Sounds Familiar “SOUNDS FAMILIAR” NOTES AND STUDY MATERIAL FOR THE CONCERT OF THE SCOTTISH SINFONIA ON SUNDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2006 AT 7.30pm INTRODUCTION The fourth and final concert of the year takes place on Sunday, 5 February, at the Greyfriars Kirk. This concert forms part of the Scottish Sinfonia Programme for 2005-06. The works to be performed are: - Overture “Oberon” by Carl Maria von Weber; The Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb by Johannes Brahms; and Symphony No. 4 in F minor by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. The study material includes notes on composers, concerto and a more in-depth look at the Symphony no. 4 in F minor by Tchaikovsky. This work was performed at the first concert of the year, by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra in the Usher Hall on Sunday, 22 May 2005. THE COMPOSER Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) Weber was an important founder of the Romantic Movement in Germany. Through the success of “Der Freischutz” (The Freeshooter) in 1821 he rekindled an interest in German opera and was to greatly influence the operas of Wagner. He was the son of Franz Anton Weber, whose elder brother, Fridolin, was the father of Constanza Weber who became the wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Weber was a sickly child and was born with a hip disease which lamed him for life. His father had many jobs which included being a soldier, a violinist, a judge, a financial counsellor, a roving actor, impresario and director of a town band! Weber’s childhood is thought to have been spent playing amongst the stage scenery of his father’s theatre company, probably providing an early influence in the dramatic world in which his operas were set. He received his first music lessons from an Sounds Familiar elder half brother, also called Fridolin (the name of his grandfather), which were not particularly successful. However, the touring theatre company spent some time in Hildburghausen where Weber received better lessons from Johann Peter Heuschkel. This established a firm foundation for his future musical development and, as a cathedral choir boy, he studied with Michael Haydn (brother of Franz Joseph Haydn) in Salzburg. After the death of his mother, Weber’s father gave up his concerts and theatre work and pushed his son into becoming a concert pianist and prolific composer. Father and son left Salzburg for Munich and Carl gained much knowledge of operatic writing and wrote works of his own in this genre. Eventually they moved to Vienna, the intention being that Carl should study under Franz Joseph Haydn, but instead he came into contact with Abe Vogel, a celebrated musician of the time, from whom he took composition lessons. Despite the fact that the touring company had been disbanded, father and son continued to roam from one place to another, sometimes to escape creditors. Carl appeared not to have learned at first from his father’s unstable lifestyle, but rather to have been negatively influenced by it. Already in debt, he nearly killed himself by mistakenly drinking nitric acid which ruined his beautiful singing voice. For a while father and son lived in Stuttgart, where Carl became secretary to a nobleman while continuing to compose. Here they were imprisoned and while Carl’s innocence was proved they were both banished from the country. At this point Carl longed to be away from his father and was determined to put all his efforts into being a successful serious concert artist and composer. By now he had sixteen years to go before his death. It began with a period of concert tours, giving him the opportunity to meet many established musicians of the time. Following his father’s death in 1812, Carl spent three years in Prague. It was here that he had his first secure job when he took up the position of Kapellmeister (musical director). In 1816 he was appointed Master of the German Opera in Dresden by the King of Saxony. The following year he began “Der Frischutz” but it was to take four years to complete owing to a series of jealousies and intrigues against him. As a result the completed opera was not performed there but in Berlin and was very successfully received. The success was repeated in Vienna and it was subsequently performed in Dresden. It was during the remaining period of his life that the opera “Oberon” was written and performed. In Dresden Carl finally put behind him all the ups and downs of his previous life and married Caroline Brandt. Sadly though nothing could save his ill health which had remained with him all his life and he died in London on 5 June 1826, a few weeks after the triumphant reception of “Oberon”. CONCERT WORK Overture “Oberon” by Carl Maria von Weber Sounds Familiar As with the operatic overtures Weber wrote for “Der Freischutz” and “Euryanthe”, the overture (see May 05 notes) foreshadows the dramatic musical elements of the opera in a loose sonata structure (see Sonata Form in November 05 notes). Unlike some opera overtures, in which composers provide a musical synopsis of the main themes to be heard later on, or even more simply, a