3: Program

smiling woman with oboe

Concerts:
September 29, 2018
September 30, 2018

Program

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Sinfonia No. 2 in B-flat major, Wq. 182

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Concerto for Oboe d’amore in A major, BWV 1055r

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Acht Stücke (Eight Pieces), Op. 44, No. 3

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 39 in G minor

Soloist

Jennifer Slowik is principal oboe with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), Odyssey Opera, Monadnock Music Festival, assistant principal with the Orchestra of Indian Hill, and a member of the weekly Bach cantata series at Emmanuel Music, where she was the recipient of the 2009-10 Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson fellowship. Jennifer is a frequent performer with organizations all over New England and beyond, including the Boston Philharmonic, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Boston Midsummer Opera, the west coast and Canadian tour of “The Music of Star Wars”. As a soloist and chamber musician, she has appeared with the Chameleon Arts Ensemble, Collage New Music, ALEA III, and is a frequent recitalist on Trinity College’s Summer Chamber Music Series in Connecticut. Highlights in recent years include performances at the Library of Congress, the world and US premieres of Tod Machover’s multi-media opera Death and the Powers in Monte Carlo’s Sally Garnier Theatre and Chicago, and composer Livia Lin’s Honorable Mention in the 2011 International Music Prize competition for Ju for solo oboe, written especially for her. Ms. Slowik is featured on numerous recordings on the BMOP/sound label, most notably the 2016 Grammy nominated PLAY, by Andrew Norman, Lisa Bielawa’s Synopsis #10: for solo English Horn, and the recently released CD of Thomas Oboe Lee’s Persephone, for oboe and strings. Born in Livonia, Michigan, Jennifer moved to Vermont at the age of 6, growing up in South Newfane and Williamsville. Beginning on the recorder, she took lessons at the Brattleboro Music Center with Marion Lowe, before taking up both the oboe and the saxophone in the 7th grade. She attended Leland and Gray Union High School, during which time she participated in UMASS Amherst’s Youth Wind Ensemble. She holds bachelors and masters degrees from the New England Conservatory.

Brief program notes

Felix Mendelssohn
Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor

Felix Mendelssohn was a prodigiously gifted child. Some believe he may have rivaled Mozart in musical promise. The son of banker Abraham Mendelssohn and grandson of the great Jewish thinker Moses Mendelssohn, his family secured a broad and thorough education for the young Felix. In addition to speedily absorbing musical skills and knowledge, Mendelssohn revealed impressive talent for drawing and painting and he spoke several European languages. Before he was 15, and as part of his earliest compositional studies, he completed a set of twelve string symphonies (dubbed Sinfonias). Masterful by any standard, all twelve were thought lost until discovered in a Berlin library after 1945.

We hear the tenth sinfonia today, a one-movement work in three parts (slow, fast, faster). Technically demanding and musically creative, one senses an energetic, enthusiastic young mind. Scored for two violins, two violas, and bass section, the work’s freshness and verve are quite compelling (qualities foreshadowing his Octet and Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, written two and three years later). Because the Mendelssohn home was a regular gathering place for intellectuals, scientists, and musicians, Mendelssohn probably heard these string symphonies played soon after their composition.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Sinfonia No. 2 in B-flat major, Wq. 182

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the fifth child and second son of Johann Sebastian and Maria Bach. Called Emanuel by contemporaries, he was the godson of Georg Philipp Telemann. Upon Telemann’s retirement as Kapellmeister of music in Hamburg, CPE Bach was appointed to the same position, at the age of 54.

While living and working in Hamburg, about five years after becoming Kapellmeister, CPE Bach was commissioned by Baron Gottfried van Swieten to create six symphonies for strings. Van Swieten requested that Bach “give himself free reign, without regard to the difficulties of execution.” And so, what we have is a stunning set of peculiarly colorful and startlingly changeable constructions — perhaps the most arresting sort of abstract art. We recognize the hallmarks of his heightened dramatic and emotional rhetoric in sudden harmonic changes, questioning silences, melodic fragmentation, and abrupt rhythmic displacements.

