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Program Notes
Stern Conducts Dvorak & Haydn – Plus, U.S. Premiere
of Dorman’s Frozen in Time
April 29 – May 1, 2011
Notes on the Program by Dr. Richard E. Rodda
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
The Representation of Chaos from The Creation (1798)
Three flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons and contrabassoon, two horns, two trumpets, three
trombones, timpani, harpsichord and strings.
In February 1794, Haydn returned to England for the second time, this residency proving to be, if
anything, more clamorously successful than the one three years before. During his stay, he expressed his
wish to compose a grand choral work -- something, he said, "that will give permanent fame to my name
in the world" -- to his friend, the French violinist and composer François-Hippolyte Barthélémon.
Barthélémon pulled a Bible from his shelf, flipped it open, and said, "There is the book; begin at the
beginning." Haydn may have therefore thought it providential when Johann Peter Salomon, sponsor of
the London ventures, presented him with an English libretto on the subject of the Creation shortly
before he left England for the last time, in August 1795, and encouraged him to set it as an oratorio.
Haydn tucked the text in his trunk, and took it with him back to Vienna. The Creation, which he
completed three years later, proved to be one of the most popular works of its time, not least because
of the daring Representation of Chaos with which it opens.
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
La Création du Monde , Ballet in One Act (1923)
Two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, E-flat alto saxophone, bassoon, horn, two trumpets, trombone, timpani,
percussion, piano, violins, cello and bass.
In 1920, Darius Milhaud was in London to oversee performances of his "divertissement," Le Boeuf sur le
toit. "It was during this visit," he recalled in his autobiography, Notes Without Music, "that I first began
to take an interest in jazz. Billy Arnold and his band, straight from New York, were playing in a
Hammersmith dance hall.... I tried to analyze what I heard." He went on to note the music's "extremely
subtle use of timbre," its "complex rhythms" and "contrapuntal freedom," but admitted that its
"technique still baffled me." Back in Paris, he became re-acquainted with Jean Wiéner, an old friend who
was playing jazz piano in a bar in the rue Duphot, and Milhaud spent many hours listening to and talking
with him about this fascinating, brash, new American import, just then becoming all the rage in Europe.
In May 1921 Milhaud composed his first jazz-influenced piece: Caramel mou for clarinet, saxophone,
trumpet, trombone and percussion, a shimmy ("It was like a foxtrot, danced with shaking movements of
the shoulders or entire body," according to the Harvard Dictionary of Music) to be performed by a black
dancer named Graton at a private entertainment arranged by Pierre Bertin.
Milhaud was on tour to the United States in 1922 as composer, lecturer and pianist. "When I arrived in
New York," he wrote, "I told the newspaper men interviewing me that European music was being
considerably influenced by American music. ?But whose music?' they asked me; ?MacDowell's or
Carpenter's?' ?Neither the one nor the other,' I answered, ?I mean jazz.' ... Of course, my opinions won
me the sympathy of Negro music-lovers, who flocked to my concerts. The Chairman of the Negro
musicians' union even wrote me a touching letter of thanks." Milhaud sought out jazz performances at
every opportunity. He heard Leo Reisman's band (which played, he recorded, with "extreme
refinement") and the famous orchestra of Paul Whiteman ("a sort of Rolls-Royce of dance music"), the
ensemble that would help Gershwin "make a lady of jazz" (said Walter Damrosch) two years later with
the Rhapsody in Blue. Milhaud's strongest impressions of American jazz, however, were not received in
the swank mid-town hotels and night clubs, but further uptown: "Harlem had not yet been discovered
by the snobs and aesthetes: we were the only white folks there. The music I heard was absolutely
different from anything I had ever heard before and was a revelation to me. Against the beat of the
drums melodic lines crisscrossed in a breathless pattern of broken and twisted rhythms. A Negress
whose grating voice seemed to come from the depths of the centuries sang with despairing pathos and
dramatic feeling. This authentic music had its roots in the darkest corners of the Negro soul, the vestigial
traces of Africa, no doubt. Its effect on me was so overwhelming that I could not tear myself away....