piece of introductory music aimed at settling down the audience before the main performance, Weber weaved his overture into a self-contained work of art and prepared the listener for the main dramatic conflicts that lay ahead. The overture, in common with the 1st movement of the Brahms concerto, begins with a solo French Horn, a fitting start to a romantic fairy-tale opera about Oberon and Titania. THE COMPOSER Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Think of German music spanning nearly 200 years and, therefore, think of the three giants who rose head and shoulders amongst their contemporaries: J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and, finally, Johannes Brahms. Brahms’s emotionally wayward music typifies that of 19th century Romanticism (see May 05 notes) but also contains within it a strong traditional sense of form and structure (see also May 05 notes), which clearly lie within the lineage of German music. In this sense Brahms is seen as something of a conservative, living at a time when the Symphonic, or Tone Poem, were being created (ref. May and August 05 notes) by many composers. His reactionary use of classical form contrasts sharply with the more radical works of his contemporaries, such as Liszt and Wagner (see also Motif in August 05 notes). His father’s side of the family had been farmers. Indeed his father, Johann Jakob Brahms, had been the first member of the family to take up music as a career. This was met with opposition, so he moved from Heide to Hamburg in 1826. In 1830 Johann Jakob married Johanna Henrika Christaine Nissen, seventeen years his senior, who came from a respectable, but impoverished, middle class family. Johann Jakob started out as a street and dance musician in Hamburg and later joined the Hamburg City Orchestra as a double bass player. It is likely that Johannes received his earliest musical training from him, but he was soon to take formal piano lessons and at the age of ten took part in a public recital. His musical training continued and, as his family were quite poor, Johannes often recommended his father as a suitable musician to be hired for both private and public functions Brahms’s first solo concert as a pianist was given in 1848. It was suggested that he send some of his works to Robert Schumann, but the package was returned to him unopened! That year, a large number of Hungarians passed through Hamburg, intending to sail from the port there to America, escaping from the suppression of their country by the Austrians and Russians after a nationalist uprising (see Nationalism in music: May 05 notes). Some of them instead stayed in Hamburg, thus exposing the young Brahms to Hungarian music (he was later to write a number of Hungarian Dances) but at this stage in his youth he experienced first hand the irregular rhythms and use of triplet figures Sounds Familiar which became the hallmark of his future compositions. Brahms befriended one of these refugees, a violinist by the name of Eduard Hoffman, otherwise known as Remenyi (the Hungarian for Hoffman). He had studied in Vienna and captivated Brahms with his virtuoso performances. After a trip to America, Remenyi went on tour with Brahms and the latter was to meet Joseph Joachim, another violin virtuoso, who immediately recognised Brahms’s tremendous musical talent. It was also on this tour that Brahms encountered Liszt. During a six week stay in Weimar Brahms came to realise that his musical ideas were in opposition to that of Liszt and the “New German School”. Brahms and Remenyi then parted company; Brahms taking Joachim’s advice to visit Clara and Robert Schumann in Dusseldorf. Despite the apparent early disinterest in Brahms’s works, Schumann now hailed Brahms as a budding composer and concert pianist. Brahms returned to Hamburg, but a few months later went back to Dusseldorf upon receiving news of Schumann’s nervous breakdown from which he was never to recover. At this time Brahms developed a great passion for Clara Schumann which was to continue for some years. In 1858 Brahms wrote his 1st Piano Concerto in D minor Op.15. Four years later in 1862, he visited Vienna, little realising that he was to remain in the European capital of music for the rest of his life. There he found friends from Hamburg and met others through Clara. Soon he was accepted into musical circles and met Wagner, who seven years later attacked Brahms in a magazine article intended to do his apparent rival considerable harm. And so the “war” between both men began – one fought by their respective followers rather than by the composers themselves due to great restraint on Brahms’s part. Brahms is best known for his symphonic writing. It was Schumann who first tried to interest him in writing a symphony and in 1854 Brahms sketched out three movements but was dissatisfied with the work. Instead he incorporated the 1st two movements into his 1st Piano Concerto. It was not until 1876 that his own first symphony appeared, which was nicknamed “The Tenth” as it was considered to be the successor of Beethoven’s Ninth, and final, Symphony. Brahms was to write four symphonies in total. Both piano concertos and