Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4
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“A must-hear event” (San Francisco Chronicle), don’t miss the much anticipated return of the electric young conductor Krzysztof Urbański. He leads the San Francisco Symphony in an audience favorite, Mendelssohn’s sun-kissed Italian Symphony. He’ll be joined by the young violin sensation Vilde Frang, who makes her San Francisco Symphony debut with a mountain of a showpiece: the soulful, poetic, yet fiendishly difficult Elgar Violin Concerto.
At A Glance
Overture 1943 | 6 mins
One of the leading lights of twentieth-century Polish music, Grażyna Bacewicz composed her Overture during the dark days of World War II while living at a displaced-persons’ camp in Lublin, Poland. She composed through it all, turning out some of her most important works, including this vigorously optimistic overture, which stands in defiance to its time. Although Bacewicz disliked the term neoclassical, it nevertheless remains a helpful descriptor of her works of this period, which lend themselves to the elegant approach of Honegger, Martinů, or Milhaud. LISTEN FOR: Astute listeners may notice how Bacewicz works the da-da-da-daaa rhythm of Beethoven’s Fifth into the fast sections of the score. The famous rhythm was pressed into wartime service because, by happenstance, it corresponded to the rhythm for the letter “V” in Morse code—as in “V for Victory.” Read More
Violin Concerto 1910 | 45 mins
The most famous Elgarian conundrum involves the musical portraits that make up his Enigma Variations—although, in truth, those identities were worked out to a near certainty long ago. (Then again, Elgar suggested that the enigma might refer to something deeper, so who knows?) But we still have the matter of the secretive Spanish title-page inscription of his Violin Concerto: “Aquí está encerrada el alma de. . . . ” (Here is enclosed the soul of. . . . ). Various of Elgar’s friends have been proposed as the possessor of that soul, but Elgar’s intent remains a mystery. Altogether, the Violin Concerto is full of private allusions and musical gestures but we must, in the end, also remember that what Elgar chose to give us was not an autobiography but a violin concerto. And what he has given us is a work by turns grand, brooding, and heroic. Read More
Symphony No. 4 1833 | 26 mins
The inspiration for this symphony was the composer’s Italian trip in 1830-31. The work embodies his impressions of the country’s art, landscape, and the vitality of its people. Indeed, the symphony is extroverted from the outset, with an opening movement that offers an abundance of energy. The second movement is a slightly mournful slow march, noble and restrained, while the third is an old-fashioned minuet-and-trio, with horns adding gentle punctuation from afar. Mendelssohn calls the last movement a Saltarello, a traditional dance that involved a good deal of hopping about. This breathless movement is the most unmistakably Italianate of the symphony, with music that dances itself into exhaustion until it suddenly rebounds with a punchy ending. Read More
Jeanette Yu is Editorial Director and Steven Ziegler is Managing Editor at the San Francisco Symphony.
Inside Music: an informative talk by Peter Grunberg, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.
Off-The-Podium: a post-concert question and answer session session with Mr. Urbański's and Peter Grunberg for the concerts taking place on May 23 and 25 only.