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Prokofiev's timeless tale of a boy and his animal friends' bravery is brought to life! Presented by a special guest narrator, watch and listen as the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra puts their talent on display in this classic musical fable.
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.
We are indebted to Johannes Brahms for the spirited and flavorful Slavonic Dances by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904). Brahms’s support and influence brought about the commission for the first set of these dances in 1878, his own Hungarian Dances providing the models. Music based on popular idioms was much in demand. Opus 46, Dvořák’s initial album of Slavonic Dances, netted the hoped-for success, so much that his Berlin publisher clamored for a sequel, which the composer gave him in his Opus 72.
Georges Bizet (1838-75) was the son of professional musicians, and his own musical talent developed early—he entered the Paris Conservatory when he was nine. A string of awards, including the coveted Prix de Rome, established his reputation quickly, but the works for which he is most remembered, including his masterpiece, Carmen, and his 1872 incidental music for the drama L’Arlésienne, took some time to achieve popularity. The famous Farandole we hear this evening concludes the second suite compiled from L’Arlésienne. A farandole is a Provençal line dance. The melodies in this brilliant piece are two of the three that Bizet took from a collection published in 1864 by a Provençal tabor player, Vidal of Aix. First comes the Marcho dei Rei (March of the Kings), probably a seventeenth-century military march that made its way south; the quick woodwind tune with the tambourine is the Danso dei Chivau-Frus.
The most famous work of Maurice Duruflé (1902-86) is his Requiem (Opus 9), composed in 1947. In the years since his death, several of his other compositions, most notably his four motets on based on Gregorian chants (Opus 10) and the restrained Cum jubilo Mass (Opus 11), have been heard with increasing frequency, and several of his organ pieces, including the monumental Suite (Opus 5), have achieved repertory status. The perceptive reader will have noticed that all of these opus numbers are on the low side. In fact, Duruflé published only fourteen works—mostly sacred—apparently preferring to spend his time revising and refining his compositions rather than writing entirely new ones. He was also in demand as a concert organist and toured worldwide until a traffic accident brought his performing career to an end in 1975. In Ubi caritas et amor—the first of the four Gregorian motets—Duruflé captures a perfect mood of devout simplicity.
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.