Showcase Sommerfest 2014 - page 27

As for Chopin, you might ask, does he really have
a place on an otherwise all-Viennese program? The
answer is an emphatic yes! The spirit of the dance
infuses much of his music. Think of all those mazurkas,
polonaises and scherzos; individual pieces, his
, his
Galop Marquis
and more individual
pieces; and of course, the waltzes, whose inspiration
comes directly from his visits to Vienna at a time when
Johann Strauss, Sr., and Joseph Lanner had come into
vogue. Chopin’s waltzes are not so easily danced as
those of Strauss and Lehár; they are often regarded
more as dances of the soul—which detracts not one
whit from their appeal. Even the two concertos contain
dance-like components: the First, which we hear
tonight, has a finale that is rhythmically related to the
, while that of the Second is imbued with the
spirit and rhythm of the mazurka.
The concertos are among the various works for piano
and orchestra Chopin wrote between 1827 and 1831.
First came the one we now call No. 2 in F minor; it was
written prior to the E-minor Concerto but published
later; the E-minor Concerto, written second, was
published first, as No. 1. The E-minor Concerto received
a highly successful premiere in Warsaw on October 11,
1830, with the 21-year-old composer as soloist. It was
dedicated to the composer and pedagogue Friedrich
Kalkbrenner, whom Chopin had long admired.
allegro maestoso.
The three movements follow the
standard classical concerto format. The work opens
with an orchestral introduction that presents two
principal thematic ideas—one vigorous and sturdy, the
second gentle and flowing. Both are heard initially in
the violins. The orchestral introduction is expansively
laid out, but once the soloist enters, the orchestra plays
a decidedly subordinate role for the remainder of the
movement except for a few brief interludes to reaffirm
the principal themes.
romanze: larghetto.
In the slow second movement,
the soloist spins out a long, quasi-improvisatory
melodic line of classical elegance and beauty. A
somewhat agitated central episode disturbs the tranquil
atmosphere. Chopin described this movement as being
“of a romantic calm and rather melancholic character. It
is intended to convey the impression which one receives
when the eye rests on a beloved landscape that calls up
The brilliant
Polka celebrates Vienna’s favorite
summer festival, St. Anne’s Fête. Light-hearted and chirpy,
it is one of Strauss’ best-known polkas. The famous Strauss
son wrote it in 1852, competing directly with his equally
famous father’s
Polka of 10 years earlier.
Now to Josef, a younger brother of Johann II. Josef was
possessed with a deep melancholic streak: he stepped
only tentatively into the joyous world of waltzes, titling
his first waltz
The First and the Last
, and fully expected
to bow out quietly. But the Viennese loved it, and
he was persuaded to write more and more, to a total
of well over 200. Most of Josef’s music, alas, we will
never hear again. He and his brother Eduard promised
themselves that whoever lived longer would destroy
the other’s music so as to prevent it from going to
strangers. Eduard took Josef at his word and consigned
to flames an entire truckload of priceless manuscripts.
Fortunately for us, we still have his zippy polka
(Onward!) to remind us what a talent he was.
Josef Strauss
August 20, 1827, Vienna
July 22, 1870, Vienna
(Onward!), Polka schnell, Opus 127
Frédéric Chopin
March 1, 1810,
Zelazowa Wola, Poland
October 17, 1849, Paris
Concerto No. 1 in E minor for Piano and
Orchestra, Opus 11
july 12
A Night in Vienna
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