(1873 – 1943)
(1841 – 1904)
Trio élégiaque No. 1
Discipline was not the only gift he received at the Moscow Conservatory. Its most famous professor, Pytor Tchaikovsky, became his teacher, his cheerleader, his mentor, and his father figure. So, it is no surprise that when Sergei composed his Trio élégiaque No. 1 in his final year as a student, he would base its main theme on a memorable motif from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The DNA of this Trio comes from the opening four notes horn motif of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece. Rachmaninoff turns Tchaikovsky’s descending four notes into a four-note rising motif – in a minor mode – introduced by the piano. Everyone in the audience at the Conservatory would have been well aware of Rachmaninoff’s unmistakable musical reference. At the time, borrowing an idea from another composer was not plagiarism, it was a show of respect. The issue wasn’t where the idea came from, but what you could do with it, and Sergei did plenty.
This Trio, which he wrote as a nineteen-year-old, already sounds like the Rachmaninoff who years later wrote his powerful piano concertos and his monumental Second Symphony. His characteristic massive chords, captivating sequences, and Romantic washes of color are much in evidence.
The Trio ends with a funeral march. Even at that young age, Rachmaninoff was obsessed with death. Many of his mature works quote the Dies Irae from the Catholic mass for the dead.
Rachmaninoff returned to this format a year later, after Tchaikovsky’s premature death. Trio élégiaque No. 2 is a tribute to his mentor. It, too, ends with a poignant funeral march.
String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American”
After he returned to Bohemia, however, he wrote to a conductor who had programmed the New World Symphony and told him to “leave out the nonsense about my having made use of American melodies. I have only composed in the spirit of such American natural melodies”. Dvořák later called all his works written here “genuine Bohemian music”.
In any event, Dvořák wrote this wonderful quartet during the summer of 1893 while on a working vacation in – of all places – Spillville, Iowa. Spillville was an agricultural community whose small population included a robust Czech enclave and surrounded by his family, Dvořák felt right at home. He described his intent as wanting to write “something that is melodious and simple”, and this gorgeous comfortable pastoral music is the result.
In the first movement of his “American” String Quartet, Dvořák presents two principal themes; the resolute first sung with a husky richness by the viola, Dvořák’s instrument; the second, intoned by the first violin, and evokes the spiritual gravity of the “New World Symphony”. Movement two is a yearning reverie. One scholar called it a sort of “Bohemian blues”. Movement three is a dancelike scherzo. Dvořák was an ardent birdwatcher. He loved their songs and incorporated many of them in his symphonies. In this movement, the high violin tune was inspired by the call of a Scarlet Tanager he encountered in Spillville. The Finale is an expression of buoyant good humor, punctuated by hymn-like material.
Unlike many of his composer colleagues, Dvořák was a happy man. He was neither neurotic nor pursued by dark demons. His music reflects his optimistic grateful outlook on life, and let me put it this way: I like it, and I hope you do too. (Come to think of it, I like all music.)
WRITTEN BY THE HONORABLE STEPHEN S. TROTT
Executive Director Message
Welcome to the Boise Phil's new Digital Stage! Nearly every week this season, you'll enjoy new performances that you can stream anytime, anywhere. As a bonus, you can deepen your experience with our weekly Backstage conversations featuring our music director and musicians. Thank you for joining us!
Be sure to check out our Inside the Symphony blog for special features and insights into the Boise Phil.MEET THE STAFF
Music Director Message
Board President Message
As board president, let me take this opportunity to thank all of the people, organizations and businesses who have helped us bring this innovative season to life. Your support has ensured that the Boise Phil continues to thrive and evolve to ensure that your local orchestra is accessible to everyone in our community.MEET THE BOARD
The Boise Phil reflects the energy and heartbeat of our communities through invigorating musical experiences that touch the human spirit.