FWCO Winter Concert
March 4, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
Nicholas Martin Hall, Texas Wesleyan University
A La Breve
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra clarinetists Stanislav Chernyshev and Ivan Petruzziello will bring artistic brio and collaborative repartee to their performance of the Concerto No. 1 for Two Clarinets by Franz Krommer. The program also includes Aaron Copland's haunting Quiet City and Beethoven's Symphony No. 8.
COPLAND – Quiet City
KROMMER – Concerto No. 1 for Two Clarinets
BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 8 in F
Kurt Sprenger, Music Director
Fort Worth Civic Orchestra
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Aaron Copland practically invented the soundtrack of America’s mythical heartland in his “frontier” ballets – Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring – and his film scores to The Red Pony and Our Town. At the other extreme, the voice of the American Big City was practically owned by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.
So if the texture of Quiet City’s urban landscape – drawn from Copland’s incidental music to Irwin Shaw’s 1939 play – was woven from the same gauzy fabric as his music of the open range, it was spectacularly effective. The play, a flop after just two previews, was a tale of two brothers in Big City New York: Gabriel Mellon, a half-Jewish, middle-aged businessman who rejected his family heritage and youthful dreams of writing poetry; and his impoverished trumpet-playing brother David, who roams the streets wondering at the thoughts of passersby. The story touched on the same themes as Shaw’s 1969 pulp novel Rich Man, Poor Man.
In Gabriel’s moments reflection and self-doubt, he hallucinates the calls of David’s trumpet. Here, Shaw’s stage directions offered Copland a blueprint for his haunting nocturnal music: “The horn is muted, sounds little, and infinitely far, like a slight wind, musical, restless, dying.”
After the show closed, Copland repurposed his stage music as a short concert work. The original music, scored for trumpet, alto sax, two clarinets and piano, lay dormant in the Library of Congress for 70 years before being resurrected and recorded a decade ago. The current concert piece for trumpet, English horn and strings has been a repertoire staple since its premiere in 1941.
Franz Krommer (1759-1831)
Concerto No. 1 in E-flat for Two Clarinets, Op. 35
Austro-Czech composer Franz Krommer was born František Kramář in Kamenice u Jihlavy, midway between Prague and Vienna. He was born three years after Mozart and died four years after Beethoven, his musical voice more closely aligned with the Classical style of Amadeus. Throughout his career, he held a series of musical posts in the service of royals of increasing rank, rising to the position of court composer to the Austrian Emperor Franz I, last of the Holy Roman emperors. An inexhaustible writer, he composed a dozen symphonies, two dozen concertos, roughly 80 string quartets, 35 string quintets and a large body of chamber music for wind instruments on which his reputation rests today.
The First Concerto for Two Clarinets dates from 1802 when Krommer was in the employ of a Viennese duke. The long orchestral introduction opens with a deceptively majestic theme, but the real fun begins when the solo duo enter on a dippy four-note chromatic stepladder in their high clarino register. Either locked together in parallel thirds, chatting in witty call-and-answer dialogue or absorbed in affable counterpoint, the cheery acrobatics never let up. Krommer’s development flits seamlessly from major to minor, but the recap feels complete without resorting to a showy cadenza.
The slow movement explores a series of minor and major keys while the clarinets stay up in the flute register. The final movement is a frisky rondo in 6/8 time based on a four-note motif related to the one that figured prominently in the first movement.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93
Conventional wisdom about Beethoven’s symphonies says his odd-numbered ones were heftier, dramatic statements while his even-numbered ones were written with a lighter touch. No dispute offered. His Eighth – Beethoven called it “my little Symphony in F” to distinguish it from his storybook Pastoral Symphony – is slighter than all his others and, in a jokey way, his most nostalgically Haydnesque. He wrote it in the winter of 1811-12, but it wasn’t premiered until late 1813 on the same concert as his monumental Seventh and Wellington’s Victory.
Its first movement explodes with a relentlessly sunny melody followed by a sequence of episodes – half a dozen in all, each one anywhere from 12 to 24 measures long – whose themes are wholly unrelated to one another. Beethoven then goes to work in the development laboratory and combines them into a combustible mix, emerging with a partial recap and a coda that ends with a whisper, not a bang. The symphony has no slow movement; instead, there’s a tick-tocking scherzo that’s either an ode to the metronome or a tribute to Haydn’s Clock Symphony.
After his First Symphony, Beethoven famously banished minuets from symphonies, but the ancient dance makes a rare comeback here in this third movement – more as parody than elegant, courtly ritual. With an ungainly intro for dancing bears or drunken sailors, an unspooling string of notes that bob up and down, a series of misplaced beats – this isn’t your Papa Haydn’s minuet. The final movement is a steeplechase sprint with loud, “wrong note” interjections and a final cadence that ends, not with a whimper, but 43 measures of unceremonious F-major bangs. There are no images of Beethoven smiling, but this comes as close to that image as you’re likely to get.