Program Notes for Romance in a New Key
©2021 Orpheus Music Prose & Craig Doolin
Concerto for Piano (Four Hands) and String Orchestra
After Robert Schumann’s Quartet, Op. 47
– Richard Duenser
Born May 1, 1959, in Bregenz, Austria
These concerts (April 23-24, 2022) mark the world premiere of this work. It is scored for piano four hands and strings.
Richard Duenser was born in Bregenz, Austria, in 1959. After finishing school and the conservatory he studied composition with Francis Burt at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Having received his diploma, he took up post-graduate studies with Hans Werner Henze in Cologne and summer classes as a recipient of a composition scholarship in Tanglewood (USA) where he found valuable stimulation when he met Leonard Bernstein. Duenser has been awarded numerous scholarships and prizes (Appreciation Award of the Ministry of Education and Arts, Young Artist Scholarship of the Theodor Körner Foundation, Scholarship of the City of Vienna, Austrian State Scholarship for Composition, Young Artist Scholarship of the City of Vienna, Ernst Krenek Prize of the City of Vienna, among others) and has been commissioned to write numerous pieces (for instance by the Bregenzer Festspiele, Festival „styriarte“ Graz, Festival Steirischer Herbst, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, Austrian Federal Ministry of Arts, among others).
His compositions have been performed all over the world by major artists (Doris u. Karin Adam, Christian Altenburger, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Alexander Gebert, Christian Gerhaher, Michaela Girardi, Christoph Eberle, Ernest Hoetzl, Johannes Kalitzke, Peter Keuschnig, Walter Kobéra, Anna Magdalena Kokits, Gerard Korsten, Martin Mumelter, Fergus McAlpine, Thomas Rösner, Donald Runnicles, Heinrich Schiff, Martin Schelling, Benjamin Schmid, Alexander Shelley, Silver-Garburg-Piano-Duo, John Storgårds, Oliver Triendl, Franz Welser-Möst), ensembles (Ensemble Kontrapunkte, Ensemble Plus, Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, OENM, Plural Ensemble Madrid, die reihe, Studio for New Music Moscow, Artis Quartett Wien, Hugo Wolf Quartett Wien….) and orchestras (Wiener Symphoniker, Grazer Philharmoniker, Wiener Concert-Verein, Wiener Kammerorchester, NÖ-Tonkünstlerorchester, Beethoven Philharmonie, Bruckner Orchester Linz, Nürnberger Symphoniker, Slowakische Philharmonie, SO des Bayerischen Rundfunks, SO des NDR Hannover, SO Vorarlberg, Philharmonie Kiew, Chamber Orchestra of Lapland, Festival Strings Lucerne, Mendelssohn Kammerorchester Leipzig, Zemlinsky Chamber Orchestra…) and are available on CD (Caprice, mica, OEHMS CLASSICS, ORF, Oehms, Telos, VMS).
Richard Duenser received international acclaim with his version of the opera fragment Der Graf von Gleichen after Franz Schubert, which was premiered in concert at the Festival „styriarte“ Graz in 1997 and first performed in its revised version at the Festspielhaus Bregenz at Easter 2003. At the same venue the Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste premiered his orchestra piece The Waste Land at the Bregenzer Festspiele 2003. Commissioned by the Bregenzer Festspiele, Duenser‘s opera Radek was premiered in co-production with Neue Oper Wien in 2006 and first performed in Vienna in January and in the Netherlands in Zwolle in April 2007. Works for chamber orchestra and chamber ensemble, song cycles, and chamber music for various instrumentation complete Duenser‘s catalogue of works. Besides his compositional activity Richard Duenser taught at the University Mozarteum Salzburg/Innsbruck, the Landeskonservatorium Feldkirch, and in Graz where he has held a full professorship in music theory at the University of Music and Performing Arts since 1991 and where he has also headed a composition class since 2004. Richard Duenser lives in Vienna and southern Styria.
Duenser provided the following program notes for the world premiere:
“This arrangement of Schumann’s Quartet op. 47 was written in 2020/21 and is dedicated to Maestro Nir Kabaretti and the Piano Duo Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg. This is my fourth work for this instrumentation and fruit of my close collaboration with Nir, Sivan and Gil: after my work Synopsis II for piano four hands and string orchestra, and the arrangements of Schubert’s Grande Sonate (in the original four piano four hands) and Brahms’ Piano Quartet op. 25 (the original thus violin, viola, violoncello and piano), all works premiered by the Piano Duo Silver Garburg.
“The fact that there is (as with Brahms op. 25) an original version of the Schumann work by Brahms for piano four hands, in addition to the fact that op. 47 is a brilliant masterpiece, moved me to create another work in this orchestration. Again, the original version for piano quartet almost pushes the instruments to their limits due to the musical content; the compositional richness and almost symphonic density actually ‘burst’ the chamber orchestration. The larger instrumental garb can, of course, attract wider audiences and just as well give into the hands of piano duos (hopefully!) another repertoire piece in the instrumentation of piano four hands and string orchestra.
