Sibelius' Symphony No. 2
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“There’s something untouchable about him” (The Telegraph). German violinist Christian Tetzlaff brings his arresting artistry to Mozart’s elegant Third Violin Concerto. On the second half of the program, MTT unleashes the thundering might of the San Francisco Symphony in Sibelius' exhilarating Second Symphony. The concert opens with Ravel’s gentle and nuanced nod to the French Baroque, Le Tombeau de Couperin.
At A Glance
RAVEL Le Tombeau de Couperin 1919 | 17 mins
Maurice Ravel intended Le Tombeau de Couperin as homage to French eighteenth-century music, but to make the title more vivid he invoked the name of François Couperin—one of the great French Baroque masters. Beneath its Rococo exterior, however, Le Tombeau harbors a more poignant agenda. Work on the piece was interrupted by World War I and by the time Ravel finished it, what had been a celebration of French musical tradition had instead become a commemoration of friends lost in combat during the War. LISTEN FOR: The opening Prélude is a feast of opportunities for the oboist, while the Forlane is wistful, with harmonies that are fascinatingly oblique. The Menuet movement is of the utmost gentleness. The Rigaudon finale—based on a vigorous French folk dance that was “civilized” and brought to court—brings this suite to a cheery close. MORE
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 3, K.216 1775 | 24 mins
We think of Wolfgang Amadè Mozart as a composer first and foremost, but in his day he was also renowned as a performer. He was one of the finest keyboard virtuosos of his era as well as an accomplished string player, having been tutored in the violin by his father. The young Mozart became adept enough to serve as a court violinist—eventually as concertmaster—in his native Salzburg, and he never relinquished the ability to demonstrate musical ideas convincingly with violin in hand. The Violin Concerto No. 3 is a work of very considerable charm, a fine example of how Mozart was experimenting with adventurous ideas. The first two movements reference Mozart the opera composer while the Rondeau finale touches on more folk-inflected themes. MORE
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 1902 | 43 mins
The Second Symphony of Jean Sibelius is a rarity of the most heartening sort: a brave work that nonetheless pleased audiences from the outset. While Sibelius preferred that no programmatic implications be attached to this work, the symphony does seem to express something specific to the Finnish imagination. Sibelius’s sense of architecture is wholly his own, and his biographer Burnett James observes that “Sibelius the whole does not exist until its basic parts, its active nuclei, have been brought together and placed in a new and unexpected relationship.” Some of these seeds may take the entire symphony to germinate and blossom: LISTEN FOR: The opening sounds of the first movement, tracing three rising notes of a scale, will come to full fruition in the grandly Romantic theme of the Finale. MORE
Steven Ziegler is Managing Editor of the San Francisco Symphony