Michael Miropolsky Memoir

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Soloist Yuka Sasaki, pianist

 

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On Oct. 24, Yuka Sasaki will perform the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major with the Cascade Symphony Orchestra.

Sasaki has garnered glowing concert reviews and top prizes at competitions from the U.S. and abroad. She began playing piano at age 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa before moving back to her native Japan, where her teachers included the renowned Kazuko Yasukawa and Henriette Puig-Roget at the world famous Toho Gakuen School of Music (Tokyo), where she earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance.

While living in Japan, she won the NHK Debut Award in Tokyo. Ms. Sasaki pursued her graduate studies with the legendary Bela Siki at the University of Washington where she received both her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in piano performance. During this time she was awarded the Mortar Board Alumnae and Brechemin Scholarships, as well as the Ladies Musical Club of Washington Scholarship. Ms. Sasaki continued her studies with such esteemed pianists as Randolph Hokanson in Seattle and Seymour Bernstein in New York.

First Prize winner of the Northwest Young Artist Piano Competition, Ms. Sasaki has also won top prizes at the Trani International Piano Competition (Italy), the Nena Plant-Widerman Piano Competition (Louisiana), as well as First Prize in both the Bushell and the Ladies Musical Club competitions (Seattle).

Yuka Sasaki has concertized extensively including recitals at the Teatro Civico and Domenico Sarro in Italy, the Piccolo Mondo International Music Festival in Switzerland, and in Japan at the Yokohama Kenmin Hall, OJI Hall, and Tokyo’s prestigious Suntory Hall, where she received praise as possessing a “…virtuosic technique, fantastic musical temperament with a beautiful sound” (Ongakuno Tomo magazine, Japan).

As a concerto soloist, her appearances include performances with the Okazaki Symphony, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Philharmonic and the University of Washington Orchestra.

A dedicated music educator, Yuka Sasaki performs recitals to broaden the classical music audience of all ages at such venues as the Frye Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Asian Art Museum on behalf of the Seattle Music Teachers Association.

Currently on the music faculty at Seattle Central Community College, she also maintains a private studio in Bellevue from which her students have won numerous awards, and been accepted to some of the world’s foremost music schools and conservatories.

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October Concert Program Notes

Overture to The Merry Widow

Franz Lehár

Born – April 30, 1870 in Komárno, Hungary

Died – October 24, 1948 in Bad Ischl, Germany

This comic operetta was premiered at the Theatre an der Wien in Vienna on December 30, 1905.

Franz Lehár studied violin at the Prague conservatory and pursued composition on his own. He served as bandmaster for the Austro-Hungarian army and navy and eventually found employment in Vienna, a rich cultural center with a high demand for music, operas, and entertainment.

Lehár’s name was suggested when an in-house composer for the Theater an der Wien produced an unsatisfactory score for the Merry Widow libretto. Although the theater manager doubted that a Viennese composer could produce an authentic-sounding Parisian score, when Lehár presented him with a bubbly galop after only a few hours, he was completely convinced. The operetta was instantly popular, ran for over 400 consecutive performances, and became Lehár’s most famous work. The overture perfectly previews the operetta, full of intrigue, lost love, and renewed passion.

Danse Macabre, op. 40

Camille Saint-Saëns

Born – October 9, 1835 in Paris, France

Died – December 16, 1921 in Algiers, Algeria

This piece was written for voice and piano in 1872, but later orchestrated. It was first performed in Paris in 1874.

Saint-Saëns was a musical innovator when it came to form and special effects. The tone poem, unlike a classically structured work, follows a very specific plot. Based on a poem in which the Devil appears with his fiddle at midnight to raise the dead and accompany their dancing until dawn, Saint-Saëns uses rather silly, yet novel, musical ideas to convey a spooky scene.

When the harp strikes midnight, the devil tunes up his fiddle. The score calls for the top two strings of the violin to be tuned in a tritone, known as the “Devil’s interval” in early Baroque music. Joyfully-dancing skeletons are depicted by the bony xylophone, an instrument so new that Saint-Saëns wrote in his score where to purchase one. The Dies Irae – usually a somber Gregorian chant describing the “day of judgment” – becomes a cheerful tune played by the woodwinds. Suddenly a rooster crows, and dawn breaks. All the ghouls and ghosts return to their graves and the devil slinks away.

