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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 49th Season

 

Sunday, November 8th, 1987
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Sergei Rachmaninoff  
 

I. Moderato
II. Adagio sostenuto
III. Allegro scherzando

   
  Eri Nakagawa, piano  
       
  Intermission  
       
  A Night on Bald Mountain Modeste Moussorgsky  
  Paintings by Karen Klimpert
Slide Photography by James Adams
 
       
  Suite from The River Virgil Thomson  
 

I. The Old South
II. Industrial Expansion in the Mississippi Valley
III. Soil Erosion and Floods
IV. Finale

 
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 Sergei Rachmaninov
(1873-1943)
 
 

Modern critics have not been kind to Rachmaninov. For one thing, he was a Romantic; one is not supposed to write Romantic music in the twentieth century. And, as if that weren't bad enough, he wasn't even a conservative Romantic, so his music, besides being morbid and pessimistic, lacks the formal structure that makes a good bit of Tschaikowsky acceptable to the modern sophisticate. Poor Rachmaninov fell between two stools; the Soviets banned his music for being "decadent," while avant-garde European and American critics condemned it for not being "modern" enough.

The charge that his music was morbid and pessimistic is not without foundation. There is something very Russian about Rachmaninov's tendency to melancholy, and from early childhood, he was concerned with issues of the sad and the happy. He lost two sisters before he was twelve, which did little to alleviate his sense of tragedy. Although he was capable of the most sublime of melodies, there is almost always a disturbing undercurrent - a sense of foreboding in his music. He died in California, shortly after attaining American citizenship.

The second piano concerto was the first major work to be successful after he recovered from a nervous breakdown caused, in part, by the failure of his first symphony (owing largely to a poor performance). He was so demoralized by this failure that he wrote nothing of consequence until after submitting himself to the treatment of a Dr. Dahl, who introduced Rachmaninov to the notion of auto-suggestion. This led to the popular fallacy that the concerto was written under hypnosis.

Though his confidence was restored by his treatment, he was shaken by the adverse criticism of an acquaintance, almost on the eve of the premiere of the work. At issue was the first theme of the first movement, which Rachmaninov feared would be thought of as merely an introduction. After much agonizing, he let the work stand as it was, and it went on to be his most popular concerto.

While it is true that Rachmaninov was of a mournful nature, he did have a ready wit. He was a superb pianist who had little patience with performers who seemed ill prepared. Once, he was performing a piano-violin concert in New York, with the renowned Fritz Kreisler, who suddenly lost his place and whispered to Rachmaninov, "Where are we?" Without missing a beat, Rachmaninov replied, "Carnegie Hall."

I. Moderato. The movement begins dramatically, with eight chords of the piano going from pianissimo to fortissimo, leading to the first subject (which we are NOT to mistake for a mere introduction!). Many will be familiar with the second subject, which was long ago used as a popular song in a film, beginning, "I will give you music..."

II. Adagio sostenuto. The slow movement has another melody which will be recognized by some of the younger members of the audience as the theme used a few years ago by a pop-rock star who declined to credit Rachmaninov. This star shall remain nameless.

III. Allegro scherzando. The principal theme of the finale is the best known of all. As a popular song, it became known as "Full Moon and Empty Arms." Of particular note is the fugato section with successive entries by horn and trumpet, and the beautiful integration of those entries with the piano part. The second aprt of the principal theme acts as a unifying device by being closely related to the second theme of the first movement.

A critic has said (remarking on what he took to be lack of structure) that this concerto is little more than a series of romantic songs. But what singing!


 
       
  A Night on Bald Mountain Modest Mussorgsky
(1839-1881)
 
 

Mussorgsky was a member of the Russian Five (Balakiref, Cui, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov), whose principal trait was the strong promotion of nationalism. Musically, Mussorgsky showed his trait more than any of the others. His most successful work is the opera Boris Godunof, which ran afoul of the czarist censors. It did not achieve its success until later.

Mussorgsky was born into a wealthy family. He went into the military, during which time he worked on an opera. At this time, he had little theoretical knowledge, and soon resigned to study and to devote more time to composition. He became friends with Rimsky-Korsakof, who helped make his music more "presentable." Several of his most famous works were in this way "touched up" by others. His Pictures at an Exhibition was not successful until orchestrated by Ravel.

Mussorgsky was a likeable and enormously talented person, but he was also an alcoholic, a fact which prevented him reaching his full potential, and which cut his life short at forty-two.

A Night on Bald Mountain is the result of several revisions. It began as an orchestral fantasy, was redirected towards being a balletic interlude to an opera, and finally re-orchestrated (by Rimsky-Korsakov) as the programmatic tone-poem we hear today.

It was conceived as a dramatization of a Black Mass held on St. John's Eve (itself, probably a hold-over from the pagan celebration of the summer solstice). The story is vague. The witches dance and carry on, only to be dispersed by the sound of church-bells from the nearby village, heralding the coming of dawn.

