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Happy Birthday Bismarck

September 17, 2022 @ 7:30 PM - Belle Mehus

Join us as we celebrate Bismarck’s 150th Birthday with the beloved Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring pianist Russell Hancock, as well as Jennifer Higdon’s “All Things Majestic” and an overture to Bismarck by Joseph Adams.

You can purchase tickets here, or at the Bismarck Event Center box office.


Hero's Overture...........................Joseph Z. Adams (b. 1978)
         Commissioned by the BMSO to celebrate Bismarck's Birthday!
All Things Majestic.........................Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)
         1. Teton Range
         2. String Lake
         3. Snake River
         4. Cathedrals 
Piano Concerto in C Minor, Op. 18..................Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
          I. Moderato
         II. Adagio sostenuto - piú animato - Tempo I
        III. Allegro scherzando 
                                  Russell Hancock, piano 


Program Notes

Hero's Overture

Hero's Overture was commissioned by the BMSO to help celebrate Bismarck's 150th anniversary. The composer is Joseph Z. Adams. Joseph is a Minnesota based composer who has written for a variety of mediums from the concert hall to stage. This marks his third collaboration with Dr. Beverly Everett. From 2009 - 2011, she premiered "Efflorescence", "Quiet Landscape", (a piece for chamber orchestra and tenor composed in honor of former North Dakota governor Art Link) , and "Soul Discovery", which was his Masters Degree thesis at the Hartt School of Music. 
While doing post graduate work at the University of Iowa, where he studied with David Gompper, he was performed by the world renowned JACK String Quartet and provided the score to "Below the Pacific", a play that earned a performance at the Iowa New Play Festival. 
Joe's music has been performed at the Charlotte New Music Festival, the Wyoming Festival, the Snow Pond Music Festival (Maine), and New Music on the Bayou. (Louisiana) Flutist Cobus Du Toit commissioned him to compose "Misinterpreted Cries" for bass flute and piano, expressing his feelings on illegal shark finning. "Misinterpreted Cries" premiered at the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention, and received additional performances in NYC, Pennsylvania, and at the Australian Flute Festival. 
Joe is currently providing the music for two Minnesota made films: "Suzie, Meet Santa", and "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword". 
Joe earned his undergraduate degree in music composition at New York University, his Masters Degree at the Hartt School of Music, in Connecticut, and did post graduate work at the University of Iowa. 

All Things Majestic
Having grown up in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains, and having hiked many of our parks, I have come to the conclusion that the National Parks are one of America’s greatest treasures. So when asked by the Grand Teton Music Festival if I would compose a work to commemorate the festival’s 50th anniversary, I jumped at the chance. “All Things Majestic” is a tribute to not only the festival and it’s home, the Tetons, but also to the grandeur and majesty of all of our parks.
In this work, each movement represents a musical postcard: the first, the grandeur of the mountain ranges, with their size and sheer boldness, and the solidity with which they fill the ground and air; the second, the lakes and the exquisite mirror--‐ quality of reflection upon their serene surfaces; the third, the rapid flow, and unpredictability of the rivers and streams…ever--‐changing and powerful, yet at times, gentle; the final movement pictures the experience of being in the parks, as in a vast cathedral…the beauty of small details such as flowers and plants, within the larger picture of forests and fields…every part contributing to the sheer majesty.
- Jennifer Higdon
Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff
The complete failure of his first symphony in a performance with Alexander Glazunov conducting the orchestra at Saint Petersberg in 1897 threw the young Rachmaninoff into a deep depression.  Of the performance Cesar Cui wrote:
“If there were a conservatory in Hell, if one of its gifted students were given the assignment of writing a symphony on the Seven Plagues of Egypt, he would have written a symphony just like Mr. Rachmaninoff’s and given acute delight to the inhabitants of hell.”
Being sensitive and subject to depression (with a family history of alcoholism and suicide) Rachmaninoff grew more and more despondent until he could no longer face the sight of a blank piece of manuscript paper.  He tried everything he could think of to pull himself out of the hole, including a visit to Leo Tolstoy, who told him, “Work. You must work.  I work every day.  Tell me, do you really think anybody needs music?  I must tell you how much I dislike it . . . Beethoven is such nonsense.”
Family members all offered advice.  His aunt, Varvara Arkadyevna, told him about a hypnotist who had cured her of an undisclosed illness (probably psychosomatic) and in desperation, Rachmaninoff paid him a visit.  The hypnotist was Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a specialist in internal medicine (also an avid amateur musician) and a follower of the work Jean-Martin Charccot who was doing hypnosis at a Paris hospital.  So began Rachmaninoff’s hypnotherapy, which included suggestions to improve his sleep and appetite, but the larger goal was to enable him to write a piano concerto (“You will begin your concerto.  You will work easily.  The music will be excellent”).
Stravinsky describes the change after Rachmaninoff’s psychological crisis as going from watercolors to oils, from “a very young composer to a very old one.”  The crisis and its resolution released Rachmaninoff’s full powers and during the next twenty years he worked with confidence and ease, totally comfortable with his harmonic language and post-romantic style.
The concerto begins with the lowest F on the piano and unfolds effortlessly into the home key of C minor using melodies that are small in range, but which contribute somehow to the sense that this is absolutely Russian music.  After a set of rather formal chords, the piano steps into the full light of the grand Romantic style in a fantastic cadenza.  The slow movement begins in the distant key of E major, with the piano accompanying the flute and then the clarinet.  Later the roles are reversed, and the orchestra accompanies the piano with the same motives.  The next short section is a scherzo-like intermezzo that cascades into a series of little piano cadenzas.  This leads to the solemn grand march of the last movement and the contrasting theme, which Kay, Mossman and Frank Sinatra morphed into “Full Moon and Empty Arms.”  The last character indication in the score is resoluto, which is, when you consider the history of this work, perfectly appropriate for the roof-raising finish of this magnificent concerto.
- Patrick Riley