Beethoven and Stravinsky
January 27, 2018 | 8:00 pm | Keefe Center for the Arts (Parking and Directions)
Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin
STRAVINSKY Danses concertantes
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8
Kelly Hall-Tompkins, the current fiddler for Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof, performs Beethoven’s epic Violin Concerto in a concert featuring Stravinsky’s abstract ballet Dances concertantes and Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony.
Bring your group to this concert! Learn more about benefits for parties of 10 or more by visiting our group sales page.
Click on the tracks below to listen to the music on this program.
Kelly Hall-Tompkins is the current fiddler for Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof. Watch the video below for her performance of the Fiddler Rhapsody and Scherzo.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Despite the name of this work and the fact that many of Igor Stravinksy’s early pieces were explicitly commissioned ballets for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (in Paris)—Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), Rite of Spring (1913)—Danses concertantes was originally a chamber orchestra piece (1942). After shocking the world with his early ballets, he embarked on a “neoclassical” period, paying homage to the formality of the classical world with his own modern stylistic touches. In addition to this piece, other works of this period include Pulcinella, Octet for Winds, Le Baiser de la fée [The Fairy’s Kiss] written in honor of the anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s death 35 years earlier, and the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto modeled on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
Danses concertantes was commissioned by the Werner Janssen Orchestra and was choreographed two years later by George Balanchine for Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. The piece is in five movements with an overall airy and translucent sonority even in the more forte sections.
The first movement, Marche: Introduction, is recognizable as Stravinsky from the outset, with many syncopations, interjections, and a persistent staccato rhythmic drive. The horns play a fanfare midway through the movement. The second movement, Pas d’action, is filled with alternating gestures: strings and winds, loud and soft, legato and staccato. There is a calm middle section featuring strings along with flutes and oboes which provides contrast to the outer sections.
The theme and variations (Thème varié), the longest movement in the piece, introduces the theme in the winds. The four variations explore different moods and sonorities, from a horn melody accompanied by flute or string scales, to arpeggios in the strings with comments by bassoon and trombone, to a solo clarinet followed by oboe and bassoon and then by strings, to a final variation of a slow tarantella (long-short/long-short rhythm with the accent on the long notes.)
The Pas de deux fourth movement has a lyrical component in which the woodwinds play a large melodic role, occasionally interrupted by some more agitated or percussive string parts or horn and trombone fanfares.
The Marche: Conclusion is a shorter version of the opening movement which compactly brings the piece to its conclusion.
Beethoven composed his Violin Concerto in 1806 during a period in which he created many masterworks, including his Third symphony, Fourth piano concerto, and several of his most important piano sonatas, including the Appassionata.
The piano was Beethoven’s primary instrument but he had also studied the violin as a young man and had played well enough to perform in an orchestra in his native Bonn. He had his friend, violinist Franz Clement in mind when he composed this work. Clement was a gifted artist who combined flawless intonation, particularly strong bowing technique, and a prodigious musical memory. Beethoven completed this work only two days before its premier and legend has it that Clement never had a full orchestral rehearsal before playing the concerto in public. It is also alleged that Clement inserted a trick composition of his own, played upside down on the violin on one string, into the first movement of the work. While it is true that he played his novelty piece during the concert, it was performed after completion of the concerto towards the end of the evening.
The first movement begins with five notes played by the tympani. This short, short, short, short, long rhythm is central to the work and underpins, punctuates, and inspires many of the thematic elements from which Beethoven builds the piece. This rhythmic motif is played by various instruments and at different speeds throughout the opening movement. The violin writing is often in the higher range of the instrument and the themes that were introduced by the orchestra are transformed by charming, fanciful, and virtuosic embellishments. The second movement is among the most serene music that Beethoven ever composed. This movement is based on a set of variations of a ten-bar theme. The third movement is a rondo allegro which again places virtuosic demands on the soloist. This movement features rustic elements that are played with dancelike energy and is guaranteed to bring a smile.
Symphony No. 8
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Beethoven was at the height of his popularity when his 8th Symphony was premiered in February of 1814. This work is full of humor and while it shares many features of the Viennese Classical style as epitomized by Haydn, it is still recognizably Beethoven.
The first movement is written in triple meter (three notes per measure.) It begins with a lively theme that is played three times, first by the full orchestra and then by winds before being repeated by the full orchestra. An ascending line is repeated twice to introduce a waltz-like second theme which to modern ears is more reminiscent of the music of Chopin, such as the Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat major, op. 18, written 20 years after this symphony. The remainder of the movement is largely based on these two ideas but has many twists that are typical of mature Beethoven. One can hear his modern sounding use of rhythm, such as accentuating the second or third beat of a measure rather than the more traditional strong first beat, giving the work a syncopated rhythmic feeling.
The second movement is a tribute to the new technology of the metronome, which was invented in 1814 by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, a friend of Beethoven. Its regular clock-like ticking sound is a prominent feature of this slower movement but can also be heard throughout the symphony. There are even two comical windups of the metronome played as a tight cluster of notes by the full orchestra.
The third movement is the most traditional part of this symphony, following the classical period model of a Minuet dance movement. The theme is based on the waltz-like second theme of the first movement. A contrasting trio section features a rustic melody played by two horns and a solo clarinet.
The symphony concludes with a humorous take on the Viennese Classical style, following the basic sonata structure but breaking many of the rules. The movement features two themes that are introduced and developed, going beyond Haydn’s own experiments. For example, abrupt key changes abound and the expected repetition of themes fail to materialize in this melodic, up-tempo movement.
When asked why this symphony was not as popular as his 7th, Beethoven is reported to have responded “Because the 8th is better.”
Programs are subject to change. Tickets are nonrefundable. Group rates are available. Children age 5+ are welcome. Youth aged 5-15 are admitted free with an adult paying regular price, but all children must have a ticketed seat. Free youth tickets must be reserved by calling our box office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Exchanges can be made up to 24 hours before the originally scheduled concert date for a fee of $5. Handling fees are waived for subscribers. Online ticket sales are available until 4 p.m. on the day of the concert. The box office at the concert venue opens two hours before the concert.