The Hebrides: Overture, Opus 26
Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Opus 25
George Li, piano
Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor
Symphony No. 31 in D major, Hob1/31 “Horn Signal”
*Indicates approximate performance duration.
Program subject to change.
The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), Op.26
Felix Mendelssohn (b. Hamburg, 1809 / d. Leipzig, 1847)
First performed: May 14, 1832 in London
Last ESO performance: Symphony Under the Sky 2010
The great German composer Felix Mendelssohn came from a well-to-do family which, as many such families did back then, sent the 20-year-old – who was already being hailed as a musical genius – on a grand tour of Europe, which was to last five years. His time in Scotland was certainly fruitful; two of his best-known compositions were inspired by his time there: the Third Symphony
, and tonight’s overture. The Hebrides
was based on a boat trip to Fingal’s Cave in the inner Hebrides Islands. The undulating ocean is a recurring theme in the music, right from the work’s opening measures.
Peter Warlock (b. London, 1894 / d. London, 1930)
Peter Warlock was the pseudonym of Philip Heseltine, a tormented, depressed soul whose career matched his life. He aspired to a greater calling, but he seemed fated to picking up commissions and occasional work as a music scholar, critic, and editor in fits and starts throughout his life – a life ended due to coal gas released in his home which, while officially declared an open case, was thought by most who knew him to be suicide.
The Capriol Suite
is regarded as quintessential Warlock, combining his love and knowledge of early music with a progressive modern musical understanding. He wrote the suite for string orchestra in 1926, expanding the orchestration two years later. In six miniature movements (the entire work lasts but ten minutes) based on French dances, the suite gets its name from a treatise on dance published by Jéhan Tabourot in 1589, in which a lawyer named Capriol asks Tabourot for lessons in dance.
Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op.25
First performed: October 17, 1831 in Munich
Last ESO performance: October 2011
There was no aspect of music in which Mendelssohn did not excel. Perhaps even more than Mozart, he showed a remarkably mature capacity as a composer from a very early age. He was one of the first conductors in the modern sense of the word, leading with a baton from a podium. He is credited with reviving interest in music of the past, particularly that of Bach. And he was an extraordinary keyboard player. “I consider Mendelssohn to be the first musician of our time, and take my hat off to him as a master,” wrote Robert Schumann. So it’s not surprising that the piano concertos Mendelssohn wrote as vehicles for his skill are demanding, intricately textured works.
Mendelssohn also helped bring about the modern concert convention of not clapping between movements. He hated the distraction, and in most of his concertos, he does not have pauses between movements; instead, he grafts bridges between them. In his First Piano Concerto
, composed when he was 21, the piano enters after a scant seven bars of orchestral introduction. The solo instrument immediately establishes the leading role in the movement, which is dominated by two main musical ideas, the second of which is a deceptively simple two-bar theme, with the piano providing sparkling accompaniment the orchestra’s verve.
A brass fanfare bridges the first movement to the second, a lovely Andante with a main theme introduced by the cellos. The piano provides a delicate latticework for this theme, which remains in the lower strings until the end of the movement. Yet another fanfare ushers in the Presto finale, begun in a shower of flourishes for both piano and orchestra, and followed by an Allegro e vivace in a loose rondo form.
Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor
The privileged upbringing mentioned above served the young Felix Mendelssohn quite well. Rather than the kind of garish display to which the prodigious Mozart was exposed, the teenaged Mendelssohn was provided by his family with a hired orchestra with which to try out his latest works – at private performances for invited guests. The early string symphonies or sinfonias that Mendelssohn composed for these concerts helped hone his skill as an orchestrator and as a composer. The Sinfonia No. 10
dates from 1823 (Mendelssohn would have been 14), and is split into two parts.
The opening is a brief Adagio which begins dramatically, becoming more genteel as it sets up an Allegro second section which maintains the darker hue of the opening in its B minor home key. The work shows a young composer still finding an individual voice – one certainly hears echoes of Haydn and Mozart, and even Schubert here – but the writing for strings is apt, sure, and shows the budding Mendelssohn tendency for the busy inner-voice strings that would characterize his mature work.
Symphony No. 31 in D Major, Hob.I:31 “Horn Signal”
Franz Josef Haydn (b. Rohrau, Lower Austria, 1732 / d. Vienna, 1809)
Josef Haydn’s Symphony No. 31
is closely tied to Esterháza, the magnificent palace erected by Nicholas Esterházy as a summer residence. As Vice-Kapellmeister to the Esterházy family, Haydn and the musicians in his charge spent part of the year there, beginning in the summer of 1765 – the year this symphony was written. It is thought the celebratory key of D Major, and the use of four horns (instead of the usual two) indicates the likelihood that the symphony was used as a work of welcome at Esterháza.
