Program Notes

Music at the Museum: Bach, Copland, & Clyne

May 6th, 2022

For the final Music at the Museum of the 21-22 season, enjoy a program fit for the Orpheum stage as Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts double violin concertos by Bach and Clyne, followed by Aaron Copland’s clarinet concerto!

Conductor

Carlos Miguel Prieto

LPO Musicians

Benjamin Thacher

Benjamin Hart

Byron Tauchi

Daniel Parrette

Program

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043

  • Composed for two solo violins, continuo and strings
  • The LPO first performed this work on January 13, 1993
  • The most recent performance by the LPO was May 9, 2021

Believed to have been composed in either 1730 or the early part of 1731, the Concerto for Two Violins has endured as one of Bach’s most popular works.  In recent history, it has become one of his most-recorded works, and the concerto’s inclusion in the Suzuki violin method has ensured the popularity of this work will endure.

As was common practice, Bach himself transcribed the concerto at different times for different instruments and keys, so the provenance of this concerto has sometimes been debated. (Was it really written for two violins originally? Has it always been performed in D minor?) Current scholarly study insists that the autographed manuscript that passed from Johann Sebastian to his son Carl Philip Emmanuel was Bach’s original intention, even though parts had been published in C major as well as a version (in Bach’s own hand) for two harpsichords.

In his seminal 1873 biography on Bach, Philipp Spitta said of the double concerto:

“The D minor concerto is, without doubt, the finest of [Bach’s violin concertos], and is held in due esteem by the musical world of the present day. Two solo violins are here employed, but it is not, strictly speaking, a double concerto, for the two violins, play not so much against one another, as both together against the whole band. Each is treated with the independence that is a matter of course in Bach’s style. In the middle movement, a very pearl of noble and expressive melody, the orchestra is used only as an accompaniment, as was usual in the adagios of concertos.”

Anna Clyne (born 1980) Prince of Clouds (2012)

  • Composed for two violins and string orchestras
  • This is the premiere performance of Prince of Clouds by the LPO

When writing Prince of Clouds I was contemplating the presence of musical lineage—a family tree of sorts that passes from generation to generation. This transfer of knowledge and inspiration between generations is a beautiful gift. Composed specifically for Jennifer Koh and her mentor at the Curtis Institute of Music, Jaime Laredo, this thread was in the foreground of my imagination as a dialogue between the soloists and ensemble. As a composer, working with such virtuosic, passionate, and unique musicians is also another branch of this musical chain.

  • Anna Clyne 

Prince of Clouds was composed at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in the Summer of 2012. It was co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, IRIS Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Curtis Institute of Music. It was premiered in November 2012 at the Germantown Performing Arts Center, TN with the IRIS Orchestra under the direction of Michael Stern. There have been subsequent performances by the Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In April 2014, Cedille Records issued a CD recording of Prince of Clouds performed by Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra.

Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990) Clarinet Concerto (1948)

  • Composed for solo clarinet, strings and harp
  • The LPO first performed this work on April 21, 1994
  • The most recent performance was on February 21, 2021

In 1938, Clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman held what is regarded now as “jazz’s coming out party” at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Goodman was already widely regarded as one of the big band swing era’s foremost bandleaders, but it wasn’t until 1938 that this new musical form had its fateful collision with “respectable society.”   

Nearly a decade following this important moment in jazz history, Benny Goodman re-learned his technique on his instrument, essentially starting from scratch as a clarinetist as he pursued an interest in classical music that lead, eventually to commissions for works by Bartok, Malcolm Arnold, Poulenc, and Aaron Copland.

Copland was approached by Goodman soon after Copland had finished work on his third symphony (1947) to write a clarinet concerto that Goodman would have two years’ exclusive performance right for.  Beyond that, he gave no other perimeters for what Copland could compose. Copland was living in Rio de Janeiro at the time and gave indications that the composing of the concerto was “dribbling along” until finally, in December of 1948 he sent a letter to composer Carlos Chavez saying that the concerto was finished.  

For a myriad of confusing reasons, the premiere of the concerto was delayed nearly two years.  During that time Copland was commissioned to transcribe the concerto’s first movement into an elegy for orchestral strings as Goodman continued to push off a premiere performance of the work. Finally, Goodman gave the premiere performance in 1950 with Fritz Reiner conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra, just before his two-year exclusive performance rights were set to expire. 

The concerto has gone on to become a staple in clarinetist’s repertoire and is one of the most-recorded works in their literature.  Benny Goodman recorded the concerto twice, notably once with Aaron Copland conducting, a performance that Copland considered to be his “best-recorded performance ever.”

The concerto is written in an uncommon form, consisting of two movements performed back-to-back, connected by a clarinet cadenza. The first movement, full of bittersweet lyricism and colors that Copland was masterful in using are offset by the jazzy, jagged second movement.

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