ESO Virtual Stage

Experience the Concert Hall at home with ESO Virtual Stage!

ESO Virtual Stage is a digital subscription featuring exclusive virtual content from your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

With ESO Virtual Stage, you have the freedom to watch your ESO whenever you want. Virtual Stage has no boundaries – it's an affordable way to enjoy your ESO from anywhere in the world.

ESO Virtual Stage is the ideal companion to your ESO Membership, allowing you to take in live performances while also enjoying the ESO from home at your convenience. Plus, ESO Members get up to 15% off!

Your Virtual Stage subscription includes access to up to 15 videos of varying lengths, featuring everything from solos to full symphony performances.

Five highlighted videos from last season will be available to watch as soon as you sign up, with more releases coming throughout this season. You’ll receive an email every time a new video is added. Once a new video is added to ESO Virtual Stage, it will remain there for your viewing pleasure until December 1, 2022.








ESO Virtual Stage Subscription features

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Up to 15 performance video releases
Calendar
Unlimited views until December 1, 2022


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Patron Guide

See our Frequently Asked Questions and Video Technical Guide on our Patron Guide page for more information on how to enjoy your ESO Virtual Stage subcription content.

Patron Guide


Video Releases

P. Hindemith’s Scherzo for Viola and Cello



Program

P. Hindemith
Scherzo for Viola and Cello
(5 minutes)


Musicians

Viola: Keith Hamm
Cello: Julie Hereish

Enjoy an up close and personal performance from members of your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on the Winspear Centre Stage.

This new video now streaming on ESO Virtual Stage features a beautiful duet from ESO Assistant Principal Cello, Julie Hereish, and ESO Principal Viola, Keith Hamm. Together they perform a spritely and complex work from a highly respected 20th century composer.

It is our delight to present for you: Paul Hindemith’s Scherzo for Viola and Cello.

Scherzo for Viola and Cello
Paul Hindemith

(b. Hanau, 1895 / d. Frankfurt, c. 1963)

German composer Paul Hindemith was a leader in early 20th century music theory. An influential teacher and violist, his compositions were instrumental in ushering in the modernist era of classical music by challenging traditional means of Western tonality.

Hindemith’s Scherzo for Viola and Cello (1934) was composed in less than four hours, with the purpose of filling an empty side of a vinyl record. The Scherzo begins in unison with a strong, rhythmic motif that returns several times throughout the piece, both in the viola and cello parts. While the cello provides a strong foundation of double stops and large leaps, the viola delights the listener with high, fast passages. The energy in this piece is achieved by the playful switching of roles between the two instruments and ends with delicate pizzicato and a long-awaited major chord.

Program note © 2022 by Micha Poworoznik


G.B. Viviani’s Trumpet Sonata No. 1



Program

G.B. Viviani
Trumpet Sonata No. 1
(6 minutes)


Musicians

Trumpet: Robin Doyon
Organ: Jerrold Eilander

Enjoy an exceptional performance from members of your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on the Winspear Centre Stage.

Now streaming on ESO Virtual Stage is Trumpet Sonata No. 1 from G.B. Viviani! This video features ESO Principal Trumpet, Robin Doyon, and Jerrold Eilander playing the magnificent Davis Concert Pipe Organ.

Don’t miss out on watching a beautiful performance of this work that is a hidden gem of Italian Baroque music.

Trumpet Sonata No. 1
Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani

(b. Florence, 1648 / d. Pistoia, c. 1693)

Amid the host of masterful composers who practiced their art in the Italian Baroque, the name Giovanni Buonventura Viviani is not generally known. That fact alone demonstrates just how many such composers there were that garnered not only respectability during their lives, but considerable acclaim.

