Showcase March-April 2015 - page 51

and then suddenly break off. There is a return to the
original mood suggesting the sacred river and the ‘caves
of ice.’ ”
3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes,
English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons,
4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani,
bass drum, cymbals, gong, tambourine,
2 harps, piano, celesta and strings
Excerpted from a program note by
Mary Ann Feldman
Sergei Rachmaninoff
April 1, 1873, Semyonovo, district of Starorusky,
March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills, California
Concerto No. 3 in D minor for Piano and
Orchestra, Opus 30
n October 1906 Rachmaninoff moved from Moscow to
Dresden with his wife and their daughter, Irina, aiming
to take himself out of circulation. He was a busy pianist
and conductor—he had just concluded two years as
principal conductor at the Bolshoi Opera—and he longed
for time just to write. But as offers to play and conduct
kept coming in, he decided to accept an invitation to visit
the United States. It was for this tour that he wrote his
Third Piano Concerto, and on November 28, 1909, he
introduced it with Walter Damrosch and the New York
Symphony. Soon after he played it again, and to his much
greater satisfaction, with the New York Philharmonic
under Gustav Mahler, another conductor struggling to
find time to compose.
allegro ma non tanto.
Rachmaninoff invented arresting
beginnings for all his works for piano and orchestra. In
the first measure of the Third Concerto we find a quality
we do not usually associate with Rachmaninoff: simplicity.
For two measures, clarinet, bassoon, horn, timpani and
muted strings set up a pulse against which the piano
sings—or is it speaks?—a long and quiet melody, the two
hands in octaves as in a Schubert piano duet. It is a lovely
inspiration, that melody unfolding in subtle variation, just
a few notes being continually redisposed rhythmically.
Once only, to the extent of a single eighth note, does
Charles Tomlinson Griffes
September 17, 1884, Elmira, New York
April 8, 1920, New York City
The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan, Opus 8
harles Tomlinson Griffes, who spent his entire
career teaching in a prep school, has been hailed
as the great American impressionist. No American
work as dream-like, atmospheric and ambiguous as
Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan
had been heard here when
the Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered the score in
its original orchestral version in November 1919. Soon
the work was repeated in Chicago and New York, but
the composer did not long outlive his triumph: suffering
from pneumonia, he died at the age of 35. His music was
bordering on atonality; no one knows where he might
have advanced from there.
Like other Americans of his generation, Griffes had begun
his career with studies in Germany, where he worked
for a few months under Wagner’s disciple Engelbert
Humperdinck. When he returned to the U.S., becoming
director of music at the Hackley School in Tarrytown,
New York, he turned away from German romanticism and
absorbed the music of Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin. These
influences, plus the exoticism of the Far East, determined
the nature of
The Pleasure-Dome
, which took form as a
piano piece in 1912.
The verses of Coleridge prefixed to the score—“In Xanadu
did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree,” etc.—
are less a program than a guide to the atmosphere of the
music, spurring our imaginations as much as the strange
palace aroused the composer.
In the exotic chords of the beginning we hear the piano
used as an orchestral instrument (Griffes was among
the first Americans to do this). The composer himself
has described his imagery. Regarding the tremulous
introduction, he wrote: “The vague, foggy beginning
suggests the sacred river, running ‘through caverns
measureless to man down to a sunless sea.’ ” Next he
suggests “the gardens with fountains and ‘sunny spots of
greenery,’ ” heard in the sinuous lines introduced by flute
and oboe over quiet strings. Then: “From inside come
sounds of dancing revelry, which increase to a wild climax
23, 24
Program Notes
1...,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50 52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,...64
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