Angela Hewitt Plays Mozart

with the NAC Orchestra

2023-04-05 20:00 2023-04-06 23:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Angela Hewitt Plays Mozart

https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/30532

In-person event

Hailed in the UK press as the “2019 Classical Face to Watch,” Australian conductor Jessica Cottis leads the NAC Orchestra in a special evening of music with Ottawa’s own piano virtuoso Angela Hewitt.    Mozart’s splendid and hugely expressive Piano Concerto No. 25 is a favourite of Hewitt’s, and with its lively writing for wind instruments, she calls it a perfect piece to play with her NACO family and our wonderful woodwind players. In this evening...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
April 5 - 6, 2023

≈ 1 hour and 30 minutes · With intermission

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Program

Last updated: March 28, 2023

RICHARD STRAUSS Overture and Dance from Ariadne auf Naxos (10 min) 

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 (30 min) 
I. Allegro maestoso 
II. Andante 
III. Allegretto

INTERMISSION

FELIX MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11 (27 min) 
I. Allegro di molto 
II. Andante 
III. Menuetto: Allegro molto 
IV. Allegro con fuoco 

Repertoire

RICHARD STRAUSS

Overture and Dance from Ariadne auf Naxos

One of the six operas on which Richard Strauss (1864–1949) collaborated with the German poet and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Ariadne auf Naxos exists in two versions. The first, from 1912, combines the opera Ariadne with von Hofmannsthal’s adaptation of Molière’s play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. In this version, the opera is the evening’s entertainment for the dinner guests of the “bourgeois” Monsieur Jourdain, who stipulates it must incorporate the singing and dancing of a commedia dell’arte (improvised Italian comedy) troupe. Due to the complexity and expense of producing a performance with both an opera company and a theatre company, the play was dropped and replaced with a sung Prologue in 1916, which is the version more commonly performed. 

Strauss and von Hofmannsthal intended for Ariadne to be an eclectic mash-up of elements drawn from multiple sources. In addition to combining Baroque opera seria (“serious” opera on a classical or mythological theme) with commedia dell ‘arte characters, Strauss, inspired by Mozart’s operas, scored the work for a Classical-era sized chamber orchestra of 37 instruments. The music it plays, however, is thoroughly of the early 20th century—that is, the composer’s distinctive fusion of late Romantic sonorities, modernist dissonances, and Viennese popular music. This musical blend is highlighted in the Overture and Dance, which are extracts from the Ariadne opera-within-the-play/opera that is performed in both versions.

In the Greek myth, Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete, has fallen in love with Theseus, son of the King of Athens, who has been sacrificed to the Minotaur kept in a labyrinth. After Theseus slays the bull-headed man beast, Ariadne gives him thread that enables him to find his way out. Reunited, the lovers sail to the island of Naxos, but upon arriving there, Theseus abandons his bride. This is the point where the Overture (and the opera) begins. Opening in the minor mode, the music is bleak and brooding, featuring winding chromatic lines interlaced with harsh dissonances, which reflect the heartache and dismal mental state of the dejected Ariadne. Using only a small group of instruments from the orchestra, the spare texture heightens the feeling of her desolation. Later, the music shifts to the major mode, and the orchestral sound becomes rich and sumptuous—Ariadne is remembering her past love and happiness with Theseus. Their melodies—hers played by clarinet, his on French horn, then solo cello—intertwine sensuously, and develop into a passionate climax, which then subsides back to the earlier melancholy. 

In the opera, the Dance scene features the leader of the commedia dell ‘arte troupe, Zerbinetta, flirting with three of the four male comedians, Scaramuccio, Truffaldino, and Brighella. Dancing with them in turn, she charms each into thinking she’s chosen him, but in the end, she goes with the fourth, Harlequin. The simple, catchy tunes in this extract reference Viennese popular music, including the waltz. Lilting and playful at first, the dance music gets increasingly animated, wild, and crude (dissonances tinge the melodies), as Zerbinetta eventually takes off with Harlequin, leaving the three duped men to stumble about in search of her.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503

I. Allegro maestoso 
II. Andante 
III. Allegretto 

K. 503 is the twelfth of a dozen piano concertos that Mozart (1756–91) composed between February 1784 and December 1786. This collection of Classical concertos (from K. 449) is considered among the finest and most important works in the genre, arising from one of the most productive and successful periods of Mozart’s life following his return to Vienna in late 1783. They were performed, probably with the composer as soloist, for subscription concerts at the city’s Mehlgrube. With these concertos, Mozart not only advanced the technical and musical demands of the solo keyboard part but also made increasingly sophisticated use of dialogue, counterpoint, and variation between the soloist and the orchestra. 

