Program Notes for PICTURES

Program Notes for PICTURES

Saturday | January 21, 2023 | 7:00 pm

Sunday | January 22, 2023 | 2:30 pm

Atherton Auditorium

Stockton Symphony

Peter Jaffe, conductor

Gabriela Martinez, piano

Alex Orfaly

(b. 1974)

Sergei Rachmaninoff

(1873–1943)

Modeste Musorgsky/

(1839–1881)/

Maurice Ravel

(1875–1937)

Sol Invictus (World Premiere)

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18

Moderato

Adagio sostenuto

Allegro scherzando

Gabriela Martinez, piano

intermission

Pictures at an Exhibition

Promenade

Gnomus

Promenade

Il vecchio castello

Promenade

Tuileries

Bydlo

Promenade

Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells

Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle

Limoges: The Marketplace—

Catacombae: Sepulchrum romanum

Promenade: Con mortuis in lingua mortua

The Hut on Fowl’s Legs: Baba Yaga—

The Great Gate of Kyiv

Concert sponsors: Zeiter Eye Medical Group, Inc.

Philip and Anne Berolzheimer

Guest artist sponsors: Rita and Joe Sublett

Conni Bock

Commission sponsors: Dr. Jeffrey and Patricia Lindenberg

Piano tuning by Weiner Piano Service

Program Notes by Jane Vial Jaffe

Sol Invictus (World Premiere)

Alex Orfaly Born in Boston, Massachusetts, March 15, 1974

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2nd doubling English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, glockenspiel, chimes, crotales, crash and suspended cymbals, 2 tam-tams (high and low), bass drum with cymbal attachment, field drum with snares, triangle, vibes, wind chimes, xylophone, wood block, whip, harp, keyboard, and strings

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Born in Semyonovo, April 1, 1873; died in Beverly Hills, March 28, 1943

What more spectacular result of a psychiatrist’s cure can be imagined than Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto! Following the disastrous failure of his First Symphony in 1897 Rachmaninoff sank into depression. He began to doubt his ability to compose and the worth of making music in any way. In the grip, not of mere malaise, but of a deep clinical depression, Rachmaninoff thought his First Piano Concerto not good enough to play with the London Philharmonic Orchestra who had engaged him, yet he was totally incapable of beginning work on a new piano concerto. An influential friend arranged for him to visit Tolstoy, but far from helping, that visit brought Rachmaninoff the realization that his “god” was “a very disagreeable man.” Finally the Satins, Rachmaninoff’s relations, convinced him to see Dr. Nicolai Dahl, who had been specializing for some years in a method that involved his patients learning a kind of self-hypnosis (which in the early 1930s became known as the Coué method).A person in a suit

Description automatically generated with medium confidence  Dahl had asked what kind of composition [my relations] desired and had received the answer, “a piano concerto,” for this is what I had promised the people in London and had given it up in despair. Consequently, I heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day, while I lay half asleep in an armchair in Dahl’s study. “You will begin to write your concerto. . . . You will work with great facility. . . . The concerto will be of excellent quality. . . .” It was always the same, without interruption.

Although it may sound incredible, this cure really helped me. Already at the beginning of the summer I began to compose. The material grew in bulk, and new musical ideas began to stir in me—far more than I needed for my concerto. By the autumn I had finished two movements of the concerto: the Andante [his generic term for any slow movement, in this case the Adagio sostenuto] and the finale—and a sketch of a suite for two pianos.

Rachmaninoff saw Dr. Dahl daily from January to April 1900. Whether Dr. Dahl’s method worked, or whether the fact that Dahl was also an amateur musician illuminated their conversations, or whether Rachmaninoff’s trip to Italy that summer provided resolve, the composer completed the second and third movements of the Concerto by autumn and was persuaded to premiere them on December 2, 1900. Encouraged by their success, he added the first movement, performing the entire Concerto at a Moscow Philharmonic Society Concert on October 27, 1901. He dedicated the Concerto to Dr. Dahl, to whom he remained eternally grateful. Dr. Dahl was at least once acknowledged publicly for his contribution when in 1928 he was known to be playing viola in the orchestra of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and he was “forced” by the audience to take a bow after the performance of the Concerto.

The Concerto is a captivatingly beautiful piece, fully deserving the remarkable popularity it has achieved. Each movement opens with a passage that starts out in a key removed from the main tonality, attaining it in each case with the movement’s principal theme. In the case of the first movement, it is the piano that begins with dark chords characteristic of Rachmaninoff, linked by several commentators to the age-old Russian love of the sound of enormous bells. In a favored technique of Romantic composers, the entry of the recapitulation is embellished, here by the piano’s brilliant counterfigure.

