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With special thanks to Anne and Chris Reyes, in memory of their sister, Julie Reyes Taubman
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TCHAIKOVSKY/STRAVINSKY: Bluebird Pas-de-deux from The Sleeping Beauty
TCHAIKOVSKY: Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33
HAYDN: Symphony No. 85 in B-flat major, Hob. I/85, “The Queen”
TCHAIKOVSKY: Suite No. 4 in G major, op. 61, “Mozartiana”
Jane Glover conducts works by two giants of the Classical era — Mozart and Haydn — as well as two works by Tchaikovsky that reflect his admiration for both Mozart and the music of his time.
Mozart wrote Les petits riens (The Little Nothings) in 1778, during his six-month stay in Paris. Ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre asked Mozart to write music for one of his ballets, which would be performed as an interlude during an opera by Niccolò Piccinni called Le finte gemelle (The Fake Twins). While Mozart’s sparkling music (which was credited to Noverre!) was well received, the opera closed after a handful of performances, and Mozart’s score was lost until the late 19th century, when it was discovered in the archives of the Paris Opera.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 85, known as “The Queen” Symphony, is the fourth of the composer’s six “Paris” symphonies, which were written on commission for a concert series in the French capital and were a tremendous hit. The Orchestra of the Concert de la Loge Olympique premiered “The Queen” Symphony — which was said to have been a favorite of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France — mostly likely in 1787, at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. This symphony pays homage to French culture by incorporating the French overture style in its introduction and by featuring variations on a French folk tune in its second movement.
Tchaikovsky idolized Mozart and once said he loved him “like a musical Christ.” In an 1878 letter to his patron, Nadezhda von Meck, he wrote:
The music of [Mozart’s 1787 opera] Don Giovanni was the first music which produced a tremendous impression on me. It awoke a holy enthusiasm in me which would later bear fruit. . . . It is to Mozart that I am obliged for the fact that I have dedicated my life to music. He gave the first impulse to my musical powers and made me love music more than anything else in the world.
In 1887, Tchaikovsky wrote his Suite No. 4 in G major, known as “Mozartiana,” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Don Giovanni, and he conducted its premiere in Moscow in November of that year. Each of the suite’s four movements are orchestrations and arrangements of works by Mozart (K. 574, 355, 618 [via a Liszt piano transcription], and 455, respectively).
A decade before “Mozartiana,” in 1876 and 1877, Tchaikovsky wrote his Variations on a Rococo Theme for solo cello and orchestra. The piece was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s love of both Mozart and the Rococo style (which is found in the early works of Mozart and of Haydn), and the Rococo theme is an original one written by Tchaikovsky as an homage to that mid- to late-19th-century musical tradition. The standard version of this work includes changes made to Tchaikovsky’s score by cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, who premiered the original version in Moscow in December 1877.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, winner of a 2011 MacArthur “genius grant,” returns to Aspen to solo in the Rococo Variations. The New York Times praised her “grace . . . engaging spontaneity . . . incisive attack, manic energy, and, when called for, rough, bristling tone” during a performance of the work in January 2018 with the New York Philharmonic.