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September 29-30, 2018 Concerts

Beethoven, Namensfeier Overture

Chopin, Piano Concerto No. 1
     Nastasha Paremski, Piano

Debussy, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Bernstein, On the Waterfront: Symphonic Suite

 

With her striking and dynamic performances, pianist Natasha Paremski reveals astounding virtuosity and interpretive abilities. She continues to generate excitement as she wins over audiences with her musical sensibility and flawless technique.Born in Moscow, Natasha moved to the U.S. at the age of eight and soon became a citizen. She was awarded several prestigious prizes at a very young age, including the Gilmore Young Artists prize in 2006 at the age of 18, the Prix Montblanc in 2007, and the Orpheum Stiftung Prize in Switzerland. Natasha began her piano studies at the age of four with Nina Malikova at Moscow’s Andreyev School of Music. She then studied at San Francisco Conservatory of Music before moving to New York to study with Pavlina Dokovska at Mannes College of Music, from which she graduated in 2007.

"You could see why the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra stood to acknowledge her before she had played a note and – even more of a tribute – stared at her in fascination when they weren’t playing." - The Charlotte Observer

Program Notes

Namensfeir Overture (Name Day Overture), Op. 115
Ludwig van Beethoven(1770-1827)

The basis for this Beethoven concert overture, in C major, is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the name day festivities of the Austrian Emperor Francis II. A name day is the day on which a person is baptized. Beethoven celebrated the occasion by composing this overture in 1814, and it was first published in 1815. This performance offers an opportunity to hear the great composer’s piece, which is not often performed.

The overture opens with a section establishing the serious intent of the piece, set in a dotted rhythm, which quickly leads to an impressive display for French horns, presenting a compelling, typical passage by the composer. A melodic statement, quite soft, leads to an active section with opportunities for additional interest and the conclusion.


Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

Frederic Chopin was one of the greatest pianists in the history of music.  Felix Mendelssohn called him “a perfect virtuoso” and Robert Schumann, in a critical essay, wrote, “Hats off, gentlemen; a genius!” Surprisingly, however, historians tell us that in his lifetime he gave no more than thirty public concerts. Apparently the sensitive, somewhat frail pianist detested performing in large halls, saying; “I wasn’t meant to play in public . . . crowds intimidate me.” Thus, he ended his concert career playing in salons for small select audiences. A familiarity with pianos and Chopin’s performance style provides an answer to his preference for smaller, more intimate halls.

Pianos of the time, such as Chopin’s favorite Pleyel, had lighter actions and less tonal projection than present-day concert grands; they sounded better in small settings. In addition, Chopin’s technique, although not lacking power, capitalized on this; it was based on emphasizing great flexibility in the elbow and wrist, with fingers close to the keys. This produced his characteristic light touch, a beautiful cantabile and spectacular fleeting agility in all ranges. He was renowned for his use of rubato, which he defined as, “The singing hand may deviate from strict time, but the accompanying hand must keep strict time.” Known first and foremost for giving us a treasure of small-form pieces, he composed for piano at the keyboard, turning out nocturnes, ballades, waltzes, polonaises, mazurkas, etudes and the like. It would seem that all these factors point to a more intimate chamber setting for his music.

He did compose large works, however, and among them are two piano concertos. As might be expected, the orchestra has an accompanying role, foregoing the dramatic contrast between piano and orchestra found in, for example, Beethoven’s concertos. In fact, some musicians have attempted to “flesh out” the orchestral parts, but as musicologist and critic Sir Donald Tovey pointed out, the balance is better in Chopin’s original version. Both concertos are staples in the  piano repertoire.

The Piano Concerto No. 1 was completed in Warsaw in 1830, just before he moved to Paris, his final home. It is actually the second of the two - publishing dates reversed the numbers - and was premiered in 1830 with Chopin performing.

The first movement, in traditional sonata form, features a long instrumental introduction in which all main themes appear. Solo piano follows with its own exposition, varying and embellishing the melodies, especially the second cantabile theme. Virtuosic pianism abounds in the development, and all themes are repeated in the recapitulation.

A lovely nocturne-like mood prevails in the slow second movement, described by Chopin as being, “of a romantic, calm, and rather melancholy character. It is a kind of reverie in the moonlight on a beautiful spring evening.”

The Krakowiak, a fast, syncopated Polish dance in duple time with an accented second beat, provides a nationalistic character to the final movement, structured in rondo form with episodes interspersed between repeats of the main theme.


Prélude a “L’après-midi d’un faune”
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Claude Debussy was intrigued by the sensual, mysterious, ambiguous and unspoken meanings found in Stéphan Mallarmé’s poem, Afternoon of a Faun; he was inspired to compose an orchestral work of the same title. The piece, begun in 1892, was completed in 1894.

Debussy was in constant contact with poets, painters and musicians who were deeply involved with creating works that offered impressions rather than concrete representations of emotions. This was the period of Impressionism in France, and Debussy’s composition proved to be a musical cornerstone of that great period. Writing of the piece, Oscar Thompson stated that “Debussy composed a masterpiece so personal, so free of the ordinary indices of derivation, so distinctive in feeling and coloring, so unlike any music of the past or of its own era as to strike us today as one of the major miracles of musical history.”

The composer originally set out to write a three-part work, of which this piece was to be the Prelude. The other movements, Interlude and Paraphrase, were never completed; Debussy felt that the first part fully stated his musical ideas about the poem. The first performance was given in December 1894, by the Société Nationale de Musique with Gustave Doret conducting. Mallarmé was very pleased, and wrote, “This music prolongs the emotion of my poem and gives it a background of warmer color.”

Although there is no real agreement that the piece has a form - which would make Debussy and his friends quite happy - it could be perceived as having a middle section somewhat in contrast with the outer portions. The rewards come from exquisite orchestral sonorities and textures creating an impression of a sensuous, mythical creature, enveloped in the forest’s warmth, dreaming, then waking, attempting to recall the dream, and slowly drifting back into luxurious drowsiness.


On the Waterfront: Symphonic Suite
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

In 1954 the great film director, Elia Kazan, directed a film based on a true story that took place on the the docks in Hoboken, New Jersey. The film garnered eight Academy awards, including  best picture, actor, actress, and director. The cast included Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger, among others. The music for the film was composed by the 34-year-old composer, conductor, pianist and teacher, Leonard Bernstein. His exceptional gift for writing descriptive, dramatic music is readily apparent in this film score.

The growing relationship between Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and Terry (Marlon Brando) is portrayed by an unforgettably beautiful melody.  

The violent criminal activity involving the longshoremen’s union representatives and their leaders at the docks is unmistakable in the composer’s use of powerful percussion, syncopated rhythms, dissonance and various dynamic levels, and a wide variety of orchestral instruments.

Richard Wolter

 

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