here - Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Please note that Pierre Boulez has withdrawn from these concerts due
to illness. The CSO welcomes Cristian Macelaru, who has graciously
agreed to conduct. Please note that Bartók’s Divertimento for String
Orchestra replaces Messiaen’s Chronochromie.
One Hundred Twenty-Second Season
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti Music Director
Pierre Boulez Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus
Yo-Yo Ma Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant
Global Sponsor of the CSO
Thursday, March 7, 2013, at 8:00
Saturday, March 9, 2013, at 8:00
Tuesday, March 12, 2013, at 7:30
Cristian Macelaru Conductor
Yefim Bronfman Piano
Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
Piano Concerto No. 2
Allegro molto
Yefim Bronfman
Divertimento for String Orchestra
Allegro non troppo
Molto adagio
Allegro assai
The Song of the Nightingale
CSO Tuesday series concerts are sponsored by United Airlines.
This program is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Comments by Phillip Huscher
Claude Debussy
Born August 22, 1862, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.
Died March 25, 1918, Paris, France.
Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
he year Debussy returned to
Paris from Rome—where
he unhappily served time as the
upshot of winning the coveted Prix
de Rome—he bought a copy of
Stéphane Mallarmé’s The Afternoon
of a Faun to give to his friend Paul
Dukas, who didn’t get beyond the
preliminary round of the competition. Eventually Dukas would
establish his credentials with The
Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but by then
Debussy was already famous for his
Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun.
By 1887, Stéphane Mallarmé had
begun hosting his famous gatherings every Tuesday evening in his
apartment, where his daughter
Geneviève served the punch.
Debussy sometimes dropped in at
89, rue de Rome (an unfortunate
reminder of a city he had happily left) to partake of the punch
1892–October 23, 1894
First performance
December 22, 1894; Paris,
First CSO
November 23, 1906,
Orchestra Hall. Frederick
Stock conducting
and the lively exchange of ideas,
and in time he and Mallarmé
became friends. In 1898, he was
among those first notified of the
poet’s death.
Mallarmé’s poem, The Afternoon
of a Faun, was published in 1876,
in a slim, elegantly bound volume
with a line drawing by Edouard
Manet on the cover. We don’t
know when Debussy first thought
of interpreting Mallarmé’s faun
and his dreams of conquering
nymphs, nor to what degree he and
Mallarmé discussed the prospect.
As late as 1891, Mallarmé was
still contemplating some kind of
dramatized reading of his text,
and perhaps Debussy was meant
to fit into that scheme. Debussy
began sketching his music in
1892. In 1893 and again in 1894,
announcements promised “Prélude,
Most recent CSO
February 26, 2011,
Orchestra Hall. Esa-Pekka
Salonen conducting
three flutes, two oboes and
english horn, two clarinets,
two bassoons, four horns,
two harps, cymbals, strings
performance time
10 minutes
CSO recordings
1976. Sir Georg Solti
conducting. London
1990. Sir Georg Solti
conducting. London
interludes et paraphrase finale” for
detractors, yet even his put down—
The Afternoon of a Faun, but the full “It’s as much a piece of music as
orchestral score Debussy finished
the palette a painter has worked
on October 23, 1894, contained
from is a painting”—suggests an
only the prelude.
understanding that Debussy was
Mallarmé first heard
this music in Debussy’s
apartment, where the
composer played his
score at the piano. “I
didn’t expect anything
like this,” Mallarmé said.
“This music prolongs the
emotion of my poem,
and sets its scene more
vividly than color.” The
first orchestral performance, on December 22,
was an immediate
success (despite poor
horn playing), and an
Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé by Manet
encore was demanded.
