Your Colorado Symphony presents one of the great works of Romanticism with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, a meticulously structured meditation on fate in four movements. The first half of the performance offers an intimate taste of Americana as Libby Larsen’s Deep Summer Music — originally recorded by the Colorado Symphony in 2001 — evokes colorful images of sweeping plains and harvest winds. Copland’s Clarinet Concerto is made up of two movements — one slow, one fast — with the second embodying the essence of twentieth century American jazz and showcasing the Colorado Symphony’s own Principal Clarinet, Jason Shafer, as featured soloist on an evening of symphonic bliss.
Repertoire & Program Notes
LIBBY LARSEN Deep Summer Music
COPLAND Clarinet Concerto
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
Notes on the Program by Dr. Richard E. Rodda
Libby Larsen (b. 1950) | Deep Summer Music
Libby Larsen was born on December 24, 1950 in Wilmington, Delaware. Deep Summer Music was composed in 1982 and premiered in July 1982 in Minneapolis by the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Giunta. The score calls for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, trumpet, three trombones, timpani, percussion, and strings. Duration is about 8 minutes. The last performance by the orchestra took place on September 25-27, 1998, with Marin Alsop on the podium.
Libby Larsen, born in Wilmington, Delaware on Christmas Eve 1950, is one of today's most prominent American composers. She studied composition with Dominick Argento, Eric Stokes, and Paul Fetler at the University of Minnesota, where she earned her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. In 1973, she founded the Minnesota Composers Forum with Stephen Paulus, and served as one of that organization's managing composers. She and Paulus were appointed Composers-in-Residence with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1983, a position she held for four years; Larsen has also held residencies with the Colorado Symphony, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. She has served on the Music Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, "Meet the Composer" National Advisory Committee, as vice-president of the American Music Center, as a member of the ASCAP Board of Review, as a trustee of KTCA (Minnesota Public Television), as an advisor to the American Symphony Orchestra League, and as a board member of the Minnesota Composers Forum. Her awards include a composition grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, National Opera Institute Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellowship, American Council on the Arts Young Artists Award, and George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America. Among Larsen's compositions are five symphonies, five concertos, many other pieces for orchestra, chamber works (one of which, Love and Hisses for double woodwind quintet, is intended to accompany a Laurel and Hardy silent film), songs, eleven operas (her latest, Picnic , is based on William Inge's 1953 play, also made into a successful movie), and numerous choral and vocal pieces. Recordings of her music appear on the EMI Classics, Decca, Koch International, Elektra/Nonesuch, CRI, Innova, Leonarda, and Pro Arte labels. James Wierzbicki wrote of Larsen's compositional language, "Her work draws on a wide variety of stylistic models, including American popular music. The lyrical passages prominent in her compositions are typically spiced with atonal digressions; the closely packed blocks of pitches characteristic of her orchestral works are generally rooted in clearly defined and often repeated harmonic patterns."
Larsen's Deep Summer Music was composed on commission from the Terrace Mill Foundation for the Minnesota Orchestra, and premiered by that ensemble conducted by Joseph Giunta in July 1982. The composer has kindly provided the following information about the piece:
"Panorama and horizon are part of the natural culture of the plains states. On the plains, one cannot help but be affected by the sweep of the horizon and the depth of color as the eye adjusts from the nearest to the farthest view. The glory of this phenomenon is particularly evident at harvest time, in deep summer, when acres of ripened wheat, sunflowers, corn, rye, and oats blaze with color. In the deep summer, winds create wave after wave of harvest ripeness which, when beheld by the human eye, engender a kind of emotional peace and awe: a feeling of abundance combined with the knowledge that this abundance is only as bountiful as nature will allow.
"Deep Summer Music attempts to capture musically what is described above. Built into the score are modulating percussion and string patterns over which soar a broad string melody. A solo trumpet recalls the presence of the individual amidst the vastness of the landscape."
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) | Clarinet Concerto
Aaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900 in Brooklyn, New York and died on December 2, 1990 in North Tarrytown, New York. The Clarinet Concerto was composed in 1947-1948 on commission from Benny Goodman and premiered on November 6, 1950 over the NBC Radio Network with Goodman as soloist and Fritz Reiner conducting. The score calls for strings, piano, and harp. Duration is about 17 minutes. The concerto was last performed by the orchestra on January 6 & 9, 1994, with Bil Jackson playing the solo and Morton Gould conducting.
In 1947, Copland was sent to South America by the State Department as a good-will ambassador for the United States. He carried with him not just the greetings of the government, but also a commission to compose a clarinet concerto from Benny Goodman, then at the height of his career as "The King of Swing." In addition to his mastery of jazz, Goodman was also a concert artist of considerable accomplishment: he commissioned Béla Bartók to write the Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano in 1938, played the Mozart Concerto with the New York Philharmonic two years later, and made commercial recordings of music by Stravinsky, Gould, and Bernstein. Copland worked on Goodman's Concerto in Rio de Janeiro, and later admitted that "some of this material represents an unconscious fusion of elements obviously related to North and South American popular music. For example, a phrase from a then-popular Brazilian tune, heard by the composer in Rio, became embedded in the secondary material [of the first movement]." The slow opening movement was written in Rio (is there a tinge of homesickness in its bittersweet mood?), and the Concerto was finished at Tanglewood late the following summer. Goodman gave the premiere with the NBC Symphony and Fritz Reiner on a network radio broadcast of November 6, 1950.
