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...
Overview,

WAGNER’S THE RING WITHOUT WORDS
A Jacobs Masterworks Concert  
Friday, February 28, 8pm
Saturday, March 1, 8pm
Sunday, March 2, 2pm

Jahja Ling, conductor; Martina Filjak, piano

SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22
WAGNER/MAAZEL: The Ring without Words

For the first time ever on the West Coast, Lorin Maazel's masterful, voiceless concert adaptation of Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung Cycle will be performed by music director Jahja Ling and the San Diego Symphony. The most powerful, gorgeous and emblematic themes from all four Ring operas will be featured. Rising Croatian star Martina Filjak opens the concert with a light appetizer: Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2. Don't miss this chance to see 107 symphony musicians on stage playing some of the most gorgeous and striking classical music ever written! Highlights include "Ride of the Valkyries" and "Wotan's Farewell."

(For more interesting and valuable insight into this Masterworks program, come to the performance chamber 45 minutes before downbeat for Nuvi Mehta's "What's The Score?" pre-concert talk.)

Note: Weather may be inclement, please plan on arriving early!


Notes,

WHY THIS PROGRAM? By Dr. Melvin G. Goldzband, Symphony Archivist

Jahja Ling told me he covered the performances by the Cleveland Orchestra of three of the four Wagner Ring operas, conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi. “We’re fortunate to have the Maazel compilation now and to present it as a West Coast premiere. The Saint-Saëns second concerto for piano is a good partner to the vast spectrum of the mighty Wagner music. As the early review said, it begins like Bach and winds up like Offenbach: glitzy, like a can-can, and entertaining throughout. But it’s a very effective piece to show the wide range of a pianist. I invited Martina Filjak here so that she could play this specific piece. She really impressed me when she won the International Piano Competition when I conducted.”

PROGRAM NOTES

Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS

Born October 9, 1835, Paris

Died December 16, 1921, Algiers

Saint-Saëns wrote this popular concerto in the space of 17 days in the spring of 1868. The Russian composer-pianist Anton Rubinstein was visiting Paris and wanted to show off his abilities as a conductor. He and Saint-Saëns, then 32 years old, struck a deal: Saint-Saëns would compose a piano concerto and be soloist at the first performance, while Rubinstein would conduct. Saint-Saëns worked very quickly, not only composing but learning his own music, and he was soloist at the first performance on May 13, 1868.

The concerto as finished, however, contained a number of surprises. The first movement, marked Andante sostenuto, opens with an extended cadenza for solo piano rather than the orchestral exposition of the classical concerto. This cadenza, however, is not so much a bravura showcase as it is an act of homage to Bach: its neoclassical poise pays tribute to a composer Saint-Saëns very much admired. The orchestra makes its own dramatic entrance, and the movement then develops in more normal form, with a graceful second subject that flows easily between unexpected keys. The movement is quite brilliant (this concerto was a particular favorite of that other piano-playing Rubinstein, Artur), and Saint-Saëns offers the soloist a further cadenza just before the close.

The second movement is not the expected slow movement, but is instead very fast. Marked Allegro scherzando, this movement is a rondo: the piano’s dancing opening theme is repeated by the strings and develops through a series of repeated episodes. This movement, which might be mistaken for one of Mendelssohn’s scherzos, has all the grace of that earlier composer’s best fast movements.

The finale, marked Presto, is a tarantella, a blazing dance in 6/8 meter that sweeps across the range of the keyboard. The music sparkles and bubbles along, leading one very witty pianist to remark that this concerto “begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach.”

The Ring without Words (arr. Maazel)

RICHARD WAGNER

Born May 22, 1813, Leipzig

Died February 13, 1883, Venice

Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen is one of the most imposing creations in Western civilization. Those four operas – on a libretto Wagner wrote himself after Nordic legends – create a mythology all their own. It is a world of gods and humans and beings from the underworld, a deadly curse, human love, betrayal and forgiveness and finally annihilation as the ring extracts its inexorable vengeance. In the Ring, Wagner imagined an entirely new conception of art, which he called Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”): a music drama that fused text, myth, scenery, music, staging and action into one harmonious and unified whole. In the process he changed our entire conception of opera – and perhaps the possibilities of all music.

