Sound of Charlotte Blog

NOTES OF VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, WALTON AND TCHAIKOVSKY

Three pieces are on the program for this weekend. Read more to learn about these selections!

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

The first performance of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis took place at the Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucester, England, on September 6, 1910, with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. 
The first performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on November 17, 1971 with Jacques Brourman conducting at Ovens Auditorium. The third and most recent performance set took place November 9 & 10, 2001 with William Eddins conducting at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

In 1904, while working as an editor Vaughan Williams discovered a series of melodies by the 16th-century English composer, Thomas Tallis. One Tallis melody in particular greatly appealed to Vaughan Williams.  It originally appeared in the 1567 English Psalter to serve as the music for the text "Why fumeth in sight: the Gentiles spite, In fury raging stout?"  This served as the basis for one of the most radiant English orchestral works of the 20th century, the "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis."
In a review of the premiere, Fuller Maitland, writing for The Times, described the unique qualities of Vaughan Williams's masterpiece: "The work is wonderful because it seems to lift one into some unknown region of musical thought and feeling.  Throughout its course one is never quite sure whether one is listening to something very old or very new..."

Walton VIOLA CONCERTO
The first performance of the Viola Concerto took place at Queen's Hall in London, England, on October 3, 1929, with Paul Hindemith as soloist and the composer conducting the Henry Wood Symphony Orchestra.  
The first (and only) performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on January 19 & 20, 1996 with Christopher Wilkins conducting at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

The great conductor Sir Thomas Beecham suggested to Walton that he compose a Concerto for the prominent British violist, Lionel Tertis.  Walton completed the Concerto in early 1929 and sent it to Tertis for his approval.  Tertis, however, rejected the work, finding it too modern for his tastes.
Despite limited rehearsal time, the premiere of the Walton Viola Concerto was a great success.  Tertis was in the audience, and sent a letter to Walton, apologizing for his initial assessment of the score.  In short order, Lionel Tertis also performed the Walton Concerto and remained a staunch advocate for the piece.

"One work of which I did not give the first performance was Walton's masterly concerto. With shame and contrition I admit that when the composer offered me the first performance I declined it. I was unwell at the time; but what is also true is that I had not learnt to appreciate Walton's style. The innovations in his musical language, which now seem so logical and so truly in the mainstream of music, then struck me as far-fetched." --Lionel Tertis

TCHAIKOVSKY  Symphony No. 5 in E minor
The first performance of the Symphony No. 5 took place in St. Petersburg on November 17, 1888, with the composer conducting. 

The first performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on February 21, 1936 with Guillermo S. de Roxlo conducting at Alexander Graham Middle School.  The thirteenth and most recent performance set took place on January 11 & 12, 2008 with William Eddins conducting at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

In the spring of 1888, a decade after completion of his Fourth Symphony, Tchaikovsky was determined to focus his attentions on composing.  He wrote to his brother, "first this summer I shall without fail compose a symphony."

Tchaikovsky insisted that his Fifth Symphony did not contain an extra-musical program. However, the Symphony's introduction, frequent reappearance, and dramatic metamorphosis of a central leitmotif certainly  seem to hint at some extra-musical significance. That notion is supported by the following words, located among Tchaikovsky's sketches for the Fifth Symphony:

Intr(oduction). Total submission before Fate--or, what is the same thing,  the inscrutable design of Providence.
Allegro. I. Murmurs, doubts, laments, reproaches against...XXX.
2. Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith?
A wonderful programme, if only it can be fulfilled.

The question of whether the Fifth Symphony depicts a struggle with Fate will probably never be conclusively resolved.  In the final analysis, such considerations are secondary to the glorious music of this gripping and unforgettable symphonic journey.

Program notes by Ken Meltzer.

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, History.

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