Hartford Symphony Orchestra celebrates the works of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky with Russian Masters March 10-13

Concerts feature guest violinist Simone Porter

HARTFORD, CT (February 11, 2016) – Hartford Symphony Orchestra Music Director Carolyn Kuan and the HSO interpret the red-hot and icy-cool works of iconic composers Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky with Russian Masters, which runs Thursday, March 10 through Sunday, March 13 in the Belding Theater at The Bushnell in Hartford. Visit www.hartfordsymphony.org for information.

The program includes Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, Op. 25 (Symphony No. 1) and Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, TH 59. A pre-concert talk led by Carolyn Kuan will be held one hour prior to curtain each day.

These concerts will feature guest violinist Simone Porter. The 2015-2016 Masterworks Series is sponsored by The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation.  Russian Masters is the Koski Memorial Concert.

About Simone Porter

 Violinist Simone Porter has been recognized as an emerging artist of impassioned energy, musical integrity and vibrant sound.  At 18 years of age, she has already appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nashville Symphony and Utah Symphony, and with renowned conductors including Nicolas McGegan, Ludovic Morlot and Donald Runnicles. Ms. Porter made her professional solo debut at age ten with the Seattle Symphony, and her international debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at age 13.  Her Carnegie Hall debut was captured on the Emmy Award-winning TV show From The Top: Live from Carnegie Hall and she was featured on the BBC documentary The World’s Greatest Musical Prodigies which aired in the UK in 2009.  A recipient of a national award from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, Ms. Porter has also performed for the Dalai Lama at the 2010 Seeds of Compassion opening ceremony. In March 2015, she was named a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Ms. Porter studies in Los Angeles at the Colburn Conservatory of Music with Robert Lipsett and plays on a 1745 J.B. Guadagnini violin on generous loan from The Mandell Collection of Southern California. www.simoneporterviolin.com

About the Program

 Prokofiev said of his Classical Symphony, Op. 25 (Symphony No. 1): “As it began to take actual form I named it Classical Symphony; first, because it was the simplest thing to call it; second, out of bravado, to stir up a hornet’s nest; and finally, in the hope that should the symphony prove itself in time to be truly ‘classic,’ it would benefit me considerably.” Prokofiev’s closing wish has been fulfilled — the Classical Symphony has been one of his most successful works ever since it was first heard.

The work is in the four movements customary in Haydn’s symphonies, though at only fifteen minutes it hardly runs to half their typical length. The dapper first movement is a miniature sonata design that follows the traditional form but adds some quirks— the recapitulation, for example, begins in the “wrong” key (but soon rights itself), and occasionally a beat is left out, as though the music had stubbed its toe. The sleek main theme is followed by the enormous leaps, flashing grace notes and sparse texture of the second subject. A graceful, ethereal melody floating high in the violins is used to open and close the Larghetto, with the pizzicato gentle middle section reaching a brilliant tutti before quickly subsiding. The third movement, a Gavotte, comes not from the Viennese symphony but rather from the tradition of French Baroque ballet. The finale is the most brilliant movement of the Symphony, and calls for remarkable feats of agility and precise ensemble from the performers.

In the summer of 1877, Tchaikovsky undertook the disastrous marriage that lasted less than three weeks and resulted in his emotional collapse and attempted suicide. He fled from Moscow to his brother Modeste in St. Petersburg, where he recovered his wits and discovered he could find solace in his work. The brothers decided that travel outside of Russia would be an additional balm to the composer’s spirit, and they duly installed themselves at Clarens on Lake Geneva in Switzerland soon after the first of the year. It was there that he began composing his Violin Concerto in D. Major, Op. 35, TH 59.

The Concerto opens quietly with a tentative introductory tune. A foretaste of the main theme soon appears in the violins, around which a quick crescendo is mounted to usher in the soloist. After a few unaccompanied measures, the violin presents the lovely main theme above a simple string background. After an elaborated repeat of this melody, a transition follows which eventually involves the entire orchestra and gives the soloist the first opportunity for pyrotechnical display. The second theme begins a long buildup leading into the development, launched with a sweeping presentation of the main theme. The soloist soon steals back the attention with breathtaking leaps and double stops. The sweeping mood returns, giving way to a flashing cadenza as a link to the recapitulation. The flute sings the main theme before the violin it takes over, and all then follows the order of the exposition. The Andante begins with a chorale for woodwinds that is heard again at the end of the movement to serve as a frame around the musical picture inside. On the canvas of this picture is displayed a soulful melody for the violin suggesting a Gypsy fiddler. The finale is joined to the slow movement without a break. With the propulsive spirit of a dashing Cossack Trepak, the finale flies by amid the soloist’s dizzying show of agility and speed.

“In the Fifth Symphony I wanted to sing the praises of the free and happy man — his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul. I cannot say I chose this theme; it was born in me and had to express itself,” said Prokofiev.  “It is the duty of the composer, like the poet, the sculptor or the painter, to serve his fellow men, to beautify human life and point the way to a radiant future. Such is the immutable code of art as I see it.”

The Fifth Symphony’s opening movement is a large sonata form in moderate tempo that begins without introduction. The wide-ranging main theme is presented simply by flute and bassoon before being taken up by the strings; flute and oboe sing the lyrical second theme. The second movement, the Symphony’s scherzo, is one of those pieces that Prokofiev would have classified as “motoric”: an incessant two-note rhythmic motive drives the music forward through its entire first section. The principal theme arises from the solo clarinet, and much of what follows is a series of loose variations on this cheeky melody. The brooding third movement is a large three-part design. The outer sections are supported by the deliberate rhythmic tread of the low instruments used as underpinning for a plaintive melody initiated by the clarinets. A sweeping theme begun by the tuba serves as the basis for the middle section. The finale opens with a short introduction comprising two gestures based on the main theme of the first movement: a short woodwind phrase answered by the strings, and a chorale for cellos. The movement accumulates a large amount of thematic material as it progresses, though it is the solo clarinet playing the main theme that begins each of the important structural sections of the form. A furious, energetic coda ignites several of the movement’s themes into a grand closing blaze of orchestral color.

Simone Porter

Image: Simone Porter

Calendar Listing

Masterworks Series
Thursday – Sunday, March 10-13, 2016
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Thursday 7:30pm?Friday & Saturday 8pm?Sunday 3pm
Tickets starting at $35.00; $10.00 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
Carolyn Kuan
Simone Porter violin
Prokofiev Classical Symphony, Op. 25 (Symphony No. 1)
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, TH 59
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Carolyn Kuan and the HSO interpret the red-hot and icy-cool works of two iconic Russian masters! Inspired by his conducting studies of Haydn and Mozart, Prokofiev’s first symphony is known as the “Classical” and remains one of his most popular and beloved works. Written while in a Soviet safe haven during World War II, Prokofiev described his fifth symphony as “a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit.” One of the best-known violin concerti in the repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s is widely considered as one of the most technically difficult works for the instrument.

Masterworks Series Sponsor: The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation

HSO programs are funded in part by the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Upcoming HSO Concerts

Hartford Symphony Orchestra Pops! Series
Saturday, March 19, 2016, 7:30 pm
Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell
Tickets starting at $21, $10 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
With their ground-breaking sound, The Eagles flew up the charts with five number one singles, six number one albums, five American Music Awards® and six Grammys®, and created a legacy of timeless music. Popular guest conductor Brent Havens returns with a full rock band to join the orchestra and “Take it to the Limit” – capturing The Eagles’ impeccable riffs and timeless vocal harmonies on the classic hits, including “Heartache Tonight,” “Desperado,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Hotel California.”

Pops! Series Presenting Sponsor: United Technologies

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