A pre-concert talk – Prelude – by Bohuslav Rattay and guests at 6:30 p.m. in Sursa Hall is free with a concert ticket.
Peter Blume, director of the David Owsley Museum of Art
Laura Kuykendall, assistant professor of art history at Ball State University.
ANNA VAYMAN, BIO
Anna Vayman is an Associate Professor of Violin at Ball State University and a member of the American Piano Trio. A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, she has been a soloist with many orchestras in Russia and the U.S. including solo performances under the baton of Valery Gergiev, Yury Temirkanov and Gianandrea Noseda. An active recitalist and teacher, she has appeared at numerous music festivals including Togliatti Fifth International Chamber Music Festival, Russia, Pittsburg Advanced Chamber Music Seminar, PA, Great Wall Academy International String Festival, China, Aria International Music Festival, IN, Mikkele International Music Festival, Finland, Red Sea International Music Festival, Israel, Rotterdam Philharmonic Festival, Netherlands, and the Lucca Music Festival, Italy. Additionally, she has given master classes in the U.S., Russia, South Korea and China and was an adjudicator for the Great Wall International Concerto Competition, MTNA Chamber Music and Solo Competitions, Canadian National and International Stepping Stone Music competitions and Jurmala International Chamber Music Competition in Latvia. Since 2011, Anna Vayman is an Artistic Director of Benefic Chamber Music Camp at Ball State University. Before coming to the U.S. Ms. Vayman has held a prestigious position of an Assistant Concertmaster of the renowned Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has toured internationally with the orchestra, performing at Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera, Avery Fisher Hall, Kennedy Center, Hollywood Bowl, Covent Garden, Vienna Philharmonic Hall, Madrid Opera House, Santory Hall, Tanglewood Festival, Theatro La Scala and Concertgebouw among other venues.
As the violinist of the American Piano trio Anna Vayman’s performances include appearances across Midwest, the Fleisher Art Memorial Hall and Villanova University Chamber Series in Philadelphia, Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan and multi-city tours of leading music institutions and concert venues in Russia, Belorussia, England, Germany and South Korea.
Anna Vayman’s degrees include a Master of Music Diploma with Honors, at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory, and an Artist Diploma from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she was a winner of the Concerto Competition and studied with Henry Meyer, Kurt Sassmannshaus and Dorothy Delay. She has enjoyed private studies with Isaac Stern and chamber music studies with members of LaSalle Quartet and Tokyo String Quartet.
by Amy Edmonds
Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 in a-minor, op. 77
Shostakovich began composing his first violin concerto in 1947. Times were good for the composer. He had been awarded a large apartment and generous salary in 1946, but ever wary, he feared the proverbial shoe could drop at any moment. He had good reason to worry, for Joseph Stalin had just cracked down on writers and filmmakers He knew musicians would be next, and in the following year he and Prokofiev were condemned for using “abstract” forms which could not portray Soviet ideals (i.e., “formalist” in Communist terms). Stalin wanted composers to focus instead on opera. In January of 1948, Shostakovich and the other major composers of the day were summoned to a three-day conference where party officials rehashed Stalin’s criticisms of Shostakovich’s 1937 opera, Lady MacBeth of Mtensk. The conference was designed to coerce composers into accusing each other of “formalism” (it failed) and to quash any “formalism” creeping into Soviet music (it failed, at least for Shostakovich). An observer described Shostakovich as “walking around with a bloodied soul.” Afterward, Shostakovich resumed work on the violin concerto, using the soulful tone of the violin to give voice to his artistic, political, and personal views.
The violin concerto, an abstract form with modernistic elements, would have to wait until 1955 for its premiere with David Oistrakh as the soloist. The violin, often featured in his symphonies, had already begun to represent the composer’s feelings, and in this work he was able to express his conflicting feelings on art, Soviet repression, and the Russian culture. The result is a concerto with the gravitas of a symphony and the expressiveness of an opera.