When I went back to France, I never wearied of playing over and over the Black Swan records I had
purchased in a little shop in Harlem."
"As soon as I came back from the United States," Milhaud continued, "I got in touch with [the designer]
Fernand Léger and [the writer] Blaise Cendrars, with whom I was to work on a new ballet for Rolf de
Maré [impresario of the Swedish Ballet]. Cendrars chose for the subject of his scenario the creation of
the world, going for his inspiration to African folklore, in which he was particularly deeply versed, having
just published a Negro anthology.... Léger wanted to adapt primitive Negro art and paint the dropcurtain and the scenery with African divinities expressive of power and darkness.... At last, in La Création
du monde, I had the opportunity I had been waiting for to use those elements of jazz to which I had
devoted so much study. I adopted the same orchestra as used in Harlem [two flutes, oboe, two clarinets,
E-flat saxophone, bassoon, horn, two trumpets, trombone, much percussion, two violins, cello and
bass], and I made wholesale use of the jazz style to convey a purely classical feeling. I wrote La
Création in the new apartment I had just taken at 10, Boulevard de Clichy."
The premiere of La Création du monde took place on October 25, 1923 at the Théâtre des ChampsElysées, scene of the riotous unveiling of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring a decade earlier. The choreographer
was Jean Borlin, who had been studying African civilizations for several months in preparation for the
production. Though Satie (Ragtime du Paquebot), Auric (Adieu New York) and Stravinsky (Ragtime for
Eleven Instruments) had created small-scale experiments joining jazz and concert music, La Création was
the earliest large-form piece in such a hybrid style. The critics accused Milhaud of writing music better
suited to the cabaret or the dance hall than to the ballet. ("A more brutal accusation of sinning against
the spirit of true art is difficult to find. In our times of prevention of cruelty to animals, this sort of thing
should really be prevented," fumed Max Chop over a subsequent performance in Berlin.) "Ten years
later," Milhaud noted with a certain lip-smacking glee, "these selfsame critics were discussing the
philosophy of jazz and learnedly demonstrating that La Création was the best of my works."
Robert Lawrence gave the following synopsis of the scenario of La Création du monde in The Victor Book
of Ballets:
"The chaos of pre-Creation is seen on a darkened stage as the curtain rises. Three aboriginal deities
move among a tangled mass of bodies, muttering incantations. The mass responds to their charms. First
a tree rises and lets fall one of its seeds, from which rises still another tree. Now animals appear, every
one of them springing -- as in the process of evolution -- from a more primitive predecessor. Finally, as
the three deities pronounce new spells, Man and Woman emerge. They perform a dance of desire,
excited by the presence of primeval sorcerers and witch doctors. At last the frenzy of the celebrants
subsides; the dancers disperse; and Man and Woman are left alone in a symbolic embrace which assures
the fertility of human life."
Wrote Milhaud's friend Edward Lockspeiser of this work, which so brilliantly reflects the era of its
composition, "La Création du monde turned out to be one of the most powerfully inspired of Milhaud's
works, a European homage to both the tenderness and the fierce vitality of African music, and of an
intensity hardly matched in any of the later sophisticated jazz works of this kind."
Avner Dorman (born in 1975)
Frozen in Time for Percussion and Orchestra (2007)
Piccolo, three flutes, two oboes, E-flat clarinet, three clarinets, bass clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones,
two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, percussion, harp, celesta, piano and
strings.
Avner Dorman was born in 1975 into a musical family in Tel Aviv -- his father plays bassoon and conducts
-- and had cello and piano lessons as a child but only took up music seriously as a teenager. He studied
composition with the Georgian émigré composer Josef Bardanashvili at Tel Aviv University while also
taking courses in musicology and physics, and then pursued graduate study at Juilliard, where his
doctoral work as a C.V. Starr Fellow was guided by John Corigliano. Dorman was a Composition Fellow at
the Tanglewood Music Center and also served as Composer-in-Residence for the Israel Camerata from
2001 through 2003; he was a member of the composition faculty of the Cabrillo Music Festival in 2009.
