This concert features the exciting young Boston cellist, Jonah Ellsworth, from PBS/NPR’s “From the Top” program, as well as many NBSO musicians as soloists.
Immediately following Saturday's concert, enjoy our Dinner with the Symphony fundraiser. Dinner tickets are $75 per person and will support NBSO educational programs and concerts. Call the NBSO office for details and tickets (508) 999-6276 or USE THIS ORDER FORM.
Classical II “A Concert of Concertos”
Saturday, October 27, 2012 5:00pm
Sunday, October 28, 2012 3:00pm
Wickenden Chapel, Tabor Academy
Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D, BWV 1050
Luigi Boccherini: Cello Concerto No. 9 in B-flat
Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto grosso in D, Op. 6, No. 4
Igor Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Jonah Ellsworth, cello | bio
BACH: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D, BWV 1050
The set of six concertos now called The Brandenburg Concertos were most likely six earlier works that Bach tidied up and sent as a job application of sorts to the Margrave of Brandenburg. Unfortunately, like many an application, it appears that the good Margrave completely ignored these masterpieces. The set probably were never played and sat collecting dust in the Margrave’s library until his death in 1734. They were subsequently sold for a few cents each and not rediscovered until the 19th Century.
The fifth of the set, most likely that last composed, features a couple of important “firsts”—the first time Bach used the transverse (modern) flute, and it is the first concerto in the history of music to focus on the harpsichord as a solo instrument, which makes it the ancestor of the modern keyboard concerto. The first movement features a “take-over” of sorts. In it, the keyboard instrument breaks out of its normal accompanying role with an assertive display of virtuosity. It literally steals the show not only from its fellow soloists, but the orchestra as well, launching into a stunning solo cadenza that builds a cascading series of motives into mountain peaks of sound. Bach not only invented the modern keyboard concerto, in his first effort he created one of its greatest masterpieces.
Bach modeled the Brandenburg Concertos after the Italian concerto grosso, a form that had been perfected by his contemporary Antonio Vivaldi (who in turn had based his style on the earlier works of fellow Italian Arcangelo Corelli, such as the one we will hear later.)
BOCCHERINI: Cello Concerto No. 9 in B-flat
“Any praise of Jonah’s technical abilities is likely to be an understatement. He is completely assured and intensely musical.”
~Boston Musical Intelligencer
A contemporary of Haydn, Luigi Boccherini was an enormously talented and prolific composer of more than 550 compositions, who was also one of the finest cellists of his time. (He had the habit of acting as a “substitute” violinist, playing violin parts at their written pitch—an indication of his comfort in the high register and evidence of his virtuosity.) Although he has many orchestral works to his credit, he is best known for more than two hundred string quartets and quintets he composed, and for his cello concertos and sonatas. He bridged the transition from the late Baroque into the Classical period with music of exceptional charm, elegance, and expressive richness.
In his solo works for cello, Boccherini, like J. S. Bach before, transformed an instrument noted primarily for its harmonic support into a stunning solo voice. The Cello Concerto in Bb is certainly his most famous concerto, and it fully exploits the cello’s technical capabilities and a rich variety of sonorities, featuring extensive use of double stops and flashing passages runs in the highest register.
CORELLI: Concerto grosso in D, Op. 6, No. 4
In the early eighteenth century, Italy was the source from which the most important European musical activity flowed, and one of Italy's most influential sons was the violinist Arcangelo Corelli. Corelli has been credited with establishing the principles of modern violin technique and being the first virtuoso on the new, for his time, violin.
Yet is as a composer where his lasting reputation was made. His music exercised a wide influence on his contemporaries and on succeeding generation of composers. He single-handedly established the form of the concerto grosso as an important instrumental form, which would influence later generations of composers like Bach, Handel and Vivaldi; and his solo concertos directly impacted the development of the solo concerto as a genre in the later Baroque and Classical periods.
The concerto grosso form is built around the idea of contrast—pitting two different sized groups against one another in a collaborative musical contest of sorts. Although Corelli didn't invent the concerto grosso principle, he certainly recognized its potential and wrote the first truly great music in the style, and at his hands the concerto grosso achieved the same prominence in Baroque music that the symphony did in the Classical period.
Corelli’s last published works, the twelve concerti grossi, Opus 6, were published in 1714, the year after his death. Concerto No. 4 in D Major contrasts a smaller group of soloists, called the concertino consisting of two violins and a cello with the rest of the string orchestra as a group, called the ripieno. It opens with a solemn Adagio before launching into a dazzling Allegro section that puts the spotlight firmly on the two violin soloists. The short second movement is a hauntingly beautiful processional marked Adagio that blends the soloists and orchestra into one voice. Then comes a Vivace third movement in triple-time, where the soloists once again re-emerge and the final movement, marked Allegro, features a whirling opening section full of dancing triplets, followed by a virtuosic concluding coda.
STRAVINSKY: Pulcinella Suite
"Pulcinella was my discovery of the past," Stravinsky once wrote, "the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible. It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too."
The Pulcinella Suite is drawn from a ballet that had its premiere for the Ballet Russes at the Paris Opera House in May 1920. The choreography was by Léonide Massine, with scenery and costumes by none other than Pablo Picasso. Pulcinella signaled a major shift in Stravinsky's compositional style and is usually cited as the first example of neoclassicism in music in the 20th Century.
Although vitally important to Stravinsky's musical development, the idea for Pulcinella was not his, but that of the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. In 1919 Diaghilev proposed that Stravinsky take a look at some eighteenth-century scores with the idea of orchestrating them for a ballet. "When he said that the composer was Pergolesi, I thought he must be deranged," Stravinsky later commented, only knowing, and not liking, a few pieces by Pergolesi. However, when Diaghilev supplied Stravinsky with a manuscript he had found in Italy dating from 1700, Stravinsky relented. "I looked, and I fell in love." the composer reminisced.
Stravinsky restructured this older music by working in a completely new manner, writing on the manuscripts themselves (a librarian can but cringe), working as if he were correcting music he had himself written. He took specific themes and textures from these older works but transformed their settings with his own unique rhythmic language and modern harmonies, seeking not to present Pergolesi, but re-present him with a Stravinsky accent.
In an article for the New York Times Magazine in 1964, Stravinsky wrote "The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music; they should be taught to love it instead." (Italics added.) He may have been thinking of Pulcinella, for while the ballet was a huge success with the public, many critics and fellow avant-garde composers accused the man who had shocked Paris only seven years earlier with The Rite of Spring of “selling out.” Others were horrified at his reinterpretation of the classics. Typically, Stravinsky had the last word: “I was… attacked… people who had never heard of, or cared about, the originals cried ‘sacrilege’, ‘The classics are ours. Leave the classics alone.’ To them all my answer was and is the same: You respect, but I love.”
Sponsored by: Burke & Lamb, P.C.