Program Notes for Stockton Symphony Reunions Series: Vitality

(RESCHEDULED)
Saturday, March 12 – 7:00 PM
Sunday, March 13 – 2:30 PM
Atherton Auditorium

Stockton Symphony
Peter Jaffe, conductor
Caitlyn Smith Franklin, horn


Chen Yi
(b. 1953)

Sprout


Richard Strauss
(1864–1949)

Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, op. 11
Allegro—
Andante
Allegro
Caitlyn Smith Franklin, horn

intermission


Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770–1827)

Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92
Poco sostenuto—Vivace
Allegretto
Presto
Allegro con brio


Concert sponsor: Moris Senegor, M.D.
Concert co-sponsors: Sandy and Ron Van de Pol, Jan and Mike Quartaroli in honor of Phyllis and Dean Trachiotis
Guest artist sponsors: Daniel and Lynne Terry, June Church in memory of Richard Church


Program Notes by Jane Vial Jaffe

Chen Yi
Chen Yi

Sprout
Chen Yi
Born in Guangzhou, China, April 4, 1953

Chinese American composer Chen Yi writes bold, sometimes pensive or humorous compositions that seek to distill and combine the essence of Chinese and Western traditional music. Her works have been performed throughout Europe, the United States, and China, and her numerous honors include the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fromm, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations. She has been commissioned to compose for myriad orchestras, chamber groups, and soloists, including the Central Philharmonic of China, Cleveland Orchestra, Women’s Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Galway.

Having begun violin and piano studies at the age of three, Chen Yi managed to continue her music studies during China’s cultural revolution in the 1960s by practicing on a muted violin. She later served as a concertmaster and resident composer at the Beijing Opera Troupe of Guangzhou, where she started researching Chinese traditional music and Western and Chinese theory. Her studies at the Beijing Central Conservatory culminated in her becoming the first woman in China to receive the master’s degree in composition in 1986. She earned her doctorate in 1993 at Columbia University, where she studied with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky.

Chen Yi has served as Lorena Searcy Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) since 1998 and is a frequent guest lecturer and composer/advisor for many organizations. Her recent teaching endeavors have included her position as Thousand Talents Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Tianjin Conservatory of Music (2012–15). Her recent compositions range from a solo percussion work, Colors of Naobo (2015), performed by Evelyn Glennie at the Edinburgh Festival, to Thinking of My Home (2015) for treble clef choir performed by the Frontier Trail Middle School Choir in Kansas.

As a cultural ambassador for new music from the East and West and education exchange programs, Chen Yi has been involved in recent years with the programs of the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the Beijing International Composition Workshop (BICW), the Shanghai Spring Festival, the Tianjin May Festival, the China-ASEAN Music Week, the Thailand International Composition Festival, and orchestras throughout China and other Asian countries. She believes that music is a universal language, improving understanding between peoples of different cultural backgrounds and helping to bring peace in the world.

Sprout for string orchestra was composed in 1986 and first performed on May 31 of that year by the Central Philharmonic Orchestra of China, conducted by Lan Shui. Chen Yi has written of the work:

Haze and reverie and faint longing is budding from the depth of free and graceful meditation. . . . The pitch material in the piece is drawn from the Jieshi Tune of You Lan, the earliest ancient ch’in music score discovered so far, written by Qiu Ming, 494–590 BC. The thoughtful melodies, taken from the opening section, are woven together in a double canon as the recapitulation part of the piece, leaving a lasting impression after the quiet ending. In contrast to two outside sections, the middle is more animate and active.

©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for strings

Yi’s family name is Chen, her personal name is Yi. She can be referred to as Chen Yi, Chen, Dr. Chen, or Ms. Chen, but not as Dr. Yi or Ms. Yi.


Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss

Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, op. 11
Richard Strauss
Born in Munich, June 11, 1864; died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, September 8, 1949

 Franz Strauss, leading horn player of the Munich Court Orchestra, was known as one of the finest horn players in Europe. It was natural that the young Richard Strauss would show an affinity for his father’s instrument. As a youth of fourteen Richard dedicated two pieces to his father: the song “Ein Alpenhorn hör’ ich schallen” (I hear an Alphorn resounding), for soprano and piano with a fiendishly difficult obbligato horn part; and Introduction, Theme, and Variations for horn and piano. A concerto for the instrument seemed a foregone conclusion, but when Strauss completed his First Horn Concerto in 1883, he dedicated it to Oscar Franz, Dresden horn virtuoso and author of a famous method book.

Though proud of his son’s achievement, Richard’s father never played the Concerto in public, considering the recurring high notes too risky. He frequently played it in family circles, however, and even coached a student to play the Concerto in public in Munich in 1883. The first public performance with orchestra was given neither by Franz Strauss nor Oscar Franz, but by Gustav Leinhos and the Meiningen Orchestra conducted by Hans von Bülow on March 4, 1885. Strauss liked Leinhos’s tone quality, which was much like his father’s own, and he wrote to his father that Leinhos possessed what he considered a rare quality in horn players—“colossal sureness.”

 Although Strauss was only nineteen when the Concerto was completed, the work shows great originality. In three short and continuous movements, the work abandons traditional sonata form, and its themes migrate from one movement to the next in a fashion developed and exploited by Liszt and others. The opening flourish of the solo horn becomes transformed into the main theme of the rondo finale, the lyrical theme from the first movement appears in the middle of the slow movement, and the opening of the slow movement is briefly alluded to near the end of the last movement. Further, the brief rising “hunting-horn” figure introduced in the orchestra’s first section reappears throughout, most saliently in the passage that joins the slow movement and the finale. With its appealing, memorable themes and concise writing, the First Concerto fully warrants its popularity, just as it continues to challenge the best of present-day horn virtuosos.

