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Program Books/London Symphony Orchestra; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

Sunday, March 20, 2022, 3pm
Zellerbach Hall

The run time for this performance is approximately 90 minutes, with intermission.

The London Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 North American Tour is made possible through an intercontinental partnership with the Music Academy of the West.

This performance is made possible, in part, by Patron Sponsors Beth DeAtley and Diane B. Wilsey.

From the Executive and Artistic Director

Jeremy Geffen

Welcome to another busy weekend at Cal Perfor­mances! On Thursday evening, the combined vocal forces of the Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 (Mar 17)—10 voices with 20 Grammys between them—will fill Zellerbach Hall with their trademark crystalline harmonies, stirring gospel rhythms, and soaring melodies. The bands’ current tour is a hit with audiences and critics alike, with a recent concert in Maryland praised as “an explosion, in gale wind proportions, of musical enjoyment, creative genius, vocal excellence and a boatload of fun” (DC Metro).

Next, acclaimed choreographer Michelle Dorrance and her company Dorrance Dance (Mar 18–19) arrive in town with a program that demonstrates how powerfully movement and music can be entwined in the bodies of expert dancers. Dorrance’s brilliant SOUNDspace, adapted on this occasion for the unique qualities of Zellerbach Playhouse, soars as a powerful tribute to the history and legacy of tap dancing and features both Dorrance’s own choreography and solo improvisation by company members. This remarkable program reminds us that “If the idea of tap dance makes you think of stale musicals from the early 20th century, Michelle Dorrance is eager to shatter your assumptions” (Broadway World Washington).

Finally, in a true season highlight, the mighty London Symphony Orchestra (Mar 20), under the direction of luminary conductor Sir Simon Rattle, provides an afternoon of unsurpassed symphonic music on Sunday afternoon at Zellerbach Hall. The wide-ranging program is almost an embarrassment of riches, packed with masterworks by Berlioz, Sibelius, Bartók, and Ravel, along with a more recent audience favorite, The Spark Catchers, by the brilliant British composer Hannah Kendall. Trust me—in terms of memorable symphonic music, it doesn’t get better than this.

March marks the time of year that traditionally finds Cal Performances operating on all cylinders. From now through the beginning of May, the remainder of our 2021­–22 season is filled with adventurous programming. You won’t want to miss…

  • pianist extraordinaire Mitsuko Uchida playing and directing Mozart with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (Mar 27)
  • the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Mar 29 – Apr 3), returning to Zellerbach Hall for the first time since the initial pandemic shutdown in 2020; this year’s Ailey programs—featuring more than a dozen works from the company’s legendary repertory—have only recently been announced, so make sure to check our website for details
  • the renowned English Baroque Soloists with conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner in a transfixing program of works by Mozart and Haydn (Apr 10)
  • Angélique Kidjo, our 2021–22 artist-in-residence, in her new music-theater piece Yemandja (a much-anticipated Cal Performances co-commission and Illuminations event, Apr 23).

Fasten your seatbelts; we have all of this—plus much more—in store for you!

We’re very proud of our updated winter brochure and know that a few minutes spent reviewing our schedule—in print or online—will reveal a wealth of options for your calendar; now is the perfect time to guarantee that you have the best seats for all the events you plan to attend.

I know you join us in looking forward to what lies ahead, and to coming together once again to encounter the life-changing experiences that only the live performing arts deliver. We can’t wait to share it all with you during the coming months.

Jeremy Geffen
Executive and Artistic Director, Cal Performances

P.S. – Stay tuned for exciting news about our brilliant 2022–23 season, to be announced in April!

Jeremy GeffenWelcome to another busy weekend at Cal Perfor­mances! On Thursday evening, the combined vocal forces of the Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 (Mar 17)—10 voices with 20 Grammys between them—will fill Zellerbach Hall with their trademark crystalline harmonies, stirring gospel rhythms, and soaring melodies. The bands’ current tour is a hit with audiences and critics alike, with a recent concert in Maryland praised as “an explosion, in gale wind proportions, of musical enjoyment, creative genius, vocal excellence and a boatload of fun” (DC Metro).

