Peter and the Wolf

SOME NOTES ON THE CONCERT. . .

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) is among our most durable composers, an artist who possessed an amazing well of melody and brilliant powers of orchestration. His style is subjective and emotional, often touched with melancholy. His ballet The Nutcracker, which has become a holiday favorite, was first seen (and heard) in December 1892. The story is an adaptation by the elder Alexandre Dumas of a tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker and the King of Mice.

Villa-Lobos: Introdução (Embolada) from Bachianas Brasilieras No. 1
After a youth in which he traveled widely, played cello in cafes and movie theaters, became a masterful guitarist, and joined a succession of itinerant street bands, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) decided to get some formal music education, but he was bored with his classes and chose instead to study scores on his own. It was at this time that he began to make contact with European musicians, and in 1923 he began a seven-year stay in Paris. When he returned to Brazil, he entered public life as National Director of Musical Education and wrote a pioneering guide to teaching the young. In his music, Villa-Lobos abandoned the modernism of his Parisian years and adopted a more nationalist manner. In the Bachianas Brasileiras, he sought to write music inspired by Brazilian folk song and dance, but using Bachian forms and genres. The rhythms are more Latin than Bachian. Nor would it have occurred to Bach to score a work for eight cellos, as in the Bachianas Brasilieras No. 1.

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was one of Russia’s greatest composers of the twentieth century. He began his career as a firebrand, writing spiky, in-your-face music. He spent many years in the West before succumbing to the lure of his homeland, and in 1929 he returned to live in the Soviet Union. The works he produced after taking up residence there generally have softer edges and more lyrical shapes than his earlier music, but his failure to embrace ideology in his work led to trouble with Communist Party operatives. Nonetheless, Prokofiev enjoyed immense esteem. He was the author of film music—for Sergei Eisenstein’s Lieutenant Kijé, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible—as well as the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, seven symphonies, five piano concertos—the list goes on. Peter and the Wolf, a perennial favorite, is from 1936. 

(November 2017)