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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 64th Season

Music of the Masters

Sunday, October 27th, 2002
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36 Ludwig van Beethoven  
 

I. Adagio - Allegro con brio
II. Larghetto
III. Scherzo - Allegro
IV. Allegro molto

 
       
  Intermission  
       
  Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 Felix Mendelssohn  
 

I. Allegro molto appassionato
II. Andante
III. Allegretto non troppo - Allegro molto vivace

 
  Aaron Berofsky, violin  
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36 Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
 
 

It is well-known that Beethoven gradually became deaf. What a fate for a composer! The Second Symphony was written when Beethoven had finally realized that he was destined to become completely deaf. Earlier he tried to ignore the problem, or even conceal it from his associates. By 1802 he had acknowledged his growing deafness. One would expect this symphony to reflect his despair, but it is almost defiantly bright and optimistic.

Three years before the debut of this symphony, he had written his first, which was very well received, and by 1802 was quite popular. The premiere of the Second Symphony was accompanied by that popular First Symphony and his C minor piano concerto ... a dangerous combination. The critics compared his Second with the First, and found it too adventurous. There was too much evidence of an attempt to change directions. Little did they know of what was going on in Beethoven's head.

He was impelled by the growing awareness that he was not to hear much of his own music. He wrote to his doctor and friend, Wegeler, "I have often cursed my existence; Plutarch taught me resignation. If possible I will bid defiance to my fate, although there will be moments in my life when I shall be the unhappiest of God's creatures ...." This Second Symphony appears to be his bid of defiance.

The first movement (Adagio molto, Allegro con brio) owes much to Mozart, in fact specifically to the Symphony No. 38, Prague. They are both in the same key and they both have slow introductions. The opening movements are in sonata form, with two subjects, the first in the tonic and the second in the dominant key of A. Very Classical.

The second movement (Larghetto) is also in sonata form ... another nod to the classicism of Mozart and Haydn. This is a slow movement with what many would call "sweet" melodies. In contrast to the martial first movement, there are no trumpets or drums. Perhaps this is a reflection of Beethoven's longing to be free of his affliction, among friends, and able to continue the development of his remarkable talent. But this is romantic speculation. The movement will provide us with whatever we choose to hear.

The third movement is a scherzo. This is a true Beethovian innovation. In a typical classical symphony (in the strict sense of the expression), the third movement is a Minuet and Trio. Here, Beethoven wrote a scherzo, Italian for "joke." The rest of his nine symphonies featured this substitution for the traditional Minuet and Trio. While many scherzi are light and humorous, some are more dramatic and very un-joke-like, but they all have an exhilerating quality. This first scherzo must have been Beethoven's way of "seizing Fate by the throat."

The fourth movement is a rondo. The rondo is a form in which several themes appear alternately, with the last one repeating the first. Except that here, Beethoven surprises us with a coda or "tail" that is exceptionally long, more of a development of all the themes of the rondo than a short summarizing add-on.


 
       
  Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
(1809-1847)
 
 

The "Big Three" of early nineteenth-century romantic composers were Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn. They had in common a slightly conservative, almost classical regard for structure. Mendelssohn was a prodigy who had written an opera and fifteen symphonies by the time he was fifteen (all later discarded). His violin concerto in D Minor, an attractive piece, was written when he was thirteen. At the age of thirty-six he became conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. He fulfilled his obligation as a Romantic by dying at the age of thirty-eight.

Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Bach, and was largely responsible for reviving an interest in his music. It was on the occasion of his performance of a Bach Passion that he demonstrated his amazing memory. The wrong conducting score was provided, but rather than upset the orchestra, he simply pretended it was the right one, turning pages regularly, and conducting the work from memory.

Critics grant him his melodic gifts, but say his music is never deep, and that he was not an innovator. However, he was one of the first to write concert overtures, and he modified the form of the violin concerto by virtually eliminating the introduction.

The concertos of composers from Mozart through Beethoven commonly allowed a mood of "expectancy" to develop by delaying the entry of the solo instrument. Mendelssohn abandoned this practice, and the result can be heard in this concerto.

The first movement, allegro molto appassionato, begins with no orchestral exposition, just a bar and a half of "ready-when-you-are" low pizzicato and drum-beats, until the violin comes in with a soaring melody. There follows an equally melodious transition, and then the second subject is introduced. Here, the soloist holds a pedal point on the open G string, while the woodwinds take over the theme.