“In addition, I was again attracted by the concertante element bubbling under the surface in its unleashing, and, as I said, by the possibility of including Brahms’ arrangement of the Schumann work for piano four hands in my new version, and of being able to alternate between the versions as well as to create ‘mixtures’ between them or to find my own solutions within the framework of the existing, in order not only to strengthen a concert dramaturgy but also to create it anew. So I composed carefully in many places to this, because to create only dramaturgical division between the two original versions would have led to a holey and thin result.
“All this has nothing at all to do with scientific or philological work, in the end I approached the original as if it were my own and had the courage to do things that a pure arranger would never allow himself. This is much more an act of re-composition (today) than a mere arrangement, and is due to the fact that, in my deepest conviction, here (and in instrumentation in general) the limitation to a merely technical or purely philological level can neither prove worthy of the spirit of the original composition, nor create a living work of art. For the love for the original piece and for its composer demands that one must go to work with neo-creative creativity. For me, orchestrations are like translations in literature, which can be made by artists who bring their own personality to the work to be translated, can become original repetitions, as in the case of Friedrich Holderlin, Stephan George, or Paul Celan, for example, in music with Bach, Henze, Ravel, Shostakovich, or Webern …
“Ideally, the composer who is working on the piece sees to new instrumentation already laid out in the original work, like Michelangelo in the quarry of Carrara already selected the marble blocks in such a way that they were ideal for the planned sculptures, indeed he has already ‘seen’ the new work into the stone’s structures.
“And finally, it only remains for me to wish the audience in Santa Barbara much joy at the world premiere!”
Biography and program notes graciously provided for the composer.
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)
– Felix Mendelssohn
Born February 3, 1809, in Hamburg, Germany
Died November 4, 1847, in Leipzig, Germany
This work was first performed on March 3, 1842, by the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig with the composer conducting. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, four horns, trumpets, with added timpani and the customary strings.
Much attention is given to the remarkably young age at which Mozart composed his earliest works. This has overshadowed the equally amazing talents of the young Felix Mendelssohn. Mozart was forced to tour Europe as a young child, playing for kings, popes, and princes. Mendelssohn showed his talent at a similarly young age, so his banker father invested in the best music teachers available for Felix and his musically gifted sister Fanny (who also became a composer of mostly salon music even after marriage, despite the social expectations of the time). As the young Felix composed, he regularly heard his music performed by a private orchestra that played in the Mendelssohn’s Berlin home every Sunday. This invaluable advantage allowed the composer to develop musical identity and adeptness for orchestration before his age reached double digits. Thirteen early “string symphonies” date from this period – all written before he composed his first numbered symphony at the age of fifteen.
Felix’s thirst for travel was nearly as great as his love of composition. In fact, he regularly chronicled his journeys in his works. Mendelssohn’s visit to the British Isles in 1829, one of ten such trips, resulted in the Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave) Overture and the Scottish Symphony. Where the overture reflects Mendelssohn’s impression of a specific grotto, the Scottish Symphony is based more on the composer’s recollection of the journey almost a dozen years after it happened.
The opening of the introduction, while not attempting to depict the scene, was inspired by a visit to Holyrood Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned. Mendelssohn wrote to his family,
“In the deep twilight we went to the palace where Queen Mary lived and loved … The adjoining chapel is now roofless; grass and ivy grow abundantly in it; and before the ruined altar, Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything around is broken and mouldering, and the bright sky shines in. I believe I found the beginning of my Scottish Symphony there today.”
The short melody he sketched at the ruins appears in the introduction. No actual folk material or Scottish songs appear in the work, but there are occasional stylized melodies that capture some of the Scottish style, and occasional bagpipe-like drones occur. The Third Symphony, the fifth in order of composition but third in publication order, was dedicated to “H.M. Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland.”
After the stately introduction, the Allegro begins with the principal theme in the violins. Mendelssohn derives both themes of this movement from material in the introduction. Foregoing the customary pause between movements, the first movement flows directly into the second – a practice that connects all movements of this work. The bubbly vivace non troppo assumes the role of a symphonic scherzo but is cast in sonata form. Mendelssohn makes extensive use of the so-called “Scotch snap” – a rhythmic figure consisting of two accented notes, the first very short followed by a longer one.
The Adagio is contemplative with much emphasis on the string ensemble. It has been suggested by several writers that this touching movement might represent the final prayer of Queen Mary. The finale is full of turmoil with numerous themes organized in a complicated web of a development section. Near the end, the same instruments that played the opening theme of the introduction return to play a final hymn-like melody derived from the opening material, but this time transformed to the bright key of A major.
©2021 Orpheus Music Prose & Craig Doolin