In 2000, at age 25, Dorman became the youngest composer to win Israel's prestigious Prime Minister's
Award, and that same year he received the Golden Feather Award from ACUM (the Israeli Society of
Composers and Publishers) for his Ellef Symphony . His additional distinctions include being named "
2002 Composer of the Year" by Ma'ariv, Israel's second largest newspaper, awards from ASCAP and the
Asian Composers League, and selection as an IcExcellence Chosen Artist in 2008.
Dorman's compositions, in which he says he tries to achieve "a combination of rigorous construction
while preserving the sense of excitement and spontaneity usually associated with jazz, rock or ethnic
music," have been performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Salzburg Festival, Israel
Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nashville
Symphony, Hamburg Philharmonic, Cabrillo Music Festival and other leading ensembles; Zubin Mehta
conducted the duo-percussion team PercaDu (Tomer Yariv and Adi Morag) and the New York
Philharmonic in the United States premiere of his concerto Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!, commissioned by
the Israel Philharmonic, in March 2009. In 2006, Naxos released Eliran Avni's album of Dorman's piano
works to critical acclaim; a recording of Dorman's chamber orchestra concertos is scheduled for release
on Naxos in 2010.
The composer writes, "The title Frozen in Time refers to imaginary snapshots of the Earth's geological
development from prehistoric times to the present day. Although we cannot be sure what the Earth
looked like millions of years ago, most scientists agree that the separate continents used to be one
mega-continent (as most agree that mankind descended from one prehistoric womb). Each movement
imagines the music of a large prehistoric continent at a certain point in time.
"Indoafrica opens with a grand gesture, like an avalanche, that is followed by a ?time freeze.' The main
theme of the first movement is based on South Indian rhythm cycles (talas) and scales. The range of the
theme is gradually expanded like a spiral, as it would in classical Indian improvisation. The second theme
is based on the inner rhythm of the tala, which is also found in some traditions of West African music. As
the solo percussionist starts playing the theme on the marimba and the cencerros (a keyboard of
cowbells), it becomes more similar to gamelan music of Southeast Asia. The soloist then returns to the
drum-set and takes the music back to its African origins, building the movement up to an ecstatic
culmination. At this point, the opening avalanche returns as a burst of emotions rather than a natural
phenomenon. After a short cadenza, the movement wraps up with a fugue that recaps the themes of
the opening section.
"Eurasia is an exploration of the darker sides of that mega-continent, where emotions run deep but are
kept quiet (the movement mainly deals with the traditions of central Europe and central and eastern
Asia). The opening bass drum rhythm (which is borrowed from the siciliana) and the long high notes in
the strings separate this movement from the outer ones in terms of geography and climate. Also, the
fact that the soloist only uses metal instruments in this movement makes it colder and more northern in
character. The melodic materials of this movement are inspired by Mozart's lilting sicilianas that appear
in some of his most intimate and moving works (Piano Concerto, K. 488; Sonata, K. 280; Rondo, K. 511;
the aria Ach, ich fühl's from The Magic Flute). One can hear that war is brewing under the surface
throughout the movement, although it only erupts briefly in the form of central Asian bells and modes
that invade the introspective mood of the siciliana. The movement ends with a long meditation on the
opening theme -- with many moments frozen in time.
"The Americas. The final movement is a snapshot of the present (the Americas are, in fact, still one
continent). Moreover, the mixture of cultures is a staple of modern America. The movement is
constructed as a rondo. The refrain represents mainstream American styles (Broadway at first, American
Symphonic style in its second repeat, Mellow Jazz in the third, and Grunge Music -- Seattle Style Rock -in its final repeat). The episodic sections explore other sounds of the Americas: the Tango, AfroCuban
Jazz, Swing and Minimalism. As American music is by nature inclusive, the movement includes a
recapitulation of the African, European and Asian music, tying the piece together."
