We won’t say we’ve left best for last, but what a way to end the season!
Sarah McElravy one of Canada’s top string players, joins our Music Director Anne Manson to perform Shostakovich’s last work, his exquisite Viola Sonata. A golden trinity.
As someone who’s mastered both violin and viola, it’s no wonder that Sarah is considered “a consummate musician” (Naples Daily News). At this concert, it will be her 1785 Lorenzo Storioni viola — rather than her 1791 Ferdinando Gagliano violin — on which she wows audiences with her “exquisitely sculpted … divine sound” (The Prague Post).
It wouldn’t be a signature Shostakovich piece if it weren’t shot through with themes of struggle. His experiments with modernist sounds sometimes got him in serious trouble with Soviet cultural authorities. Not one to go down without a fight, sly critiques of communism can be found throughout his art. This is reflected in his DSCH motif; a war-cry to individualism that weaves in and out of his body of work.
However, if there’s a struggle in the Viola Sonata it seems to be with S’s impending death. Composed as his health was declining, the work premiered three months after his death in 1975. But it’s a gorgeous work that ends with redemption: inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the sonata is “catharsis … life, struggle, overcoming, purification by light, exit into immortality.”
A note on our matinees: our matinee concerts are casual afternoon performances (one hour in duration, with no intermission); students will be in attendance, and the program may be shortened from the evening program. Some seating restrictions apply.
The concerts begin at 1.00pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday, May 29th, in Crescent Arts Centre ), 525 Wardlaw Avenue. Casual tickets will be available 7 July 2023 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue
1.00pm & 7.30pm, Wednesday, 29 May 2024
Anne Manson, conductor
Sarah McElravy, viola
The Marilyn Huband Concert
Lyric for strings
Viola Sonata in c MAjor, op. 147
—arr. for solo viola and full strings by Vladimir Mendelssohn
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
SyMphony no. 28 in c MAjor, K 200
Concert sponsor / LBL Holdings
Described as “a consummate musician” (Naples Daily News) with “a divine sound... exquisitely sculpted” (Prague Post), Canadian violist Sarah McElravy leads an exceptional and multifaceted career as a chamber musician, soloist and pedagogue.
Recent highlights include performances of the Walton Viola Concerto with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie under Jonathan Bloxham and the Sofia Philharmonic under Daniel Geiss. Alongside her duo partner and husband, the violinist and conductor Julian Rachlin, she performed a series of double concertos with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and the Valles Symphony Orchestra at Palau de la Musica Catalana (Barcelona). She also made her debut at the Beethoven Easter Festival in Warsaw, performing Britten’s Lachrymae with the Radom Chamber Orchestra and conductor Jurek Dybal. Ms. McElravy has appeared with major orchestras across the globe including the Helsinki Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonia, Warsaw Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Dortmunder Philharmoniker, Wiener Kammerorchester, Moscow Philharmonic, Kammerorchester des Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Tiroler Symphonieorchester Innsbruck and Naples Philharmonic among many others.
She performed the UK premiere of the Penderecki Double Concerto for violin and viola with Julian Rachlin and the Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by Alexander Joel, and Strauss’s Don Quixote with Boris Andrianov and the Russian National Orchestra under the baton of Dmitri Jurowski. She has also performed with the Moscow Soloists conducted by Yuri Bashmet, as well as the Slovenian Philharmonic, Nice Philharmonic and Moscow Virtuosi. Ms. McElravy made her Japan debut with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at the La Folle Journée festival.
Chamber music highlights of the 23/24 season include a string quartet performance of Beethoven’s Op. 130 with Große Fuge at the Herbstgold Festival with violinists Julian Rachlin and Boris Brovtsyn and cellist Eckart Runge as well as Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Sitkovetsky-transcription for string trio) in Cremona at the Stradivari Festival, in Vienna at the Musikverein as well as in Graz. She has performed chamber music in such prestigious venues as the Vienna Musikverein, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Suntory Hall and Schloss Elmau; taken part in the Prague Spring Festival, La Jolla SummerFest, Oslo Chamber Music Festival, Caramoor Festival, Sion Festival and the Kronberg Festival; and with internationally recognised artists such as Vilde Frang, Janine Jansen, Denis Kozhukhin, Itamar Golan, Andreas Ottensamer, Mischa Maisky, Nicolas Altstaedt, Boris Andrianov and Daniel Müller-Schott.
She is a founding member of the award-winning Linden String Quartet (2008-2014), hailed as “polished, radiant and incisive” by The Strad Magazine. In 2014, Ms. McElravy also founded the Chamber Music Society México, an organization dedicated to presenting world-class chamber music in Mexico City. As the Artistic Director, she brought leading North American artists to perform and provide educational programs for talented young Mexican musicians.
McElravy plays on a 1791 Ferdinando Gagliano violin and a 1785 Lorenzo Storioni viola on loan to her courtesy of the Dkfm. Angelika Prokopp Privatstiftung in Vienna.
Lyric for Strings
Walker enjoyed a significant surge in attention in recent years, fueled by a widespread growth in interest in African-American composers plus his already high reputation. In a lengthy career, he published more than 90 pieces, including piano and chamber works, songs and choral music. He received commissions from major American orchestras and won the Pulitzer Prize for Music—the first of his race to do so—for Daisies (1996). The deeply expressive Lyric for Strings originated as the second movement of the string quartet that he composed in 1946 while was a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He transcribed it for string orchestra in 1990. It is his most frequently performed orchestral composition.