Mallarmé was there; he later said
constructing a piece of music in a
that Debussy’s music “presents no
radical way. (Saint-Saëns’s words
dissonance with my text: rather,
recall Mallarmé’s own famous,
it goes further into the nostalgia
often misunderstood mission “to
and light with subtlety, malaise,
paint not the thing but the effect it
and richness.”
produces.”) Toward the end of his
Revolutionary works of art are
life, Maurice Ravel remembered
seldom granted such instant, easy
that “it was [upon] hearing this
success. Inevitably, there was some
work, so many years ago, that I first
question about the score’s program- understood what real music was.”
matic intentions, to which Debussy Pierre Boulez would later date the
responded at once: “It is a general
awakening of modern music from
impression of the poem, for if music Debussy’s score.
were to follow more closely it would
Saint-Saëns might well have
run out of breath, like a dray horse
noted how the now-famous opencompeting for the grand prize with
ing flute melody, all sinuous curves
a thoroughbred.”
and slippery rhythms, resembles the
The music itself seems to have
most popular melody he would ever
ruffled few feathers, despite the way write, “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix”
it quietly, yet systematically, over(known in English as “My heart
turns tradition and opens new fron- and thy sweet voice”) from Samson
tiers in musical language. Camille
and Dalila. But where Dalila’s
Saint-Saëns was one of the few
aria is rooted in D-flat major and
common time, Debussy’s portrait
of the faun eludes our attempts
to tap our feet or to establish a
key; its insistence on the interval
from C-sharp to G-natural argues
repeatedly against the E major key
signature printed on the page.
The whole of the Prelude can be
considered a series of variations on
a single theme, and we can simply
listen to the ways it changes, almost
imperceptibly, and grows. There’s a
more conventional middle section in D-flat, urgently lyrical and
more fully scored, which raises the
music to fortissimo for the only
time in the piece and then sinks
down again with the sounds of the
flute melody.
Debussy uses the orchestra with
extraordinary finesse, drawing such
rich and provocative sounds from
his winds (including three flutes, an
english horn, and four horns) that
we scarcely notice the absence of
trumpets, trombones, and timpani.
The only percussion instruments
necessary are two antique cymbals, each allotted just five notes
apiece—a triumph of artistry over
In 1912, Sergei Diaghilev, who
would soon create a notorious
scandal with Stravinsky’s Rite of
Spring, produced a ballet from
Debussy’s music. It was danced and
choreographed by the celebrated
Nijinsky, who claimed never to
have read Mallarmé’s text, and
who caused a sensation by foisting
heavy-duty eroticism on Debussy’s
delicate score. Béla Bartók
Born March 25, 1881, Nagyszentmiklós, Transylvania
(now part of Romania).
Died September 26, 1945, New York City.
Piano Concerto No. 2
n 1939, when the Chicago
Symphony gave the United States
premiere of Béla Bartók’s new
piano concerto, the composer was
still living in his native Hungary.
For several more months, he would
agonize over whether to leave
his homeland and move to the
United States to escape the threat
of fascism. Although Bartók had
played his Second Piano Concerto
some twenty times following its
Frankfurt premiere in 1933, he
had refused to give the Budapest
premiere as a political protest, and
now he let the United States premiere go to his student, Storm Bull.
Americans weren’t quick to recognize Bartók’s importance. After he
did move to this country in 1940,
October 1930–October 9,
First performance
January 23, 1933, Frankfurtam-Mein. The composer
as soloist
First CSO
March 2, 1939 (U.S.
premiere), Orchestra Hall.
Storm Bull, piano; Frederick
Stock conducting
he wasn’t considered a significant
musical presence, his music wasn’t
widely played, and when he toured
the country as a pianist, he was
hardly treated like one of the indispensable giants of modern music.
Bartók began his career as a
pianist, and he was an uncommonly
gifted one, capable of playing not
only his own brilliant and challenging scores, but—especially
at first—the works of Bach,
Beethoven, and Brahms (the other
Bs). Both his parents were pianists—his mother gave lessons to
help feed her two children, and
she was Béla’s first teacher. He
made his first public appearance
as a pianist at the age of eleven,
playing Beethoven’s Waldstein
CSO performances
with composer as
November 20 & 21, 1941,
Orchestra Hall. Frederick
Stock conducting
Most recent CSO
January 11, 2005,
Orchestra Hall. Lang
Lang, piano; Daniel
Barenboim conducting
solo piano, three flutes
and piccolo, two oboes and
english horn, two clarinets
and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon,
four horns, three trumpets,
three trombones and tuba,
timpani, bass drum, triangle,
military drum, cymbals,
tam-tam, strings
CSO recording
1977. Maurizio Pollini, piano;
Claudio Abbado conducting.
