Program Notes for Stockton Symphony Reunions Series: Brilliant Gems
Saturday | November 13, 2021 | 7:00 pm
Sunday | November 14, 2021 | 2:30 pm
Peter Jaffe, conductor
Rodolfo Leone, piano
Fanfare for the Common Man
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 22
Rodolfo Leone, piano
Symphony No. 1 in E minor
Allegro, [ma] non troppo
Daniel and Lynne Terry
Estate of Pamela Kitto
Guest artist sponsors:
Dr. and Mrs. Francis Ghidoni
Zeiter Eye Medical Center – In Memory of Henry Zeiter, M.D.
Piano tuning by Weiner Piano Service
Program Notes by Jane Vial Jaffe
Fanfare for the Common Man
Born in Brooklyn, New York, November 14, 1900; died in North Tarrytown, New York, December 2, 1990
In 1942 conductor Eugene Goossens asked eighteen American composers each to write a fanfare as “a stirring contribution to the War effort”—these fanfares would begin the concerts of the Cincinnati Symphony during the 1942–43 season. Copland completed his fanfare in November 1942, finally settling on the unusual title Fanfare for the Common Man. “It was the common man, after all,” wrote Copland, “who was doing all the dirty work in the war and in the army. He deserved a fanfare.”
Dramatic percussion rhythms introduce the Fanfare’s memorable main theme, played by three trumpets in unison. Instruments are added in a cumulative fashion with the fullest texture—four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, and tam-tam—reserved for the final chord.
The Fanfare for the Common Man was first performed by the Cincinnati Symphony on March 12, 1943. The piece was soon played everywhere—for inaugurations, sporting events, television series, occasions marking space exploration, groundbreaking ceremonies—and, naturally, by all sorts of ensembles. It amazed Copland that even jazz and rock stars wanted to perform it—the Rolling Stones, Woody Herman, tenor saxophonist Gary Anderson, and the group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer have all adapted it for their own concerts. Copland still preferred the original version, which he himself later quoted and developed in his Third Symphony.
—©Jane Vial Jaffe
(See above for scoring.)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 22
Born in Paris, October 9, 1835; died in Algiers, December 16, 1921
A child prodigy whose natural musical abilities rivaled Mozart’s, Saint-Saëns possessed a score-reading facility and digital dexterity at the keyboard that dazzled those who came into contact with him throughout his life. Nevertheless he opted for the life of a composer rather than that of a concert pianist, limiting his public performances almost exclusively to his own works. He premiered all five of his piano concertos at the keyboard.
Saint-Saëns composed his Second Piano Concerto in only seventeen days in 1868 as part of a program to display Anton Rubinstein as a conductor to the Parisian public, who knew him as a virtuoso pianist of Liszt’s stature. Saint-Saëns, who played the piano part, wrote of the May 13 premiere in the Salle Pleyel, “Not having had the time to practice it sufficiently for performance I played very badly, and, except for the scherzo, which was an immediate success, it did not go well. The general opinion was that the first part lacked coherence and the finale was a complete failure.”
Despite the initial reaction, the Concerto has become Saint-Saëns’s most popular and widely acclaimed work in this genre. Liszt wrote a detailed critique to Saint-Saëns saying that the work as a whole “pleases me singularly,” and regretted that as “an old disabled pianist” he could not appear himself in Paris.
Saint-Saëns’s deviation from the conventional fast–slow–fast sequence of movements is one of the work’s most striking features. The first movement, much admired by Liszt, opens with a piano cadenza—Bach-like at first—that initiates a fantasia-like movement rather than a traditional sonata-form movement. The tranquil theme that follows the long introduction was derived from Gabriel Fauré’s Tantum ergo for voice and organ, which Fauré had shown to his teacher Saint-Saëns in the midst of working on the Concerto. Of course the movement does not “lack coherence,” as is evident by tracing various thematic transformations, but the first audience’s reaction may have reflected the composer’s non-Classical manipulation of these themes. The return of certain material, for example, appears only in the closing cadenza.
Instead of a slow movement, Saint-Saëns placed a “scherzo” second, the rhythm of which Liszt found “piquant” and which owes much of its fairyland quality and form to Mendelssohn. Several prominent timpani passages offer a glimpse of Saint-Saëns’s orchestrational prowess.
The closing movement is an irresistible tarantella, more Classical in form than the preceding movements. Bravura and technical skill are combined with inspiration. The driving triplets and trilling piano patterns against a chorale-like background create novel effects, and the whole builds to one of the repertoire’s most dazzling finishes.
