Katherine McLin, violin
Lera Auerbach, piano & composer
David Danzmayr, conductor
ProMusica’s April program takes you on a whirlwind tour of Vienna. We open with Johann Strauss Jr.’s beloved Roses from the South, a stunning compilation of waltzes from Vienna’s beloved Waltz King. Then, concertmaster Katie McLin will join composer and pianist Lera Auerbach in a world premiere of the latter’s A Twofold Dream, a new spin on Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp. And we will conclude with another in our Schubert symphonic cycle, the Tenth Symphony, a work left unfinished at the time of the composer’s death, which was later reconstructed by Brian Newbould.
Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899): Roses from the South
Scored for pairs of winds, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, percussion and harp. Duration is 7 minutes.
Johann Jr. fought an uphill battle as the son of one of Vienna’s most beloved composers, and it started at home. Johann Sr., famous among his fellow Viennese for his waltzes, forbade any of his sons to pursue music, in hopes of their avoiding the rigors associated with a musical life. Banking, so the old man thought, held a far more promising future (while naturally helping to avoid any direct competition with the father). As it so happened, all three sons would enjoy musical careers. Johann Jr., meanwhile, was forced to study violin secretly, which he did on the sly with a violinist in his father’s orchestra. When the old man discovered his son’s playing, he attempted to beat the love of music out of him. Later, as a promising composer, Johann Jr. convinced the proprietor of a local casino—a venue where his father had a string of successful concerts—to host a concert of his music. The critics were wowed with the younger man’s music and the performance helped launch a career that would eventually earn him the sobriquet “The Waltz King.” Johann Sr., meanwhile, never again allowed his music to be performed at the casino.
Composed in 1880, the tunes comprising Roses aus dem Süden were drawn from Strauss’ operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Königin (The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief). The medley’s magisterial introduction provides a stunning musical example of the glitter and warmth Vienna was experiencing during what must be regarded as that city’s greatest hour. A series of now-famous tunes follows, all in 3/4 time, though contrasting in spirit and key. An iconic example of the waltz style, Strauss’ Roses of the South remains performed in Vienna every year on New Year’s Eve.
Lera Auerbach (b. 1973) A Twofold Dream, Concerto grosso No. 5 after W.A. Mozart’s
K. 299/297c and K. 315/285e
Scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpet, timpani, vibraphone, strings and solo piano and violin. Duration is 30 minutes.
Born in Siberia and trained at the Juilliard School and in Hannover, Germany, Lera Auerbach has risen to the forefront of composers worldwide despite her relative youth. A winner of numerous awards, Auerbach has been commissioned and championed by some of the world’s premiere performers and ensembles, among them violinists Gidon Kremer and Vadim Gluzman, violist Kim Kashkashian, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the Hamburg State Opera, Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, New York’s Lincoln Center and the Tokyo String Quartet, just for starters. Auerbach’s style, which is represented by more than 100 works including concerti, chamber music, ballet, opera and diverse orchestral pieces, is uniquely modern yet unmistakably lyrical and highly accessible, running the gamut from haunting and tragic to playful and brilliant. In short, there’s little Auerbach cannot do, as evidenced by the fact that she is also a concert pianist, an accomplished painter, sculptor and published poet. Indeed, one might regard her as the living embodiment of what the Germans call Gesamtkunstwerk, the inclusion of all the arts in a single body.
A Twofold Dream was commissioned by ProMusica (the orchestra’s 64th commission!) and was inspired by Lord Byron’s The Dream, a poem exploring the world of the subconscious that straddles the space between life and death, occupying its own reality. For Auerbach, this ‘twofold’ existence is captured in the score of A Twofold Dream by two distinct works of Mozart, the Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299 and his Andante in C for Flute, K. 315, a work Auerbach regards as having strong connections to the concerto. The latter is a product of the same period and cast in the same key, though was most likely intended as a substitute slow movement to the composer’s G major flute concerto. Mozart’s flute and harp concerto and this Andante were composed during the composer’s Paris sojourn, a period that proved financially and emotionally ill fated. Beyond simply finding French music and society distasteful, it was during this period that Mozart’s mother died, attempts to secure a position beyond his native Salzburg repeatedly came to nothing and he fell deeply in love, only to be rejected. This, then, was another jumping off point for Auerbach, who sought to intensify the drama Mozart experienced at this critical point of his life. By stressing the minor key episodes of Mozart’s score, for example, and heightening its overall intensity, Auerbach brings to Mozart’s original concerto an entirely new level of gravitas.
