Program Notes – September 25, 2016 concert


Concert Details and Tickets – Young Musicians Concerto Competition Winners

OCofOC Inaugural Concert!
Soloists – September 25, 2016 concert


François Borne (3/10/1862-2/15/1929; another source: 8/30/1840-2/5/1920): Fantaisie Brillante sur des airs de (Bizet’s) Carmen pour flute et piano (1880s or c. 1900),

Orchestrated by Giancarlo Chiaramello (b. 2/18/1939)
World Premiere: unknown

François Borne, born Fernand LeBourne, was principal flutist of the Grand Theatre of Bordeaux and a flute professor at Toulouse Conservatory. The Carmen Fantasy is his most popular work and appears in a variety of arrangements and orchestrations, including one by Ransom Wilson based on Borne’s work but using more of Bizet’s original orchestrations. In the Fantasy Brillante, Borne balances out the more familiar melodies (Habanera, Gypsy Dance) with less familiar (but no less interesting) tunes from the 1872-1875 opera-comique (French opera with spoken dialogue, as Carmen originally was). 

Tonight’s concert features an orchestration by Giancarlo Chiaramello, an Italian conductor-composer-arranger who has written for film, TV and the concert hall and made arrangements for pop and rock musicians. His arrangement of the Bizet-Borne Carmen Fantasy was published by Kalmus in 1997.


Max Bruch (1/6/1838-10/2/1920): Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Violin, Op. 26

(1865-1866; rev. 1866-1867) — First movement
World Premiere: 4/24/1866, Coblenz, Otto von Königslow, violin soloist, composer cond.
WP (rev. version): 1/5/1868, Bremen, Joseph Joachim, soloist & dedicatee (who also helped with the revisions), Karl Martin Rheinthaler, cond.

Bruch, who wrote altogether three violin concertos, dedicating the first and third to Joachim, sold his No. 1 (the most popular of the three) to a music publisher but kept an extra copy for himself. However, he eventually was forced by dire conditions during World War I to give it up to a sister piano-duo team, who subsequently decided to keep the manuscript for themselves, telling Bruch they had sold it and he was to receive payment soon. But Bruch never did and so died penniless in 1920. Meanwhile, the sisters actually got around to selling the manuscript to Mary Flagler Cary, an heir to the Standard Oil fortune and philanthropist, who included it in her extensive music collection currently residing in the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City.

The first movement, Vorspiel: Allegro moderato, is a “Prelude” (to the second movement, to which it is normally linked in a full presentation of the concerto) that begins and ends with a melody taken up by the flutes, then the solo violin, which also has short cadenzas. All of this frames two main themes: the first dramatic, the second more lyrical.


Fryderyk Chopin (2/22 or 3/1/1810-10/17/1849): Concerto No. 2 in F Minor for Piano, Op. 21

(1829-1830; rev. 1830)—Third movement
World Premiere: 3/17/1830, Warszawa (Warsaw), composer, piano soloist

Dedicated to one of the many women in Chopin’s life, this concerto is actually the first one of two he wrote but was published after his actual second concerto (in E minor, Op. 11). This was due to a delay in preparing the orchestral parts of this concerto (Chopin never was fully comfortable with any instrument outside of the piano). He himself premiered the concerto on the same program as the premiere of his Fantaisie Brillante in A Major on Polish Airs for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 13—the program being his Warsaw debut. He was to give three more concerts there, the final one featuring the premiere of his “No. 1” in E minor, before leaving the Polish capital (and Poland) forever. The reason for his departure: Polish audiences simply grew bored with him (becoming “old hat” at the ripe old age of 20!). So he tried his fortune abroad, finding a terrific haven in Paris. He always intended to return to his native Poland, but tuberculosis cut short his life. Besides the original, Chopin made arrangements of this concerto for piano solo, piano and string trio, and piano and string quartet. 