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88 (1889)
Woodwinds in pairs plus piccolo, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and strings.
You would probably have liked Dvorák. He was born a simple (in the best sense) man of the soil who
retained a love of country, nature and peasant ways all his life. In his later years he wrote, "In spite of
the fact that I have moved about in the great world of music, I shall remain what I have always been -- a
simple Czech musician." Few passions ruffled his life -- music, of course; the rustic pleasures of country
life; the company of old friends; caring for his pigeons; and a child-like fascination with railroads. When
he was in Prague during the winters, he took daily walks to the Franz Josef Station to gaze in awe at the
great iron wagons. The timetables were as ingrained in his thinking as were the chord progressions of his
music, and he knew all the specifications of the engines that puffed through Prague. When his students
returned from a journey, he would pester them until they recalled exactly which locomotive had pulled
their train. Milton Cross sketched him thus: "To the end of his days he remained shy, uncomfortable in
the presence of those he regarded as his social superiors, and frequently remiss in his social behavior.
He was never completely at ease in large cities, with the demands they made on him. Actually he had a
pathological fear of city streets and would never cross a busy thoroughfare if a friend was not with him.
He was happiest when he was close to the soil, raising pigeons, taking long, solitary walks in the hills and
forests of the Bohemia he loved so deeply. Yet he was by no means a recluse. In the company of his
intimate friends, particularly after a few beers, he was voluble, gregarious, expansive and goodhumored." His music reflected his salubrious nature, and the late New York Times critic Harold
Schonberg concluded, "He remained throughout his entire creative span the happiest and least neurotic
of the late Romantics.... With Handel and Haydn, he is the healthiest of all composers."
Dvořák was nearing fifty when he wrote his Eighth Symphony, when his early years of struggle and
poverty were being ameliorated by the honors that were coming his way. The Symphony was dedicated
to the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, the official sponsor of an Academy encouraging the arts in Bohemia
with that most powerful of all stimuli -- money. The stipend Dvoøák received as part of an award (the
Austrian Iron Cross, Third Order) allowed him to concentrate on composing and disseminating his works
without the distractions of other duties. In December 1889, Dvoøák, his faithful wife in tow, boarded a
train for the official recognition ceremonies in Vienna. More than a little apprehensive about the
disparity between his humble background and the opulent extravagance of Vienna, he made it,
palpitations aplenty, through his interview with the charming Franz Josef, who showed a sincere interest
in the composer and the musical situation out in the provinces of Bohemia.
Only a few months later, Dvořák was awarded an honorary doctorate by Cambridge University as a
result of his enormous popularity in Britain. (He was the first musical god in England since the demise of
Mendelssohn nearly half a century earlier.) His own account of the event gives an indication how he
viewed such rituals, whether in the hushed groves of academe or the glittering halls of the Habsburg
palace: "It was all frighteningly solemn, nothing but ceremonies and deans, all solemn-faced and
apparently incapable of speaking anything but Latin. When it dawned upon me that they were talking
about me, I felt as if I were drowning in hot water, so ashamed was I that I could not understand them."
The picture of him as merely a shuffling country bumpkin, however, unaware of his special gift and of his
international notoriety, is dispelled by his next sentence: "However, when all is said and done,
that Stabat Materof mine [performed as part of the investiture ceremony] is more than just Latin."
Wisdom and modesty have seldom found a happier marriage in a great man.
