Program Notes: Elgar’s Cello Concerto & Mozart’s Jupiter

Concert Program

Paul Hindemith (1895 – 1963)
Overture to Cupid and Psyche (Amor und Psyche)
Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934)
Concerto in E minor for Violoncello & Orchestra, Op. 85
I. Adagio
II. Lento
III. Adagio
IV. Allegro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Prelude to Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Symphony No.41 in C major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
I. Allegro vivace
II. Andante cantabile
III. Allegretto
IV. Molto allegro

Program Notes

PAUL HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Amor und Psyche (Farnesina): Ballet Overture (1943)

The story of Cupid and Psyche, written by Apuleius in the second century, has inspired countless musicians, poets, painters, dramatists and other artists.  The frescoes by Raphael (1483-1520) and his workshop at the Villa Farnesina in Rome are among the most famous and inspired German composer Paul Hindemith to begin a ballet score.  Only the overture was completed, however, and this eventually turned into a 1943 commission for Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.  They gave the première (under the title Cupid and Psyche) later that year.  The short overture is a three-part structure, marked in Hindemith’s characteristically to-the-point manner ‘Fast-Slow-Fast.’   A four-note motif is introduced on the horn over bustling strings and forms the basis of the opening theme.  A leaping second theme is first presented by oboe, then piccolo and quickly shared amongst the other instruments throughout the orchestra.  The leads into the slow section which is dominated by a broad, chorale-like theme, developed first by strings, then brass and woodwinds, all the while with an underlying free variation running like a commentary on solo violin.  The recapitulation begins as a fugato in which both opening themes are revisited, and the broad chorale again resounds among the brass.  The tempo quickens in the manner of a fugal stretto and the overture ends quietly.

EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934)

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 (1918-19)

The 20-year period, from the 1899 success of his Enigma Variations, to 1919, the year of the Cello Concerto, forms the heart and soul of Elgar’s composing career.  This was the time of the grandeur of the Marches, the lush Violin Concerto written for Kreisler, the large choral works, the majesty of the First Symphony written for Richter.  It is often noble music, these days frequently viewed through a prism of Edwardian assurance and ceremony.  But while his music carried the pomp and circumstance of the times, Elgar himself had doubts.  The 1914-18 war left him depressed and abstracted.  He turned to chamber music, expressing his melancholy in the Piano Quintet and String Quartet of 1918.  Once he began composition of the concerto, his wife Alice, eight years his senior, died.  Nevertheless, emotionally, the Cello Concerto is one of the most tightly wrought of all Elgar’s compositions.  Its scoring is slender and economical throughout, often closer to chamber music than to full symphonic writing.  “It is good and alive,” Elgar said at the time of writing the concerto.  He also described the work as ‘large,’ referring to its deeply personal expression of a man whose attitude and expectations from life had been turned upside down.

At the formal level, the concerto’s four movements are divided two and two, with the short opening recitative turning up again in the second and fourth movements and also providing the main subject of the finale.  The concerto, as a whole develops in a personal and unified way.  The second movement is a will-o’-the-wisp scherzo, but it is tense and agitated beneath the surface.  The slow movement, a mere 60 bars long, is an eloquent song-without-words, the emotional centre of the concerto.  The finale opens with march-like assurance, but it isn’t long before a mood of heart-aching wistfulness returns.  At the end, the questioning is brushed aside, but it is the haunting, elegiac mood of the Adagio that continues to hang over the close.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)

Prelude to Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38 (1767)

Never enrolled in either a school or university, the 11-year-old Mozart was nevertheless chosen to provide the music for an end-of-term production at the Salzburg Benedictine University.  Apollo et Hyacinthus was a three-act musical drama made up of overture and five arias, two duets, a chorus and a trio.  It has occasionally been referred to as Mozart’s first operatic composition, but this may be stretching the point.  It was designed as a short musical drama to be inserted between the five acts of a much larger spoken Latin tragedy, entitled Clementia Crosesi, by the Benedictine monk and professor Rufinius Widl.  Mozart’s music makes few concessions to the mostly unbroken voices of the young soloists from the university’s Gymnasium.  Its short, sprightly Prelude opens the proceedings with a deft call-to-attention, lively forward momentum and, after the opening sequence has been repeated, a striking series of chords modulating to the related minor key.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)

Symphony No. 41, in C, K. 551 (‘Jupiter’) (1788)

Mozart did not expect to die early.  He kept a hand-written catalogue of the music he had written and dated its cover into the 19th century.  Neither did he know that the ‘Jupiter’ was to be his final symphony.  So, although the piece provides an admirable summary of his life’s symphonic work, it’s clear that Mozart did not plan it as such.  He entered the piece in his catalogue August 10, 1788, a little over three years before his death.  He did not give it the nickname ‘Jupiter’, ruler of the gods.  This came about roughly three decades later, from the London-based violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon.

The ‘Jupiter’ is revolutionary in the way that the finale does not relax the tension built up throughout its four movements.  Instead, it brings it to a climax in a precedent that Beethoven and the romantic composers were eager to follow.  The opening movement is one of Mozart’s most powerful.  It is a study in contrasts, both between the three main thematic ideas and within each of them.  The first juxtaposes an assertive statement with a pleading phrase from the violins.  Then, after several variants, comes a gentle, questioning idea from the violins, with its own playful answer.  And finally, after an abrupt pause, a direct quotation from an aria Mozart had recently written titled Un bacio di mano (A kiss on the hand).  The melody brings the world of comic opera into the symphony and with it, perhaps, an allegory for life itself, where characters from all walks of life are presented as equals . . . all the world in a symphony, as Mahler was to say, a century later.

