It is not unusual for performers to play in challenging situations, however few situations are more challenging than the one captured on this recording. In a testament to his skill and artistry, Stewart Goodyear stepped in to play when the featured soloist for this concert canceled on the morning of the first rehearsal. Not only did Goodyear literally hop on a train to make it in time for an afternoon rehearsal, he stepped into the very challenging programmed repertoire without blinking. Two Shostakovitch Concertos on one program? No problem - and they are played with such passion and excitement that it was rightfully lauded in the press as one of the best concerts in recent memory.
Recorded live October 13, 2006, Verizon Hall, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
The musician we perhaps too often associate with somber portrayals of the emotional turmoil of an artist under Stalinism was also one of the wittiest musicians since Joseph Haydn. “When listeners laugh at a concert of my symphonic music, I am not in the least bit shocked,” wrote Dmitri Shostakovich in a Soviet magazine in 1934. “In fact, I am pleased.” This composer’s early scores are characterized by a sardonic and effervescent humor that is as profound as it is satirical. There was frequently a weird tinge as well— the word often applied in early criticism was “grotesque.” “I want to defend the right of laughter to appear in what is called ‘serious’ music,” Shostakovich wrote, touching on a truth known to great composers through the ages: that humor in art exists not just to elicit laughter, but to reveal truth. In Shostakovich, comedy and despair coexist as comfortably and intricately as they do in any music; humor is a means of coping with the unbearable. That there is a sharp edge to this humor should come as no surprise from one who embodied so completely the contradictions of living under the schizoid and unpredictable Soviet regime. Shostakovich’s early stage works (The Nose, The Golden Age, The Bolt) had dealt up ample servings of this sardonic wit, and the First Symphony of 1925 had its moments of youthful zest and joie de vivre as well. But it was with the First Piano Concerto that the composer brought the full force of his droll humor into the concert hall. An Ebullient Work Written in the summer of 1933, immediately after the completion of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (the official condemnation of which, in 1936, would change the course of his career), the First Piano Concerto is one of the composer’s most delightfully glib and ebullient works. Its wry humor and solid craftsmanship immediately assured that it would achieve the composer’s stated goal of “filling up the gap in Soviet instrumental repertoire, which lacks major works for the concert stage.” The work has remained a favorite of concert audiences for over half a century now. It also became a solo vehicle for its creator, who had begun his career at the Petrograd Conservatory as a dual talent, completing a degree in piano (at age 16) before earning his composition diploma. He was, of course, the soloist in the work’s premiere in Leningrad on October 15, 1933, with Fritz Stiedry conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic—and featuring the orchestra’s principal trumpet, Aleksandr Schmidt, a friend and favorite musician of the composer. The work was initially conceived as a “concerto for piano, with the accompaniment of string orchestra and trumpet,” and the prominent role assigned to the solo trumpet gives it a distinctive quality. This biting edge and the essential roles given to piano and trumpet have caused some writers to connect it to Petrushka—and there is no doubt that Shostakovich was familiar with Stravinsky’s masterpiece. But one could also make comparisons to Prokofiev’s early works—particularly his own First Piano Concerto of 1912, which had pulled at the trouser-seams of Romantic traditions. (That difficult concerto was one of the works in Shostakovich’s repertoire at the time.) Shostakovich’s humor is drier than that of either of those composers—and funnier, too, with an edge of hysteria. Nevertheless his First Piano Concerto was one of the last times he would give such free rein to his wit—the lively sense of fun that he still believed formed a part of his mission as an artist. A Closer Look at the First Concerto Shostakovich’s conservatory study had been rooted in classical styles and traditions, and he had learned his lessons well. In addition to quotations from Haydn, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and many others, this Concerto manages to work in popular tunes and a healthy dose of the burlesque. The opening Allegro moderato, which introduces piano and trumpet at the outset (in an admittedly Petrushka-like figure), presents a staunchly classical theme in C minor before veering off into a sort of can can—cartwheeling away, in the words of Ian MacDonald, “into a circus-world of comic turns and raspberries ringmastered by the trumpet.” Wittiness is brushed aside in the second movement (Lento), a grave