Overture Magazine - 2015-2016 Season March-April 2016 - Page 27

program notes { song, which ebbs and flows in intensity and passion. Midway through this movement comes a faster, feathery dance led by the piano; listen to the woodwind solos that accompany it for they are singing a cleverly altered version of movement one’s chant theme. The pianist abruptly dismisses the dark mood, and with a burst of virtuosity sails directly into the finale. Rachmaninoff loved the sound of Russian church bells, and we hear them ringing in the piano as the finale opens. As in movement one, the second theme is first presented rhythmically in thick, aggressively syncopated piano chords. Then it is transformed into the big soaring tune we wait for in every Rachmaninoff work. A series of variations on the bell theme, featuring coruscating pianism of extreme difficulty, takes the place of a development section. The concerto’s final drive begins with a roaring march for the piano, spurred on by low strings. Instrumentation: Two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Born in Votkinsk, Russia, May 7, 1840; died in St. Petersburg, Russia, November 6, 1893 Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony is a tale of two women. Both entered the composer’s life in 1877, the year he created this tempestuous, fate-filled work. One of them nurtured his creative career with bountiful gifts of friendship, understanding, and money; the other, in a quixotic marriage, nearly destroyed it. The composer’s bright angel was Nadezhda von Meck, recently widowed and heiress to a substantial financial empire. An intelligent, highly complex woman, she loved music passionately and that passion became focused on Tchaikovsky. Early in 1877, she began writing long, heartfelt letters to him: “I regard the musician-human as the supreme creation of nature. … In you the musician and the human being are united so beautifully, so harmoniously, that one can give oneself up entirely to the charm of the sounds of your music, because in these sounds there is noble, unfeigned meaning.” From such effusions grew one of the strangest and most fruitful relationships in music. Mme. von Meck and Tchaikovsky found they were soul mates, yet they determined to conduct their relationship exclusively through letters and never to meet. For 14 years, they poured out their innermost feelings to each other. She gave him a generous annual stipend that freed him from financial worries. He stayed at her estate when she was away. Years later, when they accidentally encountered each other on a street in Florence, they raced past each other in embarrassment. For a man of homosexual inclination who nevertheless yearned for closeness with a woman, it was an ideal situation. Less ideal was Tchaikovsky’s relationship with his dark angel, Antonina Milyukova, whom the composer — hoping to create a “respectable” home life for himself —foolishly agreed to marry in July 1877. The relationship was a disaster from the beginning and drove the composer to a nervous breakdown. He fled his new bride almost immediately and for years traveled throughout Europe to avoid her. The Fourth Symphony was conceived during this turmoil — drafted before the marriage and orchestrated in the aftermath — and the continual appearances of a “Fate” fanfare, the turbulence of its first movement, and the almost hysterical rejoicing of its finale reflect it. Dedicating the