from the modernist traditions of the mid-century. But it was his early nationalistic ballets that first made his name and that have continued to be performed most frequently. Owing to the success of the precocious ballet score Panambi, Ginastera was selected by Lincoln Kirstein for a new ballet to be featured on the 1941 South American tour of the Ballet Caravan, with choreography by George Balanchine. The premiere immediately established the young composer as the preeminent musical interpreter of Argentine country life.
The word “estancia” refers to a farm or cattle ranch on the vast grass-covered Argentine Pampas. Ginastera felt closely connected to this landscape and once wrote “Whenever I crossed the Pampas or lived in it for a time, my spirit felt inundated by changing impressions, now joyful, now melancholy, some filled with euphoria and others replete with profound tranquility.”
The scenario of the ballet Estancia covers one day, from dawn to dusk, in the life of the ranch. There is a thread of plot about a country girl who despises the city slicker, but comes to admire him when he proves able to perform the rigorous work of the estancia. Ginastera’s music is filled with the rhythmic and melodic character of native popular song and dance. Estancia is best known as an orchestral suite made up of four dances from the ballet—Workers on the Land, Wheat Dance, Cattle Men, and the typical gaucho dance Malambo, reflecting the life of those who work the land and their celebration at day’s end. Much of the ballet generates its vigorous character from the simultaneous occurrence of 3/4 and 6/8 time, a motif that particularly dominates the macho finale Malambo, a dance performed only by men asserting their energetic virility.
Osvaldo Golijov (1960- )
Mariel for Cello and Orchestra
Osvaldo Golijov was born in La Plata, Argentina, in 1960 and lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He composed Mariel in 1999 for cello and marimba, revising it in 2008 in its present form. This later version was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Sid R. Bass for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which gave the world premiere in Carnegie Hall on January 26, 2008. Alban Gerhardt was the cello soloist and Sidney Harth-Bedoya conducted. In addition to the solo cello, the score calls for three flutes (third doubling alto flute), oboe and English horn, two clarinets (second doubling bass clarinet), two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, three percussion players, celesta, harp, and strings. Duration is about 14 minutes.
The original version of Mariel, a duet for cello and marimba, was composed in memory of a friend, Mariel Stubrim, who died in an accident. It is an elegy, a sustained response to a very unhappy event, and that character naturally carries over into its longer arrangement for cello with orchestra. The directness of the music is reflected in the composer’s note, which provides sufficient explanation for the piece:
“I wrote the original version of Mariel, for cello and marimba, when I learned of the death in an accident of my friend Mariel Stubrin, I attempted to capture that short instant before grief, in which one learns of the sudden death of a friend who was full of life: a single moment frozen forever in one’s memory, and which reverberates through the piece, in the waves and echoes of the Brazilian music that Mariel loved.”
Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Kol Nidrei: Adagio for Cello and Orchestra
Max Bruch was born in Cologne, Germany, on January 6, 1838, and died in Friedenau, near Berlin, on October 20, 1920. He composed Kol Nidrei in 1881, and it was premiered in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on October 20 that year, with Adolphe Fischer as the soloist. The work is dedicated to the cellist Robert Hausmann (1851–1909). The score calls for flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons in pairs, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, harp, timpani, and strings. Duration is about 10 minutes.
Max Bruch was once a tremendously popular composers of choral orchestral works both sacred and secular. The cantata Frithjof (1864) for baritone, male voices, and orchestra, was performed all over Europe and America for decades, as were his oratorio Arminius and Homeric concert works based on the Iliad and the Odyssey. He wrote three operas, three symphonies, and many other works in all genres. He was blessed with a fatal fluency, the ability to write beautiful music every time he put pen to paper, but a large percentage of it has proved to be no more than that, to have little staying power. Only a handful of works for violin or cello and orchestra remains in the active repertory, but these are firmly entrenched. And next to his everpopular Violin Concerto No. 1 comes the pensive cello Adagio Kol nidrei.
