Fall Concert - The Violin's Voice
Sunday, November 19 · 3:00 PM, Cohan CTR
Join the Cal Poly Symphony for a season opener highlighting the enchanting voice of the violin. Featured soloist Brynn Albanese will perform Ernest Chausson's Poème, a lushly evocative fantasy for violin and orchestra. The orchestra will then tell its own story in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, a four-movement depiction of tales from 1001 Nights . The violin, now in the hands of the Symphony's concertmaster, joins many instruments in telling this story through music. The concert will begin with Humperdinck's Overture to Hansel and Gretel, conducted by music major Amanda Yoshimizu.
Engelbert Humperdinck - Overture to Hansel and Gretel
Born in Siegburg, Germany, in 1854, Humperdinck was an architecture student at the time that the composer Ferdinand Hiller discovered him. Impressed with the young man's musical talent, Hiller convinced him to pursue musical studies at Cologne Conservatory. After excelling at his studies in Cologne, Humperdinck went on to study in Munich, winning many prizes in composition along the way. In 1881, he won the Meyerbeer Prize, which enabled him to travel to France and Italy. It was in Italy that he met the most influential musician in his life, and indeed in all of Germany - Richard Wagner. The elder composer was on his way to Bayreuth, a festival devoted entirely to the production of his symbolic music dramas, and invited his new acquaintence to accompany him and help with the arduous task of copying out the score to his latest music drama, Parsifal. The music that Humperdinck wrote after this meeting bears the unmistakable stamp of Wagner in its rich harmony, dense textures, and use of leitmotives, or short melodies that are connected to a specific character or idea.
In 1893, Humperdinck's sister decided to write a a small version of Hänsel und Gretel (Hansel and Gretel) to entertain the family children. Humperdinck, who was teaching in Frankfurt am Main at the time, decided to supply a few musical numbers for the production. They were both pleased with the resulting folk-inspired music, and Humperdinck was enchanted with the prospect of turning this small entertainment into a full length fairy-tale opera.
Once he had finished the score, he sent it to Richard Strauss, who immediately called it a masterpiece and went on to conduct the premier in Weimar. The opera was soon a triumph in every town in Germany, combining as it did a universal folktale and beautiful melodies to a public weary with Wagner's heavy symbolic dramas.
The overture combines several themes from the opera; first, we hear a beautiful chorale played by the french horns and bassoons. This is the hymn Hänsel and Gretel sing before they go to sleep in the dark woods - "Evenings when I go to bed, fourteen angels around my head." The mood is shattered by a trumpet call that imitates the screeching "Hokus Pokus" sung by the witch as she spies Hänsel and Gretel nibbling at her house. As in the opera, this cry is ignored by the children, who tell each other it is just the wind.
The commotion that ensues finally settles down into a flowing melody, taken from the dance of the dew-fairies in the morning. Then, the woodwinds begin a quiet march that grows in exitement. This march comes from the end of the opera, when all the children emprisoned in sugar shells are freed by Hänsel and Gretel and dance in joy. The overture continues to combine all of these themes together in a thick tapestry of sound until a gentle close. That Humperdinck was able to combine such disparate ideas is no small testament to the talent first discovered in his youth.
Amanda Yoshimizu, conductor
Amanda Yoshimizu is a third-year music major from Murrieta, California. She is studying trombone with Roy Main and has been involved in Cal Poly’s Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Trombone Choir. She is currently the assistant conductor of the Wind Orchestra under the guidance of William Johnson and Christopher J. Woodruff, as well as Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of David Arrivée. Previously she has conducted and rehearsed the middle school band program back home and the finale of Tribute: A Celebration of Music from Japanese Animation and Video Games. Amanda plans to continue her study of conducting in graduate school.
Ernest Chausson - Poème, for violin and orchestra
Brynn Albanese, violin
Brynn Albanese was appointed concertmaster of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra upon graduation from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She was an original member of the Metamorphosen Orchestra in Boston under the direction of Scott Yoo in 1997.
