Rachel Barton Pine
for string quartet, harpsichord and strings
Daniel Szasz, Solomon Liang, Caitlin Lynch, Keiko Ying
with guest harpsichordist Peter Bennett
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
A different concerto will be performed in each concert:
Oct 23 – No.4 in D major, K218
Oct 24 – No.1 in B flat major, K207
Oct 25 – No.3 in G major, K216 (Strassburger)
Oct 26 – No.5 in A major, K219 (Turkish)
Oct 27 – No.2 in D major, K211
Cadenzas by Rachel Barton Pine
Concerto in C major for two oboes, two clarinets and strings, RV560
Larghetto – Allegro
Symphony No.3 in D major, D200
Adagio maestoso – Allegro con brio
The 2013–14 season is Avner Dorman’s first season as music director and it’s our tenth anniversary! Fans of the orchestra will know that one of the things that has
always made CityMusic Cleveland so distinctive – apart from ‘free for all’ – is the many wonderful musicians coming together to create something that is larger
than the sum of its parts.
With this in mind, Avner Dorman set out to program a season opening concert that would highlight musicians from the orchestra– in addition to our featured guest
soloist, Rachel Barton Pine. There’s Dorman’s own Concerto Grosso with its solo group of string quartet and harpsichord, Vivaldi’s concerto to showcase four of
our woodwind players, and Schubert, who gives solos to almost every instrument in his third symphony.
Mozart completes the program, but in an unusual way. Performing five concertos in five concerts over the course of a week is quite a challenge. But as
Avner Dorman says, it represents something that is very typical of CityMusic: the flexibility and willingness to do things differently, to challenge the
norm and to have fun doing it. He adds: “I can’t imagine any other orchestra doing this!”
DORMAN’S CONCERTO GROSSO
Avner Dorman has always loved baroque music. Even as a young child, he found it “very exciting and closer to the music of our day.” The clear rhythms,
dominant bass lines and extreme contrasts meant that music written in the 18th century could appeal to a boy born in the 20th.
In 2002 he was approached by the conductor Aviv Ron to write a concerto for a concert series dedicated to baroque concertos. “He wanted a piece based on the
music of Handel and Vivaldi,” says Dorman, “and I gladly accepted the challenge.”
The baroque inspiration is evident from the title, even before you hear a note of music. The “concerto grosso” was one of the most popular types of orchestral
music in the baroque era and its distinguishing feature was the contrasting of a small group of soloists (the concertino) against the sound of the full orchestra
(the ripieno). In Dorman’s concerto the concertino group is the solo string quartet and harpsichord. The rest of the strings provide the ripieno.
To meet Aviv Ron’s brief, Dorman chose a theme from Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op.6 No.4, as the main motif, and Vivaldi’s signature virtuosic patterns
provided the rhythmic drive. There’s a modern influence too: the hypnotic repetitions of composers such as Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.
Dorman’s Concerto Grosso is organised in three sections: slow – fast – slow. But there are no defined breaks between sections, instead the music moves
fluidly from one character to another. Sometimes slower music is interrupted by outbursts of energy and the central fast section gives way at one point
to a static exploration of sound.
A teenage genius at work…
MOZART’S FIVE VIOLIN CONCERTOS
In 1772, when Mozart was 16 years old, he went on salary as a concertmaster for the Prince-Archbishop in Salzburg. Between then and 1781, when he got himself
literally booted out of the Archbishop’s employment, he’d composed his five violin concertos. The first concerto stands alone, probably composed in 1773; the
remaining four in 1775. Among the earliest performers were Antonio Brunetti (who joined the Salzburg orchestra as a solo violinist in 1776) and Mozart himself.
The concertos point to Mozart’s own taste as a performer. He was a virtuoso – Brunetti said “Mozart could play anything.” But his style wasn’t flashy. Once,
when he’d performed the third concerto, he wrote that it had gone as “smoothly as oil,” and everyone had praised his “beautiful, pure tone.” And as a composer
he put musical substance ahead of technical display.
