Canadian Superstar James Ehnes
JoAnn Falletta conducts superstar violinist James Ehnes in his debut with the BPO, performing the lush, lyrical Korngold Violin Concerto. This concert also features a new work by UB Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition David Felder, die Dammerungen; the brilliant rondo “Invitation to the Dance,” written for piano by Carl Maria von Weber and transcribed for orchestra by Hector Berlioz; and finally, Strauss’ warmhearted Der Rosenkavalier--“The Knight of the Rose.” Come one hour prior to these concerts to hear directly from the artists in “Musically Speaking,” hosted by JoAnn Falletta.
DAVID FELDER die Dammerungen
KORNGOLD Violin Concerto (James Ehnes, violin)
WEBER/BERLIOZ Invitation to the Dance
STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier Suite
About James Ehnes
James Ehnes has established himself as one of the most sought-after violinists on the international stage. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes is a favourite guest of many of the world’s most respected conductors including Ashkenazy, Alsop, Sir Andrew Davis, Denève, Elder, Ivan Fischer, Gardner, Paavo Järvi, Mena, Noseda, Robertson and Runnicles. Ehnes’s long list of orchestras includes, amongst others, the Boston, Chicago, London, NHK and Vienna Symphony Orchestras, the Los Angeles, New York, Munich and Czech Philharmonic Orchestras, and the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Philharmonia and DSO Berlin orchestras.
Alongside his concerto work, James Ehnes maintains a busy recital schedule. He performs regularly at the Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Center Chicago, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Ravinia, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, Verbier Festival, Festival de Pâques in Aix, and in 2009 he made a sensational debut at the Salzburg Festival performing the Paganini Caprices. In 2016, Ehnes undertook a cross-Canada recital tour, performing in each of the country’s provinces and territories, to celebrate his 40th birthday.
As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with leading artists such as Andsnes, Capucon, Lortie, Lugansky, Yo-Yo Ma, Tamestit, Vogler and Yuja Wang. In 2010, he formally established the Ehnes Quartet, with whom he has performed in Europe at venues including the Wigmore Hall, Auditorium du Louvre in Paris and Théâtre du Jeu de Paume in Aix, amongst others. Ehnes is the Artistic Director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society.
Ehnes has an extensive discography and has won many awards for his recordings including a Gramophone Award for his live recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia Orchestra. His recording of the Korngold, Barber and Walton violin concertos won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Instrumental Soloist Performance’ and a JUNO award for ‘Best Classical Album of the Year’. His recording of the Paganini Caprices earned him universal praise, with Diapason writing of the disc, “Ehnes confirms the predictions of Erick Friedman, eminent student of Heifetz: ‘there is only one like him born every hundred years’.” Ehnes’s recent recording of the Bartók Concerti was nominated for a Gramophone Award in the Concerto category. Recent releases include sonatas by Beethoven, Debussy, Elgar and Respighi, and concertos by Britten, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Walton, as well as the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrew Manze, which was released in October 2017 (Onyx Classics)
Ehnes began violin studies at the age of four, became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin aged nine, made his orchestral debut with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal aged 13 and graduated from The Juilliard School in 1997, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and in 2010 was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
James Ehnes plays the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715.
Click here to make reservations for the Salvatore’s Symphony Shuttle (Saturday only)
by Edward Yadzinski
born: 27 November 1953, Cleveland, OH
Morgendämmerung – Lyric
Abenddämmerung – Calmo
- East of Aurora – Lyrical
- De profundis clamavi
Shir HaMa’alot Mima’amakim
Elegaic – Lamentoso
Shrill – Declamatory
These are the first performances of this work on the Classics series; duration 23 minutes
David Felder began his life in music at age 10 with lessons on drums. His formal training ensued at Miami University, Ohio, where he majored in composition, and studied voice, and choral conducting as well, and was awarded Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In turn he was appointed to direct the electronic music studio at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied composition with Donald Erb. For his doctoral studies, David attended the University of California at San Diego. At USCD he studied with composers Roger Reynolds, Bernard Rands, and Robert Erickson, and was awarded a PhD in composition. Felder joined the music faculty at UB in 1985, where he holds the Birge-Cary Chair in composition. Since 1985-6 David has also served as the Director of the June in Buffalo new music festival, which he revived upon his arrival in Buffalo. He is Director of the Center for 21st Century Music and Co-Director of the Creative Arts Initiative at the University. During the 1990s Felder was named Meet the Composer Composer-in-Residence for the Buffalo Philharmonic during the tenure of music director Maximiano Valdés. Over many seasons the BPO has performed many of Felder’s scores including Six Poems from Neruda’s “Alturas”; Between; Coleccion Nocturna, Linebacker Music, Three Pieces for Orchestra, Incendio, and Three Lines from Twenty Poems.