Viviani began his musical career as a violinist in Innsbruck, moving up the musical ladder to become Director of Music at the court there in 1672. By 1678, he was in Venice, where his skill was regarded highly enough that he was elevated to the nobility. During his life, he was known particularly, as were so many of his Italian contemporaries, for his vocal works – his operas and church pieces. He published a number of shorter instrumental works in one set, titling them Capricci armonici da chiesa e da camera, Op. 4. The two trumpet sonatas we know he composed are from that set. Brass was by this time in common use in the church, which makes the trumpet’s pairing with organ quite natural. Sonata No. 1 begins with a freely-flowing fantasia-like sequence on the trumpet, set to a measured tempo. The second section is more animated and fanfare-like. The third section is more of a dialog, a brief, mid-tempo bridge into the celebratory fourth section. As befits its likely use in the church, the final section is declamatory and reverent, uplifting and ceremonial.

Program note © 2022 by D.T. Baker


Mozart’s The Magic Flute: Suite for Winds & Brass



Program

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Die Zauberflöte ("The Magic Flute”): Suite for Winds & Brass
(14 minutes)


Musicians

Conductor: Cosette Justo Valdés

Our current ESO Virtual Stage release features a new arrangement of four movements from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, “The Magic Flute”. This recording was made in November 2021 during the live concert performance by members of your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Cosette Justo Valdés, ESO Assistant Conductor on the Winspear Stage. The charming love story in this work is interpreted through a new arrangement written by Anthony Rivera for a modern concert performance. Your ESO performed the world premiere that features brass soloists Tyler Cairns, Principal Bass Trombone, Frédéric Payant, Assistant Principal Trumpet, and Scott Whetham, Principal Tuba, who replace the vocalists' roles in this popular opera. Re-live a delightful performance through this wonderful video. Enjoy!

Music from Die Zauberflöte, K.620
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(b. Salzburg, 1756 / d. Vienna, 1791)

The opera premiered on September 30, 1791, in Vienna
November 25, 2022 at Winspear Centre was the World Premiere of the Suite for Winds and Brass arranged by Anthony Rivera


Suite for Winds and Brass (arr. Anthony Rivera)

Program note by Dr. Rivera:

Harmoniemusik:
Wind bands were a vibrant thread of the musical fabric of Vienna during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. During elaborate dinner parties and social events, they performed marches, arrangements of operas, ballets, and original compositions. The standard ensemble of the era consisted of pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, and was termed Harmoniemusik. 

Like other Harmonie versions of operas from this period, Joseph Heidenreich’s arrangement was likely intended as background music for a social occasion rather than for the concert stage. Heidenreich skillfully adapted Mozart’s original music to the relatively limited capacities of the Harmonie ensemble, but his version is problematic as a concert piece. The ensemble was limited by the keys in which it could perform and by the few instrumental combinations available. In the face of these limitations, Heidenreich was forced to depart significantly from Mozart’s score. Composers, performers, and audiences of the period either did not notice or did not mind these artistic compromises as long as the music provided a pleasant background to their social occasion. 

About the arrangement:
The idea of a Harmonie arrangement of Die Zauberflöte has long excited wind conductors, but Heidenreich’s version is unsatisfactory when used in modern concerts. The primary purpose of making this new arrangement was to produce a work suitable for modern concert performance. To do this, I took advantage of the capabilities of modern wind instruments and performance techniques, and included instruments not found in the traditional Harmonie. I expanded the Harmonie band to include flutes, trumpet, trombones, and string bass (bass was frequently included ad. lib. in Harmonie during Mozart’s time). 

My first arrangement of Die Zauberflöte was designed to be performed with the original vocal soloists, offering the option of either concert performance or staged production with chamber ensemble. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra selected four movements for an instrumental soloists and chamber winds version. 

The four movements selected feature the tenor and bass voice (Papageno and Sarastro, respectively), the soprano (Papagena), and magical bells, celeste, and glockenspiel. Brass soloists were selected to replace the vocalists to create a unique timbre with the chamber winds. The trombone section has a larger role as soloist because two arias and the duet feature Papageno. In addition to being soloists the trombone serves as Sarastro’s chorus of priests along with the trumpet.  

  1. Der Vogelfänger ich bin ja begins with an introduction by the ensemble followed by the soloist entering at the pick-up into measure 27/rehearsal B. The aria has three verses, repeating twice at the pick-up into m. 27/rehearsal B. The repeats are optional; I personally think one repeat is plenty.

