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SRS @ Home - February 28

WATCH THE CONCERT LIVE WITH US!  |  February 28 AT 3 PM

This concert is available for viewing here on the SRS website, but for a more enriching experience, watch it on the Santa Rosa Symphony YouTube channel on your smart TV, computer or other device. Please visit our Ways to Watch page well in advance, so you'll be ready on concert day. YouTube users find they can navigate back to the channel more easily by clicking on "subscribe." They also find it helpful to click on the bell icon to receive notifications of new content.  View instructions here.

Please note: Dates, program and artists are subject to change.


Season Subscribers please note: On March 3, you will receive a special access link to watch the concert for up to 30 days. So, if you missed the premiere, or just want to watch it again, look for an email with your special access link.
 

CONCERT PROGRAM

This performance will be recorded on February 13, 2021 at Weill Hall at the Green Music Center.

Conducted by Francesco Lecce-Chong
Artistic partner, Ellen Taaffee Zwilich

WILLIAM GRANT STILL: Serenade
WAGNER: Siegfired Idyll for Small Orchestra
ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH: Prologue and Variations for String Orchestra
DVOŘÁK: Czech Suite

February concert program book

Click here to download printable version
 

The Extras

  • Pre-concert talk with Francesco, live on YouTube one hour prior to the concert.

  • During the concert, the camera crew take you closer than ever before to Francesco and the musicians, and orchestra members introduce the works. 

  • Stay tuned immediately after the performance for a Q & A with Francesco and SRS musicians.
     

Exclusive Symphony Season Ticket Subscriber Benefits!

To acknowledge the support of Symphony season subscribers, please read below for some new benefits, available only to you.

Only Season Ticket Subscribers will have the opportunity to re-watch the above virtual concerts, whenever they want, up to 30 days after the Live Stream dates on YouTube.

Only Season Ticket Subscribers will receive exclusive access to guest artist recitals and concert conversations with Francesco on YouTube.

Exclusive access link to view the 2012 historic Orchestral Opening concert of Weill Hall  Soon, all subscribers will receive an exclusive access link to watch the 2012 Orchestral Opening Concert of the Green Music Center on the Symphony’s YouTube Channel. This celebratory extravaganza featured Bruno Ferrandis and Corrick Brown conducting, plus Jeffrey Kahane performing on piano. The palpable excitement will move you to your feet. Relive that momentous event, or view it for the very first time. 

February 21, 2021 on YouTube—Symphony Season Subscriber Exclusive Access
Michelle Cann, pianoIn recital and in conversation with Francesco
Program coming soon!

Guest Artist Michelle Cann underwritten by The Alan and Susan Seinfeld Charitable Trust

 

Information for 2020-2021 Season Ticket Holders

We understand that you purchased tickets for live concerts, but we are very excited for you join us on this virtual journey, experiencing a season like no other. Your subscription tickets are your access to Santa Rosa Symphony orchestral virtual concerts, special virtual soloist recitals and more! If access to these virtual performances is not possible, the SRS kindly asks that you convert your tickets to a donation, before January 15, which will allow us to sustain our ability to bring great musical performances to our community and music education programs to 30,000 young people annually. Thank you for your support and commitment—we are truly grateful. Please contact SRS Patron Services at (707) 546-8742 or by email. Symphony staff, working from home, continue to monitor voicemails, email and mail.

   

Ways to Watch

SRS @ Home Series will be available to watch on YouTube. Visit our Ways to Watch page for specific guides for viewing on a variety of devices. We highly recommend doing all the prep work at least a few days in advance of the event or concert. That way, the day of, you'll be ready to watch. Click here for Ways to Watch.
 

