Escales 1922 | 15 mins
Jacques Ibert was the quintessential twentieth-century Parisian composer of the early-to-mid twentieth century—cultivated but not pompous, a man who blended the “serious” with the “popular,” good-spirited and often witty. PICTURE THIS: Escales offers three colorful postcards from Mediterranean locales. “In the first movement,” he explained, “the sounds of a tarantella . . . appear against the heavy swells of the sea.” The second evokes two cities of Tunisia—Tunis and Nefta. . . . “When I travel I am interested in everything, from snake charmers to overcrowded neighborhoods.” The finale, with its “strongly marked Iberian character,” evokes Valencia, on the eastern coast of Spain.
Cello Concerto No. 1 1872 | 20 mins
The marvelous Camille Saint-Saëns was not only an extraordinary composer, he was an accomplished organist, champion of forgotten early music and of contemporary composers, an inspiring teacher, gifted writer, world traveler, and an informed aficionado of such disciplines as Classical languages, astronomy, archaeology, philosophy, and even the occult sciences. When he composed his Cello Concerto No. 1, Saint-Saëns was highly regarded in French musical circles. LISTEN FOR: This piece is rich in melodies that show off both the dramatic and lyrical aspects of the cello. The soloist leaps into the fray from the beginning, spinning out rapid triplets (a rhythmic pattern in three, like breaking down the syllables of “ham-bur-ger”). The second movement is a throwback to music of an earlier time. After a high-flying solo lick comes a finale that keeps this concerto surprising through to its very last note.
E chiaro nella valle il fiume 2015 | 23 mins
Guillaume Connesson offers these comments: This piece is inspired by Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi’s La quite dopo la tempest (The Calm after the Storm). I wanted to compose a piece that celebrated the beauty of the Italian landscape. The piece features rhythms that are constantly in flux, culminating into a luminous fortissimo (increase in loudness). In the eerie calm that follows, we hear an old Neapolitan song, played by the clarinet and trumpet. Then, a peaceful episode where distant bells recall Italian cities at sunset.
Pines of Rome 1924 | 23 mins
Ottorino Respighi was fascinated with the music of Italy’s distant past; his hallmark was over-the-top orchestral color. He combines both in Pines of Rome, using “nature as a point of departure, in order to recall memories and vision. The centuries-old trees . . . become witnesses to the principal events in Roman life.” DID YOU KNOW? Pines of Rome is famous for being one of the first pieces to include electronics in its orchestration through Respighi’s instruction to play a recording of a nightingale at the end of The Pines of the Janiculum. In the score, Respighi suggests that commercial recording be used; to this day the publisher supplies it with the music.
Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.