Sinfonia Toronto presents


Beautiful works by Mozart & Tchaikovsky. What a perfect pair – Mozart was Tchaikovsky’s favourite composer.
Streaming on Friday, January 22, 8 pm EST – available until February 19, 2021 at 10pm
This virtual concert is from archival video recordings.

NURHAN ARMAN, conductor

MOZART ‘The Hunt’ K 458
TCHAIKOVSKY Serenade in C Major, opus 48

Program Notes

‘The Hunt’ K 458 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Orchestral version by Nurhan Arman

Mozart revered Joseph Haydn as a man and loved his music, and famously dedicated a set of six string quartets to him. Excerpts from Mozart’s dedication, from the first published edition of the quartets, show the depth of his regard:

“To my dear friend Haydn… A father who had decided to send his children into the world at large thought it best to entrust them to the protection and guidance of that famous man who fortunately happened to be his best friend as well. Behold here, famous man and dearest friend, my six children. They are, to be sure, the fruit of long and arduous work, yet some friends have encouraged me to assume that I shall see this work rewarded to some extent at least, and this flatters me into believing that these children shall one day offer me some comfort. You yourself… have shown me your approval of them during your last sojourn [in Vienna]. Your praise, above all… makes me hope that they shall not be entirely unworthy of your good will. – W.A. Mozart”

Mozart himself did not give any of the quartets in this set titles, but the fourth was later nicknamed “The Hunt.” It is an apt title, because the opening theme is reminiscent of hunting-horn calls and provides all the material that canters through a jolly first movement. The second movement minuet is more serious, but contains a delectable trio section that makes it difficult to refrain from dancing. This is followed by what is arguably the most intense movement in the entire set of six quartets, an Adagio that could almost belong to the Romantic era. The fleet Rondo Finale is straightforwardly charming, a lighthearted dessert after the intensity of the third movement.

Serenade for Strings in C major by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Tchaikovsky was a solidly romantic and nationalistic composer, but he adored Mozart, whom he once called “the Christ of music.” Tchaikovsky wrote that a performance of Don Giovanni he attended when he was only 10 was what first showed him music’s power to express deep emotion.

In September 1880 Tchaikovsky was working on his bombastic 1812 Overture, and perhaps needed to balance it with something more delicate. He decided to write an orchestral serenade as an homage to Mozart’s serenades. Inspired by his love of Mozart’s music, he completed this work very quickly, and was much more satisfied with it than the 1812 Overture.

He wrote to his patron, Nadezhda von Meck, “The overture will be very showy and noisy, but will have no artistic merit because I wrote it without warmth and without love. But the Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from inner compulsion. This is a piece from the heart.” Later on he also told von Meck, “I am violently in love with this work and cannot wait for it to be played.” The Serenade was premiered in St. Petersburg in 1881 and became a hit immediately. Tchaikovsky was gratified to receive congratulations on it from one of his living idols, the pianist and composer Anton Rubenstein.

This first movement, Pezzo in forma di Sonatina, moves from a measured Andante introduction into a simple four-note theme that develops into vigorous scale passages in the Allegro which show off the varied tone colors available within the strings alone. The rapid passagework is brilliant but not forced or too prominent; it complements and supports the flowing movement of the Allegro theme.

The second movement Waltz is Tchaikovsky’s 19th-Century replacement for the minuet movements in Mozart’s serenades. As with waltz sections in some of his symphonies too, this movement resonates with Tchaikovsky’s ballets. And in the next century this movement and parts of the rest of the work were used by George Balanchine for his 1936 Serenade. Balanchine later expanded his ballet to include Tchaikovsky’s entire Serenade, but with the second and third movements reversed. Each string section takes their turn to play the waltz melody poised against rhythmic lines in the other sections.

The second movement ends in a gentle pianissimo, leading to the third movement Elegia. Like the first two movements, the Elegy is developed from a scale passage, this time rising in steadily increasing fervor. The lower strings carry much of the singing melody which is more reflective than mournful. This movement is a beautiful example of the kind of the openly emotional, highly lyrical writing for which Tchaikovsky is so beloved.

The Finale is subtitled Tema russo and includes two authentic Russian folk tunes; both had been catalogued by the composer and musicologist Mily Balakirev. The first tune, a slow song sung by Volga carters, is the content of the Andante introduction to the movement. The second tune is a lively folk dance. Tchaikovsky underlines this theme’s village origins here and there with pizzicato (plucked) octaves that mimic the sound of balalaikas. A third sweeping motif appears over the vigorous dance, creating contrast and grandeur that blossom into an audible impression of the vast Russian landscape. The first movement’s Andante theme returns, seemingly to round out the entire work, but Tchaikovsky wittily transforms the descending portion of what had been a stately motif into the throbbing downward scale of the dance to conclude the Serenade in bravura style.

Sinfonia Toronto now in its 22nd season, has toured twice in Europe, in the US, South America and China, receiving glowing reviews. It has released four CD’s, including a JUNO Award winner, and performs in many Ontario cities. Its extensive repertoire includes all the major string orchestra works of the 18th through 21st centuries, and it has premiered many new works. Under the baton of Nurhan Arman the orchestra’s performances present outstanding international guest artists and prominent Canadian musicians.

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