Important Update: Due to the extreme weather, the DSO has not yet started rehearsing this week’s program. Therefore, we are very sorry to announce the cancellation of our Thursday performance of Beethoven's "Pastoral".

Edo de Waart
Edo de Waart

Beethoven’s “Pastoral”

February 2 – 5, 2023

Thursday
February 02, 2023
7:30pm

Cancelled

Friday
February 03, 2023
7:30pm

Buy Tickets

Tickets starting at $23

Saturday
February 04, 2023
7:30pm

Buy Tickets

Tickets starting at $25

Sunday
February 05, 2023
3:00pm

Buy Tickets

Tickets starting at $24

IMPORTANT UPDATE
Due to the extreme weather, the DSO has not yet started rehearsing this week’s program. Therefore, we are very sorry to announce the cancellation of our Thursday performance of Beethoven’s “Pastoral”.

Ticketholders may contact us at customerservice@dalsym.com to exchange their tickets to another performance of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” or to donate their tickets.

EDO DE WAART conducts
INGRID FLITER piano

CHOPIN Concerto No. 2 in F minor for Piano and Orchestra

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F major, “Pastoral”

Having just celebrated his 80th birthday, Maestro Edo de Waart brings gravitas and expertise to the podium at the DSO. The concert features Argentenian pianist, Ingrid Fliter, known for her interpretations of Chopin, in Chopin’s virtuosic and colorful second concerto.

Followed by the ever-popular Pastoral Symphony, which Beethoven said “is more expression than painting of feeling” – an expansive and expanding walk through the countryside abounding with sounds of nature, using the many colors of the orchestra to tell a pastoral story, complete with babbling brooks, bird calls, a turbulent storm and a merry gathering.

Prepare to experience nature and love through music during this concert.


Join us after the concerts on Saturday & Sunday for Meet the Musicians! You’ll have a chance to speak with Dallas Symphony musicians in a casual happy hour setting and learn more about members of the orchestra.


Edo de Waart, conductor

Edo de Waart

Conductor

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Ingrid Fliter, pianist

Ingrid Fliter

Piano

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Program Notes

by René Spencer Saller

Chopin, whose given name was Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, on March 1, 1810, to a French father and a Polish mother. He made his concert debut as a keyboard prodigy at age eight. When he was 20 he performed a pair of farewell concerts in Warsaw and left for Vienna. In 1831 he moved to Paris, where he died 18 years later, at age 39, of tuberculosis. Although he’d been fighting off symptoms for a decade, the disease eventually won out. He barely wrote anything in his last year of life. According to some reports, he was buried, at his request, with a silver urn filled with Polish dirt, which he’d carried everywhere since leaving Warsaw.

Everything Chopin ever wrote features the piano, either as a solo instrument or in combination with other instruments, and most of his works are short and deceptively simple. Although his style often seems effortlessly lyrical, almost improvisational, he sweated over every measure. Whether he was composing nocturnes, mazurkas, sonatas, impromptus, or ballades (a genre he invented), Chopin sounded like no one else. In an age of florid virtuosos, he mastered a fleeting interiority. Sometimes his music seems to blur the boundaries between thought and action, as if it’s willing itself into existence before our very ears.

Conservative Progressive

For a talent so unique and forward-thinking, Chopin had surprisingly conservative tastes. He didn’t think much of Beethoven and ranked Berlioz, Liszt, and Schumann even lower. In fact, the only composers he truly loved were J.S. Bach and Mozart (whose Requiem Chopin requested for his own funeral).

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, is actually the first piano concerto that Chopin completed but the second (and last) that he published: it injects some Parisian je ne sais quoi into a rollicking dance from rural Poland. He composed it in 1829, when he was 20, and performed it, along with his Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, at his farewell concerts in Warsaw. Both concertos were popular with audiences at home and abroad, but Chopin, who had little interest in orchestration, preferred more intimate forms of expression. Although he remained in high demand as a soloist, he performed rarely, perhaps once or twice a year, usually choosing salons over concert halls. It probably wasn’t a deliberate strategy, but by limiting his audience, he magnified his mystique.

A Closer Listen

Consistent with genre convention, the Concerto in F Minor consists of three movements.

The opening Allegro maestoso is by turns turbulent and delicate, dominated by the pianist’s glittering passagework.

Set in A-flat major, the Larghetto boasts long-breathed, singing melodies and luminous harmonies; the brief exchange between piano and bassoon is especially poignant. Chopin confessed to a friend that the ardent, wistful mood of the central movement was inspired by Konstancja Gładkowska, a singer at the conservatory whom he loved from afar.

Chopin returns to the home key for the Allegro vivace, which contains the most fiendishly difficult passages for the soloist, as well as a feisty col legno episode for violins and violas, in which the strings are struck with the wooden part of the bow. Bristling with springy, syncopated rhythms, the finale resembles a mazurka—a nod to the composer’s beloved homeland.

