Notes for May 6th concert

Snowstorm Suite 

Georgy Vasilyevich Sviridov

Born – December 16, 1915 in Fatezh, Russia

Died – January 6, 1998 in Moscow, Russia

Svidridov compiled this suite in 1974 from a film score he composed in 1964.  

Relatively unknown outside his homeland, Sviridov is a much beloved composer in Russia.  He composed seven film scores, including the 1964 romantic tragedy, The Blizzard, based on a novel by Pushkin.  Ten years later, he transformed the score into an orchestral suite and his iconic Russian folk tunes were aired everywhere on television and radio.  

Winter was Sviridov’s favorite season; he claimed it was the best time to observe the nature of Russia, especially in the north.  In this suite he adapted vignettes from the film depicting everything from the initial romance to a jubilant celebration of reunion. 

Sviridov earned numerous awards throughout his career, including the Order of Lenin – four times! He was not merely a state-approved musician, but a composer of uncommonly beautiful, warm and sincere Russian music.  

Flute Concerto No. 2, K. 314, D Major

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born – January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria

Died – December 5, 1791, in Vienna, Austria

Although nothing is known for certain about the premiere of Mozart’s 2ndflute concerto, it probably occurred in 1778 with the Mannheim Orchestra and its solo flutist, Johann Baptist Wendling. 

This concerto was commissioned by a wealthy patron – the amateur Dutch flautist Ferdinand de Jean – who requested music that was light, easy, and delightful to play.  As Mozart felt “quite inhibited” composing “for an instrument I cannot endure,” he chose to transcribe his oboe concerto – changing the key, reshaping melodies and phrase endings and adjusting the dynamics. Until 1920, when the oboe scores were discovered in Salzburg, many scholars believed the flute concerto was a completely original work.

Jubilant and athletic from beginning to end, the transcription was not as light and easy as De Jean had hoped, and the lightness and grace required of the soloist was hardly at an amateur level.  

In the first movement, the transparent scoring of the orchestra leaves the solo flute especially highlighted. Although the lyrical second movement is set in the most natural and fluid range of the instrument, the third movement is a finger-twister, in which the main theme is almost identical to a tune fromThe Abduction from the Seraglio,an opera Mozart wrote five years later.  

Symphony No.1-  The Titan

Gustav Mahler

Born – July 7, 1860 in Kalischt, Bohemia

Died – May 18, 1911 in Vienna, Austria

Mahler conducted the Budapest Philharmonic in the first performance of this symphony on November 20, 1889 at the Vigado Concert Hall in Budapest.

Originally billed as a “Symphonic Poem in Two Parts,” the Titan was inspired by the German Romantic novel by Jean Paul, and each movement bore a descriptive title. However, by the fourth performance in 1896, Mahler had omitted all programmatic elements and referred to it simply as “Symphony in D.”  

Many themes are borrowed from Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer.   

 The nebulous opening of the first movement unfolds into the rolling melody of his “Ging heut’ Morgen übers Feld” (“I went through the fields this morning”), with birdsong and fanfares, delicate dynamic shading, and a balance of players on and off stage.   

The Funeral March in the third movement was most confusing to Mahler’s audiences.  A contrabass solo was nearly unheard of, and playing “Frere Jacques” in a minor key with the brash interjection of a marching band must have sounded extremely peculiar!

Like “a bolt of lightning that rips from a black cloud,” the opening of the fourth movement clears the air.  Quotes from Wagner’s Parsifal, descending chromatics from Liszt’s Dantesymphony, and transformed Wayfarersongs all contend in the finale, appropriately titled “From Hell to Paradise.” Mahler’s heroic treatment of the French horns – instructed to stand and outplay the rest of the orchestra – is a fitting end to a transformative work. 

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