Mendelssohn has managed to write a cadenza with the character of improvisation expected of earlier concertos (a cadenza was originally a moment in a concerto when the orchestra stopped to allow the soloist to improvise a technically demanding solo). This one is so effective, it begs for an encore, and Mendelssohn must have had his fingers crossed as, without the customary break, he went softly into the second movement. Although Mendelsson preserves the classical ideal of a three-movement work, he changes the position of the cadenza from almost at the end of a first movement after the recapitulation but before the coda, to just before the recapitulation.

The beginning of the second movement, andante, discourages applause, which was Mendelssohn's intent.

The third movement is in two parts: Allegro non troppo: Allegro molto vivace. The concerto ends spectacularly.

One more "first" should be mentioned. Prior to Mendelssohn, concerti were written by composers who excelled in the instrument they were showcasing. Mendelssohn was a pianist, not a violinist. He wrote this concerto for his friend Ferdinand David, and consulted him frequently during its composition. Later composers such as Brahms, Bruch, Dvořák, Prokofiev, and Adams all collaborated with violinists in the development of their very successful concerti.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda Kanzawa Ard, Concertmaster
Joyce Dubach *
Benita Barber
Martha Barker
David Blakely
Sarah Cole
Eloise Guy
William Klickman
Linda Kummernuss
Lita Luginbill
Ilona Orban
Margaret Piety

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Peter Collins
Julie Sadler

Cello
Tim Spahr *
Joseph Kalisman
Sarah Reed +^
Tony Spahr

Bass
Darrel Fiene *
Bradley Kuhns
George Scheerer

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Barbi Pyrah
Oboe
Rita K. Merrick *
George Donner

Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Michael Trentacosti

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer *
Kim Reuter +^

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Nathan Reynolds +^ (Asst.)
Ray Hart +
Richard Pepple

Timpani
David Robbins

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
       
 
Aaron BerofskySince making his solo debut at the age of thirteen, violinist Aaron Berofsky has received international critical acclaim as both a soloist and a chamber musician; according to France's Le Figaro, his is "the kind of music making that gives one true pleasure." His concert career has taken him throughout North and Central America, Europe, and the Middle East, and he has appeared as soloist with orchestras in the United States, Germany, Italy, and Canada. Mr. Berofsky has appeared in recital in New York, Aspen, Banff, and in Chicago, both at the Symphony Center and on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts Series, broadcast live on WFMT radio. He regularly appears at festivals throughout North America and Europe, including the Skaneateles Festival in New York, Steamboat Springs in Colorado, Springfest in Ann Arbor, the Speeside and Guelph Spring Festivals in Canada, the Oregon Symphony's annual Mozart Gala, the International Deia Festival in Spain, and the Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Italy.

Mr. Berofsky is the first violinist of the Chester String Quartet, hailed by the Boston Globe as "one of the best and brightest of the country's young string quartets" and by the Los Angeles Times as having "irrepressible energy and unflagging good taste." They have appeared in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Highlights of recent seasons have included the New York premiere and recording of Aaron Jay Kernis' 100 Greatest Dance Hits, two complete cycles of the Beethoven string quartets, and a recording of the complete Mozart Flute Quartets. Recent tours have taken them to England, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Mr. Berofsky is the conductor of the IUSB Philharmonic, and he has also conducted the South Bend Symphony's Academy Orchestra. He continues to engage in a varity of divers musical projects as well. He performed and recorded John Cage's work Atlas Eclipticalis with the composer present. He has performed a series of concerts with the acclaimed chamber orchestra Tafelmusik, also recording with them on Sony's Vivarte label. As soloist/leader, he performed the Brandenburg Concerti with conductor/harpsichordist Anthony Newman. Among the many artists he has collaborated with are pianists Eugene Istomin, Alexander Toradze, and Ralph Votapek, violinist Franco Gulli, and cellists Norman Fisher and Alexander Baillie.

Mr. Berofsky is on the violin faculty at the University of Michigan. He received his Master's degree from the Juilliard School as a scholarship student of Dorothy DeLay. Other teachers include Glenn Dicterow, Robert Mann, and Elaine Richey. He has taught and coached chamber music at the Oberlin Conservatory, the Quartet Program, and at Interlochen. He can be heard on the Sony, New Albion, Audio Ideas, and Chesky labels.