The two middle movements take the ideas we’ve heard further still.  Coloured by its muted violins, the sonata-form slow movement reaches deep and at length into the public and private thoughts from the opening theme of the first movement.  Similarly, the minuet further explores the essential delicacy of the second theme of the opening movement.  It introduces much chromatic and contrapuntal writing and comes close to expanding to full sonata-form.  Mozart reveals his most complex and virtuoso writing in the finale, a movement that represents a dynamic fusion of baroque technique with the most up-to-date symphonic thinking.  Its six main ideas are woven into one of the most complex symphonic movements ever written, utilizing many fugal devices.  Its thrilling coda marries the most sophisticated of musical techniques with sheer musical exhilaration, as five of these ideas are brought together in a powerful, culminating fugato.

Biographies

Tung-Chieh Chuang, conductor

Young Taiwanese conductor Tung-Chieh Chuang is the celebrated winner of the 2015 International Malko Competition in Copenhagen, standing out amongst a large field of candidates to win this prestigious award. Prior to this Chuang had already won numerous prizes and accolades, including a prize and the Audience Award at the Solti Competition in Frankfurt as well as being named a winner of the Gustav Mahler Competition in Bamberg and the Jeunesse Musicales Conducting Competition in Bucharest.

As guest conductor Tung-Chieh Chuang has appeared with such orchestras as Bamberger Symphoniker, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Taiwan Philharmonic, Macao Orchestra and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. He continues his relationships with MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn, amongst others.

Highlights of the 2017/2018 season include debuts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Oslo Philharmonic, as well as Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, Bochumer Symphoniker, Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Trondheim and Malmö Symphony Orchestra and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. He returns to Oviedo Filarmonia, Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and Sønderjyllands Symphony Orchestra. In Asia, he will conduct the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, Kaohsiung Symphony Orchestra and Hangzhou Philharmonic, and in January 2018 will make his Canadian debut with the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.

In 2010, Chuang received the Edwin B. Garrigues Fellowship of the Curtis Institute of Music. A year later in Philadelphia, he initiated the Curtis Japan Benefit Concert, donating all proceeds to the victims of the March 2011 earthquake via the Red Cross Japan. In 2012 he launched the first orchestral ‘flashmob’ in Taiwan, in his role as Principal Conductor of the National Taiwan University Symphony Orchestra.

Born into a family of professional musicians, Tung-Chieh Chuang showed great musical promise from an early age studying the horn and piano, giving his first public concert at the age of 11. He continued his education at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and at the Weimar Academy of Music. His mentors include Mark Gibson, Gustav Meier, Otto-Werner Mueller and Nicolás Pasquet.

Prior to embarking on a musical career, Tung-Chieh Chuang received a bachelor degree in Applied Statistics at Purdue University in the USA. He currently lives with his family in Berlin.

Stéphane Tétreault, cellist

In addition to innumerous awards and honours, Stéphane was selected as laureate of the 2015-2016 Classe d’Excellence de violoncelle Gautier Capuçon from the Fondation Louis Vuitton, and received the 2015 Women’s Musical Club of Toronto Career Development Award. He was the very first recipient of the $50,000 Fernand-Lindsay Career Award as well as the Choquette-Symcox Award laureate in 2013. First Prize winner at the 2007 Montreal Symphony Orchestra Standard Life-OSM Competition, he was named “Révélation” Radio-Canada 2011-2012 in classical music, was chosen as Personality of the Week in La Presse newspaper in 2012, and received the Opus Award for New Artist of the Year in 2013. For three straight years, Stéphane was ranked amongst “CBC Radio’s 30 Hot Canadian classical musicians under 30”.

Chosen as the first ever Soloist-in-Residence of the Orchestre Métropolitain, he performed alongside Yannick Nézet-Séguin during the 2014-2015 season. In 2016, Stéphane made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Nézet-Séguin and performed at the prestigious Gstaad Menuhin Festival in Switzerland. During the 2017-18 season, he took part in the Orchestre Métropolitain’s first European tour and will make his debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Stéphane has performed with violinist and conductor Maxim Vengerov and pianist Alexandre Tharaud, Jan Lisiecki, Charles Richard-Hamelin and John Lenehan and has participated in a number of masterclasses, notably with cellists Gautier Capuçon and Frans Helmerson. Stéphane has worked with conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Paul McCreesh, Julian Kuerti, Timothy Vernon, James Feddeck, José-Luis Gomez, Kensho Watanabe, amongst many others.

His debut CD, recorded with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and conductor Fabien Gabel was chosen as “Editor’s Choice” in the March 2013 issue of Gramophone Magazine. His second album with pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone featuring works from Haydn, Schubert and Brahms was chosen as Gramophone Magazine’s “Critics’ Choice 2016” and recognised as one of the best albums of the year.

Stéphane was a student of the late cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky for more than 10 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in Music Performance from the University of Montreal.

Stéphane plays the 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini” Stradivarius cello, on generous loan by Mme Jacqueline Desmarais.