The FIRST CONCERTO shows the influence of the Italian composers who’d cornered the violin concerto market, men such as Locatelli and Nardini. The first
movement features conventional, Italianate passagework for the soloist, and a blithe, cheerful character. On the other hand, Mozart shows real seriousness
of purpose: each of the three movements is in sonata form, allowing full development of his ideas and harmonies, and the slow (Adagio) movement is deeply
expressive. And underneath the lively conversation between soloist and orchestra in the dancing finale Mozart hides some audacious musical gestures.
The SECOND CONCERTO places the solo part in sharp relief against the full orchestra. In that respect the concerto is quite old-fashioned – not so far from
the music of Vivaldi. The slow movement (an easy-going Andante) reveals Mozart’s preference for an operatic singing style and intricate dialogue between soloist
and the ensemble. The finale is a rondo – spelled ‘Rondeau’ in the French way and adopting a French dance, the minuet, as its graceful starting point.
Each time the main rondo theme comes back, Mozart changes the orchestration: the accompaniment is played by the strings, then the oboes and finally the horns.
Mozart’s operatic instincts show up again in the THIRD CONCERTO: the beginning was borrowed almost note for note from his opera, Il re pastore (The Shepherd King).
n fact, it’s possible to hear the whole concerto as an opera for the violin. The music is full of vivid characterizations and in the third movement you can hear
various changes of ‘scene’ or ‘costume.’ But there’s a surprise: Mozart breaks off with three big chords for a stately gavotte, then he interrupts himself again,
this time with a lusty peasant dance, the ‘Strassburger’ tune. The finale is great fun, but the most beautiful music is in the slow Adagio, the only movement where
the flutes play. Here – high above a gentle accompaniment of muted violins and violas with plucked cellos and basses – the soloist spins one of Mozart’s gorgeous
The FOURTH CONCERTO is in D major, a bright-sounding key associated with trumpets and drums. Neither of those instruments appear, but Mozart creates assertive
fanfares with horns and oboes instead. The music is a far cry from the first concerto of two years before: far more adventurous and imaginative. In the first
movement Mozart exploits the possibilities of the violin’s range, from very high notes to the supple sound of its low register. The slow movement adopts a serious,
contemplative tone – it’s marked Andante cantabile, calling for an easy tempo and, especially, a singing character. Then there is the trademark Rondeau,
this time alternating between gentle, graceful music and a more lively capricious mood.
The FIFTH CONCERTO is the most daring and mature. It begins with the orchestra setting out the vigorous main theme. Then the soloist enters –
but with slow music! The tempo picks up again, but now the soloist introduces a new theme, with the original theme cunningly hidden in the accompaniment.
It’s the work of a 19-year-old genius at play. The Adagio floats its rapturous lines over the orchestra in a long and elaborate movement. The ‘Turkish’
nickname comes from the finale: in the middle of the movement Mozart raises the stakes, interrupting the music with raucous Turkish percussion effects
(the cellos and basses hit their strings with the wood of their bows). As always, Mozart knew how to make his audiences smile.
VIVALDI’S ‘CONCERTO GROSSO’
Antonio Vivaldi is probably the most prolific composer on this program (although Schubert, with his hundreds of songs, gives him a run for his money).
In the concerto genre alone, Vivaldi composed more than 350 concertos for solo instruments and hundreds of other concertos for groups of soloists –
concerti grossi, in other words. Many of these, especially the concertos for unusual combinations of instruments, would have been composed for the students at
the Ospedale della Pietà, a Venetian orphanage for girls that provided musical training to the highest level.
Imagine then, four talented girls, two playing oboe and two playing the new-fangled clarinet, an instrument that was pretty much unknown before 1710.
Vivaldi has given them music that emphasizes the contrasting colors of the two pairs: on one hand the edgy sound of the oboes, on the other the mellow
sound of the clarinets.
The concerto begins with a majestic introduction before launching into the main, fast section of the first movement (Allegro). And so the conversation
begins: pairs of chirping oboes, pairs of burbling clarinets, and the full ensemble having its say as well.
Perhaps, as early adopters, the Venetian clarinetists were still mastering their instruments – that might explain why Vivaldi gives them a break in
the Largo movement (‘slow’) and has just the oboes and strings play in this plaintive music.
The finale begins with a simple and emphatic idea that keeps recurring throughout. It turns out to be a perfect backdrop for showing off the
virtuosity of the four soloists.
