Monday, February 13, 2017

Overture to Così fan tutte, K. 588
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
I. Introduction
II. Nighttime
III. The Apparition
IV. Dance of Terror
V. The Magic Circle
VI. Midnight
VII. Ritual Fire Dance
VIII. Scene
IX. Pantomime
X. Dance of the Game of Love
XI. Finale


Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
I. Allegro con brio
II. Largo
III. Rondo. Allegro
Mackenzie Melemed, piano


Program Notes

Overture to Così fan tutte, K.588
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Così fan tutte, the last of three masterful collaborations between Mozart and librettist, Lorenze da Ponte, premiered on January 26, 1790 in Vienna. A commission of Emperor Joseph II, a great patron of the arts, Così fan tutte follows the story of two young men’s scheme to test the fidelity of their fiancees as they pretend to set out on a military campaign and return to their ladies in disguise. The opera buffa examines themes of love, jealousy and infidelity. Mozart and Lorenze da Ponte’s two earlier collaborations include The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787).  

The Overture to Così fan tutte pulls musical material directly from the opera and energizes the comedy about to unfold. The opening Andante quotes melodic material from later in the opera when Don Alfonso sings the line "così fan tutte." The sparkling Presto that follows refers to music from Le nozze di Figaro's use of the text "così fan tutte …" ("they all do it …"), before the brief overture ends with a reiteration of Don Alfonso's melody.

El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician)
Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)

With his elder contemporaries, Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla was one of the first Spanish composers to win international renown, and was perhaps the most gifted of the three. Whilst he learnt a great deal from French colleagues, his art remained deeply rooted in the folk music of Spain, and much of his early efforts were concentrated on a thorough study of ‘Cante Jondo’, the primitive song of Andalusia.  

In 1907, anxious to extend his musicianship, de Falla took a week’s return ticket to Paris. He did not return to Madrid for three years, having in the meantime significantly improved his technique.  El Amor Brujo, the first major work to be completed after his return in 1914, was written as a loosely linked entertainment featuring the gypsy dancer Pastora Imperio, reportedly the only woman ever to have aroused the interest of this austere, lifelong bachelor.  

The story concerns a beautiful gypsy girl and her suitor, who are haunted by the spirit of her dead lover which comes between them, persecuting the young woman. Her tantalizing girl friend is persuaded to act as a lure and succeeds in diverting the amorous ghost, and the two lovers at last achieve freedom to be alone together while church bells peal out as a sign of Christian triumph over sorcery.

The music includes the famous ‘Ritual Fire Dance’, hypnotic and terrifying, which the heroine performs at midnight in order to banish evil spirits. Equally moving, with its ring of metallic despair, is the ‘Chanson du Chagrin d’Amour’ (Song of Sorrowful Love) which contrasts with the languorous ‘Pantomima’, written in 7/8 time. 

De Falla later adapted the work as an orchestral suite, as performed by the FSO, and eventually as the ballet with songs known today.


Piano Concerto no. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

The third piano concerto was written in 1800, the same year as the First Symphony, the Opus 18 String Quartets, and the Prometheus ballet. By then the thirty year old Beethoven had learned all that he could from his teachers, and was expressing with absolute clarity and often with astonishing force and cogency a unique musical personality.

A sense of urgency and reserved power is immediately created by the opening three bars, played very quietly on the strings, which contain all the main elements on which the first movement is to be based; an arpeggio, a scale, and the figuration of a drum tap. The orchestral tutti which follows is the longest in all Beethoven's concertos, leading to the eventual appearance of the soloist who enters with some dramatically effective rising scale passages and a statement of the main theme more fully developed than anything so far heard from the orchestra. The second subject is by contrast flowing and lyrical, and the continuation of the movement consists of a masterful discourse between soloist and orchestra.

The long and beautiful slow movement is in the seemingly remote key of E major.  The soloist opens the movement with the principal theme, and the music soon burgeons out in great melodic richness and subtlety of ornamentation. There is an episode in a range of darker keys and some particularly beautiful interplay between individual woodwinds and the piano before the extended coda. The movement ends in the quiet mood in which it began.

The finale is a rondo, full of wit and energy. Both main themes are heard at first on the solo instrument and between them there appears a dramatic episode which provides a very effective point of contrast; strong C minor chords on wind and percussion answered by rapid rising piano arpeggios. There is a remarkable and highly original coda, with a change of speed (presto) and key (the tonic major) in which elements of the two main themes are combined in a new and unforeseen light.

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