Haydn, Symphony No. 96
Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto
William Hagen, Violin
Schumann, Symphony No. 2
Since his debut with the Utah Symphony at age nine, William Hagen, now 24, has performed with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Christian Arming, Placido Domingo, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michel Tabachnik and Hugh Wolff. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, William began taking violin lessons at age four with Natalie Reed, and then Deborah Moench. At age ten he began studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he studied until the age of 17. After studying at Juilliard for two years with Itzhak Perlman, William returned to Los Angeles to continue studies with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn Conservatory. Currently enrolled at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, he is a student of Christian Tetzlaff. He performs on the 1735 “Sennhauser” Guarneri del Gesù, on generous loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago.
" . . . he demonstrated unimpeachable technique and keen musical sense in a stirring performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso." - The Salt Lake Tribune
The “miracle” in the title of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 refers to a near catastrophe that occured during a concert at which the composer was both leading the orchestra and playing the harpsichord continuo part. Having left Vienna in 1790 for his new home in London, under the auspices of the impresario Salomon, Haydn had completely won over the musically sophisticated London concertgoers. When he took his place at the keyboard, the audience rushed forward to catch a glimpse of the revered composer, whereupon a large chandelier came crashing down in the center of the hall. Those who had just left their seats, realizing their good fortune, cried, “Miracle, miracle!” and the name remained.
The real miracle, however, can be heard in Haydn’s music. The consistent excellence and variety of his melodies, harmonic treatments and structural mastery give his music a freshness and matchless appeal, enhanced even more by his wit and creative imagination. No wonder the culturally aware Londoners were so captivated! The Symphony No. 96, one of the twelve “London,” or “Salomon” Symphonies, was first performed in March, 1791, in the Hanover Square Rooms. The bright, agile four-movement work was an immediate success, and the audience demanded repeats of the second movement Andante. Some notable features in this symphony are the slow introduction, a frequent Haydn practice.
Also, a deceptive silence in the first movement development section, followed by the first theme, apparently signals the recapitulation. Not so, for Haydn continues with more development. The London crowd loved this kind of humorous “trick.”
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Felix Mendelssohn, who played a significant role in the early Romantic period of the 19th century, was raised in a family of wealth and culture; he was superbly educated and possessed high intelligence, a perceptive, inquiring mind, and a sensitive nature. No wonder that he became well known throughout Europe as composer, conductor, pianist and educator. Additionally, reflecting his taste for the classics, he was instrumental in the the revival of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, which had lain mostly dormant for a century. Despite a tragically brief life span, Mendelssohn managed to leave a magnificent, influential body of music; he founded the renowned Leipzig Conservatory and also taught there with Robert Schumann; he developed and conducted the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts, setting the format followed in present day concerts; he premiered many works of other great composers, including Schumann and Schubert — many of Schubert’s works were discovered long after his death; and he maintained an active schedule as concert pianist.
One of the distinguished members of the Leipzig Conservatory faculty and concertmaster of the Gewandhaus orchestra was violinist Ferdinand David (1810-1873), a virtuoso and Mendelssohn’s friend. In 1838 Mendelssohn approached David with the idea of composing a concerto for him, and the violinist was enthusiastic. Although Mendelssohn put aside the idea for a time, he began work on the concerto in earnest in 1844, enlisting David’s technical expertise, and the work was completed in September of that year. The first performance was given in 1845, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Ferdinand David soloist, and Niels Gade conducting. Illness prevented Mendelssohn from conducting the premiere himself.
This concerto was the first of the significant violin concertos composed by a non-violinist with the aid of a master performer. David had much influence on the solo part and is credited with a large compositional role in the cadenza. The work consists of three main movements, but they are played without pause. Mendelssohn placed the cadenza, traditionally located at the end of the first movement, between the development and the recapitulation, giving the cadenza the added role of preparation for the final first movement section, the recapitulation. He broke new ground in first movements of violin concertos by omitting the traditional double exposition, where themes are usually introduced by the orchestra, to be repeated and embellished later in the solo part. Here the soloist immediately assumes dominance, playing the quietly passionate first theme, which is then shared with the orchestra, a concept that occurs throughout the movement in the subsequent themes.
The connecting transition to the second slow movement is marked by a soft low B in solo bassoon, leading to solo and orchestral passages of great beauty. The linkage between the second and final movements is accomplished with somewhat faster material, providing a suitable transition to the scherzo-like fleeting brilliance and delight found in the finale. With this composition, Mendelssohn produced a work that ranks as one of the four greatest violin concertos of the 19th century, sharing eminence with Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms.
Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 was completed in 1846, and received its first performance in the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Felix Mendelssohn conducting. Schumann began working on the symphony in the previous year while recovering from yet another attack of depression. He used his compositional process to help defeat this latest downturn, and he wrote, “I began to feel more myself when I finished the last movement, and was certainly better when I finished the whole work . . . it was the resistance of the spirit flooding in, with whose aid I sought to get the better of my condition.”
Sadly, the German composer was plagued by the illness, and by 1845 he had suffered his eighth episode, some accompanied with serious suicidal feelings. He eventually had to be committed to an asylum, where he died in 1856. Nevertheless, he was a prolific creator who had four symphonies as well as numerous orchestral works, chamber music, and significant numbers of piano masterpieces and songs to his credit.
Schumann was the epitome of the romantic artist. Personal expression, experimentation, and exceptional melodic and dramatic quality pervade his work. These qualities are amply evident in the Symphony No. 2, as well as Schumann’s well known unification of a composition’s movements through the use of a recurring motive, treated in various tempos and instrumental settings.
The symphony is in four movements. The first movement opens with a softly played statement, or motive, by brass, which serves as the recurring, unifying phrase in the entire work. It reappears near the end of the first movement, as well as the second and fourth movements. Here in the first measures it is noble and meditative in character, accompanied by a steady flow of quarter notes in strings which lend an underlying tension. A sudden fast tempo marks the presentation of the first theme, and, typical of sonata form, a second theme, development, recapitulation and coda, here recalling the opening motive, follow.
The second movement allows Schumann to surprise us in two ways: by placing the Scherzo movement second instead of third in order; and by writing music that is incredibly fast and boisterous. Following two trios, or middle sections, the familiar motive appears in the final measures.
Schumann endowed the beautifully expressive third movement Adagio with extraordinary feeling. First strings, then woodwinds, are given the yearning, nostalgic melody. A contrapuntal middle section offers contrast. The setting of woodwinds in the melodic role in the final section, accompanied by shimmering, softly trilling strings is exceptionally beautiful and moving.
The spirit and energy of the final movement seem to be an affirmation of the relief from depression that Schumann was seeking. He recalls the slow theme of the preceding movement, and treats it here in a quick tempo. The quiet opening measures of the symphony reappear, now with more force and power, and are used for much of this movement, providing a stirring, positive conclusion.
– Richard Wolter
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