The magnificent music of the Ring has attracted countless listeners, including many who have never seen any of the operas and who find it daunting to have to confront all of the characters, their musical motifs and Wagner’s intricate interweaving of plots (not to mention the eighteen-hour span of the Ring in the opera house). But the music itself has always worked its appeal, and from the moment of these operas’ premieres, conductors have led orchestral excerpts from them in the concert hall. That practice has been derided by some (Donald Francis Tovey memorably decried these excerpts as “bleeding chunks” torn out of the operas), but they have led a long and healthy life in the concert hall, where – unencumbered by singers, scenery and action – they have introduced many to the musical glories of the Ring. (It is worth remembering the Wagner himself conducted orchestral excerpts from the Ring.)

More recently the American conductor Lorin Maazel has taken these excerpts a step further. Maazel, who has conducted complete cycles of the Ring at Bayreuth and elsewhere, recognized the centrality of the orchestra to this vast drama, and he set out to create a symphonic synthesis of music drawn from the four operas and arranged chronologically so that it in effect “tells the story” of the Ring purely through the orchestral music. In that effort Maazel had the blessing of Wagner’s adventurous grandson Wieland, who was for many years director of the Bayreuth Festival. In the liner notes to his recording of The Ring without Words, Maazel quotes Wieland Wagner: “The orchestra – that’s where it all is – the text behind the text, the universal subconscious that binds Wagner’s personae one to the other . . .”

In The Ring without Words Maazel assembled a 70-minute suite of music that allows the orchestra alone to recount Wagner’s vast drama. Maazel set himself some guidelines. He begins with the very beginning of Das Rheingold and concludes with the very ending of Götterdämmerung, but without any stops along the way. In the process he offers a through-composed compilation of key moments from the Ring, all achieved with careful transitions, with only modest replacing of vocal lines with instruments, and with the stipulation that “every note” be by Wagner himself.

The briefest summary follows of the four operas and the music Maazel drew from them:

Wagner himself described Das Rheingold (composed 1853-54) as a “preliminary evening” to the three ensuing operas; it establishes the situation, introduces key characters and sets in motion the curse that will bring about the eventual catastrophe. No one can have the gold of the Rhine, or the ring cast from it, without forsaking the need for love. The dwarf Alberich steals the ring from the Rhinemaidens and flees. Meanwhile the giants Fafner and Fasolt have built Valhalla, the grand palace designed by Wotan, lord of the gods. It is nearly finished, but the two giants building it want their payment. Wotan plans to steal the ring from Alberich to pay them, and he goes to the earth’s center to cheat Alberich. He takes possession of the ring, and the moment he uses the ring to pay the giants, its curse is felt: fighting for possession of the ring, Fafner kills Fasolt. Donner, swinging his hammer, creates the rainbow bridge to Valhalla, and the gods joyfully enter their new home while – far below – the Rhinemaidens lament the theft of the ring.

Maazel’s suite begins with the very beginning of Das Rheingold, set in the depths of the Rhine. The motif of the Rhine itself rises majestically as a series of horn calls, which climb out of the prolonged E-flat “greenish twilight” of those depths to introduce us to the Norse gods. The music then leaps to the giants’ battle, followed by the famous Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla, a stirring march introduced by the immense thunderstroke unleashed by Donner’s hammer.

Die Walküre (composed 1854-56) opens in the midst of a violent storm in an ancient forest. A stranger appears, and Sieglinde takes him in, wondering why she should feel so attracted to him. Her husband Hunding returns, recognizes the stranger (Siegmund) as an enemy, but must welcome him to their house – they will fight to the death in the morning. Left alone, Siegmund and Sieglinde realize that they are long-separated twin brother and sister; he pulls the magic sword Nothung from a tree, and they confess their love. Wotan and his daughter Brünnhilde clash over the upcoming fight: he must abide by the rules of marriage and cannot protect Siegmund in the fight, but Brünnhilde disobeys him and sides with Siegmund. The furious Wotan allows Hunding to kill Siegmund (shattering Nothung in the process), then kills Hunding with a wave of his hand. In the final scene, the Valkyries carry fallen heroes to Valhalla, and Sieglinde – pregnant by Siegmund – flees. Wotan punishes Brünnhilde by making her mortal and putting her to sleep on top of a mountain. In a moving farewell to his daughter, he surrounds her with a magic fire that can be penetrated only by a hero worthy of her love.

