classics series

Classics Series
Maestro Jung-Ho Pak’s true passion is conducting Brahms.
The orchestra thrives on compositions that challenge.
They’re perfectly matched for the great composer’s
complex, extremely heartfelt symphony, written at the
zenith of his career. The intriguing passacaglia is masterly
woven throughout the program, which also premieres a
new composition by Brett Abigaña.
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Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra
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Center Stage
April 6 & 7, 2013
Inside One of the Most Intriguing Art Forms
Jung-Ho Pak, Conductor
Heather Goodchild Wade, Violin
Laura Manko, Viola
t today’s concert we invite you to take a tour through the history of music over three
centuries courtesy of a simple idea called a passacaglia. We’ll discover how this very
old and ingenious form of variation can give birth to complex and sophisticated ideas
by composers from the Baroque period up to today. We’ll hear how Bach and Handel used this
form to build ornate variations and how composers following them have used the passacaglia
to meld the past with their own musical languages.
The passacaglia has had an especially rich history spanning more than four hundred years.
Its name is of Spanish origin and means “walking through the streets.” In the 16th century, the
passacaglia was a dance. Musicians could improvise variations and play them in different
instrumentations, but most passacaglias were written for keyboards such as the organ
or the harpsichord. A form closely related to the passacaglia is the chaconne;
the two terms are often used almost interchangeably.
Musicians have taken special delight in the art of variation,
repeating a theme over and over again with increasing amounts of
embellishment and ornamentation. Variation not only allows
the composer to display great compositional flair; but it
also calls for considerable technical virtuosity on the
part of the performer. In a passacaglia, the varied
theme is in the bass, and the embellishments are
in the upper voices. The Pachelbel Canon is
probably the best-known example for this
particular technique.
Today, you’ll hear four very different
approaches to the passacaglia, and
we hope you will delight in the
genius and beauty that inspires
each presentation.
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor,
BMV 582
Johann Sebastian Bach
(Arr. Leopold Stokowski)
Passacaglia, Op. 1
Anton Webern
World Premiere
Passing Acquaintance
Brett Abigaña
(After George Frideric Handel and
Johan Halvorsen)
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
Johannes Brahms
Allegro non troppo
(fast, but not too fast)
Andante moderato
(moderately slow)
Allegro giocoso (quickly, merrily)
Allegro energico e passionato (quickly, energetically, passionately)
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Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra
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The Music
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor
Johann Sebastian Bach
Over time, passacaglias and chaconnes became
longer and more complex.
Johann Sebastian
Bach’s (1685-1750)
The Chaconne,
the Mount
Everest of violin
playing, is the
last movement
of the Partita
in D minor for
unaccompanied violin.
The Passacaglia is one of
the most grandiose works in
Bach’s voluminous output for the organ. It has
been orchestrated several times before by famous
musicians such as Ottorino Respighi and Leopold
Stokowski, whose arrangement you will hear
Passing Acquaintance
Brett Abigaña
We commissioned Brett Abigaña to create a new
interpretation of George Frederic Handel’s (16851759) passacaglia. Bach and Handel were born
in the same year in the same part of Germany,
but they never met. While Bach spent his entire
career in Germany, Handel left his native country
as a young man, lived in Italy for several years
and then settled in London. His passacaglia
was originally in part of a suite for harpsichord;
Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen transcribed
it for violin and viola. Halvorsen’s work serves as
the basis for Abigaña’s new piece.
Passacaglia, Op. 1
Anton Webern
The classical and early Romantic masters (Haydn,
Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann) did
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not write any
When Johannes
Brahms began a
serious study of
Baroque music,
interest in the
form revived.
His magnificent
passacaglia from the Fourth Symphony, which
you will also hear today, served as a model for the
young Anton Webern (1883-1945), who wrote this
piece 23 years after the Brahms’ symphony.