Night on Bald Mountain

Modest Mussorgsky, arranged by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Born – March 21, 1839 in Karevo, Russia

Died – March 28, 1881 in Saint Petersburg, Russia

This piece was completed on St. John’s Eve, June 23, 1867, but not published until 1885. It was introduced to audiences in 1886.

Mussorgsky’s life was full of turmoil and mental breakdowns. Self-taught as a composer, with a flair for innovation and an almost violent use of texture and color, he began many projects only to fail to complete them or have them performed. One such project is St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain, based on Russian mythology describing a Witches’ Sabbath. Mussorgsky was immensely proud of his work and declared that it was not to be rearranged in any way, but the piece was met with sharp criticism and remained unperformed until after Mussorgsky’s death.

Luckily, Rimsky-Korsakov recognized the value of this early Russian tone poem and rewrote the work. The piece opens with ominous strings: a gathering of witches, sorcerers and spirits, which Mussorgsky described as “Subterranean sounds of supernatural voices. Appearance of the spirits of darkness.” The music ebbs and swells, contrasting the cries of the woodwinds to howls of the brass as more spirits join the dark celebration. At the height of the terrifying night, Mussorgsky wrote “the bell of the village church, sounding in the distance, disperses the spirits of darkness.” A clarinet heralds the break of dawn and all is calm.

Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major

Franz Liszt

Born – October 22, 1811 in Raiding, Hungary

Died – July 31, 1886 in Bayreuth, Germany

The first sketches and drafts for this concerto date from 1832, and the work was premiered at the Grand Palace of the Duke in Weimar, Germany on February 17, 1855, with Liszt playing the solo and Hector Berlioz conducting.

             A flamboyant showman and a contemplative artist, Liszt was a man of stark contrasts. He was at ease performing for thousands of fans in crowded concert halls, yet renounced his lavish lifestyle when he took up holy orders from the Catholic Church and became a priest. In his compositions, he created new musical forms when the old ones could not contain his virtuosity; but he also struck a balance between the piano soloist and the symphonic orchestra.

In his Première Concerto Symphonique pour Piano et Orchestre, he intended to write a work that was symphonic in nature, with four movements played without pause and intelligent dialog between the orchestra and the piano. The colors and textures range from subtle to gaudy, harmonies from simple to complex and unresolved. From the delicate conversation between the clarinet, bassoon, viola, and piano in the first movement to the bombastic fanfares of the brass in the fourth movement, Liszt ensured that his concerto would carry his own signature style along with the musical substance of the old masters.

The first musical motive, a seven-note theme in the strings, returns many times throughout the concerto in various modulations, tempos, and colors. Each time it returns, it leads the listener in a new and unexpected direction: thundering octaves, an imposing cadenza, a new lyrical theme, or a floating recitative. When asked what this theme meant, Liszt sang his own lyrics: “Das versteht Ihr alle nicht, ha-ha!” which translates to “None of you understand this, ha-ha! ” with the “ha-ha” firmly punctuated by the winds and brass.

The second movement, a recitative, focuses on a piano melody unfolding over muted strings. Just as the seven-note theme seems to be bringing the concerto full circle, a triangle breaks the reverie. Like a classical scherzo, the springing third movement is light and rhythmic, prominently featuring the delicate percussion instrument throughout.

A cadenza connects the third and fourth movements and the theme returns with full martial treatment. In true Liszt fashion, the march features all the dazzling pyrotechnics the pianist is capable of while fitting together themes from the previous three movements in a combination of genius, poetry, and the element of surprise.

Bolero

Maurice Ravel

Born – March 7, 1875 in Ciboure, France

Died – December 28, 1937 in Paris, France

Bolero was commissioned for a ballet troupe in Paris and first performed at the Paris Opera on November 22, 1928 with Walter Straram conducting. Arturo Toscanini premiered the concert version on November 14, 1929 with the New York Philharmonic.