Concert Sponsors

Classical Concert Series underwritten by Sara and Edward Kozel, in memory of Laura Tietz
SRS @ Home Series Lead Sponsor – Charles M. Schulz Museum, dedicated to the Peanuts Creator
SRS @ Home Series Supporting Sponsor – Victor and Karen Trione
SRS @ Home Series Supporting Sponsor – The Stare Foundation and David Stare of Dry Creek Vineyard
SRS @ Home Supporting Sponsor – County of Sonoma – Board of Supervisors
 
Concert Sponsor: Joseph A. and Judith M. Gappa
Supporting Sponsor: Exchange Bank 
Francesco Lecce-Chong underwritten by David and Corinne Byrd
Pre -Concert Talks sponsored by Jamei Haswell and Richard Grundy
Media Sponsor: The Press Democrat


  
 

PROGRAM NOTES

February 2021 Program Notes by Elizabeth Schwartz
 
WILLIAM GRANT STILL
Serenade for Small Orchestra
 
COMPOSER: Born May 11, 1895, Woodville, MS; died December 3, 1978, Los Angeles, CA
WORK COMPOSED: 1957, for the Great Falls High School Orchestra in Great Falls, MT
WORLD PREMIERE: Paul Schull led the Great Falls High School Orchestra on May 7, 1958
INSTRUMENTATION: flute, clarinet, harp and strings
ESTIMATED DURATION: 7.5 minutes
 
Known as “the dean of African American composers,” William Grant Still composed music in a wide variety of genres: symphonies, opera, chamber music, choral works, solo songs, and concertos. As a young man, he made his living playing commercial music on violin, oboe, and banjo. Over the span of his six-decade career, Still worked as a performer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, and composer.
 
A black man who took pride in his race and also refused to be limited by it, Still’s career is peppered with Afro-American “firsts:” first to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra; also the first to conduct a major symphony orchestra when Still led the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert of his own compositions at the Hollywood Bowl in 1936; first to have one of his operas produced by a major company, when New York City Opera presented Troubled Island in 1949; and the first to see one of his operas televised on a national network. 
 
In the early 1950s, Still’s professional life derailed. He was a staunch anti-Communist who offered to name Communists and Communist sympathizers for Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. Two years later, Still publicly denounced prominent Communists, including the acclaimed singer Paul Robeson, whose Communist affiliations made him an ongoing target for vindictive anti-Communist and racist attacks. Still, who had been battling the white-dominated cultural establishment for years in his efforts to get his music performed, had now alienated himself from the black community, as well as from liberal whites who had formerly championed Still’s work. As Leon Botstein explains, “In the 1950s, during the nascent years of the civil rights movement, the effective alliance was between liberal and progressive white America that had severe doubts about the saber rattling and arms race of the Cold War, and the [political and cultural] leadership of the black community. Still, in what was considered to be an appalling betrayal of Black American progressivism at the time, sided with the enemy by embracing the traditions of a rigid, suspicious, and somewhat intolerant anti-Communism.” As a result, Still’s music was effectively if unofficially blacklisted by record companies, orchestras, opera companies, the media, and the black community from the early 1950s until the late 1980s.
 
The Serenade was originally conceived as part of a cello concerto undertaken at the suggestion of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Written for young amateur players, the music is both technically approachable and full of expressive melodies and lush textures.
 
RICHARD WAGNER
Siegfried Idyll for Small Orchestra
 
COMPOSER: Born May 22, 1813, Leipzig; died Feb. 13, 1883, Venice
WORK COMPOSED: 1870
WORLD PREMIERE: Wagner led a small ensemble of 13 musicians in the premiere on his wife Cosima’s birthday, December 25, 1870. The ensemble performed on the stairs outside Cosima’s bedroom in Tribschen, the Wagners’ home in Switzerland.
INSTRUMENTATION: flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, trumpet and strings
ESTIMATED DURATION: 17 minutes
 
Unlike Richard Wagner’s heroic, larger-than-life music dramas, the Siegfried Idyll has a tender intimacy not commonly found in Wagner’s music. Written as a combined Christmas and birthday gift for his wife Cosima, Wagner’s original title was “Tribschener Idyll, with Fidi’s Birdsong and Orange Sunrise, as a Symphonic Birthday Greeting from Richard to Cosima.” (Tribschen was the Wagners’ home on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland; Fidi was the nickname of their 18-month-old son Siegfried.) Wagner surprised Cosima with the Idyll, going to great lengths to keep his rehearsals secret. At dawn on Christmas Day 1870, Cosima was awakened by a small ensemble of 13 musicians arranged on the stairs and landing outside her bedroom.
 
