Bach + Beethoven and the CSO's History
SAT JAN 6, 8 PM
SUN JAN 7, 2 PM
SIR ANDREW DAVIS conductor • GARRICK OHLSSON pianist
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, (“Wake Up, Calls the Voice” or “Sleepers Wake”), BWV 645
Concerto No. 3 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 37
• Allegro con brio
• Rondo: Allegro. Presto
Symphony No. 2, Op. 62
• Adagio—Vivace ma non troppo
• Andante tranquillo
• Giocoso (Interlude)
• Andante, allegro con spirito
Concerto in B Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 104
Born: March 21, 1685, Eisenach, Germany | Died: July 28, 1750, Leipzig
Work composed: 1731; arr. for organ ~1745; arr. for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski (1882–1977) in 1915
Instrumentation: 4 flutes (incl. piccolo), 3 oboes (incl. English horn), 3 clarinets (incl. bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (incl. contrabassoon), 5 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, strings
CSO notable performances: These performances are the CSO premiere of this orchestration of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme.
Duration: approx. 4 min
The “chorale prelude,” as its title suggests, is an instrumental introduction to a Lutheran hymn. In its essential form, it originated (and continues) as a simple play-through of a chorale melody by the organist to familiarize the congregation with the tune and set the mood for its words. Such a practice allowed for a certain amount of improvisation in figuration, harmonization and texture, however, and gave rise to a whole spectrum of independent organ compositions based on chorale melodies: in addition to the chorale prelude, such forms as the chorale fugue, chorale fantasia, chorale motet and chorale variation are well represented in the catalogs of many 17th- and 18th-century German Lutheran composers. As proven sublimely by his incomparable church cantatas, Johann Sebastian Bach was the greatest aggrandizer of chorale tunes who ever lived, and he made significant contributions to the repertory of the chorale prelude, most notably in Das Orgel-Büchlein (“The Little Organ Book”), Part III of the Clavier-Übung (“Keyboard Practice Book”) and the six magnificent Schübler Chorales that he wrote at the end of his life.
The Schübler Chorales, published around 1747 by Bach’s former pupil Johann Georg Schübler, comprise Bach’s organ arrangements of six movements from his cantatas in the so-called “cantus firmus” style, with the chorale melody presented in long notes in separated phrases. The limpid setting of Philipp Nicolai’s 1599 melody Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Wake Up, Calls the Voice”), which opens the collection, is taken from the fourth movement of the eponymous cantata (BWV 140) that Bach composed in 1731 for the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which fell on November 25 that year.
The famed conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was also CSO Music Director 1909–1912, transcribed some three dozen of Bach’s works for orchestra. The London-born Stokowski first came to public notice as an organist at age 19, when he was appointed to the position at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly; parishioners still vividly recalled his performances of Bach a halfcentury later. His love of Bach’s works continued after he became conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1912, and his transcriptions created a wide interest in these largely unknown compositions—“Bach- Stokowski” became one of the most popular musical Doppelgänger of the years before World War II. (His transcription of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was the first piece of music that he and Walt Disney chose for the classic animated film Fantasia.) Stokowski’s 1915 transcription of the chorale prelude based on Wachet auf from the Schübler Chorales makes effective use of the contrasting sonorities of the orchestra’s strings and winds.
—Dr. Richard E. Rodda
Concerto No. 3 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 37
Born: December 16, 1770, Bonn, Germany Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna
Work composed: 1797–1800
Premiere: April 5, 1803, Vienna, Beethoven was soloist
Instrumentation: solo piano, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings
CSO subscription performances: 29 previous subscription weekends
Premiere: December 1913 (Emery Auditorium), Ernst Kunwald, pianist and conductor (CSO Music Director 1912–1918)
Most recent: February 2014, David Afkham conducting; Radu Lupu, pianist (his second performance with the CSO of this piece; the first was in 1976, under Kazuyoshi Akiyama) | Claudio Arrau (Garrick Ohlsson’s teacher) performed the work with the CSO on three occasions—1948 and 1954 at Music Hall and 1966 for a CSO tour appearance at New York’s Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall).