While on vacation near his hometown, Ravel tapped out a melody on his piano, asking his colleague if the tune had a “certain insistent quality.” The tune became the foundation for Bolero, an exercise in dynamics and color, which Ravel never intended to become popular. At the debut, Ravel refused to stand and be acknowledged for the audience applause; backstage, he told Toscanini that it was too fast. Toscanini replied that his tempo would be the only saving grace of the piece, which was otherwise too simple.

Beginning pianissimo with only the thin texture of snare drum and flute solo, Ravel gradually builds the melody into grotesque exaggeration with full strings, winds, brass, and extended percussion section, including a crashing tam-tam. Interesting colors abound: the saxophone and oboe d’amour contribute to specific rounds of the theme. The intriguing melody echoes Spanish and Arabic rhythms and intervals but is unique to Ravel’s style. How to end a piece that has no development, only repetitions in C major? Ravel abruptly modulates to E major and the melody immediately implodes upon itself, crashing to a sudden resolution. Ravel sardonically said, “I’ve written only one masterpiece, Bolero. Unfortunately, there’s no music in it.” Surely audiences around the world would disagree.

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Holiday Concert Program Notes

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Overture to Die Fledermaus, Kaiser Waltzes, op. 437, and Pizzicato Polka

Johann Strauss

Born – October 25, 1825 in Vienna, Austria

Died – June 3, 1899 in Vienna, Austria

Pizzicato Polka was written in 1869 and was first performed on tour in Russia. With Strauss conducting, Die Fledermaus was premiered on April 5, 1874 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. The Kaiser Waltzes were first performed in Berlin on October 21, 1889.

Every year in Vienna thousands of balls, masques, and celebrations were held, and each event required new music; hence, Strauss was kept busy composing for all occasions. Indeed, Wagner affectionately referred to Strauss as “the music factory of the century.”

The Overture to Die Fledermaus is a potpourri of themes recalling memorable moments from the operetta: a masquerade ball interrupted by the chiming of a clock; a falsely tragic farewell mocked by a buoyant polka; the rhythmically playful “Pocket Watch” duet; and a waltz theme grand enough to be featured twice.

Crafted with Viennese elegance and grandeur, the Kaiser Waltzes demonstrate how Strauss transported the waltz from the dance hall to the concert hall. Ambiguously titled in order to appease the egos of both Wilhelm II of Germany and Franz Josef of Austria, this set of waltzes is introduced by a delicate yet dignified march. The coda recapitulates themes from the march, the waltzes and the solo cello, and ends with a fanfare fit for a king.

Written jointly with his brother Josef on a trip to Russia in 1869 and included in almost every concert during the tour, the Pizzicato Polka’s distinguishing characteristic is that all the string instruments are plucked rather than bowed. This creates a playful, humorous rendition of the popular dance form.                                                                                                                                    

Chanukah Klezmer Medley

Arranged by Robin Seletsky – Orchestrated by Ed Marcus

Featuring a collection of popular and beloved Hanukah melodies, this medley – originally featuring a choir and a Klezmer clarinet solo – echoes the dance and vocal music of Eastern Europe, in particular Romania. With melodies that express a range of emotions from sorrow to joy, weeping or laughing, music plays an important role in Jewish ceremonies and celebrations.

Sleigh Ride and Chicken Reel

Leroy Anderson

Born – June 29, 1908 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Died – May 18, 1975 in Woodbury, Connecticut

Sleigh Ride was first recorded in 1949 by the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler. Chicken Reel was recorded for the first time in 1992.

                   Best known for his catchy tunes and playful orchestrations, Leroy Anderson was a linguist specializing in Scandinavian and German languages. Although he was Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence at the Pentagon, his military duties did not prevent a successful musical career with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Work on Sleigh Ride started during a dry July in 1946, while Anderson was digging trenches at his summer cottage. Originally intended to convey a winter scene, the piece soon became associated with the Christmas holiday and remains as one of the top ten Christmas pieces today.

Anderson’s penchant for American folk music lead him to orchestrate Chicken Reel, a dance tune written in 1910 by Joseph M. Daly. This piece was used in many early cartoons for barnyard scenes.

Selections from The Nutcracker

Peter Illich Tchaikovsky

Born – May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia

Died – November 6, 1893 in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Conducted by the composer, the ballet from which these selections are taken was first performed as a suite on March 19, 1892 at an assembly of the Saint Petersburg branch of the Musical Society. The full ballet was premiered on December 18, 1892.