About one year after his Symphony No. 6 was published, Beethoven proclaimed his devotion to nature in a letter to a woman he admired. “No one can love the country as much as I do,” the 39-year-old composer wrote. “For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.” Amid his worsening deafness, myriad health woes, ongoing career crises, and near-constant interpersonal conflict, the countryside gave Beethoven a much-needed respite from crowded, dirty, and stressful Vienna, his adopted home since late 1792. A reluctant urbanite, he zealously guarded his privacy, moving house whenever nosy neighbors eavesdropped on his music-making. During holidays in the country, he liked to wander and dawdle, basking in solitude. He finished the Sixth in the summer of 1808, in the rural spa town of Kirchengasse, in Heiligenstadt.

Feelings, Not Pictures 

Although Beethoven sneered at tone-painting, mocking his teacher Haydn for overly literal orchestral effects in Creation and The Seasons, the younger composer didn’t reject program music altogether. Like many great artists, he exploited his ambivalence, teasing out loopholes that let him investigate new ideas without compromising his aesthetic values. His notebooks for the Sixth Symphony are teeming with reminders about the uses and abuses of musical pictorialism: “All painting in instrumental music is lost if it is pushed too far”; “One leaves it to the listener to discover the situation”; “Whoever treasures any idea of country life can discover for himself what the author intends.”

Yet despite these cautious precepts, Beethoven did what he promised not to do: paint pictures. Extramusical elements abound. In addition to the long descriptive titles that accompany each of the symphony’s five movements, the first published edition of the symphony bore a rather finicky title: “Pastoral Symphony or Recollection of Country Life, an expression rather than a description.” In other words, feelings, not pictures—except there are also many pictures.

Composition and Contrasts

Beethoven composed most of his Pastoral Symphony in 1808, although it incorporates passages written years earlier. With the sharply contrasting Fifth Symphony, completed earlier that year, the Sixth finds the composer at the height of his productive middle period, where form expands to accommodate the imagination and emotional expressiveness reigns supreme.

The Sixth is unusual in Beethoven’s catalogue. It’s not only his most overtly programmatic work but also his only five-movement symphony. The Fifth is dynamic; the Sixth, except for its penultimate movement, seems to luxuriate in the Eternal Now. Whereas the Fifth states its theme with brutal directness, the Sixth eases imperceptibly into its melodies, beginning almost under its breath. Repetitions induce a proto-Minimalist, mantra-like groove. Melodies evolve slowly; harmonies seem symbiotic.

Rural Idyll

Beethoven titled the opening movement “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arriving in the country.” As biographer Jan Swafford explains in Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, the first movement offers “no drama, no feverish excitement this time. No fate. Glorious sunshine, not even a passing cloud. No suffering, no triumph, but fulfillment. Themes like folk tunes, a shepherd’s pipe, flowing rhythms. Minor keys all but banished (only three bars in minor), scarcely even a minor chord. Most of it soft. A peaceful development…. Ultimately, it is to be about stepping into holiness, about beholding God.”

In the subsequent slow movement, titled “Scene by the brook,” Beethoven revisits a sketch from an earlier holiday, in which he attempted to replicate the gushing, burbling, trickling voice of a stream. The mood is serenely ecstatic, with warm low strings and lulling cadences. The coda is punctured by strikingly accurate birdsong. In addition to distinctive calls, the three birds have symbolic value: the nightingale represents love; the cuckoo, summertime; the quail, divine providence. In the manuscript, Beethoven inscribed a note to his copyist: “Write the word Nightingale, Quail, Cuckoo, in the first flute, in the first oboe, in the first and second clarinets, exactly as here in the score.”

The “Merry gathering of countryfolk” functions as a rustic scherzo. Here Beethoven incorporated another musical idea he’d sketched out years earlier, while working on the Eroica. As Swafford recounts, “he remembered a country band he saw at a dance, the oboist who couldn’t find the downbeat, the sozzled bassoonist who kept dozing off and awoke now and then to blat out a few notes.”

Thunder and Thanks

Beethoven interrupts the expected repetition of the scherzo with the violent and jarring fourth movement, “Thunderstorm.” Storms are a staple of the pastoral tradition, but the sudden infusion of drama into what was up to this point an unusually placid affair still surprises us somehow. Like an actual storm, this movement requires no transition. It simply slices through the scherzo format like a lightning bolt slices through the sky. Beethoven reserved the timpani, trombones, and piccolo for this movement and makes a rare detour into minor-key, borderline-dissonant territory. The cellos and double basses suggest the encroaching menace; staccato violin notes mimic falling raindrops; the timpani thunders, and a flute streaks silver against a gunmetal sky.

The sun resurfaces in the radiant finale, “Shepherd’s song. Happy and grateful feelings after the storm.” Winds and horn channel distant alpenhorn calls. The meter is a mellifluous 6/8, a golden oldie for pastoral subjects; the key is almost always the Haydn-approved, tried-and-true F major. But despite those nods to convention, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony is as radically inventive as its opposing twin, the more assertively experimental Fifth Symphony. The Sixth exalts the eternal processes of gradual change, or, more exactly, the miraculous specificity born of endless repetition and regeneration.

Beethoven never had to grapple with the religious and philosophical implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution. A proud son of the Enlightenment, he understood nature as an intimation of immortality, a glimpse of the sacred. Years later, he wrote in his diary, “My unfortunate hearing does not plague me [in the country]. It is as if every tree spoke to me in the country, holy! holy!/Ecstasy in the woods! Who can describe it?”

He could.