Next, acclaimed choreographer Michelle Dorrance and her company Dorrance Dance (Mar 18–19) arrive in town with a program that demonstrates how powerfully movement and music can be entwined in the bodies of expert dancers. Dorrance’s brilliant SOUNDspace, adapted on this occasion for the unique qualities of Zellerbach Playhouse, soars as a powerful tribute to the history and legacy of tap dancing and features both Dorrance’s own choreography and solo improvisation by company members. This remarkable program reminds us that “If the idea of tap dance makes you think of stale musicals from the early 20th century, Michelle Dorrance is eager to shatter your assumptions” (Broadway World Washington).

Finally, in a true season highlight, the mighty London Symphony Orchestra (Mar 20), under the direction of luminary conductor Sir Simon Rattle, provides an afternoon of unsurpassed symphonic music on Sunday afternoon at Zellerbach Hall. The wide-ranging program is almost an embarrassment of riches, packed with masterworks by Berlioz, Sibelius, Bartók, and Ravel, along with a more recent audience favorite, The Spark Catchers, by the brilliant British composer Hannah Kendall. Trust me—in terms of memorable symphonic music, it doesn’t get better than this.

March marks the time of year that traditionally finds Cal Performances operating on all cylinders. From now through the beginning of May, the remainder of our 2021­–22 season is filled with adventurous programming. You won’t want to miss…

  • pianist extraordinaire Mitsuko Uchida playing and directing Mozart with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (Mar 27)
  • the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Mar 29 – Apr 3), returning to Zellerbach Hall for the first time since the initial pandemic shutdown in 2020; this year’s Ailey programs—featuring more than a dozen works from the company’s legendary repertory—have only recently been announced, so make sure to check our website for details
  • the renowned English Baroque Soloists with conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner in a transfixing program of works by Mozart and Haydn (Apr 10)
  • Angélique Kidjo, our 2021–22 artist-in-residence, in her new music-theater piece Yemandja (a much-anticipated Cal Performances co-commission and Illuminations event, Apr 23).

Fasten your seatbelts; we have all of this—plus much more—in store for you!

We’re very proud of our updated winter brochure and know that a few minutes spent reviewing our schedule—in print or online—will reveal a wealth of options for your calendar; now is the perfect time to guarantee that you have the best seats for all the events you plan to attend.

I know you join us in looking forward to what lies ahead, and to coming together once again to encounter the life-changing experiences that only the live performing arts deliver. We can’t wait to share it all with you during the coming months.

Jeremy Geffen
Executive and Artistic Director, Cal Performances

P.S. – Stay tuned for exciting news about our brilliant 2022–23 season, to be announced in April!

About the Program

Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
Overture: Le Corsaire
The year 1844 was an exhausting and demoralizing one for Hector Berlioz. After a long period of deterioration, his “dream” marriage to the Irish actress Harriet Smithson finally collapsed. Furthermore, Berlioz had just organized and conducted one of his mammoth concerts—mobilizing more than 1,000 performers!—to celebrate the close of the international Festival of Industrial Products in Paris on August 1. At this extravaganza before an audience of 8,000, he nearly collapsed on the podium; his doctor immediately ordered a rest cure in the warm sunshine of Nice.

There, the composer regained both his health and his creative energies. He swam, hiked, read, and recalled the heady days of his previous stay in Nice in 1831 when the city had once before cured him. Then he was a young Prix de Rome winner who had impulsively quit Rome upon learning his fiancée in Paris, Camille Moke, had married another man. Ever the mad Romantic, Berlioz acquired a set of pistols and leapt into a carriage to rush home and avenge Camille’s treachery by killing the guilty pair. But common sense prevailed, and when he reached Nice, he dropped his bloody plan and stayed on to recover his equilibrium.

During his August 1844 sojourn, Berlioz created the last of his colorful concert overtures, the fiery Le Corsaire (The Pirate) in C major. A likely influence was the narrative poem “The Corsair” by Lord Byron, one of Berlioz’ favorite writers.

In his three most famous and mature overtures—Benvenuto Cellini, Roman Carnival, and Le Corsaire—the radical Berlioz developed a very personal, iconoclastic formal approach that shattered the sonata-form template for Roman­tic overtures. It opens with arresting gestures: a virtuosic whirlwind of string scales that collides with the syncopations of the equally agitated woodwinds. Such rhythmic cross play contributes mightily to this overture’s overall excitement. Then Berlioz presents a slow adagio section, featuring a pensively beautiful melody in distant A-flat major.