meditation in the vein of the slow movement of Ravel’s G-major Concerto, and one that makes clear the composer’s wholly serious intent. The third movement (Moderato) is little more than a mournful recitative, a transition to the audacity of the finale. About as “over-the-top” as anything in 20th-century music, this Allegro con brio begins wildly and progresses to such a point of absurdity that the listener becomes aware that it is not really very funny after all and this is precisely the idea. A solo cadenza for piano serves only to heighten the shrill atmosphere of the movement, which also includes quotations from Haydn, from Beethoven’s “Rage over a Lost Penny,” and from a ditzy tune Shostakovich had originally composed as part of an interlude for Erwin Dressel’s opera Armer Columbus. In the final analysis, what appears to be a self-evident bit of dash and wit is, like almost everything in Shostakovich, full of complex and surprisingly dark hidden meanings. Fast Forward We must fast forward a quarter of a century, to 1957, for Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, written this time not to display his own keyboard artistry, but rather that of his son, Maxim, a gifted pianist who went on to become a noted conductor. Much had happened in the meantime, both in the turbulent history of the Soviet Union and the rollercoaster ride that was Shostakovich’s career. After the condemnation of Shostakovich in 1936, his rehabilitation with the Fifth Symphony the following year, and yet another official denunciation in 1948, he slowly worked his way back into the good graces of the government. With Stalin’s death in 1953 a general thaw in political oppression and the gradual rehabilitation of some intellectuals meant a less stressful and more comfortable life for the composer, now clearly the leading musician in the Soviet Union. Shostakovich had done little in the realm of the concerto during the 25 years. He withheld his First Violin Concerto, written for David Oistrakh, until after Stalin’s death, and composed a Concertino for Two Pianos, which Maxim first presented with a classmate in 1954. The Second Concerto was premiered on Maxim’s 19th birthday on May 10, 1957, as part of his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory. It was the last of the works Shostakovich wrote for pedagogical use by his children. Like J.S. Bach and other composers before him, he produced a variety of keyboard pieces for his two children, beginning with the Children’s Notebook, Op. 69, for his daughter, Galina (who eventually became a biologist), and various pieces for Maxim. A Closer Look at the Second Concerto The youthful exuberance and Haydnesque wit found in the First Concerto, but largely absent from his orchestral compositions in the intervening years, returns in full force. Shostakovich wrote to composer Edison Denisov that the Second Concerto had “no artistic merit,” a remark that minimizes the joyous and beautiful qualities of a piece that in the end may be more cheerful, hopeful, and optimistic than various substantial works where those qualities seemed forced or inauthentic. In any case, Shostakovich performed the Concerto many times himself and made a recording of it. (As evidence of the continuing family tradition, Maxim later conducted a recording featuring as soloist his own son, Dmitri, who bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather. The two also gave the Philadelphia Orchestra premiere of the Second Concerto.) David Rabinovich, one of Shostakovich’s early Soviet biographers, wrote about the work in 1959: “The Concerto shows the composer as though his own youth had returned to him.” He goes on to state: “The tremendous evolution that has taken place in Shostakovich in the past two decades has made its imprint on this concerto. The musical idiom is incomparably simpler and clearer than in the early pianoforte works. There can be no doubt that the composer made every effort to create a concerto to which the youth will be receptive. [Compared with his earlier keyboard works, including the First Piano Concerto], the only difference is that now all these things have a more tender sound, and the former sarcasm and unkind grotesqueries have been turned into sweet and gentle playfulness.” A solo bassoon initiates a witty neo-Classical style that soon accelerates with a military sounding theme for piano and orchestra, complete with snare-drum (Allegro). (The military mood was picked up in the movie Fantasia 2000 for a segment called the “Steadfast Tin Soldier.”) The haunting second movement (Andante) seems a throwback not to earlier Shostakovich, but to the previous century. It provides a searching meditation for strings and keyboard soloist before the playful mood returns in the irrepressible perpetual motion Finale (Allegro). Much of the piano passagework has the character of a mechanical piano student exercise, such as the notorious Czerny or Hanon studies fledgling piano students are subjected to. It was perhaps a sly way Shostakovich could make sure his son practiced! —Paul J. Horsley/Christopher