Mission: to seek and share inspiration

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Andrey Boreyko conducts Pictures at an Exhibition


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Program Notes


SAT DEC 2, 8 pm • SUN DEC 3, 2 pm 

ANDREY BOREYKO   conductor • TINE THING HELSETH  trumpet 

STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)

Funeral Song, Op. 5

ARUTIUNIAN (1920–2012)

Concerto in A-flat Major for Trumpet and Orchestra

INTERMISSION

MUSSORGSKY (1839–1881) orch. Ravel

Pictures at an Exhibition

• Introduction: Promenade
• Gnomus 
• Promenade 
• Il Vecchio Castello
• Promenade
• Tuileries
• Bydlo
• Promenade
• Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks
• Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
• Limoges
• Catacombs
• Cum mortuis in lingua mortua
• The Little Hut on Chicken’s Legs
• The Great Gate of Kiev


 These performances of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, orchestrated by Ravel and featuring the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, promise to be unforgettable experiences in the renovated Music Hall. It is the perfect space to rediscover this signature piece in a mesmerizing festival of orchestral colors, now revealed by the warm and vibrant acoustics of Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium. This concert program, led by Andrey Boreyko, also provides a fantastic opportunity to discover Igor Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, a piece the then 26-year-old composer wrote in memory of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. The score was rediscovered very recently and published only this year after having been lost for more than a century. These concerts mark an important Cincinnati premiere from a composer whose relationship with the CSO spanned several decades and included conducting appearances in 1925, 1940 and 1965. The CSO is among the first orchestras in the world to perform the rediscovered Funeral Song. We are also delighted to welcome Tine Thing Helseth, who is making her CSO debut performing Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto.

—Louis Langrée

Funeral Song, Op. 5

Born: June 17, 1882, Oranienbaum, near
    Saint Petersburg | 
Died: April 6, 1971, New York City

Work composed: 1908

Premiere: January 30, 1909, Great Hall of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory by the orchestra of Count Aleksandr Dmitriyevich Sheremetev, Felix Blumenfeld conducting

Instrumentation3 flutes (incl. piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets (incl. bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (incl. contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals a2, tam-tam, 2 harps, strings

CSO notable performances: These performances are the CSO premiere of Funeral Song.

Durationapprox. 12 minutes

When Stravinsky first met Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1902 in Heidelberg and played that doyen of Russian music some of his piano pieces, he was urged to continue his law studies but also advised that some formal training in music theory would help if he were really determined to become a composer. Back in St. Petersburg, Stravinsky stayed at the university law school but spent increasingly more time studying music. Two years later, having become a close friend of the Rimsky-Korsakov family, he took a just-completed piano sonata to Nikolai. Though Rimsky criticized it harshly page by page, he found, for the first time, qualities worth encouraging in Stravinsky’s music, and accepted him as a student. Under Rimsky’s tutelage, Stravinsky abandoned the law and took up composition in earnest, completing the orchestral song cycle Faun and Shepherdess, Symphony in E-flat (Op. 1; Stravinsky gave up using opus numbers after these few youthful works), and the brilliant Scherzo fantastique for orchestra, which demonstrated both the efficacy of Rimsky-Korsakov’s teaching and the young composer’s precocious mastery of instrumental sonority, thematic development and dramatic flow.

In May 1908, Stravinsky told Rimsky-Korsakov of plans for a new orchestral score, one that would celebrate the impending marriage of his teacher’s daughter Nadia to Maximilian Steinberg, another student of Rimsky. “He seemed interested, and told me to send it to him as soon as it was ready,” Stravinsky recalled in his autobiography. “I finished Fireworks in six weeks and sent it off to the country place where he was spending the summer. A few days later a telegram informed me of his death, and shortly after my registered packet was returned to me unopened: ‘Not delivered on account of death of addressee.’” Stravinsky joined the Rimsky-Korsakov family in St. Petersburg for the funeral services at the chapel of the Conservatory, and then accompanied the coffin to Novodievitchy Cemetery, where it was buried near the grave of Stravinsky’s father, in his day the leading bass of the Imperial Opera.