Duration: approx. 35 minutes
Mozart was more than an influence on Beethoven. He felt himself heir to Mozart’s talents and achievements, and he sought not only to equal, but also to surpass him in every way possible. Beethoven’s first two piano concertos, as well as an early concerto composed at the age of 14, are thoroughly Mozartian, taking their inspiration from the Salzburg master’s sunny major mode works for piano and orchestra. Beethoven approached the darker, more intense world of the minor mode concertos when he wrote his own Concerto No. 3. The direct influence was Mozart’s Concerto No. 24. Both works share not only mood but also the key of C minor, with its connotations of heroic tragedy and powerful drama
In 1801 Beethoven entered into an agreement with the director of the new Theater an der Wien, which allowed him full use of the hall and its orchestra in exchange for the composition and production of a new opera. The composer took advantage of this arrangement by mounting a concert for his own benefit in 1803. This huge concert included a performance of the First Symphony plus premieres of the Second Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives.
The concert was fraught with difficulties. The director of a competing theater hired all of Vienna’s best musicians for a performance the same evening of Haydn’s The Creation. Beethoven had to make do with second-rate players. And, as is often the case with composers and their premieres, the day of the concert came and the music was not yet finished.
Beethoven’s star pupil Ferdinand Ries arrived at the theater at 5 a.m. He found Beethoven working furiously. “What are you working on?” asked Ries. Beethoven shouted back, “Trombones!”
The only rehearsal began at 8 a.m. By the middle of the afternoon, the musicians were tired, frustrated, angry and hungry. There were no musicians’ unions in 1803 to protect players from impossibly demanding rehearsal schedules, but Beethoven’s patron Prince Lichnowsky saved the day by providing a lunch for the musicians. Spirits improved and the rehearsal continued. The concert began at 6 p.m., with Beethoven conducting and playing the piano.
Although the Third Concerto had been completed a few years earlier, Beethoven had been revising it continually. Thus he had not had time to write out the solo part of the final version prior to the premiere. All he had was a pile of papers, each adorned with jottings in his private shorthand, to remind him of what he was supposed to play. To Ignaz von Seyfried fell the strange task of turning these pages during the rehearsal and performance:
Heaven help me, that was easier said than done! I saw almost nothing but empty leaves. At the most, on one page or the other, a few Egyptian hieroglyphs wholly unintelligible to me were scribbled down as clues for him, for he played nearly all the solo part from memory. As was so often the case, he had not had time to put it all down on paper. He gave me a secret glance whenever he was at the end of one of the invisible pages. My scarcely concealed anxiety amused him greatly.
KEYNOTE. The parallel to Mozart’s C Minor Concerto is evident from the outset. Both works begin with the strings softly playing an ascending triad from C in octaves. In both concertos the winds join in to lead the music to a loud statement by the full orchestra. The parallels are striking, perhaps even intentional. If you listen carefully you can even hear Mozart’s main theme quoted almost literally in the lower strings shortly after the opening. Beethoven was paying homage to a work he knew well and had himself performed. In both compositions there is a lyrical second theme featuring the winds. Beethoven’s melody has a thoroughly Mozartian grace.
After the serene middle movement, the concerto again recalls Mozart in the finale. Like K. 491, but unlike most classical period pieces in the minor mode, the concerto casts its final movement in the minor. Both works close with a coda in 6/8 time based on a variant of the main theme. The mood is different, however. Beethoven’s coda moves to C major, in order to end brightly, while Mozart’s remains in the minor to the end.
Despite the many similarities between these two C Minor Concertos, it would be a mistake to think of the Beethoven Third only as an imitation of the Mozart work. Beethoven’s composition is powerfully original, despite its gestures of respect toward an older masterpiece. Beethoven was trying to move beyond the classical elegance of his earlier concertos, and thus he turned away from the models of Mozart’s usual piano concertos and looked instead toward Mozart’s least typical work in the genre. Thus the Third Concerto was a transitional work into Beethoven’s second style, in which he overthrew the elegant restraints of classicism, as inherited from Mozart and Haydn, in favor of the overtly emotional aesthetic heard in such C-minor works as the Coriolan Overture and the Fifth Symphony.