SCHUBERT’S THIRD SYMPHONY
Schubert wrote his first symphony in 1812 as a 15-year-old student; he completed the next two in 1815 from the other end of the classroom. He didn’t
enjoy teaching and his salary as the sixth assistant in the bottom form of his father’s school was very small. But somewhere in between correcting his
pupil’s exercises he found time and energy to compose nearly every day. In 1815 alone he wrote a huge amount of music: four theatre pieces, choral music
for church and concert hall, piano music, a string quartet, two symphonies and more than 150 songs!
This is a young man’s symphony. After the solemn introduction (Adagio maestoso, ‘slow and majestic’), Schubert establishes an atmosphere of fun and gaiety
(Allegro con brio, ‘fast with spirit’). The presence of trumpets and drums add a dash of martial splendor. The first main theme is given to the clarinet,
the second to the oboe, and the ideas of the first movement are developed with dialogues between woodwinds and strings.
For his second movement, Schubert began by writing very slow and serious music, but this was abandoned before he’d even completed the first page –
even the greatest composers have second thoughts. In the end he completed the Allegretto (‘fairly fast’) with its gentle and graceful character,
lightly dancing themes and delicate use of the orchestra.
By complete contrast, the Menuetto (marked Vivace or ‘lively’) is earthy and vigorous – playfully evoking the spirit of the Ländler, an Austrian peasant
dance. Schubert brings the full orchestra in together with a heavy upbeat (imagine hobnailed boots stamping in the village square) and a simple, pithy theme.
A quiet violin moment links the two halves of the theme, and the graceful contrasting Trio section in the middle hints at the Ländler’s evolution:
towards the ballroom and the waltz.
For the finale (Presto vivace, ‘as fast as possible, and lively’), Schubert continues the dance-like mood with a breathless tarantella, the dance
traditionally thought to cure the bite of the tarantula. (Do not try this at home.) There’s just one main theme to drive the music forward, with dramatic
crashes of sound form the full orchestra and a mercurial whirlwind of harmonic changes. The whole thing moves with kaleidoscopic quickness.
This is the shortest of Schubert’s first three symphonies. Its conciseness points to classical restraint and technical maturity, but its lighter weight
and sparkling detail points to the pure joy of music. As one writer has suggested, ‘‘genius doesn’t need to reveal itself by plumbing the depths or storming
Yvonne Frindle © 2013
(Adapted in part from a program note by Avner Dorman)
Illustrations by Charles Krenner © 2013
Avner Dorman grew up in a musical family (his father was principal bassoonist in the Israel Philharmonic). Unusually, he began composing music
before he’d even learned to play an instrument; it was only later that he learned cello and piano. He studied first at Tel Aviv University; then he completed
his doctorate at the Juilliard School in New York as a student of composer John Corigliano. His Concerto Grosso was composed in 2003.
Mozart spent the first part of his career in Salzburg as a servant-musician in the court of the Prince-Archbishop. His duties included composition and
performing, and in addition to being a virtuoso at the keyboard, he was a very accomplished violinist, capable of leading an orchestra and playing concertos.
His father assured him if he kept practicing he could be one of the finest violinists in Europe. But Mozart had other plans…
Vivaldi is the composer of the most frequently recorded work a the classical repertoire: a set of violin concertos called The Four Seasons. In his lifetime
Vivaldi sported the nickname ‘The Red Priest’ (Il prete rosso): he had red hair and he was in fact ordained. But his true fame came from his astonishing skill
as a virtuoso violinist and his often innovative compositions.
In his lifetime, Schubert was known mainly as a songwriter, and his friends especially liked to have him along at parties because he could improvise dance
music at the piano. But the shy composer was ambitious: beginning and sometimes finishing grand symphonies for orchestra. His third symphony was completed when
he was 18 years old but not performed in public until 53 years after his death.
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Download article as PDF by David Kulma The towering Trinity mosaic behind the altar at Collinwood’s St. Jerome Church was an apt image to frame CityMusic Cleveland’s 15th season opener on Wednesday, October 24. Featuring violinist Tessa Lark and cellist Edward Arron, this peripatetic orchestra led by music director Avner Dorman elivened this holy space […]
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