Olympie Overture Joseph Kraus (1756 – 1792)
Adagio – Allegro ma non troppo – Adagio
Chamber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2015) Jonathan Leshnoff (b. 1973)
Max Zorin, violin
Slow, ה, Malchus
Symphony No.82 in C major, Hob.I:82 Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Menuetto e Trio
OLYMPIE OVERTURE: Joseph Martin Kraus (1756 – 1792), was born in the same year as Mozart, in Miltenberg am Main, Germany. His father’s family had roots in Augsburg as did Mozart’s father and he only outlived Mozart by one year.
Kraus showed his musical talent at an early age. When he was 12, he was enrolled in the Jesuit Gymnasium and Music Seminar at Mannheim, where he studied German and Latin literature as well as music. There he received a rigorous musical education, especially in violin technique.
Kraus's parents wanted him to matriculate as a student of law at the University of Mainz in 1773. However, he was not satisfied with the situation at that university, and even published a satire about it. After only one year, he applied to the University of Erfurt, where he could add music to his curriculum.
In Erfurt and later in Göttingen Kraus found himself very much attracted to the ideas of a group of young poets who were involved with the pre-Romantic Sturm und Drang movement (a movement in literature including rousing action and high emotionalism). After a move to continue his law studies in Göttingen Kraus became friendly with a Swedish fellow student, Carl Stridsberg, who persuaded him to accompany him to Stockholm to apply for a position at the court of King Gustav III.
King Gustav's love for the fine arts had quickly become known in the rest of Europe and attracted musicians from many countries. Kraus moved to Stockholm in 1778, when he was not yet twenty-two. His first years there were not easy. It took Kraus three bitter years before the king noticed him. Finally Kraus was appointed vice-Kapellmeister of the Royal Swedish Opera and director of the Royal Academy of Music.
One of Kraus’s Swedish partners was Johan Henric Kellgren, a poet who produced an adaptation of Voltaire’s tragedy Olympie, for which Kraus composed an overture, a march, four interludes and an epilogue. The tragedy is set in ancient Ephesus and tells of the ill-fated love between Olympie, daughter of Alexander the Great, and Cassandre, the king of Macedon.
The overture begins in the manner of a French Baroque overture with a slow introduction featuring dramatic motifs and dotted rhythms. Olympie was premiered at the Dramaten Theatre in Stockholm in January 1792, just over two months before King Gustav III was assassinated. Shortly before, Kraus had produced a setting of Bellman’s poem Öfver Mozarts död (On Mozart’s Death), and his own days were by then sorely numbered. Kraus died of tuberculosis in December of that year.
CHAMBER CONCERTO: Jonathan Leshnoff was born on September 8, 1973 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He attended Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Conservatory concurrently, earning bachelor's degrees in anthropology and music. He went on to receive Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Maryland, respectively.
The Baltimore-based composer’s works have been performed by more than 60 orchestras worldwide in hundreds of orchestral concerts. He has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. Leshnoff is a professor of music at Towson University.
Leshnoff writes music that is emotionally powerful and musically accessible. He has written regularly in the big genres of classical music including symphonies, concertos, oratorios, and string quartets. “My aesthetic is to breathe new, invigorating life into time-honored traditions and forms,” he says. His Chamber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was commissioned by Shriver Hall Concerts for violinist Gil Shaham and the Knights.
“When I write a concerto,” says Leshnoff, “I have to become the instrument. It’s a double refraction: it has to go through me and then through the solo instrument. I have to become a violin and produce what it sounds like, what it likes to do.” Leshnoff has the advantage of being a violinist himself.
The orchestra for this chamber concerto is roughly the same as Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto: pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets in addition to strings.
Leshnoff has written: “The first movement is associated with the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet ה, or ‘Hey,’ which refers to the attribute ‘Malchus,’ meaning ‘summation.’ The writing is very sparse and simple: it has nothing of its own, yet it receives everything. It is really written for the soul of the violin and allows the player to dig deep. It is predicated on line and lets Gil (soloist at the premiere) hold onto a note and let the tone bloom. Slow chords unfold underneath in the orchestra as Gil soars above. The silences between the notes are very important.”
“The second movement is fast, busy, fun, and highly rhythmic. It’s all about action, but at the end, everything comes together.”
SYMPHONY 82: By 1761, Haydn’s fame as a composer and performer attracted the attention of one of Vienna’s greatest patrons, Prince Eszterházy, who engaged him as first-Kapellmeister. He remained with the Eszterházy family for some 30 years.
During this time, Haydn invented the string quartet (he wrote at least 83), evolved the form of the symphony (he wrote at least 107), and experimented with the tonal colors created by various combinations of instruments. By the mid-1780s Haydn’s fame had spread throughout Western Europe, and especially to Paris, where his symphonies were much in vogue.
Haydn's career exemplifies the status of musicians in the eighteenth century. He was born into a musical family and began musical training at the age of five. At eight he was chosen to be a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and at twenty-seven became a court musician, a position with little more stature than that of a household servant. Haydn's life was spent in this situation in which his primary duty was to lead the musicians and to compose music for the prince’s household in Vienna and at his estate in Eisenstadt. Until the eighteenth century serious music had been supported primarily by the church and royalty. However, during Haydn's lifetime the emerging middle class was creating a demand for public concerts.
In 1785 just four years before the French Revolution, a group named "Le Concert de la Loge Olympique" commissioned six symphonies from Haydn. This was the first important international commission for him and it was to be followed by others. The group, a private society of Masonic musicians, had an orchestra of sixty-five musicians, an orchestra much larger than Haydn had written for previously. The society was quite new, having been formed in 1782, and their first public concerts were only given in 1785. This symphony was premiered in Paris in 1786.
Haydn himself never appended nicknames to any of his symphonies. This symphony’s nickname “The Bear” derives from a recurring feature in the finale, in which Haydn suggests the sound of the bagpipe or Dudelsack – a low sustained drone, accentuated by a grace-note on the downbeat. It was this novelty which prompted an 1829 piano arrangement of the symphony, entitled Danse de l’Ours (Dance of the Bear). This earliest known printed appearance of this nickname is a reference to the type of music used to accompany dancing bears – a popular form of street entertainment.