Because Max Bruch based one of his bestknown works on a Hebrew melody, Kol nidrei, or “All vows,” to which is sung the prayer recited at the beginning of the evening service on the Day of Atonement, it has been widely assumed that he was Jewish. In fact he was not, no more than the popular Scottish Fantasy would make him necessarily a Highlander. But he was clearly drawn to the poignant melody that he had encountered evidently from the many Jewish members of a choral society that he conducted in Berlin. As he wrote to a friend, the melody is “first-class.” When he bowed to requests from cellists to give them a work that might correspond to the popularity of his violin concerto, Bruch chose to create this darkly passionate Adagio based primarily on the Kol nidrei theme. For the contrasting central section he chose to use, “the middle section of a moving and truly magnificent song” that he found in a collection of Jewish melodies. The text of that song translates “O weep for those that wept on Babel’s stream;” it clearly continues the tone of somber lamentation that marked the opening of the piece.
The result was a richly expressive piece bringing out all of the cello’s capacity for plangent expression. The work is in two continuous parts, the beginning in D minor, almost entirely limited to the strings; the remainder of the orchestra and in particular the harp enters as the music moves to a consoling D major for the final section. The solo part is demanding, but expressive throughout, requiring the most refined control of the lyric impulse in its poignant song.
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Catfish Row: Symphonic Suite from Porgy and Bess
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 26, 1898, and died in Beverly Hills, California, on July 11, 1937. He created the suite, Catfish Row, from his opera Porgy and Bess in order to give the music a life on the concert stage, with the original vocal parts given to instruments where necessary. The score calls for two flutes (second doubling piccolo), two oboes (second doubling English horn), four clarinets (fourth doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, three horns, three trumpets, two trombones, tuba, banjo, timpani and percussion, piano, and strings. Duration is about 23 minutes.
George Gershwin’s death from a brain tumor shortly before his thirty-eighth birthday cut tragically short a brilliant career that had already produced not only a series of superb Broadway shows and dozens of classic song hits, but also a couple of everpopular concert works and what is arguably the Great American Opera. Porgy and Bess is based on a libretto by Gershwin’s brother Ira and DuBose Heyward, who had written the play and novel Porgy which serves as the basis for the work; Porgy was based on an actual colorful figure that Heyward knew from the street life of his native Charleston, South Carolina
For many years the opera was reduced to the scope of a Broadway musical in performances that omitted most of the score, concentrating only on the hit songs. But Gershwin insisted that it was an opera, and revivals from 1976 on have demonstrated beyond any doubt its theatrical effectiveness and its quality as a deeply moving human document.
At the opera’s premiere in 1935, the critics were divided. Since it was performed on Broadway, it was reviewed by the theater critics, not the music critics who could have recognized its links to great operas from Carmen to Meistersinger, and even to Wozzeck. The theater critics were abashed at the elaborate full score, sung from beginning to end. And those music critics who did write about it felt that the popular songs embedded in the score made it too “Broadway” for a “real” opera.
Because of this lackluster showing at the time, Gershwin decided to reuse some of the opera’s music created in Catfish Row (after the name of the neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina, where the opera takes place), an orchestral suite that provides a “symphonic picture” of Porgy and Bess, a concert summary of some of the main musical moments in this story that seems, on the surface, to be just the eternal triangle of two men fighting for a woman but turns out to be a picture of an entire society. The movements of the suite are entitled Catfish Row, Porgy Sings, Fugue, Hurricane, and Good Mornin,’ Sistuh. The first and last sections are particularly expressions of daily life in Catfish Row. The second movement captures the personality of the principal character (especially in his cheerful banjo song “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin,’” and the third and fourth represent two of the most dramatic highlights of the opera—a murder in a dispute over a dice game, and the violent attack on Bess by her former boyfriend, the brutish Crown.
© Steven Ledbetter (www.stevenledbetter.com)