“Zukerman again seemed the forever-young virtuoso: expressively resourceful, infectiously musical, technically impeccable, effortless. As usual, it was a joy to be in his musical company,” said the Los Angeles Times about living legend Pinchas Zukerman. The violin master joins Pacific Symphony in Mozart's delightful Violin Concerto No. 3.
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As both a tribute to a fellow artist (Mussorgsky’s friend Viktor Hartmann, a painter) and an essay in musical imagery, Pictures at an Exhibition has never been surpassed. Ravel’s orchestration discovers layers of meaning and drama implicit in the black and white original, for piano alone, all the while turning it into an unrivaled showpiece for orchestra.
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CARL ST.CLAIR • CONDUCTOR
PINCHAS ZUKERMAN • VIOLIN
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2
Lever du jour (Sunrise)
Danse générale (General Dance)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Violin Concerto No. 3, K. 216
I N T E R M I S S I O N
Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition
Arr. Maurice Ravel
The Old Castle
Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells
Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
Cum mortuis in lingua mortua
The Hut on Fowl’s Legs
The Great Gate of Kiev
Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2
MAURICE RAVEL ( 1875–1937)
Instrumentation: 2 C flutes (second doubling piccolo), piccolo, alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 Bb clarinets, Eb clarinet, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon; 4 French horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion, 2 harps, celeste; strings Performance time: 18 minutes
Friends and family are often indispensable resources for the program annotator. When this author mentioned to a longtime concertgoer that he was writing a note on Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, she said “I find that music quite erotic.” She’s not the only one.
With its huge orchestra and wordless chorus, this remarkable work— the largest-scaled that Ravel ever composed—captures the classical union of physical and spiritual love with vivid immediacy. Ravel worked on it for three years, completing it in April of 1912. It is one of the greatest ballet scores of the 20th century, and is considered by many to be Ravel’s greatest masterpiece.
Choreographer Michel Fokine created the scenario for the ballet based on a pastoral drama by the Greek poet Longus depicting the story of Daphnis and Chloé’s courtship and Chloé’s abduction and escape from a band of pirates. This exotic scenario, teeming with incident and passion, calls for music of color and intensity—a perfect opportunity for Ravel to explore the limits of musical Impressionism’s scintillating expressiveness.
The commission for Daphnis and Chloé came to Ravel in 1909 from Serge Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes. This legendary troupe was a virtual hothouse of creative talent, attracting the greatest composers and artists of the day.
The ballet’s myth-based plotline, though unfamiliar here, was well known in France since Renaissance times. It combines elements of a pastoral romance, a heroic adventure and a fairy tale. The action takes place on the legendary Greek isle of Lesbos in a sylvan grove sacred to the god Pan and depicts how childhood companionship flares into passionate romance between two foundlings, Daphnis and Chloé, raised by shepherds.
What to Listen For
There is a sense of ancient and mythic breadth in the scope of Daphnis et Chloé, as in a great tapestry; Ravel described its music as “a choreographic symphony in three parts … a vast musical fresco, less scrupulous as to archaism than faithful to the Greece of my dreams …”
The music’s extraordinary quality and expressive power are immediately apparent to us and must surely have been apparent to contemporary audiences, though its peculiar performance history does not reflect this; its premiere performance at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris received only a tepid response. (Just a few days earlier, the dancer Vaslav Nijinksy’s erotically explicit performance in l’Après-midi d’un faune, also entailing the god Pan and sexual naïvete in the woods, had caused an uproar.)
The full ballet is rarely performed today, in part because of the difficulty of assembling the full resources needed to perform it. But Ravel derived two suites from it, and these, along with the full score, have entered the standard concert repertory.
We can hear the richness of Ravel’s huge tapestry in the Suite No. 2 he extracted from the full ballet. It opens with a highly pictorial rendition of sunrise over the sylvan landscape where the two lovers are reunited, orchestrated with Ravel’s inimitable deftness, and culminating in a dance of joyous celebration.
Throughout the music we experience a sense of magic—an elusive sense that we have entered the world of our dreams, a sensual realm that extends into the furthest reaches of our imagination. Ravel achieves this in part through musical values that are beautiful and ambiguous in equal measure: strange, unfamiliar rhythms that never seem to settle down and resolve themselves; startling instrumental entrances; luminous textures and shimmering harmonies that, again, never seem to reach a clear resolution; and “stacked” intervals of interlocking fourths and fifths. But that accounts for only part of the ballet’s supernatural effect. The rest is sheer genius.
---Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Video 19:05
Violin Concerto No. 3, K. 216
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART ( 1756–1791 )
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes; 2 horns; strings; solo violin Performance time: 24 minutes
Mozart the violinist? The wunderkind’s earliest musical feats, which turned him into a one-boy road-show and a livelihood for his family, were performed at the piano, and his brilliance on that instrument is fixed in the popular imagination. Later in life, his superb piano concertos were written in part to showcase his skills as a piano virtuoso.