Set in bright C major, K. 503 opens with an atmosphere of ceremonial grandeur and stateliness, with a series of majestic, full-orchestra chords. Soon after, an insistent rhythmic motif of three repeated short notes quietly emerges in the first violins and is alternatingly echoed by the second violins in a rising sequence; listen for this motif’s return throughout the movement. The march-like second theme, which later appears in C minor, is built on this rhythm. Following a shift back to C major, the piano sneaks in, after which the orchestra proclaims again the opening fanfare to which the soloist responds and elaborates. In a surprise twist, instead of taking up the orchestra’s earlier march-like theme, the piano introduces two new ones: the first, graceful with falling gestures; the second, a charming, light-stepping ascending phrase. That march-like theme and its related rhythmic motif return to dominate the central development section, as they are exchanged between piano and woodwinds. The dialogue soon evolves into a complex contrapuntal episode, which eventually winds its way back to a reprise of the majestic opening chords. Together, piano and orchestra recap the earlier material. After a brilliant solo cadenza, echoes of the rhythmic motif propel the movement to a grand finish. 

The Andante is rich with inventive variation in which Mozart also skillfully integrates the piano and orchestral parts. It begins as if it already in progress, with flute and bassoon playing a descending arc. Oboes and bassoons pick up the line, while the flute pipes arpeggios and runs in response. Second violins follow with fast-moving murmurs, over which first violins, violas, and cellos dance on tiptoe the second theme. After returning to the serene mood of the opening, the piano enters with the first theme. As the movement progresses, the piano incorporates the passages introduced earlier by orchestral instruments (the flute’s runs and arpeggios, and both the tiptoe dance and its murmuring accompaniment) and then continues with new material. In places, Mozart provides only the melody’s basic framework, and it’s up to the pianist to fill it in with their own elaborations, as he would have done in performance. Midway through the movement, there’s a sublime moment, during which the piano luxuriates in a series of arpeggios before it resumes with a varied reprisal of the first section.

A gentle dance opens the rondo third movement; it continues along pleasantly, then turns briefly minor and chromatic before emerging invigorated. The piano picks up this energy and embarks on a brilliant episode filled with sparkling arpeggios and running passages. Along the way, it introduces a lyrical theme, which it soon gives to the woodwinds, so it can continue with its runs. After the return of the gentle dance, the piano presents a new agitated idea in the minor mode. Suddenly, it gives way to a beautiful melody with repeated caressing phrases, first played by piano, then later exchanged and developed between the piano and woodwinds. The third episode recalls the brilliant piano writing of the first, after which the soloist states the main theme one last time. Now playful and exuberant, the dance is extended into a dazzling passage for the piano that drives to the orchestra’s boisterous close.

FELIX MENDELSSOHN

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11

I. Allegro di molto 
II. Andante 
III. Menuetto: Allegro molto 
IV. Allegro con fuoco 

Composer, conductor, pianist, and organist Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47), one of German music’s leading figures of the early 19th century, was a child prodigy of extraordinary musical talent. As a teenager, he composed prolifically; by 1823, he had written in nearly all the main genres of the time, including much chamber music, several Singspiels, twelve string sinfonias, and more than a handful of concertos. Already in these early works he showed a strong command of technique and an assured sense of style, influenced by his exploration and absorption of the music of J.S. Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart.

At the end of 1823, Mendelssohn was writing his 13th string sinfonia, but by the following year, he had changed it to include woodwinds and brass, and the work thereby became his first symphony. Completed soon after he turned 15 years old, it was initially performed on March 31, 1824. Five years later, while on his grand tour of Italy, France, and England, he made his official English debut on May 25, conducting this symphony at the London Philharmonic Society’s seventh subscription concert of the season. Although successfully received with repeated performances, Mendelssohn withheld it from publication for another five years.