All too soon this lovely music is broken off, the orchestra cranks itself around to C major, and the main allegro assai section ensues, launched by a reprise of the whirling string scales and woodwind syncopations. The brass hints at the boisterous, swashbuckling principal theme, but the violins finally unfurl it. Almost unrecognizable in the faster tempo, the adagio melody also returns for contrast. Despite the lack of an orthodox development section, Berlioz keeps revisiting his swashbuckling theme in exciting new ways: the best is the brass instruments’ totally uninhibited proclamation just before the close.

Hannah Kendall (b. 1984)
The Spark Catchers
Creativity flourished in the family of Hannah Kendall, a composer who draws much of her inspiration from collaboration with artists working in many disciplines. Her parents were immigrants to the UK from Guyana, and her grandfather was a jazz musician. Holding degrees from the University of Exeter and the Royal College of Music, she is currently based in New York City, where she is a doctoral fellow in composition at Columbia University. Her music has been embraced by conductors and symphony orchestras throughout the UK and America.

Kendall considers herself to be a storyteller in music, drawing on different cultures and, as her official biography says, “confronting our collective history with narratively driven pieces centered on bold mission statements.” Her The Spark Catchers (2017) vividly salutes the lives of women working in match factories in 19th-century England.

Here is Hannah Kendall’s introduction to this piece:

[British poet] Lemn Sissay’s incredibly evocative poem, “The Spark Catchers,” is the inspiration behind this work. I was drawn to its wonderful dynamism, vibrancy, and drive. Specific words and phrases from the text have established the structure of the work and informed the contrasting musical characteristics created within the piece’s main components.

The opening “Sparks and Strikes” section immediately creates vigor and liveliness…. This momentum continues into “The Molten Mad­ness,” maintaining the initial kinetic energy, whilst also producing a darker and brooding atmosphere …. A broad and soaring melodic line in the French horns and first violins overlays the material, moving into a majestic episode led by the full string section [and] culminating in a sudden pause. A lighter variation of the rhythmic material…follows, creating a feeling of suspense….

The lighter, clearer, and crystalline “Beneath the Stars/In the Silver Sheen” section follows. Quiet and still, it is distinguished by its gleaming delicacy through long interweaving lines, high pitch range, and thin textures. An illuminating strike, underpinned by the glockenspiel and harp, signifies the climax of this section.

Subsequently, the opening zest comes back again through dance-like material that culminates in “The Matchgirls March” with its forceful and punchy chords. The Spark Catchers ends with a coda-like section…, finally concluding on a sparkling flourish.

Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
Symphony No. 7 in C major
As Jean Sibelius grew older and his symphonic craft more sophisticated, composing became more difficult for him. While he struggled to complete his seventh and last symphony in the winter of 1924, he wrote: “I am on the wrong rails. Alcohol to calm my nerves and state of mind. How dreadful old age is for a composer! Things don’t go as quickly as they used to, and self-criticism grows to impossible proportions.” He composed through the night, and his wife, Aino, would find him in the morning slumped over the score at the dining-room table with a bottle of liquor beside him.

Sibelius suffered from black depressions throughout his life, and heavy alcoholic consumption only compounded the problem. Just two years after he completed the Seventh Symphony, these demons, along with nagging self-criticism of everything he wrote, would prematurely silence him, even though he lived on for another 31 years.

Despite the struggle, the Seventh Symphony turned out to be one of his most extraordinary works, taking his unique approach to constructing a symphony to its ultimate level. Sibelius had long since rejected the traditional symphonic structure of four movements following conventional forms such as sonata, scherzo, and rondo. Instead, he believed the symphony was like a river and that each river created its own shape. “The movement of the river water is the flow of the musical ideas, and the river-bed that they form is the symphonic structure.”

Thus the Seventh Symphony emerged as one great movement moving in waves of accelerating and decelerating tempos. It grows organically through the evolution of the most elemental musical ideas. In fact, there is only one true theme here, proclaimed three times by solo trombone and other brass and serving as mighty pillars supporting and shaping the symphony’s structure. And Sibelius uses the brass section only for this theme; otherwise he concentrates on strings and woodwinds, setting their very different colors in opposition rather than blending them. Like many of Sibelius’ greatest works, there is an underlying feeling of the human being standing in wonder before a powerful, and unknowable natural world.

