Spring 2014

Conductor Mark Shapiro
with Guest Artist Ben Marmen, Cello

Program

Waltz from Eugene Onegin ~ P.I. Tchaikovsky 

Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 ~ P.I. Tchaikovsky 
Var. I 
Var. II 
Var. III  
Var. IV 
Var. V 
Var. VI 
Var. VII
Var. VIII 
Benjamin Marmen, Cello 

Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36 ~ P.I. Tchaikovsky 
I. Andante sostenuto, moderato con anima 
II. Andantino in modo di canzona 
III. Scherzo 
IV. Allegro con fuoco 

Waltz from Eugene Onegin

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

 

Eugene Onegin, Op. 24, is an opera in 3 acts (7 scenes) composed by Tchaikovsky in 1879. The libretto, organised by the composer and Konstantin Shilovsky, very closely follows certain passages in Alexander Pushkin's novel in verse, retaining much of his poetry. Shilovsky contributed M. Triquet's verses in Act 2, Scene 1, while Tchaikovsky wrote the words for Lensky's arioso in Act 1, Scene 1, and almost all of Prince Gremin's aria in Act 3, Scene 1.

Eugene Onegin is a well-known example of lyric opera, to which Tchaikovsky added music of a dramatic nature. The story concerns a selfish hero who lives to regret his blasé rejection of a young woman's love and his careless incitement of a fatal duel with his best friend.

The opera was first performed in Moscow in 1879. There are several recordings of it, and it is regularly performed. The work's title refers to the protagonist.

Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

The Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, for cello and orchestra was the closest Tchaikovsky ever came to writing a full concerto for cello and orchestra. The style was inspired by Mozart, Tchaikovsky's role model, and makes it clear that Tchaikovsky admired the Classical style very much. However, the Thema is not Rococo in origin, but actually an original theme in the Rococo style.

Tchaikovsky wrote this piece for and with the help of Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, a German cellist and fellow-professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Fitzenhagen gave the premiere in Moscow on November 30, 1877, with Nikolai Rubinstein conducting. This was perhaps the only hearing of the Variations as Tchaikovsky wrote the piece until 1941, when it was played in Moscow without Fitzenhagen's by-then-standard emendations.

The piece is composed of a theme and seven variations (eight in Tchaikovsky's original version). Part of the difficulty of the piece lies in this seemingly disingenuous format involving eight sections that follow one another without a break, devoid of the usual extended orchestral tuttis allowing the soloist to rest for a few moments. The soloist is also challenged by mostly having to play in the high register using the thumb position.

Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer whose works included symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, chamber music, and a choral setting of the Russian Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Some of these are among the most popular theatrical music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, which he bolstered with appearances as a guest conductor later in his career in Europe and the United States. One of these appearances was at the inaugural concert of Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1891. Tchaikovsky was honored in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension in the late 1880s.

Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky's life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. His sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera; there is an ongoing debate as to whether it was accidental or self-inflicted.

While his music has remained popular among audiences, critical opinions were initially mixed. Some Russians did not feel it sufficiently representative of native musical values and were suspicious that Europeans accepted it for its Western elements. In apparent reinforcement of the latter claim, some Europeans lauded Tchaikovsky for offering music more substantive than base exoticism, and thus transcending stereotypes of Russian classical music. Tchaikovsky's music was dismissed as "lacking in elevated thought," according to longtime New York Times music critic Harold C. Schonberg, and its formal workings were derided as deficient for not following Western principles stringently.

Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, was written between 1877 and 1878. The symphony's first performance was at a Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow on February 22 1878, with Nikolai Rubinstein as conductor.

7:30 pm, Faith Tabernacle Church, 6225 Summit Street, Halifax, NS