For this performance we turn to the creative imagination of a Manchester College alumna, Karen Klimpert. She was asked to listen to the music and allow it to suggest images which we could project in synchronization with it for your added enjoyment. As she considered the project, thoughts came to her in rhyme. Although she would be embarrassed for anyone to think she takes her poetry seriously, she gave permission to print below, that which she considered simply as private notes to be used as a guide for the paintings you will see.

A Night on Bald Mountain
Karen Klimpert

Leaves forewarned, to your branches hold tight.
The witches are holding their sabbath tonight.
Dark bending trees all aged and twisted
reach out through the night so foggy and misted.
Rocks now alive peek out through their mosses
where moonlight meets, yet never crosses.
Headstones trembling, graves open wide, and
the moon gently smiles when the witches arrive.
Dancing they go to the top dark and bald,
for this night the witches are specially called.
Swirling and dancing to the end of the night
when mortals awaken to the first morning't light.


 
       
  The River (1937) Virgil Thomson
(b. 1896)
 
 

Virgil Thomson is an American composer...not just by birth, but by conviction. There are successful American composers of international cast: people such as Wallingford Riegger and Roger Sessions, who are to American music what Walter Gropius and Philip Johnson are to American architecture. They represent a kind of musical Bauhaus, showing perhaps an American energy, but an international style. Thomson, on the other hand, puts an American stamp on his music.

Like Aaron Copland, Thomson studied in Paris with the famous Nadia Boulanger. He was soon a regular visitor to the salon of the American expatriate poet Gertrude Stein, who served as his librettist for some of his most memorable music.

Thomson's earlier experience as organist and choir director reveals itself in his penchant for hymn-tunes and modal relationships. Apart from Nadia Boulanger, his strongest musical influence was that of the Frenchman, Erik Satie, from whom he learned the virtue of simplicity.

Like Copland, Thomson wrote for the films. He considered film music akin to opera, a view shared by few American critics, who argue that if film music is memorable, it is bad film music! In his attitude to film, Thomson has more in common with European composers like Vaughan-Williams, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Saint-Saƫns, who believed that music should be a partner to the picture rather than a subdued background.

The suite we hear today is from the film The River, a documentary about the Mississippi, its uses and abuses. The sections are titled: The Old South, Industrial Expansion in the Mississippi Valley, Soil Erosion and Floods, and the Finale.

There are several easily recognized references to popular tunes, and many members of the audience will recall that it was used (among other sources) as background music to Memory Speaks, the sesquicentennial pageant.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Ervin Orban, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Carolyn Caldwell
Joyce Dubach
He Hueng
Pei-Yi Hu
Janel McKinley
Jan Muth
Carol Ann Petty
Angela Rogers
Vernon Stinebaugh
John Thomas
Roxanne Thomas
Michael Wurzburger +^

Viola
Annette Martin *
Peter Collins
Kristina M. Lange +
Delpha Laycock
Naida Walker

Cello
Christina Palmer *+^
Valerie Goetz Boud
Wallace Dubach
Jennifer Kirk +^
Betty Bueker

Bass
Bradley Kuhns *
Randy Gratz
George W. Scheerer

Piccolo
Janet McKay

Flute
Maryanne C. Beery *+ (co-)
Kathy Urbani * (co-)

Oboe
Susan Turnquist *
Jocelyn Foster
English Horn
Stephanie Jones

Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Bassoon
Takashi Yamano * (co-)
Anne Teeters * (co-)

Horn
G. Kent Teeters *
Nancy A. Bremer
Jennifer E. Payne
Lois Geible

Trumpet
Mike Clark *
Steven Hammer

Trombone
D. Larry Dockter * (co-)
James A. Perez * (co-)
Thomas R. Airgood

Tuba
Michael Harkness +

Timpani
Tana Tinkey +

Percussion
Neal Graham
Suzanne Beard +

Harp
Alison Snyder

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
Eri NakagawaEri Nakagawa is a native of Osaka, Japan, who began piano study at the age of four.

In March, 1984, she graduated from Osaka Kyoiku University and received a Bachelor of Music degree.

After continuing piano study at Mukogawa Women's University one more year, she came to the United States in June, 1985. In August, 1987, she graduated from Ball State University and received a Masters degree in piano performance and chamber music/accompaning. She is currently working toward the Doctor of Arts degree at Ball State University.

She was a winner of Ball State's graduate concerto competition in 1985.

She has studied with Koji Tanaka, Naoyuki Inoue, John Kozar, Mitchell Andrews and Pia Sebastiani.
Karen Klimpert and Professor James Adams collaborated to produce the art work for today's performance of Night on Bald Mountain. Ms Klimpert is a 1985 graduate of Manchester College with a major in art education. She is currently teaching art in the Warsaw, Indiana, school system.

James Adams is Professor of Art at Manchester college, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1957. Prof. Adams teaches photography, and in December will serve as a judge for the Honeywell 100 Photography Show.