Bartok, Divertimento for Strings
Dittersdorf, Concerto for Harp
Barbara Allen, Harp
Wieniawski, Violin Concerto No. 2
Edita Orlinyte, Violin
Barbara Allen has been active as a performer, recording artist and teacher. She has been principal harp with American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City since 1990, and has appeared with artists such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Collins, Doc Severinsen and Sting. Recently she recorded solo ballet excerpts with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Allen teaches in at Mannes College, the New School, Masters School, and Hoff Barthelson.
Edita Orlinyte won the national Lithuanian competition for young string players at the age of ten. She earned both bachelor and masters degrees from the Music Academy of Lithuania and joined the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra in 1992. She has toured throughout Europe and Asia and has recorded a solo album that received an enthusiastic reception from Strings Magazine. She has been a member of the Greenwich Symphony for 20 years.
Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz. 113
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
The final of three works, which over the 1930s would include String Quartet No. 6 and Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, Divertimento was commissioned from Bartók in 1938 by Swiss conductor Paul Sacher for the Basel Chamber Orchestra. Sacher, in addition to being an accomplished conductor, was one of the most generous and prolific benefactors of 20th-Century composers, whose reach encompassed Richard Strauss to Pierre Boulez, and managed to pick up Hindemith, Lutosławski, Honegger, and Carter, among many others along the way.
Divertimento draws its layout and style from three models: the concerto grosso favored by Baroque composers, in which the principal players would have soloistic moments against the tutti of the main body of the orchestra; the divertimento, a form developed during the Classical period, at which Mozart excelled; and Bartók’s own native Hungarian idiom derived from his early research of folk music in Hungary and neighboring countries in Eastern Europe. In three contrasting movements, the middle one being a dark and mysterious nocturne, a form favored by Bartók, the work also features some lively counterpoint, and concludes with a bit of humor worthy of Haydn, at which the music comes to an abrupt stop and resumes with a comic waltz before finding its way to a rousing conclusion.
Divertimento and the Violin Concerto No. 2 would be the last works Bartók would complete in Europe before leaving Hungary in 1940. The Nazi puppets were positioning themselves, Hungarian support for Germany in the coming war was a forgone conclusion, and Bartók wanted none of it. He and his wife, the pianist Ditta Páztory Bartók made their way to the United States, where they would settle in New York City. In the years left to him in the U.S. before illness ended his life, he created his final masterpieces, the Unaccompanied Violin Sonata, composed for Yehudi Menuhin, the Viola Concerto, Piano Concerto No. 3, and what is undoubtedly his best known concert favorite, Concerto for Orchestra.
Concerto for Harp in A Major
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Dittersdorf was born August Carl Ditters in a Vienna suburb. His father provided young Carl with a good education and excellent musical training. By age 11, he was working professionally as a violinist in a Benedictine abby orchestra. Carl advanced to more prestigious appointments as well as associations with leading musical figures of the period such as Haydn, Mozart, and Gluck. He was one of the most prolific composers of his time and his output may have exceeded both Mozart and Haydn.
In 1779, the Austrian Empress, in order to appoint Ditters to a post that required ennoblement, conferred upon him the style and title of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, even though he had no connection with a place of that name, if any such place even exists.
Considering the popularity of the harp as a salon instrument during the Baroque and Classical periods, it is surprising how few concertos for this graceful and melodious instrument have appeared during any period up to the present day. Handel composed a Harp Concerto as an interlude for his Ode – Alexander’s Feast in 1736. He later transcribed it for organ. Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp from 1778 remains an appealing concert favorite. The Harp Concerto by Dittersdorf was originally composed for harpsichord and transcribed for harp some years later. As such, the Concerto remains a piece that harpists love to play, and audiences always enjoy hearing.
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22
Henri Wieniawski (1835-1880)
Wieniawski was born in Lublin, Poland to Jewish parents who had converted to Catholicism. Henri’s talent as a child prodigy on the violin was recognized at an early age, and in 1843 when only nine years old, he was accepted by the Paris Conservatory. Upon graduation, his reputation was greatly enhanced by touring, and by 1847, he had published his first work, Grand Caprice Fantastique.
At the invitation of Anton Rubenstein, Wieniawski moved to Russia in 1860 to join the faculty at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and lead the Russian Musical Society Orchestra, as well as their string quartet. He was also honored with the appointment to be personal violinist to the Tsar. Wieniawski and Rubinstein made a highly successful tour of the United States from 1872 through 1874. In 1875, he succeeded Henri Vieuxtemps as violin professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.
In a concert world populated by such acclaimed artists as Sarasate, Vieuxtemps, and Joachim, Wieniawski grew to be one of the most celebrated violinists of his time, all of them of the generation that followed Paganini who had revolutionized violin playing. As compositions, neither of his two violin concertos would rise to the epic level of the Beethoven or the Brahms, but the Second Concerto is considered to be his masterpiece, combining the virtuosity of Paganini with moments of deep personal expression. It was especially tragic that due to a heart condition, he was unable to complete the premiere performance of the Second Concerto given in Berlin in 1878. Wieniawski found himself unable to complete any public performances he attempted thereafter, and impoverished by unwise American investments and imprudent gambling, was both ill and destitute. Tchaikovsky, who had been a student at St. Petersburg while Wieniawski was a faculty member, persuaded his patron, Nadezhda von Meck, to take Wieniawski into her home where he might receive the best personal treatment. Despite the care and attention given to him, Wieniawski died in her home on March 31, 1880. The Second Violin Concerto, as well as numerous smaller-scale works of his, have taken their place in the repertoire of the world’s great violinists.
Images for Orchestra: No. 2, Ibéria
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
In the period 1905 through 1912, during which Debussy completed his three Images pour Orchestre, most of his signature masterpieces were behind him. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, from 1893 is considered by many to be the launching pad for 20th-century music. No less extraordinary are the concert favorites La Mer, the Three Nocturnes, and the String Quartet. Conceived as a symphonic work in three parts, Images consists of two short somewhat abstract dance pieces, Gigues and Rondes des Printemps, framing a larger and highly specific descriptive piece, Ibéria, itself a work in three movements. When performed together, Ibéria most often appears in the center as a highly effective tryptich within a tryptich. Gigues and Rondes des Printemps are rarely programmed separately, but Ibéria, being quite complete in itself, is often performed with great success on its own.
Ibéria presents Debussy’s impressions of Spanish life. In the first movement, one could imagine a walk, albeit with the tempo usually taken, a rather brisk one: more likely a horse drawn conveyance or perhaps one of the new motor cars, from which we glimpse the Spanish at work and leisure, or even a passing military maneuver.
The second movement, a sultry, humid nocturne, during which for any human inhabitants, sleep is probably the last thing on their minds. Seamlessly, this movement gives way to distant church bells at dawn. The town comes alive to a feast day replete with religious icons, food carts, strolling musicians, dancers, children, and a Punch ’n Judy show. The piece ends with a raucous coda.
– Richard Schneider