Yet somehow, we forget that he was also one of the greatest violin soloists of his era, a combination that has no parallel among the great composers. His five violin concertos are a cornerstone of the violin repertory.
Mozart’s concertos were all originally thought to have been composed in the year 1775.
Further research has cast doubt on some of the dates for those numbered one and two, which he may have begun earlier. But it seems clear that the third, fourth and fifth concertos were composed in that year, when he was 19.
Despite Mozart’s achievements as a violinist, his reputation as a soloist seems to have fallen into eclipse in his own lifetime. In a letter to his father describing a 1777 violin performance (he was by then 21), he averred that “I played as if I were the greatest fiddler in all of Europe.” Leopold’s response could serve equally well today: “… Many people do not even know that you play the violin, since you have been known from childhood as a keyboard player.”
Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora Stock during Mozart's visit to Dresden, April 1789
Leopold advised his son to apply himself further so that he really could be known as Europe’s leading violinist, and to play with “boldness, spirit and fire.” Wolfgang’s response was to resume his concentration on the pianoforte and leave the violin playing mainly to others. But his violin compositions continued to show a fluent sensitivity informed by his skill on the instrument.
What to Listen For
To some listeners, the sunny lyricism of this concerto—and, indeed of all five of Mozart’s violin concertos—shows the influence of his travels to Italy with his father (they made three such trips from 1769 to 1773).
But while the earlier concertos seem to look back to the charms of Baroque concertos as well as ahead to the melodic riches of his piano concertos, the Violin Concerto No. 3 has the elegant lightness of sound we associate with Mozart’s mastery of Classical style. He adapted the principal melody of the concerto’s opening from his opera Il re pastore, which had recently been mounted in his hometown of Salzburg. (Mozart’s move to Vienna was still two years in the offing.)
Despite this sourcing, the first movement and indeed the whole concerto have a quality that fiddlers praise as “violinistic”—perfectly suited to the instrument. The scoring is light and the ornamental lines perfectly judged to showcase the violin’s singing treble lines.
In the second movement, Mozart’s restraint in the orchestral accompaniment takes us especially close to the instrument’s solo voice, which sings in poetic isolation until the dramatic moment when orchestra finally joins in. And in the energetic third movement, Mozart somehow manages to work his beloved country-dance tunes—in this case imported from Alsace, the province of the Strasbourg goose—into a confection of lilting elegance.
Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in- chief for The Santa Fe Opera.
---Hilary Hahn, violin; Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor. Video 27:39
Pictures at an Exhibition in Sound and Animation
MODEST MUSSORGSKY ( 1839–1881 )
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (2nd and 3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, alto saxophone; 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, euphonium, tuba; timpani, percussion, 2 harps, celeste; strings Performance time: 35 minutes
The use of one art form as a means of expression to enhance or comment upon another is a well-known phenomenon, particularly within the realms of art and music. Composers throughout history have responded to inspiration from the visual arts, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (1874) being but one of the most famous examples.
The music was orchestrated by French composer Maurice Ravel in 1922. Ion Concert Media has taken matters a step further. Using Mussorgsky’s musical response to visual images—paintings, drawings and designs—by the composer’s friend Viktor Hartmann, a team of eleven students and graduates at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, under the direction of Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger, created animated interpretations of the music, thus absorbing three different art forms into a single creative entity of rich fantasy, whimsy, and adventure.
---Preview video - 2:09
The animators’ work was first seen in January of 2011 as part of the opening ceremonies of the New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida. The USC animators have remained remarkably faithful to the spirit of both Hartmann’s paintings and Mussorgsky’s music while letting their minds roam freely to create unique and imaginative responses. Patterson’s and Reckinger’s notes about the animated elements have been incorporated into the following descriptions.
PROMENADE 1: The opening theme accompanies an imaginary stroll through the picture gallery. In the animated sequence created by Emily Eckstein, we find ourselves in a spacious modern gallery with a stylish crowd milling about. Some of those in attendance stop before the first picture.
THE GNOME: Hartmann designed a nutcracker, a child’s toy made of wood and styled after a small, grotesque gnome with gnarled legs and erratic hopping movements; nuts were meant to be cracked in its jaws. Andy Lyon’s animation envisions the character instead as a grotesque circus performer, a misanthropic and malevolent creature.
PROMENADE 2: For the second promenade, Emily Eckstein blends motion graphics with live-action photography to create a stylized mix of figurative imagery and design. Groups of people stroll off into adjacent galleries, and the mood turns somber as several museum- goers stop to look at the next painting.