Viola Sonata in C Major, Op. 147
Transcribed for viola, celesta and strings by Vladimir Mendelssohn
It becomes ever clearer that Shostakovich was one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers. Nearly 50 years after his death, his music continues to be performed frequently and on a global scale—the 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets in particular. Symphony No. 5 is the most-performed symphony of the twentieth century.
There has been much debate about the extent that events in his life influenced his music, and the nature of the messages he wished to deliver through it. In such a variety of possible interpretations lies one of his music’s many fascinations. When all is said and done, his compositions stand or fall on their musical and emotional values. These are considerable, and they continue to ensure a thriving life for his finest works.
Over the years, he suffered not only repression of his music under the brutal dictatorship of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, but also from several illnesses and accidents. During the early 1970s, he was stricken by several heart attacks. All his tribulations left him physically weakened and emotionally devastated. Yet such was his resolve that he continued to compose, even as it became ever more taxing for him simply to hold a pen.
Works dating from his final decade include Symphonies 14 (a song-cycle on the subject of death) and 15; Cello Concerto No. 2; Violin Concerto No. 2; October, a symphonic poem; String Quartets 11 through 15; Sonata for Violin and Piano; several sets of songs; and music for films including King Lear. Many of them are permeated with the looming spectre of death.
The Sonata for Viola and Piano was his final creation, completed in Moscow on 5 July 1975. He died of lung cancer on 9 August. He left some hints about the sonata’s ‘contents’ to a friend, violist Fedor Druzhinin: “The first moment is a novella, the second a scherzo, and the finale is an adagio in memory of Beethoven, but don’t let that intimidate you. The music is high, bright and clear.” A veiled quote from Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ sonata appears at the opening of the Viola Sonata’s finale.
He dedicated it to Druzhinin, the violist of the Beethoven Quartet. This ensemble had premiered 13 of Shostakovich’s quartets. After a private run-through in Shostakovich’s apartment, the Viola Sonata received it public premiere on 1 October by Druzhinin and pianist Mikhail Muntyan, as the finale of an all-Shostakovich recital for which the composer had chosen the repertoire. After the performance, Druzhinin solemnly held the score over his head to an intense ovation. A critic described the Sonata as “like the catharsis in a tragedy; life, struggle, overcoming, purification by light, exit into immortality.”
It was rapidly taken up by violists everywhere and it makes a most welcome addition to the viola’s always-slim solo repertoire. At this concert, you will hear a transcription for solo viola and string orchestra that was created by Vladimir Mendelssohn (1949-2021), a distinguished Romanian viola soloist, composer and teacher.
The opening movement deftly balances introspection with outbursts of passion.
The eloquent, throaty voice of the viola is the perfect vehicle to communicate the music’s innermost thoughts. The at least relatively humorous second movement is a transcription of a scene from an opera that Shostakovich had begun in 1942 but had abandoned. He drew the text from a black comedy by the esteemed author Nikolai Gogol called The Gamblers. Shostakovich headed this movement with a quote from another gifted Russian author, Alexander Pushkin: “the work of long-ago days …” The movement offers an intermingling of his trademark satirical sense of humour with more restrained and sombre tones. The finale, the longest of the three movements, includes quotes not only from the ‘Moonlight’ sonata but from every one of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies, plus Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Quixote. This last quotation is a possible case of personal identification, between Shostakovich and Cervantes’ noble, melancholy knight who tilted at windmills. An eloquent conclusion of an inspiring musical career.
Symphony No. 28 in C Major, K 200
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Allegro spiritoso
This charming work probably dates from shortly after the period during which Mozart composed more symphonies than at any other time in his career. Between 1770 and 1773, he composed no fewer than 28 of them.
Research has shown that the catalogue numbers assigned to several of these works do not accurately reflect the order of composition. Mozart wrote the well-known Symphony No. 25 in G Minor in October 1773. Its highly dramatic nature reflected the exposure to the music of Joseph Haydn and other progressive composers that he had undergone in a recent trip to Vienna.
Next in order, in April 1774, came the sunny work known as No. 29. The precise date of No. 28 is still being debated, in part because some unknown person made a strong effort to erase it from the manuscript score. The most likely time is November 1774, which places it after Nos. 29 and 30 (composed in April and May 1774, respectively), and four years before the next symphony, No. 31, the ‘Paris’ Symphony.
Several scholars have noted that No. 28 marked a substantial creative progression for Mozart. Ekkehart Kroher wrote that its style “so well expresses the cheerfulness of the key of C that it must have surprised his contemporaries. The music’s creativeness, moreover, corresponds to an expansion of the form, which is reflected not only externally, for example in containing four movements, with a minuet, or in the addition of a coda, but also in the depth of expression. In particular the finale is no longer a mere conventional finish but is now elevated in rank to counterbalance the symphony’s opening movement.”
The noted American classical period scholar H.C. Robbins Landon wrote, “This has always been a popular work, and it was one of the few Mozart works which were available on records before the Second World War. Two enchanting aspects are the solo horn ‘echoes’ in the minuet and the trill-laden finale.”
Mozart constructed the brisk opening movement on a spirited first theme and a gracious second. Author William Malloch wrote that “the music is not grand, but smart ‘society’ music full of the frivolous laughter of the sort quietly captured by Elgar in the Enigma Variations’ tenth variation, Dorabella.” In the second movement, Mozart called for the strings to play with mutes, enhancing this sweet, flowing music’s genteel quality. The following minuet continues the second movement’s moderate pacing and dignified manners. The finale abandons all caution as it races merrily to a near-breathless conclusion.