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January 26-27, 2019

Bach, Concerto for Violin and Oboe
     Krystof Witek, Violin   Diane Lesser, Oboe

Arutiunian, Concerto for Trumpet
     Ryan Anthony, Trumpet

Elgar, Falstaff

Virtuoso trumpeter Ryan Anthony is most notably known for his varied career as soloist, educator, chamber musician and orchestral player. His technical skills are well known, and combined with an innate musicality and a profound connection with audiences, set him apart as a performer. Ryan’s solo career started at sixteen, when he won the highly publicized Seventeen Magazine/General Motors Concerto Competition­—the second person ever to win the Grand Prize after Joshua Bell. He is currently principal trumpet with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and since 2004, he has also appeared as principal trumpet for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony and played in the sections of New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and Israel Philharmonic.

"He played with clear, bright sound and a wonderful sense of legato. You do not often think of the trumpet as sustaining a singing line like a violin or a human voice, but Anthony is able to accomplish this. He also displayed plenty of agility." - Plain Dealer, Cleveland

 

Program Notes

Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor. BWV 1060R
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)    

Allegro – Adagio – Allegro

Although Concerto for Oboe and Violin appears to have been composed in the 1730s, little is known of its specific provenance due to the loss of Bach’s original manuscript. The version for oboe and violin was reconstructed from one of several transcriptions Bach had made for other combinations of solo instruments. This practice was not atypical in the Baroque era. Many of Bach’s concertante works were composed for the musically accomplished nobility, almost too many to keep track of, and composers borrowed freely from themselves as well as others. The Concerto explores dance-like material and lively counterpoint in the outer movements contrasted by a sense of melodic serenity in the Adagio.

Trumpet Concerto in A-flat Major
Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012)

Andante – Allegro energico
Meno mosso
Tempo I
Meno mosso
Tempo I – Cadenza & Coda

Armenian born and raised, Alexander Arutiunian rose to a preeminent position among 20th Century Soviet composers. He was known best for creating works with wide and affecting audience appeal, drawing upon his Armenian roots, much as his compatriot Aram Khachaturian had done. Composed in 1950, the Trumpet Concerto was given its premiere by Timofei Dockshizer, the USSR’s most celebrated trumpet artist during that period. The Trumpet Concerto has gone on to become a worldwide favorite in the solo brass repertoire. Setting the Concerto in a single movement with subdivisions played without pause, Arutiunian challenges the performer as he engages the listener with passages of unsurpassed technical difficulty combined with interludes of powerful musical expression.

Falstaff: Symphonic Study in C minor, Op. 68
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

I. Falstaff and Prince Henry
II. Eastcheap – Gadshill – The Boar’s Head.  Revelry and sleep – Dream Interlude: ‘Jack Falstaff, now Sir John, a boy, and page to Sir Thomas Mowbrey, Duke of Norfolk’ (Poco allegretto)
III. Falstaff’s March – The return through Gloucestershire – Interlude:  Shallow’s Orchard (Allegretto) – The new king – The hurried ride to London
IV. King Henry V’s progress – The repudiation of Falstaff and his death

From modest beginnings and with limited recognition, Elgar experienced his breakthrough in 1899 with the London premiere of Enigma Variations.  As a mature composer in his 40s, Elgar began to produce many of his finest works, which he would complete during the first two decades of the 20th century. Enigma Variations was followed by two symphonies, the Violin Concerto, Introduction and Allegro, The Dream of Gerontius, Falstaff, and by 1919, the Cello Concerto. Although these pieces and others remain in the repertoire of British orchestras, many of them have been eclipsed elsewhere by Elgar’s “greatest hits,” Enigma Variations, and Pomp and Circumstance March No.1.

The subject of two well-known operas, Nikolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff.  Elgar would express himself on this topic with a purely symphonic work requiring scarcely more than half an hour to perform.   Elgar led the premiere of Falstaff at the Leeds Festival in 1913, which had commissioned the piece in the previous year.

Reception has been mixed from the start. Elgar aficionados love it.  Less dedicated fans have been somewhat ambivalent. Bernard Shaw gave Falstaff high praise. “[Elgar] made the band do it all, and with such masterful success that one cannot bear to think what would have been the result of a mere attempt to turn the play into an opera.” On the other hand, the conductor to whom the work was dedicated, Landon Ronald, who led the London premiere of Falstaff, confessed to John Barbirolli, a life-long Elgar advocate, “Never could make head or tail of the piece, my dear boy.”

Considering Elgar’s basic inclination toward bold heroic themes and soaring melody, a peculiar attraction to atonality can be heard in Falstaff’s main theme heard at the opening of the piece, which like the character, grossly overindulged from years of excessive food and drink, lurches and stumbles about, bumping into people and knocking things over. Contrast this with Prince Hal’s theme, poised, dashing, and tonally self-assured in the key of E-flat. Like the characters portrayed in Falstaff, the entire work dwells on the attraction of opposites, with atonal background figures bubbling up from beneath the surface of diatonic tradition.

The fictional character Falstaff was created by Shakespeare for his plays Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, as a focal point for the tavern hoppers, mercenaries, and petty criminals who were the rough crowd Prince Hal ran with, much to the embarrassment of the royal family. Elgar takes us through the carousing, a misbegotten highway robbery, and fond recollections of his youth, which may have been somewhat less sweet and innocent than he recalls.  He snores his way through a drunken stupor, fumbles his role in a military expedition, and deludes himself with the notion that the young prince will give his old drinking buddy a position at court after he has been crowned Henry V. Spurned and humiliated at the coronation, Falstaff slinks away and dies brokenhearted.

Elgar has left the listener to ponder whether Falstaff was a jolly old drunk engaging in a late-age bromance with the royal heir apparent, or merely a pretentious bloviating wannabe attempting to rise above his class. But Shakespeare has left us with a possible clue as to Falstaff’s nature in a conversation with his life-long warrior-in-arms, Master Shallow, from Henry IV Part 2, Act 3, Scene 2.

Falstaff: We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.
Shallow: That we have, that we have, that we have. In faith, Sir John, that we have. Jesu. O the days that we have seen!
                                                                                             – Richard Schneider

 

 

 

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