She has been concertmaster and soloist for the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic, and principal second of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. In 1998, she was the featured soloist with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra under Keith Lockhart in the world-renowned Boston Symphony Hall. She performed and toured with Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa for four years. She returned from The Netherlands in 2005 after living and working there for seven years. She has played with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam, Netherlands Radio Orchestra, and held a position with The Residentie Orchestra in The Hague, Netherlands. She has played for the Dutch Queen and for the Dutch Princess Maxima of Argentina “Adios Nonino” and various Tango groups in the Netherlands.
Brynn is now a member of the Mozart Festival Orchestra and occasionally performs with the San Luis Obispo Symphony. She is acting principal second of the Monterey Symphony and plays with the Fresno Philharmonic. She enjoys a variety of performing and teaching opportunities ranging from solo recitals, small ensembles, jazz and cafe music. She teaches privately as well as being a string and orchestral coach for the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony and Cal Poly.
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade, op. 35
- The Sea and Sinbad's Ship (Largo e maestoso — Allegro non troppo)
- The story of the prince-kalendar (Lento — Andantino — Allegro molto — Con moto)
- The Young Prince and The Young Princess (Andantino quasi allegretto — Pochissimo più mosso — Come prima — Pochissimo più animato)
- Festival At Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman. (Allegro molto — Vivo — Allegro non troppo maestoso)
Late in the nineteenth century, a group of five Russian composers banded together in a group known as the "mighty handful" (moguchay kuchka). While they found much to admire in music from western nations, they reacted against the Germanic musical establishment in Russia at the time, preferring to use or imitate Russian folk music and strike out their own musical path. Of the five members - Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Musorgsky and Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov - the composer of Sheherazade was the youngest.
Like the other four composers (save Balakirev, the group's mentor), Rimsky-Korsakov lacked formal musical training in his youth. Most of what he did study was at the hands of Balakirev. After abandoning an early career in the Navy, he was appointed professor of composition and instrumentation at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He confessed at this point, "[I had] never written a single contrapuntal exercise in my life, and had only the haziest understanding of strict fugue; I didn't even know the names of the augmented and diminished intervals or chords." This sense of insufficiency spurred him on to undertake massive studies of music theory and orchestration on his own, all while executing his duties as a professor. Before long, he was the undisputed dean of the "mighty handful," excelling above all else in orchestration.
Rimsky-Korsakov's goal was nationalistic, like the other members of the group. However, his version of a national musical style was more sophisticated, cultured and eclectic. This approach eventually distanced him from the stricter Balakirev circle, but entranced a younger generation of composers who studied with him, including Glazunov, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. They inherited his brilliant technique in orchestration and, in varying degrees, his gift for depicting fantasy and the world of legend. This is especially true in Stravinsky's case with his ballet, The Firebird.
Scheherazade was written in 1888, during a highly productive decade for the composer. This most celebrated of his works is a depiction of several episodes from The Arabian Nights. He provides the following program note in the score:
The Sultan Schahriar, convinced of the perfidy and faithlessness of women, vowed to execute each of his wives after the first night. But the Sultana Scheherazade saved her own life by interesting him in the tales she told him through 1001 nights. Impelled by curiosity, the Sultan continually put off her execution, and at last entirely abandoned his sanguinary resolve. Many marvels did Scheherazade relate to him, citing the verses of poets and the words of songs, weaving tale into tale and story into story.
Rimsky-Korsakov provided the movement titles listed in our program when asked, but preferred no titles at all. While he was intentionally vague about the specific episodes depicted in this suite, one can still hear two distinct musical subjects that recur throughout the work and correspond to the Sultan (or his threat) and Scheherazade. The Sultan is depicted forcefully by brass, winds and strings in unison at the very beginning. After a series of quiet chords, a solo violin plays the romantic melody representing Scheherazade. As the work progresses (and Scheherazade's stories unfold), these two main themes are mingled with a vivid depiction of the open sea, on which Sinbad's ship is tossed about. In other movements, one hears woodwind solos portraying the tale of the prince-kalandar, love music for the prince and princess, a raucous Baghdad festival, and again, the stormy sea, which this time hurls the ship against a rocky cliff. Scheherazade, still alive by virtue of her unfailing imagination, is depicted at the very end, once again by the solo violin.