THE OLD CASTLE: Inspired by his travels in Italy, Hartmann created a watercolor of a troubadour singing in the moonlight in front of a medieval castle. His melancholic song is “sung” by the alto saxophone. In the animation by Ryan Kravetz and Elizabeth Willy, doors open and beckon us enter. We travel through ghostly rooms, then out into a phosphorescent garden where we find the troubadour.
PROMENADE 3: We are roused from the enchantment of the Old Castle to discover that we have traveled back in time to a majestic 19th century art gallery with sunlight streaming in from overhead windows. A crowd is strolling through grand halls. This and the remaining promenade, animated by Michael Patterson, are set in the same time period, and combine hand-drawn animation with live actors and photographs.
TUILERIES: Hartmann and Mussorgsky take us to Paris for a lively picture of children scampering about in the famous garden, engaged in horseplay while their nannies chatter. Cecilia Fletcher’s animation perfectly captures the scene in her patterned tapestry, which culminates in a kinetic zoetropic effect. Her design is reminiscent of early-to-mid-20th century book illustrations.
BYDLO: The word means “cattle” in Polish. As Mussorgsky/Ravel portrayed the scene, an oxcart on giant, lumbering wheels lumbers into view, its driver singing a folk song in the Aeolian mode (“sung” by a tuba). As the cart approaches, the music rises to a terrific climax, and as it passes on, the music gradually diminishes in volume. Melissa Bouwman, using a cut-out style, adds an important role for peasants working in the fields beneath a majestic sky.
PROMENADE 4: The atmosphere turns melancholic as patrons wander off to contemplate various pictures. A young girl leads her uncle by the hand to the next picture, a most curious one indeed, not least of all as it comes to life before her very eyes.
A costume sketch of canary chicks for the ballet Trilby by J. Gerber. It inspired Mussorgsky for his Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks from The Pictures at the Exhibition.
BALLET OF THE UNHATCHED CHICKS: Hartmann’s scene portrays his costume designs for a ballet in which cheeping baby canaries dance about, still enclosed in their shells with wings and legs protruding. Shaun Seong-Young Kim sets his comic scene in an egg hatchery where baby chicks form a corps de ballet, diligently practicing their dance steps. When a baby rooster joins the party, matters take an amorous turn.
SAMUEL GOLDENBERG AND SCHMUYLE: Mussorgsky called this number “Two Polish Jews, Rich and Poor.” The personalities are vividly drawn: the rich man is pompous, self-important, arrogant; the poor man is sniveling, beseeching, nervous, pitiable.
Carolyn Chrisman, using classic hand-drawn character-animation techniques, sees things somewhat differently, though in the same spirit of dichotomy. At a calligrapher’s desk sits an unfinished ketubah (Jewish marriage contract), written in Aramaic. The two characters emerge from the parchment. In the course of cleaning up after his boss Goldenberg, Schmuyle cannot resist demonstrating his own artistic impulses.
THE MARKETPLACE AT LIMOGES: Here Hartmann portrays not children but rather housewives chattering, babbling, and arguing away. Steven Day offers a more generalized and frantic vision of marketplace activity. Using scenes shot in Europe and Japan, his animated collage combines stop-motion with time-lapse and long- exposure photography. At the height of the feverish commotion the music suddenly plunges into the next scene.
CATACOMBS: Hartmann himself, lantern in hand, explores the subterranean passages of Paris. Animator Candace Reckinger admirably captures the grim, oppressive character and dark colors of Mussorgsky’s music in her sequence, created from both still and moving imagery.
WITH THE DEAD IN A DEAD LANGUAGE: Eerie, ominous sounds from the orchestra accompany the grisly sight of skulls glowing faintly from within as the visitors stroll around in the catacombs to the promenade theme. Reckinger’s and Patterson’s depiction of this ghostly scene leaves nothing to the imagination.
BABA YAGA’S HUT ON CHICKEN LEGS: Baba Yaga is the fabled witch of Russian folklore. Hartmann drew her abode as a fantastic bronze clock-face mounted on chicken legs. Alessandro Ceglia, using a bold, illustrative style and hand-drawn animation, takes us back to Hartmann’s vision but expands it into a supernatural nightmare deep in the forest.
THE GREAT GATE AT KIEV: Hartmann’s design shows an ancient Russian gate with a cupola shaped like a Slavonic helmet. It all looks rather modest compared to what Mussorgsky created. In its original piano manifestation it is grand enough, but Ravel made it into something truly magnificent in his version for full orchestra. Ria Ama goes a step further. Using Hartmann’s design as a point of departure, she adds a sunrise, a candlelit view of the imagined interior, icons, kaleidoscopic projections, floodlights, giant bells (vividly depicted in the orchestra), and, as the music rises to massive proportions, a spectacular fireworks display.
“Pictures at an Exhibition” program notes written by Robert Markow.
---Danmarks Radio Symfoniorkestret - Kirill Karabits. Video 32:45
To learn about Pinchas Zuckerman, please click here.