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SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2014 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
nov
6, 7, 8
Program Notes
Snow Maiden longs for a truly human life, and her wish is
eventually granted—with predictable results.
Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck
in 1879 that
The Snow Maiden
was one of his favorite
compositions, noting also that “spring is a wonderful
time; I was in good spirits, as I always am at the approach
of summer and three months of freedom. I think this
music is imbued with the joys of spring that I was
experiencing at the time.”
Instrumentation:
2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn,
2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones,
tuba, timpani, triangle, snare drum, bass drum,
tambourine, cymbals, harp and strings
Dmitri Shostakovich
Born:
September 25, 1906, St. Petersburg
Died:
August 9, 1975, Moscow
Concerto No. 2 in F major for Piano and
Orchestra, Opus 102
hostakovich wrote this light-hearted, carefree work
in early 1957 for his son Maxim, now a renowned
conductor and pianist, but then just 18 and a
student at the Moscow Conservatory. Maxim performed
the solo part in the world premiere on the occasion of his
19th birthday, on May 10. Years later, history repeated itself
when Maxim’s own son in turn, Dmitri, Jr., filled the same
role in a recording by I Musici de Montréal on the Chandos
label, now with Maxim on the podium.
The concerto fairly bubbles over with youthful high spirits.
Though highly extrovert and superficially virtuosic much
of the time, it is not particularly difficult in a technical
sense. Shostakovich was careful to write music playable
by a young performer. The finale even contains a joke in
the form of a passage from the famous (or infamous!)
Hanon five-finger exercise book known to nearly every
young pianist. Elsewhere are suggestions of other routines
aspiring pianists have to practice: scales, arpeggios, chords,
repeated notes, octaves, etc., all cleverly disguised in
Shostakovich’s concerto as “real” music.
The opening passage for the soloist is a comically rigid line
so simple that a young child could play it. This is followed
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Born:
May 7, 1840, Votkinsk, district of Viatka, Russia
Died:
November 6, 1893, St. Petersburg
Selections from The Snow Maiden
n 1873, Moscow’s Maly Theater closed for renovations.
Operations were moved to the neighboring Bolshoi
Theater, which invited one of Russia’s leading
dramatists, Alexander Ostrovsky (1823-1886), to write
a play that would take advantage of the Bolshoi’s music
and dance departments as well. Tchaikovsky, then 33,
was asked to provide incidental music for the production.
Although he was employed at the Conservatory
teaching 27 hours a week, he took on the assignment
and completed some 80 minutes of music for
The Snow
Maiden
—19 solo vocal, choral and orchestral pieces—in
just three weeks, dashing off numbers as Ostrovsky turned
out pages of text. In fact, Tchaikovsky completed his part
of the arrangement even before Ostrovsky finished his
play. The first performance was given on May 23, 1873.
Tchaikovsky intended to return to the score and make an
opera out of it at some vague point, but Rimsky-Korsakov
got there first, in 1882. Tchaikovsky was devastated, and
such was the success of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera that
Tchaikovsky never did create an opera from this material.
He did, however, recycle some of its music into another
set of incidental music for
Hamlet
in 1891. (
The Snow
Maiden
, incidentally, was not the first Ostrovsky play
that brought forth music from Tchaikovsky; in 1864, he
had written an overture for
The Storm
. As with
The Snow
Maiden
later on, Tchaikovsky intended to expand it into
an opera, but again someone else got there first, one
Vladimir Kashperov, in 1867.)
Both Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov based their music
on the same Russian fairy tale, both incorporated folk
melodies, and each wrote a “Tumblers’ Dance” that became
the hit of the score. In this tale, we find elements of Hans
Christian Andersen’s
Little Mermaid
and of Puccini’s
Turandot
. The maiden (Snegurochka) is the offspring of
Winter (or Frost) and Spring. She appears to be human,
but she has a heart of ice. If this were ever to melt, she
would cease to exist. This means she can never fall in love,
nor bask in the rays of the sun. Like the Little Mermaid, the
i
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