Fireworks & Festivities

Music for a Celebration

End the season with a celebration of music for all. Our evening starts with one of Canada’s highly regarded composers, Alexina Louie, and her composition, “Music for a Celebration”. 

Rafeal Hoekman, Principal cellist the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, joins the SSO and performs the reflective and elegiac E. Elgar’s, “Cello Concerto”. 

We end our musical celebration with Beethoven’s most celebrated works during his lifetime, “Symphony No. 5”. Celebrate the end of a fantastic season with your SSO!

Music for a Celebration — Alexina Louie

Alexina Louie was born in Vancouver, BC at the end of July in 1949. She is a composer of contemporary art music and has composed pieces for a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations in several different genres. As the daughter of second-generation Canadians of Chinese descent, Louie’s music often blends her Canadian upbringing with her eastern roots. Her work has earned her the Order of Canada as well as a Juno. She received her Bachelor of Music from UBC in Music History and her Master’s Degree in Composition from the University of California a few years later in 1974. As a piano player herself, many of her early works were for piano including the CBC commissioned Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. After moving back to Toronto in 1980, she composed her most well-known piece: O Magnum Mysterium: In Memoriam for Glenn Gould shortly after. She has also written several operas including The Scarlet Princess (an erotic ghost story) and Mulroney: The Opera (a musical satire of Brian Mulroney’s life). Her most recent work is a Triple Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra commissioned for the Canada 150 celebration by the Toronto Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Montreal Symphony. It was premiered at Roy Thomson Hall in September of 2017. Music for a Celebration, written in 1985, was commissioned by Orchestra London.

Cello Concerto in E Minor — Elgar

Considered a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire, Edward Elgar composed this Concerto in E Minor in 1919 at the age of 62, and it was premiered with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) later that same year. Unfortunately, the premiere was a disaster as the conductor of the LSO, Albert Coates, used up most of the rehearsal time, leaving the concerto under-rehearsed. Luckily the soloist Felix Salmond got a second chance with the piece later. The piece achieved popularity in the 1960s after a recording was made by Jacqueline du Pre, a student of Rostropovich. In fact, he no longer played this piece afterwards, saying that she “played it much better than I.”

Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was an English composer who is best known for his Enigma Variations, Pomp and Circumstance Marches, his two symphonies, and of course his violin and cello concertos. As a self-taught Roman Catholic composer, Elgar often felt himself to be an outsider in England. In fact, after he married Alice, the daughter of Major-General Sir Henry Roberts, she was disinherited due to his status as a Roman Catholic and unknown musician. His struggles came to an end though in 1899 with the composition of Enigma Variations which garnered widespread attention and praise after its London premiere. By 1911, he had been knighted, made several trips to the US to conduct and promote his music, and had Fritz Kreisler, a leading international violinist, premiered his violin concerto. By 1920 though, his music was no longer in fashion, and, after the passing his wife, he stepped back from composition. He died of cancer at the age of 77 in 1934 and is buried next to his wife.

The concerto is considered his most confessional. According to Ted Libbey of NPR, the concerto is “dominated by disillusionment, by a sense of suffering that at times cries out against life, yet more often speaks in quiet anguish.” Written just after the Great War, Elgar was likely depressed over the devastation wrought all over Europe. The four-movement concerto seems to flow from one movement to the next, sharing thematic material throughout.

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor — Beethoven

Probably the most famous piece of classical music, the opening four note motif of the symphony is instantly recognizable. Written between 1804 and 1808, this symphony, named the “Schicksals-Sinfonie”, or the Symphony of Destiny, was first performed in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in 1808. Though likely just a coincidence, when Morse code was written about thirty years after the Symphony premiered, the letter V (the Roman numeral for 5) was denoted as “dit-dit-dit-dah.”

Beethoven wrote the Symphony over several years with the final push being in 1807-1808 while he was also finishing his Sixth Symphony, the Pastorale. In fact, they were debuted on the same program on December 22nd, 1808 at a huge concert of all Beethoven premieres conducted by Beethoven himself. Though Beethoven’s hearing was already troubling him significantly at this time, he was nonetheless still able to perform and conduct. Due to the concert being over four hours long and it was quite cold, in addition to only one rehearsal with the orchestra, the concert did not go particularly well. It wasn’t until 18 months later when the score was published that the music critic E. T. A. Hoffmann said “how this wonderful composition, in a climax that climbs on and on, leads the listener imperiously forward into the spirit world of the infinite!” Soon after this review, the Symphony became a mainstay in the orchestral repertoire and was played by the New York Philharmonic in its inaugural concert in 1842.

Much has been written about the 5th over the years. The Fate motif is most often referenced, suggesting that the first four notes represent Fate knocking at the door. Though credited to Beethoven himself by Beethoven’s secretary Anton Schindler, experts believe that Schindler may have forged this entry in Beethoven’s diary. The choice of key signature, C minor, is regarded as Beethoven’s special key. Writer Charles Rosen says that the key “has come to symbolize his artistic character. In every case, it reveals Beethoven as Hero.”

The Symphony is in four movements. The first movement Allegro con brio begins with the famous four-note motif, of which there has been much debate on how to play these four notes. While some conductors choose to play them with a strict Allegro tempo, others take a slower, weightier approach, while others take each note slower than the last (a molto ritardando). This movement is in sonata form where this four-note motif is explored and developed throughout the movement before a dramatic return to the opening section in the recapitulation. The second movement, the Andante con moto, is a more lyrical piece in double variation form, meaning that two themes are presented and varied in alternation. The third movement is a scherzo and trio, a modern version of the “minuet and trio” used extensively in the Classical period by Mozart and Haydn. The third movement finishes, and, without pause, transitions fluidly into the opening of the fourth movement Allegro. In C major instead of the home key of C minor, Beethoven himself wrote “many assert that every minor piece must end in the minor. Nego!… Joy follows sorrow, sunshine – rain.” This movement is both exhilarating and triumphant, ending with 29 bars of C major chords, all played fortissimo.

RAFAEL HOEKMAN
CELLO

Hailed by the Toronto Star as a “young musician with a bright future” and noted for his “spirited and fiery performances”, Rafael Hoekman’s varied career as a soloist, teacher, chamber musician and orchestral cellist has taken him on a journey across Canada. Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Rafael Hoekman is currently Principal Cellist of the Edmonton Symphony and a faculty member at the University of Alberta. He has been a featured soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic, Quebec Symphony, I Musici de Montreal, Newfoundland Symphony, Red Deer Symphony, and the Edmonton Symphony. As a chamber musician and founding cellist of the Tokai String Quartet, Rafael was a prize winner at the Banff International String Quartet Competition. Prior to joining the Edmonton Symphony, he was a member of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, held Assistant Principal positions with the Winnipeg and Windsor Symphonies and performed with orchestras including the Toronto and Detroit Symphonies. Rafael has an M.Mus from the University of Toronto. His principal teachers were Yuli Turovsky and Shauna Rolston. He lives in Edmonton with his wife, cellist Meran Currie-Roberts and their children, Sam and Anastasia.