Robust ROSSINI / Magnificent MENDELSSOHN

February 2, 2019 @ 18:00 – 20:00
Brooklyn Theatre
c/o 13th Street & Thomas Edison
R400, R350, R310, R260, R180

Robust ROSSINI / Magnificent MENDELSSOHN
Conductor: Liam Burden
Soloists: Jan Joubert (clarinet) & Bryan Wallick (piano)

Sat. 2 Feb. 18:00 / Sun. 3 Feb. 15:00 

The GPO opens its concerts for 2019 with an interesting programme of exciting and melodious music, featuring
an “Italian” work by a German composer. Two Italian works by an Italian composer
and a ‘German’ Piano Concerto to round things off.
Not quite a Clarinet Concerto as such, the set of Variations is a fun piece, requiring
considerable virtuosity from the soloist. The brilliant young South African clarinet player, Jan Joubert
opens the concert with this showpiece.
Mendelssohn’s highly spirited, tuneful, “Italian” Symphony is next up before interval.
The South African conductor, Liam Burden makes his debut with the GPO in this concert.
In line with the ‘Italian’ theme of the concert, ‘The Italian in Algiers’ Overture
opens the second half. The grand finale is a piano concerto, ranking alongside the most
popular concerti in the classical repertoire, namely the 1st Piano Concerto in G minor by Felix Mendelssohn.

Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra – Rossini
Italian Symphony (no. 4) – Mendelssohn
Overture – Italian in Algiers – Rossini
Piano Concerto no 1 in G minor – Mendelssohn

Block A (Adult) – R400 Block B (Adult) – R310
Block A (Senior) – R350 Block B (Senior)- R260
Block C (Row P, Q, R) – R180


Brooklyn Theatre (012 460 6033)
Greenlyn Village Centre
C/o Thomas Edison and 13th Streets
Menlo Park

Programme notes:

Rossini – Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra
WRITTEN BY: Alan Beggerow

Gioachino Rossini is more well known for his operas, some of which have remained in the repertoire since they were written early in the 19th century. By the time Rossini retired from composing for the stage in 1829 when he was thirty eight years old, he was the most well known and popular opera composer in Europe.

Rossini lived until 1868 and composed a few songs, sacred music and a set of pieces in 14 volumes calledSins of My Old Age. But when Rossini began his career as a composer he also wrote a piece for clarinet and orchestra that has been popular with clarinetists and audiences ever since. He wrote Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra when he was 18 years old.

Introduction – Andante – The work begins with a loud call from the orchestra to get the listener’s attention (an effect Rossini often used in his opera overtures). The volume recedes as the soloist enters. Rossini treats the clarinet as he would an operatic diva as the clarinet plays a sweet melody. A short crescendo from the orchestra is followed by more virtuosic music from the soloist.

Theme – Allegretto – Rossini’s theme is a perky tune that challenges the articulation abilities of the soloist.

Variation I – Piu mosso – The pace quickens slightly as the clarinet embellishes the theme. A short interlude by the orchestra leads to the next variation.

Variation II – Running sixteenth notes dominate the solo part as the brisk pace is continued. Another short interlude by the orchestra leads to the next variation.

Variation III – Arpeggios, repeated notes and scales are played by the soloist in this variation as the strings play pizzicato. The interlude from the previous variation is repeated by the orchestra.

Variation IV – Largo minore – Piu mosso – A tempo – The tempo slows as the clarinet plays a soulful version of the theme. The clarinet’s range of expression and volume is showcased by Rossini in this variation. The tempo quickens in an orchestra lead up to the last variation.

Variation V – There’s a lot of notes for the soloist in this last variation as the clarinet plays at break neck speed. The orchestral interlude heard at the end of the 2nd and 3rd variation returns along with more fireworks for the clarinet. The orchestra turns silent as the clarinet plays a cadenza, after which a short coda rounds off the work with a statement by the orchestra and a rapid scale that ascends to the clarinet’s highest register.

There is some debate among musicologists whether Rossini actually composed this piece. Some contend that he wrote the theme and a student wrote the variations. Whether we shall ever know for sure or not doesn’t detract from the music itself. Whomever composed the piece wrote a sparkling set of variations for the clarinet.

Italian Symphony
WRITTEN BY: Betsy Schwarm

Italian Symphony, byname of Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90, orchestral work by German composer Felix Mendelssohn, so named because it was intended to evoke the sights and sounds of Italy. Its final movement, which is among the most strongly dramatic music the composer ever wrote, even uses the rhythms of Neapolitan dances. The symphony premiered in London on March 13, 1833.

In 1830–31 Mendelssohn, barely into his twenties, toured Italy. He had gone south from Germany to enjoy the climate and the art, both of which he apparently found satisfactory. The region’s music, however, was a different story, as Mendelssohn vented in letters to friends and relatives: “I have not heard a single note worth remembering.” The orchestras in Rome, he reported, were “unbelievably bad,” and “[i]n Naples, the music is most inferior.” Despite these negative reactions, or perhaps in hopes of erasing them, Mendelssohn began his Italian Symphony while still on tour. The piece was completed in the fall of 1832, on a commission from the Philharmonic Society of London, and the composer himself conducted its premiere. The work was a tremendous success, and Mendelssohn described it as “the jolliest piece I have so far written…and the most mature thing I have ever done.”

