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We're pleased to welcome back Martin Riseley as conductor and soloist in a concert featuring violin and viola virtuosity. The programme is one of two halves and two cities. The first half centres on Milan, with an Italian theme, and the second half moves to Vienna for Schubert's 6th Symphony.
Martin's brilliant Furiant for viola and orchestra will have its international premiere on this occasion.
In the tradition of the continental festive season we will also have a little market underway in the foyer at Speirs. On sale will be CDs featuring our soloists, the Manawatu Journal of History and other items. Bring cash and arrive early!
Rossini, Overture, "The Italian Girl in Algiers"
Rolla, Viola Concerto in E Flat Major BI 546, with soloist Lucy Liu - Maestoso; Andante un poco sostinuto; Allegretto
Paganini, Moto Perpetuo, with soloist Martin Riseley
Riseley, Furiant, with soloist Lucy Liu - Giocoso; Adagio; Giocoso
Schubert, Symphony No. 6 in C major, D. 589 (“Little C-major”) - Adagio, Allegro; Andante; Scherzo; Allegro moderato
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868), Overture to "L'Italiana in Algeri"
L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) is an operatic dramma giocoso ("comic drama") in two acts, written when the composer was 21. It premiered in Venice in 1813 and went on to be performed in Milan. There it was greeted with such acclaim that it opened the way for Rossini's future operas to have La Scala, Milan's celebrated opera house, as their venue.
Rossini often recycled his overtures from one opera to another until they became connected with an especially popular work but this overture seems to have been used only for L'Italiana. It is distinctive for its opening with slow, quiet pizzicato from the basses leading to a sudden burst of sound from the full orchestra. This "surprise" reflects Rossini's early admiration for Joseph Haydn, famous for his "Surprise Symphony". A faster section introduces two lively melodic elements and a splendid example of the excitement-building Rossini crescendo.
Alessandro Rolla (1757–1841), Viola Concerto in E Flat Major BI 546
Alessandro Rolla was an Italian viola and violin virtuoso, a prolific composer, and a long-serving conductor and teacher. He made his first public appearance as soloist and composer in 1772, performing a viola concerto. In 1782 he was appointed to the joint position of leader (concertmaster) and viola principal with the Ducale Orchestra in Parma. After the death of the Duke of Parma, he gained the position of leader with the La Scala Orchestra in Milan in 1802. There he was usually identified as the "Primo violino, Capo d'orchestra". In this capacity he conducted numerous operas by the most popular opera composer of the day, Gioachino Rossini. From 1808 he also served as professor of violin and viola at the Conservatoire of Music in Milan.
Rolla's fame now rests mainly on his status as "teacher of the great Paganini" but he made an important contribution to the development of violin and viola technique. He introduced some of the technical innovations later used by Paganini, such as left-hand pizzicato, chromatic ascending and descending scales, the use of very high positions on violin and viola, and octave passages.
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), Allegro de Concert ("Moto Perpetuo"), Op. 11
Paganini's musical talent was recognized at an early age and his ambitious father drove him hard to succeed. He served as solo violinist at the court of Princess Elisa Baciocchi, Napoléon Bonaparte's sister, for several years before deciding to freelance around Europe. An electrifying performer whose skill with the violin and guitar was almost supernatural, he proved an immediate sensation with both concert-goers and other composers, such as Chopin and Liszt. In a tour de force that brought down the house at many of his concerts, Paganini would deliberately break one string of his violin after another, continuing to play even when only the lowest string remained. He is said to have gone through around a thousand violin strings during his performing career.
Written for violin and orchestra around 1830, the Allegro de Concert is also known as Moto Perpetuo because of its rapid tempo and repetitive note patterns, played without pauses. It has the simplest of orchestral accompaniments, so as not to detract from the focus on the soloist's virtuosity. It was among the numerous compositions for violin by Paganini that he deliberately kept unpublished in his lifetime as his stock-in-trade for concerts. For all other violinists it was a case of hands off!
Martin Riseley, Furiant, with soloist Lucy Liu
A furiant is a Bohemian dance sometimes written in 3/4 time with strong accents forming pairs of beats to suggest 2/4 time. In a stylised version this wild and fiery danceform has often been used in orchestral music by Czech composers, among them Antonín Dvorák in the eighth dance from his Slavonic Dances and in his 6th Symphony. Here Martin Riseley gives us an updated transatlantic version of the furiant. Martin writes, "This scherzo for viola and strings was written for Tim Deighton, the Viola Professor at Penn State University, who is from Wellington and has furthered the cause of music for the viola by New Zealand composers in his concerts and recordings. It was to be performed by him at the 2017 International Viola Congress held in Wellington but Tim was unable to make the trip in the end. Furiant Americano is a re-working of a piece for viola and piano that I originally wrote for him back in 1999 and is an amalgam of the Czech danceform (which Dvorak championed and made famous) seen through my personal Canadian/American lens. The result is probably somewhat more European, in retrospect, showing you can export the Furiant out of Europe, but perhaps not get Europe out of the Furiant… at least in my case!" The piece divides into three movements, Giocoso; Adagio; Giocoso.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Symphony No. 6 in C major, D. 589 (“Little C-major”)
The Symphony No. 6 in C major, composed in 1818, is an ambitious work scored for the full late-classical orchestra with clarinets, trumpets and timpani. Like his first five symphonies, it was probably performed shortly after its composition by the amateur orchestra which grew out of Father Schubert's quartet evenings in Vienna. Its first public performance had to wait until 1828, in a concert of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna to commemorate the composer, who had died a few weeks before. It was played on this occasion as a substitute for the "Great C major Symphony" of 1826, which the orchestra had rejected as "unplayable". None of Schubert’s symphonies was publicly performed or published in his lifetime.
