Program Notes for May 26 2017
Bachus Illatus Charles Fernandez
Bachus Illatus tells the story of a young girl’s first costumed ball, which takes place in a huge Gothic cathedral in the 1800s on a very foggy night. The girl is full of apprehension as from her carriage she sees the cathedral rising out of the fog, but once inside, she is totally enchanted. She spends the evening dancing and observing the other costumed attendees. Later, on the ride home, she relives meeting all the wonderful people. This work was originally commissioned for Organ and Concert Band for the California State University, Northridge, Wind Ensemble and the 2010 Los Angeles Bach Festival. Tonight we are hearing the orchestral version. The title is afusion of Bach and Illatus (Latin, meaning carried or brought). If you listen closely, you will hear various allusions to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.—Charles Fernandez
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Joseph Joachim and Johannes Brahms became friends when they met in May 1853. Both men were in their early twenties, and although Brahms was an unknown, Joachim was already a celebrity—the most brilliant and promising violinist around. With music as their bond, they became close. It was Joachim who insisted that Brahms meet Robert and Clara Schumann, a visit that changed the young composer’s life. Robert wrote his last critic’s column to introduce Brahms to the public, and Clara became a confidante and a valued colleague.The violin concerto was written for Joachim. While Brahms is often considered very serious, the third movement of the concerto (in rondo form) is unmistakably jolly, filled with happy, witty themes. The spirit is that of the gypsy violinist, an allusion to Joachim’s Hungarian heritage. Thefinal march rises to a climax and then abruptly slows down before concluding with bravura.—Bill Malcolm
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
The Keyboard (harpsichord) Concerto in D minor was likely created sometime in the late 1720s or early 1730s as a transcription from an earlier violin concerto written sometime between 1714 and 1717. Bach may have been the first to write harpsichord concertos, and even those concertos are more rearranged than originally written for keyboard. With few exceptions, his 15 concertos for harpsichord are likely reworkings of compositions for other instruments. We don’t know why he made these arrangements, but they could have been training pieces for his own children. Indeed, if the historical information seems vague on this work it is because of the sketchy knowledge musicologists have of Bach’s early 18th century music. Felix Mendelssohn,
who was a champion for reviving Bach’s work, performed it in Berlin in 1832, and on at least one occasion presented it at the concerts he directed in Leipzig with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Regardless of its historical origins, the concerto remains popular today.—B. M.
Piano Concerto No.5 in E-Flat Major, Opus 73 (“The Emperor”)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Between 1795 and 1809 Beethoven wrote five piano concertos. The last is known as the “Emperor,” although the composer himself did not give it that title. Beethoven began work on this concerto in Vienna in May of 1809, while Napoleon’s army was besieging the city, and dedicated it to his exiled friend and benefactor Archduke Rudolph. While the composer wrote his other piano concertos for himself as soloist, he was by this time too deaf to perform with an orchestra. The first performance was in Leipzig the following year with Friedrich Schneider as soloist, while the Vienna première in 1812 featured the renowned virtuoso Carl Czerny. The firstmovement, which is longer than the second and third movements combined, begins with three riveting orchestral chords answered by a series of solo arpeggios The second theme is introduced, softer and more lyrical, and the two threads intertwine as soloist and orchestra build to a triumphant cadenza and resolution. The movement features an especially memorable second French horn passage.—Toni Empringham
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
In his entry on Rachmaninoff for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed., 2003), Geoffrey Norris refers to the composer’s “predilection for sumptuous harmonies and broadly lyrical, often intensely passionate melodies.” No work by Rachmaninoff illustrates that description better than the third movement of this concerto, which premièred in November of 1901 with the composer as soloist. Although he is frequently acknowledged as one of the greatest exemplars of the Russian Romantic school in the tradition of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakoff, Rachmaninoff himself described his music in more personal terms: “In my own compositions, no conscious effort has been made to be original, or Romantic, or Nationalistic, oranything else. I write down on paper the music I hear within me . . . . to make [the music] say simply and directly that which is in my heart when I am composing.” The evocative central theme, repeated three times in this movement, has been used in a number of films and popular melodies.—T.E.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Nabucco was Verdi’s first successful opera, and its third act chorus of Hebrew slaves, “Va, pensiero, sull’ ali donate” (“Go, thoughts, on wings of gold”) one of his most memorable arias. It tells the story of Jewish captives, led by the prophet Zacariah, and the initially hostile Babylonian King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), who eventually embraces their faith. While it has not enjoyed the popularity of some of the composer’s other works––Rigoletto, La Traviata, Un Ballo in Maschera, and Aida, to name a few––Nabucco has enjoyed a recent revival by the NewYork Metropolitan Opera with Plácido Domingo in the title role, one he will repeat in L.A. Opera’s upcoming season in October and November of this year. The overture, which begins with a graceful trombone chorale, introduces “Va, pensiero” as well as several other themes from the work.––T. E.