  2. O Isis und Osiris does not include our flute and oboe friends but features the principal tuba as Sarastro and the trumpet and trombones as the priests/chorus. The tuba solo is intended to be transposed and played on an F tuba; however, that is ultimately up to the soloists.

  3. Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen is divided into three sections and a finale. The first section, beginning to D, second D to H, third H – L., and the finale L to the end.  This aria features the glockenspiel and celeste in addition to the trombone soloists. If a particular verse/section is cut, the finale at L should begin on the last measure of each verse/section.

  4. Pa-Pa-Pa-Papageno is filled with excitement and delight over love at first sight and a lifetime of new adventures. 

 

I hope you enjoy these arrangements and that the characters, Papageno, Sarastro, and Papagena, shine through. It is a great opportunity for the ensemble to embody love and Sarastro’s message, “…strengthen them with patience when in peril.” 


Mozart’s The Magic Flute: Overture



Program

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Die Zauberflöte ("The Magic Flute”): Overture
(8 minutes)


Musicians

Conductor: Cosette Justo Valdés

Our newest Virtual Stage release features a movement from the charming love story that is “The Magic Flute”. This recording was made in November 2021 during the live concert performance by members of your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Cosette Justo Valdés, ESO Assistant Conductor on the Winspear Stage. One of Mozart’s most famous works, the Overture from Die Zauberflöte, is an invigorating movement that begins the opera that was one of the final works Mozart composed and completed just seven weeks shy of his 36th birthday. Watch this wonderful video to experience your ESO performing another quintessential classical work! 

Music from Die Zauberflöte, K.620
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(1756-1791)

The opera premiered on September 30, 1791, in Vienna



Die Zauberflöte (“The Magic Flute”) was one of the last works Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart finished before he died, only seven weeks shy of his 36th birthday. It is also one of his most famous works – a singspiel opera combining lofty ideals with lowbrow comedy; a plea for the brotherhood of humankind as well as a charming love story.

The overture begins with imposing chords, supposedly based on the ceremonial knocks on the door of the hall of the Freemasons – an organization to which Mozart belonged, and whose ideals form part of the opera’s structure. The rest of the overture is a set of variations based on a theme composed by Mozart’s friend and fellow musician, Muzio Clementi. He apparently offered it to Mozart, to see if he “could do something with it.” He certainly did.



Program notes © 2022 by D.T. Baker.


Mozart's "Posthorn" Serenade in D Major (IV)



Program

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Serenade No. 9 in D Major, K320 “Posthorn”: IV – Rondeau: Allegro ma non troppo
(7 minutes)


Musicians

Conductor: Cosette Justo Valdés
Flute Solo: Elizabeth Koch
OboeSolo: June Kim

In celebration of Mozart’s birthday our newest Virtual Stage release is movement four of his Serenade No. 9 in D Major, K320 “Posthorn”, performed on the Winspear Stage by members of your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Cosette Justo Valdés, ESO Assistant Conductor. Rondeau: Allegro ma non troppo has a sprightly and short main theme interspersed with charming conversations for flute and oboe soloists which are performed here by Elizabeth Koch, ESO Principal Flute, and June Kim, ESO Principal Oboe.

Serenade No. 9 in D Major, K320 “Posthorn”: IV – Rondeau: Allegro ma non troppo
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(1756-1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart left his hometown of Salzburg for Vienna, musical capital of the German-speaking world, in 1781. In doing so, he closed a significant door; he wanted to escape the relative backwater of Salzburg and make a name for himself in the great city of Vienna, but he also knew that the kind of music he had been paid to compose in Salzburg was of a different order than what would impress the cosmopolitan Viennese. Still, there was some good music from the old days, and Mozart’s practical side knew that. The many serenades, divertimentos and other “occasional” works written for patrician Salzburg families and intended to be heard once and perhaps never again, included some pieces in which Mozart took some pride. He was determined they should not be lost. Among those was the “Posthorn” Serenade in D Major, composed in 1779 to mark the end of the Salzburg school year. Mozart would later adapt movements from the original into works for the Viennese, to great success.

