Thad Johnson/Music Dallas Symphony Review What an Essay

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Thad Johnson/Music

Dallas Symphony Review

What an absolute dual treat to attend the Dallas Symphony's "Tchaikovsky Night" at the Morton Myerson Symphony Center on March 31, 2011. Not only was I privileged to hear two great works, but as an added benefit, proceeds from the Tchaikovsky concerts will benefit Sendai, Dallas's International Friendship City in Japan (DSO Public Relations Office). The conductor for this concert was Jaap van Zweden, music director of the Dallas Symphony and several other European Orchestras (DSO Public Relations Office). Guest artist for this program, performing the Piano Concerto #1 is Olga Kern, Russian Classical pianist who, in June, 2001, received a Gold Medal in the Eleventh annual Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (Van Cliburn Foundation).

There was clearly a sense of excitement in the air that was almost palpable. Whether this was from the anticipation of the stirring music to come or the posters and informational centers about the Japanese earthquake, there was literally electricity in the air when Maestro van Zweden mounted the podium to being Tchaikovsky's rarely performed, but superb example of the romantic era in orchestral music, Manfred Symphony. From the moment we heard the haunting opening theme by the French Horns to the final dramatic ending, the audience was hooked. Added to the wonderment of the evening was the ambience of the I.M. Pei designed concert hall, called by numerous musicians one of the finest concert halls in the world today -- perfectly tuned for the best acoustic performance possible (About the Symphony Center).

Background on the Works Performed- Because I knew ahead of time what the works were on this concert, I did a bit of research to familiarize myself with the pieces, composer, and style. I knew about Tchaikovsky, of course, from class and then from the 1812 Overture. What I was not aware of, though, was his continual depression and emotional problems. Scholars think much of this was due to a disastrous marriage, and then a collapse of the one enduring friendship of his life after 13 years, possibly a fear
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of exposure from suppressed homosexuality, and then an untimely death at 53 from potentially self-induced cholera. And then to find out that, despite acclaim in Europe and Russia, it was not until after World War II that his rousing and deeply emotional music became popular in the United States (Brown).

For some reason, the Manfred Symphony is not often performed, yet it is a typical romantic piece of music. Inspired by the poetry of Lord Byron, it tells the musical story of Manfred, who wanders the Alps, contemplating life, existence, and tormented by nostalgic thoughts. An Alpine fairy appears to guide him to a simple life with honest and good natured people, but Manfred ends up in a Dante-like Hades, bacchanalian, but through the power of music is received retribution for all he fears. It is easy to see why this was one of Tchaikovsky's favorite pieces, since it is continually moving between longing, strife, and redemption (Manfred). Once one knows the outline of the poem, it is relatively easy to follow Tchaikovsky's interpretation of Manfred's journey.

The Piano Concerto #1 in B-flat minor was composed when Tchaikovsky was 35, revised twice, in 1879 and 1888. When first composed it was criticized by the pianist Tchaikovsky chose for its debut, Nikolai Rubenstein. Tchaikovsky shows his emotional insecurity in a passage from a letter he sent to his patroness about his playing the concerto for Rubenstein and a colleague, "Then a torrent poured from Nikolay Grigoryevich's mouth, gentle at first, then more and more growing into the sound of a Jupiter Tonana. It turned out that my concerto was worthless and unplayable; passages were so fragmented, so clumsy, so badly written that they were beyond rescue; the work itself was bad, vulgar; in places I had stolen from other composers; only two or three pages were worth preserving; the rest must be thrown away or completely rewritten" (Warrackm 78-9). Tchaikowsky refused to rewrite it, and sent it to Hans von Bulow to premier during his American tour. The work premiered in Boston in October, 1875, not without incident, but to audience acclaim. Finally played…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

"About the Symphony Center." January 2011. City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. April 2011 <>.

Brown, D. Tchaikovsky: The Man and His Music. New York: Pegasus Books, 2007.

Concerto #1. Perf. Leinsdorf/Rubenstein. 1963..


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