Music Director and Conductor
Maestro Brisk has been the Music Director of the Beach Cities Symphony since the fall of 1994. Up to this point, he has conducted 89 concerts with the orchestra. That has included music fromthe 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, embracing compositions by many living composers. The living composers and various soloists who have appeared with the orchestra are Southern California residents. There are so many talented musicians here, he feels there is no need to look further afield.Maestro Brisk is also active as a composer, recently writing pieces for small ensembles. Last March his Fantasy for 13 Flutes and 6 Flute Players was premièred by the ensemble Pipe Dream Flutes & Friends. On November 20, 2016, his Concerto for Trombone and Strings (previously performed by the BCS) was performed by the Topanga Symphony. And on March 31 of this year, his latest composition, Percussion Quintet, received its first performance at Moorpark College in Thousand Oaks.As for family, his son, Philip, is spending this academic year in Lausanne, Switzerland, on sabbatical. Philip’s wife, Marilyn, is working on her Ph.D. at the University of Neufchatel, only two hours away by train. Their son, Philip Anderson, is attending first grade in public school, in French. Maestro Brisk’s wife, Cathy, continues researching, studying, and writing about ancient Greek coins.
Sean Antongiorgi is 14 years old and has been a student of Dr. Linda Govel for the last five years. He also attends the Orange County School of the Arts, where he is a member of their highly selective Piano Conservatory. He made his orchestral debut following his First Place win at the Southwestern Youth Musical Festival in 2015, performing with the Festival Orchestra, Dr. Francis Steiner, Conductor. Sean has thrived under the tutelage of Dr. Govel. His recent accomplishments include First Place at the California Association of Professional Music Teachers District 3 2016 Contemporary Competition, as well as First Place at the Complete Works Audition of the 2016 Southern California Junior Bach Festival, allowing him the honor of performing as soloist with the String Quartet at the Awards Recital this past October. He recently completed Advanced Level at the Music Teachers’ Association of California Certificate of Merit, earning an exempt status in theory and all excellent scores in the performance categories.
At 16,Megan Chang is making her third appearance with the Beach Cities Symphony Orchestra. She started playing piano at age four and has been studying with Sylvia Ho since 2007. She is a five-time winner in the Southwestern Youth Music Festival Open Categories and a two-time winner in the Music Teacher’s Association of California South Bay Branch Scholarship Auditions. She also won the Composers Today State Competition twice and the
2013 Southern California State Concerto Competition. As a winner of the American Protégé International Competition in 2015, Megan earned a performance at Carnegie Hall. She has performed 20 times with the Pacific Symphony in their Class Act and Family Concerts at Segerstrom Concert Hall. In 2015, she was invited to perform her original composition in the 44th Yamaha International Junior Original Concert at Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo. Last year, she also won the Hal Leonard Carol Klose Composition Competition that enabled her to publish her own composition.
Darren Ding is a 17-year-old junior at Chadwick School. He participates in many activities at Chadwick, such as editing for the school newspaper “The Mainsheet,” singing in the high schoolchorus, and competing in the men’s varsity tennis team. Darren began piano lessons at age fourand currently studies with Anli Lin Tong. Last year with Ms. Tong, Darren was awarded Panel Honors and was selected to perform at the Panel Honors Recital at the California Music Teachers State Convention. He was the winner of the 2016 Contemporary Music Competition sponsored by the California Association of Professional Music Teachers District 3 South Bay-Santa Monica Chapter, and he represented District 3 as a state finalist at UC Berkeley, in which he was awarded Honorable Mention. Darren has also been awarded first prize for various categories at the Southwestern Youth Music Festival--some being the concerto, Latin American,complete works, and American categories. He was selected to participate in the Colburn Summer Piano Academy. Additionally, he has performed in master classes of pianists Meng-Chieh Liu and Van Cliburn winner Sean Chen. In August of 2014, Darren appeared as a soloist with the South Bay Musica Sinfonia, performing the Haydn Concerto in D Major. He has also performed in various venues in Chuzhou and Qingdao, China.
Currently a 17-year-old senior at Arnold O. Beckman High School, Elaine was recently named one of the Top 10 Orange County Artists of the Year in instrumental music as a violinist and pianist. In addition to being the concertmaster of the Beckman Chamber Orchestra, she is also the assistant concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra. In 2016, she toured with the PSYO in China and also performed at the Redlands Bowl Summer Festival after winning theRedlands Bowl Competition. Additionally, she has won top prizes in the American String Teachers Association Competition, the Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music Competition, and the Southwestern Youth Music Festival. In 2015, she performed in Carnegie Hall after winning third place in the American Protégé Piano and Strings Competition. Elaine has completed Level 10 Certificate of Merit for both instruments and currently studies with Henryk Liao on the violin and Miranda Wu on the piano.
Mr. Fernandez is an Emmy- and Annie-nominated film composer who has written the scores for many animated TV series, as well as films for Disney productions: “Little Mermaid,” “101 Dalmations,” “Aladdin,” “Doug's First Movie,” “Aladdin and the King of Thieves,” and “Bonkers and Robot Chicken.” His works for MGM have included “The Pebble and the Penguin,” All Dogs Go to Heaven II,” “Babes in Toyland,” and “Tom Sawyer.” Other works include “Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein,” and the Casper Cartoon Series, (Universal); “Toonsylvania,” (Dreamworks); “The New Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbalina,” “Jingle Bells,” and “The Tangerine Bear” (Artisan). Besides his work as a composer, Mr. Fernandez is also an orchestrator, conductor, and bassoonist. Bachus Illatus was originally commissioned by the California State University Northridge for Organ and Concert Band. It was performed at the 77thAnnual Los Angeles Bach Festival in 2010.
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