Although the ballet was not a success at the premier, Tchaikovsky’s suite of the most recognizable and characteristic dances from The Nutcracker was immediately popular. Each dance is characterized by a distinctive featured instrument and tone color: the brass sounds of the March, a lively string melody for the Trepak (Russian dance), the glockenspiel and piccolo of the Chinese Dance, and a trio of flutes for the Dance of the Mirlitons.

Auditorium Festival March

Victor Herbert

Born – February 1, 1859 in Dublin, Ireland

Died – May 26, 1924 in New Haven, Connecticut

This piece was premiered in 1901 at the 12th anniversary of the Chicago Auditorium Theatre with Victor Herbert conducting the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra.

Irish-born composer, conductor and cellist, Victor Herbert bridged the gap between the Viennese operetta styles of Franz Lehr and Johann Strauss and the Broadway musicals of the 1930’s. Best known for his operettas, including Babes in Toyland, he was a prolific composer of two operas, a cantata, 43 operettas, 31 orchestral works, and numerous other pieces for choir and solo instruments. He led the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra with his signature flair – attracting audiences and building the orchestra’s reputation-and later started the Victor Herbert Orchestra.

 

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January Program Notes

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The Iron Foundry, op. 19

Alexander Vasilyevich Mosolov

Born- August 11, 1900 in Kiev, Ukraine

Died – July 11, 1973 in Moscow, Russia

This piece was premiered in Moscow on December 4, 1927, in a concert commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

During the rapid rise of the Soviet Union, a new culture of art, music, and dance replaced the old Romantic styles of the 19th century. Mosolov was a pioneer for modern music in Russia and abroad. Subtitled “Music of Machines,” this industrial toccata was embraced at its high-profile debut, but due to conflicts with Soviet authorities, it was not performed again in Russia until 1975.

Inspired by the precision of machines and the spirit of revolution, Mosolov originally intended for this piece to be the opening act of a ballet entitled Steel. The jagged melodies, sharp percussion gestures, and machine-like rhythmic patterns predate the minimalist movement.            Although this futuristic piece became Mosolov’s signature work and was quickly recognized by conductors throughout Europe as the new representation of Soviet art music, Mosolov was sentenced to the gulag prison camps for eight years followed by five years of exile and never regained the popularity he enjoyed with his biggest hit.

Morceau de Concert, op. 94 for Horn and Orchestra

Camille Saint-Saëns

Born – October 9, 1835 in Paris, France

Died – December 16, 1921 in Algiers, Algeria

This work was composed in 1887 as a competition piece for students at the Paris Conservatoire and was dedicated to Henri Chaussier, winner of the Premier Prix du Conservatoire in 1880.

Saint-Saëns was the quintessential Renaissance man. A child prodigy, he performed all of the Beethoven piano sonatas at age six and then became an accomplished organist, composer, astronomer, philosopher, mathematician, historian, author, extensive traveler and talented caricaturist.

Although he held a single teaching post in Paris for only five years, he influenced the next generation of composers, including Faure, Ravel, and Stravinsky. What set him apart from his contemporaries – Liszt, Schumann, and Wagner – was his reactionary composition style. He composed in almost all forms of music, but relied on traditional classical structures to convey them.

Like a miniature concerto, the piece begins with a bright allegro – a set of short variations. Following a calmer adagio theme, it finishes with a virtuosic allegro finale.

Horn Concerto No.3, K. 447 in E flat major

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born – January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria

Died – December 5, 1791 in Vienna, Austria

The exact composition date of this concerto is unknown, but it is estimated between 1783 and 1791. Like his other three concertos for horn, Mozart wrote this concerto for his friend, Joseph Leutgeb.

On tour with his father in London, Mozart professed his love of the French horn at age eight! In Mozart’s time, the horn was a relatively new instrument and was very different from the modern French horn. Due to the lack of valves on the 18th century instrument, one could only play notes based on the overtone progression and fill in the remaining notes by adjusting the position of the hand inside the bell. Key changes were facilitated by changing out the “crooks” of the instrument, altering the length of the horn itself. Consequently, horn concertos were considered very challenging and Mozart’s friend, Leutgeb, was one of the few horn players who could perform them.

