February 5, 2022
This concert features the amazingly beautiful and powerful Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, played by pianist Emely Phelps and Bach's most famous organ toccata, arranged for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski. Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances will showcase our amazing woodwinds.
Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances Suite 1; Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565................J.S. Bach (1685-1750 / Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
Ancient Airs and Dances Suite 1...................Ottorno Respighi
I. Balletto: "Il Conte Orlando" (Simone Molinaro, 1599)
II. Gagliarda (Vincenzo Galilei, 1550s)
III. Villanella (anonymous, end of 16th century)
IV. Passo mezzo e mascherada (anonymous, end of 16th century)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83.................Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Allegro appassionata
IV. Allegretto grazioso - un poco piu presto
Emely Phelps, piano
Almost two centuries after J.S. Bach composed the Toccata and Fugue in d minor for organ, another spirited young man, the then 20 year old Leopold Stokowski, accepted a position as an organist and St. James in Piccadily Square in London. When Stokowski then turned to conducting, launching one of the most illustrious careers of the 20th Century, he also began making orchestral transcriptions of works for other instruments. His orchestral arrangement of his favorite piece of all time, Bach's Toccata in d, became an audience favorite as well, and it was at Stokowski's insistence that it was included as the opening piece in Walt Disney's film Fantasia, which has made it so well-known today.
In addition to his work as a composer, Ottorino Resphighi was also a notable musicologist with a particular interest in Italian music of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. He composed three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances, based on music originally written for the lute. This evening we will perform suite 1, composed in 1917.
If one ever wonders about Johannes Brahms' wit or personality, look no further than his message to Clara Schumann about his second piano concerto. He said of it, "I want to tell you that I have written a very small piano concerto with a very small and pretty scherzo." This work, for full orchestra and with a length of 44 minutes, is many things, but small is not one of them. Twenty two years separate its composition from that of his first piano concerto. It took him three years to complete. Musically and texturally it is like a symphony for the orchestra and a symphonic workout for the pianist, combined into one. The nuances and "Brahmsian" techniques are extraordinary and vintage Brahms. Melodies that define a sense of longing and nostalgia permeate the work, from the opening solo horn line, to the famous cello solo of the slow movement. It is, by every definition, monumental.