Van Swieten, an 18th century collector, kept these pieces for his personal use, unpublished. Once released, they found their way into the repertoire of one Carl Zelter, teacher of Felix Mendelssohn. It’s quite likely that Mendelssohn studied these unusual sinfonias as he composed his own.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Concerto for Oboe d’amore in A major, BWV 1005r

Johann Sebastian Bach — the great synthesizer, the masterful craftsman, the clever reworker. It was entirely common, even practical for 18th-century composers to reframe their own music (yes, and that of others, in pre-copyright days). As Bach’s early career consisted of a series of appointments in German cities, he sometimes responded to his responsibilities by recasting works created in a previous town. (In those days, without the fury of instantaneous social media, not everyone knew the latest culture news in seconds.) Today, seven keyboard concertos exist, and most are familiar to us in their other forms (for instance, as the violin concertos in A minor and E major, or part of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4). The esteemed music historian Sir Donald Tovey claims that, unlike the other six, the concerto we hear today was in fact written first for oboe d’amore and made its way to the keyboard afterwards. Lower members of the oboe family, rarely called upon today, were central to Bach’s composition process. Beginning in 1723, his cantatas include signature movements highlighting such mellow double-reed instruments as oboe d’amore and the still deeper oboe da caccia. This concerto quite possibly dates from about that time, just as Bach was ending his six-year tenure at the Court of Anhalt-Cöthen.

Paul Hindemith
Acht Stücke (Eight Pieces), Op. 44, No. 3

These eight miniatures might best be described as quirky — a very different sort of quirky than CPE Bach’s, of course, but quirky nonetheless. Most are brief (quite brief), all are decidedly character-filled. They were written in 1927, the year that Hindemith was appointed Professor at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. This set of eight is part of Op. 44, four works revealing Hindemith’s tonal landscape, but in miniature.

Hindemith left Germany in 1940, moved to the United States and taught at Yale University until 1953. His approach to formal structure and tonal relationships was particular and exacting; at Yale, he taught and influenced many 20th century composers, including such notables as Samuel Adler, Norman Dello Joio, Lukas Foss, and  Yehudi Wyner. Most music students of a certain age have encountered Hindemith texts on music theory and harmony. He advocated for the concept of Gebrauchsmusik (music for use) — compositions intended to have a social or political purpose and sometimes written to be played by musicians of all levels. His large compositional catalog includes solo and concerto works for every orchestral instrument. There’s even a sonata for viola d’amore (sorry, not so simple as a third lower than the viola, like the oboe d’amore).

Franz Joseph Haydn
Symphony No. 39 in G minor, Hob. I:39

This symphony is special in two respects. Written in 1767-68, it is likely Haydn’s earliest symphony in a minor mode. It is also the only Haydn symphony using four horns that is not in the key of D. In fact, this piece seems to have inspired an entire series of passionate symphonies in G minor, including two by J.B. Vanhal, one by J.C. Bach, and one by Mozart; one of those by Vanhal and the Mozart also use four horns. All of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang symphonies juxtapose various dramatic elements; in this case we discover unsettled foreboding, earnest simplicity, and high-voltage electricity.

Note the first movement’s disquiet, pregnant pauses, and false returns (Where are we?). Ever generous, Haydn not only provides answers (upbeat rushing scales and clever rhythmic turns), he even offers entirely new material for consideration in the recapitulation. The nearly entirely stable and charming second movement, though written primarily for just two voices (violins in unison, with violas, cellos, and basses in octaves), offers a certain steady elan and a sweet little codetta to boot. The minuet, back in minor, uses melodic elements of the second movement, only disguised. The trio highlights the oboes and horns swinging encouragingly back and forth and back to the minuet. It’s the final movement that blisters with high-stakes energy. Note the extremely dramatic wide leaps in the melody goaded by the charged sixteenths in the inner voices. The tension breaks, turning rather goofy for just a moment, in an unlikely place — just as the development opens.

 

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