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Czech Musical Gems at Cafesjian Center for the Arts

You are cordially invited to a concert of Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana music at Cafesjian Center for the Arts, on 11 of December, 2013. With State Youth Orchestra of Armenia.

 

On December 11 at 20:00 at Gafesjian Center for the Arts the lovers of classic music can enjoy beautiful Czech music performed by the Ensembles of the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia.

The melodies of the famous Czech composers will create a cozy Czech atmosphere.

The program includes Serenade for wind octet by A. Dvorak and String Quartet No.1 by B. Smetana.

We cordially invite you to join us and enjoy the evening.

 

Concert Programme

Antonín Dvořák, Serenade for Wind Instruments, Cello and Double Bass in D minor, Op.44, B.77

I Moderato, quasi marcia
II Minuetto, Tempo di minuetto
III Andante con moto
IV Finale. Allegro molto

Gevorg Avetisyan (flute)
Ruzanna Tovmasyan (flute)
David Gyulamiryan (clarinet)
Avetiq Ghazaryan (clarinet)
Nikolay Poghosyan (bassoon)
Vigen Harutyunyan (bassoon)
Armen Karagyan (horn)
Arshavir Isahakyan (horn)
Arsen Grigoryan (horn)
Anush Yavrumyan (cello)
Lusine Hayrapetyan (double bass)

Bedřich Smetana, String Quartet No.1 in E minor "From My Life"

I Allegro vivo appassionato
II Allegro moderato à la Polka
III Largo sostenuto
IV Vivace

Sona Manukyan (1st violin)
Araqs Poghosyan (2nd violin )
Sirarpi Samvelyan (viola)
Anush Yavrumyan (cello)

Ensembles of the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia

Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orchestra:  Sergey Smbatyan

 

Antonín Dvořák - Serenade for Wind Instruments, Cello and Double Bass in D minor, Op.44, B.77

It was created in 1878, shortly after the première of the opera The Cunning Peasant. The work was premiered on 17 November 1878 at a concert featuring exclusively Dvořák's works, with the Prague orchestra of the Provisional Theatre (Prozatímní divadlo). The composition was performed under the composer's baton.

The Serenade evokes the old-world atmosphere of the musical performances on the castles of the Rococo period, where the worlds of the aristocracy and the common folk merged. It is composed in a "Slavonic style" (shortly before the Slavonic Dances), and the middle part of the second movement contains rhythms reminiscent of the furiant dance form.

At the beginning of 1878, during a trip to Vienna, Dvořák attended a concert given by the Vienna Philharmonic whose programme included Mozart’s Serenade in B flat major for wind instruments. He was so taken with the work that, as soon as he arrived back in Prague, he began a work of the same genre and completed it within fourteen days. Following Mozart’s example, Dvořák used, in addition to wind instruments, a cello and double bass line. Despite the fact that the introduction to the third movement is clearly inspired by the Adagio of Mozart’s serenade, Dvořák wrote a remarkable work, in its overall expression quite unlike his original source of inspiration. While preserving Classical temperance, Dvořák’s Serenade is wholly Czech in character and looks back to the tradition of music-making in Czech castles and palaces. The work represents a fine synthesis of the “retro” style and Dvořák’s typical musical invention. The first movement is an example of the traditional introductory march; the second movement – the minuet – also honours Classical traditions (in this movement, however, certain scholars pick up traces of the Czech folk dance “sousedska” – a slow dance in 3/4 time). The third movement is a lyrical nocturne with a broad melodic arc rising above a “barrel organ” accompaniment, with a contrasting trio in a more lively tempo. The closing movement is reminiscent of a polka and, thanks to its marked rhythm and inventive thematic treatment, brings the work to its stunning climax. As in the Serenade for Strings, here, too, Dvořák cements the cycle with a quotation of the introductory march motif at the end of the movement.  

The composer dedicated the work to Berlin music critic Louis Ehlert in recognition of the latter’s promotion of his Slavonic Dances, which helped considerably to advance Dvořák’s music in Germany. As soon as the Serenade came out in print, Johannes Brahms familiarised himself with the piece and subsequently described it as Dvořák’s finest work to date.

 

Bedřich Smetana, String Quartet No.1 in E minor "From My Life"

Bedřich Smetana now enjoys the honor of being known as “the Father of Czech (Classical) Music”. Technically from Bohemia, he lived during a time of restless rebellion against the ruling Austro-Hungarian Empire followed by the gradual establishment of a nationalist identity championing the language, music and folk culture of the Czech people. Smetana was the first great composer to associate with this national heritage, particularly through his own musical expression of Bohemian pride and personality richly represented by his operatic masterpiece, The Bartered Bride (Prodaná nevěsta), and a suite of symphonic poems titled My Country (Má vlast).

