Carnegie Hall Events
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, Music Director and Conductor
Alex Klein, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
David McGill, Bassoon
Dale Clevenger, Horn
MOZART Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and Orchestra, K. 297B
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 5
This concert and the Great American Orchestras I series are sponsored by KPMG LLP.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Carnegie Hall performances are underwritten by SAGE FOUNDATION, Melissa Sage Fadim, President.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and Orchestra, K. a9
Born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria; died December 5, 1791, in Vienna. The details of the composition and first performance of this work are sketchy and still under debate. The concerto may be a revision of a now-lost work composed in Paris in 1778.
The Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major received its Carnegie Hall premiere on November 28, 1923, with members of the New York Philharmonic conducted by Willem van Hoogstraten.
Scoring: in addition to the 4 solo instruments (oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon), the score calls for 2 oboes, 2 horns, and strings.
When Mozart and his mother left Salzburg in September 1777 for yet another tour of European music capitals, it was the first time he and his father had been apart. Mozart and his mother stopped first in Munich; moved on to Augsburg, where he became chummy with his cousin Maria Anna Thekla; and settled briefly in Mannheim, arriving in Paris in late March.
In no time, Mozart met Jean Le Gros, the impresario of the Concert Spirituel, a prestigious and popular concert series, who commissioned him to compose a work in the form that was then the rage in Paris—the sinfonia concertante, a concerto with several soloists. Mozart knew the four musicians for whom this concerto was intended, for they were among the finest players in Europe. On April 5 he wrote to his father: I am now going to compose a sinfonia concertante for flute, Wendling; oboe, Ramm; horn, Punto; bassoon, Ritter. Apparently Mozart completed the work in two weeks, but the concerto wasn’t performed while Mozart was in Paris, and the manuscript apparently remained in Le Gros’s possession. But Mozart, with his near-perfect memory, intended to have the last word. Le Gros purchased from me the two overtures and the sinfonia concertante, he wrote to his father. He thinks that he alone has them, but he is wrong, for they are still fresh in my mind, and as soon as I get home, I shall write them down again. And that is the last we hear of this sinfonia concertante.
The sinfonia concertante performed at this concert was discovered early in the 20th century. The manuscript is not in Mozart’s hand—it’s a copy made in the late 1860s from an older source, subsequently lost—but it is indisputably in the Mozart style. The work quickly staked its claim as the long-lost Paris score, even though it has a slightly different quartet of soloists (with oboe and clarinet as the top voices, instead of flute and oboe). Mozart, who was highly skilled in adapting scores for particular occasions, may well have prepared this new version. The score became a problematic work for Mozart scholars, who could uncover no evidence, aside from the style of the music itself, that it actually is by Mozart. We may never know if it truly is the lost Paris score. Mozart scholar Robert Levin has suggested that the solo parts—and therefore, all the themes in the work—are indeed by Mozart, but that the orchestral music was reconstructed by a later composer. (He also conjectures that it was this individual who reassigned the solo parts.)
What we do have, however, is a wonderfully inventive piece of music. As in Mozart’s authentic sinfonia concertante, for violin and viola soloists (K. 364) in the same key, the solo writing shows an uncommon sensitivity to the identity of each instrument, yet manages to bring them together in ensemble writing of real brilliance and cohesion. It’s the same knack for characterization that distinguishes the ensembles in Mozart’s operas. And here, as in his great opera finales, each individual has moments to shine, as well as passages of dialogue, whether in conflict or in harmony.
ANTON BRUCKNER Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major
Born September 4, 1824, in Ansfelden, Upper Austria; died October 11, 1896, in Vienna.
He began his Fifth Symphony in February 1875, completed it in May 1876, and made minor revisions over the next two years. It was first performed on April 8, 1894, in Graz, Austria, under Franz Schalk.
Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 received its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall on December 14, 1911, with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Joseph Stransky.
Scoring: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and tuba, timpani, and strings.
Bruckner never heard his Fifth Symphony. He attended the premieres of all his other completed symphonies, conducting the first three himself, but by the time the Fifth was finally performed in 1894, Bruckner was too ill to make the journey to Graz, and so he left it in the hands of his disciple, Franz Schalk. It was just as well that Bruckner stayed home, for, as he had recently begun to suspect, Schalk was both a disciple and a traitor. The score Schalk introduced to the world that April in Graz was a travesty of Bruckner’s original—it was extensively cut and every measure that Schalk retained he altered in some small, but damaging way.