The Seventh Symphony begins with very basic musical ingredients: a rumble of the timpani and a slow scale in the strings (scale patterns underlie most of the melodic material) ascending to a fateful, mysterious harmony. A fluttering-birds motive appears in the woodwinds. Rising and falling scales crisscross, and the woodwind birds cry out with forlorn power. Now a magnificent, warm-toned passage for divided strings expands the scales of the opening into rich counterpoint. This culminates in the first appearance of the epic trombone theme in the home key of C major.

The tempo gradually accelerates, and the musical texture becomes lighter as woodwinds and strings alternate in an airy dance. Eventually, strong, whirling winds begin to blow in the strings, and the tempo decelerates back to adagio for the second appearance of the brass theme, now in the darker C minor.

After this heroic music fades, strings and woodwinds begin a dancing acceleration to music of summer-day joy and lyricism built from the swirling-birds woodwind motive. The tempo gradually builds to a throbbing presto and then imperceptibly slides back to adagio for the final and grandest appearance of the epic brass theme, now back in C major. In the radiantly expectant closing measures of this utterly unique symphony, the home chord of C major is only reached at the very last moment.

Béla Bartók (1881–1945)
The Miraculous Mandarin – Suite
Few people today would know one of Bartók’s greatest scores, the pantomime-ballet The Mirac­ulous Mandarin, if the composer had not abridged it in 1927 as a concert suite. So lurid was the ballet’s scenario (by the Hungarian dramatist Menyhért Lengyel) that it caused a scandal at its premiere in Cologne on November 27, 1926 and was immediately withdrawn. But in the concert hall this vivid score—with its graphic dramatic power, rhythmic drive, and virtuoso orchestral effects—has achieved the celebrity it deserves.

The music’s intensity reflected this sensitive genius’ response to a world turned upside-down. As the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed at the close of World War I, Hungary was thrown into political chaos. And while drafting this music, Bartók nearly died during the influenza pandemic. Mandarin was drafted in piano score between 1918 and 1919. Not optimistic it could be staged, Bartók then laid it aside, returning only in 1924 to complete the orchestral score.

Here is a summary of the plot in Bartók’s own words (as culturally insensitive as they may strike us today):

Three [hoodlums] force a beautiful girl to lure men into their den so they can rob them. The first is a poor youth; the second is no better off; the third, however, is a wealthy Chinese. He is a good catch, and the girl entertains him by dancing. The Mandarin’s desire is aroused, he is inflamed with passion, but the girl shrinks from him in horror. The [hoodlums] attack him, rob him, smother him in a quilt, stab him with a sword—but their violence is of no avail. They cannot cope with the Mandarin, who continues to look at the girl with love and longing in his eyes. Finally, feminine instinct helps, and the girl satisfies the Mandarin’s desire; only then does he collapse and die.

The suite contains the ballet’s music only to the midpoint of the story, ending before the hoodlums attempt to murder the Mandarin. It opens with a scene of urban cacophony: winds impersonating honking car horns over whirling, clashing ostinato patterns. This is the corrupt, dehumanized world of the hoodlums, where the individual counts for nothing. Three times the hoodlums send the girl to the window to lure potential victims; her seductive movements are described by a sinuous clarinet. These dances are interrupted twice by customers. First, an old man hobbles up (violins clattering with the wood of their bows); his ardor is voiced by the English horn. The second customer is a shy youth (solo oboe); he attracts the girl and they dance together, first hesitantly, then passionately. Finally, the Mandarin appears, his mystery and otherworldliness expressed by eerie glissandos in strings and woodwinds and an exotic pentatonic tune in trombones. Though frightened, the girl begins a seductive dance for him. The Mandarin responds with frenzied passion, and the suite ends in a wild chase as he attempts to embrace her.

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
La Valse
With La Valse, Maurice Ravel temporarily abandoned the subtle refinements of his customary Impressionism and opted instead for the tougher, more violent style known as Expressionism, which swept through the European arts after the cataclysm of World War I.

The composer originally conceived La Valse in 1906 as the tone poem Wien (Vienna): “a sort of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz,” he called it, in tribute to Johann Strauss, Jr. However, by the time he came to write it in 1919–20, World War I had smashed that enchanted world, along with the Austrian Hapsburg Empire, forever. Though pushing 40 and frail of physique, Ravel had struggled to play his patriotic role for France. Repeatedly turned down by the army and air force, he became a truck driver behind the front lines. When he was demobilized, his health was broken. The death of his beloved mother early in 1917 sent him into a long depression. La Valse was written by a man who had experienced horrors both on the battlefield and in his personal life. There was no longer any possibility of creating a Romantic apotheosis, only, in Ravel’s words, “the impression of fantastic and fatal whirling.”

