Symphony North of Houston is delighted to invite you to our second concert of the 2022-2023 season of our 47th season. We will perform on Sunday, December 4, 2022, at 4:00 PM, and our concert venue is Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas. Admission to our concerts is by donation. At the performance, we will be accepting donations by cash and check, but you may also donate online.
This concert is the second of two concerts with our guest conductor, Carlos Lara. Our repertoire includes Strauss’ Die Fledermaus; Tchaikovsky’s selections from The Nutcracker Suite; and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concert No. 2, with guest pianist Yilong Wang.
Our 2023 concerts in February and April will feature our second guest conductor of the season, Karl Blench. To stay updated on all our concerts, be sure and subscribe to our newsletter.
The most famous and accomplished member of the Strauss musical dynasty was Johann Strauss II. For most of the nineteenth century, he dominated the dance music of Vienna. He wrote his first waltz at the age of six. His father, Johann senior, wanted him to go into banking, but Johann, The Younger, began his formal music education in 1842, and then formed his own orchestra in 1844. By 1850, he had introduced some of the compositional techniques of Wagner and Listz into his waltzes. Blue Danube was his most famous and iconic waltz. Together all his waltzes earned him the name as the Waltz King.
Die Fledermaus, also known as The Revenge of the Bat, is an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II, and is among his best known. It was his third operetta for the Vienna Theatre an der Wien. By April 1874, the production was a roaring success and within three months a production had opened in Berlin. By the end of the decade, it had been performed in countries as far apart as America and Australia and was Strauss’s most successful operetta of all. Once you hear The Die Fledermaus Overture, you will readily recognize that was featured on the Tom and Jerry’s Hollywood Bowl episode, first aired in 1950.
Sergei Rachmaninoff was not only one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century but also the last great representative of the Russian Romantic tradition. In 1885, he was 12 years of age and was sent to study with Nikolai Zverev, who required young Rachmaninoff to begin practicing at six o’clock AM. Since he lived with Zverev, he got to meet notable musicians such as Anton Rubinstein, Anton Arensky, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
In 1888, Rachmaninoff began taking composition lessons with Taneyev and Arensky. For his graduation exercise, he composed a Tchaikovsky influenced one act opera Aleko for which he received the highest grade possible. He then in 1892 launched his career by writing one of his most popular pieces, Prelude in C sharp minor.
Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto came about after several years of compositional inactivity and depression, which was cured by treatment under hypnosis.
Symphony North performs this work with guest artist Yilong Wang, who started his formal piano studies in the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in China and is currently studying piano at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. The 1st movement opens with Yilong sounding a series of chords that ring like church bells and grow in both volume and intensity. The music continues with a march in the piano, dissolving into a solo horn chanting the second theme.
The second movement creates an atmosphere of pure enchantment. The primary melody is heard first in the clarinet and flute, with the piano accompanying. The soloist takes up the melody and develops it by accompanying woodwinds and strings.
In the third movement, the lower instruments whisper a brief introduction to the soloist’s opening cadenza, which segues into the rhythm of the first theme. The second theme is a marked contrast by the violas and oboe. The two themes then compete for prominence as the mood of this movement shifts to the famous rhapsody, which then concludes with the roaring rhapsodic theme.
Growing up in a upper class, but unmusical family, Tchaikovsky’s father was a government mining official in St Petersburg. He developed a love for music by improvising on the piano. By age 19, he obtained a position in the Ministry of Justice in St. Petersburg and continued musical studies in his spare time at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1865, he gave up his job to purse fulltime musical studies.
In 1866, he suffered a nervous breakdown which was most likely brought on by the stress from his work on his First Symphony. He went on to write seven symphonies if his program symphony Manfred is included. He also wrote three ballets which include The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty.
Central to the success of Nutcracker is Tchaikovsky’s orchestration and his use of instrumental color, which is most notably heard in the Sugar Plum Fairy, Arabian, Chinese, Reed Pipes, Russian, and Waltz of the Flowers dances.