TMSO Special Concert in Osaka

Beethoven: Overture to “Egmont”, op.84

The plot takes place in the Netherlands in the 16th century. The Count of Egmont, who stood up to the Spanish tyranny to win freedom, is arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death. Clärchen, his love, prays for mercy in vain, and takes poison to end her life. Just before he is executed, the image of Clärchen appears before Egmont, and she blesses her lover, and the future of the compatriots.

Goethe (1749-1832) w rote this drama, and Beethoven (1770-1827) composed the music in 10 pieces for its Viennese performance. Its overture has become particularly famous and is often played as an independent piece.

It starts with a solemn introduction (Sostenuto ma non troppo) in F-minor. The entire orchestra plays the single key note F in unison, making us alert for the sublime drama. The main part of the piece in sonata form (Allegro) condenses the essence of the story, with the alternating inner conflict and flashes of hope in rapid turns, leading to the finale in a brilliant coda (Allegro con brio).

Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op.43

Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was a composer who was a late part of the “Russian Romanticism” movement that traces back to Tschaikovsky (1840-93). Being a great pianist, he left behind a series of piano masterpieces that combine virtuosity with the romanticism of the nation. “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” is one of his typical works representing these traits, where virtuosic pianism lives in the romantic style replete with Russian lyricism. Composed in 1934, the mood sinks and rises as its title of “Rhapsody” suggests, but its structure is a clear variation style (introduction, theme, 24 variations and coda). The theme was taken from the famous closing movement of “24 Caprices for Unaccompanied Violin” by Paganini (1782-1840).

The work starts with a short introduction in Allegro vivace, with a motif taken from the Paganinian theme. Those who expect an immediate exposition of the theme may feel betrayed by the orchestra playing only the fragmental chords that constitute the first variation; only after this does the main theme appear in full shape. The tempo loosens in the 7th variation, when the piano plays the Gregorian chant “Dies irae”. The same chant appears again in the 10th variation, and culminates at a demoniac height. Then there comes a calming down to the famous nocturnal 18th variation (Andante cantabile) which creates a sweet moment. When the 19th variation comes back to the initial tempo, the intensifying dialogue between the orchestra and energetic technique of the piano leads to the coda with the re-appearing of “Dies irae”, and the work closes with an overwhelming climax.

Beethoven: Symphony No.3 in E-flat major, op.55, “Eroica”

Although Beethoven started in the 18th-century classical style in his youth, the artist was sensitive to the age of revolution and soon ventured into stylistic development to fit the new era.

Symphony No.3, written in 1803, stands out as a revolutionary work with a dramatic development whose gigantic structure and ups-and-downs never existed before in the world of symphonies. Beethoven deeply sympathized with the thoughts of the time that advocated freedom and liberation of humanity, and his pursuit of extended style in his mid-period is rooted in this inclination. This symphony in particular was composed with Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in mind, whom he revered as the hero of the time, and this is believed to have resulted in the large-scale and dramatic construction of the symphony.

Later, it is said, that Beethoven was disappointed at Napoleon’s coronation as the emperor, and he crossed out the dedication on the face of the score (though this anecdote lacks historical evidence). The eventual title did not carry the word “Bonaparte”, but was to read as “Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”.

Ⅰ Allegro con brio: An extended sonata form of the first movement is closely tied to the dramatic undulation and meticulous development. The coda is so rich that it could be called the second development of the sonata form.
Ⅱ Marcia funebre. Adagio assai : A solemn movement with varied progress. It opens with a tragic funeral theme, that is followed by a brighter sub-theme, and then the fugue-like developments take over.
Ⅲ Scherzo. Allegro vivace: Energetic scherzo with rapid staccato motifs, and the famous horns in the trio.
Ⅳ Finale. Allegro molto: Finale in free variations. After a short introduction, the bass presents the theme in pizzicato. Then another melodic theme appears and delicately intertwines with its predecessor in the well-designed closing movement.

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