Like Copland's 1927 Piano Concerto, the Clarinet Concerto is disposed in two movements — slow–fast — which, in this work, are connected by a solo cadenza. Though the piece largely grew from the populist expression of Copland's post-1936 works (i.e., El Sálon Mexico), Arthur Berger noted that some of the Clarinet Concerto's episodes that "evoke the sharp-edged, controlled, motoric style of Goodman's old sextet are often the ones recalling most strongly the stark, dissonant devices that gave Copland the reputation for being an esoteric in the early 1930s." The Concerto's movements also reflect the two essential elements of Goodman's popular music — sentimental blues and hot jazz. In his characteristic, plain-spoken manner, the composer wrote of the Concerto, "The first movement is simple in structure, based upon the usual A–B–A song form. The general character of this movement is lyrical and expressive. The cadenza that follows provides the soloist with considerable opportunity to demonstrate his prowess, at the same time introducing fragments of the melodic material to be heard in the second movement. The overall form of the final movement is that of a free rondo, with several side issues developed at some length. It ends with a fairly elaborate coda in C major."
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) | Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia and died on November 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg. The Fourth Symphony was composed between April 1877 and January 7, 1878, and premiered in Moscow on February 22, 1878 by the Orchestra of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein. The score calls for pairs of woodwinds plus piccolo, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings. Duration is about 45 minutes. Marcus Lehninger led the orchestra for the last performance of the work on March 17 & 18, 2017.
The Fourth Symphony was a product of the most crucial and turbulent time of Tchaikovsky's life — 1877, when he met two women who forced him to evaluate himself as he never had before. The first was the sensitive, music-loving widow of a wealthy Russian railroad baron, Nadezhda von Meck, who became not only the financial backer who allowed him to quit his irksome teaching job at the Moscow Conservatory to devote himself entirely to composition, but also the sympathetic sounding-board for reports on the whole range of his activities — emotional, musical, personal. Though they never met, her place in Tchaikovsky's life was enormous and beneficial.
The second woman to enter Tchaikovsky's life in 1877 was Antonina Miliukov, an unnoticed student in one of his large lecture classes at the Conservatory who had worked herself into a passion over her professor. Tchaikovsky paid her no special attention, and had quite forgotten her when he received an ardent love letter professing her flaming and unquenchable desire to meet him. Tchaikovsky (age 37), who should have burned the thing, answered the letter of the 28-year-old Antonina in a polite, cool fashion, but did not include an outright rejection of her advances. He had been considering marriage for almost a year in the hope that it would give him both the stable home life that he had not enjoyed in the twenty years since his mother died, as well as to help dispel the all-too-true rumors of his homosexuality. He believed he might achieve both these goals with Antonina. He could not see the situation clearly enough to realize that what he hoped for was impossible — a pure, platonic marriage without its physical and emotional realities. Further letters from Antonina implored Tchaikovsky to meet her, and threatened suicide out of desperation if he refused. What a welter of emotions must have gripped his heart when, just a few weeks later, he proposed marriage to her! Inevitably, the marriage crumbled within days of the wedding amid Tchaikovsky's searing self-deprecation.
It was during May and June that Tchaikovsky sketched the Fourth Symphony, finishing the first three movements before Antonina began her siege. The finale was completed by the time he proposed. Because of that chronology, the program of the Symphony was not a direct result of his marital disaster. All that — the July wedding, the mere eighteen days of bitter conjugal farce, the two separations — postdated the actual composition of the Symphony by a few months. What Tchaikovsky found in his relationship with this woman (who by 1877 already showed signs of approaching the door of the mental ward in which, still legally married to him, she died in 1917) was a confirmation of his belief in the inexorable workings of Fate in human destiny.
After the premiere, Tchaikovsky explained to Mme. von Meck the emotional content of the Fourth Symphony: "The introduction [blaring brasses heard immediately in a motto theme that recurs throughout the Symphony] is the kernel of the whole Symphony. This is Fate, which hinders one in the pursuit of happiness. There is nothing to do but to submit and vainly complain [the melancholy, syncopated shadow-waltz of the main theme, heard in the strings]. Would it not be better to turn away from reality and lull one's self in dreams? [The second theme is begun by the clarinet.] But no — these are but dreams: roughly we are awakened by Fate. [The blaring brass fanfare over a wave of timpani begins the development section.] Thus we see that life is only an everlasting alternation of somber reality and fugitive dreams of happiness. The second movement shows another phase of sadness. How sad it is that so much has already been and gone! And yet it is a pleasure to think of the early years. It is sad, yet sweet, to lose one's self in the past. In the third movement are capricious arabesques, vague figures which slip into the imagination when one has taken wine and is slightly intoxicated. Military music is heard in the distance. As to the finale, if you find no pleasure in yourself, go to the people. The picture of a folk holiday. [The finale employs the folk song A Birch Stood in the Meadow.] Hardly have we had time to forget ourselves in the happiness of others when indefatigable Fate reminds us once more of its presence. Yet there still is happiness, simple, naive happiness. Rejoice in the happiness of others — and you can still live."
©2019 Dr. Richard E. Rodda
Brett Mitchell, conductor
Jason Shafer, clarinet
Preludes & Talkbacks
Preludes take place at 6:30 p.m. (FRI & SAT) and 12 p.m. (SUN) in Boettcher Concert Hall. This weekend's Preludes will be hosted by Assistant Principal Viola Catherine Beeson. Catherine will take you on a deep dive into the music, with demonstrations from the stage.
There will be a Talkback on Saturday, October 5, 2019.
Transportation & Parking
Boettcher Concert Hall is at the southwest end of the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) located at 14th and Curtis Streets in downtown Denver. It's easy to find and there are two large parking garages available within walking distance: the DPAC Garage and the Colorado Convention Center Garage. Please arrive early to ensure ease of parking and an on-time arrival. With numerous other events happening at the DPAC all the time, parking fills up quickly. Late arrivals will be seated during the first available break. We strongly encourage alternate forms of transportation.
Find directions, a map, garage information, construction updates, and more:
FAQ - Know Before You Go!
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