A native of Vienna, Webern would become
one of the greatest musical innovators of the
20th century. Here, he updated the time-honored
Baroque variation form by ingeniously stretching
the harmonic language and juxtaposing certain
chords in different ways. Like Brahms, Webern
built a large-scale form out of the brief eight-bar
units of the passacaglia theme and organized
his piece in three large sections, including a
contrasting middle section where the tonality
changes from minor to major. Yet in the character
of those sections, Webern differs strongly from his
After the 1908 premiere, critic Elsa Blumenfeld
wrote in one of the Viennese newspapers:
The composition, surprising in its curiosities
of tonal combinations and their progressions,
nevertheless convinces through the depth of
the moods evoked. Nothing appears accidental,
nothing forced by a mania for originality; least
of all is anything conventionally imitated. The
moods are felt, the sounds heard. Especially
characteristic is the instrumentation; its original
tone colors and novel mixtures of instruments,
some of which assume a solo function, indicate
that everything is invented orchestrally, rather
than having been converted from a piano sketch
into an orchestral score.
Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra
A World Premiere g
andel and Halvorsen. Almost two centuries
separate these two great composers, but they
are linked forever by a musical “collaboration”
which transcends time. We had an idea. We wanted to create
something new that would bridge three centuries. This piece,
Passing Acquaintance, premieres today.
The story begins in Germany with Baroque composer George
Frideric Handel (1685-1759). He created Harpsichord Suite in
G minor; the last movement is a passacaglia. A century later,
Norwegian composer and violinist Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935)
breathed new life into Handel’s passacaglia by arranging it as a duo
for violin and viola.
“Halvorsen greatly elaborated and expanded the orchestration,”
says Maestro Pak. “It is very different from Handel’s original. Using
a modern language, Halvorsen made the piece relevant for his
audience. We wanted to do the same – demonstrate how an old
form like a passacaglia can be a framework for new ideas.”
We commissioned an extremely talented composer, Brett
Abigaña, for the project and gave him a few parameters.
The basic structure and composition of the solo parts had
to remain intact. The composer was absolutely free to
create a new accompaniment and orchestral transitions
around them.
“The result is a 21st century piece that retains the structure
and bones of the Halverson iteration, but with a daring, colorful
and still romantic approach to the work,” says Pak. “It is a story that
bridges three centuries, three countries and three sonic worlds:
harpsichord, violin/viola and orchestra.”
He adds, “One of the most exciting aspects of this orchestral
version is that it will be as challenging and stimulating for the
orchestra to play as it will be for me to conduct.”
In fact, Maestro Pak is so appreciative of this new composition that
he hopes it finds its way into the violin/viola concerto repertoire so
that others can experience it. “I think this work could be a wonderful
and historic addition to the classical repertoire.”
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The Music
Johannes Brahms
Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
t’s hard to put into words all the
magnificent things this work contains;
you can only listen to it over and over
again with reverence and admiration.”
Richard Strauss, who would become
a musical giant in his own right, was
only 21 years old when he tried to
describe his feelings for Brahms’ Fourth
Symphony. Since the composition
premiered 127 years ago, generations
have been similarly awestruck by this piece,
written at the zenith of this great composer’s
The symphony begins gently like a boat floating
on the water and ends with a dramatic blaze of sound,
triumphant but at the same time dark and ominous. In
between, we hear innumerable shades of emotion. The
piece is a veritable musical journey through four contrasting
movements that beautifully complement one another.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), born in Hamburg but
a resident of Vienna for most of his life, was one of the
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Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra
most historically-conscious among
amounts of embellishment and
the great composers. He knew the
music of the past better than anyone
The passacaglia theme is
and made references not only to the
extremely brief (only eight notes);
generation immediately preceding
therefore, the variations follow
him but also to the music of more
each other rather quickly. Instead
distant eras.
of perceiving each as a separate
The tender opening Allegro soon
entity, we hear the large-scale form
gives way to more energetic musical
that emerges from the well-planned
utterances and ends with a sequence grouping of the single units. At the
of harmonies typical in early music.