The solo horn has a simpler role than the solo instrument in Mozart’s more intricate piano and violin concertos. The rich golden tone of the horn states a noble idea and the orchestra fills in the gaps. Following the first movement in standard sonata form, a lyrical larghetto is aptly titled “Romance”. The final movement recalls the original use of the horn by hunters and evokes a bucolic, rustic atmosphere.

Symphony No. 6, op. 74 in B minor “Pathetique”

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Born – May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia

Died – November 6, 1893 in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Tchaikovsky’s final symphony was composed between February and August 1893, and premiered on October 28, 1893. Tchaikovsky conducted the first performance nine days before his death, at the Hall of Nobles in Saint Petersburg.

Originally to be titled “Program Symphony”, the meaning of Tchaikovsky’s final symphony is shrouded in mystery. When asked, Tchaikovsky said it had “a program saturated with subjective feeling” which would “remain a mystery to everyone.”

However, there are many clues. The opening rises from the murky depths of the orchestra; a somber bassoon solo emerges from a muddle of bass tones. This tone overshadows the rest of the first movement, even as the principle melody emerges. Inspired by the Flower Song from Carmen, the melody is to be played tenderly and end with a nearly inaudible pppppp dynamic. A whirlwind development – including a trombone incantation of the Orthodox mass for the dead – accelerates but never resolves. The lyrical melody gloriously returns and the movement ends with a brass chorale over plucked strings.

The second movement flows like a waltz, but with the intentional omission of one beat in every other measure, it remains an unbalanced dance in 5/4 meter. The brilliant third movement is a triumphant march undercut with melancholy and no victory in sight.

The fourth movement opens in the same tempo as the first, hesitant and fearful. Completely opposite to the victorious endings of his previous symphonies, the finale begins with a cry of anguish, and despite the warm melodic strains from the violins against the ostinato heartbeat from the horns, the mood darkens until resignation is inevitable. An ominously soft tam-tam beat lends a sense of impending doom. The symphony ends as it began, incredibly fragile and bleak with despair.

Whatever the program of the symphony is, it is clear that it was very close to Tchaikovsky; he wrote that it was “the best thing I ever composed or ever shall compose” and “I love it as I have never before loved one of my musical offspring.”

 

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March Concert Program Notes

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Overture to The Tsar’s Bride

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Born – March 18, 1844 in Trikhvin, Russia

Died – June 21, 1908 in Liubensk, Russia

 The premiere of this opera took place at the Solodovnikov Theatre, Moscow, on November 3, 1899, conducted by Mikhail Ippolotov-Ivanov.

Rimsky-Korsakov is known for his orchestral pieces; however, his true talent was opera, with much of his best writing occurring in overtures and opera scenes.

The Tsar’s Bride, his tenth opera, was a departure from the romance and Russian folklore typically found in his work. This dramatic opera takes place during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and has no happy ending. The overture reflects a dark, restless mood, with dramatic Russian folk themes that morph into an ardent love song and eventually resolve to a calm waltz.

Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21

Edouard Lalo

Born – January 27, 1823 in Lille, France

Died – April 22, 1892 in Paris, France

This concerto was premiered on February 7, 1875, in Paris, with Pablo de Sarasate as soloist and Edouard Colonne conducting.

In 19th century France, orchestral pieces and operas with a Spanish flair were in demand. Traditional dance rhythms that evoke finger-snapping and castanets – flamenco and the habañera – and impassioned themes with heroic leaps and sultry slides make Lalo’s music idiomatically Spanish. An adept violinist and violist himself, Lalo was inspired by Sarasate, who performed with a natural Spanish flair.

After a brief orchestral introduction, the solo violin explodes onto center stage with a bold leap of a fifth, a 3+2 rhythm evocative of a tango, and gypsy-style virtuosity. A swooning second theme changes the mood, but the stern intentions return in full Iberian color at the end of the movement.

“Romance” from Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22

Henryk Wieniawski

Born – July 10, 1835 in Lublin, Poland

Died – March 31, 1880 in Moscow, Russia

This concerto was premiered on November 27, 1862, in St. Petersburg, with Wieniawski playing the violin and Anton Rubinstein conducting.

