Put Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) into the same room, and you end up with serenity, intensity and excitement rolled into a neatly packaged gift of incredible music.
Often I will allow the “smaller” compositions performed by an orchestra to fall by the wayside when writing these posts, simply to save on space. Yet I would be remiss if I did not mention all three fabulous pieces performed over the weekend by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Music Director Fabio Machetti.
The concert opened with Glazunov’s Vesna (“Spring”), Musical Picture in D major, op. 34, and it was all the sounds of spring. Glazunov was inspired by a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1873), and took the “spring” from the poetic lines and weaved it into his own orchestral nuances. The flutes were like the birds singing and floating from one tree to another; the strings created an image of growth, like the buds appearing on the tree branches and the flowers sprouting from the earth; the French horns were the sun’s warmth upon the planet; the harp and xylophone were the dew in the early morning; and the entire orchestra was the balmy breeze that ruffles the grass and carries the scents of apple blossoms through the air.
The entire piece was relaxing and pleasing to the ear.
Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra was brilliantly performed by Violinist Jennifer Frautschi. Although the composer was initially leery about writing a violin concerto since he was less familiar with the instrument, the result is an interesting and perhaps different perspective on the typical way a violin might otherwise be played. Stravinsky showed off the athletic side of this instrument. Jennifer tackled the music with athleticism, grace and poise, and kept the performance affable.
The first three movements—Toccata, Aria I and Aria II—begin with similar tones and command the same pointed attention to the drama that follows. While the Aria II was a more somber conversation, as if a hush fell in the room, the Capriccio was livelier—a kick up your heels and dance to a playful jig kind of tempo. Yet here there was still an intensity with the violin. The concerto comes to an almost abrupt end, and it leaves the listener with a longing for more of the excitement in the language.
The biggest thrill of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4 in F minor, op. 36. He composed the symphony during an interesting time in his life. The wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck became an important benefactor to him, and her money allowed him to continue composing. Another woman, a former pupil of his, Antonina Miliukov, declared her love to him. She threatened suicide at one point if he did not agree to see her. He married her in the hopes that he could repel the rumors of his homosexuality (which, arguably, he was) and imagined for himself a platonic union. Not surprisingly, the marriage crumbled within days.
If one did not know Tchaikovsky’s history or the circumstances surrounding this composition, one would simply say this symphony is purely Tchaikovsky—brilliant, energetic, dramatic and wonderful. It is a workout for the orchestra and conductor, and was marvelously done by the JSO and Mechetti.
Throughout the first movement, Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima, there is a fierceness that conveys the composer’s struggles with life and his emotions. He projected more sadness in the second movement, Andantino in modo di canzona. Tchaikovsky compared his third movement, Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato (Allegro), to intoxication. There are a number of little dances which make the movement livelier than the previous one. By the fourth movement, Finale: Allegro con fuoco, the percussion is prominent. There is another series of dances, like the can-can, to a waltz, and a return to the can-can, where everyone seems happy and free. There is a recurring theme of the composition with the help of the brass section, as if to remind us of the excitement and thrill from the beginning of the symphony, and perhaps, his life.
Next Performance by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra:
March 11 & 12, 2011
Mozart, Leppard and Orion
Beethoven: Leonore Overture no. 3
Mozart: Piano Concerto no. 25
with Orion Weiss, 2010/11 Yvonne Charvot Barnett Young Artist
Elgar: Enigma Variations
Next Performance by Jennifer Frautschi:
March 3-5, 2011
Bruch: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in G minor
The Phoenix Symphony