beginning, we perceive a steadily
The slow movement also contains
rising line as the instrumental voices
sonorities from bygone times. In
layered on top of the passacaglia
the third movement, designated as
bass become more and more
Allegro giocoso (“fast and joyful”),
elaborate. After reaching a grandiose
three instruments that were silent
climax, the music becomes calmer,
in the first two movements join the
and the notes of the bass theme
orchestra: the piccolo flute, the
begin to move twice as slowly as
contrabassoon and the triangle, a
before. The slower variations include
small percussion instrument that
a haunting flute solo. Another section
doesn’t appear anywhere else in the
has prominent clarinet and oboe
composer’s music.
parts. There’s also a magnificent
Brahms’ homage to the Baroque
passage for three trombones. This
is the most evident in the last
is immediately followed by the recall
movement. The composer
told friends he took a
movement from Bach’s
It’s hard to put into words all
Cantata No. 150, written
the magnificent things this work
in passacaglia form, as his
contains; you can only listen to it
inspiration. It’s also clear
over and over again with reverence
that he studied Bach’s organ
passacaglia, as well as The
and admiration.” Richard Strauss
Chaconne (named after
another form of variation) for
violin, which he transcribed for piano of the movement’s beginning and
(left hand only). Inspiration aside,
the energetic ending as Brahms
Brahms considerably expanded on
masterfully combines the passacaglia
Bach’s models for repeating a theme
theme with the opening melody of
over and over again with increasing
the first movement.
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The Artists
Heather Goodchild Wade,
Heather Goodchild Wade has been
Principal Second Violin with the CCSO
since 2005. She also performs with the
New Bedford Symphony Orchestra.
She received her Bachelor of
Music in Violin Performance from the
University of New Hampshire and her
Master of Music in Orchestral Studies
from the Chicago College of Performing
Arts at Roosevelt University.
She lives in Providence with her
husband, Scott, and children, Sadie (3)
and Siduri (1).
Favorite CCSO Memory: Tan
Dun’s Concerto for Water with guest
percussionist Christopher Lamb (Water
Impressions 2008). “It is such an
amazingly imaginative and musicallyconvincing work.”
Laura Manko,
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Laura Manko has been Principal
Viola with the CCSO since 2011. She
also performs with ME2 Chamber
Orchestra, the Atlantic Symphony
Orchestra, the Haffner Sinfonietta and
the Boston Harp Trio.
She and composer Abigaña share
a connection: Boston University. She
received her Master of Music in Viola
Performance from the university’s
School of Music and is currently on
the faculty of BU Tanglewood Institute.
This spring, she will receive her Artist
Diploma from BU.
Favorite CCSO Memory: Celebrate
with Yo-Yo Ma (2012). “It was such
an amazing feeling to share the stage
with such an incredible performer and
humble human being.”
Brett Abigaña,
Music authority Tim Reynish named
him one of the 19 most influential
woodwind composers. Mozart and
Beethoven also made the Reynish list.
Composer Brett Abigaña isn’t on his
way. He’s very much arrived.
Violist David Samuel, violinist Carla
Leurs, The Destino Winds, ALEA III
and The Afiara String Quartet have
commissioned and performed his
expressive music. The United States
Naval Academy Band, The United
States Army Field Band and Soldiers’
Chorus have called upon the composer
as well. He has written several
concertos, chamber music for strings
and winds, song cycles and numerous
pieces for orchestra and symphonic
In addition to his composing
schedule, The Juilliard School graduate
is currently on faculty at Boston
University (where he received his
Doctorate of Musical Arts) and Boston
University Academy. He is an affiliated
artist with Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and Associate Director of
the Boston Composers’ Coalition, a
non-profit collaborative organization
dedicated to the creation, performance,
education and dissemination of new
After many years, Maestro Pak and
Abigaña reconnected for this project.
At age twelve, the composer was a
member of the horn section in the
Disney Young Musician’s Symphony
Orchestra under the direction of
Maestro Pak.
Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra
dining guide
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