Serenades for You!

Celebrating our future, this program brings back guest conductor Janna sailor. We finally get to present the amazing Rob Dutton as soloist in a Serenade by David Sampson; and to feature some of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, therewith insisting that whatever the season, there is warmth and joy to be is found in music. The Symphony, #49 by Josef Haydn “La Passione” is the icing on this wonderful end to the second half of SNB’s Camerata Season.

Program Notes

Janna sailor Bio.

Hailed by critics as “charismatic, crisp, precise and elegant”, conductor and violinist Janna Sailor is an emerging innovator on the Canadian music scene.

 

As founder and Artistic Director of the Vancouver based Allegra Chamber Orchestra, Janna leads one of the only all-female classical orchestras in the world; an ensemble dedicated to creating opportunities for women and minorities in the classical music industry, with a mandate of social action through music. The orchestra and its unique output and mandate has been featured on CBC Radio, Radio ICI, The Walrus, The Strad magazine, The Violin Channel, The Hub, public radio stations across Germany and France, amongst other international media. Over it’s two year history, the orchestra and has commissioned and premiered numerous works by Canadian female and minority composers, and co-founded a music therapy program for women living on the street on Vancouver’s downtown east side.

In addition to guest conducting the major orchestras in Canada, Janna pursues a diverse career as a violinist, delving into contemporary, world and early music, jazz and improvisation, chamber music and interdisciplinary projects with dancers, visual artists, and electronics.

David Sampson (*1951)

Born in 1951 in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the United States, David Sampson has rapidly established himself as one of the outstanding composers of his generation.

He holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, Hunter College, Manhattan School of Music and the Ecoles d’Art Américaines, where his teachers included Karel Husa, Henri Dutilleux and John Corigliano for composition, and Gerard Schwarz, Gilbert Johnson, Robert Nagel and Raymond Mase for trumpet.

His choral, orchestral, solo and chamber ensemble works are performed and recorded regularly around the world by celebrated soloists, ensembles and orchestras, and during his career he has received numerous professional awards.

Among his most important compositions it is worth noting various works for ensemble commissioned by the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the “Serenade” for flugelhorn and strings (Colonial Symphony), “Hommage JFK” (National Symphony Orchestra) and “Triptych” for trumpet and orchestra (ITG -International Trumpet Guild), premiered by Raymond Mase at the Aspen Music Festival and then with the American Composers Orchestra at the Carnegie Hall, New York.

His works are widely published and appear on recordings with Channel Recordings and Summit Records.

Rob Dutton

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Robert Dutton holds an MA in Music Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he received the Bernard Adelstein Award for Trumpet, and was elected to the Musical Honor Society Pi Kappa Lambda. Mr. Dutton has performed as a soloist and with various ensembles, including brass quintets in Ontario and across Canada, and orchestras in Ontario, the United States and Atlantic Canada. He is currently the Principal Trumpeter of Symphonie New Brunswick and plays in the Valley Brass and Brunswick Brass Groups. Robert Dutton can be heard on the soundtrack for Abegweit, an NFB production produced in Moncton. Mr. Dutton teaches the trumpet in the Saint John area.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione”

April 6, 2020 by Timothy Judd

 

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor is shrouded in ominous, gray clouds. It’s filled with the dark drama and turbulence of Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”), a movement that swept through German literature and music from the late 1760s to the early 1780s as a precursor to Romanticism.

Beginning with a solemn Adagio, the Symphony’s four movements follow the structure of the church sonata (slow-fast-slow-fast), a baroque form that was already archaic when Haydn completed this piece in 1768. The Austrian pianist and composer Ernst Pauer (1826-1905) called F minor “a harrowing key” that “is especially full of melancholy, at times rising into passion.” All four movements are set in this melancholy key. As the Symphony unfolds, F minor feels like a persistent, inescapable presence. The third movement’s Trio section offers one of the few significant turns to major tonality, giving us the sense of a brief patch of sunlight breaking through menacing storm clouds.

Symphony No. 49 earned the nickname, “La Passione,” (not provided by Haydn) after a performance during Holy Week in 1790 in the north German city of Schwerin. Perhaps the Symphony’s atmosphere was considered evocative of the Passion at a time when most secular music was banned. A Viennese score included a much different nickname, “Il quakuo di bel’humore” (“The Waggish Quaker”), suggesting a theatrical link to Die Quäker, a popular comic play, written by Nicolas Chamfort in 1764. This context lends an ironic twist to the serious tone of Haydn’s music.

The opening bars of the Adagio feel heavy and mournful. The meter is 3/4, but the rhythm still holds the gravity of a funeral procession. As the first movement unfolds, listen for those moments when the violins trail off into silence. You will also hear “weeping” passages that might remind you of the Lacrimosa movement from Mozart’s Requiem (1791).