The Idyll, a musical love poem, is full of private references known only to Wagner and Cosima. Cosima’s reaction to her husband’s gift was so profound she could not find words to describe her feelings. In her diary, Cosima wrote:
 
“I can tell you nothing about this day, my children, nothing about my feelings, nothing about my mood, nothing, nothing. I shall merely inform you, plainly and simply, of what took place. A sound awoke me which grew ever stronger; I knew I was no longer dreaming, there was music, and what music! When it had died away, R. came into my room with the five children and gave me the score of his ‘Symphonic Birthday Greeting’ - I was in tears, so was everybody in the house. R. had placed his orchestra on the staircase, and thus our Tribschen is consecrated for all time.”
 
Scholar and critic Ernest Newman describes the Idyll as “a series of domestic confidences.” Most of its themes are found in the opera Siegfried; the opening melody comes from Act III, but it actually originated in a string quartet Wagner wrote for Cosima six years earlier. Similarly, the German folk lullaby “Schlaf’, Kindchen, schlafe,” played by solo oboe, was assumed to refer to baby Siegfried; however, Newman discovered it was actually linked to the Wagners’ older daughter Eva. These and other musical references, whose meaning remained hidden for many years, reveal the Idyll’s levels of personal significance for both Wagner and Cosima.
 
ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH
Prologue and Variations for String Orchestra
 
COMPOSER: Born April 30, 1939, Miami, FL
WORK COMPOSED: Work was commissioned by the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra in 1983.
WORLD PREMIERE: Richard Cormier led the Chattanooga Symphony on April 10, 1984.
INSTRUMENTATION: String orchestra
ESTIMATED DURATION: 13 minutes
 
The Pulitzer Prize for Music was first awarded in 1943, to William Schuman. Exactly 40 years later, the Pulitzer committee chose Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Symphony No. 1 for the top honor. Zwilich, the first woman to receive the prize, also became the first woman to earn a doctorate in composition from the Juilliard School of Music. The Pulitzer brought Zwilich’s music to national attention, establishing her as a significant American composer.
 
In a 1985 New York Times interview, Zwilich told critic Tim Page, “It is not enough to manipulate abstract forms and ideas. A composer must also provide color, thrust, and purpose, allowing a work to unfold gradually over a length of time. As such, composition is both a written and a performing art – it must sound.” This compositional credo perfectly describes Zwilich’s Prologue and Variations for Orchestra, one of the first works she composed post-Pulitzer. Note the use of the word “Prologue” rather than “Theme” in the title. This subtle change indicates Zwilich’s expansive approach to what constitutes a variation. Typical theme-and-variations begin with a theme, usually a straightforward melody, often well known – think of Mozart’s famous variations on “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” – and continue with a series of increasingly florid elaborations on that theme.
 
Zwilich’s Prologue is a series of musical ideas and contrasting tempos. Most prominent among these is Dmitri Shostakovich’s famous musical signature D. SCH, which corresponds to the notes D-E-flat-C-B in German notation (Zwilich helpfully places these four notes at the very beginning of the Prologue, and follows them with a brief pause; the D. SCH theme recurs throughout).
 
The four variations all use material from the Prologue, but, as Zwilich explains in her comments in the published score, “these are not ‘variations’ in the traditional sense … In using the word ‘Prologue,’ I meant to suggest a dramatic analogy, because, in a way, the function of the Prologue in this work is to introduce ‘characters’ (musical ideas), some of which are drawn rather fully, while others are only suggested. It is in the ensuing … ‘Variations’ that the drama unfolds. Another important aspect of Prologue and Variations is that it celebrates the special sonorities, character, and expressiveness of the string orchestra.”
 
ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK
Czech Suite in D major for Small Orchestra, Opus 39
 
COMPOSER: Born September 8, 1841, Nelahozeves, near Kralupy (now the Czech Republic); died May 1, 1904, Prague
WORK COMPOSED: April 1879
WORLD PREMIERE: Adolph Čech led the Provisional Theatre Orchestra in Prague on May 16, 1879.
INSTRUMENTATION: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings
ESTIMATED DURATION: 23 minutes
 
“An artist has his country, in which he must have firm faith and an ardent heart.” – Antonín Dvořák
 
Music publisher Friedrich August Simrock, known as Fritz, had a keen sense of what music his customers would buy. When Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dances became a bestseller for Simrock in 1869, the publisher realized regional and ethnic music were obvious gold mines.
 
Antonín Dvořák first came to Simrock’s attention via Brahms, who had introduced the two men by correspondence. In an 1877 letter to Simrock, Brahms mentioned Dvořák’s talent and versatility, and took particular note of “a volume of duets for two sopranos with pianoforte, which seem to me all too pretty, and practical for publication … The value of the duets will be obvious to you, and they might become a ‘good commodity’ … please know … that I don’t make recommendations hastily.”
 
Simrock shrewdly gambled on the young and largely unknown Bohemian composer, and published Dvořák’s Moravian Duets, which became an instant hit, followed by the first set of Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. Once published, Op. 46 made Dvořák an international composer-celebrity.
 
Musical nationalism – the widespread 19th century practice of incorporating specific regional or national melodies and rhythms to evoke a particular place – can result in statements of grandiosity, punctuated by military marches and other sorts of musical chest-thumping. Dvořák was a devoted Czech patriot who championed use of the Czech language despite the oppressive policies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which ruled Bohemia during his lifetime. Dvořák’s musical nationalism, however, expresses itself as a deeply rooted love of one’s native soil, without prideful defiance.

The five movements of the Czech Suite incorporate dance rhythms primarily from Bohemia and Moravia. These rhythms would be recognizable to anyone who lived or spent time in these regions. Dvořák uses these rhythms in a series of original melodies that sound like folk tunes, even though they are the composer’s invention. The opening Prelude welcomes the listener with a gentle introductory melody. The Polka, a dance that originated in the Czech region before evolving into its better-known Polish version, has little oom-pah; instead it features two contrasting sections: one with a graceful theme in the strings, the other emphasizing a lively forward-rushing tempo. The central Sousedska, a slower dance in ¾ time, features a distinctive 2-note rhythm that sounds like a bird chirping. This little motive punctuates the melody throughout, as it meanders through a series of harmonies and is traded back and forth among the instruments. In the Romanza, flute and oboe take turns with a lilting tune, while the strings pulse gently beneath. The closing Furiant, a fiery dance with a tempo to match, picks up energy and motion as it progresses, before concluding with a shout from trumpets and timpani.
 
Interestingly, although Simrock was Dvořák’s primary publisher – he had right of first refusal for all of Dvořák’s music initially – he passed on the Czech Suite. Schlesinger, a firm in Berlin, published Op. 39 in 1881.

Elizabeth Schwartz is a writer and music historian based in the Portland area. She has been a program annotator for more than 20 years, and works with music festivals and ensembles around the country. Ms. Schwartz has also contributed to NPR’s “Performance Today” (now heard on American Public Media).
 
NOTE: These program notes are for Santa Rosa Symphony patrons and other interested readers. Any other use is forbidden without specific permission from the author, who may be contacted at classicalmusicprogramnotes.com.

© 2021 Elizabeth Schwartz
 


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Banner photo by Susan and Neil Silverman Photography

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