Symphony No. 1, as Mendelssohn scholar R. Larry Todd has observed, draws upon “a variety of influences, including the complex chromatic counterpoint of Bach, the formal clarity and gracefulness of Mozart, and the dramatic power of Beethoven and Weber.” The latter is certainly evident in the first movement—its tempestuous energy contains hints of Weber’s opera Der Freischütz (the 1821 premiere of which Mendelssohn had witnessed), and the vigour and drive of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. As contrast, the lyrical second theme is all Mozartean lyricism and elegance. Along with a judicious use of bold dissonances and modulations, there are instances of clever counterpoint, and even a moment of Haydn-esque surprise, when, just before the coda, the rest of the orchestra drops out, leaving two horns holding a long note in suspense, after which the movement pushes forth stormily to the end.

The ensuing Andante, in E-flat major, has the warmth and noble character of a Beethovenian slow movement. Here, Mendelssohn demonstrates his mastery of writing for strings and woodwinds, as the former’s rich sonorities and the latter’s delicately variegated timbres are juxtaposed in alternating passages.

A rather stern Menuetto, the third movement is reminiscent of the one in Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 (a likely influence) and dominated by energetic strings. (Interestingly, for the English premiere, Mendelssohn replaced it with an orchestral arrangement of the scherzo from his String Octet, which, by contrast, has a quicksilver, fairy-like quality.) It frames a trio that is of another world—a slow, reverent melody in the clarinets and bassoons, hovering over gentle waves of arpeggios in the strings. A mysterious transition with ominous timpani taps (similar to the passage between the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Fifth) lead us out from the reverie, and, via an inexorable crescendo, back into the brusque dance. 

The contrast between bustle and repose that appear in the earlier movements also characterizes the finale. It opens with fiery agitation and reaches a noisy peak, after which a surprising extended passage featuring only plucked strings becomes the backdrop to a simple clarinet tune. Later, in the central development section, the Bachian influence comes to the fore, as Mendelssohn demonstrates his knack for writing fugal counterpoint for strings. After a reprise of the main material, listen for the fugue’s dramatic return, after which the mode turns to major, and the symphony comes to a rollicking finish. 

Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD 

Artists

  • Conductor Jessica Cottis
  • angela-hewitt
    Piano Angela Hewitt

NAC Orchestra

First Violins  
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster) 
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster) 
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster) 
Carissa Klopoushak 
Marjolaine Lambert 
Zhengdong Liang 
Frédéric Moisan 
Emily Kruspe 
*Erica Miller 
*Martine Dubé

Second violins 
Mintje van Lier (principal) 
**Winston Webber (assistant principal) 
Emily Westell 
Jeremy Mastrangelo 
Leah Roseman 
Manuela Milani 
Mark Friedman 
Karoly Sziladi 
**Edvard Skerjanc 
*Andréa Armijo Fortin 
*Heather Schnarr 
*Renée London

Violas 
Jethro Marks (principal) 
David Marks (associate principal) 
David Goldblatt (assistant principal) 
Paul Casey 
David Thies-Thompson 
*Pamela Fay

Cellos 
Rachel Mercer (principal) 
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal) 
Leah Wyber 
Marc-André Riberdy 
Timothy McCoy 
*Thaddeus Morden 
*Sonya Matoussova

Double basses 
Max Cardilli (assistant principal) 
Vincent Gendron 
Marjolaine Fournier 
**Hilda Cowie 
*David Fay

Flutes 
Joanna G'froerer (principal) 
Stephanie Morin 

Oboes 
Charles Hamann (principal) 
Anna Petersen

English Horn 
Anna Petersen

Clarinets 
Kimball Sykes (principal) 
Sean Rice

Bassoons 
Darren Hicks (principal) 
Vincent Parizeau

Horns 
Lawrence Vine (principal) 
Julie Fauteux (associate principal) 
Elizabeth Simpson 
Lauren Anker 
Louis-Pierre Bergeron 

Trumpets 
**Karen Donnelly (principal) 
*Michael Fedyshyn (guest principal) 
Steven van Gulik 

Trombones
Colin Traquair 

Tuba 
Chris Lee (principal) 

Timpani 
*Aaron McDonald (guest principal) 

Percussion
Jonathan Wade 

Principal Librarian 
Nancy Elbeck 

Assistant Librarian 
Corey Rempel 

Personnel Manager 
Meiko Lydall 

Assistant Personnel Manager 
Laurie Shannon 

*Additional musicians 
**On leave