his violin concerto are considered to be practically orchestral works rather than works written for solo instrument with orchestral support and they are all of symphonic proportion. CONCERT WORK The Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb – Johannes Brahms Trips to Italy and Hungary inspired the 2nd Piano Concerto in Bb, and its first performance was given in Budapest with the composer as soloist. It is the most popular of the two piano concertos, and contains overtones of his song writing, in particular the Sounds Familiar slow movement. The work reflects Italian springtime turning to summer as experienced during his travels. The Scherzo is thought to have been written originally for his violin concerto, but was omitted on Joachim’s advice. The finale is imbued with Hungarian atmosphere. Unlike the structure of the classical concerto (see ahead for notes on Concerto) the piano soloist enters close to the start of the first movement. Other than the piano, there are also some prominent instrumental solos, a particularly Romantic gesture. A French Horn announces the first theme soon to be taken up by the piano. Brahms favours the French horn in much of his writing, assigning to it a lyricism requiring considerable agility by the player hitherto foreign to the instrument. Its register is akin to that of the tenor voice, and therefore that of the Romantic operatic hero. The third movement begins with a melodious cello solo of great beauty. It is interesting to note that not only does Brahms innovatively introduce a Scherzo movement into this concerto, but has placed it second, while the slow movement, which would normally follow the first, comes third. The serene quality of the third movement contrasts perfectly with the exciting and adventurous Scherzo preceding. INFORMATION Scherzo This literally means “a joke”. The word first appears within a jovial musical context in 1628 in the time of Monteverdi, who wrote some light-hearted and popular choral pieces entitled “Scherzi Musicali” (musical jokes). However, earlier than that, in 1614, Cifra published a set of Scherzi Sacri in Rome; the description here apparently meaning brightness rather than humour within a religious context. The word is later applied to purely instrumental music, sometimes these are independent pieces (e.g. pieces that stand alone rather than forming part of a bigger work) but, nevertheless, it is more commonly associated with a movement, usually the third, of a sonata, string quartet or a symphony. Originally, the Minuet, a dance in three time, filled the bill here, a hangover from the dance-like movements of the Baroque Suite. In the hands of Franz Joseph Haydn the minuet tempo was quickened, (hardly surprising since he is known as the master of musical jokes!) and thus adopted the word Scherzo in place of Minuet. Still they retained the characteristic three beats to a bar, although in the works of Beethoven the Scherzo underwent further changes becoming fast and bustling pieces of music, and although still with three beats in a bar, they go so fast that the conductor and performers can only concentrate on the strong 1st beat of each bar, therefore creating a “one-beat-in-a-bar” feel. Each composer adds his own characteristics to the scherzo. One feels in Brahms the inheritance of Beethoven, in Mendelssohn a whispy fairy-like dance, while Chopin’s lively scherzos for solo piano are paradoxically somewhat gloomy in character. Concerto Sounds Familiar These days the term is applied to a solo, often virtuoso display, in combination with an orchestra. Originally though, in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was used to describe a composition in which several performers provided contrasting forces, in a concerted effort to make music. In the 17th century the term was adopted by the Italian violinist-composer school of Corelli, Torelli and others, and described a type of composition known as the Concerto Grosso in which a small body of solo strings was heard in alternation with a larger body. The virtuoso Concerto came into existence in the early Classical period. Here, the concerto had the same general plan of other instrumental music of the time i.e. an important, first movement in “sonata form” (ref. November 05 notes), a middle slow movement of a lyrical nature and a lively, faster moving final movement. Unlike the sonata, string quartet and symphony, concertos had three movements, possibly because the third, a minuet-like movement, was not considered suitable for the antiphonal treatment necessary for a concerto. However, as we have seen, Brahms’s 2nd Piano Concerto does have four movements – with the advent of the Scherzo it would seem that in the hands of a Romanticist, with such strong structural convictions the wayward rhythms of the Scherzo are ripe for inclusion in a work of this kind. ASSOCIATED LISTENING Piano Concerto in A major, K488, 1st movement by W.A. Mozart From the Classical period onwards, the concerto was, therefore, an elaboration of the sonata principal (ref. Sonata Form in November 05 notes). The solo element, however, brings to it greater scope for variety. Think in terms of