Mozart originally composed his double concerto for the Duc de Guînes, who, according to Mozart ‘plays the flute extremely well’, and his daughter, a talented harpist. Nevertheless, Mozart harbored no great love for either instrument. In fact, he regarded the harp as nothing more than a very limited form of keyboard instrument. Indeed, as Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein has written, “one has to know his feelings about these instruments to realize how successfully he triumphed over them.” For her part, Auerbach has long been well acquainted with Mozart’s original score and she actually played the flute part years ago. And while moving from flute and harp to violin and piano represented a relatively logical shift, and one that Mozart certainly would have embraced, incorporating the C major Andante into the larger fabric proved a far more uniquely creative process. To be sure, Mozart’s Andante isn’t recognizable as such but provided the composer with a musical thread that weaves its way throughout the entire work, serving to connect the larger whole. On the other hand, the three-movement concerto exudes unmistakable strains of Mozart, while similarly displaying any number of elements the earlier composer would hardly have recognized, including the size of the orchestra (Mozart’s original was scored for a modest orchestra, though it did include oboes and horns), various meter changes and the contemporary language of glissandi, harmonics and sul ponticello (achieving a steely, metallic sound by playing near the bridge). The result is an intriguing blend of old and new—a modern master looking back, in Auerbach’s words, “at Mozart from the 21st century.” A side note: if Mozart initially wrote out cadenzas (those portions toward the close of each movement featuring only the soloists) for his double concerto, they have been lost. Thus, the cadenzas performed by tonight’s soloists are pure Auerbach and that heard toward the close of the Andantino leads directly into the 3rd movement (Sognando libero—dreaming, free).
Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Symphony No. 10 in D major, D. 936A
Scored for pairs of woodwinds, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, strings and timpani. Duration is 30 minutes.
The final year of Franz Schubert’s life, his thirty-first, went something like this:
in November of 1827, the composer completed his Piano Trio in E flat, a magisterial work that witnessed its premiere a month later. By now, however, the composer was a very ill and dispirited man. Syphilis, contracted a number of years earlier, was undermining his health, giving rise to headaches, nausea and giddiness. Accustomed to evenings spent with friends and music-making, the sick man cancelled as often as not:
I find it very difficult to have to tell you that I cannot give myself the pleasure of being at your party this evening. I am ill and in a way which totally unfits me for such a gathering. With the renewed assurance that I am extremely sorry not to be able to oblige you
Schubert was also increasingly absent from evenings spent in the company of close friends, sharing music, literature and fellowship, known as Schubertiads: “Schubert kept us waiting in vain…” In March, Schubert presented a concert of his own music before a packed house at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, among Vienna’s most prestigious music halls. Then he continued to drive himself harder. In the words of Schubert scholar Maurice Brown, “The pace of composing was forced; masterpiece followed masterpiece in staggering succession.”
The thirty-one-year-old composer spent the summer immersed with new compositions, including music for piano and a Mass in E flat. In August, he dispatched a number of new songs (of which he had by now composed some six hundred!) and moved into his brother’s house, located to the south of Vienna’s inner city. From there he negotiated with publishing firms who were constantly trying to nickel and dime his modest demands, finally settling on a publisher for his last great song cycle, Die Winterreise. Probably on the advice of his doctor, Schubert took a brief respite at the start of October, and with his brother, Ferdinand, they undertook a walking tour to Eisenstadt, to visit the grave of Haydn. Returning home, he took up where he left off and despite failing health inexplicably drew enough strength to compose three towering piano sonatas and, for good measure, the hauntingly glorious C major Cello Quintet, in addition to his final song and sketches for a Tenth Symphony. The annals of western music have seen few periods as productive as October of 1828. Schubert must have known he was in a race against time.
To make matters worse, Schubert now contracted typhoid fever, a consequence of unsanitary water supply and drainage. On the final day of October, he visited a tavern, where he became nauseated by the fish he tried to eat and from that day on it appears Schubert ate nothing else. He then attempted to undertake a course of instruction in fugal composition but by November 11th was too ill to continue. Taking to his bed, he managed to correct Winterreise proofs, which would be published just weeks after the composer’s death. Then, on November 19th, at 3:00 in the afternoon, Schubert turned to the wall in his dark room, uttered the words, “Here, here is my end,” and breathed his last.