In its original guise, the serenade is in seven movements and is scored for timpani, strings, and pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, and trumpets. Movement four is a Rondeau (Mozart often used the French spelling “rondeau” when his movements like this were in a French style), with a sprightly and short main theme interspersed with charming conversations for flute and oboe.



Program notes © 2022 by D.T. Baker.


Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves



Program

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on Greensleeves (arr. Greaves)
(5 minutes)


Musicians

Conductor: Alex Prior
Violin Duet: Robert Uchida & Eric Buchmann
Flute Solo: Elizabeth Koch
Harp Solo: Nora Bumanis

Our newest Virtual Stage release this season is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves, performed on the Winspear Stage by members of your Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Alexander Prior, ESO Chief Conductor. Greensleeves is one of the most famous medieval folk songs but also a cherished carol and time-honoured holiday classic known to many as "What Child Is This?" with lyrics written by William Chatterton Dix for a seasonal adaptation.

Fantasia on Greensleeves (arr. Greaves)
Ralph Vaughan Williams

(b. Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, 1872 / d. London, 1958)

To be perfectly honest, the lovely arrangement of Greensleeves, as adapted by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams for use in his opera Sir John in Love, has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. And yet …

Greensleeves is one of the most famous medieval folk songs, and while popular belief holds that it was written by Henry VIII (who was quite musical), that is not true. The haunting melody’s original words are a little troubling, actually. A woman with “green sleeves” was a woman whose affections were for sale, to put it nicely. And let’s face it, adapting the tune into a song about the birth of the Christian saviour seems a stretch, to put it mildly.

But it is not unusual for old, popular melodies to be recast through the ages. And it was William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898), who wrote many original hymns along with translations and new versions of older hymns, who took the melody of Greensleeves, and wrote the new words for seasonal worship.

In this new guise, What Child Is This? has become a popular carol, though more so in North America than in Dix’s home of England. So popular, in fact, that when audiences hear the melody of Greensleeves played in a holiday context, they quite naturally understand it to be Dix’s carol.

So the fact that Vaughan Williams’ use of the tune Greensleeves in his comic opera based on Shakespeare’s Falstaff may be a period-appropriate use of the tune’s Elizabethan setting, it really is just the fact that it is a beautiful arrangement of the melody that has brought it to concert stages as part of holiday concerts.



Program notes © 2021 by D.T. Baker.


Brahms: String Sextet No. 2



Program

Johannes Brahms
String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op.36
(38 minutes)

Allegro non troppo
Scherzo: Allegro non troppo – Presto giocoso
Adagio
Poco allegro


Musicians

Robert Uchida (ESO Concertmaster)
Violin I

Ewald Cheung (ESO Violin I)
Violin II

Keith Hamm (ESO Principal Viola)
Viola I

Ethan Filner (ESO Assistant Principal Viola)
Viola II

Rafael Hoekman (ESO Principal Cello)
Cello I

Meran Currie-Roberts (ESO Cello)
Cello II

Brahms' String Sextet No. 2 consists of four movements performed by pairs of violins, violas, and cellos.

This rich work contains a personal message from Brahms to his unrequited love, and showcases an intense emotional range. “To outline (the sextet) is comparatively simple,” writes Jan Sawfford in his biography of Brahms. “The expressive implications are not.” Led by Concertmaster Robert Uchida, ESO musicians Ewald Cheung (Violin I), Keith Hamm (Principal Viola), Ethan Filner (Assistant Principal Viola), Rafael Hoekman (Principal Cello), and Meran Currie-Roberts (Cello), come together on the Winspear stage for a full, lush performance.

String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op.36
Brahms

(b. Hamburg, 1833 / d. Vienna, 1897)

Many composers’ careers are described in trimester periods ascribed as early, middle, and late. But for few of those composers are those distinctions as clear and important as they are for Johannes Brahms. His String Sextet No. 2 belongs very much to the beginning of his middle period, and thus the stylistic and formative changes Brahms underwent between his first attempt at such a work and his second is crucial.