Stravinsky was not given to expressing strong feelings in his life or his music—he was, after all, one of the most outspoken of 20th-century composers in proclaiming the separation of music and emotion: the philosophy that music is merely an abstract patterning of sounds arranged to satisfy the composer’s intellect, and that it “means nothing” in the programmatic or expressive sense—but he was deeply moved by the death of his mentor. In memory of Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky wrote a Funeral Song for orchestra later that year. The work was performed at the St. Petersburg Conservatory on January 30, 1909 by the orchestra of Count Aleksandr Dmitriyevich Sheremetev, whose immense family fortune allowed him to pursue his interests in composing and conducting (he led the first Russian performances of Wagner’s Parsifal, in 1906); for that memorial concert, the orchestra was conducted by Felix Blumenfeld, a student of Rimsky-Korsakov, a member of the Conservatory faculty, and music director of the Mariinsky Theater.

A half-century later, in Memories and Commentaries, one of the many books of memoirs he wrote with his amanuensis Robert Craft, Stravinsky recalled:

The Chant Funèbre that I composed in Rimsky’s memory was performed shortly after his death. I remember the piece as the best of my works before The Firebird, and the most advanced in chromatic harmony. The orchestral parts must have been preserved in one of the St. Petersburg orchestra libraries; I wish someone there would look for the parts, for I would be curious myself to see what I was composing just before The Firebird.

Neither Stravinsky nor anyone else at that time had seen the performance materials for the Funeral Song since it had been premiered, and all trace of the piece was thought to have been swept away in the tumult of the Russian Revolution.

Early in 2015, the St. Petersburg Conservatory (now, officially, the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory) began its first thorough renovation since the building was constructed in the 1890s. The library had to be cleared for the project, and among the unsuspected treasures that Natalia Braginskaya, dean of the school’s musicology department, and librarian Irina Sidorenko discovered among a century’s-worth of uncataloged materials were the orchestral parts for Stravinsky’s long-lost Funeral Song. They had the parts copied and a full score prepared, and Professor Braginskaya delivered a paper on their find at a musicological conference in St. Petersburg in September. Stravinsky’s publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, immediately accepted the Funeral Song into its catalog, and conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra gave the work’s first performance in 107 years on December 2, 2016. News of this significant but unknown work by one of the giants of modern music spread across the musical world at internet speed and Stravinsky’s Funeral Song will have been heard in at least 17 countries in some 80 performances by the end of the 2017–18 season; Charles Dutoit and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the American premiere on April 6, 2017.

Dr. Braginskaya noted, “For variety of sonority and quantity of instruments, only Fireworks among Stravinsky’s early works can compare with Funeral Song, though there is, for the sake of lightness, little emphasis on heavy brass.” Stravinsky could recall few details of the piece for his 1936 Chronicle of My Life, though he did say that “I can remember the idea at the root of its conception, which was that all the solo instruments of the orchestra filed past the tomb of the master in succession, each laying down its melody as its wreath against a deep background of tremolo murmurings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in chorus.”

Funeral Song begins with a lugubrious motive rising from the low strings that filters through the dark colors of the orchestra. The solo horn then offers a broad, arching melody supported at first by a sliding chromatic figure and then by a rapidly pulsing accompaniment as it unfolds through Stravinsky’s “succession” of instrumental colors in the work’s central portion. A sudden break allows the mood and motive of the opening to be reintroduced, and the work’s thematic threads are woven together in a mournful coda, one of the most deeply felt passages Stravinsky ever created.

Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Concerto in A-flat Major for Trumpet and Orchestra

Born: September 23, 1920, Yerevan, Armenia

Died: March 28, 2012, Yerevan

Work composed: 1950

Premiere: 1950, Yerevan, Armenia, Aykaz Messiayan, trumpet

Instrumentationsolo trumpet, 2 flutes (incl. piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals a2, snare drum, triangle, harp, strings

CSO notable performances: One previous subscription weekend | Premiere/most recent: January 2004, Vassily Sinaisky conducting; Sergei Nakariakov, trumpet

Durationapprox. 16 minutes

Arutiunian studied first at the Komitas Conservatory in Rerevan, where his composition teachers were Barkhudaryan and Tal’yan and his piano teacher was Babasyan. After graduation in 1941 he continued his education at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was a student of Litinsky, Peyko and Zuckermann (1946–48). He served as artistic director of the Armenian Philharmonic Society betwen 1954 and 1990. In 1965 he joined the faculty of the Yerevan Conservatory, where he was appointed to a professorship in 1977. He was awarded the State Prize of the USSR in 1949 for his thesis composition, Cantata on the Homeland. He was named a People’s Artist of Armenia in 1960 and a People’s Artist of the USSR in 1970. He has received numerous awards in Armenia, the U.S. and elsewhere.

According to Armenian musicologist Svetlana Sarkisian, Arutiunian’s style evolved continuously, but nonetheless it is possible to discern distinct periods of development. The music of the 1940s and 50s, for example, is characterized by thematic development and considerable emotional intensity. “These works,” Sarkisian writes, “continue the tradition of [Armenian composer Aram] Khachaturian in their combination of a highly colorful, decorative style with a tragic sense of pathos.” In the 1960s and 70s Arutiunian abandoned dramatic elements in favor of clarity, articulated through the use of classical forms. His major achievements of this period are a number of works written in a neo-classical style. Synthesis of diverse styles characterizes his works of the 1980s and 90s. Several of Arutiunian’s works—notably the Trumpet Concerto, the Tuba Concerto and the brass quintet Armenian Scenes—have entered the international repertory.

Arutiunian has written operas, cantatas, symphonic works and chamber music, several of which were inspired by Armenian subjects. He is best known, however, for his concertos, including works for piano, horn, oboe, flute and, above all, the famous Trumpet Concerto, which is arguably his best-known composition abroad and is a mainstay of virtually every trumpet player’s repertory. Indeed, the Trumpet Concerto is routinely used as an audition work by students seeking admission to music conservatories worldwide.

The piece was not commissioned by or for anyone. Arutiunian traces the origins of the concerto to his childhood summer holidays, when he used to hear Armenian trumpeter Zsolak Vartasarian practicing in a room downstairs. Vartasarian was a student of the principal trumpeter of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. When the main theme of the concerto came to Arutiunian in 1943, he showed it to Vartasarian, who encouraged the composer to complete a full-scale concerto. Unfortunately, Vartasarian died in the war just a year later. Arutiunian worked on the concerto nonetheless, with strong memories of his friend always in his mind.

In correspondence with musicologist Neil Davidson, the composer explained aspects of the concerto:

I have been fond of the trumpet since my childhood, and it was natural I would want to have written such a concerto.… The style is, they say, characteristic of my work in general. No folk melodies have been used. All the individual themes serve, I hope, to give the piece a universal human appeal. I think I succeeded in this, considering the popularity of the piece all over the world.

I also tried to avoid the typical three-movement concerto structure. Rather, I used one continuous movement, with a slow middle section during which the trumpet plays with mute. In 1977, several years after I completed the concerto, a wonderful cadenza was written by the solo trumpeter of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, Timofei Dokshizer.…

This is purely a concert piece, intended for all kinds of audiences. It does not tell a story of the Armenian people, except to the extent that I am a representative of my people. I hope that all the listeners will perceive it on their own terms.

KEYNOTE. Despite the composer’s disclaimer, musicologist Davidson has been able to trace several Russian and Armenian influences in the concerto:

In order to understand the significance of Russia’s historical influence on solo works written for trumpet, it is important to understand its position in music history during the 19th century. Folksongs were a significant resource for Russian composers from the 19th century forward and were important contributions to a uniquely Russian sound. Many of Arutiunian’s works were inspired by aspects of Armenian folk music, a quality that, I believe, exists in the thematic material of this concerto, with its non-Western scales (e.g., whole tone)…, intense rhythmic energy…, irregular phrase lengths…, [and] ostinatos.…

I think that Alexander Arutiunian successfully represents the people of Russia through the use of certain musical devices (mentioned above) which contribute greatly to a…folk “feel,” even though Arutiunian says he included no folk melodies in his concerto.… To me, it sounds as if he combined various aspects of Russian folk music in his concerto. This enabled him to express new musical ideas based on old roots.… The concerto…utilizes folk elements alongside Romantic harmonies, a modified sonata form, and constantly modulating melodies.