The slow movement’s introductory passage modulates from C minor, the key of the first movement’s close, to the distant new key of E major for the main theme. The more rapid middle section of the movement might be seen as a foreshadowing of the Third Piano Concerto, in which the slow movement contains a scherzolike contrasting middle section. The exquisitely glowing close of the movement especially touched Rachmaninoff’s teacher Taneyev, who upon hearing it in rehearsal uttered the word “genius”—a word he did not use lightly.

The finale’s introduction begins in the slow movement’s key (E major), moving eventually to the home key (C minor). The composer hints at first movement materials both in the orchestral introduction and in the piano’s entry—interesting in light of the order of composition of these movements. Several times in this movement the soloist erupts in cadential flourishes—evidence perhaps of the fact that Rachmaninoff’s confidence had returned. Rachmaninoff’s lyrical gift has caused his melodies to be appropriated by many songwriters. A case in point is the almost too familiar but still alluring second theme, first played by the oboe and viola. Like the first movement, the finale contains a concealed recapitulation. The movement ends in a blaze of pianistic glory and orchestral resolve.

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, and strings


Pictures at an Exhibition A person with a beard

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Modest Musorgsky/Maurice Ravel

Born in Karevo, Pskov district, March 21, 1839; died in St. Petersburg, March 28, 1881/Born in Ciboure, Basses Pyrénées, March 7, 1875; died in Paris, December 28, 1937

Vladimir Stasov, who championed everything “progressive” and “truly Russian” in all forms of art, held gatherings of painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers at his home, and it was probably there in 1870 that Musorgsky met the lively architect, designer, and painter Victor Alexandrovich Hartmann. The great friendship that sprang up was cut short, however, when three years later Hartmann died suddenly of an aneurism. It was the grief-stricken Musorgsky who informed Stasov in Vienna by an almost incoherent letter that paraphrased King Lear: “What a terrible blow! ‘Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,’—and creatures like Hartmann must die!”

In Hartmann’s honor, Stasov organized a memorial exhibition for the spring of 1874 that featured not only watercolors and drawings, but architectural sketches and designs for jewelry, useful objects, stage sets, and costumes. The display inspired Musorgsky’s famous Pictures at an Exhibition, a piano piece that depicts ten works in the exhibition, with an eleventh “picture,” Promenade, which portrays the composer himself walking through the gallery.

Uncharacteristically enthusiastic about his progress, Musorgsky bubbled over to Stasov in a letter dated “Wednesday, some date or other in June ’74”:

Hartmann [Pictures at an Exhibition] is boiling as Boris [his opera Boris Godunov] boiled—the sounds and the idea hung in the air, and now I am gulping and overeating, I can hardly manage to scribble it down on paper. Am writing 4 numbers—with good transitions (on “promenade”). I want to do it as quickly and reliably as possible. My physiognomy [he was far from dainty] can be seen in the intermezzi. I consider it successful so far.

At this point the four he had worked on were Gnomus (The Gnome), Il vecchio castello (The Old Castle), Tuileries, and Bydlo (Cattle). He mentioned in a postscript that he wanted to add “Vitiushka’s Jews” (Vitiushka was Hartmann’s pet name), referring to two sketches, “A rich Jew wearing a fur hat” and “A poor Sandomierz Jew,” that he had lent to the exhibition. Musorgsky completed the entire composition in a single burst of twenty days, dedicating it to Stasov, whose preface to the original edition follows:

The introduction bears the title “Promenade.”

No. 1. Gnomus: Sketch [for a nutcracker as a Christmas tree ornament] depicting a little gnome, clumsily running on crooked legs.

No. 2. Il vecchio castello: A medieval castle before which stands a singing troubadour.

No. 3. Tuileries. Disput d’enfants après jeux [Quarreling of children after play]: A walkway in the Tuileries gardens with a swarm of children and nurses.

No. 4. Bydlo: A Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen.

No. 5. Ballet of Unhatched Chicks: Hartmann’s sketch of costumes for a picturesque scene in the ballet Trilby. [The exhibition catalog describes them as “canary chicks, enclosed in eggs as in suits of armor” with “heads put on like helmets.”]

No. 6. Two Polish Jews, rich and poor. [Musorgsky’s original title, “Samuel” Goldenberg und “Schmuÿle” (Schmuÿle is Yiddish for Samuel), represents his fusion of two Jewish stereotypes into one musical depiction. It has often been suppressed as derogatory in favor of Stasov’s “cleansed” title.]