The Die Walküre excerpts begin with a huge timpani explosion, part of the terrific storm that opens the opera, and soon a solo cello accompanies the deepening love between Siegmund and Sieglinde. This is followed by music of their flight, which gives way to Wotan’s rage over the disobedience of his daughter and the slaying of Siegmund and Hunding. The familiar Ride of the Valkyries comes from the very beginning of Act III, as the valkyries carry fallen hero-warriors to Valhalla, and the Die Walküre section concludes with some of the most beautiful and moving music in the entire Ring, Wotan’s Farewell to Brünnhilde and the Magic Fire Music.

Siegfried (composed 1856-71) is largely concerned with the development of that character, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde. He has been raised by Mime, brother of Alberich. Young Siegfried reforges the shattered sword Nothung, then uses that sword to kill the dragon (Fafner in magical disguise) who guards the Nibelungen gold. He also kills Mime, who was plotting to poison Siegfried and take possession of the gold himself. Meanwhile, the wandering Wotan laments the state of the gods and wonders how he can save them. Siegfried approaches Wotan and shatters his spear with one stroke from Nothung. Wotan realizes that his magic powers are gone and withdraws. Siegfried climbs the rocks toward the fire that surrounds Brünnhilde, passes through the fire and kisses her, waking her at last. Seeing Siegfried and falling love, she willingly accepts her mortality.

The excerpts from Siegfried are the briefest in Maazel’s compilation. They include the sound of Mime’s terror and then of Siegfried’s powerful forging of the sword. These are followed by the familiar Forest Murmurs, during which the song of the Forest Bird tells Siegfried that a sleeping bride is waiting for him. This peaceful interlude is shattered by two strident moments of violence: Siegfried’s slaying of the dragon and that dragon’s dying lament.

Götterdämmerung (composed 1869-74) brings the Ring to its catastrophic conclusion. The lengthy Prologue foretells disaster, but the opera itself opens in sunlight and strength, as Siegfried and Brünnhilde emerge from the cave where they spent the night. He gives her the ring, and she gives him her horse Grane and sends him off on new adventures. Meanwhile, at the Hall of the Gibichungs, Hagen – son of Alberich – plots to get the ring from Siegfried. Confused by an evil potion that Hagen gives him, Siegfried betrays Brünnhilde. Hagen stabs Siegfried in the back with a spear, and he dies while re-pledging his love to Brünnhilde. As they prepare his funeral, she reappears, forgives Siegfried, reclaims the ring and orders a funeral pyre prepared for him. As the pyre is lit, Brünnhilde jumps atop Grane and they both leap into the flames, joining Siegfried in death. The Gibichung palace catches fire, and as the Rhine overflows and surges into the inferno to reclaim the ring from Brünnhilde’s ashes, Hagen desperately plunges into the river retrieve it, but is drowned by the Rhinemaidens. The heavens open to reveal Valhalla itself in flames, destroying the rule of the gods and cleansing the way to the rise of man. The Ring comes to its close on music signifying the redemptive power of love.

The excerpts from Götterdämmerung are the most comprehensive in Maazel’s compilation, making up over half its length. They open with the lengthy sequence that marks sunrise and Siegfried and Brünnhilde’s awakening, and this is followed by the familiar and very powerful Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, as he heads off in quest of new adventures, blowing his horn along the way. This concludes with a rancorous explosion as Hagen calls all the Gibichungs to gather for his fateful scheme against the unsuspecting Siegfried. An interlude between Siegfried and the Rhinemaidens gives way to the two concluding excerpts, both quite famous–Siegfried’s Funeral Music and Brünnhilde’s Immolation–and this symphonic journey through the Ring concludes with the redemptive love music from the very end of the opera.

Program notes by Eric Bromberger

PROGRAM HISTORY

In the season of 1975-76, under the guest baton of Louis Lane, the San Diego Symphony first played the Saint-Saëns second piano concerto, with Jerome Rose as soloist. In the 2008-09 season, Pascal Roge’ soloed in the concerto’s sixth outing at these concerts. Peter Oundjian was guest conductor. Loren Maazel’s symphonic synthesis of the music from Wagner’s Ring operas is being presented at these concerts by the San Diego Symphony for its first hearing not only here, but on the entire West Coast.