In 1874, at the age of fifty, Smetana begin to notice a variety of hearing problems including high-pitched notes, rushing sounds, and the noise of “breaking sticks”, collectively known as the disorder tinnitus. His hearing quickly deteriorated leaving him completely and permanently deaf by the end of the year. On one hand, this devastated Smetana, forcing him to resign all duties as conductor and performer, to completely withdraw from the public arena of music making. On the other hand, like other great and similarly afflicted composers before and since, Smetana continued to apply his highly developed and apparently fully internalized ability to compose music in spite of his inability to “hear” it in the traditional sense. His musical output continued unabated in quantity and quality for over ten years until his death in 1884.

Best known for opera and orchestral music, Smetana nonetheless wrote some outstanding and highly distinctive chamber music including a piano trio and two string quartets. Rare for chamber music, all three works have explicit programmatic associations. Written in 1876, the first quartet reflects the most elaborate narrative as suggested by his title, From My Life (Z mého života), and fully revealed by Smetana himself in a detailed letter:

“My intention was to paint a tone picture of my life. The first movement depicts my youthful leanings toward art, the Romantic atmosphere, the inexpressible yearning for something I could neither express nor define, and also a kind of warning of my future misfortune . . . The long insistent note in the finale owes its origin to this. It is the fateful ringing in my ears of the high-pitched tones which in 1874 announced the beginning of my deafness. I permitted myself this little joke, because it was so disastrous to me. The second movement, a quasi- polka, brings to mind the joyful days of youth when I composed dance tunes and was known everywhere as a passionate lover of dancing. The third movement . . . reminds me of the happiness of my first love, the girl who later became my wife. The fourth movement describes the discovery that I could treat national elements in music and my joy in following this path until it was checked by the catastrophe of the onset of my deafness, the outlook into the sad future, the tiny rays of hope of recovery, but remembering all the promise of my early career, a feeling of painful regret.”

True to his words, the quartet spans a wide range of distinctive music featuring Bohemian dance in the polka of the second movement and a tender love song to his departed first wife in the third movement. But the two outer movements vividly express in music what Smetana could only hint at in his literary explanation. The quartet opens with some of the most dramatic and unforgettable music found throughout the chamber literature: a devastating theme of tragic fate that dominates the first movement, goes dormant, and reappears in the coda of the finale. After the dance, the love song, and the initial robust brightness of the fourth movement sonata, this autobiographical quartet catches up to the reality of Smetana’s contemporaneous life. Introduced by a pregnant silence, then a disturbing high-pitched harmonic in the first violin, the dark and inevitable theme of catastrophic fate returns to finish the narrative, not with a grand, conclusive cadence, but with a fadeout, the sound gradually disappearing from our ears just as it must have for Smetana himself.

 

Antonín Dvořák

Dvořák was born in Nelahozeves near Prague where he spent most of his life. He studied music in Prague's Organ School at the end of the 1850s, and through the 1860s played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theatre Orchestra which was from 1866 conducted by  Bedřich Smetana.

From 1892 to 1895, Dvořák was director of the National Conservatory in New York City. It was during his visit to the United States that he wrote his most popular work, the Symphony No.9 ”From the New World”.

Dvořák was a colorful personality. In addition to music, there were two particular passions in his life: locomotive engines, and the breeding of pigeons.

He eventually returned to Prague where he was director of the conservatoire from 1901 until his death in 1904. He was interred in the Vysehrad cemetery in Prague.

 

Bedřich Smetana

Bedřich Smetana was one of the great composers of Czech Republic’s history and one of the leaders of the movement toward musical nationalism. His father was a violin teacher who gave Bedřich his first lessons and referred him to keyboard, harmony, and composition lessons when the boy requested them. His father tried to get Bedřich to apply himself in academics, but Bedřich was too focused on music to be a good student.

Although he established a strong local reputation as a pianist, his piano compositions (mostly lighter works) did not earn him any special distinction as a composer. In 1862-1863, Smetana composed The Brandenburgers in Bohemia, his first opera, which was a success at its premiere on January 5, 1866. His next opera was Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride), his most famous and enduring opera today, but a failure when it premiered on May 30, 1866.

However, to single out one work of the many works created by Smetana, we have to mention String Quartet No.1 "From My Life."  It is an important work as in this work Smetana so graphically depicted the severe whistling in the ears that by the end of that year would lead to deafness. He continued to compose and wrote his orchestral masterpiece Má Vlast (My Country) from 1874 to 1879. Three more operas were premiered successfully, including Libuše, but the last was The Devil's Wall (1882).

National mourning was proclaimed and he was given a burial at the Vyshehrad, one of the national sites depicted in Má Vlast.