As for the dedicatee, she was Countess Delfina Komar-Potocka, some three years his senior, a former student of his who subsequently became his friend, for whom he also wrote (and dedicated) the Waltz in D-flat Major (traditionally, No. 6, but in reality No. 16), Op 64, No.1, better known as the “Minute” Waltz. Although noted for her looks, intellect and artistry, she was unhappily married to a Count (hence becoming a Countess) whom she eventually divorced. She was in touch with Chopin to just two days before his death. Yet it was another woman, Constantia Gladkowska, a young singer, who inspired the second (slow) movement, Larghetto. She was one of his true unconsummated loves.

The very Polish rondo third movement, Allegro vivace, is filled with animated mazurka rhythms and is a virtuosic tour de force for the pianist. But the orchestra is not entirely devoid of interest: at one point, the violins are instructed to play with the wood of their bows (col legno). But all in all, this concerto truly is a showcase for the pianist from start to finish.


Felix Mendelssohn (2/3/1809-11/4/1847): Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Piano, Op. 25

(1830-1831) — Second and third movements
World Premiere: 10/17/1831, Munich, composer, soloist (all-Mendelssohn program)

Mendelssohn “wrote” this concerto in his head while in the Italian portion of his journey (1830) but didn’t actually set it down on paper until he reached Munich, where he wrote it in three days (1831), and where it received its World Premiere later that fall. Those three days in Munich were very busy for the young Mendelssohn: he wrote the work around a schedule that otherwise was consumed by “making sheep’s eyes,” as he phrased it (in a letter to his sister Fanny), at a baron’s daughter, Delphine von Schauroth, whom the composer said everyone “adored … Ministers and counts trot around her like domestic animals in the hen yard.” With this inspiration, it was nonetheless amazing he found any time to write it. His Concerto in A Minor for Piano and Strings (1822) and both Concertos for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1823, 1924) all precede this concerto, while his Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 40, and one in C minor (incomplete) follow it.

The Andante movement, which normally links from the first movement (not played here), has the usual A-B-A’ form. Afterwards, a stately fanfare marked Presto, first without piano, then with it, directly links to the third movement, Molto allegro e vivace, an animated rondo that exudes a highly improvisatory feeling (the composer was a noted master improviser). The lyrical secondary theme from the first movement makes a return appearance just before the concerto comes to a rousing conclusion.


Camille Saint-Saëns (10/9/1835-12/16/1921): Concerto No. 1 in A Minor for Cello, Op. 33 (1872)

World Premiere: 1/19/1873, Paris, Auguste de Tolbecque, cello soloist and dedicatee

The first of two Saint-Saens cello concertos was written especially for Auguste de Tolbecque, a Belgian cellist who also played viola da gamba and built historical instruments in order to play older music more authentically. The premiere took place on a Paris Conservatoire concert, being that Tolbecque and his family were long affiliated with the Societé des Concerts du Conservatoire—whose Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, incidentally, would eventually (1967) be succeeded by the present-day Orchestre de Paris. Composers no less than the likes of Shostakovich (who wrote two cello concertos himself) and Rachmaninov regarded this concerto as the greatest ever written for the cello. But Saint-Saëns was so discouraged by the difficulties he encountered while writing it that he vowed he would never write another cello concerto—a vow he kept for thirty years, before finally relenting and writing a second concerto (in D minor), Op. 119, which remains eclipsed to this day by his No. 1.

Unlike a typical concerto, No. 1 is in a single movement, although broken up into three parts: Allegro non troppo, which begins with a single chord from the orchestra, followed by the soloist: a most unusual way to begin a concerto, which usually starts with an orchestral introduction before the soloist enters; Allegretto con moto, a minuet with muted strings and a cadenza for the cellist; and Tempo primo, a recapitulation of the opening section, but with a new theme introduced by the cello near the very end. Throughout, Saint-Saens uses the cello as a declamatory instrument as well as a musical one—and always as the center of attention.


Program Notes were prepared by Michael Rydzynski