Program Notes

Celebrate Youth

March 27, 2022  4:00 P.M.

Concordia Chapel of Our Lord

Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25                                                Pablo de Sarasate  (1844-1908)

Elinor Detmer, violin

2021 Concerto Competition Winner

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in Eb, K. 365        W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)

  1.       Allegro
  2.       Andante
  3.       Rondo:  Allegro

Freya Pang and Emmie Guo, soloists


Scheherazade                                                  Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov (1844-1908)

  1. The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship (Largo e maestoso — Allegro non troppo)
  2. The Kalendar Prince (Lento — Andantino — Allegro molto — Con moto)
  3. The Young Prince and The Young Princess (Andantino quasi allegretto — Pochissimo più mosso — Come prima — Pochissimo più animato)
  4. Festival At Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman. (Allegro molto — Vivo — Allegro non troppo maestoso)

John Gerson, violin

Jay Friedman, conductor

Pablo Martín Melitón de Sarasate y Navascués, commonly known as Pablo de Sarasate, was a Spanish violin virtuoso, composer and conductor of the Romantic period. His best-known works include Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), the Spanish Dances, and the Carmen Fantasy.

Pablo de Sarasate was the son of a local military bandmaster in the Spanish town of Pamplona, where each July brings the Fiesta de San Fermín and its notorious running of the bulls. He demonstrated musical talent very early and began violin lessons at age five, making his concert debut at eight. His was one of the most exciting and enduring violin careers of the nineteenth century. In addition to his own compositions, several works written for Sarasate have become staples of the violin repertoire, including Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole and F minor Concerto, Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and First and Third Violin Concerti, and Bruch’s Second Violin Concerto and Scottish Fantasy. 

Georges Bizet’s Carmen may well have been a failure at its premiere in 1875, but by the early 1880s it was well on its way to becoming one of the most famous operas of all time. Sarasate wrote the Concert Fantasy on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen, Op. 25, universally known as the Carmen Fantasy in 1883. It is in four movements with a prelude that in essence amounts to an additional movement. The prelude is an adaptation of the Entr’acte to Act Four of the opera (the Aragonaise), and the first movement adapts the famous Habanera sung by Carmen in Act One (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle). Sarasate expertly crafted the gentle second movement to foil the active music all around it, while the F sharp/D major juxtaposition of the third movement shines every bit as brightly as does in its original guise (the Séguidilla aria of Act One). Sarasate makes a direct link between the third movement and the frenetic Bohemian Dance (from Act Two) that is the fourth. Here, raw virtuosity takes over, providing the violinist an athletic workout not at all unlike the one that Bizet’s original version provides for the dancers and orchestra.

It is not known when Mozart completed his Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos and Orchestra in E-flat major, but research indicates that it was most likely composed in 1779. It is presumed that Mozart wrote it to play with his sister Maria Anna (“Nannerl”). Years later he performed it in a private concert with pupil Josepha Barbara Auernhammer.

The concerto was originally scored for the two pianos together with two oboes, two bassoons; two horns; and strings. Mozart later expanded the score with pairs of clarinets, trumpets and timpani in E-flat and B-flat. The authenticity of the additions is unclear. Notwithstanding that concern, in today’s concert the augmented orchestration is being used.

The concerto differs from the usual solo piano concerto as it allows for not only the dialogue between solo and orchestra but also a dialogue between the two pianos as they exchange musical ideas. Mozart divides the more striking passages quite evenly between the two pianos. The first movement is lyrical and “wonderfully spacious, as if Mozart is thoroughly enjoying himself and letting his ideas flow freely”, as Ledbetter has noted. The middle movement is slow and refined; the orchestra stays in the background behind the pair of playful pianists. The finale is a rondo filled with rhythmic drive.  After passages of lyrical grace, there is an exuberant return to the main rondo theme.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was the most accomplished of a group of musicians that championed the music of Russia over the Germanic compositions that had previously been the fashion, following in the footsteps of musical nationalist Mikhail Glinka. Dubbed by Russian critic Vladimir Stasov “the mighty handful” (moguchaya kuchka), the group included Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Mily Balakirev, their self-appointed leader. It was Balakirev who encouraged young naval officer Rimsky-Korsakov, in 1861, to pursue a career as a composer, though the latter had no formal training. In 1871 he became a professor of composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of music — and then commenced studying the subject himself. Indeed he taught himself orchestration so well that he later wrote a book, The Principles of Orchestration, that is still in use today. His students over the years included Glazunov, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky. Tchaikovsky, also influenced by Balakirev’s circle, wrote to Rimsky-Korsakov: “I am a mere artisan in music, but you will be an artist in the fullest sense of the word.”

Though the subject of Scheherazade is based on Arabian tales, the work is still firmly Russian in its sensibilities and its flavor of “oriental” sound. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that the piece was not meant to be an exact depiction of Scheherazade’s stories, and titles of the movements are meant to “direct but slightly the hearer’s fancy on the path my own fancy traveled.” The piece exhibits his skill in varying orchestral color, using a standard Brahmsian orchestra that has been augmented by piccolo, harp, and extra percussion (snare and bass drum, tambourine, cymbals, and tam tam).

