Dvorak: Slavonic Dances - Hindemith: Concert Music for Strings and Brass

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Dvorak: Slavonic Dances - Hindemith: Concert Music for Strings and Brass 55:36 $11.98
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1 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 1 in B Major: Molto vivace 4:30 44.1/16 Album only
2 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 2 in E Minor: Allegretto grazioso 5:37 44.1/16 Album only
3 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 3 in F Major: Allegro 3:26 44.1/16 Album only
4 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 4 in D-Flat Major: Allegretto grazioso 5:05 44.1/16 Album only
5 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 5 in B-Flat Minor: Poco adagio - Vivace 2:57 44.1/16 Album only
6 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 6 in B-Flat Major: Moderato, quasi menuetto 4:02 44.1/16 Album only
7 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 7 in C Major: Allegro vivace 4:10 44.1/16 Album only
8 Slavonic Dances, Op. 72: No. 8 in A-Flat Major: Grazioso e lento, quasi tempo di valse 6:52 44.1/16 Album only
9 Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50: Part I: massig schnell, mit Kraft - Sehr breit, aber st 9:24 44.1/16 Album only
10 Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50: Part II: Lebhaft - Langsam - Im ersten Zeitmass Lebhaft 9:33 44.1/16 Album only

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Recorded live February 10, 2005, (Dvořák) and February 17, 2005 (Hindemith), Verizon Hall, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Dvořák published his ‘Slavische Tänze’ and was a made man. These dances swept through Germany as Brahms’s Hungarian Dances had swept through it a few years before.” So the influential American cultural critic H.L. Mencken observed in a lengthy article after the composer’s death in 1904. The comment is worth considering for a number of reasons. For one thing it shows that American audiences were still interested in the Czech composer who had spent three years in their country during the early 1890s helping to build a national musical culture. The reference to Brahms’s popular dances is also significant. For years, beginning in 1874, Dvořák applied for (and usually won) an Austrian State Stipendium, funds that were available for poor, young artists. Among the judges were the powerful Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick and Brahms. A Mentor’s Dances as Model Hanslick informed Dvořák that Brahms had taken “a great interest” in his “fine talent” and decided to recommend him to his own publisher, Fritz Simrock in Berlin, who first published the Czech composer’s Moravian Duets in 1878. Dvořák gratefully wrote to the “Highly honored Master” with “deeply felt thanks for everything” and informed him that he “had been commissioned by Herr Simrock to write some Slavonic dances. Since, however, I did not know how to begin properly, I have taken the trouble to procure your famous ‘Hungarian Dances,’ and I shall take the liberty of using these as an exemplary model.” Like Brahms’s enormously popular dances, Dvořák’s were originally written for piano duet and later orchestrated. (Indeed, Dvořák orchestrated seven of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances in 1880—Brahms only did a few of them himself.) Mencken refers to Dvořák’s “Slavische Tänze,” using the German title. This was a point of some contention between the composer and his publisher, especially as Dvořák became ever more popular and Simrock richer from the relationship. (Dvořák, pleading for the publication of some larger works with less commercial appeal, reminded Simrock that “in my Slavonic Dances you have found a goldmine.”) He would have most liked for the title pages of his works to appear in Czech and his first name given as Antonín, but Simrock initially insisted on German titles and spelling the name Anton. Eventually they compromised, often using both titles and abbreviating the name to the dual purpose Ant. A First Great Success Simrock published Dvořák’s first set of eight Slavonic Dances (Op. 46) in 1878 and they were an immediate success in Germany. Louis Ehlert, one of the most important critics of the time, lavished praise on them: “Here at last is a hundred percent talent and, what is more, a completely natural talent. I consider the Slavonic Dances to be a work that will make its triumphant way through the world the same way as Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. … Here we are confronted with perfected works of art and not with some pastiche stuck together from scraps of national melody.” Their great success understandably led Simrock to want more but Dvořák initially resisted: “You will forgive me but I simply have not the slightest inclination now to think of such light music. I must tell you that it will not be by any means so simple a matter with the Slavonic Dances as it was the first time. To do the same thing twice is devilishly difficult. As long as I am not in the right mood for it, I cannot do anything. It’s something that cannot be forced.” It took some years for Dvořák to get into the right mood but when he did, in the summer of 1886, he informed Simrock: “I am enjoying doing the Slavonic Dances immensely and am sure that this (the second set) will be quite different (no joking and no irony).” He wrote the new eight dances in just a month. Simrock responded enthusiastically—and predictably. He asked that Dvořák orchestrate them as soon as possible: “They must be orchestrated—they are as orchestral as you can imagine!” Dvořák began to do so in mid-November: “The Dances will be brilliantly orchestrated, they will bring the house down, but it will be devilish work.” They were completed by early January. They are indeed colorful orchestral masterpieces, but also, in many cases, quite different