Alfredo Arjona, pianist
Join Symphony Arlington for its 2012-2013 Season Premiere of Viva España! Symphony Arlington will be performing Chabrier’s España and Ravel’s Bolero! This performance will feature Albeniz’s Rhapsodia Espanola for Piano and Orchestra!
Verdi: Overture to La Forza del Destino
La forza del destino, the 22nd of Verdi's operas, was completed in 1862 and introduced in St. Petersburg on November 10 of that year. The Overture, which opens present productions, was not heard until February 27, 1869, when the revised opera was presented at La Scala in Milan.
Verdi composed only two operas for introduction outside Western Europe: Aida, for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo in 1871, and La forza del destino, commissioned by the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg ten years earlier. The backgrounds of these two works have other details in common: for each the originally scheduled premiere had to be postponed, and each features a full-fledged overture that was adapted by Verdi from its shorter original form.
In some of its early productions, La Forza del Destino was presented under the title Don Alvaro. The libretto, written by Verdi's frequent collaborator Francesco Maria Piave, is based on the Spanish play Don Alvaro, ó La fuerza del sino, written in 1835 by the Duke of Rivas, Angel Pedro de Saavedra Ramírez de Banquedano. Generally regarded as the finest of all Verdi's symphonic introductions, the Overture to La Forza del Destino is not an encapsulation of the drama, but rather a powerful evocation of its atmosphere, incorporating the crucial "Fate" motif which reappears at the end of Act I and again during later themes from the opera.
From July to December 1882, French composer Chabrier, at the age of 40, and his wife toured Spain. His letters written during his travels are full of good humour, keen observation and his reactions to the music and dance he came across. In a letter to long-time friend Edouard Moullé, the composer details his researches into regional dance forms, giving notated musical examples. A later letter to Lamoureux, dated 25 October, Chabrier writes that on his return to Paris he would compose an 'extraordinary fantasia' which would incite the audience to a pitch of excitement, and that even Lamoureux would be obliged to hug the orchestral leader in his arms, so voluptuous would be his melodies.
Chabrier already had an operetta or two behind him, and plenty of piano music in which local colour was of the essence; but España, the work that was the first to grow out of his Andalusian sojourn, was something else again. In Constant Lambert’s memorable phrase, it has ‘all the verve and reckless gaiety of Offenbach at his best, combined with the harmonic and orchestral subtlety of Ravel’.
Though he first wrote España for piano, Chabrier quickly realized it needed the thrust and brilliance of a full orchestration. Written in a traditional sonata form, the two main themes contrast the tempestuous Spanish jota with the slower, lyrical malagueña. The kinetic first theme, by means of repeated hemiolas, seems to be in three and two simultaneously (much like "America" in West Side Story). In the development, Chabrier hints at the "endless variety of rhythms" that he heard superimposed on the basic 3/4 pattern of the dance. A new theme is introduced by the trombones, punctuated by references to the opening theme. The conventional recapitulation is followed by an exciting coda that brings back the trombone theme for a brilliant conclusion. If we are not left dancing in the aisles, it is only because we have suppressed Chabrier's delicious enticement.
Albéniz: Rapsodie Espagnole
Isaac Albéniz, born May 1861, began his musical career as a prodigy. So remarkable was the maturity of the composer-pianist at an age when most children are in the nursery that he was playing the piano in public at Barcelona at the age of four. Two years later he was taken to Paris, and Marmontel, astonished at the gifts of the child, accepted him as a pupil. After his return to Spain in 1868 he studied for a short period at the Madrid Conservatory. He made concert tours of Europe and America as an infant prodigy, and later settled down to study seriously in Bressuls with Brassin, Dupont, and Gevart.
In 1883 Albéniz married and lived in Barcelona, but strained financial circumstances compelled him to take up a touring life again. Rapsodie Espagnole for Piano and Orchestra was premiered at one of the Colonne Concerts in Paris on Februrary 3, 1911, with pianist Alejandro Ribo. A note on the program from the premiere states that the manuscript of the score had been lost by some “inexplicable fatality” and George Enesco had created a re-instrumentation for the performance.
Ravel never believed that his Bolero would be a success in the concert hall. Referring to it as “a piece lasting seventeen minutes and consisting wholly of orchestral tissue without music – of one long, very gradual crescendo,” he felt that the music could not hold an audience’s attention separate from the ballet for which it was written. Contrary to Ravel’s orginial feelings about the success of Bolero, the piece was a massive hit from its very first concert performance, which Ravel conducted in Paris with the Lamoureux Orchestra on January 11, 1930. It immediately became a mainstay in concert halls and on the radio, was heard all over the world, played by jazz bands and pianists, and showed up in movies scores and on Broadway. Bolero has now grown into one of the most popular orchestral works of all time.
Bolero begins with snare drums quietly tapping out a repeated two measure rhythm that other instruments gradually join. There are two main melodies, each of which is performed twice (AABB), then the pattern repeats with gradually increasing instrumentation and volume. First solo instruments are heard: flute, clarinet, bassoon. Then it’s combinations – trumpet and flute, then piccolo, horn, and celesta, later oboe, oboe d’amore, English horn, and clarinets – and eventually just about every instrument in the orchestra is highlighted. The music builds and builds, then reaches that moment mentioned above when the cycle is briefly broken and the key changes. But it’s soon back to C major for the exciting conclusion.