June 10 CONDUCTOR’S NOTES

Michael Francis Conductor
Photo: Marco Borggreve

SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2018 – HEADLINER CONCERT

Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14 (1915)

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Born 1873 Semyonovo, Russia

Died 1943 Beverly Hills, CA

Vocalise is the last of Rachmaninoff’s 14 Songs, Op. 34. It was written at the family estate in Ivanovka, a quiet retreat where a deeply sensitive man was able to escape from the business of life. Ultimately, this piece is about the need for moments of quiet reflection and taking time for respite from the busyness of the world. It is a wordless song whose hypnotic beauty is reminiscent of the second movement of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto we will hear later in this Festival. It seems to have a very therapeutic effect upon listeners. Some things only the soul can understand, not the intellect.

Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 Haffner (1782)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg

  1. Allegro con Spirito

Mozart told his father, “The first allegro must be played with great fire….”

For more information on the Haffner, please refer to the notes for the June 16 concert when the entire work will be performed.

The Lark Ascending (1914)

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Born: October 12, 1872, Down Ampney, UK

Died: August 26, 1958, London, UK

Vaughan Williams wrote in a unique voice with hints of his teacher Ravel. However, Ravel said, “He is the only one of my pupils who does not write my music!” Vaughan Williams absorbed the English music of the past into a modern language.

The Lark Ascending is a romance for violin and orchestra. Begun in 1914 on a beautiful stretch of the Surrey Hills, this piece is filled with folk song. Vaughan Williams left it unfinished to enlist in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer. Undoubtedly, he saw the most horrific conditions imaginable. It is no wonder he returned to this pastoral scene with its innocence and touch of melancholy and loneliness, seeking company, yet choosing solace. The tragedy and beauty of this piece is that nothing was ever the same after the war. Perhaps the heart of this song is not the bird, but the symbolism of a time of innocence when, in the words of poet Siegfried Sassoon, “everyone was a bird, and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.”

A song without words, The Lark was composed as a response to George Meredith’s 122-line poem of the same name. The composer copied some of its lines describing the bird’s “silver chain of sound” on the fly-leaf of his score:

He rises and begins to round,

He drops the silver chain of sound,

Of many links without a break,

In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,

‘Tis love of earth that he instils,

And ever winging up and up,

Our valley is his golden cup

And he the wine which overflows

to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aerial rings

In light, and then the fancy sings.

George Meredith 1828-1909

We long to be free like the Lark, and the Lark longs to be with us, descending down to grace us and ascending like something divine — hopefully to purity and not the fate of Icarus.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2018)

Matthew King

Born 1967

Matthew King writes:

“This first performance of my concerto for piano and chamber orchestra is no ordinary premiere, as this is the first three-movement concerto ever composed specially for someone with severe learning difficulties and autism.

“I’ve known Derek Paravicini since we made a programme for BBC Radio, nearly a decade ago, called The Inner Voice of Music, during which we improvised together at two pianos, and I realized then that there would be a fascinating compositional challenge in composing for Derek’s unique version of advanced musicality. In 2011 I wrote a piece called Blue which Derek performed with an orchestra in London, and I am very grateful to the Mainly Mozart Festival for commissioning this fully-fledged concerto.

“The concerto is cyclical – i.e. all three movements share the same basic melodic material: the first movement begins with a lyrical theme (heard at the start on the piano) which is really the thematic springboard for everything that follows. The second movement is a rather mournful slow Blues in which the piano abandons its normal virtuoso role, and simply accompanies the orchestra with slow chords. The finale is a fast rondo full of propulsive rhythms but with quieter episodes in which themes from earlier movements combine and interact in new ways. No doubt inspired by its San Diego commission, the music has a somewhat American flavor!”

Matthew King

2018

The second half of the program is a solo performance by pianist Derek Paravicini. Program notes will be given from the stage.