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Alexander Borodin (1853-1887)
M. Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935)
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Program notes: October 10, 2015
Program notes for tonight’s performance have been abstracted and modified from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_ Rachmaninoff; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano Concerto_No._2_(Rachmaninoff); https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Modest_Mussorgsky; https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Pictures_at_an_Exhibition; https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Mikhail_Ippolitov-Ivanov; https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Caucasian_Sketches; https://www.philorch. org/sites /default/files/concert/pdfs/Stokowski%202.pdf; https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igor_Stravinsky; https://en.wiki pedia.org/wiki/The_Firebird; http://music. minnesota.publicradio.org/features/9809_japantour /programs/firebird.html; https://en.wikipedia. org /wiki/Alexander_Borodin; http://www.classical.net/ music/comp.lst/borodin.php.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 (Sergei Rachmaninoff - 1873-1943): Sergei Rachmaninoff is widely considered to have been one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. His personal style; notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness, and use of rich orchestral colors grew from influences of late 19th century Russian masters such as Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Rachmaninoff himself was the soloist at the concerto’s world premiere on November 9, 1901 in Moscow, Russia, with the Philharmonic Society Orchestra under the baton of Alexander Siloti. The concerto has since become one of the most popular and frequently played concertos in the piano repertoire.
The Great Gate of Kiev (Modest Mussorgsky - 1839-1881): The Great Gate of Kiev is the final movement of Mussorgsky's most imaginative and frequently performed work: Pictures at an Exhibition. Although originally written for piano, Pictures is best known as an orchestral arrangement by Maurice Ravel. The Great Gate features a grand main theme that expands on ideas in Picture’s opening promenade. The solemn secondary theme is a baptismal hymn from a Russian Orthodox chant. The first half of The Great Gate sets the listener up for an ABABA pattern, but new music just before the expected conclusion converts the piece into a broad rondo with two sections: ABAB|CADA.
At the Mosque (M. Ippolitov-Ivanov - 1859-1935): At the Mosque is the third movement of The Caucasian Sketches, Suite No. 1, Op. 10 (1894). The movement is based on a folk melody Ippolitov-Ivanov heard in the Georgian coastal city of Batumi. The scene is the sunset prayer or Maghrib, with the call-to-prayer intoned by the Muezzin.
Procession of the Sardar (M. Ippolitov-Ivanov - 1859-1935): The Procession, also known as March of the Sardar or Sardar's March, is the final movement of Ippolitov-Ivanov’s The Caucasian Sketches, Suite No. 1, Op. 10 (1894). The Procession is often heard alone and is a "Pops" concert favorite. Based on a march from the Turkish town of Zeytun, it depicts a military parade led by the Sardar (the Turkish equivalent of a Commander or General).
Berceuse and Finale, from Firebird Suite (Igor Stravinsky - 1882-1971): Igor Stravinsky was a Russian (and later, a naturalized French and American) composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. The Firebird Ballet is one of Stravinsky’s most well-known works and its popularity caused the composer to arrange three short suites for concert performance by orchestras of different sizes. The suite’s final two movements are Berceuse where the Firebird's tale is cast as a lullaby and in which the bassoon sings above a gently rocking figure; and Finale where a hymn that ends with bell-like carillons spreads exultantly throughout the orchestra.
On the Steppes of Central Asia (Alexander Borodin - 1853-1887): On the Steppes idyllically depicts a moving caravan of Central Asians protected by Russian troops as they cross the steppes (grassland- much like the North American Great Plains) of the Caucasus. An opening “Russian” theme is followed by an ornamented “Asian” melody on English horn (muted trumpet). The two melodies move about the orchestra; sometimes the Asian theme is played by horns, flutes, and strings and sounds “Russian”. Sometimes the “Russian” theme is played by the oboe and others to sound vaguely “Asian”. Eventually the themes are combined contrapuntally. The ethnic melodies are supported by a pizzicato theme that represents the plodding hoofs of the horses and camels. At the end only the Russian theme is heard.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
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A - Main theme (forte); Maestoso.
B - Baptismal hymn theme (piano); (A-flat minor).
A - Main theme (forte); descending and ascending scale figures suggest carillons.
B - Baptismal hymn theme (piano); (E-flat minor)
C - Interlude/Transition (forte); "Promenade" theme.
A - Main theme (fortissimo); triplets; Meno mosso; sempre maestoso.
D - Interlude/Transition (mezzo forte with crescendo); triplets.
A - Main theme (fortissimo); Gravé; Sempre allargando; slows to a standstill at end.
I Moderato: C minor: The concerto begins with a series of bell-like chords on the piano that build volume until, at their climax, they introduce the main theme. The orchestra carries the very-Russian melody while the piano accompanies with rapidly oscillating arpeggios. A quick transition introduces second lyrical theme in E flat major that is again carried by the orchestra. The development incorporates motifs from both themes, changes keys often, and gives the themes to different instruments. The development builds to a climax that seems to prepare the listener for a restatement of theme one in the orchestra leading and piano accompanying. Although the initial theme is presented again, the piano adds a new march-like melody that now makes the original theme the accompaniment. The recapitulation is followed by solo piano ending in a descending chromatic passage. There is a rapid coda that ends with a C minor fortissimo.
II Adagio sostenuto - Più animato: The second movement opens with a series of slow chords in the strings which modulate from C minor to E major. The piano then plays a simple arpeggio figure that leads to a winsome melody introduced by the flute and developed by an extensive clarinet solo. The theme is passed between the piano and other instruments before the music accelerates to a short climax centered on the piano. The first melody then reappears and the music dies away with the soloist finishing in E major.
III Allegro scherzando: The last movement opens with a short orchestral introduction that modulates from E major to C minor before the piano states the movement’s first theme. After the initial quick tempo and musical drama, the oboe and violas announce a lyrical theme based on the motif of the first movement's second theme. After a long period of development, Rachmaninoff restates the second theme in loud, fortissimo orchestration. Then a fast, ecstatic, and triumphant coda draws the concerto to a close in C major.
2015 - 2016 Archived Notes