He also used this work to reference historical composers. From Alban Berg, whose violin concerto he admired, he borrowed a layering method of combining diverse musical elements. In the second movement, he uses German note names to represent his own name: D-Es (E-Flat)-C-H (B Natural) for D. Sch. Johann Sebastian Bach had done the same thing with the motive B-A-C-H. The third movement further references the music of Bach’s time by using the passacaglia theme. The fourth movement, a Burlesque, responds to the Stalinist ideal of using music to portray Russian national culture by referencing the bawdy carnivals of Shostakovich’s youth — the opposite of romanticized cultural references demanded by Stalin. He would continue this theme in his next work. Neither could be performed until after Stalin’s death.
The concerto is one of the most demanding violin concertos of the twentieth century. Shostakovich was fortunate to be able to count on renowned violinist David Oistrakh to bring to life whatever thoughts came to mind, from soaring melodies to a fiery dance in the finale.
Beethoven Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, op.55 (Eroica)
Longer and more complex than his (and others’) previous symphonies, the “Eroica” Symphony by Beethoven is a turning point for both Beethoven’s style and the development of music. With this work, the symphony becomes a four-movement form capable of conveying depth of thought and feeling, rather than a collection of four movements intended to delight and entertain.
Originally, the “hero” of the “Eroica” (Italian for “heroic”) was Napoleon Bonaparte, whose revolutionary spirit resonated with Beethoven’s sympathy for everyday people. But after liberating France from its monarchy, Napoleon declared himself Emporer, enraging Beethoven. Beethoven scratched out the original title, “Napoleon,” and changed it to “Sinfonia Eroica.” In 1806 it was published with the title, “Sinfonia Eroica, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.” That “great man” could have been the heroic Napoleon of the Revolution, or Beethoven himself. In 1802 he admitted in his “Heligenstadt Testament” (written in the town of Heligenstadt) that he had been going deaf for six years.
Whatever the reframing of the title may have meant, the symphony itself is heroic, elevating the form to an ideal expression of a composers’ thoughts and inspirations rather than merely providing a diversion for the nobility. The first performance of the work was for Beethoven’s patron, Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz in 1804, but in 1805 it was premiered for a public audience in Vienna.
The First Movement announces the key of the work with abrupt chords, followed immediately by a lyrical theme using the notes of the chords. As he would later do in his Fifth Symphony, Beethoven builds an entire movement from these few building blocks. Soon the theme and its rhythmic structure are thrown into turmoil with jagged slices passed around the orchestra, and accents appearing in unexpected places. This contrast between lyricism and almost violent interruptions continues throughout the movement. Each interruption makes subsequent melodious returns seem more restful by contrast. Throughout the movement Beethoven keeps the listener off-guard with a seemingly endless series of surprises, from sudden plaintive passages to a jarring chord outside of the key, which has been so authoritatively stated in many iterations throughout the movement, to a restatement of the violins’ sweet theme, this time played triumphantly by the trumpets.
The second movement is a slow funeral march, with a plaintive melody passed from the strings to the oboe and back again. Keeping with the three-part form typical for second or third movements, a contrasting middle section brings in optimistic themes. We hear hints of heroic ideals as the middle part progresses, but depression overcomes, and the funeral march returns.
The Third Movement is a scherzo, a dance-like, triple meter, three-part form that is intended to delight (“scherzo” means “joke” in Italian). The outer sections contrast lightness in the strings and woodwinds, with a hunting horn section in the middle. This movement is indeed delightful in the tradition of the scherzo, but it also occasionally references to the First Movement and it continues the pattern of jarring contrasts between soft and loud. In the past, these dance-like movements were so independent they could literally be reused in different contexts. This movement is delightful enough to hear alone but it needs the wider context of the rest of the symphony to appreciate it full
The Fourth Movement uses the variation form, and in the beginning continues the playful spirit of the scherzo, with pizzicato strings playing off of the woodwinds and then prancing through the main key in fast triplets. Later, an interplay between woodwinds and strings contrasts the serious and light elements found earlier in the work. Subsequent variations bring back the brass, representing the heroic elements found in the beginning.
Prior to this symphony, there were a few symphonies inspired by the French Revolution, but most symphonies told musical stories, not personal stories. After this symphony Beethoven continued to infuse narrative into the symphonic form, stretching it as the drama required. Significantly, others did too, and the symphony changed from a formal musical framework for diverting music to a mode of personal expression. It is thanks to this work that the symphony took on the gravitas for musical expression for the next two centuries. It is the symphonic form itself that may be the true hero in the “Eroica.”