Following his death, the sketches to the Tenth Symphony passed through various hands—Felix Mendelssohn, Sir Charles Grove, J.F. Barnett and even conductor Felix Weingartner, who, like Barnett before him, attempted a reconstruction. Neither was convincing. Then, in 1977, British musicologist Brian Newbould tried his hand at creating—or recreating—a Schubertian version, in honor of the 150th centennial of the composer’s death.
Much of the symphony was actually in completed form, sketched for the most part on two staves and holding sufficient clues to its instrumentation (including the use of three trombones). There was, of course, a fair amount of detective work to be done in sorting out the manuscripts. For example, in the first movement of the sonata form, Schubert rewrote his first theme group on a separate page, which he then labeled “Anfang” or Beginning, so that portion needed to be inserted first and orchestrated. Forgoing any preparatory material, Schubert immediately launches into the Allegro maestoso (dignified, majestic) with a fanfare gesture that Newbould logically set as an orchestral unison (Schubert will seize upon the opening four notes almost immediately and repeatedly throughout the movement). The second theme group, a lovely sweeping melody presented by the cellos, was fully sketched. It is worth noting that when Schubert brings back this secondary idea in the development (which features a change of tempo from Allegro maestoso to Andante and an abrupt harmonic shift to B-flat minor), he does so as a “solemn chorale-like variant,” a striking passage nobly presented by the trombones. Though the recapitulation was missing in its entirety, Newbould did not find its re-creation terribly difficult; only some eleven bars needed to be newly composed and decisions made as to the precise placement of various modules. That said, work on the Presto coda was admittedly more speculative.
The mysterious opening of the Andante resonates with the spirit of Die Winterreise, Schubert’s stirring song cycle cloaked in the mantle of death, not to mention anticipating the music of Mahler, Schubert’s Viennese symphonic successor. The intense B minor lyricism, on the other hand, betrays Schubert’s own “Unfinished” Symphony. While much of this movement was more or less complete, among the problems Newbould encountered was a late edition to Schubert’s manuscript, an achingly beautiful F-sharp major theme added to the ‘second subject.’ Hearing this melody today, one imagines the gaping hole it would have left, had Schubert never found his way to this theme. As it was, Schubert only penciled it in after completing the sketch of the movement, which included a coda that Schubert subsequently crossed out. According to Newbould, Schubert “could not let such a melodic treasure be heard only once,” so he jettisoned the coda as it then stood, with the intent to rewrite all of it with his new thematic material, once the final movement was complete. But the composer ran out of time.
Ideas for the ‘scherzo’ finale were begun as a piano sketch. These preliminary thoughts led to a dead end, revealing that even one so effortlessly inspired as Schubert could lose his way now and then. The manuscript then reveals a series of contrapuntal ideas, thoughts probably linked to the counterpoint studies the composer had undertaken in the closing weeks of life. Having then found his way back, Schubert redrafted the movement in relatively complete form. Nevertheless, this still involved Newbould’s sorting out the “intended” order of ideas, including being convinced that Schubert intended to omit a few critical ideas assimilated elsewhere, not to mention figuring how to score for three trombones in a movement otherwise so light and nimble. Indeed, though labeled “Scherzo,” it hardly fits the traditional mold. For one, there is no contrasting trio at its center. Then there is Schubert’s preoccupation with counterpoint—fugato, canons, augmentation, etc., and structure. Finally, given that the return of the spirited opening refrain is clearly juxtaposed by contrasting ideas, the movement more resembles a rondo. And to top it all off, Schubert actually combines the movement’s two major ideas simultaneously at the close, “a device, according to Newbould, “presumably without precedent but not without consequence in the history of the symphony.”
So, did Schubert intend his tenth and final symphony as a three-movement work? What we do know is that the music composed in the closing weeks and months of Schubert’s meteoric life reveals stunning compositional advances, as evidenced in various features of this late D major Symphony. Regardless how accurately Newbould’s work captures Schubert’s intentions, the results allow a rare glimpse into the composer’s workshop; however speculative, one could do worse than have a bit more of Schubert’s music to ponder. And since Schubert never opined about his final symphonic undertaking, it seems only fitting that its re-creator have the final say:
A performing version of the Tenth Symphony must inevitably be a propounding of possibilities rather than certainties…But phenomena of such historical interest as the belated discovery of a last symphony by one of the major composers a century-and-a-half after his death are somewhat rare, and if this much speculation is needed to bring such a windfall to the public ear, I hope that I may be forgiven for thinking it admissible.
© Marc Moskovitz