Felder’s numerous awards include three commissions supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland fund, the Guggenheim and Koussevitzky Foundations, Fromm Foundation Fellowships, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He has also received the Music Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a career recognition award.
Die Dämmerungen was completed in 2018 with a dedication to JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The work reveals Felder’s continuing interest in scoring evocative narratives for orchestra. As a grandly cast metaphor, the elaborate score reflects a past-to-present synthesis of both musical and literary sources, from a Biblical reference through Wagner through late 20th century poetry.
Conceived as an expansive tone poem with layers of emotive symbolism, Die Dämmerungen offers a complex soundscape to represent diverse and powerful elements of human reality. The first clue that something momentous is at hand comes from the title in German – Die Dämmerungen – an unmistakable reference to the cataclysmic apotheosis of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, when Valhalla, the palace of the gods, is consumed in a great fury of fire and flood. (The conclusion of Felder’s work confirms the similitude at hand – stand by).
In German, the title ‘Die Dämmerungen’ translates into ‘The Twilights’ – whether at dusk or at sunrise. As a prologue to the first three movements, the score contains printed verse. Movement 1 is framed by American poet William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) poem, titled The Descent, beginning with the lines:
“Sparkles from the Wheel
The descent beckons
As the ascent beckoned.”
In sequence, the first movement offers both motifs: Morgendämmerung (sunrise at dawn), opens with quiescent stillness; Abenddämmerung (sunset at dusk) begins with high decibel timbres which blend into an intrigue of devolving phrases.
Titled East of Aurora, the second movement is a reference to Felder’s permanent residence in East Aurora. The score likewise contains symbolic verse as a preface, i.e. The Burning Ladder by American poet Michael Dana Gioia (b.1950), here in brief summation:
“Jacob never climbed the ladder burning in his dream
…his eyes closed to the Seraphim ascending
…into the scattered light between the stars.”
As before, the music begins with subdued poise, in turns enlightened by gathering luminance as a prelude to a striving adventure of orchestral effects, all of which subside into Jacob’s reverie.
Titled in Latin, De profundis clamavi, the third movement is a reference to Psalm 130 in the Bible. Felder also includes the title in Hebrew: Shir HaMa’alot Mima’amakim, known as A song of Ascents. As performance cues, the music is marked “Elegiac – Lamentoso.” With many changes in meter and accent, the narrative gathers solemn luster through to a voluminous close.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!”
Apart from the preceding, the Finale does not offer a specific literary or Biblical reference. Felder states that the fourth movement represents the verismo reality of today’s world, with discarded ideals and unconscionable ideologies. Like the opening movement, the Finale is cast in two parts: Götzen-Dämmerung (Idol Twilight) and Dämmerungengutter (Gutter Twilight). For reference, ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’ may be taken as the decline of symbolic idols (perhaps even the decline of Idylls). Moreover, Felder adds the term Secco (dry, harsh) as a style cue to the garish tonal symbolism. In turn follows Dämmerungengutter (decline to the gutters of reality). The composer applies the term Shrill as a style marker, as the graphic score proceeds to the flagrant final moment, marked Declamatory.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
born: 29 May 1897, Brünn, Austria-Hungary
died: 29 November 1957, Hollywood
Violin Concerto, Op.35
Finale: Allegro assai vivace
First Classics performance: May 11, 1996. Conducted by Roberto Abbado, with violinist Gil Shaham; most recent performance: April 13, 2014, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, with violinist Michael Ludwig; duration 25 minutes
Recognized as one of the greatest child prodigies of all time, Erich Wolfgang Korngold is best-known today for his film scores, the opera Die tote Stadt (“The Dead City”) and his Violin Concerto, Op.35. The stories from his youth are astonishing. For example, at the age of eleven Korngold scored the ballet Der Schneermann (The Snowman) which caused a sensation when it was premiered at the Vienna Court Opera in 1910. His first orchestral works, the Schauspiel Ouvertüre (1911) and the Sinfonietta (1912), so impressed Richard Strauss that he noted: “One’s first reactions to the fact that these compositions are by an adolescent boy are those of awe and fear. The firmness of style, the sovereignty of form, the individual expression, the harmonic structure – it is truly amazing.”