—©Jane Vial Jaffe
Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, cymbals (optional), harp, and strings
Symphony No. 1 in E minor
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, April 9, 1887; died in Chicago, Illinois, June 3, 1953
During the late nineteenth century Little Rock became known as the South’s “Negro Paradise” because of the many opportunities available to blacks. Black-owned businesses proliferated and an 1890s survey showed dozens of cobblers, dressmakers, upholsterers, confectioners, teachers, and ministers, as well as six lawyers, five physicians, and one dentist, her father, Dr. James H. Smith, who believed so strongly in education that he founded several schools. Florence’s mother was an elementary school teacher and pianist, and the family enjoyed an intellectual, art-filled middle upperclass life. That began to change with the “Jim Crow” laws of the 1890s, but precocious, talented Florence was one of the few sent to prestigious northeastern colleges, in her case the New England Conservatory in Boston.
Entering in 1903, Florence studied organ and education there but also showed an interest in composition. She was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship by the illustrious George Whitefield Chadwick to study with him privately. Like several New England composers who were interested in creating music with indigenous American elements, he had been stimulated by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, who set an example in his New World Symphony and other works. Both composers served as inspiration to Florence. At age nineteen she graduated from the Conservatory having completed the usual four-year degree programs in just three—and she was the only student that year to receive two degrees–in organ and teaching.
Florence returned to teach in Little Rock, sharing the prevailing mission of privileged blacks to give back to the community. Four years later her father died and her mother liquidated all their assets and “disappeared” back to her native, more accepting Indiana. Florence moved to Atlanta to become head of the music department at Clark University (now Clark Atlanta University). She returned to Little Rock in 1912 and married Thomas Price, the lawyer who had helped her mother sell her goods, and began raising a family. She taught locally and composed her own teaching pieces.
The Prices probably would have stayed in Little Rock, but racial violence led them to move to Chicago in 1927. Florence had already made some ties there by taking summer courses at the Chicago Music College. She became active in the most important classical music organization for blacks, the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM). Through the NANM she met prominent performers, critics, and composers, and her composing career took off. Several firms published her piano pieces and her popular songs.
Thomas Price’s work tapered off during the Depression, and Florence began to accompany silent films on the organ in order to help the family survive. Her husband became angry and abusive, they divorced in January 1931, and she was granted custody of their two daughters. That same month Florence began composing her Symphony in E minor. She entered it the following year in the Rodman Wanamaker Competition, sponsored by Robert Curtis Ogden Foundation and the NANM to offer prizes to African American composers. The Symphony won the $500 first prize, and her other entries won recognition as well.
Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and champion of American composers, took great interest in Price’s E minor Symphony and decided to perform the work on the orchestra’s opening series at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair “Century of Progress Exhibition.” Meanwhile Price’s fame was spreading and in order to keep up with her commitments she enlisted friends to help copy out the orchestral parts. One of these friends, pianist Margaret Bonds, who was to perform as a soloist with the orchestra on the same program, later said, “During the cold winter nights in Chicago, we used to sit around a large table in our kitchen, manuscript paper strewn around. . . . When we were pushed for time, every brown-skinned musician in Chicago who could write a note would ‘jump-to’ and help Florence meet her deadline.”
The Symphony’s performance was a huge success, and Price was called out many times to take a bow. It was a momentous occasion—the first time a large-scale work by a black woman composer was played by a major American orchestra.
Price’s growing recognition included performances of her art songs and spiritual arrangements in recitals by the great Marian Anderson, even on the nationally broadcast Bell Telephone Hour radio program. As Price’s music was being performed throughout the United States in the early 1950s, she also received international attention. John Barbirolli, conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in England, sent a telegram in 1951 asking her to compose a concert overture based on African American spirituals. That spring he indeed performed the work—now lost—but Price was unable to hear it owing to ill health. She planned another trip to Europe in 1953, centered around an award she was to receive in Paris, but fell ill again and died after ten days in the hospital.
Most of Price’s nearly three hundred works were performed during her lifetime, but many remained unpublished and many were lost. Fortunately, in 2009 a number of her manuscripts and other papers were discovered in an abandoned, dilapidated, vandalized house in St. Anne, Illinois—including two violin concertos and her fourth symphony. That discovery together with recent recordings and excellent scholarship by Rae Linda Brown have helped to refuel interest in her music.
