This concert is equal parts wild, inspired, exuberant, and provocative thanks to an intoxicating mix of musical stories.
MUSSORGSKY A Night on Bald Mountain 1867 | 12 mins
Mussorsky described A Night on Bald Mountain as an “(1) assembly of witches, their chatter and gossip, (2) procession of Satan, (3) vile glorification of Satan, and (4) sabbath.” This performance of the composer’s original score may surprise listeners who know Rimsky-Korsakov’s version. First this one is longer. But the most striking difference comes in the wild and savage ending and in the orchestration. Listen especially for Mussorgsky’s forthright and spare textures—they are extraordinary.
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor 1935 | 20 mins
His Second Violin Concerto is classical, modern, motoric, and lyrical. The violinist begins alone; when the orchestra enters, it is austere—there is a great sense of intimacy here. The second movement is set gently in motion with simple rhythms and when the violin enters it plays one of Prokofiev's most inspired melodies. Then comes a finale that indulges appetite for dissonance and fierce accent. This is dance music!
MOZART Symphony No. 36 in C major, K.425, Linz 1783 | 26 mins
Written in just four days, this is a grandly inventive work. For the first time, Mozart begins a symphony with a slow introduction, declamatory at the outset, then yielding and full of pathos, and cannily creating suspense. The Allegro is energetic and festive, with a touch of march about it. The second movement is in a major key, but yearns always for minor harmonies. The Minuet is courtly, and the trio, with its delicious scoring for oboe, violins, and bassoon in particular, is demurely rustic. The finale brings back the first movement’s exuberance in heightened form.
R.STRAUSS Dance of the Seven Veils, from Salome 1905 | 9 mins
In this well-known story, Salome falls in love with the prophet John the Baptist, who is held captive in the palace of Herod, her stepfather; in vain she tries to seduce him. When Herod, who lusts for her, promises anything if she will dance for him, she accepts. She dances, dropping each of her seven veils in turn. This has a calculated effect on Herod, and when she is finished dancing she demands the prophet's head. It is brought to her, she seizes it, and she kisses the lips passionately. Since its premiere, this Dance of the Seven Veils has been one of Strauss’s most popular works.
Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.