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Program Notes: May 24, 2009
Two hundred years ago, in 1809, Felix Mendelssohn was born on February 3 and Franz Joseph Haydn died on May 31. Our concert this evening thus offers a kind of re-enactment of this "changing of the guard," honoring in turn the most genial of the Enlightenment's musical genii, and the earliest-born of the "romantic generation" of composers that included also Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner.
Haydn wrote his Concertante in 1792, during his first trip to London, at least partly so as not to be upstaged by his own former student, Ignace Pleyel, whose works in this genre were then quite popular with the London public (especially his Sinfonie concertante à neuf instruments). Haydn had earlier experimented with this style of writing (e.g., in his Symphonies 6-8, titled Le Matin, Le Midi, and Le Soir), in which a group of soloists function much as a single soloist might in a concerto, but this remains his only work labelled as such and fully conforming to the type. This once popular genre faded with the post-Napoleonic emphasis on the "heroic" concerto soloist, and later examples were known instead as, for example, "Double" or "Triple" Concertos (thus, Brahms's and Beethoven's, respectively). Haydn's Concertante uses a mixed group of four soloists with a balanced stability based on contrasting string and reed-based timbres: violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon. The genial style of the work highlights the Enlightenment ideals expressed within this configuration, especially its demonstrating compatibility within difference, and its mirroring within a smaller conversational group a larger harmoniously arranged society.
Felix Mendelssohn's trip to Scotland as a young man inspired him both as a painter and as a musician, and one can easily hear an attempt to "paint" scenes in the music that resulted, darkly shadowed and hinting of a storied past. Although the Scottish Symphony was begun in 1829, when he first visited Edinburgh, he was not to complete the work until 1842, when he conducted the premiere. Oddly, it seems to have been Mendelssohn's predominantly good spirits that kept him from completing the often moody score, and it was not until he returned to Berlin in 1841 that he was ready to resume work on it. Mendelssohn begins the symphony with what we may take to be a musical setting of the gloomy Scottish coast, painting a cloud-ridden land- and seascape that erupts into a full-fledged storm later in the movement. The second movement cheerfully evokes Scottish folk music--this is more the music of the highlands than the forbidding coast--before returning us to gloom for the third movement, with its ominous funereal intrusions. For the finale, Mendelssohn takes up a military theme, indicating that it was not just the rugged Scottish landscapes that interested him, but also its blood-soaked history. But he ends with a majestic benediction based on his 1829 setting of Walter Scott's Ave Maria (from Lady of the Lake), as if to underscore that his vision of Scotland was profoundly influenced by Scott's. Although overshadowed in popularity by his Italian Symphony of 1833 (which never fully satisfied Mendelssohn and was not published during his lifetime), the Scottish is arguably his finest symphony.
We open tonight's concert with Bizet's delightful Jeux d'Enfants ("Children's Games"), five short movements deriving from a set of twelve pieces for piano duet written in 1871 (four years before Carmen and Bizet's untimely death at the age of 36); the orchestral suite was premiered in 1873. Each of the five movements has an appropriate subtitle, beginning with "Trumpet and Drum" for the opening March, "The Puppet" (Berceuse), "The top" (Impromptu), "Little husband, little wife" (Due), and "The Ball" (Galop).
-- Raymond Knapp
Michael Emery, violin
At the age of ten, violinist Michael Emery began his musical studies with Alfredo Cavalieri, and in two years was selected to perform in Carnegie Hall by the Violin, Viola and Violincello Teacher's guild of New York City. In 1972, he was the first prize winner in the advanced instrumental competition of the Albany League of Arts, and winner of the Albany Symphony Concerto Competition. In the following year he was soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto as winner of the Northeastern Student Orchestra Concerto Competition.
After receiving his B.S. in Music Education from the College of St. Rose, Mr. Emery began his career as recitalist throughout New York and New England. He received his Masters in Music Performance as a scholarship student at Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Erick Friedman and the late Raphael Bronstein. While attending Manhattan, he was concertmaster of the Manhattan Symphony, and was selected to perform in the master classes of two of this century's most celebrated violinists, Ruggiero Ricci and the late Henryk Szeryng.
Mr. Emery is currently concertmaster and soloist with the Utica, Catskill, and Schenectady Symphonies, having acted in that capacity for several other orchestras including the Vermont Symphony, BC Pops Orchestra and the Glimmerglass Opera Festival.
Among Mr. Emery's honors are included such major international music festivals as the 1985 Sibelius,1988 Spohr, and 190 Paganini competitions. He has served on the faculty of Colgate University and Hartwick College, and is presently teaching at Skidmore College, the College of St. Rose, Schenectady County Community College, and at his private studio in Schenectady.
Catherine Del Russo, oboe
Catherine Del Russo, oboist is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where she studied with Robert Sprenkle. As a freelance musician, Catherine has performed with almost every orchestra in Southern California. Currently, she is the principal oboe of the Santa Monica Symphony, the Downey Symphony and the Beverly Hills Live Orchestra and performs regularly with the Glendale Symphony Orchestra. Recently, she played principal oboe for the Three Tenors concert in Las Vegas that was also heard over the Internet. Del Russo returns as soloist with the Santa Monica Symphony, having performed in 2000 The Flower Clock by Jean Francaix, and in 2005 the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Winds, K. 297. In October 2000, Catherine performed the Bach Brandenberg Concerto No. 2 with the Glendale Symphony. Catherine has traveled on various tours and performed with symphony orchestras in Venezuela, Japan, Brazil, Spain and Alaska. She is also the English horn player with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and has recorded with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and on the Telarc recording "Movies Go Baroque," to name a few. She has been heard on television films such as "David and Lisa," many commercials, and feature films including "Pocahontas," "One Tough Cop," and "Homeward Bound." Catherine teaches oboe at Occidental College and Pepperdine University and resides in Pasadena.
Ernest Ehrhardt, cello
Ernest Ehrhardt began his professional career as the youngest cellist hired with the Houston Symphony under the direction of Sir John Barbirolli and Andre Previn. The youngest cellist hired with the L.A. Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. He has served principal with the Tulsa Philharmonic while teaching at the Oral Roberts University and University of Tulsa, and a member of the Tulsa Philharmonic Quartet. He has been principal with the American Ballet Theater and the Jeoffrey Ballet for 10 years each and had the honor of auditioning and serving as the sole and last cellist for the Lawrence Welk show.
Principal with the Long Beach Symphony for 20 years and co-principal for 20 years, he is also currently principal with the Pasadena Pops Orchestra having been with the orchestra since its conception. He has also done many T.V. shows including all the shows orchestrated by David Rose, many movies and many stage shows; also numerous recordings with many entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Madonna, Michael Jackson, the 3 Tenors and Sting to name a few. He has also had the honor of playing for five presidents of the United States.
David Riddles, bassoon
David Riddles, a native Californian, has been playing the Bassoon professionaly in one way or another for the past 35 years. Prior to coming to L.A. in 1976 he received a Masters Degree from Indiana University, Bloominton, Indiana and taught university level music in the mid-west for 4 years. During the years he's been in Los Angeles he was principal Bassoon with the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra for 5 seasons, played numerous times with the L.A. Philharmonic, was principal Bassoon for 18 seasons with the Pacifice Symphony in Orange County, has played on over 450 motion picture scores, numerous television shows, and many record/CD albums. Dave's other interests include playing the Uilleann(Irish)Bagpipes, Irish Flute, drawing cartoons, illustrating and riding his classic Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. Riddles returns as soloist with the Santa Monica Symphony, having performed in 2005 the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Winds, K. 297.
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