Master orchestrator and composer Gustav Mahler fused movements from two Bach suites into a romantic orchestral suite. It is matched with Tchaikovsky’s passionate, anguished final symphony, the “Pathétique,” and the beautiful organ concerto of Francis Poulenc. YYYY/MM/DD
Enmax Hall, Winspear Centre
Ilyich Rivas, conductor
Paul Jacobs, organ (pictured)
Master orchestrator and composer Gustav Mahler fused movements from two Bach suites into a romantic orchestral suite. It is matched with Tchaikovsky’s passionate, anguished final symphony, the “Pathétique,” and the beautiful organ concerto of Francis Poulenc. Young Venezuelan conductor Ilyich Rivas is a star on the rise, making his ESO debut.
Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique”
Poulenc – Organ Concerto
Bach – Suite (arranged by Mahler)
Arrive early for Symphony Prelude, an in-depth presentation about musical works to help make the most of your concert experience, starting at 7 pm, located on our Third Level Lobby and free to all ticket holders.
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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Suite from the Orchestral Works of Johann Sebastian Bach (Arranged by Gustav Mahler) (19’)* (ESO premiere)
Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings in G minor (24’)*
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opus 74 “Pathétique” (46’)*
Suite from the Orchestral Works of Johann Sebastian Bach (arr. Gustav Mahler)
Johann Sebastian Bach
(b. Eisenach, Saxony, 1685 / d. Leipzig, 1750)
First performance of the Mahler suite: November 10, 1909 in New York
This is the ESO premiere of the suite
While known today as a composer, Gustav Mahler actually composed only part-time, when his work as a conductor allowed. His output is therefore relatively small, even if the works that he left are often on a mammoth scale.
Slavish adherence to a composer’s original intent, or even orchestration, was not a top priority for conductors of Mahler’s time, and many thought nothing of re-composing, re-orchestrating, or otherwise making changes to a score that we would find today indulgent, if not sacrilegious. One conductor famous for such re-imaginings, Leopold Stokowski, argued that Bach himself was no purist, and if he were alive now, would certainly write for the orchestra of today. And Mahler’s time was decades before the advent of “authentic period performance” research had made inroads into popular acceptance. Elgar, for example, thought the common symphony goer of his day would find Bach “boring” without beefing up his music.
Mahler’s suite, culled from the music of two of Bach’s orchestral suites, is actually not as overblown as some treatments of Bach. But it still may sound unusual to us today. Flute has a dominant role throughout the fugue of the opening movement, and that instrument’s dominance continues into the brief Rondeaus which surround a Badinerie – the latter of which did feature a prominent flute in Bach’s original, from the Second Suite. The Air, the famous slow movement from Bach’s Third Suite, sounds rather lush to our ears re-attuned to Baroque practice, perhaps, but shows a restraint and respect for Bach’s music that allows its innate beauty to the fore. A pair of Gavottes conclude Mahler’s highly specialized suite, again taken from the Third Suite of Bach.
Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings in G minor
(b. Paris, 1899 / d. Paris, 1963)
First performed: June 10, 1941 in Paris
Last ESO performance: June 2010
It was critic Claude Rostand who famously dubbed Francis Poulenc “half monk and half delinquent.” The latter label refers to the witty and clever music Poulenc and his fellow members of “Les Six” composed early in his career. The former underscores the personal events later in Poulenc’s life that led him back to his strong Catholic faith, which inspired many of his later works.
While not necessarily one of his religious works, his Organ Concerto was intended for performance in church. Its simple scoring, with the organ accompanied only by strings and timpani, was intended to make the work easy to perform in churches large or small. The work is cast in a single movement, but broken up into seven distinct sections, and both sides of Poulenc’s nature to which Rostand referred are very much in evidence.
Strong, Bach-like chords set up an opening of might and mystery, leading to an almost merry chase, as organ and strings alternate a playful theme. The longest single section is a beautiful, introspective Andante, in which the theme of the previous section is recast as an idyllic processional. The mood darkens considerably, but yields once again to a section of animated, almost nervous energy, quelled as the strings usher in the fifth section, dominated by a romantic string theme. Organ and timpani abruptly shift the mood, and the chase theme of the second section is now a duet for organ and strings, brought to a halt by toccata-like chords in the organ heralding the final section – one of introspection and reflection, capped off by a final declamatory pronouncement from the organ.
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op.74 “Pathétique”
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
(b. Kamsko-Votinsk, 1840 / d. St. Petersburg, 1893)
First performed: October 28, 1893
Last ESO performance: March 2012
Pretty much from its first performances, Tchaikovsky’s final symphony has produced a barrage of conflicting rhetoric. People tend to hear what they want in a work, so for those who must insist that this great, tragic work is Tchaikovsky’s suicide note, they cite mounds of evidence. Just as there is equally compelling evidence to those who believe that the symphony was simply the next work in what he hoped would be many more. Tchaikovsky himself is not much help, either way. Always a bit of an emotional weather vane, the composer’s own writings could be seen to support either point of view.
