The Musical Offering’s 43rd season begins with a program exploring Viennese style through a wide range of surprisingly connected works. This is the second year of The Musical Offering’s focus on the cultural legacy of Vienna from 1780-1930, where we perform works by great composers like Strauss, Brahms, Beethoven, and Schubert and discover equally great works by lesser known composers. This Sunday’s concert shows us just how influential those Viennese masters were on defining style and letting beauty flourish. Each composer on this program is part of that Viennese legacy through their biographical links and approaches to composition–and that’s made all the more remarkable by the 100+ years that separate them. If you’re looking for tickets, click here.
We begin with a late work by the only Vienna native on this program Alexander Zemlinsky–although by the time he published Humoresque for wind quintet he was living in New York after having fled the Nazis first in Berlin and then in Vienna. Unlike his student Schoenberg who enjoyed success and fame in America, Zemlinsky would die a neglected composer three years following the publication of this work. A friend of Brahms and Mahler and much respected in Europe, while enduring his ill-deserved fate in America he left us a charming and much beloved chamber work for wind quintet.
Next are works for two flutes by Charles Koechlin and Yuko Uebayashi that were composed almost a century apart. These composers’ command of style creates beautiful and diverse melodies, yet each has an incredibly complex structure. The shimmering and colorful tone of the flute deceptively masks the organization of each work, which is very similar in style to early 20th century Viennese composers.
Both composers have strong ties to “Les Six,” a group of French composers that came together following the first world war in reaction to the styles of both Richard Wagner and the impressionists Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Koechlin came of age alongside a number of composers we’ve heard in the last year performed by The Musical Offering: Poulenc, Massenet, Milhaud, Korngold, and Richard Strauss, and one hears connections in cerebral, tonal, and lyrical dimensions. Uebayashi composes in our time, yet Transcending Time may just as easily been written a century earlier. Most present similarities are her harmonies and their use to depict light in a restrained and subtle yet powerful manner. These two beautiful works are in strong response to mainstream romantic convention, and show Vienna’s strong influence on music over the last century.
Our program ends with Thuille’s Sextet for piano and winds, featuring returning guest pianist Timothy Lovelace. Thuille led a very successful yet short life in the late 19th century, where his early talent led him to study under composer Josef Rheinberger and win competitions across Europe. In fact, his 1897 opera Theuerdank won him a major competition in Bavaria, beating Alexander Zemlinsky who took second place. He also enjoyed a lifelong friendship with Richard Strauss, which began as they studied together in 1877. This Sextet is the most played among the two dozen works he composed for chamber ensembles and has never lost popularity among audiences or performers.
Along with the musical program is an intermission interview featuring one of the artists. This is a great chance to discover more about approaching the performance of chamber music, learn more about our ensemble musicians, and ask questions about the music or performers. There is a post-concert reception with refreshments, which is a great opportunity to personally meet our ensemble.
Ensemble musicians playing on this concert will be: John Snow, oboe, Jane Garvin, flute, Caroline Lemen, horn, and Norbert Nielubowski, bassoon. Guest artists include Timothy Lovelace, piano, Greg Williams, clarinet, and Barbara Leibundguth, flute. Our ensemble, which includes strings featured on programs at each of the rest of our concerts this season, is composed of the Twin Cities’ best musicians, all of whom play either with The Minnesota Orchestra or other professional ensembles in Minnesota. We are proud to be performing classical chamber music in Minnesota and love bringing to life such beautiful work.