H. Gibbs Program note © 2006. All rights reserved. Program note may not be reprinted without written permission from The Philadelphia Orchestra Association. ABOUT THE ARTISTS One of today’s leading international conductors, Christoph Eschenbach, now in his fourth season as music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, continues his creative artistic partnership with the venerable ensemble. Held in highest esteem by the world’s foremost orchestras and opera houses for his commanding presence, versatility, and consummate musicianship, Mr. Eschenbach has been acclaimed for his creative insight and dynamic energy as a conductor, a collaborator, and champion of young musicians. Highlights of his current Orchestra season include tributes to Mozart and Shostakovich, and the continuation of the Orchestra’s five-season long, first-ever Mahler cycle. In addition to his work with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Eschenbach continues as music director of the Orchestre de Paris. This season he also leads the Berlin Philharmonic and the Hamburg NDR Symphony. He appears at Carnegie Hall leading the Curtis Symphony and accompanying baritone Matthias Goerne on piano. A prolific recording artist, Mr. Eschenbach has made numerous recordings, as conductor, pianist, or both. His recordings include works from J.S. Bach to music of our time, and he has been an ardent champion of 20th-century music on disc. Before turning to conducting, Mr. Eschenbach earned a distinguished reputation as a concert pianist. He began winning major competitions at age 11, and made his United States debut in 1969 with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Eschenbach learned the art of conducting under, among others, Mr. Szell, who personally took him as his protégé, and with whom he worked for over three years. In addition, Herbert von Karajan was his mentor for nearly 25 years, and Mr. Eschenbach credits him as having had a tremendous influence on his development as a conductor. Mr. Eschenbach’s conducting debut was in Hamburg in 1972. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut as a pianist in 1973; his Philadelphia conducting debut was in 1989. He was named principal guest conductor of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra in 1981, becoming chief conductor from 1982 to 1986. Additional posts include music director of the Houston Symphony (1988-1999); chief conductor of the Hamburg NDR Symphony (1998-2004); music director of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (1999-2002); and music director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony (1994-2003). Among Mr. Eschenbach’s awards are the title of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, the Légion d’honneur of France, the Officer’s Cross with Star and Ribbon of the German Order of Merit, the Commander’s Cross of the German Order of Merit, and the Leonard Bernstein Award, presented to him by the Pacific Music Festival, where he served as co-artistic director from 1992 to 1998. Additional information about Mr. Eschenbach can be found at his website, www.christoph-eschenbach.com. 10/2006 Pianist Stewart Goodyear’s recent performance highlights have included return visits to the Saint Louis, Edmonton, Toronto, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Syracuse symphonies; the National Arts Centre and Florida orchestras; and debuts with the New York and Buffalo philharmonics and the Seattle, Detroit, and Nashville symphonies. He also gave a debut recital at Spivey Hall in Atlanta. Mr. Goodyear’s other orchestra appearances include the Chicago Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and the Montreal Symphony. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 1992 at the Mann Center. In recital he has appeared in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Bad Kissingen, and Washington, D.C.; he has also performed at the Caramoor, Santa Fe, and Ravinia festivals. In addition to being a pianist, Mr. Goodyear is a composer and frequently performs his own works, including his solo piano work Variations on “Eleanor Rigby,” and his Piano Sonata. He has also been commissioned by the Toronto Youth Symphony and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. His first large-scale work for orchestra, Caribbiana, was commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony and received its premiere in March 2005, and a new choral work was premiered by the Nathaniel Dette Chorale of Canada in June 2005. He is also one of the few classical musicians to improvise his cadenzas when performing concertos from the classical period. A native of Toronto, Mr. Goodyear recently graduated with a masters degree from the Juilliard School, studying with Oxana Yablonskaya. He previously studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, and Claude Frank. 10/2006 PRODUCTION CREDITS Producer: Charles Gagnon Balance Engineer: Charles Gagnon Recording Engineer: Charles Gagnon Editor: Charles Gagnon Christoph Eschenbach Bio Photo: Jessica Griffin Stewart Goodyear Bio Photo: Andrew Garn