Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra Winter Concert

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15

Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto was actually written after his Second. It was published first, though, and duly dedicated to the Princess Odescalchi, a former pupil. It is possible that the work was introduced on December 18, 1795 at Beethoven’s second public appearance in Vienna as composer and pianist. The concert was organized by his teacher, Franz Josef Haydn, and included three of Haydn’s London symphonies.

Beethoven played the work in Prague in 1798, along with movements from one of his early piano sonatas. He also improvised on a theme supplied by a local countess. The composer Johann Wenzel Tomaschek, who was present, reported: “Beethoven’s magnificent playing and particularly the daring flights in his improvisation stirred me strangely to the depths of my soul; indeed I found myself so profoundly bowed down that I did not touch my piano for several days.”

Much has been made of Beethoven’s debt to Mozart in the C major Concerto. Alfred Einstein, the editor of the third edition of the Köchel catalog of Mozart’s works, writes: “Beethoven perhaps juxtaposed the two forces more dramatically, and he pursued an ideal of virtuosity different from Mozart’s; but at bottom he developed only one type among Mozart’s concertos, which we may call for the present the ‘military’ or ‘martial’ type.”

In his biography of Beethoven, John N. Burk comments: “The orchestra is not yet liberated, but it is perceptibly finding itself. The Concerto is forward- as well as backward-looking, tapping at the door of happy discoveries to come and bringing to pass even through the fulfillment of formal expectations the spell of the poet Beethoven.”

Alex Conde: Concierto para piano flamenco and orchestra

Son of the legendary copla singer, Alejandro Conde, started playing classical music at the age of four. He studied classical music at the Jose Iturbi Conservatory of Music in Valencia and jazz piano at El Liceu de Barcelona. He moved to the United States after winning a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He received a degree in jazz performance in 2009. He has studied jazz with Chano Domínguez, George Garzone, Joe Lovano, Danilo Pérez, Dave Santoro, Maria Schneider, Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding. He has collaborated with flamenco artists like Nino de los Reyes, José Luis Rodriguez, Juan Siddi, Kina Mendez, and Coral de los Reyes.

Concierto para piano flamenco and orchestra was performed at the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco on July 16, 2016.

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936): Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 55

“A Glazunov symphony,” wrote Gerald Abraham, “is just an uninterrupted flow of melodious ideas, laid out according to the classical or neo-romantic forms, lusciously harmonised and beautifully orchestrated. But nothing ever happens to these ideas although climaxes are arranged…there are delightful touches of orchestration…effortless technical skill and melodious phrases are beautifully interwoven, ingeniously transformed…. Practically every one of Glazunov’s symphonies sounds like the others.” Anton Bruckner was accused of a similar crime.

Of the eight Glazunov symphonies, three were written in the 1890s. The last of these, his fifth overall, dates from 1895. It was published the next year with a dedication to composer Sergei Taneyev.

Russian audiences called the work “Glazunov’s Eroica,” claiming kinship with Beethoven’s Third Symphony. Boris Asafiev described the opening movement as “joyous in mood and full of youthful spirits. A spaciousness permeates this movement. It seems as if a great inexhaustible power is just about to burst and overflow impetuously and boisterously.”

The second movement, writes Phillip Ramey, “is a charming and colorful scherzo that, from its impish opening tune in woodwinds and harp to the more assertive second theme in winds and strings and the pastoral air of the two trios, evokes fantastic folkloric images.” Ramey says the slow movement “ebbs and flows, rising to effective lyrical climaxes.…brass interjections whose syncopations are answered by woodwinds and pizzicato strings.”

The finale, according to Ramey, “is a tour de force that pulls out all of the orchestral stops before it is over: from the assertive opening theme in the full orchestra to the amusingly heavy-handed bear dance with its syncopated melody in tuba and bassoons and the stomping Russian dance at the end, this brilliant brass-and-cymbals finale brings to the Symphony a blaze of festivity.”

~ Program Notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2017.