compositionally from the four-hand piano originals. An analogy to the visual arts might be that Dvořák did not faithfully “colorize” a black and white print, but rather fully realized glorious new paintings. A Closer Look Dvořák was a more experienced composer by this time, and the second set shows greater subtlety and variety of moods than the first. As he had hoped, he did not repeat himself. Undoubtedly he was inspired by the provincial village bands he had heard as a child. The eight dances in the first series were joyous pieces based on Czech dances, except for the second that uses a Ukrainian dumka. In the second set, however, he expanded this range of influences well beyond the Czech lands. The title of Slavonic Dances, indeed, is apt and not as narrowly nationalistic as that of his great older contemporary Bedrich Smetana. (As a young man Dvořák had played viola in an opera orchestra under Smetana’s direction.) According to the memoirs of Oskar Nedbal, one of Dvořák’s students, “The way Dvořák saw himself in relation to Smetana was interesting. Once he said to me, ‘You have all written so much about Smetana and myself and have tried to figure out what is the difference between us, but up until this point no one has yet arrived at the truth. And it’s really simple: Smetana’s music is Czech, and mine is Slavic.’” He made similar comments on other occasions and considered Tchaikovksy the greatest living composer. Smetana, moreover, was not pleased with the Slavonic Dances and wrote a set of Czech Dances as “a moderately angry response,” in the words of the Dvořák scholar Michael Beckerman. Although Dvořák did not name the specific dances he had in mind, later scholars have labeled them (the titles often appear in programs and on recordings). This can be somewhat confusing as Dvořák tended to mix various dances within one number, especially in the second set we hear tonight. The reserved, even melancholy dumka appears as it did in the first set, as does the skocná (jump dance). There is also a duple meter kolo from Serbia, a polonaise, and a Slovak odzemek. Both sets end with the sousedská (neighbors’ dance), provid ing a lyrical rather than flashy conclusion. As biographer John Clapham has observed: “Dvořák tends to make his melody and harmony more chromatic [than in the first set], which gives additional depth of feeling and greater pathos to the music. All in all they represent a greater artistic achievement than the earlier set of dances, and stand high in the world’s dance music.” —Christopher H. Gibbs Program note © 2005. All rights reserved. Program note may not be reprinted without written permission from The Philadelphia Orchestra Association. Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50 Composed in 1930 Paul Hindemith Born in Hanau, Germany, November 16, 1895 Died in Frankfurt, December 28, 1963 Pride shines in this music. Serge Koussevitzky, who had become chief conductor of the Boston Sympho ny in 1924, was determined to make his orchestra’s 50th anniversary season of 1930-31 a celebration, and to that end he commissioned works from 10 leading composers. Among the results—along with Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Roussel’s Third Symphony, Ho negger’s First, and Prokofiev’s Fourth—was this piece by Hindemith, the only German invitee. A Title with a Double Meaning The word Konzert can mean either “concert” or “concerto,” and both connotations are wrapped up in Hindemith’s title: This is “concert music” that is also “concerted music,” music disposing its forces in the manner of a concerto. In 1925 Hindemith had written what seems to have been the earliest concerto for orchestra, his Op. 38. The next year came his first use of the title Konzertmusik, above a score for military band. And in 1930 he composed the present work as the last of three pieces with the same name, the others being for viola and large chamber orchestra (Op. 48, which he wrote for himself as soloist), and for piano, brass, and two harps (Op. 49, for the Chicago Symphony). Certainly the pride was also his, writing for the first time for leading orchestras outside Germany. For most of his earlier orchestral works (his Op. 38 being unusual in this regard) Hindemith had devised a particular chamber orchestra or ensemble of soloists: Notable examples include the seven pieces of 1922-27 to which he gave the title Kammermusik (Chamber Music). His reasons for preferring such reduced groupings seem to have been both practical and philosophical, having to do with the economic malfunctioning in Germany at the time, with his feeling of proximity to Baroque music, and with his sense for what would sound well when heard, via radio or recording, through a loudspeaker. Music’s New Future Like other German composers, he had come to feel during the 1920s that music’s future lay with these new media. Concerts, it then seemed, would have to become redundant, now that a single musical performance could be heard, potentially, by millions. Live music would only survive—and might even be reborn—as an activity for amateurs. Hence the stress Hindemith placed, in the late 1920s, on music for radio and for amateur musicians. As he put it in a letter of May 1930 to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, who had commissioned the piece for Chicago: “In recent years, I have almost entirely turned away from concert music and composed nearly exclusively music with pedagogical or social tendencies; for amateurs, children, broadcast, mechanical instruments, etc. I hold this sort of composition to be more important than writing for concert uses because the latter usually serve only as a technical task for the musicians and have hardly anything to do with the advancement of music.” A Closer Look He was on the point, though, of changing his mind—and indeed of rejoicing in a new embrace of the professional symphonic world, if we may judge by the