an Exposition which is normally repeated in the Classical period. The first time the exposition is heard in the concerto it is played by the whole orchestra, but in the repeat, the soloist enters in a leading capacity, taking up the ideas presented by the orchestra and embellishing these. An area of musical development follows in which the soloist and orchestra voyage together through modulatory passages (visiting different keys) sharing and exchanging musical material. The opening material is predictably recapitulated by the orchestra and soloist until, nearly at the end of the movement, the music comes to rest on a I c chord, (the 2nd inversion of the key chord) and through classical convention sets up a moment of anticipation: it is time for the soloist to have free range in the Cadenza section of the movement. In essence, this is a spectacular time of improvisation, where the soloist does not only show off his technical prowess but also his ability to elaborate upon the themes already heard. This was a widely admired skill, but gradually it became the custom for composers to write their own cadenzas to maintain the high quality of the musical material, rather than running the risk of a soloist indulging in purely shallow showiness. The movement is then rounded off by an orchestral tutti. REVISION Symphony no. 4 in F minor by P.I. Tchaikovsky Sounds Familiar Either download or buy a recording of this work and listen to it in its entirety. Exercise - Refer to the themes of the 1st movement as given on manuscript in the May notes. See if you can identify the introductory Fate motif and the first and second themes. Remember that Tchaikovsky uses a big canvas on which to work and the 1st and 2nd themes take up large chunks of music in which to unfold. You will recall that after the introduction at the very start of the movement, its role is that of intruding, upsetting and reminding the listener of its over-shadowing power and provides the fundamental programme upon which the whole symphony and, especially this movement, is constructed. - Listen to the 1st movement and whilst doing so follow its ground plan as set out below. You will need to do this a few times to become familiar with the material. EXPOSITION FATE MOTIF . Note how the brass is reserved mainly for this. The motif is reiterated several times, gradually dissolving into an echo effect which leads to the 1st THEME. This rises to a crescendo and is alternately dramatic, brooding and imitative in short thematic snatches, which overlap each other and work towards a big orchestral tutti. The theme is then handed round different sections of the orchestra and another tutti occurs which contrasts with solo woodwind playing variants of the theme. The music unravels into the 2nd THEME which is given out first as the Cor Anglais (see May 05 notes) and other solo woodwind enter into a kind of dance together against a backdrop of strings. The theme is “chopped up” between the strings and woodwind. The temperature rises and the orchestra enters into an excitable discussion with one another. This builds up to a frenzied climax with French horns entering the arena at one point. DEVELOPMENT FATE MOTIF. Again given out by the brass, it now heralds a wistful pot pourri of motifs which increase in strength and purpose as the 1st THEME makes its presence felt more distinguishably. The orchestra builds to another climax. FATE MOTIF. This returns and the orchestra is like an overpoweringly stormy sea in its bid to stay intact. Splashes of brass can be heard amid this crazy cacophony, determined to retaliate with a further burst of the FATE MOTIF. After some orchestral flourishes the 1st THEME returns which has now, in the light of recent events, taken on a sinister quality. As before it disintegrates into the 2nd THEME. The bassoons play it this time with echoing woodwind and a brooding background of brass and string producing an extensive interplay of musical ideas. The 1st THEME returns briefly, engaging with the 2nd THEME. A big orchestral tutti rounds up this section. RECAPITULATION FATE MOTIF. The motif supports the different structural sections of the movement like Sounds Familiar pillars. (Beethoven uses a similar device with his fate motif of the 5th Symphony – ref. November notes and listen again). Its rhythm is momentarily taken up by the orchestra as though reluctantly accepting its power. The music gathers momentum building up to a demonic ending. The FATE MOTIF keeps on interrupting as it did in the Development session, stabbing back at the orchestra more fiercely than ever. The 1st THEME is played by the strings, followed by a brass fanfare, which pulls together the FATE MOTIF into a final and conclusive ending. - Do this a few times until the movement not only sounds but feels familiar! - Now return to the notes on the Symphony, which can be found in the May notes. Evaluate the 1st movement in the light of your more detailed study. - When you are comfortable with this you could try a similar exercise with the 2nd Piano Concerto by Rachmaninov. To do this you will need to refer to the descriptions of all three movements in the November notes.