Wieniawski entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of eight and became recognized as a world-class violin virtuoso at eleven. Tragically, his demanding touring schedule led to poor health and eventually heart failure at age 44. He was described as a superb story-teller, and in addition to great technical demands and unforgettable melodies, his intelligence and wit shine through all of his works.

Combining the appeal of Russian and French writing with Paganini’s virtuosity, this concerto was dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate. The second movement, titled “Romance”, features one of the most beautiful melodies ever written for the violin.

 Zapateado, Op. 23, no. 2

Pablo de Sarasate

Born – March 10, 1844 in Pamplona, Spain

Died – September 20, 1908 in Biarritz, France

This piece was published as a part of a collection of Spanish dances in 1880 and frequently performed by Sarasate during his tours around the world.

Sarasate began his career as a violinist at the age of six, and was sent to study at the Paris Conservatory at twelve. On tours throughout Europe, North and South America, he dazzled audiences with his technical mastery, pure tone, and his natural Spanish style.

Due to a rotation of foreign rulers, Spanish musical tradition was influenced by Italian opera, Gypsy and Jewish music, West African rhythms, and even Middle Eastern and Asian traditions. This mix of cultures resulted in a Spanish idiom that was markedly different from anything else in Europe.

Zapateado is extracted from Sarasate’s four books of Spanish dances, a set of encores showcasing music considered too provincial by classical Spanish composers.

Valse-Scherzo for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 34

Peter Illich Tchaikovsky

Born – May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia

Died – November 6, 1893 in Saint Petersburg, Russia

This piece was debuted by Polish violinist Stanisław Barcewicz on September 20, 1878, with Nikolai Rubinstein conducting the Russian Symphony Concert at the Trocadéro in Paris.

In the latter half of the 19th century, there was no dance more popular than the waltz; and although many composers were fervent admirers, none could orchestrate and provide as much variety to the dance as Tchaikovsky.

The Valse-Scherzo was the last work for violin that Tchaikovsky completed before the violin concerto. Following a brilliant opening theme in double stops, a melodic section foretells the coming concerto. An extended cadenza of violin fireworks leads back to the first theme with even greater energy and dazzle.

Symphony no. 6 in D Major, Opus 60

Antonín Dvořák

Born – September 8, 1841 in Nelahozeves, Bohemia

Died – May 1, 1904 in Prague, Czechoslovakia

Adolf Čech conducted the premiere of this symphony with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra on March 25, 1881 in Prague.

Always in the shadow of his contemporaries – Brahms, Liszt, and Wagner – Dvořák struggled many years for recognition. When at 31 he submitted a few piano pieces to a scholarship panel, Brahms, one of the jurors, was greatly impressed with the young Czech composer. Thus began the lifelong relationship between Dvořák and Brahms.

Enabled by a commission from the esteemed conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, Hans Richter, the sixth symphony proved Dvořák’s complete mastery of the symphonic tradition, with just enough folksy Czech flair to remind Viennese audiences of the composer’s Bohemian origins.

There are several similarities between Dvořák’s sixth symphony and Brahms’ second symphony: both are in D Major, pastoral in nature, have first movements in triple meter, and are intensely expressive yet contained within formal structures. However, there are many elements that are uniquely Dvořák’s: the contour of the cello melody in the first movement; the nocturnal quality of the second movement; the unabashedly Czech furiant (a brisk dance characterized by rhythms of 2-against-3 ) in the third movement; and a fourth movement that is harmonically structured like Brahms and Beethoven, but with Dvořák’s own contributions, including a brass chorale and playful syncopations in the coda.

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May Concert Program Notes

Cascade Symphony

Marche Slave, Op. 31

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Born – May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia

Died – November 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg, Russia

This march was written for a concert conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein on November 17, 1876.

In 1875, a chain of events in small Balkan nations sparked a major war that eventually involved Russia. A year into the war, Slavic sympathizer and director of the Moscow Conservatory, Nikolai Rubenstein organized a benefit concert to provide relief for Russian soldiers and families wounded in Serbia. Asked to compose a piece for the occasion, Tchaikovsky responded with this Serbian-Russian March on National Slavonic Themes.