The somewhat unusual musical grouping of pairs of violins, violas, and cellos was first attempted by Brahms in 1860. While it was only four years later that he began composing his second such work, the intervening period had seen him compose the two serenades for orchestra and his massive First Piano Concerto. He was now a composer sure of his craft, and moreover one willing to take some daring musical steps. “To outline (the sextet) is comparatively simple,” writes Jan Sawfford in his biography of Brahms. “The expressive implications are not.”

A personal message figures into the first movement of the work. At the climax of the exposition, a motif arises using the notes A, G, A, H (in German musical notation, “H” was the key of B; “B” indicated B-flat), and E. It was most of the name of a lost love, “Agathe,” with the T of her name assigned to the note D, which also tied to a second motif with the notes A, D, E (“Ade” is German for “farewell”). So, in this music, Brahms put a conclusionary note on his unrequited love.

The opening movement manages to sound both warm and somewhat mysterious at the same time, using a semitone oscillating idea to create a sense of living in two disparate key signatures, yet the effect is anything but coldly musicological; on the contrary, it is haunting and heartening both. The second movement is the work’s “Scherzo,” but its opening is a serious affair, and in the unusual, but urgently rhythmic metre of 2/4. Its main idea comes from a Baroque-ish melody Brahms had sketched out some 10 years earlier. The central section of the movement is a whirling, triple-time Presto giocoso – a rustic dance set to a pace much more in keeping with the idea of Scherzo, but still in a sober and intense mood.

The third movement is a heartfelt, tender set of variations on a melody again from Brahms’ past. There is a much more intensely emotional fugal statement of the theme in the middle of the movement, but the overall tone is one of sadness. The final movement begins with a glint of brightness before settling into a gentle D minor dance. It contrasts with the sequence heard at the movement’s opening – an alternating between vivacity and resignation, not at all inappropriate when moving on from a lost love.



Program notes © 2021 by D.T. Baker.


Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major



Program

Johann Sebastian Bach
Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007

Prelude
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Menuet I/II
Gigue

(18 minutes)


ESO Musicians

Ethan Filner
ESO Assistant Principal Viola

Bach’s Cello Suites are widely known and loved as a staple in classical music repertoire. But did you know that they only gained far-reaching popularity long after Bach’s death? In 1889, 166 years after Bach composed them, 13-year-old cello prodigy Pablo Casals discovered the Suites in a second-hand store. He went on to record them, which contributed to their lasting popularity.

Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007
Johann Sebastian Bach

(b. Eisenach, Saxony, 1685 / d. Leipzig, 1750)

The “suite” form as understood by Bach is significantly different from the idea we have today. In Bach’s time, the suite was a French notion, a piece of music comprised of multiple movements. It begins with an overture or a prelude, followed by a series of dances, nearly always in French dance forms. And that is the format for the six Suites for Solo Cello. These notes are written to accompany a performance of a Bach suite for solo cello played on a viola. And if there is anyone who would have thought nothing about such an occurrence, it was Bach himself.

Most of Bach’s considerable output was music written to order, and much of it for use by the Lutheran Church. He “indulged” his muse, writing secular, instrumental music, when he could, which was rarely. His most fruitful period for such music was 1717 to 1723, when he was Kapellmeister for the Court Orchestra of Anhalt-Cöthen – pretty much the only time in his career when he was not employed by a church. It is from this period that the six Suites for Solo Cello were composed, likely inspired by a gifted musician of Bach’s acquaintance. Christian Bernhard Linigke or Christian Ferdinand Abel are likely suspects.

The plain fact of the matter is that Bach, quite pragmatically, wrote many works with no clear idea of what instrument(s) would play it, and he realized that it could vary greatly from performance to performance. He also had no issue changing instrumentation to suit a certain complement of musicians. For a composer used to writing a work that would only be heard once, any performance was welcome.

Beyond all that, the genius and scope of Bach’s iconic Six Suites is a treasure alluring to more than just cellists. In the string family, if the cello is the tenor voice, the viola is the alto, nearest to it going upward. And several viola arrangements of the set have been done. Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Principal Viola Ethan Filner is intimately familiar with many of these. But while he has consulted many of them during his career, he chose to “start from scratch” in many ways for this recording.

