Program Notes: Schubert's Great (November 19-20, 2021)

Program


David Danzmayr, conductor Simone Porter, violin


Anna Clyne

PIVOT (2021)


Max Bruch

Scottish Fantasy (1880)

Prelude: Grave—Adagio cantabile

Allegro

Andante sostenuto

Finale: Allegro guerriero


Simone Porter, violin


Franz Schubert

Symphony No. 9, "The Great" (1825)

Andante; Allegro, ma non troppo

Andante con moto

Scherzo: Allegro vivace

Allegro vivace


Program Notes

By Caitlin Custer


Preview

Some concerts leave you tapping out a rhythm on the steering wheel. Others convey an idea or a mood that stays with you for several days. This concert is all about melody, about a hummable tune that will float in the air alongside you for the next week.


Anna Clyne and Max Bruch look to Scotland for their inspiration, weaving folk tunes into their own works. In his Ninth Symphony, Franz Schubert takes melodies for a walk, creating and transforming theme after theme.

Anna Clyne

PIVOT

Anna Clyne

Born March 9, 1980, London, England


What piece would you recommend to an orchestra newcomer? A stalwart classic like Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or something more mystical, like Gustav Holst’s The Planets? Music Director Stéphane Denève offers his perspective:


“I love to have people listen to something new for their first time with the orchestra. Then it is something we discover together. Never hesitate to bring your friends to hear music of our time, because you’ll be equal in experiencing it.”


Today, we are all equal, experiencing Anna Clyne’s PIVOT for the first time together. An SLSO co-commission, it has only had one performance before this weekend’s concerts.

Anna Clyne writes of the piece:


“PIVOT is inspired by my experiences at the Edinburgh Festival where I enjoyed an array of fantastic performances across the arts. It is this variety that I have tried to capture in PIVOT, which, as the title suggests, pivots from one experience to another. The Pivot is also a former name of the 200-year-old folk music venue and pub in Edinburgh, The Royal Oak.


“PIVOT quotes fragments of The Flowers of Edinburgh, a traditional fiddle tune of eighteenth-century Scottish lineage that is also prominent in American fiddle music and thus bridges between Edinburgh and St. Louis.”


First performance: August 7, 2021, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Dalia Stesevska conducting

First SLSO performance: This weekend’s concerts

Instrumentation: flute, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet, trombone, strings

Approximate duration: 5 minutes

Max Bruch

Scottish Fantasy


Max Bruch

Born January 6, 1838, Cologne, Germany

Died October 2, 1920, Berlin, Germany

German composer Max Bruch had never set foot in Scotland. But what he lacked in physical experience, he made up for in imagination, reading everything Scottish he could get his hands on: poetry by Robert Burns (of “Auld Lang Syne” fame), novels by Sir Walter Scott, and Scottish folk songs.


Besides adoring Scottish folklore, Bruch adored the violin. A pianist by training, Bruch once said to a friend, “the violin can sing a melody much better than a piano, and melody is the soul of music.”


I. Prelude: Grave—Adagio cantabile: The solo violin pierces the orchestra’s storm clouds, releasing the dark mood into gentle rain.

Folk tune of origin: There’s debate about the origin of Bruch’s melody. It could be “Auld Rob Morris,” where the lower-class narrator laments that an heiress will never notice him. Or it could be “Through the Wood, Laddie,” where the narrator laments that his lover never appeared, leaving him alone to wander through the wood.


II. Allegro: The scene moves to a raucous dance hall, where the resident fiddle player leads the band.


Folk tune of origin: “The Dusty Miller” is told from the perspective of a woman who enjoys receiving a kiss from a miller.


III. Andante sostenuto: The orchestra welcomes the delicate, melancholy soloist into its warmth.

Folk tune of origin: A lonely woman misses her beloved in “I’m A’ Doun for Lack of Johnnie.”


IV. Finale: Allegro guerriero: The solo violin leads the orchestra into battle, where they emerge victorious.


Folk tune of origin: Robert Burns’ “Scots wha hae” prepares Scottish troops for war.


First performance: February 22, 1881, by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, in Liverpool, England, Max Bruch conducting, with Joseph Joachim as soloist

First SLSO performance: March 24, 1912, Max Zach conducting, with Charlotte DeMuth Williams as soloist

Most recent SLSO performance: January 10, 2008, Nicholas McGegan conducting, with Angie Smart as soloist

Instrumentation: solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, harp, strings

Approximate duration: 30 minutes

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns

Symphony No. 9, "The Great"

Franz Schubert

Born January 31, 1797, Vienna, Austria

Died November 19, 1828, Vienna, Austria


Schubert didn’t capture the public’s attention during his short lifetime. Most of his 1,500 works were left unpublished after his death. A decade later, composer, critic, and music journalist Robert Schumann visited Schubert’s brother. He found a treasure trove of symphonies and orchestral music, including this symphony—almost lost to history.


When he wrote the Ninth Symphony, Schubert was in his twenties, balancing a health crisis, anxiety, and the urge to push musical boundaries. He was already an accomplished songwriter, having set hundreds of poems to music for voice and piano. In this symphony Schubert calls on his skill for creating a melody and stretches it to epic proportions.


It took audiences several decades to come to appreciate the work. It “transports us into a world we cannot recall ever having been before,” wrote Robert Schumann, through “the breadth and expanse of the form, the striking changes of mood.” He went on to suggest that it’s best to sit back and let the work wash over you rather than analyze too closely. “We are landed,” he wrote, “we know not how.”


Did You Know?

Numbering Schubert’s symphonies is a tricky business. Because they were not published during his lifetime, there emerged several conflicting opinions. In most English-speaking countries, this symphony goes by No. 9, assigned by musicologist George Grove in 1867. Grove changed the numbering in his 1908 Dictionary of Music and Musicians, listing it there as No. 10. Others refer to it as No. 7, which was the number Johannes Brahms gave it when he was involved with the work’s publication. Otto Erich Deutsch, who cataloged Schubert’s music, calls it No. 8.


First performance: March 21, 1839, by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in Leipzig, Germany, Felix Mendelssohn conducting

First SLSO performance: March 15, 1912, Max Zach conducting

Most recent SLSO performance: May 1, 2016, David Robertson conducting

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, strings

Approximate duration: 48 minutes

Caitlin Custer is the SLSO's Communications Manager.


Program Notes are sponsored by Washington University Physicians.