Beginning with the playful, yet delicate, we open with several well-known tunes ranging from opera to folk songs. Then, we celebrate the impressive talents of musicians in the making with the 2015 LSO Young Artist Competition winner, violinist Isabella D’Éloize Perron, whose performance is sure to excite and captivate you!
If you prefer to download and print these programme notes, please click here (pdf version).
Symphony 5 – Stars of Tomorrow
Gioacchino Rossini – Overture to The Barber of Seville
A pioneer of Italian Opera, Rossini developed many conventions that defined the genre throughout the nineteenth century. The son of a professional singer and a horn player, he learned a love of opera and became a capable horn player himself in his youth, strong assets for his musical career. By the time he began The Barber of Seville at 24 Rossini had composed no less than fifteen operas as well as many other pieces, encouraged by Italy’s lack of copyright law to premiere as many works as possible.
Legend has it that Rossini composed most of The Barber of Seville in thirteen days, a speed not unbelievable given the constant demand for new work. The overture is the only part of the opera not composed in that rush, as lack of time forced Rossini to appropriate it from one his earlier works (Aureliano in Palmira) to meet his deadline. Rossini was forced to retitle his opera Almaviva or the Useless Precaution, so as not to confuse his work with another opera by Giovanni Paiseillio based on Pierre Beaumarchais’ source material.
It premiered in February 1816 in Rome to unmitigated disaster; stage accidents abounded and devotees of Paiseillo frequently heckled the performance from the audience. A Bolognese revival in August under its current title was better received however, and The Barber of Seville is now one of the most popular opera buffa in the world.
The whole orchestra begins the Allegro Maestoso introductory section with two bursting E major chord responded to in whispers by the strings, lulling us with classical elegance before beginning the main affair in the parallel minor key. The main theme in the strings is fueled by the dramatic tension of the new section’s Allegro Vivo drive that seems inevitably to lead us to calamitous imitative lines.
Out of this frenzied transition comes the second theme in the oboe, repeated warmly in the horn. These singing parts are a launch pad for one of Rossini’s famous crescendos, beginning the melody in one section of the orchestra and dynamically swelling by adding other sections, before the Allegro Vivo repeats and ends.
Richard Wagner – Siegfried Idyll
Although better known for his operas, Wagner also produced a handful of instrumental works, among which this is a crown jewel. The symphonic poem stands out in his oeuvre due to its intimacy, contrasting with the loftiness usually associated with his pieces.
Work began in 1869 at the Wagners’ residence on Lake Lucerne. The composer had been forced there after being asked to leave Munich by his patron King Ludwig II, as his courtiers were suspicious of Wagner’s political influence and romantic entanglement with Liszt’s married daughter Cosima. The piece is named after their only son Siegfried, in celebration of his birth and their subsequent marriage.
As though to further the intimacy in which Wagner conceived the piece, he premiered it at home on Cosima’s birthday, arranging for her to wake to its opening emanating from the stairs of their villa. The piece begins with an unobtrusive stir, as though Wagner were peacefully rousing his wife from slumber. He expands the dynamic breadth of the Siegfried Idyll into passionate broad strokes reminiscent of his operatic boldness, but still easily manages to rekindle the piece’s private moments without harsh contrast.
A harmless melody initially developed in the woodwinds is repeated throughout the orchestra alongside earlier motifs, building a crescendo of passion. Through the course of the piece Wagner rebuffs lapses into a minor key with returns to the joyful motifs, as though reaffirming his feelings in the face of hardship and presenting Cosima with a moving gift.
Gordon Jacob – Old Wine in New Bottles
Jacob’s 1895 birthdate endowed him with the privilege of studying with British music luminaries such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Villiers Stanford. The composer’s embrace of tonality is more emphatic than his contemporaries, earning him a reputation as a traditionalist, when avant-garde composers dominated the musical landscape. Through the course of a career spanning 60 years he produced over 400 pieces, gaining renown above all for his wind pieces.
The title is a reference to the piece’s content; an arrangement of English folk songs for wind orchestra. This work sees Jacob reimagine four songs: The Raggle Taggle Gipsies, Three Ravens, Begone Dull Care, and Early One Morning. The arrangement was premiered in 1959 to significant praise, encouraging Jacob to write a sequel piece (More Old Wine in New Bottles) in 1977.
From the opening its wind writing conveys the homeliness folk songs inspired in Jacob, maintaining a folksy environment for his contrapuntal experimentation. Three individual opening calls in the clarinet, horn, and flute sections announce the beginning of Three Ravens, setting the pace for the exchange that defines Jacobs’ treatment of the extended melody. Begone Dull Care’s treatment is perhaps the most perceptively modern due to its rhythmically independent parts, but still maintains a traditional jigging feel. Early One Morning’s treatment is most diverse, contrasting playful skipping with calming steady movements, very much a summation of Old Wine in New Bottles’ deceptively simple manner.
Niccolò Paganini – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Paganini’s work boasts no clearer aim than the demonstration of the powers of the violin in virtuosic hands. After beginning his own violin studies he was quickly recognized as a wunderkind, giving his first professional concerts and writing his first compositions by the age of twelve. From the beginning, Paganini exploited the capabilities of the violin, employing unorthodox effects such as imitating animal noises or playing entirely on a single string in the name of virtuosity.
He completed his first violin concerto in 1816 during his arduous tour of Italy. The orchestral part of the piece was originally written in E-flat, while the solo violin part was written in D major with the intention of having the soloist tune the instrument up a semitone. This way, the sound of the string section would be softer as they would have fewer opportunities to play on open strings, whereas the soloist’s part had more open strings as a result of having been tuned up a semitone. Posterity, however, dictated that for the sake of accessibility the piece should be transposed to D major.
Like all Paganini’s works for violin and orchestra, there was no solo violin part written in the autograph of the orchestral score, as Paganini believed that no one but himself would be capable of playing it and therefore wrote his part out separately. This is in part why its publication was delayed until 1851, 35 years after its conception and 11 years after Paganini’s death.
The piece begins traditionally with the whole ensemble before yielding to the soloist; a part whose explosive assurance and contrasting bel canto melody reveal the violinist as the obvious star. Paganini’s Adagio is a much more anguished contrast, invoking the opera seria rather than the opera buffa of the first movement. Launching us back into a mood of jollity for the Rondo the soloist never ceases to amaze, engaging bold harmonic and high lines attesting the piece’s brilliance.
Notes by Zain Solinski