Following the standard four-movement format, Price’s Symphony adopts the same E minor key as Dvořák’s famous New World Symphony, and likewise infuses the music with elements from black spirituals and dances—such as pentatonic (five-note) scales and judicious syncopations—without quoting them directly. The first movement begins with a syncopated bassoon solo that is later used as a countermelody to the surging pentatonic main theme. Price’s contrasting second theme opens up a luminous tranquility. Contrapuntal textures abound in the development, followed by a shortened recapitulation that builds to a stormy conclusion.
Price’s slow movement begins like a hymn, intoned by a brass choir, which suggests her own experience as an organist. Again she relies on the pentatonic scale for her melody. Flutes and clarinets answer the brass phrases in a call-and-response technique—another connection to her church background. The whole unfolds in a three-part (ABA) form.
The third movement, Juba Dance, shows Price’s roots in the syncopated rhythms of the “pattin’ juba” folk dance, which traditionally involved foot-tapping, hand-clapping, chest- or shoulder-patting, and thigh-slapping to the accompaniment of fiddle and banjo. Price used the juba as the basis for several of her works. Here the juba is in rondo form—a refrain interspersed by contrasting episodes. The slide whistle adds to the movement’s lighthearted character.
Price’s energetic finale also exhibits dancelike and rondo characteristics. Its propulsiveness has much to do with its constant rippling three-note figures in 6/8 meter. After a brief pause the movement culminates in a whirlwind blaze of sound.
—©Jane Vial Jaffe
Scored for 2 flutes doubling piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, cymbal, bass drum, triangle, large and small African drums, crash cymbals, wind whistle, celesta, cathedral chimes, orchestral bells, and strings
The brilliant twenty-nine-year-old Italian-born pianist Rodolfo Leone, whose career is supported by the Amron-Sutherland Fund for Young Pianists at the Colburn School, was the first-prize winner of the 2017 International Beethoven Piano Competition Vienna. Described as “a true sound philosopher” (Oberösterreichische Nachrichten), Rodolfo released his debut album on the Austrian label Gramola in May 2018. The all-Beethoven disc features two pillars of the piano repertoire: the Hammerklavier Sonata and the Waldstein Sonata. His playing has also been described as having “impeccable style” and “absolute technical control” (Il Nuovo Amico).
Rodolfo’s recent seasons include a collaboration with James Conlon and LA Opera and debuts with the San Diego Symphony (Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1) conducted by Michael Francis, Pasadena Symphony (Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21) with conductor David Lockington, and Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra (Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”) with Sascha Goetzel; he also performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in Walt Disney Hall under the baton of Xian Zhang. In May 2019 he gave a recital tour in Austria, culminating in a performance in Vienna at the Brahms-Saal of the Musikverein. He also performed recitals in Los Angeles and Naples, Florida, and appeared on the chamber music series Le Salon de Musiques in Los Angeles. As a 2018–19 Performance Today Young Artist in Residence, Rodolfo’s live recordings were broadcast nationally throughout the United States.
A native of Turin, Italy, Rodolfo made his orchestral debut in 2013 performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento (Italy). He toured Italy with that orchestra the following year performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Rodolfo made his North American debut in 2014 performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Toronto Concert Orchestra. Since then, he has performed with, among others, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra with Stéphane Denève and the Colburn Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall as well as recitals at Festival Napa Valley and the Soka Performing Arts Center. He has also performed chamber music with Lynn Harrell, Fabio Bidini, Andrew Schulmann, and the Viano String Quartet.
Rodolfo has performed extensively throughout Europe, North America, and China. These performances include debuts in venues such as the Musikverein in Vienna, Steinway Hall in London, the Music Hall of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Politeama Theatre in Palermo, the Mozart Concert Hall of Accademia Filarmonica and Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova in Italy, and the BASF Gesellschaftshaus in Germany. A winner of several major piano competitions, Rodolfo was awarded top prizes at the 2014 Toronto International Piano Competition and the 2013 Busoni International Piano Competition. Pianist magazine described his concerto performance during the 2017 International Beethoven Piano Competition as a “communion with the orchestra” that “was raptly convincing . . . robust and joyful.”
Currently based in Los Angeles where he teaches at the Colburn School, Rodolfo holds both a Master of Music degree and an Artist Diploma from Colburn, where he studied with Fabio Bidini. He previously studied at the Hans Eisler School of Music Berlin and at the G. Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro, Italy.
For more information visit www.rodolfoleone.com.