Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dvořák Symphony No. 8 Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace; A waltz of concerns that closes in a smile

The third movement of Antonín Dvořák's 8th symphony is a waltz of concerns.

Against a bed of quiet triplets, played by the clarinet and flutes and a rich figuration of double reeds, plucked strings, and a viola drone, the first violins dance. The opening passage is marked forte for the first violins but piano everywhere else.

Listen to the sweep of line as the strings dance a phrase of 4 measures then stretch to 6. One feels the lightness of motion at this higher level of articulation. In embellished figuration [0:12] the line echos 4 then 7 measures, but the gesture quiets. It expresses concern:

There is a disintegration [0:24]. Five four-bar phrases uncoil chromatic gestures in the rhythm of snare drums as the sense of dancing drains. The music becomes almost motionless.

Its motion resumes in advance of the connection to a written-out repeat [0:48] where the dance begins again; this time scored for flutes and oboe, with clarinet joining afterward. The parallelism is exact until the cadence [1:32] where the phrasing 4+3 brings the larger section to an articulate close.

The trio turns rustic, in the tonic major [1:40] and celebrates the memory of innocence. The phrasing(4+4)(4+6)(6,6,2) develops the stretched phrase lengths of the minuet with a sophisticated design. As with the minuet this stanza is restated [2:18] in a different scoring.

There is a third statement of the main theme of the trio [2:57] identical to the others during its first half but altered to close the section over a pause. This third statement overbalances the minuet and will lead to a surprising moment at the close of the movement.

The minuet returns [3:37] and so does its echo [4:26].

G major returns [5:18] in a molto vivace codetta. The phrase structure rocks between 4 and 5-bar phrases:


The movement closes with a sudden and surprising sonic smile.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Two Celebrations of Dale Clevenger to mark his Retirement from the CSO

Dale Clevenger

On Monday there will be a special concert featuring members of the Chicago Symphony to celebrate the long and memorable career of one of the greatest horn players of his generation: Dale Clevenger. Clevenger has been principal horn of the CSO for 47 years and will officially retire at the end of June. The concert event is no longer open to the general public but only to friends and other guests who registered online by May 27. The highlight will undoubtedly be the "mass horn choir" performance of the adagietto from Mahler 5 in an arrangements for horns only!

As a prelude to that rather private celebration, we are all invited to a special "horn hangout" hosted by Sarah Willis. This event will be streamed live at 2:00 EST from her website. Willis will take questions, memories, and tributes from the live chat. Don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the career of the player with one of the most readily identifiable and distinctive horn sounds in the history of classical recordings.

Arguably, the best introduction to his sound as a soloist can be heard on "The Chicago Principal; First Chair Soloists Play Famous Concertos," where Clevenger performed as soloist in the Mozart Horn Concerto No. 3, and in ensemble in the Schumann Konzertstück and the Britten Serenade. This classic Deutsche Grammophon double disc (released in 2003) was selected from performances recorded between 1976 and 1983.

The Chicago horn sound in Mahler symphonies during the Solti years was centered by Clevenger. That fact alone is reason for celebration! I will be tuning in to the Willis Horn Hangout on Monday.  
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