The G major Symphony, in its warm emotionalism and pastoral contentment, mirrors its creator. It was
composed during Dvořák's annual summer retreat to the country at Vysoká, and his happy contentment
with his surroundings shines through the music. Those months in 1889 were so richly productive for the
composer that he confessed a certain frustration to his friend Alois Göbl because his head was "so full of
ideas" that he simply could not write them down quickly enough. The Symphony is the most overtly
nationalistic of the nine he composed, and displays its flood of folk-derived themes with directness and
candor. This characteristic is enhanced by the new direction that Dvořák pursued in the structural
foundations of the work. It departed from the carefully integrated, fully developed musical architecture
that had underlain the previous symphonies, a preoccupation which reached its apogee in the
magnificent, brooding Symphony No. 7 in D minor. The Eighth Symphony is based unashamedly on its
beautiful melodies, with little true development. In this, the work recalls the symphonies of that
greatest of melodists, Franz Schubert, and in mood and technique it is a true heir to that hallowed
tradition. Hermann Kretschmar even thought that the work should not be classed with Dvoøák's
symphonies at all, but rather belonged to the category of the symphonic poems and Slavonic Dances.
Dvořák was absolutely profligate with themes in the opening movement. In the exposition, which
comprises the first 126 measures of the work, there are no fewer than eight separate melodies which
are tossed out with an ease and speed reminiscent of Mozart's fecundity. The first theme is presented
without preamble in the rich hues of trombones, low strings and low woodwinds in the dark coloring of
G minor. This tonality soon yields to the chirruping G major of the flute melody, but much of the
movement shifts effortlessly between major and minor keys, lending a certain air of nostalgia to the
work. The opening melody is recalled to initiate both the development and the recapitulation. In the
former, it reappears in its original guise and even, surprisingly, in its original key. The recapitulation
begins as this theme is hurled forth by the trumpets in a stentorian setting greatly heightened in
emotional weight from its former presentations. The coda is invested with the rhythm and high good
spirits of an energetic country dance to bring the movement to its rousing ending.
The second movement is one of the most original formal conceptions in late-19th-century symphonic
music. It comprises two kinds of music, one hesitant and somewhat lachrymose, the other stately and
smoothly flowing. Some have interpreted these strains as tonal pictures of a crumbling ruin (the opening
section resembles "The Old Castle" movement of the Poetic Tone Pictures for Piano, Op. 85) and a
peasant wedding. This may be. But looked at in the abstract, as pure music, the movement also points
forward to the interest of many 20th-century composers in creating a work from disparate types of
music. The compositions of Mahler, Ives and Stravinsky, among others, are filled with instances of what
seems to be two different pieces pushed up against each other for the dramatic effect their
juxtaposition creates. In this movement, Dvořák built two blocks of music that are different not just in
key and melody, but in their total conception. The first is indefinite in tonality, rhythm and cadence; its
theme is a collection of fragments; its texture is sparse. The following section is greatly contrasted: its
key is unambiguous; its rhythm and cadence points are clear; its melody is a long, continuous span. The
form of this movement is created as much by texture and sonority as by the traditional means of melody
and tonality. It is a daring and prophetic type of music-making from a composer who is usually regarded
as an arch conservative, as the critic for The New York Times recognized in 1892. "The music of the
symphony," he wrote following the New York premiere on March 12th, "is certainly modern and strange
enough to meet the demands of the most modern extremists."
The third movement is a lilting essay much in the style of the Austrian folk dance, the Ländler. Like the
beginning of the Symphony, it opens in G minor with a mood of sweet melancholy, but gives way to a
languid melody in G major for the central trio. Following the repeat of the scherzo, a vivacious coda in
faster tempo paves the way to the finale.
The trumpets herald the start of the finale, a theme and variations with a central section resembling a
development in character. The bustling second variation returns as a sort of formal mile-marker -- it
introduces the "development" and begins the coda. (One point of good fun in this variation: note how
the horns, pulling the low woodwinds along with them, ascend to their upper register and blow forth an
excited trill generated by the pure joy of the surrounding music.) This wonderful Symphony ends swiftly
and resoundingly amid a burst of high spirits and warm-hearted good feelings.
Dvořák's Czech biographer, Karel Hoffmeister, observed of the G major Symphony, "It is not profound. It
awakens no echo of conflict or passion. It is a simple lyric singing of the beauty of our country for the
artist's consolation. It is a lovable expression of a genius who can rejoice with the idyllicism of his own
forebears."
(c)2010 Dr. Richard E. Rodda