Gemma New
Gemma New

La Consagración de la Primavera

20 - 22 de abril de 2023

GEMMA NUEVO lleva a cabo

BORODIN Danzas polovtsianas
KATHERINE BALCH Concierto para violonchelo | Estreno mundial
STRAVINSKY El Rito de la Primavera

"Hay música allí donde hay ritmo, como hay vida allí donde late el pulso", escribió Stravinsky en uno de sus cuadernos de bocetos para El Rito de la Primavera. This quote sums up the program for this weekend. From the World Premiere by Katherine Balch, who captures the magic of everyday sounds to the dazzling orchestration and rhythmic creativity on display in Danzas polovtsianasa la innovadora obra de Stravinsky Rito de la primaveraEn la música de la década de los ochenta, una de las piezas más influyentes del siglo XX, el ritmo, el pulso, la experimentación y la emoción desempeñan un papel fundamental en las tres piezas.

Borodin's Danzas polovtsianas muestra el interés del compositor por la ópera y las historias populares. Químico de profesión, Borodin veía la composición como un pasatiempo que le distraía de su profesión principal, y esta obra no fue una excepción. Basada en el poema del siglo XII "La epopeya del ejército de Igor". Danzas polovtsianas cuenta la historia de un heroico príncipe ruso del siglo XII que se defiende de las tribus nómadas invasoras. Disfruta de su creatividad rítmica y su deslumbrante orquestación.

Then, immerse yourself in the magic of everyday sounds in the World Premiere of Katherine Balch’s Cello Concerto. In describing her compositional techniques, the San Francisco Chronicle describes her as “some kind of musical Thomas Edison- you can just hear her tinkering around in her workshop, putting together new sounds and textural ideas.” She invites audiences into a sonic world characterized by imagination, discovery, and textural lyricism.

Por último, concluimos el concierto con una de las piezas musicales más influyentes del siglo XX, la innovadora obra de Stravinsky Rito de la primavera. Escrita en dos grandes secciones, "La adoración de la tierra" y "El sacrificio", las estructuras musicales de ambas secciones están formadas en torno a muchos patrones rítmicos repetitivos u ostinatos y fragmentos de melodías de diferentes canciones populares rusas y lituanas. Considerada a menudo como el epítome del siglo XX, no querrá perderse la pieza que, literalmente, provocó un motín a gran escala durante su estreno en 1913 en el Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Únase a nosotros después de los conciertos del jueves y el viernes para conocer a los músicos. Tendrá la oportunidad de hablar con los músicos de la Sinfónica de Dallas en un ambiente informal de hora feliz y aprender más sobre los miembros de la orquesta.

2301 Flora St.
Dallas, TX 75201

Gemma New

Gemma New

Principal director invitado

Dolores G. & Lawrence S. Barzune, M.D. Presidente

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Zlatomir Fung, violonchelista

Zlatomir Fung


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Notas del programa

By René Spencer Saller

Premiere: November 16, 1890, St. Petersburg; Eduard Nápravnik, conductor

Last DSO Performance: February 3-5, 2010; Rei Hotoda, conductor

Like Tchaikovsky, who was seven years younger, Borodin was born in Saint Petersburg and died unexpectedly at age 53. The two composers knew each other somewhat but traveled in different circles. Borodin, a prominent professor of chemistry, moonlighted as a member of the Moguchaya Kuchka, or “Mighty Handful”: five influential composers who dominated Saint Petersburg’s musical culture from the mid-1860s until the early 1880s. Besides Borodin, “the Five,” as they were often called, consisted of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussorgsky, César Cui and Mily Balakirev. Only Balakirev had the luxury of composing full-time; the others had day jobs. Borodin, the illegitimate son of a Georgian prince, published major treatises on acids and aldehydes.

“I do not seek recognition as a composer for I am somehow ashamed of admitting to my compositional activities,” the research chemist wrote in a letter. “For me this is a relaxation, a pastime, an indulgence that distracts me from my principal work.”

After Borodin’s death from a sudden brain aneurysm, a monument was erected in Saint Petersburg. The statue honored his scientific achievements—his music was admired by connoisseurs but still mostly unknown to the general public. His most ambitious work, Prince Igor, remained unfinished at his death. Even though Borodin didn’t live to complete the opera, he was alive in 1879, when Rimsky-Korsakov conducted a performance of its climactic Act II closing number, Polovtsian Dances.