Deutsche Grammophon
performance time
28 minutes
Sonata. During his student days at
the Budapest Academy (he graduated in June 1903), his friends and
teachers predicted a bright future
for him as a virtuoso pianist—his
gifts as a composer didn’t yet
merit comment.
It was the Budapest premiere
of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach
Zarathustra in 1902 that sparked
Bartók’s determination to become a
composer as well. Eventually these
two passions merged in a series of
uncompromising keyboard works,
particularly the two concertos he
wrote to play himself. (A third
concerto, composed in the last
year of his life, was written with
the full realization that he would
never perform it; it was intended
as a birthday present for his wife
Ditta, who was a fine, though less
athletic pianist.)
Both the First and Second piano
concertos are virtuosic pieces of a
kind Bartók’s fellow students at
the academy never envisioned—in
the Second, the piano rests for a
mere twenty-three measures in
the first movement. This Allegro
moves at such a rapid pace—this
isn’t just a question of tempo, but
of density of material as well—and
the solo music is so compelling,
demanding everything from racing
octave scales to entire fistfuls of
notes, that we scarcely notice that
the strings have nothing at all to
do. Bartók employs his own blend
of sonata form, which involves
a kind of mirror-recapitulation,
with the opening material reprised
in the correct sequence, but with
each theme turned upside-down
and backwards.
Like many of Bartók’s works
composed around this time (it
falls between the Fourth and Fifth
string quartets), the concerto is
designed as a grand arch form: here
two fast, related outer movements
frame a central adagio. This middle
movement, too, is a mirror form,
with broad, slow music interrupted
midway by a furious, driven presto.
(In the same paragraph, Bartók
gives us both slow movement and
scherzo.) In the slow sections, the
strings and the piano engage in
a dialogue, like Orpheus and the
Furies that Liszt heard in the slow
movement of Beethoven’s Fourth
Piano Concerto (the solo timpani
provides a high-profile running
commentary). In the fast central
section, the heart of the entire
work, Bartók coaxes fantastic
sounds from the piano, including
tone clusters which can be played
only by placing both hands flat over
the keys to cover all the notes in
the octave.
The last movement—inevitably,
in any of the composer’s big symmetrical structures—retreads the
same ground as the first, although
Bartók continually finds new things
to say. (Only the first, incisive
pounding theme is, in fact, entirely
new.) This is recapitulation in the
deepest sense, but Bartók never
evokes outright dejá vu, only the
innate, satisfying feeling of familiarity and homecoming. Béla Bartók
Divertimento for String Orchestra
fter Bartók’s death in 1945, Paul
Sacher wrote: “Whoever met
Bartók, thinking of the rhythmic
strength of his work, was surprised
by his slight, delicate figure.” Bartók
was sickly from early childhood. By
the time he began writing music
at the age of nine, he had already
suffered a number of ailments,
including eczema, pneumonia,
and curvature of the spine. When
Paul Sacher met him in 1929, the
power of Bartók’s music was widely
recognized. Sacher would soon
add to the composer’s catalog by
commissioning two major works for
his own Basle Chamber Orchestra.
The young Swiss conductor and this
delicate giant of twentieth-century
music remained close friends until
Bartók’s death.
The first of the works Sacher
commissioned from Bartók is
the landmark Music for Strings,
Percussion, and Celesta, written to
celebrate the Basle orchestra’s tenth
August 2–17, 1939
first performed
June 11, 1940
First CSO
February 21, 1957, Orchestra
Hall. Fritz Reiner conducting
anniversary in 1936. The second
is this divertimento for strings,
composed during the summer of
1939, when Bartók, at fifty-eight,
was at the height of his powers and
reputation, and Europe was at a
terrible crossroads. For perhaps the
last time in his life, Bartók was able
to write music that didn’t reflect the
world around him. Or perhaps this
divertimento was literally meant as
a diversion—an intentional escape
from a political situation that would
only get worse.
In November 1938, Sacher
asked Bartók to write something
for string orchestra, and the
following summer he offered the
composer his chalet at Saanen in
the Swiss Alps so that he could
work in peace, now more precious than ever. Sacher even had
a piano transported from Berne.
