Concert Insights - Scott Parkman

Dig a little deeper into the music with Scott Parkman, music director finalist and guest conductor for Mark & Maggie O’Connor with Symphony NH on September 29 & 30. Parkman explores the program, the stories behind the music, what makes compositions sound the way they do, and so much more.

Print copies of Concert Insights will be available to concert attendees per request.

Scott Parkman will present a pre-concert talk prior to the Nashua performance on Saturday, September 29 at 7pm in Keefe Center for the Arts.


Mozart, Impresario Overture

The rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri has long captured the public’s imagination.  There are apochyral legends that Salieri was responsible for Mozart’s death either by poisoning him or scheming to make him work himself to death, as depicted in the movie Amadeus.  The two composers both worked in Vienna and the natural competition was well known and put on public display in early 1786.

The emperor Joseph the 2nd invited both composers to participate in a public competition.  Each was to compose a one act opera to be performed at an a “Pleasure Festival”.  The Viennese Times reported on this event the next day.

On Tuesday, His Majesty the Emperor gave an entertainment at Schönbrunn for the most illustrious Governor General of the Imperial and Royal Netherlands and for the noble society of the region.  This building had been furnished most splendidly and ornately for a luncheon. The table under the orange trees was decked with native and foreign flowers, blossoms and fruits in the most agreeable way. While His Majesty dined with the distinguished visitors and guests, the Musicians of the Imperial and Royal Chamber let music be heard on wind instruments. After all had risen from the table, a play specially composed for this celebration with arias, titled The Impresario, by Mozart, was performed[…] in the theatre erected at one end of the Orangerie. After its conclusion, an opera buffa, likewise quite newly composed for this occasion with the title Prima la musica e poi le Parole, by Salieri was presented[…] on the Italian stage put up at the other end of the Orangerie. During this time, the Orangerie was illuminated most splendidly with many lights on candelabras and plaques.

The audience that evening responded more favorably to Salieri’s composition but Mozart was allegedly nonplussed and commented that Salieri could never rival him as a composer.  The Impresario never became part of the standard operatic repertory, probably because of an uninspired libretto, but Mozart’s music is superb. Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein concludes: “The finest piece in this occasional work is the witty Overture, which is in the purest buffo style and of which the form is full of surprises; it towers above the occasion for which it was written.”

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5

I.      Andante - Allegro con anima
II.    Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza - Moderato con anima
III.   Valse. Allegro moderato
IV.  Finale. Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace .

On June 10, 1888, Tchaikovsky wrote to his friend and benefactor Nadezhda Von Meck: “Now I shall work my hardest. I am dreadfully anxious to prove not only to others, but also to myself, that I am not yet played out as a composer… Have I already told you that I intend to write a symphony? The beginning was difficult; now, however, inspiration seems to have come. We shall see!”

First performed and conducted by Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg in 1888, the work was well received by the public, but garnered mostly negative critical reviews. This hit Tchaikovsky hard. By nature, he was sensitive to criticism and felt under-appreciated by his Russian peers. Also, the performance came on the heels of a successful three-month European tour where Tchaikovsky conducted his own music to acclaim in Germany, Prague and Paris. His doubts about the quality of the symphony were gradually dispelled, especially after a second tour in Europe in 1889. Writing to his brother, Tchaikovsky concluded: “But the most pleasing thing of all was that the symphony ceased to strike me as bad and that I have fallen in love with it again.”

The 5th Symphony is a work of mature Tchaikovsky. It sits a little before The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, follows the 4th Symphony by ten years (1878) and predates the 6th Symphony by five. The first movement starts with an 8-measure theme played by the clarinet in a sombre, minor mode. Parts of this theme are used throughout the symphony as a unifying element. The second moment features one of the most beautiful melodies in Tchaikovsky’s work, presented first by the French horn, followed by the strings and supported throughout with gorgeous echoes in the woodwinds. The third movement is a waltz - how could it not be, given Tchaikovsky’s mastery of and affection for the form. The 4th movement opens with the main theme, but now in E major, much like how Beethoven transformed the C minor opening in his 5th Symphony to C major in the last movement. With plenty of dramatic turns, the finale catapults the symphony to a rousing conclusion.