Showcase January-February 2015 - page 40

Program Notes
12, 13, 14
Academy Award nominations for
The Private Lives of
Elizabeth and Essex
The Sea Hawk
. His last movie,
from 1946, was that still-stirring drama
, and
the Cello Concerto that Paul Henreid plays in the film
became a concert piece in its own right.
a concerto for the concert hall
After the war, Korngold came back to composing for the
concert hall—and the Violin Concerto marked his return.
At the urging of the great Polish violinist Bronislaw
Hubermanm, Korngold composed the concerto in the
summer of 1945, drawing on material from his film scores
Anthony Adverse
Another Dawn
(both 1936),
The Prince and the Pauper
(1937) and
The work, dedicated to Alma Mahler-Werfel, was first
performed on February 15, 1947, by Jascha Heifetz with
Vladimir Golschmann and the St. Louis Symphony.
moderato nobile.
The solo violin is immediately present,
and with a glorious, eloquent theme that rises through
almost two octaves in just five notes, a melody Korngold
rescued from his score for
Another Dawn
. After a
transition of quicker music, a new theme arrives, no
less lyric than the first, and beautifully supported in the
orchestra. This one is taken from
, one in the long
series of Warner biopics starring Paul Muni.
The second movement’s principal theme comes
Anthony Adverse
, a movie with Frederic March
and Olivia de Havilland. Korngold, along with Gale
Sondergaard (best supporting actress) and Tony Gaudio
(photographer) won Oscars for this one. In its demand for
an elegantly poised cantabile and with its pages of suave
noodling, this
gives a perfect picture of what
Heifetz was all about.
finale: allegro assai vivace.
The finale is a playful rondo,
whose second theme—the first one we hear when the
music emerges from its gigue-like beginning—is the title
music for
The Prince and the Pauper
. And no question
about it, Korngold knows how to write a bring-the-house-
down ending.
solo violin with orchestra comprising
2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (1 doubling
English horn), 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons
(1 doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 2 trumpets,
trombone, timpani, cymbals, deep bell in F, gong,
bass drum, glockenspiel, xylophone,
vibraphone, celeste, harp and strings
Program note excerpted from the late
Michael Steinberg
The Concerto: A Listener’s Guide
(Oxford University Press,
1998), used with permission.
Paul Hindemith
November 16, 1895, Hanau, Germany
December 28, 1963, Frankfurt
Concert Music for Brass and Strings, Opus 50
aul Hindemith established his reputation during
the 1920s with a series of daring short operas and
compositions he called
, “chamber music”
scored for small ensembles of differing instrumentation.
Later that decade he widened his tonal palette and began
to write what he called
: large-scale works
intended for performance by orchestras in concert halls.
And at just that point came a commission from America
that led to the most famous of all his “concert music” pieces.
In 1930 the Boston Symphony Orchestra was about to
celebrate its 50th anniversary, and its music director
Serge Koussevitzky commissioned a series of works to
mark the occasion. Those commissions went to some
of the most famous composers of the day (Stravinsky,
Prokofiev and Respighi among them), but a few promising
younger composers were also chosen. Hindemith, then
34, was considered something of an
: with
his operas on racy topics, he had scandalized audiences
in Europe—including the prudish young Adolf Hitler.
But Koussevitzky took a risk and awarded a commission
to Hindemith, who composed his Concert Music for
String Orchestra and Brass Instruments in November
and December 1930. Following its premiere on April 3,
1931, it promptly became one of the most successful of
the Boston Symphony’s distinguished 50th-anniversary
Koussevitzky stipulated that the commissioned works
be for orchestra, but he was willing to allow composers
some leeway, and Hindemith scored the Concert Music
for an orchestra including just a string section and 12
brass players: four horns, four trumpets, three trombones
and tuba. This meant that Hindemith would forego the
subtle spectrum of colors of a woodwind section and the
sonic punch of percussion and limit himself to two quite
different sonorities—the rich, resonant sound of strings
and the powerful, golden sound of brass.
The Concert Music
is a concise work, consisting of just
two movements of about nine minutes each. It is also
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