Jonathan D. Kramer

orch. Ravel

Pictures at an Exhibition, 

Born: March 21, 1839, Karevo (later renamed  
    Mussorgsky) in the Pskov district of Russia

Died: March 28, 1881, Saint Petersburg

Work composed: Mussorgsky composed the piano version in 1874; Ravel began his orchestration in May 1922 and completed it the following summer

Premiere: October 19, 1922, Paris Opéra, Serge Koussevitzky conducting

Instrumentation3 flutes (incl. 2 piccolos), 3 oboes (incl. English horn), 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, cymbals a2, triangle, xylophone, glockenspiel, bass drum, whip, suspended cymbals, ratchet, bell in e-flat, tam-tam, 2 harps, celeste, strings

CSO notable performances: 23 previous subscription weekends | Premiere: December 1929 (Emery Auditorium), Fritz Reiner conducting | Most recent: February 2015, Han-Na Chang conducting | The CSO performed this work on its first World Tour in 1966 (in Tokyo; Hong Kong; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Tel Aviv; Baalbeck, Lebanon; Salonika, Greece), Max Rudolf conducting; the Orchestra has recorded the work twice: in 1970, Erich Kunzel conducting, and in 2008, Paavo Järvi conducting.

Durationapprox. 33 minutes

Victor Hartmann was an architect, watercolorist, designer and friend of Mussorgsky. The composer not only was fond of Hartmann but also believed his friend had the vision to become a great Russian architect. Mussorgsky was devastated when Hartmann died of a heart attack at the age of 39. His grief was mingled with feelings of guilt, since he had recently been walking with Hartmann when the architect had a seizure and could not breathe. Rather than bring a doctor, Mussorgsky tried to soothe the stricken Hartmann: “Rest a bit, little soul, and then we will go on.” Because of this incident Mussorgsky illogically blamed himself for Hartmann’s death: “When I recall this conversation, I feel wretched that I behaved like a coward with a fear of sickness. This fear existed because I was afraid of frightening Hartmann, so I behaved like a silly schoolboy!”

Mussorgsky, who was not the most stable of people, sank into a deep depression. He was haunted by his friend’s death and his irrational belief that he was responsible. He took to drinking, sold some of his belongings to gain income, suffered from hallucinations, disappeared for days at a time, was involved in a brawl and was thrown out of his apartment.

Vladimir Stassov, friend of both Hartmann and Mussorgsky, was concerned for the latter’s mental and physical health. He believed he might help the composer if he engaged him in some activity in Hartmann’s honor. Thus he organized an exhibit of some 400 of the artist’s works. Mussorgsky attended the show and was moved by what he saw, but he was unable to compose a memorial piece for Hartmann until a few months later. When he finally set to work, he decided to write a piano suite in 10 movements, each of which represented one of Hartmann’s paintings. Only three of the movements correspond to pictures in Stassov’s exhibit. The others were sketches and drawings Mussorgsky had seen at Hartmann’s home. Linking all the movements was a “promenade” theme. “My own physiognomy peeps out through the intermezzos,” explained Mussorgsky. Although Pictures at an Exhibition has an unmistakable grandeur, the composer was content to leave it as a piano piece. It is tempting to think, however, that he would have been pleased by the way Ravel orchestrated it a half century later.

Maurice Ravel was always less comfortable with the grand tradition of German masterworks, as exemplified in the music of Beethoven and Wagner, than with Spanish folk music, American jazz, Hungarian gypsy music and Russian concert music. The Russians’ natural mixture of folk elements into their serious music, their disregard for the Germanic tradition, the spontaneity of their art and the wonderful colors of their orchestrations appealed to the Frenchman. He was especially drawn to the music of Mussorgsky, the least Western of the Russians.