“Somehow I feel like a musician of
olden times—the invited guest of a
patron of the arts,” Bartók wrote to
Most recent CSO
November 22, 2009,
Orchestra Hall. Christoph
von Dohnányi conducting
CSO Recordings
1990. Sir Georg Solti
conducting. London
1993. Pierre Boulez conducting. Deutsche Grammophon
performance time
24 minutes
his twenty-eight-year-old son,
Béla, Jr., back home in Hungary.
Alone in this rustic cottage, with
not so much as a cloud or a newspaper to darken his days, Bartók
worked at unusual speed: he began
the divertimento on August 2 and
finished it on August 17. The very
next day, after taking time only to
write his son a letter, he began his
sixth string quartet; the piece was
well under way when he left Saanen
a week and a half later. In the
meantime, world events continued
at a frightening speed. Sacher
went to Saanen to check up on the
composer: “I found him completely
without misgivings for the future,
absorbed in his work. The news of
the political events which were so
cruelly to interfere in his life had
not yet penetrated to him.” The
day he finished the divertimento,
Bartók saw a newspaper for the first
time in two weeks. And with his
return to Hungary, he found his
life controlled by the events that
made daily headlines and his work
pushed aside by the pressing need
for self-preservation.
Just before Christmas, Bartók’s
mother died. He later wrote to a
friend, “Last summer . . . I went to
Saanen to be totally undisturbed,
so that I could write two works as
quickly as possible; I spent three and
one-half weeks there, the works got
done, wholly or in part, and those
three and one-half weeks I took
away from my mother. I can never
make amends for this. I should not
have done it.” So in the end, even
this divertimento, as untroubled as
any work Bartók wrote, was clouded
by regrets, guilt, and sadness.
he divertimento is one of
Bartók’s lightest and most
accessible scores. It picks up
the tradition of the eighteenthcentury concerto grosso—with its
alternating passages for a small
group of solo instruments and full
ensemble—and turns it into a series
of games for soloists and orchestra.
The two fast outer movements are
dancelike, their easygoing manner
disguising a wealth of ingenious
motivic development. In between
comes a powerful slow movement
with dark harmonies and a tragic
tone—an acknowledgement, perhaps, of the terrible events unfolding outside the cottage. At the end
there is calm, but not peace.
Both outer movements toy with
conventional forms. The first takes
on sonata form, though the recapitulation is more development than
restatement. The finale is a complex
rondo, with a folk-tune theme that
is convincingly transformed at
each appearance; a thorny fugato
section; a gypsy fiddler’s cadenza;
and, near the end, a mock Viennese
polka. This movement is joyful in a
way we don’t expect from Bartók,
though Paul Sacher remembered a
man that photographs don’t capture: when things were going well,
Bartók “laughed in boyish glee,”
and “when he was pleased with the
successful solution of a problem, he
actually beamed.” Igor Stravinsky
Born June 17, 1882, Oranienbaum, Russia.
Died April 6, 1971, New York City.
The Song of the Nightingale
(Symphonic Poem in Three Parts)
he Song of the Nightingale opens
with an alarming clatter that
later reminded Stravinsky of the
“rude tintinnabulation” of the
telephone in his Saint Petersburg
apartment. He always remembered
that the first telephone call he ever
made was to Rimsky-Korsakov.
(Their two families were among the
city’s first to own this “nuisance.”)
Ever since the death of his father
in 1902, young Igor had thought
of the great composer as a substitute father as well as a teacher.
Late in 1907, Stravinsky showed
Rimsky-Korsakov the preliminary
sketches for act 1 of his first opera,
The Nightingale, based on the
Hans Christian Andersen tale of a
1907–1909, 1913–14 (the
opera The Nightingale)
1916 (symphonic poem The
Song of the Nightingale)
First performances
opera: May 26, 1914; Paris,
symphonic poem:
December 6, 1919; Geneva,
First CSO
February 22, 1924,
Orchestra Hall. Frederick
Stock conducting
Chinese emperor and the singing
bird who saves him from death. His
teacher liked what he saw.
During the winter of 1908,
Rimsky-Korsakov suffered from
severe asthma attacks. He died the
following June and was buried near
Stravinsky’s father. Stravinsky continued to work on The Nightingale
and completed the first act by
the end of that summer. In the
meantime, Stravinsky met Sergei
Diaghilev, who would soon distract
the composer with several proposals,
beginning with The Firebird, which
would make them both famous.