Die tote Stadt, which premiered in Hamburg in 1920, is among the most successful operas of the 20th century. The work cast its 22-year old composer into the international limelight. However, the emergence of Nazi politics eventually forced Korngold to immigrate to the United States in 1934, where he settled in Hollywood and began a second career as a film composer. He won two Academy Awards for best film scores for Anthony Adverse (1936) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). In 1975, Die tote Stadt was successfully revived in New York City.
Korngold’s Violin Concerto was scored in 1945 and dedicated to the eminent virtuoso Jascha Heifetz (whose brilliant recording of the work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been reissued on CD). Opus 35 is a modern example of a very old practice among composers – i.e. the art of borrowing from previous scores and adapting the music to a new purpose. In this case the lovely tune heard at the very opening is from Konrngold’s film score Another Dawn (1939). After a gentle development the music introduces a second theme, this time appropriated from the film Juárez (1939). One can only listen in admiration to the mastery of this mélange, crafted as well with a breathless cadenza to add excitement to the musical imagery.
As a source for the second movement Romance, Korngold overlays one of the loveliest moments from his score for the film Anthony Adverse (1936). Here the music is a poignant reverie, with the lyrical line in the solo violin scored in a sunlit, high-wire tessitura. One wishes for associated snapshots from the film for clues to the tender meaning of the tune.
For lighthearted contrast the third movement takes off as half-scherzo and half-folk dance. Once again Korngold borrows one of his own motifs, this time from the film score for The Prince and the Pauper (1937). The nuance here is unmistakably jocular and playful, with some very classy and bumptious Hollywood scoring. The music capers with everything from a fiddler’s country reel to a rodeo hoe-down. Great fun.
Carl Maria von Weber
born: 18 November 1786, Eutin
died: 5 June 1826, London, England
Invitation to the Dance
Introduction, Moderato grazioso
Allegro vivace, brillante, grazioso
These are the first performances of this work on the Classics series; duration 9 minutes
Through all of classical music, references to the myriad forms of dance are everywhere: minuet, gavotte, bolero, pavane, tarantella, gigue, Ländler, gallop, polka, etc. Yet of all the forms, none reigns more supreme than the orchestral waltz. Consider the record: after Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, followed the beautiful waltz movements of Brahms and Dvořák, the keyboard poetry of Chopin’s Waltzes, “At the Ball” from Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony, great waltz scenes in opera and ballet, the treasures of the Waltz King Johann Strauss, Jr., etc. In sum, the waltz repertoire is a veritable trove of light and highly variable masterpieces, almost all of them scored prior to 1900. Indeed, by the turn of the century one might have reasonably hung a ‘No Vacancy’ sign on the genre. But then along came Franz Lehar with The Merry Widow in 1905, followed by Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier in 1910, and Maurice Ravel’s tour de force in 3/4 time, La Valse, in 1920.
Returning to the era of Carl Maria von Weber, he was revered by Wagner and lauded by virtually every composer who followed. His music remains among the most enduring from the theater wing of the symphonic repertoire. It was Weber who took the baton from Mozart and expanded the genre of the lyric stage into a form that now bears the name ‘grand opera.’ He wrote:
“Opera must be a self-contained work in which all the related arts are in
collaboration, blended together to create a new world.”
Weber’s remark also hints at why even all of his instrumental music has a theatrical feel. And he was true to form when scoring his now very famous Invitation to the Dance for piano in 1819, well before the waltz craze captivated the whole of Europe. Weber wrote the piece as an anniversary gift for his wife. The ‘Invitation’ part of the piece carries a mini storyline about a young cavalier who gets up his courage to ask a damsel to dance. Among the measured phrases of the slow introduction Weber added a scenario:
“The dancers approach each other – the lady is politely hesitant. With excited desire he takes a step towards her. He begins to converse. She replies modestly, and responds warmly to his compliments. Now for the dance! He asks for the honor to take her hand. She responds affirmatively. The pair steps forward together, waiting for the dance to begin. After the brilliant waltz, she accepts his thanks as they retire from the floor. Silence returns.”