—Jonathan D. Kramer
Symphony No. 2, Op. 62
Born: May 26, 1893, London, England Died: June 13, 1962, Hillingdon, Middlesex, England
Work composed: 1943–44
Premiere: November 1, 1946 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens conducting.
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (incl. 2 piccolos, alto flute), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets (incl. bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals a2, glockenspiel, gong, side drum, suspended cymbals, tenor drum, triangle, wood block, xylophone, harp, celeste, strings
CSO notable performances: These performances are the CSO premiere of Goossens’ Symphony No. 2. Eugene Goossens was CSO Music Director 1931–1946.
Duration: approx. 37 min.
Eugene Goossens was a member of one of England’s most talented musical clans—his father and grandfather (both also Eugene) were among the most respected of the country’s orchestral conductors during the decades around the turn of the 20th century; his sisters, Marie and Sidonie, were acclaimed harpists; and younger brother Leon was an oboe virtuoso of the first order. The youngest of the Eugenes was born in London on May 26, 1893 and sent for training at the age of ten to the conservatory in Bruges, Belgium, his grandfather’s birthplace. A year later he returned to England to attend the Liverpool College of Music, and in 1907 he won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London, where his gifts in violin, composition and conducting blossomed; he made his formal debut leading his own Chinese Variations in 1912. He began his career as a violinist in string quartets and theater orchestras, but concentrated on conducting after 1916, when he became an assistant to Sir Thomas Beecham. Goossens, as a composer himself, evinced a strong interest in contemporary music, and in 1920 he established his own hand-picked orchestra (whose members included his siblings Marie, Sidonie and Leon) to play recent works. The ensemble’s first concert, on June 7, 1921, featured new British compositions as well as Ravel’s La Valse (introduced in Paris just six months before) and the first London performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The composer himself was in the audience and he proclaimed it “the finest performance” he had heard of his eight-year-old work. The concert also received rave press reviews and Goossens’ reputation as a conductor and a leader among Britain’s musical avant-garde was established. He was invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic, Europe’s finest orchestra, in an all-British program in December 1922 and went on to lead the Handel Society, Carl Rosa Opera Company, Covent Garden and British National Opera Company during the next several years. He extended his career to America in 1923, when he was appointed conductor of the Rochester (New York) Philharmonic Orchestra, recently founded by Kodak magnate George Eastman, who had also just established the distinguished conservatory of music that still bears his name.
In 1929, Goossens guest conducted the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to considerable acclaim, and two years later he was named that ensemble’s Music Director to succeed Fritz Reiner, who left to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia (where his students were to include Leonard Bernstein). In Cincinnati, Goossens conducted fully staged opera and ballet performances, showed a special flair for large-scale pieces for chorus and orchestra as director of the Cincinnati May Festival, oversaw the CSO’s move from Emery Auditorium back to the larger Music Hall, and expanded the repertory to include numerous contemporary works—he introduced many new compositions to the city, premiered his own Symphony No. 1 in April 1940, and two years later commissioned fanfares from 18 prominent American composers as “stirring and significant contributions to the war effort”—among them, Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man immediately became a staple of the orchestral literature.