When Stravinsky finally got back
to The Nightingale four years later,
his musical language had grown in
CSO performances
with the composer
February 20 & 21, 1925,
Orchestra Hall
triangle, tambourine, tenor
drum, cymbals, bass drum,
tam-tam, military drum,
snare drum, celesta, piano,
two harps, strings
Most recent CSO
October 26, 2002,
Orchestra Hall. Andrey
Boreyko conducting
performance time
20 minutes
two flutes and piccolo, two
oboes and english horn, two
clarinets and E-flat clarinet,
two bassoons, four horns,
three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani,
CSO recording
1956. Fritz Reiner
conducting. RCA
ways that had already altered the
course of music, and he himself was
a changed man. No longer RimskyKorsakov’s student, he was now the
composer of The Rite of Spring and
as famous as any musician alive.
Sergei Diaghilev (left) and Igor Stravinsky, 1921
Stravinsky returned to The
Nightingale at the request of the
Moscow Free Theatre. (When it
went bankrupt, Diaghilev’s Russian
Ballet agreed to produce the opera
instead.) Stravinsky was concerned
that his musical style had changed
beyond recognition since he had
finished act 1, but he proceeded
with the second and third acts,
and the work was completed in
time for the scheduled premiere in
May 1914. Two years later, when
Diaghilev proposed staging The
Nightingale as a ballet, Stravinsky
offered to prepare a symphonic
poem that Diaghilev could choreograph instead. He used music
exclusively from acts 2 and 3 of the
opera, as if to divorce himself from
his pre-Firebird, Rimsky-Korsakov
days for good. Stravinsky completed The Song of the Nightingale in
April 1917.
long with its modernist
tendencies—strong dissonances, fierce and jagged rhythms,
and an abrupt, discontinuous
style—The Song of the Nightingale
is richly colored by oriental effects,
with a particularly powerful use
of the pentatonic “black-key”
scale. Alexandre Benois, who
designed sets and costumes for
Stravinsky, recalled that he concocted highly eclectic visuals to
reflect Stravinsky’s music, which
oscillated between a “style of
authenticity,” such as the Chinese
march, and passages that “sounded
rather ‘European.’ ” The Song of
the Nightingale is a fusion of East
and West, fact and fiction, old
and new—and as such it perfectly
suggests Europe’s complex and
sometimes conflicted attitude
toward the East in the early years of
the twentieth century.
Although The Song of the
Nightingale omits the music from
the first act of the opera, it still
follows the outline of Andersen’s
tale about an emperor who forsakes
a live nightingale for a mechanical
one. The opening of the symphonic
poem—with its clanging “telephone” bells—depicts the festive
atmosphere at the palace in honor
of the nightingale, who has been
invited to sing for the emperor of
China. The nightingale is brought
in and placed on a perch (the flutes
trill and sing). Announced by a
solemn trombone, the emperor
enters to a percussive, ceremonial
Chinese march.
In the second section, the
nightingale sings (beginning
with a rhapsodic cadenza), to the
© 2013 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
emperor’s great pleasure.
More festive music from
the palace is interrupted
by the ominous arrival
of envoys from Japan,
who come bearing
a large mechanical
nightingale. The windup bird sings tirelessly
(the oboe, echoed by
flute). In the meantime,
the real nightingale flies
away, offended by the
Alexandre Benois (left) and Igor Stravinsky
emperor’s obvious delight
in her rival’s brilliant
display. (A lone trumpet,
playing a simple fisherman’s song, suggests that
the nightingale has gone
home to the seashore.)
In the third section,
the ailing emperor now
lies on his deathbed; the
mechanical nightingale
refuses to sing for him.
The real nightingale
returns and begins a
poignant song, ultimately defeating death
One of Benois’s designs for Stravinsky’s The Nightingale
and saving the emperor.
A lumbering funeral march
greets his attendants. In the closing
announces the courtiers, who have
moments, the nightingale returns
come to view their dead ruler. But
to her home by the sea. then—in a sudden, rabbit-out-ofthe-hat moment—the emperor
Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
appears, the picture of health, and