Despite his enthusiasm, Ravel knew relatively little about Mussorgsky’s music and even less about the man. The original versions of most of the Russian’s compositions were not known, since performances were usually of versions that had been “improved” by well-meaning friends, such as Rimsky-Korsakov. Ravel’s friend, critic Michel D. Calvocoressi, shared his interest in Mussorgsky. He went to Russia in 1912 to collect material for a book on Russian music and to try to study the original score of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov. Calvocoressi found wonderful hospitality but little information in Russia. He never got to see the Boris manuscript, but he did find out quite a lot about the original piano score of Pictures at an Exhibition.

This information was to prove most helpful to Ravel when, a decade later, he undertook the orchestration of Mussorgsky’s piano piece, on commission from conductor Serge Koussevitzky. Ravel was delighted with this assignment, not only because of his admiration for Mussorgsky but also since he had been having difficulties composing and sought an easier project that might unblock his creative impulse. (The effort was, in this respect, unsuccessful, for Ravel composed nothing at all for the year following the completion of the Pictures orchestration.) The composer wanted to be as faithful as possible to the original, but all that was available to him was the published version, which had been heavily edited by Rimsky-Korsakov. With the help of the materials Calvocoressi had brought back from Russia, Ravel was able to surmise much about Mussorgsky’s original ideas.

Ravel was not the first to orchestrate Pictures at an Exhibition, nor was he to be the last. Other versions exist by Mikhail Tushkalov, Henry Wood, Leonas Leonardi, Lucien Cailliet, Leopold Stokowski, Vladimir Ashkenazy and others. These transcriptions are occasionally performed as curiosities, but only Ravel’s orchestration has entered the standard orchestral repertoire. There are also versions for synthesizer, brass quintet, solo guitar and rock group. This large number of arrangements of Pictures indicates the essentially orchestral nature of Mussorgsky’s score.

KEYNOTE. Ravel was a superb and original orchestrator. It is remarkable that the Pictures scoring does not make the piece sound like a work of Ravel. He tried consciously to preserve Mussorgsky’s sound and to orchestrate as the Russian might have done.

The following description of the promenade and the pictures is drawn from Mussorgsky’s letters and other sources:

• Promenade. Mussorgsky intended to portray himself and his impressions while walking in the gallery showing the Hartmann exhibit.

• Gnomus. Hartmann’s design of a small nutcracker, a child’s toy made for a Christmas tree. The nutcracker is in the form of an evil gnome.

• Promenade.

• Il Vecchio Castello. A watercolor of a troubadour singing before a medieval Italian castle.

• Promenade.

• Tuileries. (Children Quarreling at Play). Hartmann’s watercolor of one corner of the famous French garden.

• Bydlo. The Polish word for “cattle.” A drawing of two big oxen pulling a heavy peasant cart with two huge wheels.

• Promenade.

• Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. Hartmann’s design for costumes in the ballet Trilby. The chicks dance with only their legs sticking out from their shells.

• Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle. Two pencil drawings, belonging to Mussorgsky, titled “Two Polish Jews—One Rich, the Other Poor.”

• Limoges. The Market. A picture of a French market.

• Catacombs. A painting of Hartmann himself, accompanied by the architect Kenel and a guide with a lantern, exploring the catacombs of Paris.

• Cum Mortuis in Lingua Mortua. The Promenade theme, labeled in the score “with the dead in a dead language.” Mussorgsky wrote on the piano score, “Hartmann’s creative spirit leads me to the place of skulls and calls to them—the skulls begin to glow faintly from within.”

• The Little Hut on Chicken’s Legs. The home of the witch Baba Yaga in Russian fairy tales. She lives in a hut mounted on the legs of a giant fowl. Hartmann designed a clock face that represents Baba Yaga’s ride on a broomstick.

• The Great Gate of Kiev. Hartmann’s architectural design for a structure to commemorate the day Alexander II escaped assassination in Kiev. The gate, which was never built, is pictured with a giant helmet on top.