fresh, frank energy he brought to this Konzertmusik for Strings and Brass. The work is effectively a concerto for these two most homogeneous orchestral families, which take turns in the leading role. The first of the two parts begins with an oration for pairs of trumpets and trombones in octaves, with strings accompanying. After this, the full brass section, without strings, gives out and plays with a fanfare idea. There follows a short development, again brassy, with only the basses involved from among the strings. The whole outline is then repeated, with considerable variation—not least in that the strings are now to the fore: Indeed, in the “oration” they are alone. The “fanfare” episode has both groupings fully and equally involved for the first time, but the strings recover their dominance in the second development and maintain it into the coda, where the “oration” returns verbatim, now played by strings reinforced by horns. A passage in lively fugal style opens the second part, again carried by the strings, though with notable comments from the brass. The first of these, introduced by brisk, emphatic chords, is a horn duet reflecting the U.S. popular music that had been important to Hindemith for several years. Some while later, the fugue peters out to be replaced by a new tune, heard twice on the strings and the third time taken up by trumpets. But again the ebullience comes to an end, now giving way to a slow section, whose melody, marked “very tender,” is played three times: first by the violas, then by the first trombone with completion in the strings, and finally by the full violin section, whose greater force retreats as a solo trumpet takes over. After that, the fugue comes back, but it is changed and fails to generate the impetus that will continue into the perky tune as before. The music seems to be running out of steam, and a single attempt at the tune, made by the first trombone, fails to revive it. What does work is an expansion of the earlier horn duet into an apotheosis of the big band, saluting elements from throughout the movement as it spreads toward a close in D- flat major (the equivalent to the C-sharp major on which the first part had ended). The work was warmly received by its early critics, some of whom expressed surprise at this previously spiky, iconoclastic composer’s reachievement of traditional tonality and his full espousal of the big gesture. Of course, those crit ics could not know that Hindemith was on a new path, one that would soon lead to the symphony Mathis der Maler (1933-34) and the viola concerto Der Schwanendreher (1935). By 1938, when he re-encountered the work on a visit to Boston, it was long in the past: “I was pleasantly surprised, for I hardly remembered it. It is serious but at the same time very lively; it always sounds clear and is not at all ugly.” —Paul Griffiths Program note commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra Association: © 2005 Paul Griffiths ABOUT THE ARTIST Wolfgang Sawallisch became conductor laureate of The Philadelphia Orchestra in September 2003, following the culmination of his decade-long tenure as the Orchestra’s sixth music director. Acclaimed as one of the greatest living exponents of the Germanic musical tradition, Mr. Sawallisch enriched and expanded upon the Orchestra’s century-old tradition of excellence, leaving an enduring legacy of artistic achievements with the ensemble. He was an outspoken advocate for the Orchestra’s new home at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and actively participated in planning for the new concert hall’s acoustics and operations. Mr. Sawallisch was born in Munich and graduated from that city’s Academy of Music. He began his conducting career at the Opera Theater of Augsburg, where he served as vocal coach, chorus master, and conductor of ballet, opera, and concert music. In 1953 he became the youngest conductor to lead the Berlin Philharmonic. He next held music directorships in Aachen, Wiesbaden, and Cologne and appeared annually at the Bayreuth Festival. He was music director of the Vienna Symphony from 1960 to 1970, and also served as music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic from 1961 to 1973. He served as artistic director of Geneva’s Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1973 to 1980. In 1971 he was appointed music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, serving concurrently as the Opera’s general manager during his last 10 years there before coming to Philadelphia. As a guest conductor, Mr. Sawallisch’s recent appearances include performances with the Berlin, Vienna, Israel, and Czech philharmonics; the Vienna Symphony; Tokyo’s NHK Orchestra; the Orchestre de Paris; and London’s Philharmonia. Mr. Sawallisch is highly regarded as a chamber musician and accompanist. He has collaborated and recorded with such vocalists as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Nicolai Gedda, Thomas Hampson, Hermann Prey, Lucia Popp, and Peter Schreier, as well as with the Munich Residenz Quartet, cellist Heinrich Schiff, and violinists Sarah Chang and Frank Peter Zimmermann. Mr. Sawallisch’s discography includes a wide range of orchestral and opera recordings, both with The Philadelphia Orchestra and with a number of European ensembles. His Philadelphia discs include works by Bruckner, Dvořák, Hindemith, Schumann, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner. Mr. Sawallisch was given the Toscanini Gold Baton in recognition of his 35-year association with La Scala in Milan. He has received honorary degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and Villanova University, as well as the Pennsylvania Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award. 02/2005 PRODUCTION CREDITS Balance Engineer: George Blood Recording Engineer: George Blood Editor: Charles Gagnon Archival Transfer: Jason O’Connell Cover and Bio Photo: Chris Lee