The tales of the Arabian Nights themselves were passed down through the centuries by word of mouth; the oldest tales date to the 10th century. These included the now well-known sagas of Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, and Aladdin and his Magic Lamp. The story of Scheherazade provides the narrative thread between the tales, and runs as follows: Scheherazade was the daughter of the grand vizier to Sultan Shahriyar. The sultan’s first wife had betrayed him, and in anger and grief he not only executed her but vowed to marry a woman each night and kill her the next morning. The sultan’s cruel order was obeyed for three years, until Scheherazade conceived a plan to stop him and convinced her father to offer her as the sultan’s next wife. The clever girl talked the sultan into letting her sister spend the night with them in the bridal chamber, and in the morning, as planned, Scheherazade’s sister begged her to tell a story. Scheherazade began one of the exciting tales but stopped before the story ended, causing the sultan, who had listened as well, to put off killing her until she could finish her story the next evening. Scheherazade, of course, never finished her tales, but kept her husband enthralled with story after story for 1,001 nights. By that time the pair had produced three sons and the sultan, convinced of his wife’s fidelity and wisdom, revoked his death sentence.

The first movement, The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, opens with two opposing themes: a stern and solemn tune dominated by the brass, and a sinuous violin melody introduced by a woodwind choir. The former is the stern sultan; the latter is Scheherazade, weaving her tales. Rimsky-Korsakov described the two themes, which wind throughout all movements of the work, as “purely musical material … appearing as they do each time under different moods, the self-same motives and themes correspond each time to different images, actions, and pictures.” In this movement, the themes ebb and flow over a third rocking melody like the ocean’s waves. The Story of the Kalendar Prince — a royal prince who disguised himself as a member of a tribe of wandering dervishes called Kalendars — features an “oriental” melody played in turn by both the full orchestra and different solo instruments, including bassoon, oboe, flute, and horn. The theme is offset by a brisk martial tune introduced by the brass, which in turn is interrupted by a clarinet solo that whirls like the dervishes of the title. The lyric sweep of The Young Prince and the Young Princess is colored by a rising and falling counterpoint from woodwinds, harp, or upper strings against lower. Romantic melodies weave in and out, and the movement ends with a series of rapid, quiet figures that seem to dance into the distance. The solo violin of Scheherazade heralds the final movement, which bursts into a vigorous dance accented by cymbal and tambourine, The Festival in Baghdad. The dance becomes wilder, punctuated by snare and bass drum, and a brass fanfare announces a return to some of the themes of Sinbad and The Sea. The music rises and falls with the swell of the ocean until The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock (the full title notes that the rock is “Surmounted by a Bronze Warrior”).With a mighty crash, the music segues into a sweeping recapitulation of the Sultan’s theme from the first movement, which then subsides as if the Sultan has been mollified. Scheherazade’s violin ends the tale on a series of harmonics over a broad, sustained chord.

Elinor Detmer
Elinor Detmer

Elinor Detmer
, 17, is a scholarship Fellow at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a training center for advanced pre-college musicians. She studies violin with Almita Vamos and Davis King. Elinor won first prize in the DePaul Concerto Festival, Peoria Symphony Young Artist, and Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest competitions in 2021. She was also named a YoungArts Merit Winner in Classical Music. She won numerous awards with her chamber group the Omaggio String Quartet, including the Bronze and Audience awards at the St. Paul String Quartet Competition. She also plays piano, studying with Ms. Angela Wright for 14 years, and received a high school performance diploma and the Paderewski Gold Medal from the National Guild of Piano Teachers.  Elinor is in 12th grade and is home-schooled. In addition to her musical interests, Elinor loves reading, gardening, dancing, and travel.

Freya Pang began her piano lessons at 4 years old with Sueanne Metz. She is a prize winner of several national and international competitions. She is the First Place Winner at Chicago International Music Competition, New Star International Competition, Aloha International Piano Competition (Hawaii), American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, NWSMTA Piano Competition, Chopin International Competition at Hartford, Carmel Klavier International Competition (Indiana) for solo, concerto and duet divisions. Freya has had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall at the age of 5. As the winner of the DePaul Concerto Competition, she performed with the Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra. Freya enjoys swimming and is a member of the local swim team, Hinswood. She is also on the Beyond the Star dance company and in her spare time, she loves to play with her sister, Kaleia and her kitten, Cookie.

Emmie Guo has performed with Kostroma Orchestra in Russia and with Oistrakh Symphony in Chicago. She was the proud winner of the Grand Prix at Carmel Klavier International piano Competition, and the 1st Place and Judges’

Distinction Award at The American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music. Emmie has been invited to perform at XXII Miedzynarodowy Chopin Festival in Busku-Zdroju in Poland, Chicago Culture Center, Booth Tarkington Theatre in Indiana, and Illsley Ball Nordstrom Hall in Seattle and at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. Emmie loves tennis, swimming, reading, and cartoon animation.

Emmie & Freya are both 13 years old and study piano with Sueanne Shimabuku Metz. Freya is an 8th grader at Cass Junior High in Darien and Emmie is a freshman at Whitney Young High School Academic Center in Chicago.  We met them a few years ago at one of our concerto competitions and have been fans of theirs ever since.