The March is programmatic in nature, with specific national folk melodies marking the sections. The opening funeral march portrays the Turkish oppression of the Serbs. The Russians respond to the Serbs’ cries for help with a simple rustic dance that culminates in a solemn version of “God Save the Czar.” A tempestuous reprise of the Serbian plea leads to a triumphant refrain of folk melodies, and the entire brass section is featured in the Russian national anthem.

According to an observer, at this sound of unequivocal victory, “The whole audience rose to its feet, many jumped up onto their seats: cries of “bravo” and “hurrah” were mingled together. The March had to be repeated … It was one of the most stirring moments of 1876. Many in the hall were weeping.”

Concerto for Cello in C major

Franz Joseph Haydn

Born – March 31, 1732 in Rohrau, Austria

Died – May 31, 1809 in Vienna, Austria

This concerto was composed between 1762 and 1765, most likely for cellist Joseph Weigl of the Esterházy orchestra. It was “premiered” by cellist Miloš Sádlo on May 19, 1962 at the Prague Spring Music Festival with Charles Mackerras conducting the Czech Radio Symphony.

Haydn’s first cello concerto, the earliest known concerto for cello, was discovered in the Prague National Museum in 1961. Only by matching the orchestral parts of the mystery concerto to a few notes written by Haydn in a reference catalog was it identified. As neither Mozart nor Beethoven wrote a cello concerto, Haydn’s contribution to the cello repertoire is valuable, indeed.

Well-paid, remotely located, and surrounded by the finest musicians the Hungarian Esterhazy family could afford, Haydn was given free rein to compose as many pieces as he could.

The concerto fluidly combines typical Baroque ritornello form and the emerging Classical sonata form. A regal first movement features sparkling dotted rhythms, recalling the overtures of Baroque tradition. The second movement features one of Haydn’s most beautiful themes, an aria for cello. The third movement sounds most like traditional Haydn, witty and down to earth. It is a dialog between the solo cello and recurring orchestral themes, combining challenging passagework with melodic simplicity.

 Pictures at an Exhibition

Modest Mussorgsky

Born – March 21, 1839 in Karevo, Russia

Died – March 28, 1881 in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in June 1874 as a cycle of character pieces for piano. Conductor Serge Koussevitzky commissioned Maurice Ravel to orchestrate the work and conducted its premiere in Paris on October 19, 1922.

Mussorgsky was the black sheep of the Russian Mighty Five group of composers. His style was rough and unpolished, with muddy harmonies, grotesquely lumbering rhythms, angular melodic lines, and coarse textures.   Sharp criticism from friends and colleagues negatively influenced his output; he wrote quickly, almost with reckless abandon, and though he started many projects, he completed relatively few.

Shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of his close friend, Victor Hartmann, Mussorgsky was inspired by an exhibit of his paintings, costumes, architectural designs and sketches for ornamental household objects.

The opening promenade depicts Mussorgsky’s stroll from one picture to another. As he reflects upon their friendship, his changing moods range from brisk and direct to pensive or even depressed.

The first picture “Gnomus,” is Hartmann’s design for a Christmas nutcracker, a comical yet slightly disturbing gnome. Mussorsgky’s bizarre harmonies and unsingable melodies mimic the gnome’s “droll movements with savage shrieks.

“The Old Castle” is a watercolor of a troubadour serenading in the foreground of a French ruin, with the doleful melody played by an alto saxophone.

Hartmann was inspired by toddlers playing while their nannies gossiped at the “Tuileries.” Mussorgsky recreated the scene with a fanciful and mischievous woodwind scherzo and a graceful string trio.

Originally, Mussorgsky intended to begin the next piece fortissimo, but Ravel opted to depict the ponderous ox cart in “Bydlo.” The solo tuba effectively portrays the weight of the turning wheels and treading hooves as it comes close but continues on its way without pause.

The sparkling scherzo, “Ballet of Chicks in their Shells,” was inspired by a costume design for a children’s ballet.

Mussorgsky combined two drawings from his personal collection into a single picture, “Samuel Goldenberg and Shmuel.” Goldenberg wears fine furs and is portrayed by opulent strings and woodwinds; Shmuel , a poor man, is a thin trumpet cry, and the two join together in an unbalanced dialog, both commanding and wheedling.