Strongly associated in Haydn’s day with the hunt, the horns of Haydn’s “Horn Signal” Symphony
present an authentic horn signal as the work begins, first with a fanfare and then a battue (the term used for the beating of bushes to flush out game) – just one of many touches in this work which must have sounded positively exotic and thrilling to its first audiences. These horn calls serve as the springboard from which the main theme of the first movement takes flight. Another unconventional touch is the start of the Recapitulation in D minor, making the repeat of the work’s opening here even more dramatically effective. The slow movement begins tenderly in the strings (there are solos for both violin and cello), but the horns are also given a special presence, set in pairs (two in G and two in D) and providing a warm contrast to the string sound.
The third movement is the typical Haydn combination of a Menuet and contrasting Trio. The horns keep time in the sturdy, lighthearted Menuet. In the Trio, the horns are given more of the melodic content. Rather than a happy dash to the end in the final movement, this symphony concludes with a set of variations in a Moderato tempo which showcase various soloists within the orchestra, leading some to believe it was meant to show visitors to Esterháza the fine musicians in the Prince’s employ.
Program notes © 2013 by D.T. Baker
William Eddins, conductor
Now in his eighth season as Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, William Eddins has a captivating energy, a magnetic stage presence, and an adventurous musical curiosity that continues to propel the orchestra to unique, new and exciting achievements. His commitment to the entire spectrum of the ESO audience brings him to the podium for performances in every subscription series, as well as for a wide variety of galas and specials.
A distinguished and versatile pianist, Bill was bitten by the conducting bug while in his sophomore year at the Eastman School of Music. In 1989, he began conducting studies at the University of Southern California with Daniel Lewis, and Assistant Conductorships with both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony (the latter under the leadership of Daniel Barenboim) followed.
Bill has many non-musical hobbies including cooking, eating, discussing food and planning dinner parties. He is also quite fond of biking, tennis, reading and pinball. He recently complete building a state-of-the-art recording studio at his home in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wife Jen (a clarinetist), and their sons Raef and Riley.
While conducting has been his principal pursuit, he continues to perform as pianist, organist and harpsichordist. He has conducted the ESO from the keyboard on many occasions, and in 2007, joined then-ESO concertmaster Martin Riseley and cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Brahms' Piano Trio No. 1 at a gala concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Winspear Centre. In 2008, he conducted Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for Opéra de Lyon, leading to repeat performances in Lyon, London and at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2010. Other international highlights include a 2009 tour of South Africa, where Bill conducted three gala concerts with soprano Renée Fleming and the kwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. On May 8, 2012, Bill made his Carnegie Hall debut conducting the ESO at a memorable concert featuring four Canadian soloists, and music by three Canadian composers alongside Martinů's rarely-performed Symphony No. 1.
George Li, piano
In July 2010, George Li won first prize in the Cooper International Piano Competition; the prize package included a full, four-year scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and concerto performances in Beijing and Shanghai. In November 2010, George won first prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, garnering debut recital opportunities in New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. Born in August 1995, Mr. Li gave his first public performance at Boston’s Steinway Hall at the age of ten. He has appeared at New York’s Carnegie Hall in a new TV series produced by the popular NPR radio show, From the Top
. In addition, he has been featured on WBZ-TV’s Liz Walker Show
and ABC’s Martha Stewart Show
. He has been invited to perform in the "Prodigies & Masters of Tomorrow" event of the Discovery Series organized by the Miami International Piano Festival.
An active chamber musician, George Li is the pianist of New England Conservatory’s Vivace Trio. The Trio has performed on From the Top’s radio series, at the NEC’s annual gala, Feast of Music. Mr. Li has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Xiamen Philharmonic, Symphony Pro Musica, Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Miami Symphony Orchestra, Nordic Chamber Orchestra Sweden, Albany Symphony Orchestra, Lexington Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra "I Solisti di Perugia" (Spoleto, Italy). He won second prizes in both the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition and the World Piano Competition at the age of nine. In 2008, he won second prize in the Gina Bachauer International Piano Junior Artist Competition. In November 2010 he won first prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.
This is Mr. Li’s debut with the ESO.