©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings


Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born in Bonn, December 16, 1770; died in Vienna, March 26, 1827

Beethoven began composing his celebrated A major Symphony in 1811, completing it in May of the following year. He conducted the premiere in Vienna on December 8, 1813, at a crowd-pleasing concert that also featured his Wellington’s Victory and two marches played by an automatic trumpeter and panharmonicon (a colossal mechanical instrument that imitated orchestral sounds). These machines had been invented by Johann Mälzel, famous for his refinement and patenting of the metronome. Though the concert was a success both musically and financially, the Seventh Symphony could hardly compete with the program’s more spectacular companion pieces. Nevertheless, the Symphony was well received, and the Allegretto had to be encored on the spot—such repetition of individual movements even before the performance of the work was completed was a common practice in the days before recordings. The entire performance was repeated on December 12, much to Beethoven’s pleasure.

Composer and violinist Louis Spohr was present and later wrote of “Beethoven’s uncertain and sometimes ludicrous conducting.” The composer would crouch well beneath the music stand in soft passages and leap into the air for loud ones. Because of Beethoven’s advanced state of deafness these moves were occasionally ill-timed, demonstrating again that the tempos he heard in his head were hard to realize. His metronome markings have caused great debate in this regard.

The Symphony’s outward simplicity and joie de vivre mask a wealth of details that proclaim Beethoven’s sophisticated and ingenious art of construction. At the time of composition, the slow introduction was one of the longest in the repertoire. It serves to present the harmonic vocabulary for the entire Symphony—Beethoven takes third-related excursions to keys outside the home key’s normal sphere of influence. The ensuing Vivace also contains brief passages in keys quite removed from the main tonality. Another unusual feature is the Symphony’s forgoing of a true slow movement, presenting instead an Allegretto for the second movement. Beethoven outdid himself in the third movement, Presto, which is an elaboration of the scherzo-trio idea, containing not one but two “middle” sections, in the form A-B-A-B-A-coda. His brief coda alludes to the B section yet a third time as if to say jokingly, “Here we go again,” but then the movement is suddenly over.

But perhaps the most salient elements of the Seventh Symphony are rhythmic, leading Wagner to describe the work as the “Apotheosis of the Dance.” Beethoven was fascinated with rhythmic devices, sometimes to the exclusion of all other factors, including melody. A prime example occurs in the first movement in the bridge between the introduction and the Vivace, where for nine full bars the only note sounded is a reiterated E, echoed by winds and strings in prolonged suspense. The Vivace itself contains several themes, almost all permeated by the contagious germinal dotted rhythm.

The second movement, Allegretto, opens with a passage also predominantly rhythmic. The subsequent countermelodies and contrasting sections render the movement beautiful, yet the incessant rhythmic “cell” of the opening is almost always present side by side with the lyric subjects. The rhythmic momentum accumulated in the Presto and Allegro con brio is no less masterful for being self-evident. Again Wagner’s reference to the dance comes to mind. The Symphony, in fact, has been choreographed on several occasions—by Massine, Isadora Duncan, and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

To each his or her own, however: the composer Vincent d’Indy heard and imagined the Seventh Symphony as “nothing else than a pastoral symphony. The rhythm of the piece has nothing of the dance about it; it would seem, rather, to come from the song of a bird.”

With all the superlatives that are now heaped upon the Seventh Symphony, it is incredible—and smile provoking—to look back on a time when it was not so universally admired. The following appeared in the London Harmonicon in 1825 (quoted in Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective, 1953):

Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony . . . is a composition in which the author has indulged in a great deal of disagreeable eccentricity. Often as we now have heard it performed, we cannot yet discover any design in it, neither can we trace any connection in its parts. Altogether, it seems to have been intended as some kind of enigma—we had almost said a hoax.

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings


Guest Artist

 Caitlyn Smith Franklin
Caitlyn Smith Franklin

Caitlyn Smith Franklin, a native of the Chicago area, is an active Bay Area performer and teacher. She has been the principal horn of the Stockton Symphony since 2013. She is also principal horn of the Santa Cruz Symphony, utility horn with the Santa Rosa Symphony, second horn with the Monterey Symphony, third horn with Symphony San Jose, and fourth horn with Opera San Jose. Additionally, Caitlyn is a frequent substitute with the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera and Ballet and has performed on several domestic and international tours with the San Francisco Symphony. She has performed under some of the world’s best-known conductors, including Michael Tilson Thomas, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Herbert Blomstedt, and Simon Rattle.

Aside from her orchestral work, Caitlyn works regularly as a studio musician, recording with up-and-coming singer-songwriters and in recording sessions at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch for Blizzard video games. Caitlyn has performed with megastars such as Andrea Bocelli, Adele, and Phish and was even the featured hornist on the 2014 Oscar-nominated animated short film The Dam Keeper. In addition to her busy performing schedule, Caitlyn joined the music faculty at San Jose State University in 2017, where she has been dedicated to helping her SJSU music students achieve their musical goals.

Caitlyn Smith Franklin graduated summa cum laude in 2008 from the University of Miami where she earned bachelor’s degrees in music (horn performance) and biology. She subsequently earned her Master of Music degree in horn performance in 2011 and her Professional Studies Diploma in 2012, both from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music while studying under Robert Ward, principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony. During the summers, Caitlyn has also performed with the National Repertory Orchestra, the Music Academy of the West, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Brevard Music Center, and the Monteux School and Music Festival.