LPO-0055 CD booklet
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sir charles mackerras conductorlONDON PhilharmONic OrchesTra
dvoksymPhONic variaTiONssymPhONy NO.8
According to one account, Dvoks Symphonic Variations were the result of a dare. A friend pointed to the angular, chromatic melody in one of Dvoks partsongs for male chorus, entitled Huslar (The Fiddle-player), and challenged him to write a set of variations on such an intractable theme. What Dvok produced in response is generally acknowledged to be the finest set of variations in any format. Dvok obviously realised that the themes starkly individual characteristics the simple but memorable rhythm of the first phrase, its arresting chromaticism (a sharpened fourth soon followed by a pure fourth) and its irregular phrase-lengths - could prove fertile for development.
The Symphonic Variations were a turning point for Dvok. He had already completed five symphonies by the time he came to write them, but the symphony he wrote after the Variations, No. 6 (1880), shows a new level of mastery in developing motifs and the use of the orchestra. The 27 variations and the fugal Finale are endlessly inventive. While the Finale makes great show of Dvoks contrapuntal skills, there are wonderful touches of humour throughout the work, especially in Variation 15, where a brassy, self-assured opening statement
from the orchestra is instantly mocked by high woodwind. Equally delicious are the alternating muted horn and flute (against a background of soft strings) in Variation 14, and the combination of hymn-like horns and dancing high string figurations in Variation 18. And while most of the Finale is earnestly fugal, high spirits break out again at the end as the tempo notches higher and higher, and the full orchestra sounds out like the joyous pealing of bells.
Following one of the occasional disagreements he had with his German publisher, Dvok arranged for the British firm of Novello to publish this Symphony in G. Hence the work was once known as his English symphony. The first performance was on 2 February 1890 in Prague under the composers direction. London heard the new symphony two months later. The symphony quickly became popular, being the most national in flavour of Dvoks nine. It belongs to a period when his creative ideas were flowing with especial
ease, charming the listener by its tunefulness, rhythmic felicity and fresh, individual scoring.
With seven symphonies behind him Dvok was technically equipped to venture some departures from conventional symphonic form. So the Eighth Symphony opens with two strongly contrasted ideas, whose elements are then combined to make up the first subject. After a climax a transitional string melody leads to the second subject, a theme with an octave leap for flutes and clarinets, and there follows a vigorously grandiose pendant theme to cap the exposition. The opening passage reappears quietly at the start of the development and again in a fully scored version with trumpets to herald a shortened reprise.
The second movement may be taken as a reflection on Czech village life and the peace of the countryside that Dvok loved. A touch of pathos is felt in the strings meditation, punctuated by suggestions of birdsong on flutes and oboes. Anxiety briefly intrudes, but a flute and oboe introduce a long, lyrical second subject, to which a solo violin replies. A climax gives way to a varied reprise: first the bird calls, then the opening theme, which
rises to a big climax making the formerly implied pathos explicit. In the second subject reprise the tune appears in the strings.
The graceful third movement has the character of the Slavonic dumka with its alternation between melancholy and cheerful moods. A flowing theme is introduced by the violins with an undulating woodwind accompaniment and repeated in different scoring. The contrasting trio section is a waltz with a syncopated accompaniment. The first section is repeated in full, and the movement ends with a lively, speeded up version of the trio theme.
For his finale Dvok adopts variation form. The movement begins with a trumpet fanfare, heralding a theme on cellos. Seven variations follow in rapid succession, the fifth (begun by oboes and clarinets) being march-like. The return of the fanfare on horns and trumpets leads to the cellos resumption of the theme, which is repeated several times in varying instrumental dress. The tempo gradually slackens until the full orchestra re-enters and whirls the symphony to a bright conclusion.
sir charles mackerras conductor
Sir Charles Mackerras can rightly be called a legendary figure. His career spanned an extraordinary six decades of achievement. He made his conducting dbut with Sadlers Wells Opera (now English National Opera) in 1948 and went on to enjoy a lifelong association with the company.
He was First Conductor of the Hamburg Opera (1966-69) and Musical Director of both Sadlers Wells (1970-77), and of Welsh National Opera (1987-92). From 1982-85 Sir Charles was Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra: he conducted the Orchestra in the opening concert of the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House in 1973, which featured Birgit Nilsson in the all-Wagner programme. Sir Charles was Conductor Laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Conductor Laureate of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the Welsh National Opera and Principal Guest Conductor Emeritus of the San Francisco Opera. A specialist in Czech repertory, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 1997 - 2003, following his life-long association with both
the Orchestra and many aspects of Czech musical life.
Sir Charles worked with the London Philharmonic Orchestra over a period of 45 years, conducting the Orchestra at Londons Royal Festival Hall and at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He was a regular guest with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he made his Salzburg Festival dbut in 1988 conducting Le Nozze di Figaro. He made his dbut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004.
In addition to his many appearances with the San Francisco Opera, he had a long association with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In Europe he conducted regularly in the opera houses of Paris, Berlin, Prague and in his native Australia at the Sydney Opera House. Sir Charles made his operatic dbut with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1964, where he since conducted 34 operas, including Un Ballo in Maschera which celebrated his 50th anniversary and 80th birthday in 2005. 2002 marked Sir Charles 50th year with the Edinburgh Festival, in which he conducted Donizettis Maria Stuarda, Handels Jeptha and Mozarts Gran Partita. At the 2006 Edinburgh
Festival he memorably conducted the complete Beethoven symphonies. In 2008, he was named Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival Society.
His lifelong association with Czech music produced many milestones, including the British premieres of Janeks Katya Kabanova (1951), The Makropulos Case (1964) and From the House of the Dead (1965), and his career- defining Janek recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. His vast discography reflects his pioneering interest in performance practice with the symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.
In his final season he conducted his beloved Scottish Chamber and Philharmonia Orchestras in Edinburgh and London and he returned to three of his favourite opera houses: English National Opera for The Turn of the Screw which he had last conducted in London in 1956 at the Scala Theatre sharing the baton with Britten; the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for The Cunning Little Vixen; and Glyndebourne Festival Opera for Cosi fan Tutte where on 12 June 2010 he conducted his final public performance.
Sir Charles received a CBE in 1974 and was knighted in 1979. He was honoured with the
Medal of Merit from the Czech Republic in 1996, made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1997 and a Companion of Honour in the 2003 Queens Birthday Honours. In May 2005 he was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal and in the same year was the first recipient of the Queens Medal for Music.
Sir Charles Mackerras died in 2010 aged 84.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra is known as one of the worlds great orchestras with a reputation secured by its performances in the concert hall and opera house, its many award-winning recordings, its trail-blazing international tours and its pioneering education work. Distinguished conductors who have held positions with the Orchestra since its foundation in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham include Sir Adrian Boult, Sir John Pritchard, Bernard Haitink, Sir Georg Solti, Klaus Tennstedt, Franz Welser-Mst and Kurt Masur. Vladimir Jurowski was appointed the Orchestras Principal Guest Conductor in March 2003 and became Principal Conductor in September 2007. The London Philharmonic Orchestra has been resident symphony orchestra at Southbank Centres Royal Festival Hall since 1992 and there it presents its main series of concerts between September and
May each year. In summer, the Orchestra moves to Sussex where it has been Resident at Glyndebourne Festival Opera for over 40 years. The Orchestra also performs at venues around the UK and has made numerous tours to America, Europe and Japan, and visited India, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Australia, South Africa and Abu Dhabi.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra made its first recordings on 10 October 1932, just three days after its first public performance. It has record