So what do we know? Well, we know that Tchaikovsky let germinate the idea of what he termed a “Program Symphony” for more than two years, after sketching out a rough outline in which he wrote, “The ultimate essence of the plan of the symphony is LIFE. First part – all impulsive, confidence, thirst for activity. Must be short. Finale DEATH (result of collapse). Second part, love; third, disappointments; fourth ends dying away (also short).” We also know that the first performance of the work (presented at its premiere without a sobriquet) was met with reasonable success. And we also know that within a week of that first performance, Tchaikovsky was dead. Nine days after that first performance, the work – now called the “Pathétique” Symphony – was given again, and to great acclaim. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest claims to have suggested to Piotr the name for the work. And we know that Tchaikovsky dedicated the symphony to his nephew, known as “Bob” or “Bobyk” in his many letters, and for whom Tchaikovsky doubtlessly had deep feelings, though he also knew that nothing could come from them.
More contradiction. The official cause of his death was cholera, from drinking unboiled water. There are many who just as adamantly maintain he took poison by his own hand. The latter hear in the work wat must obviously be the torments of the composer. Again, letters from Tchaikovsky would seem to indicate that he was indeed unhappy; but then why did he write to his publisher, saying “I have never felt such self-satisfaction, such pride, such happiness, as in the consciousness that I am really the creator of this beautiful work.”?
Ultimately, we are left with the music, regarded by many as the finest Russian symphony ever written. The bassoon solo, which rises from the murky strings at the outset presents an idea which will be prevalent throughout much of the work – a rising, then falling idea that eventually brings us to the Allegro of the movement, and from E minor to the symphony’s home key. It is here that another melody is presented, and it is this secondary subject that dominates the rest of the movement. The development section is capped with a powerful orchestral tutti, but the movement ends quietly.
The second movement is set up, and presented, as a waltz. Yet its time signature throughout nearly its entire duration is 5/4, which one perceptive early critic (Paul Henry Lang) noted, “shows the best side of Tchaikovsky’s innate musicianship…maintaining the somewhat unusual 5/4 measure throughout, seldom accomplished without the appearance of a tour de force.” The third movement is dominated by a G Major march of fierce energy and intensity, which nevertheless enters on tiptoes.
It is clear, right from the beginning, that Tchaikovsky had in mind the unusual idea of an Adagio final movement. While it begins in B minor, the tragic song which lingers so powerfully in the imagination is actually in D Major. The overall mood is one of grieving, of regret; there is no respite, not happy ending – only a long dying away. “This is not a work you can be indifferent to,” wrote one music historian. “And even those fastidious persons disturbed by its sensational aspects should not allow themselves to be blinded thereby to the work’s equally real musical strengths.”
Program notes © 2016 by D.T. Baker
The only organist ever to have won a Grammy Award (in 2011 for Messiaen’s towering “Livre du Saint-Sacrement”), Paul Jacobs combines a probing intellect and extraordinary technical skills with an unusually large repertoire, both old and new. “Paul Jacobs is one of the great living virtuosos,” praised Anne Midgette in the October 2, 2014 edition of The Washington Post, and in an article in The Economist (November 1, 2013) Mr. Jacobs was termed “America’s leading organ performer.”
Mr. Jacobs made musical history at the age of 23 when he played Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon performance on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. A fierce advocate of new music, Jacobs has premiered works by Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus, and Christopher Theofanidis, among others.
Paul Jacobs 2016-2017 season began with a recital at Lincoln Center’s Paul Recital Hall and includes orchestral engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he gave the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto.
Mr. Jacobs studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, double-majoring with John Weaver for organ and Lionel Party for harpsichord, and at Yale University with Thomas Murray. He joined the faculty of The Juilliard School in 2003, and was named chairman of the organ department in 2004, one of the youngest faculty appointees in the school’s history. He received Juilliard’s prestigious William Schuman Scholar’s Chair in 2007.
Enmax Hall, Winspear Centre
#4 Sir Winston Churchill Square
The Francis Winspear Centre for Music is on the corner of 102nd Avenue and 99th Street, in the heart of The Arts District in downtown Edmonton. It is readily accessible by car, Edmonton Transit (bus and LRT), and the Pedway system.
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Dining Near the Winspear
The Winspear Centre's downtown location is ideally situated for some of the best dining experiences Edmonton has to offer. Whether you're seeking dinner before the show or a late night treat after, you can find it at one of these restaurants located within a few blocks of the Winspear Centre.
At the Event
What to Wear
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