No. 7. Limoges. Le marché: French women quarreling violently in the market. [Here in his manuscript Musorgsky scribbled two absurd dialogues of marketplace gossip in French.]

No. 8. Catacombae [Musorgsky included the subtitle “Sepulcrum romanum.”]: Hartmann depicted himself viewing the Paris catacombs by lantern light.

No. 9. The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga): Hartmann’s drawing depicted a clock in the form of Baba-Yaga’s hut but on fowl’s legs. Musorgsky added the witch’s flight in a mortar.

No. 10. The Heroes’ Gate at Kyiv: Hartmann’s sketch was his design for a city gate at Kyiv in the ancient Russian massive style with a cupola shaped like a Slavonic helmet.

The opening Promenade returns in various guises before Nos. 2, 3, and 5, and in a shrouded variant as the second part of No. 8, which Musorgsky inscribed: “N.B.: Latin text: con mortuis in lingua mortua [with the dead in a dead language]. A Latin text would be suitable: the creative soul of the dead Hartmann leads me to the skulls, invokes them, the skulls shine softly.” (Musorgsky used “con” instead of the proper Latin “cum” ; Ravel followed suit.)

Musorgsky quotes the Promenade again in the finale, The Great Gate of Kyiv, as if he himself has joined the grand procession in Hartmann’s rendering. Hartmann had entered what he considered his finest work into a competition for a gateway design to commemorate Czar Alexander II’s miraculous escape from assassination in 1866, but the competition was called off for lack of funds. In its original piano version, Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition had been somewhat overlooked, but it was immensely popularized by Ravel’s orchestration, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky and premiered in Paris on May 3, 1923. More than thirty others have tried their hand at orchestrating the work—among them Rimsky-Korsakov and Leopold Stokowski—yet it is still best known and beloved in Ravel’s arrangement.A person in a suit

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—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 3 flutes, 2nd and 3rd flutes doubling piccolo, 3 oboes, 3rd oboe doubling English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, alto saxophone, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, chimes, cymbals, gong, glockenspiel, ratchet, snare drum, slapstick, triangle, xylophone, 2 harps, celesta, and strings


Guest Artist Gabriela Martinez Gabriela Martinez

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez has a reputation for the lyricism of her playing, her compelling interpretations, and her elegant stage presence. Her playing has been described as “magical . . . with a cool determination, a tone full of glowing color and a seemingly effortless technique” (Los Angeles Times and “versatile, daring and insightful” (New York Times ).

Gabriela made her orchestral debut at age six and since then has performed with over 100 orchestras including the San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, San Diego, Grand Rapids, New Jersey, Tucson, Pacific, and Fort Worth symphonies; the Buffalo Philharmonic; Germany’s Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Nurnberger Philharmoniker; Canada’s Victoria Symphony Orchestra; the Costa Rica National Symphony; and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela. She has performed with Gustavo Dudamel, James Gaffigan, James Conlon, JoAnn Falleta, Michael Francis, Marcelo Lehninger and Guillermo Figueroa, among many others.

Passionate about new music, Gabriela has premiered works by many composers including Mason Bates, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Paola Prestini, Jessica Meyer, and Dan Visconti. Gabriela’s debut album, Amplified Soul, was released on the Delos label and was recognized with a Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, David Frost. 

Gabriela has performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Merkin Hall, and Alice Tully Hall in New York City and at San Diego’s Rady Shell, Canada’s Glenn Gould Studio, Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus, Dresden’s Semperoper, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, and Paris’s Palace of Versailles. She has also appeared at festivals such as the Ravinia, Mostly Mozart, Colorado, and Rockport festivals in the United States; Italy’s Festival dei Due Mondi (Spoleto); Switzerland’s Verbier Festival; the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier; and Japan’s Tokyo International Music Festival. Her performances have been featured on National Public Radio, CNN, PBS, 60 Minutes, ABC, From the Top, Radio France, New York’s WQXR and WNYC and abroad on MDR Kultur and Deutsche Welle (Germany), NHK (Japan), RAI (Italy), and on numerous television and radio stations in Venezuela.

Gabriela won first prize at the Anton G. Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Dresden and was a semifinalist at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where she also received the Jury Discretionary Award. She is a fifth-generation female pianist, who began her piano studies in Caracas with her mother, Alicia Gaggioni. She then attended he Juilliard School, where she earned her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees as a full scholarship student of Yoheved Kaplinsky. A fellow of Carnegie Hall’s Academy and a member of Ensemble Connect, Gabriela concurrently earned her doctorate studying with Marco Antonio de Almeida in Halle, Germany.