Beethoven Symphony No. 4
Saturday, July 15, 2017 @ 7:30 PM
Matthias Bamert, conductor
Scott Rawls, viola
Ticket holders may attend The PreConcert, a free recital in Thomas Hall, which begins one hour before the performance.
RAVEL Valses nobles et sentimentales
BARTÓK Viola Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4
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Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Valse nobles et sentimentales
Premiered on April 22, 1912 in Paris.
Ravel’s set of eight Waltzes has a checkered history. Composed initially for the piano with Franz Schubert’s 1823 Valses nobles and Valses sentimentales in mind, Ravel decided to explore the genre with an odd mixture of impressionistic and modernistic traits. When Louis Aubert premiered the work in 1911, he left off the name of the composer in order give the newly composed work a fair hearing. Unfortunately for Ravel, the performance generated a chorus of boos and cat calls, and the critics were guessing Satie, Koechlin, d’Indy, and even Kodály as composers; only a few picked Ravel. The composer seemed unperturbed, creating not one but two successful orchestral versions. Besides the suite, he also wrote a ballet based on the Waltzes under the name Adélaïde, ou le langage des fleurs (Adelaide: The Language of Flowers).
Bela Bartók (1881-1945)
Viola Concerto, Sz. 120
Premiered on December 2, 1949, by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Doráti with William Primrose as soloist.
The evolution of Bartók’s Viola Concerto is a testament to the humanity of the tight-knit musical community in America in the 1940s. Not long after Bartók’s arrival in America in 1940 to escape the horrors of World War II, the composer developed leukemia. By 1943 his condition had become very serious and Bartók was given six weeks to live. According to the pianist Ernó Balogh, the composer’s wife contacted him to let him know about the gravity of the situation. Balogh, who had been Bartók’s student, contacted ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers). He writes,
The financial aid committee of ASCAP sent Bartók to the best and most expensive rehabilitation center. They made sure that he was seen by the best doctors. They put Bartók back on his feet so that he could write, in the last two years of his life, his Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin, his Concerto for Orchestra, and his Third Piano Concerto, and could sketch the Viola Concerto.
Violist and composer Tibor Serly, who had become a close family friend, spent much time with the composer during his last days, working with him on his Third Piano Concerto and the Viola Concerto. In a New York Times article Serly writes,
While discussing the concerto with him, my attention was drawn to the night table beside his bed where I noticed, underneath several half-empty medicine bottles, some additional pages of sketches, seemingly not related to the piano concerto. There was a reason for my curiosity, for it was known to several of Bartók’s friends that earlier in the year he had accepted a commission to write a concerto for viola and orchestra for William Primrose.
Pointing to these manuscript sheets, I inquired about the viola concerto. Bartók nodded wearily toward the night table, saying: “Yes, that is the viola concerto.” To my question as to whether it was completed, his reply was, “Yes and no.” He explained that while in the sketches the work was by and large finished, the details and scoring had not yet been worked out.
Serly would finish the Viola Concerto and William Primrose, who had commissioned the work, premiered it. While there have been discussions about Serly’s completion of the work, there has never been any doubt about its essence, meaning, and depth of expression, as this work has quickly become part of the viola’s standard repertoire.
Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60
Premiered in March 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz.
The fourth symphony is probably the least performed of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. This neglect is presumably because of the revolutionary character of the Third and Fifth Symphonies, which overshadow the more classical Fourth. Schumann described the symphony a “slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants.” There might be a very practical reason for its more conventional nature: money. Beethoven was offered a large sum by Count Franz von Oppersdorff for a new symphony during a time when money was tight. So Beethoven set aside his Fifth Symphony and composed the Fourth in just a month while staying at the Count’s palace in Upper Silesia.
Written fast and for money, however, doesn’t mean that the Fourth doesn’t have its own merits. In fact, his Fourth not only uses strategies from his revolutionary Third—such as “sabotaging” the expected return of the home key and main theme solution end of the first movement in order to continue the narrative in the remaining movements (the return of the main them in the home key happens too early and sounds forced). Beethoven also anticipates the cyclic nature of the Fifth Symphony in the inner movements (by leaving the listener hanging), which leads right to the last movement, creating an obvious progression and a true sense of resolution with the exhilarating finale. Of course, we would not do the work justice by only comparing it to the Third and Fifth Symphonies. Berlioz finds in the Fourth a return to a more classical approach, writing: “Here Beethoven entirely abandons ode and elegy, in order to return to the less elevated and less somber, but no less difficult, style of the Second Symphony. The general character of this score is either lively, alert, and gay or of a celestial sweetness.”- Siegwart Reichwald
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Artist Information (Show)
Matthias Bamert's distinguished career started at the Cleveland Orchestra where he was Resident Conductor alongside the then Music Director Lorin Maazel. Since then he has held Music Director positions with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Swiss Radio Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and Associate Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.
Music Director of the London Mozart Players for seven years, he has masterminded a hugely successful series of recordings of works by “Contemporaries of Mozart” which has already exceeded 75 symphonies. In 1999, the orchestra's 50th anniversary year, he conducted them at the BBC Proms, in Vienna, and at the Lucerne Festival, and returned with them to Japan in January 2000.
He has worked frequently in the concert hall and studio with such orchestras as the Philharmonia, the London Philharmonic, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, has appeared regularly at the London Proms, and often appears with orchestras outside London such as the BBC Philharmonic and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Outside of the UK he has regularly appeared with the great orchestras of the world including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, the Leningrad Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo among many others.
2015/2016 season highlights included appearances with the Israel Symphony Orchestra, Gunma Philharmonic Orchestra, Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Kanazawa, Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra.
A prolific recording artist, Bamert has made over 80 discs, many of which have won international prizes. His recordings include 24 discs of Mozart's contemporaries with the London Mozart Players, Sir Hubert Parry (the complete Symphonies) and Frank Martin (5 discs) with the London Philharmonic, the symphonies of Roberto Gerhard with the BBC Symphony, Dutch composers with the Residentie Orchestra, and the Stokowski transcriptions, Korngold and Dohnanyi with the BBC Philharmonic.
Violist Scott Rawls has appeared as soloist and chamber musician in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Europe. Recent chamber music endeavors include performances with Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Ray Chen, Gary Hoffman, Lynn Harrell, Bella Davidovich, Vladmir Feltsman, Garrick Ohlsson, and the Diaz Trio. His solo and chamber music recordings can be heard on the Centaur, CRI, Nonesuch, Capstone, and Philips labels.
Dr. Rawls currently serves as Associate Professor of Viola at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is active as guest clinician, adjudicator, and masterclass teacher at universities and festivals in America and Europe. He holds a BM degree from Indiana University and a MM and DMA from State University of New York at Stony Brook. His major mentors include Abraham Skernick, Georges Janzer, and John Graham.