Bohemian Nostalgia

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SATURDAY, JUNE 13 ∙ 7:30 PM
FRASER AUDITORIUM

The SSO honours the universally loved Czech composer Antonin Dvorak featuring his popular Symphony no 8, based on his inspiration of Bohemian folk music. Smetana’s The Bartered Bride Overture and Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances round out our 44th season finale.

Canadian female composer Jocelyn Morlock also shares this end of season line up with her composition Nostalgia, a beautiful and melancholy piece filled with sweet sadness and sentimental haze.

Program

B. Smetana ………. Overture to The Bartered Bride

Jocelyn Morlock (CAN) ………. Nostalgia

A. Dvorak ………. Slavonic Dances Op. 72, No. 2

A. Dvorak ………. Slavonic Dances Op. 46, No. 8

INTERMISSION

A. Dvorak ………. Symphony no. 8 in G major, Op. 88

i. Allegrio con brio
ii. Adagio
iii. Allegretto grazioso
iv. Allegro ma non troppo

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) — Overture to The Bartered Bride

Smetana, who is regarded as Bohemia’s first major nationalist composer, grew up speaking German. (Czech was banned from the school system of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and not until his 40s did he begin, with considerable difficulty, to speak it.) Smetana endured years of obscurity before achieving acclaim with his nationalistic Czech opera, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia (1866), which coincided with the National Revival movement that was then sweeping Prague’s middle classes. His best-known opera is the comedy, The Bartered Bride, the final version of which was produced in Prague on September 25, 1870. The action takes place in the Bohemian countryside, where true love eventually prevails despite the efforts of ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker. The opera’s overture is also a concert hall favourite.

Jocelyn Morlock (1969- ) — Nostalgia

Morlock, who is composer-in-residence with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, has written the following program note for this string work, the revised version of which was completed in 2012.

“Milan Kundera: ‘In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia.’ (From The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984.) ‘You can suffer nostalgia in the presence of the beloved if you glimpse a future where the beloved is no more.’ (From Ignorance, 1998.)

“My starting point for this piece was the Adagio of Bach’s Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1027, a piece which for me is replete with nostalgia and past associations. The opening melody has a sweet sadness that I find irresistible. While I used some fragments of the Bach for my own musical purposes throughout Nostalgia, the referencing is only audible in the coda. Rather than building a piece on Bach’s music, my intent was to refer to the many emotions I feel when listening to the Adagio, to create a rumination upon this seductive but surreal world of memory. Aside from the undoubted delights of glimpsing the past through a sentimental haze, nostalgia also has some darker facets; engaging in an obsessive love for the past makes it easy to lose sight of the present, and nothing appears quite as wonderful as that which is forever lost.”

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dance, Op. 72, No. 2
Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 8

Dvořák’s music is steeped in the folksong and dance of his native Bohemia, the largest historical region of the Czech Republic. Originally written for piano duet, the two sets of Slavonic Dances, which date respectively from 1878 and 1884, were widely acclaimed and helped to spread his fame as a composer.

Antonín Dvořák — Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

i. Allegro con brio
ii. Adagio
iii. Allegretto grazioso
iv. Allegro ma non troppo

Written at his Bohemian countryside residence in 1889, Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony exemplifies his gift for melody and impeccable craftsmanship. In the first movement, following the pensive introduction in the minor key by the strings, the flute plays an airy, birdsong-like tune that turns out to be the principal theme. The emotional centre of the Symphony is the expansive slow movement, a richly expressive set of variations on the short opening phrase. The third movement is a wistful, autumnal waltz in the style of Brahms (whom Dvorak greatly admired). The finale opens with a brilliant flourish of the solo trumpet that leads to a rousing, festive celebration, although it also has tender moments.