It’s hard to imagine a man so uncertain of his own extraordinary talents that he would entertain—and even encourage—the criticism and advice of others (regardless of their qualifications for judging some of the most important music of the century) and then take it to heart. Time and time again Bruckner returned to the drawing board, certain that he would get it right at last. Or he agreed to brutal cuts suggested by those who failed to understand that Bruckner’s music needs time and space in which to unfold. But by the 1890s, Bruckner began to see that serious damage had been done to his work. In 1892 or 1893 he packed all his manuscripts away in a trunk; the will he drew up the next year entrusted their safekeeping to the Vienna Court Library.
Bruckner’s triumph, ultimately, was a posthumous one, for it is only recently that scholarship and justice have joined forces and we are able to hear Bruckner’s symphonies more or less in their definitive forms.
Ironically, this symphony is one of the few Bruckner never revised extensively himself. The Fifth Symphony was started early in 1875 and completed by mid-May 1876. He made some relatively minor corrections in 1877, and the final work was done by January 4, 1878. Apparently, once he signed the copyist’s final score, in November 1878, he never touched the symphony again. The manuscript lay with Bruckner’s papers until Franz Schalk picked it up and began his own work on it 15 years later.
Those critics who claim all Bruckner’s symphonies begin in the same way have forgotten the Fifth, for it opens with a slow introduction. These 50 measures set the stage for the next 450 measures in the same way a few slow bars at the start of a Haydn symphony prepare us for the music that follows. Clearly and methodically, Bruckner introduces us to important materials that we should recognize later on: first, quiet, slowly unfolding string music in B-flat; then, after a pause, a fierce unison outburst from the entire orchestra (in G-flat); and then, after another brief pause, a majestic brass chorale in A major.
But this is only the beginning, and from here Bruckner moves imperceptibly into the Allegro and introduces his first theme—a vigorous, swinging melody in the low strings. The rest of the movement is full of the dramatic contrast, both in character and in tonality, that we remember from the introduction. As anticipated in those first 50 measures, the music now moves mysteriously through a number of remote keys; thematic material that echoes the first snatches of melody appears; the texture switches—sometimes abruptly—from delicate pizzicato or calm hymnlike chords to emphatic statements delivered in a blaze of brass. The introduction, now scaled down even further, reappears to launch an extended development section. A wealth of contrapuntal detail evolves as themes we first encountered independently now fit together hand-in-hand.
The broadly conceived Adagio begins with the quiet pizzicato tread of the strings, soon joined by a smooth melody in the oboes—a simple tune that sounds rhapsodic and unpredictable, largely because every two of its notes fall against three notes in the strings. Then follows one of Bruckner’s most noble and expansive melodies, set over rich chords lying low in the strings. And from there, Bruckner is content to explore these two melodic sources, always finding new thoughts to develop, new directions to investigate. This music has an almost improvisational quality. The pace is leisurely, and the course of events free-wheeling. But Bruckner is in complete control, and it is no accident that we eventually work our way back to the material that opened the movement.
The unison string theme from the Adagio, now greatly accelerated, launches Bruckner’s Scherzo, immediately supporting a whirling theme in the winds. The same relentless strings also accompany a second, slower, landler-like melody. After a number of outbursts, colored by the brilliant sounds of the brass over the roll of the timpani, the music ends in a blaze of D-major chords. Then, with no more than a single sustained note on the horn to make the connection, the trio begins in the key of G-flat major. Genial and pastoral in mood, the trio seldom rises above a pianissimo, making the return of the fiery scherzo all the more effective.
Bruckner’s brilliant Finale borrows the general layout of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with an introduction that first submits themes of previous movements, and then proceeds with a fugue, saving a chorale for the big finish. He begins with the same music that opened the symphony, then jumps to the main theme of the first movement and crosscuts to the opening of the Adagio—all of these reminiscences interspersed with emphatic comments from the clarinet, eager to steer the music toward the massive fugue which follows. The low strings take up the clarinet idea, but don’t get far with the fugue before it’s interrupted by a new flowing theme that builds to its own climax. After the music has dwindled to a whisper, the brass release a grand chorale theme that temporarily brings the movement to a standstill. Then, picking up the passage suggested by the brass, the entire orchestra begins a massive double fugue (the other subject is the one the clarinets introduced earlier in the movement) that carries us into the final stretch. At the climax, the main theme of the first movement joins the contrapuntal tour de force, fitting in so perfectly that one suspects Bruckner has had this up his sleeve all along. The movement ends with a final triumphant statement of the chorale theme, broadly riding the full force of the orchestra.
Notes ON THE PROGRAM By Phillip Huscher
Adapted from comments written for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.