After the war, Goossens considered going back to London to conduct at the Royal Opera House, but an extensive concert tour of Australia in 1946 led to his dual appointment as Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and head of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. The high esteem he had earned in Europe and America continued in Australia—he raised the performance of the SSO to an international level, was the first to envision what has become the city’s iconic performing arts center at Bennelong Point, and conducted Joan Sutherland’s formal debut; he was knighted in 1955 for his services to Australian music—but his time there ended sadly and abruptly when he became enmeshed in a scandal surrounding the notorious Rosaleen Norton, artist, occultist and “follower of the pagan god Pan,” known across straitlaced Sydney as “The Witch Of Kings Cross.” (A 2014 documentary by filmmaker Sonia Bible about Norton called her “the most persecuted artist in Australian history.”) Goossens, who had become closely, perhaps intimately, associated with Norton, was caught at Sydney Airport with “prohibited imports, to wit indecent works and articles” in his luggage, according to a suit fi led against him. He was not convicted, but his reputation was destroyed and he resigned both of his posts and went back to England. (One conjecture was that the patrician [and foreign] Goossens had been made the “fall guy” in the scandal, brought down by local land developers who were trying to scutt le his Bennelong Point project.) Goossens’ health, never robust, declined after he arrived home. His third marriage ended in divorce a year later, but he conducted some concerts as far away as South America and led a few recording sessions, though all with limited success. His career was eff ectively ended when he was diagnosed with pleurisy in January 1962. Goossens led his last concert that March, with the London Symphony Orchestra and his brother Leon as soloist, and died in Hillingdon, Middlesex on June 13, 1962.
Though his reputation rests primarily on his accomplishments as a conductor, Eugene Goossens was also a prolific composer throughout his career: two operas; an oratorio; incidental music; two symphonies; concertos for oboe (for his brother, Leon), violin and piano; two dozen independent orchestral scores; chamber music; songs; choral works and piano pieces. In a note he wrote for a performance of his Symphony No. 2 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in November 1950, he recounted the work’s genesis and musical nature:
My Second Symphony was begun in 1943 at Biddeford, Maine. The orchestration was finished two years later in Cincinnati and the score bears place-inscriptions as far afield as Seattle and New York. World War II had already lasted three years, and I suppose it must be said that this work reflects deeply the stress of that conflict. As in the case of my First Symphony—a pre-war product—the principal subjects of the Second had obsessed me for so long that I was impelled to mold them into the only shape I felt appropriate—a full-sized symphony—in spite of the fact that large pieces of music, unlike large paintings, often suffer the handicap of a lengthy revelatory process before the meaning is sensed by the listener. On the other hand, composers and painters only use big canvases when they feel that their subject demands spaciousness of treatment. In my own case, I waited till my fiftieth year to make sure that this was warranted, for prior to that I tended to telescope subject matter and its development to avoid excessive garrulity.
Yet the lugubrious bassoon subject heard at the outset of the work is a lengthy statement, and as a key motive is encountered elsewhere, particularly in the finale, where it undergoes a complete transmogrification. The lengthy introduction that it initiates— alternatively brooding and agitated—gives way to the (rhythmically strident) first subject proper, which is played by unison violins, to be followed later by the slower second subject in the cellos, over an undulating clarinet figure. This material, with counter-themes, is subjected to a stormy development, and leads to a recapitulation in which a bass flute despondently reminisces over the second subject, followed by an unexpected fanfare to bring the movement to an uneasy, violent finish.
Two subjects make up the slow movement, a kind of nostalgic and climatic pastoral wherein the oboe rhapsodizes on a plaintive theme and the muted trumpet sings an English folk-song called The Turtle Dove, enough that the setting of a Connecticut farmhouse and its local thrush (a ubiquitous bird in those parts) forms a background for the mingled emotions of an expatriate.
The scherzo might be thought escapist if its machine rhythm weren’t so inexorable and rather ominous. Its naive commencement soon gives way, however, to complexities that tax the resources of all the instruments. (It was originally written as a test piece for a virtuoso orchestra.)
The finale scans the progress of the original bassoon theme from a menacing unison proclamation to the sublimation of a march taken up by the whole orchestra. During this movement a kaleidoscope of introduction, fugato-like principal subject, rhythmic figuration and final reminiscence of the folk-song subject consolidate, rather than confuse, the issue. The structure of the finale will thus appear in its whole design for the listener, for whom a “play-by-play” description of the four movements of this work would prove mostly a bewilderment and exasperation.
—Jonathan D. Kramer