Like his beloved Daphnis et Chloé, La Valse was originally intended as a ballet for the Rus­sian impresario Serge Diaghilev and given the subtitle “choreographic poem.” Ravel provided a brief synopsis for his ghostly dance, in which nostalgia and horror are superbly blended: “Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees…an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd…. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the [first] fortissimo…An imperial court, about 1855.”

The music opens ominously with the dark rumble of low strings and bassoons, and a nightmarish thud in three quarter-time delivered by bass and timpani. A few waltz strains gradually penetrate the mists, then shine forth brilliantly. Whirling faster, the waltzes begin to collide with each other in wild harmonic and rhythmic confusion. Finally, even the three quarter-time beat breaks down in an orgy of self-destruction—the most violent ending in all of Ravel’s music.

—Janet E. Bedell © 2022

Janet E. Bedell is a program annotator and feature writer who writes for Carnegie Hall, the Met­ro­politan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Cara­moor Festival of the Arts, and other musical organizations.

London Symphony Orchestra

Music Director: Sir Simon Rattle OM CBE
Principal Guest Conductors: Gianandrea Noseda, François-Xavier Roth
Conductor Laureate: Michael Tilson Thomas
Choral Director: Simon Halsey CBE

FIRST VIOLINS
Roman Simovic, Leader
Carmine Lauri
Jerome Benhaim
Clare Duckworth
Ginette Decuyper
Laura Dixon
Maxine Kwok
William Melvin
Elizabeth Pigram
Laurent Quenelle
Harriet Rayfield
Sylvain Vasseur
David Alberman
Dániel Mészöly

SECOND VIOLINS
Julian Gil Rodriguez
Thomas Norris
Miya Vaisanen
Matthew Gardner
Alix Lagasse
Csilla Pogany
Belinda McFarlane
Iwona Muszynska
Patrycja Mynarska
Alexandra Lomeiko
Lyrit Milgram
Louise Shackelton

VIOLAS
Edward Vanderspar
Malcolm Johnston
Stephen Doman
Sofia Silva Sousa
Carol Ella
Robert Turner
Luca Casciato
Michelle Bruil
Errika Horsley
May Dolan

CELLOS
Rebecca Gilliver
Alastair Blayden
Jennifer Brown
Noel Bradshaw
Daniel Gardner
Laure Le Dantec
Amanda Truelove
Francois Thirault

DOUBLE BASSES
David Stark
Patrick Laurence
Matthew Gibson
Thomas Goodman
Joe Melvin
José Moreira
Jani Pensola

FLUTES
Gareth Davies
Katherine Baker
Patricia Moynihan

PICCOLO
Sharon Williams

OBOES
Juliana Koch
Olivier Stankiewicz
Rosie Jenkins

COR ANGLAIS
Maxwell Spiers

CLARINETS
Chris Richards
Sérgio Pires
Chi-Yu Mo

BASS CLARINET
Katy Ayling

BASSOONS
Rachel Gough
Daniel Jemison
Joost Bosdijk

CONTRA BASSOON
Gareth Twigg

HORNS
Timothy Jones
Diego Incertis Sánchez
Angela Barnes
Olivia Gandee
Jonathan Maloney

TRUMPETS
James Fountain
Niall Keatley
Matthew Williams
Katie Smith

TROMBONES
Peter Moore
Jono Ramsay
Matthew Lewis

BASS TROMBONE
Paul Milner

TUBA
Ben Thomson

TIMPANI
Nigel Thomas

PERCUSSION
Neil Percy
David Jackson
Sam Walton
Paul Stoneman
Tom Edwards
Jeremy Cornes
Oliver Yates

HARPS
Bryn Lewis
Daniel De-Fry

PIANO
Catherine Edwards

CELESTE
Philip Moore

LSO ADMINISTRATION
Kathryn McDowell CBE, Managing Director
Frankie Sheridan, Tours Manager
Tim Davy, Tours & Projects Manager
Emily Rutherford, Orchestra Personnel Manager
John Cummins, Librarian
Alan Goode, Operations Manager
Sophia Tuffin, Stage Manager

The London Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 North American Tour is made possible through an intercontinental partnership with the Music Academy of the West.

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