The second movement (Allegro di molto) erupts with the fire and drama of Sturm und Drang. We hear sudden dynamic contrasts, nervous syncopations, and wild leaps in register between notes. Also, notice the imitative dialogue between voices which occurs throughout the movement. We hear this between the violins and the bass line a few seconds in, in the second theme, and later as a delightful canon.

The Minuet echoes the motif we heard in the preceding Allegro. Far from the cheerful, dancelike diversion we might expect, this Minuet seems to be preoccupied with quiet anxiety. The Trio section’s sunshine provides a sudden respite from these dark wanderings. The final bars bring ghostly sighs.

The final movement (Presto) is an exhilarating and fiery roller coaster ride. Listen for shivering tremolo in the violins and other flying sparks. A defiant F minor cadence concludes Haydn’s tragic “La Passione” Symphony.

Serenade in C Major, op. 48

COMPOSED BY

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893

notes by Anthony Suter

  1. Pezzo in forma di sonatina
    II. Valse
    III. Élégie
    IV. Finale (Tema russo)

Composed 1880.
First performance: October 30, 1881, St. Petersburg. Eduard Nápravník, conductor.

Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major was written with an ear towards one of his idols, a certain 18th century composer by the name of Mozart. The title and structure of the piece are taken from the serenades of the latter, though this is certainly Tchaikovsky’s own particularly 19th century rendering of these older ideas. The work was completed in 1880 and premiered in St. Petersburg in 1881.

Cast in a classical four movement outlay, the work begins with a sonata form movement (Tchaikovsky calls it a “sonatina”, i.e. “little sonata”, though it is a rather robust form, replete with a slow introduction and full development). The introduction is very important for several reasons, some of which are not apparent until the end of the work. It is a beautiful and rich chorale, scored broadly for the whole of the orchestra. The first theme follows and contains a particularly athletic passage for the cello section, playing scores of fast notes underneath a slower moving passage in the upper strings. The second theme could be described as a perpetual musical motion; it features a line of fast notes climbing, cascading, and descending over and over again with very little respite. These constantly running lines lead elegantly back into the first theme and return once more in classical sonata fashion. Tchaikovsky does have a trick up his sleeve, however. The opening chorale, perhaps somewhat forgotten, returns in full force to end the movement quite cleverly.

The second movement is a gracious waltz that “updates” the requisite dance movement (which in Mozart’s time would have been a stately minuet) to a more contemporary dance form (contemporary, that is, for 1880—it begs the question what kind of dance movement a serenade in 2012 would have). In any case, the waltz is almost deceptively complex. The harmonic shifts are numerous and often sudden and always deftly crafted. The texture is somewhat of a departure from the previous movement in that there is a discernible lightness of touch in the waltz. The idea is for the orchestra to sound agile and elegant; it is, after all, a waltz. This is no small task for a composer, and Tchaikovsky’s orchestrational prowess certainly is to be admired. It is the perfect foil to the opening of the work and to the following movement’s broad, lyrical, and decidedly darker sound.

The third movement, entitled “Elegy”, is certainly the kind of direct, emotional and extremely lyrical writing for which Tchaikovsky is known. The harmony is robust and evocative, always the perfect underpinning for the melancholic melodies heard above. Especially effective is the end of the movement, which “fades out” as the strings move from normally-played notes to harmonics, giving an almost ghostly sheen to the last chord.

The final movement begins with the strings all muted (a mute is a small device that makes the strings sound softer and less “bright”). This slow and subdued section, based on a Russian folk song, stands in stark contrast to the core of the movement, which is a very quick-paced and rollicking finale based on another Russian folk melody—this time a dance tune. This dance tune spins out and gives the orchestra a rather strenuous workout. It is almost as if the piece is continually building and building, seemingly getting faster, until Tchaikovsky channels the inventiveness and unpredictability of his beloved Mozart.

Just as the piece seems to want to end, we hear what appears to be an approach to a final cadence. Instead of the gratifying, final C major chord we are expecting, however, Tchaikovsky flexes his dramatic abilities and brings back music from before—from way before. This is not the muted passage from the beginning of the fourth movement, but rather the chorale from the introduction of the very first movement! No matter how many times I hear this work, this masterful moment still and always renders me breathless for a moment. This quotation from the opening of the work ties the whole piece nicely together, but the Russian master is not exactly finished. All of that fast and driving music based on the Russian dance tune comes back once more, pushing forward (ever faster and faster) to the actual end of the piece, made all the more satisfying for having tricked our ears and letting us enjoy the bittersweet beauty of the very opening of the piece once more.