Borodin’s friends Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov relied on their memories and the late composer’s towering piles of papers to complete Prince Igor, a monumental effort at which Borodin had been plugging away, on and off, for the past 18 years. The world premiere of the full opera took place on November 4, 1890, at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.

Una escucha más atenta

Especially for an amateur composer, Borodin had remarkably strong melodic instincts, a knack for vivid orchestration, and a disciplined work ethic. Like all his best work, the score for El príncipe Igor enlivens a staunch nationalism with exotic, even mildly subversive touches. Based on a scenario by Vladimir Stasov, Borodin’s self-penned libretto involves a medieval Russian prince who is defeated by a tribe of Tatar invaders, the Polovtsians, and held captive—although treated as an honored guest—until he makes a daring escape.

Prince Igor, Borodin dryly observed, is “essentially a national opera, interesting only to us Russians, who love to steep our patriotism in the sources of our history, and to see the origins of our nationality again on the stage.” A dedicated researcher, he studied the culture of the region, particularly its songs and dances, derived from a diverse mixture of influences and folk traditions. His musical portrait of the Polovtsians, epitomized by The Polovtsian Dances, incorporates not only authentic Caucasian tunes but also Moorish melodies by way of North Africa and the Middle East.

In its original context, as a ballet sequence, The Polovtsian Dances closes Act II of El príncipe Igor. For this hook-happy show-stopper, Khan Konchak presents a menu of sensuous splendors available to the prince once he consents to stop fighting the Polovtsians. As a parade of sultry concubines and catamites sashay and shimmy for the barbarian chief, along with his court and captives, Borodin tempts the ear with a seductive array of dances: ambiguously ethnic (or “Orientalist,” as postcolonial critics might argue); rich in orchestral color and harmonic interest; rhythmically complex but still conducive to graceful human movement.

In addition to serving as an exhilarating concert opener, as it does here, The Polovtsian Dances inspired some of the music in the 1953 musical Kismet, which turned the tantalizing woodwind-sung main theme into “Stranger in Paradise,” a monster Broadway hit that enjoyed even greater success when the musical was repackaged as a star-studded MGM movie. Crooned by pop idols, hummed in countless showers, whistled on the way to work, Borodin’s music is much more famous than the man who created it. Anonymous ubiquity: the hallmark of a true classic.

This is the world premiere performance.

The winner of the 2020–21 Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome, Balch was nominated for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Career Advancement Award by violinist Hilary Hahn. Balch, who earned advanced degrees in music from Yale and Columbia, is currently a visiting assistant professor of composition at the Yale School of Music. Her work has been commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the London Sinfonietta, and Ensemble Intercontemporain, among many other prominent orchestras and ensembles.

Dubbed “some kind of musical Thomas Edison” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Balch constructs distinctive sound worlds unique to each new composition. The prolific young composer engineers an eclectic but efficient sonic code, precisely calibrated to the needs of a particular project, incorporating everything from toy instruments to tuned crystal water goblets, earthenware pots, and pianos prepared according to painstakingly detailed instructions involving color-coded graphs and elaborate symbols.

In the score for Balch’s new Dallas Symphony Orchestra co-commission whisper concerto, every element of the sound is mapped to the minutest detail, right down to images of all the specific objects that she used to modify the strings of the prepared piano. She provides specific instructions for most of the other instruments, too, whether it’s col legno battuto bowing for the strings, which requires the musician to strike the strings with the wooden part of the bow normally held by the fingers, or a passage where the cello’s bow is swapped out for a bamboo chopstick. Elsewhere she calls for nontraditional variations on traditional techniques such as pizzicato or flutter tonguing. In some glorious version of an afterlife, John Cage and Henry Cowell are surely smiling.

Composed in 2022, whisper concerto is true to Balch’s style in that it sounds at once perfectly idiomatic and utterly strange. Beautiful—sometimes even conventionally tonal—melodies commune lovingly with shameless noise. Virtuosity gives way to entropy only to catch its breath and come back weirder and wilder, transformed by the volatile power of orchestral collaboration. Shards and fragments of free jazz mysteriously reassemble themselves, against all odds, into a peculiar chorale.

“The end of my concerto deals with elements of Ligeti’s noise-based cadenza, but in a different, more tonal context,” Balch explained in a recent interview with Rita Fernandes of El Strad revista.

One challenge that she confronted while composing her cello concerto was maintaining some kind of fruitful equilibrium between the solo instrument and the orchestra. ‘The cello’s low register can be difficult to balance, and I really wanted to honor the integrity of the instrument’s tessitura,” she told Fernandes. “It’s never a battle between cello and orchestra. I want them to fit together in a way that provokes intimacy between them.”