Artists,

One of the most exciting young artists to emerge in recent years, pianist Martina Filjak is garnering international praise for her poetic passion and technical mastery at the keyboard as well as for her charismatic personality and magnetic stage presence. Her transition from prodigy to mature artist has been all the more remarkable against the backdrop of political maelstrom that defined her native Croatia during her childhood.

Martina's unwavering hunger for music, nurtured by piano teacher parents, has been her lodestar. Civil strife or no, she graduated from the Zagreb Music Academy and subsequently from the Vienna Conservatory and the soloist's class at Hannover's Hochschule für Musik. She participated in masterclasses at the Como Piano Academy, where she was coached by Dmitri Bashkirov, Peter Frankl and Andreas Staier.

In 2009 Martina Filjak won first prize in the Cleveland International Piano Competition, following which she made concerto debuts at the Konzerthaus Berlin and Vienna's Musikverein and her recital debut at New York's Carnegie Hall/Zankel Hall. ("Brilliant, sensitive and imaginative playing with resourcefulness of technique and naturalness of musicality...a striking individuality...a pianist to watch," said The New York Times on that occasion.) Prior to winning the Cleveland competition, she had been first prizewinner of the 2007 Viotti International Piano Competition in Italy and the 2008 Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona.

Martina Filjak has performed with leading orchestras worldwide under the batons of Heinrich Schiff, Michael Schonwandt, Christoph Poppen, Sebastian Lang–Lessing , Jahja Ling, Christopher Warren-Green and Stefan Sanderling. As recitalist and concerto soloist, Martina has also appeared at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; the Palau de la Música Catalana and L'Auditori, Barcelona; the Palais des Congrès, Strasbourg; the Shanghai Oriental Art Center and Severance Hall in Cleveland. Her recording of Soler sonatas was released in 2011 on the Naxos label.

Miss Filjak’s extensive repertoire ranges from Bach to Berio and encompasses 30 concertos. A keen hiker and lover of the great outdoors, she delights in playing music that evokes the sounds of nature and folk music. Bartók's Out of Doors suite, Berio's Six Encores (with titles like Wasserklavier, Erdenklavier, Feuerklavier and Luftklavier) and Ravel's Une barque sur l'océan are particular favorites. She is also drawn to technically and intellectually challenging music such as Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata and Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2.

The 2012-13 concert calendar featured Miss Filjak in recitals at the NDR Hannover, in Istanbul, Salle Gaveau in Paris, Sala Verdi in Milan, The Rockefeller Auditorium in New York and The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C as well as an appearance as "artist in residence" at Ireland´s New Ross Piano Festival. In the realm of chamber music, Martina performed with renowned musicians Radovan Vlatkovic and Kolja Blacher while she also encountered various orchestras such as the Zagreb Philharmonic, the Israel Chamber Orchestra; Florian Krumpöck and the Norddeutsche Philharmonie Rostock; Tito Muñoz and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy, Antony Hermus and the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau, Stefan Sanderling and Toledo and Illinois Symphony Orchestras and Sebastian Lang-Lessing with the San Antonio Symphony.

Upcoming performances in the 2013-14 season include performances at the Ravenna Festival as well as the “Liszt en Provence” Festival, and various recital appearances among which are in San Antonio, TX, in Fribourg, Switzerland, in Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp's deSingel, the Schubert Hall of the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Residenz in Munich as well as various chamber music collaborations at the Zagreb Chamber Music Festival. Concerto performances feature her with various orchestras including the San Diego Symphony and Jahja Ling, the Virginia Symphony and JoAnn Falletta, the Orquestra sinfonica de Galicia and Manuel Hernandez Silva. The year 2014 brings debuts and first appearances in Brazil and Japan. Her recording of Schumanns Andante and Variations with cellists Jan Vogler and Christian Poltera will be released on Sony Classical in August 2013.

Martina's extra-musical passions include nature and education. She participates in "Rhapsody in School," a project founded by Lars Vogt through which artists visit schools throughout Germany to give students access to classical music. Martina speaks seven languages, and (fortunately for an active performer) she loves to travel.

RING WITHOUT WORDS (MW)
February 28 - March 2, 2014
COPLEY SYMPHONY HALL

 
  • Overview
  • Notes
  • Artists