As he writes, “Several years ago I discovered on imslp.org an edition created in 2014 by ShinItchiro Yokoyama that was perfect for where I was with my career as a violist, and the closest thing to a holy grail of Bach Suites, second only to the fantasy discovery of a truly authentic manuscript: the entire set of suites published without slurs (nor dynamics). A totally clean slate! Just the notes. And, loading the file onto my iPad, I had a playground of Bach to experiment with, completely visually free of editors' (inherently personal and not necessarily justifiable) prejudices. Try something new in practice, write it in, live with it a while, change my mind? Use the digital eraser and it's gone forever. You get the idea.”

So while informed by the host of teachers, viola masters, scholars, and editors whose editions have been part of his life, Mr. Filner confesses that his version of the Suite No. 1 is unique. “I'd been playing it ‘my own way’ from the blank Japanese version for a while, but went back to both the cello manuscript and the more familiar-from-my-student-days German edition for a bit of a reality check ... Perhaps in a way, I suppose it's my own edition!”



Program notes © 2021 by D.T. Baker.


Nocturno, Op. 7



Program

Franz Strauss
Nocturno, Op. 7
(7 minutes)


Musicians

Megan Evans
ESO Assistant Principal Horn

Alexander Prior, ESO Chief Conductor
Piano

Franz Strauss wrote Nocturno, which translates as “night song,” for horn and piano in 1864. The Nocturno, Op. 7 was performed on the Winspear Stage by Megan Evans, ESO Assistant Principal Horn, and Alexander Prior, ESO Chief Conductor, on Piano.


Nocturno, Op.7
Franz Strauss

(b. Parkstein, Bavaria, 1822 / d. Munich, 1905)

It is well known that Hans von Bülow, the celebrated pianist and conductor of the late 19th century, was an early advocate and champion for young Richard Strauss. In fact, the assistance he provided the emerging genius led to a friendship between Bülow and Richard’s father, Franz. But had things gone slightly differently at a rehearsal at the Munich Opera one day, that may never have happened.

Franz Strauss was regarded as one of the finest horn players in the German musical world. So remarkable was his playing that his many disagreeable personality traits were overlooked to a great degree. Franz Strauss was opinionated and not afraid to be so – and he was a conservative, musically speaking. So the fact that his position as Principal Horn for the Munich Opera meant that he was a participant in the world premieres of several operas by the radical Richard Wagner – operas conducted by Wagner acolyte Bülow – caused a great deal of friction. Wagner was anything but conservative, and wrote crucial horn parts in most of his operas. And Franz Strauss did not care for them, and was not afraid to make his views known to both Bülow and Wagner himself. But he played them so well, his unwelcome comments were tolerated.

But one day, apparently, Strauss the elder went too far, and Bülow icily told him that if he didn’t like it, he could apply for his pension. Strauss called the bluff, and began to pack up – but a ceasefire was negotiated and, as mentioned, the two would eventually become friends, united in their belief in the talent of Franz’ son.

But Franz Strauss himself composed as well, for the instrument at which he was an acknowledged master. His Horn Concerto premiered in 1865. His Nocturno, for horn and piano, dates from the year before, and has become a popular work among horn players. Nocturno translates as “night song,” and indeed, the gentle melody that dominates the work is tender, belying the horn’s origins as an outdoor, heralding instrument.

The tender horn melody is lush and richly romantic, ushered in by a gently undulating piano accompaniment. It repeats with slight variation, then allows the piano to join more fully. A dramatic mood swing changes the mood to passionate, ebbing away gradually as the original mood returns. The piano provides a brief introduction to the main theme’s next appearance. The final section is an almost tender farewell.



Program notes © 2021 by D.T. Baker.


Capriccio & Largo-Double-Largo



Program

Jean Daniel Braun
Capriccio
Largo-Double-Largo
(5 minutes)

ESO Musicians

Bianca Chambul
ESO Principal Bassoon

ESO musicologist D.T. Baker describes Jean Daniel Braun's Capriccio & Largo-Double-Largo from Twenty-Four Solos as "requiring masterful dexterity and breathing by the player." Hear your ESO principal bassoonist Bianca Chambul perform this ambitious piece on our Virtual Stage.