Despite the audible delights of the piece, the Italian Symphony was not easy in the making. Even its creator admitted that it had brought him “some of the bitterest moments” that he had ever experienced. Most of those trying times seem to have been spent with an editor’s pen in hand, looking for ways to make the piece better. In 1834, over a year after the work’s public premiere, Mendelssohn began extensive revisions on the second, third, and fourth movements. The following year he reworked the first movement, and he was sufficiently satisfied with the result to allow another London performance in 1838. Yet Mendelssohn still withheld the composition from publication and refused to permit its performance in Germany. He continued tinkering with it until he died in 1847. Four years after Mendelssohn’s death, Czech pianist Ignaz Moscheles, who had been one of Mendelssohn’s teachers and had conducted the 1838 London performance, edited an “official” edition that finally appeared in print.

Musicologists have offered many interpretations of the Italian Symphony. For example, the extroverted opening movement might call to mind a lively urban scene, perhaps of Venice. The reverent second movement likely represents Rome during Holy Week, for Mendelssohn’s letters reveal that he was impressed by the religious processions he witnessed. The third movement, a graceful minuet distantly reminiscent of Mozart, is suggestive of an elegant Florentine Renaissance palace. Neither these nor any other interpretations of the first three movements are definitive, however.

By contrast, the fourth, and final, movement needs no speculation. It depicts without a doubt a rural scene in southern Italy, for it blends two lively folk dance styles: the saltarello and the tarantella. The dances, different in rhythmic structure, are alike in general character. Both are wild and swirling, abundantly energetic (bordering on frenetic), and unquestionably Italian. In the symphony’s uninhibited finale, Mendelssohn, so deeply displeased with Italian concert music, showed his favourable reaction to the country’s folk music. He also demonstrated that Italian regional music styles could be used to great effect in an orchestral composition.

Overture L’Italiana in Algeri (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”)
Description by Rovi Staff

L’italiana in Algeri, which became Rossini’s first real smash in 1813, has maintained its place in the repertory not least because of its ever popular overture. In many ways it set the pattern for the pop-favorite Rossini overtures that followed: it features a theatrically heavy slow introduction leading into an exciting Allegro with elements of sonata form. Exceptionally, the overture is thematically linked with the opera itself (Rossini, an inveterate recycler of his own material, rarely allowed an overture to be tied too closely to any individual work). Even more exceptionally, the thematic link occurs not in the slow introduction but in the Allegro section, whose second theme is basis for act II aria “Sullo stil de’ viaggiatori.”

Felix Mendelssohn
Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25
Description by Roger Dettmer

Mendelssohn, precocious and prodigious, wrote five works for piano and orchestra between the ages of 21 and 29. He began the first of them, the Capriccio brilliant, in 1830, but did not complete it until 1832. He composed the G minor Concerto in the interim, on a visit to Munich, where his frequent companion was Delphine von Schauroth, the daughter of a baroness. “She is an artist, and very cultured, whom everyone adores,” he wrote to his cherished sister Fanny. “Ministers and counts trot around her like domestic animals in the hen yard; artists, too, and other cultivated persons….In short, I made sheep’s eyes.”
The concerto took shape in 1831 before and after morning calls on Delphine. Again to Fanny: “She composed a passage…that makes a startling effect,” without specifying which one. Felix dedicated the work to Delphine, but assured Fanny that he did not love her. But then Mendelssohn didn’t quite love his wife Cécile, either, when they were wed in 1837. Passion and joy developed later on, reversing the more common conjugal pattern.

He played the premiere himself in Munich on October 17, 1831, and often thereafter, with great success far and wide. Yet it was a performance by Liszt in Paris that made the work truly famous. A legion of young pianists took it up — so obsessively that Berlioz, in Evenings with the Orchestra, wrote tongue-in-cheek of an Érard piano on which 31 contestants played the music competitively. He claimed that the instrument refused to quit playing the music until it was chopped into pieces and burned.

While Mendelssohn’s model was the 1821 Konzertstück by Carl Maria von Weber, his indebtedness does not reduce the merits of his G minor Concerto, any more than Grieg’s indebtedness to Schumann detracted from their stylistically related piano concertos in A minor. The melodic vocabulary and harmonic syntax are pure Mendelssohn, already a master at 17 and by 22 a consummate individualist.

This fast, fiery first movement begins with an uprushing, chromatic crescendo for the orchestra. The piano enters with staccato octaves that change themselves into the principal subject. The orchestra takes over and embellishes the main theme until the piano counters with a new, palpitantly lyrical subject. Both are developed rhapsodically, followed by a proud and virtuosic reprise. A fanfare leads without pause to the second movement, an E major Andante, song-structured, of tenderness and poignance that verge on melancholy. The principal theme is sung by violas, then cellos, with bassoons and horns in support. When this ultimately fades into silence, another fanfare heralds an ebullient rondo finale, Molto allegro e vivace, whose main theme is introduced by the piano. At the close, Mendelssohn ties everything together by recalling the lyrical second subject of the opening movement.