Habla el compositor

“whisper concerto is named after the bristling, agitato ‘whisper cadenza’ of György Ligeti’s cello concerto. Like Artifacts, my concerto for violin and orchestra, this piece is not meant as a showcase for cello alone, but for the orchestra as a whole, which reacts to and augments the soloist.

“whisper concerto is a working out of several musical contradictions I find expressively intriguing: how can an andante be agitato? presto, dolcissimo? How can a cadenza play (and be playful) with the evolving demands and expectations of performer virtuosity? How can a simple chorale become the shadow of a desperate, fluttering, noisy scorrevole? In folding together these musical opposites, I hope to have captured some of the kinetic virtuosity of Zlatomir’s playing, for whom this concerto is dedicated, along with his kindness, playfulness, gentleness of spirit, and warmth. —Katherine Balch

Premiere: May 29, 1913, Paris

Last DSO Performance: July 1, 2017; Jaap van Zweden, conductor

Without the efforts of some crucial creative partners, Stravinsky’s iconic ballet Le Sacre du printemps (“The Rite of Spring”) would not exist in its current form—or perhaps at all.

Among the Russian composer’s most essential collaborators were three of his fellow countrymen: the painter and archaeologist, Nicholas Roerich, who helped develop the two-part scenario and to whom the score is dedicated; the choreographer and impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who commissioned it for Les Ballets Russes; and Vaslav Nijinsky, the insurgent young choreographer whose savage kinetic language may have actually provoked the riot for which Stravinsky’s music is credited.

Stravinsky was in his late 20s and still relatively unknown when he began working with Diaghilev. The proud young composer almost passed on the opportunity after Diaghilev was late to their first meeting. Just as Stravinsky was about to slip out the street exit, Diaghilev hurried to stop him. “I’ve often wondered if I’d opened that door,” Stravinsky told his biographer, “whether I would have written The Rite of Spring.

A Pagan Sacrifice

Sometime in 1910, while polishing the score of his first Diaghilev commission, The Firebird, Stravinsky was distracted by “a fleeting vision, which came to me as a complete surprise.” According to his own account, he imagined “a solemn pagan rite [wherein] sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring.”

Instead of pursuing this idea immediately, he finished El Pájaro de Fuego and began his next ballet, the folk-inflected, pathos-drenched Petrushka. It wasn’t until July 1911 that he resumed work on what eventually became El Rito de la Primavera (with the subtitle “Pictures from Pagan Russia”). He and Roerich hashed out the story and discussed potential dance movements. That September, back at his family’s estate in Ustilug, Stravinsky was eager to plunge into the score. “I’ve already started composing,” he wrote. “I’ve sketched the prelude, and I’ve gone on and also sketched the ‘Divination with Twigs’; I’m terribly excited! The music is coming out fresh.”

He continued to work on it the following winter, in Switzerland, finishing the first act in late February. In a letter to a friend he exclaimed, “it’s as if 20 years, not two, have passed since the composition of Firebird!” That March he traveled to Monte Carlo and played the first part of the score for Diaghilev and Nijinsky as a piano reduction. They’re “wild about it,” he boasted to his mother.

Pierre Monteux, who would later conduct the infamous premiere, wasn’t so favorably impressed. “I was convinced he was raving mad,” the Frenchman confessed. “The very walls resounded as Stravinsky pounded away, occasionally stamping his feet and jumping up and down…My only comment at the end was that such music would surely cause a scandal.”

Riot Act

After completing the orchestration in spring 1913, Stravinsky traveled to Paris to oversee the rehearsals. The dancers and musicians found the piece so daunting that an unprecedented number of practice sessions were scheduled. The exotic tonalities and erratic rhythms notwithstanding, the dress rehearsal went well.

The actual premiere was a different story. The opening bassoon solo—written entirely above middle C—upset a very vocal contingent of the audience. Almost immediately, the patrons were shouting, blowing whistles and shoving one another. Because the dancers couldn’t hear the orchestra over the fracas, they fell out of sync. Diaghilev screamed from the wings and Stravinsky panicked, but Monteux soldiered on. He was, in Stravinsky’s approving assessment, as “impervious and nerveless as a crocodile.” “It is still almost incredible to me,” the composer later remarked, “that he actually brought the orchestra through to the end.”