Brilliant splashes of color accompany the bustle of “The Market Place at Limoges,” where the chatter of vegetable vendors is full of arguments and interruptions, with abrupt exclamations emitting from all corners of the orchestra.

Suddenly, Mussorgsky turns to the “Catacombae,” a picture of Hartmann with only a dim lamp to guide him through the sepulchral subterranean passages of Paris.

“Cum mortuis in lingua mortua,” (“With the Dead in a Dead Language”) is a whispered echo of the promenade, an introspective and hopeless reflection on Hartmann’s death.

With all subtlety aside, “The Hut on Fowls’ Legs” is a design for a clock featuring Baba Yaga, a Russian fairytale witch that feasts on bones and lives in a hut with chicken legs. The screeching, harrowing affair, flies directly into “The Great Gate of Kiev,” an architectural design of a city gate for the Ukrainian capital. With pealing bells and crashing percussion, the final picture combines the promenade with Russian orthodox chants in a thunderous finale, as if to enter the gates of Paradise, itself.

 

 

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CSO awards scholarships to college-bound seniors

Left to right: Emily Lee, Elise Kim, Michael Miropolsky, Clara Hope Simpson and Esther Lee. Photo by Veronica Ho


Cascade Symphony is pleased to award scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each to the following high school seniors: 

Emily Lee – Flute – from the Mukilteo School District. Next fall, she will attend the New England Conservatory in Boston, majoring in flute performance.

Elise Kim – Flute – from the Mukilteo School District. She will attend the University of Washington in Seattle next fall. 

Clara Hope Simpson – Cello – from the Northshore School District. Next fall, she will attend the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, majoring in cello performance.

Esther Lee – Viola – from the Mukilteo School District. She will attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, next fall

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Serving the Community for 55 Years

Cascade Symphony

“Pictures at an Exhibition” will be performed in May. In addition to the title work by Mussorgky, the program includes Marche Slave by Tchaikovsky. Meeka Quan DiLorenzo will be cello soloist in the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto.

CSO Ensemble Concert, on April 23rd, features performances by members of Cascade Symphony in small ensembles in a more intimate setting.

All full orchestra concerts are presented at Edmonds Center for the Arts at 410 4th Ave. N. in Edmonds. They begin at7:30 with a 6:30 pre-concert lecture by KING-FM’s Dave Beck.

Buy Tickets.

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October 9: Emerald Jubilee Gala Dinner & Auction

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Tickets are no longer available for this event.

Celebrate our 55th season of making music with an Emerald Jubilee Gala Dinner and Auction on Sunday, October 9 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Holy Rosary Church in Edmonds. Your ticket includes a gourmet dinner accompanied by wine, musical entertainment, and a live and silent auction.

Entertainment

Enjoy live music from:

Sempre Sisters: These two award-winning sisters perform a mix of traditional and contemporary tunes on violin and cello.

David Little: This Edmonds pianist is a familiar sight at Edmonds Art Walk, Silver Spoon, and other events and restaurants in the area.

Dinner Entrees

Option A. 

  • Braised short rib with green peppercorn demi served with garlic whipped potatoes and herb marinated grilled asparagus

Option B.

  • Stuffed salmon filo stuffed with creamed spinach wrapped in crispy filo, finished with bell pepper cream sauce, served with garlic whipped potatoes and herb marinated grilled asparagus

Option C.

  • Butternut squash ravioli served in a brown butter sauce with parmesan cheese and fresh sage.

Begin your evening with sparkling wine underwritten by Chateau Ste. Michelle. Dinner, catered by Shooby Doo Catering, includes a salad of artisan greens, sliced pears, candied walnuts and gorgonzola cheese tossed with balsamic viniagrette. Dessert is a pairing of apple strudel and chocolate marquis duo. Beer donated by Diamond Knot Brewery, as well as wine, will be available. Freshly brewed coffee and tea will be served. The Cascade Symphony Orchestra is a 501(c)3 organization (Tax ID# 91-2072869). Donations are tax-deductible.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a donation, please visit our Donation page.

Thank you for helping us reach our goal of bringing quality, live performances of symphonic music to our community. We couldn’t do it without you!

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