Capriccio & Largo-Double-Largo from Twenty-Four Solos
Jean Daniel Braun

(birth date and place unknown – late 17th century / d. Paris, 1738)

What we know of the life and career of Jean Daniel Braun pales in comparison to what we do not know. In the political and cultural life of the France in which he spent his life, Braun was essentially a civil servant, as were many court musicians. But even the length of his life is unknown: we know he died on February 24, 1738, for instance, but no reliable record exists attesting to his birth. His last name suggests a possible birthplace of Alsace, a region which has shifted between France and Germany throughout its history.

We know he was employed for much of his career in the court of Duke Louis de Pardaillan de Gondrin (a cousin of Louis XV) as a flutist. He gained enough of a reputation that he was able to publish several volumes of works for flute in Paris, and, in fact, the renowned flutist Johann Joachim Quantz mentions Braun in his memoirs as one of two Braun brothers he met while in Paris in 1726-27.

Following his death, a set of 24 Solos by Braun (though with the possible inclusion of works by his brother, who was also a flutist) were published. They were intended, its inscription says, as pieces designed to improve flute technique – but tantalizingly, it also says that the pieces will work for bassoon by transposing them to the bass clef. The number of works for bassoon solo is comparatively small, so to have these short works as not only study pieces, but as charming miniatures for recital is welcomed by bassoonists. From the set of 24, we will hear two excerpts.

The tripartite 15th solo is a searching Largo, which begins rising and falling in an expanding register. The central section doubles the pacing of the notes - a technically more challenging and bracing contrast. The slower pace returns, in the bassoon’s higher register, to conclude the brief work. The Capriccio, the 13th solo in the published order, is an Allegro which, as its name suggests, is a short, whirling cavalcade of rapid runs and notes, revealing a nimbleness to the bassoon it rarely gets to display, and requiring masterful dexterity and breathing by the player.



Program note © 2021 by D.T. Baker.


Fantaisie for Violin & Harp, Op. 124



Program

Camille Saint-Saëns
Fantaisie for Violin & Harp, Op.124 (1907)
(14 minutes)


ESO Musicians

Violin: Ewald Cheung
Harp: Nora Bumanis

Featuring ESO Principal Harp Nora Bumanis and ESO violinist Ewald Cheung, the duo first performed French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’s Fantaisie for Violin & Harp, Op. 124 together at the ESO-Art Gallery of Alberta Chamber Music Series in the summer of 2020.

“The Saint-Saëns is a dreamy, imaginative piece that features quite an unusual set of instruments with the violin and harp. It can be separated into five distinct sections, each section having its own unique characteristic,” says Ewald.

Fantaisie for Violin and Harp, Op. 124
Camille Saint-Saëns

(b. Paris, 1835 / d. Algiers, 1921)


Unlike far too many great composers, Camille Saint-Saëns lived a reasonably long life. He also was active and productive throughout, indulging in his many interests and pursuits – in fact, he died while holidaying by exploring Algeria.

The works of his last years were by no means in the modern idioms of the 20th century, but Saint-Saëns was never an experimenter. But while traditional, his music was, throughout his entire output, tasteful, well-balanced, with scarcely a wasted note or musical gesture. What does make his single-movement Fantaisie for Violin and Harp, Op. 124 a little unusual is the instrumentation – Saint-Saëns rarely composed chamber works that did not feature the piano – his own instrument. He composed the work in 1907, when he was nearing 72, for two sisters: harpist Clara Eissler and violinist Marianne Eissler.

Taking the place of the more usual piano for such a work, the harp’s ethereal, at times other-worldly tones lend an exoticism to the piece, which switches moods throughout, beginning with an almost eastern feel to passionately lyrical and back again. In a single movement, the violin is given the first melodic lead in the piece, and the harp accompanies. Gradually, the instruments intertwine to a greater degree, and eventually, the harp is given a delicate, complex line of its own, supported by the violin. True to Saint-Saëns’ preference for balance, the theme which opens the work returns near is conclusion.


Program notes © 2021 by D.T. Baker