The first movement consists of a serious introduction and an allegro, ending with a faster coda section – broadly in the style of Haydn and Rossini. Rossini had become the favorite of Viennese audiences, including Schubert, who even broke off composition of this symphony to write two overtures “in the Italian style”. The Andante is characterized by melodic grace in the opening and closing sections, enlivened in its middle section by staccato triplets, which some have seen as possibly another Italian touch. In his third movement Schubert makes use of scherzo form for the first time, here clearly influenced by Beethoven. The final movement – the most fully-developed and by far the longest of the four – conjures up scenes of everyday life with Viennese hurdy-gurdy and merry-go-round music.
Conductor and soloist Martin Riseley
Martin Riseley studied at the Juilliard School of Music with Dorothy DeLay, completing Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. He subsequently served for fifteen years as concertmaster of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, where he performed and premiered a number of concertos. Other concertmaster positions he has held include the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, as Interim Associate under music director Pinchas Zukerman.
Martin has played chamber music with some of the leading musicians of our time, including Pinchas Zukerman, Yo Yo Ma and John Kimura Parker. He was also a member of Ménage à Trio with Stéphane Lemelin and Tanya Prochazka.
Since returning to New Zealand to be Head of Strings at the New Zealand School of Music Te Koki, Martin has premiered John Corigliano’s Red Violin Chaconne, given performances of the complete Paganini caprices throughout the country, and teamed up with Diedre Irons for regular recitals, including for Chamber Music New Zealand. In 2015 he was also appointed concertmaster of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and was named patron of The Piano, a music facility of teaching studios and rehearsal spaces for the community, with a concert hall being built in the heart of Christchurch’s Arts Precinct. He has toured recently as a member of the Te Koki Trio.
On the recordings front, Martin has made the first CDs of some important chamber works of Douglas Lilburn. His recording of Jack Body’s ‘Meditations on Michelangelo’, as violin soloist with the NZSO conducted by Ken Young, won a Vodafone New Zealand Music Award for Best Classical CD in 2015. Recently he has made premiere recordings of works by David Farquhar. CDs by Martin will be available for sale at the concert.
Soloist Lucy Liu (Xi Liu)
Lucy Liu writes, "I started playing violin at five years old at the Central Conservatory of Music in China. I began to study viola in 2011. I completed my Master of Music degree at the Rachmaninoff Conservatory in Rostov, Russia, where I studied with renowned teacher Professor Lyubov Viktorovna Balisava. In my thesis I focused on Yuri Abramovich Bashmet, who through his virtuosity, strength of personality and high intelligence has given the viola a new prominence in musical life. I performed in a master-class with Yuri Bashmet in 2014.
"I performed in many musical events during this period, including as soloist in Bartók’s Viola Concerto with the Rostov Philharmonic Orchestra at the opening ceremony of the State String Competition in 2014 and at the opening ceremony of the State Chamber Music Competition, representing the Rachmaninoff Conservatory, in 2015. While in Russia I established a string quartet, performing many contemporary works. Other orchestras in China and Russia that I have worked in are the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra.
"I am now a second-year PhD student at Victoria University of Wellington, studying with Professor Donald Maurice, an authority on the music of Israeli composer Boris Pigovat. In September 2018 I was one of the winners of the String Concerto Competition of the New Zealand School of Music Te Koki, following which I performed the Rolla concerto. I also play in Orchestra Wellington."
Our hope is that concerts by the Youth Orchestra and the Sinfonia can still go ahead over the remainder of 2020 but we are keeping a watchful eye on the alert levels!
The October concert (date and venue to be announced) will be given by the Manawatu Youth Orchestra and will include movements from pieces featuring violin and cello soloists.
The Sinfonia's November concert, if it goes ahead, will feature conductor Martin Riseley with brilliant young violin soloist Nickolas Majic.
The Sinfonia plans to hold what was to be this year's May concert with Peter van Drimmelen (conductor) and Emma Minchin (flautist) in May 2021.
Later in 2021 the Sinfonia hopes to do a celebration of Beethoven's 250th, featuring the Emperor concerto played and conducted by Andrew Atkins, along with some of the most memorable movements from four of Beethoven's symphonies. (This might seem like a belated celebration but not to worry, Beethoven will still be 250!)
Evelyn Rawlins Arts Trust