While Weber originally scored the work for keyboard, by far the best known version is Berlioz’ brilliant arrangement for orchestra. Transposing the work up a half-step to the string-friendly key of D major, the French master recast the work as a ballet interlude for a Paris performance of Weber’s opera Der Freischütz in 1842. We should note that Weber’s influence was keenly appreciated by Berlioz, whose own Ball Scene from the Fantastic Symphony was scored a dozen years after Invitation. In his Memoirs many years later, Berlioz offers a tribute to Weber’s inspired genius.
In keeping with Weber’s narrative, the music begins demurely, with the role of the young man represented by the cello, and that of the young girl by the upper winds. His invitation and her careful replies are unmistakable. Then suddenly – a florid waltz takes to the air, spinning with happy whirls and seductive delight. A tender postlude closes the scene. Wunderbar..!
born: 11 June 1864, Munich
died: 8 September 1949, Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Der Rosenkavalier Suite
First Classics performance: March 29, 1949, conducted by William Steinberg;
most recent performance: March 30, 2008, conducted by JoAnn Falletta; duration 22 minutes
Richard Strauss enjoyed a long and creative life. His first major work was Don Juan, scored in 1888 at the age of 24 – a racy orchestral tone poem (the first of many to come). At the far end of his catalog are the perpetual lilies of the Four Last Songs, an exquisite cycle that Strauss composed as his farewell in 1948-49. But from within those brackets we find a wealth of Romantic passion, including the well-known tone poems which alternate between dark philosophy and comic relief, and some very heavy-duty operas like Salome of 1905 and Elektra of 1908. Then, in 1910, for a change of pace, the composer completed what he called ‘a comedy for music’ – the endearing Der Rosenkavalier, The Knight of the Rose.
Based on a three-act libretto by the Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the opera is set in 18th century Vienna during the time of Empress Maria Theresa. However, Strauss’ music is a tribute to an era about a century later, marked by the gaiety of the Viennese waltz, a style altogether unknown during the Empress’ celebrated reign. No matter – we are out to have fun. Moreover, this is ‘komische Oper’ (comic opera), which means that anything can happen and most certainly will happen: like the fact that both the male and female leading parts are played by sopranos – with the cavalier role of Octavio assigned to a mezzo. (On this Strauss followed Mozart’s lead: in The Marriage of Figaro the male role of Cherubino is likewise set for a mezzo-soprano.)
Der Rosenkavalier in sum: Bored with palace life and her urbane husband, the beautiful Marschallin amuses herself with the conquest of Octavian, a handsome young page. The curtain opens just past dawn in the Marschallin’s boudoir, after an amorous night with Octavian. An impromptu interruption by her country cousin, Baron Ochs, sets the comedy in action. In behalf of the old Baron, Octavian is sent to deliver a Silver Rose (symbolizing a marriage proposal) to a lovely debutante, Sophie, whose father is a newly rich noble. To be sure, Octavian and Sophie discover true love. Droll mayhem begins, featuring a gallery of gallants and their dissatisfied ladies. There is even a special ‘tryst room’ hidden from detection. At the final curtain, Sophie and Octavian are united while the Marschallin and everyone else is free to pursue any next ‘opportunity.’
In the course of the action, the Marschallin realizes that she must give up her young lover to a girl of his own generation. About this Strauss later noted in his memoirs, titled Recollections and Reflections:
“The Marschallin must be a young and beautiful woman of about thirty-two, who, when she is in a bad mood, occasionally feels ancient compared to her paramour, the seventeen-year old Octavian. Of course, Octavian is neither the first nor the last lover of the beautiful Marschallin, and she is not to play the end of the first act in a sentimental fashion, as a tragic farewell to life, but with Viennese grace and lightness, half weeping, half smiling.”
Strauss later extracted the alluring tunes into an orchestral suite, followed by a variety of derivations by others. All of the settings are centered around the florid waltzes of Der Rosenkavalier. And in every version, the music resounds with lusty tunes, swaggering rhythms, piquant harmonies and a scintillating orchestration – all in tribute to the great tradition of the Viennese waltz.