New Year’s Night

Monday, December 31, 2018 at 7:00 PM

UNR Nightingale Concert Hall


Program Notes by Chris Morrison

Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 (1786, 4 minutes)

In his first collaboration with his great librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart created the opera Le nozze di Figaro in just six weeks. It tells the tangled story of Count Almaviva’s valet and former barber, Figaro, who is to marry the Countess’s maid, Susanna. But the Count also wishes to seduce Susanna, while the Countess is pursued by the page Cherubino. The Overture’s bustling opening suddenly erupts in high spirits and maintains that joyful momentum to the end.

Piazzolla: Histoire du Tango (1986, 20 minutes)

Astor Piazzolla was almost single-handedly responsible for making the tango, once a regional folk dance, famous all over the world. Histoire du Tango, originally for flute and guitar, tells in miniature the history of the dance. Tango was initially largely found in brothels, and Piazzolla wrote that his first movement, “Bordel 1900,” depicts “the good-natured chatter of the French, Italian, and Spanish women who peopled those bordellos as they teased the policemen, thieves, sailors, and riffraff who came to see them.” In “Café 1930,” the tango has become increasingly popular as well as “more musical, and more romantic … with new and often melancholy harmonies.” By the time of “Night-Club 1960,” the “bossa nova and the new tango are moving to the same beat.” In the final movement, “Concert d’Aujourdhui 1990,” “Bartók, Stravinsky, and other composers reminisce to the tune of tango music.”

Saint-Saëns: Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92 (1892, 35 minutes)

In June 1892, Saint-Saëns wrote to his friend Charles Lecocq, “I am working quietly away at a trio which I hope will drive to despair all those unlucky enough to hear it. I shall need the whole summer to perpetrate this atrocity, one must have a little fun somehow.” Despite his self-disparaging remarks, Saint-Saëns expended much time and energy on his Trio No. 2, which some have called the greatest French piano trio of the nineteenth century.

In an unusual five-movement layout, the Trio’s first movement begins with a somber theme from the violin and cello. The piano’s accompanying chords become more elaborate as the music builds in intensity. When it finally arrives, the second melody is lyrical and lovely. These themes are developed in passionate music that ends with a surprising coda. The second movement begins delicately, but soon turns more ominous, with brilliant piano writing that the composer described as “black with notes and black in mood.” Opening with the piano, followed by cello and violin, the third movement is introspective, as the three instruments exchange the main theme with one another. A waltz-like fourth movement is followed by a finale that begins quietly with the piano, but soon moves into a fugue begun by the violin, answered by piano and cello. The first of the two main themes takes over for the work’s brilliant conclusion.

Bacewicz: Quartet for Four Cellos – Narrazione (1963, 7 minutes)

See the notes for the December 29, 11:00 a.m. Festival concert for more on the life of Polish composer-violinist Grażyna Bacewicz. As is mentioned there, Bacewicz was seriously injured in a car accident in 1954 that put a definitive end to her violin career. A series of commissions for new compositions quickly followed, including the Quartet for Four Cellos. The first of its two movements, Narrazione, is dark, colorful, and intense.

Mendelssohn: Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 (1825, 30 minutes)

Mendelssohn’s Octet, composed when he was sixteen, may be the greatest work ever written by a teenager. He indicated his ambition in the score: “This Octet must be played by all the instruments in symphonic orchestral style. Pianos and fortes must be strictly observed and more strongly emphasized than is usual in pieces of this character.” Encompassing nearly half of the work’s duration, the first movement opens with a theme that soars through nearly three octaves before gently returning to ground. Behind it is what has been called a “vibrant background,” including tremolos, syncopated chords, and mild dissonances. This melody and a flowing second theme provide the basis of a complex development. We enter a more tranquil world with the second movement, in the 6/8 rhythm of a siciliano. An energetic central section leads to a return of the song-like opening music.

The composer’s sister Fanny shared her brother’s vision of the third movement: “the whole piece is to be played staccato and pianissimo … the trills passing away with the quickness of lightning … one feels so near to the world of spirits, carried away in the air, half inclined to snatch up a broomstick and follow the aerial procession … and at the end, all has vanished.” The bravura fourth movement opens with a fast-paced fugue that betrays Mendelssohn’s study of the music of Bach. A broad contrasting theme emerges, as do phrases from the second and third movements. Mendelssohn described the Octet as “my favorite of all my compositions,” adding, “I had a most wonderful time in the writing of it!”

Click here to see the complete Festival schedule and repertoire

New Year’s Night Monday, December 31, 2018 at 7:00 PM UNR Nightingale Concert Hall   Program Notes by Chris Morrison Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 (1786, 4 minutes) In his first collaboration with his great librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart created the opera Le nozze di Figaro in just six weeks.… Read More

A Viennese New Year Tuesday, January 1, 2019 at 2:00PM Trinity Episcopal Cathedral   Program Notes by Chris Morrison Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K. 136 (1772, 13 minutes) This Divertimento is one of three works, K. 136-138, sometimes referred to as the “Salzburg Symphonies.” Mozart wrote quite a number of pieces titled Divertimento, but… Read More

Baroque by Candlelight 2: Perfect Pairings Thursday, December 27, 2018 at 5:00PM Trinity Episcopal Cathedral   Program Notes by Chris Morrison The Italian Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach, originally titled “Concerto in the Italian Style,” first appeared in 1735 in the collection Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Exercises or Practice), Part 2. In this work, Bach essentially imitates… Read More

THE WORLD’S FINEST CLASSICAL MUSICIANS CONVERGE IN RENO FOR THE 15th ANNUAL NEVADA CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL DECEMBER 26, 2018 TO JANUARY 1, 2019 2018 FESTIVAL ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, MARTIN CHALIFOUR Reno, NV (October 10, 2018) – Twenty of the finest classical musicians from around the world gather in Reno to perform at the fifteenth annual Nevada… Read More

  From Chris Morrison’s Program Notes… Each of The Four Seasons has a short poem, a sonnet, associated with it, possibly written by Vivaldi himself, describing the scenes and events of each movement. These examples of “program music,” music that refers outside itself to some narrative, person, place, or event, are not unique in Vivaldi’s… Read More

Program Notes November 17 and 18, 2018 By Chris Morrison Georg Philipp Telemann Born: March 14, 1681, Magdeburg, Germany Died: June 25, 1767, Hamburg, Germany Telemann was one of the most prolific composers of all time, with over 3,000 works to his credit (many now lost), including over 1,000 church cantatas, 46 Passion settings, and… Read More

  The Reno Chamber Orchestra is pleased to welcome our new Executive Director, Thom Mayes. You may already be aware of this news if you attended our September program when he was introduced from the stage. Mr. Mayes hails from the Seattle area and is currently CEO of the Northwest Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra performing in the Seattle-Tacoma area. … Read More

Program Notes October 13 and 14, 2018 By Chris Morrison “Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O – vowels, Some day I will open your silent pregnancies…” – Arthur Rimbaud, Vowels Synesthesia is a phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic experiences in another. Oliver Sachs,… Read More

In early August, Chris Morrison announced his resignation as RCO Executive Director. It is with great sadness we see him go. Join us in wishing him well in his exciting future endeavors. Chris worked in many capacities during his 25-year career with the RCO, always giving his very best to the organization. Whether in his… Read More