SEPT. 10, 2003
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich at 661/664-2456 mstepanovich@csub.edu

"A Symphonic Spectacular" opens Musica da Camera's 2003-04 concert season on Saturday, Sept. 27, in the Dore Theater at California State University, Bakersfield.

Musica da Camera, CSUB's symphony orchestra, will perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, the beloved "Emperor Concerto"; and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2, "The Little Russian."

Gordon Mehling, CSUB music professor, and conductor and artistic director of Musica da Camera, will conduct the orchestra of 55 musicians. CSUB music faculty member Charles Badami is the featured soloist for the Emperor Concerto.

The program will begin with the Blue Danube Waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr., followed by "The Emperor" and "The Little Russian."

"Our opening concert is a real extravaganza," Mehling said. "The 'Emperor' is undoubtedly Beethoven's most famous piano concerto and a favorite worldwide. And Tchaikovsky's famed Second abounds with Russian folk melodies and is over the top in its nationalistic statement."

Prior to Beethoven, piano concertos reflected a smooth flowing connected form of music. But Beethoven created a whole new personality for the piano by introducing complex and emotional musical structures into his compositions - even beyond the accepted bounds of the Viennese Classical style. The introduction of these new composition methods began the modern Romantic style.

The Emperor Concerto is the prototype of the modern romantic concerto. According to notes by music reviewer Elizabeth Schwarm Glesner, the Emperor Concerto "is the last of Beethoven's five piano concertos. The composition was begun in 1808; ... despite the grand scale of the piece, Beethoven finished it promptly, at least by his own usually arduous standards, and the new concerto was ready for its premiere in Leipzig in 1811. One might have expected that, on that occasion, Beethoven himself would have performed the solo part, as he had for the premieres of each previous piano concerto. By this time, however, his ever-problematic hearing had declined to the point of profound deafness, and public performance was no longer an option. The honor of that first performance went to a 25-year-old church organist, Friedrich Schneider. Three months later, in February 1812, the concerto was given its Vienna premiere. The pianist on that occasion was Beethoven's student, Carl Czerny, a man still renowned in keyboard circles today for his own piano pieces. Thanks to its bold melodies and heroic spirit, the new concerto quickly won for itself a place in the piano repertoire.

"The Fifth Concerto's sobriquet, 'Emperor,' dates from Beethoven's time, but not from Beethoven himself, for he very rarely gave nicknames to his works. Besides, since the composer had little regard for emperors, he would be unlikely to name one of his own works for a class of people he generally disliked. So where did the name originate? Evidence is unclear, but it seems that the 'Emperor' title was the idea of Johann Baptist Cramer, a German-born, London-based pianist and publisher. Beethoven and Cramer were life-long friends, and Beethoven reportedly regarded his lesser-known colleague as the greatest pianist of their day. If Cramer did indeed crown the 'Emperor' with its regal title, then it seems proof of Beethoven's friendship that he permitted the choice, for he rarely let anyone meddle with his music."

Tchaikovsky's second symphony's nickname stems from its use of Ukrainian folk melodies. Ukraine was generally referred to as "Little Russia" in those days. According to music reviewer Geoff Kuenning, "In 1872, Tchaikovsky's fledgling career as a composer seemed to have stopped almost before it had begun. Although a few pieces had been moderately successful, most of his works had encountered harsh criticism. He began work on his second symphony during his summer vacation, but did not accomplish much at first until his travels led him to Usovo, in the Russian province of Tambov, southeast of Moscow, where, refreshed and restored, he made tremendous progress before returning to Moscow in the fall to complete the work.

"The première of the symphony was a great success, and the critic Laroche, who had once been a good friend but had recently attacked Tchaikovsky unmercifully, wrote approvingly of the work's 'well-motivated and artistically worked-out contrasts.' A second performance was hastily arranged for St. Petersburg, and Tchaikovsky finally found the recognition he deserved. (The symphony as played in modern times has benefited from additional revisions made in 1879 and 1880.)"

Advance tickets for the Sept. 27 concert are available at Russo's Books in The Marketplace shopping center, and will be available at the door the evening of the concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10 general admission, $7 for students and seniors, $3 for children under 10.

For more information please call the CSUB Music Department at CSUB, (661) 664-3093.