Leoš Janáček’s ‘manifesto on love’
& pianist Jan Lisiecki

Our love affair continues! “In the first half of this concert, we explore unrequited love again with Leoš Janáček’s second string quartet,” says Anne Manson. The composer nicknamed the work ‘Intimate Letters’, as it was inspired by his long and spiritual friendship with Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 38 years his junior (Wikipedia).

We like long and spiritual friendships, and we’re nurturing a few of our own. In the second half, we welcome back our dearly-loved and awe-inspiring Jan Lisiecki, who opened last season with a four-star concert.

The late Gwenda Nemerofsky, in her Winnipeg Free Press review, wrote of listening and picturing in her mind’s eye more of a middle-aged piano virtuoso. “Such confidence, attack, technical fluidity and enchanting sensitivity could only come from a decades-seasoned performer. Instead, the guest artist was a blond-haired, fresh-faced lanky young man.”

Love Hurts

Leoš Janáček is one of Anne Manson’s favourite composers, and two of the Czech’s works will be performed this season. The connecting theme is unrequited love, with the Kreutzer Sonata on March 17th and Intimate Letters on this program.

Janáček’s inspiration for the former piece was Leo Tolstoy’s novella of the same name, but no such work of fiction was required for the second string quartet. That story was told in some 700 love letters.

While affairs of the heart may “never help our worthwhile pursuits but only hinder them” (Tolstoy), it’s essential to the arts!

The concert begins at 7:30 pm on June 3rd in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors and $10 for students, including GST, at McNally Robinson, the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook), Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave) or MCO’s Ticketline (204.783.7377).

Check out the ‘Extras’ tab below for Haley Rempel’s ‘Two-minute Talks, ‘The Trouble with Mozart’ and ‘The Death of Mozart’. Haley’s videos are available on most concert pages.

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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director and Conductor
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
3 June 2015

Jan Lisiecki, piano

Dorothy Chang
Of Fragments and Dreams
Canada Council for the Arts commission
World premiere performance

Leoš Janáček
String Quartet No. 2
— ‘Intimate Letters’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 26, in D Major (KV 537)
— ‘Coronation Concerto’

Concert co-sponsors / Drs. Bill Pope & Elizabeth Tippett-Pope
and Lawton Partners Wealth Management
Music Director’s Podium sponsor / Judith Hall, in memory of dear Phil
Concertmaster sponsor / Raymond Hébert
Print media sponsor / Winnipeg Free Press
Radio media sponsors / CBC Radio 2 98.3, CBC Radio One 990,
Espace musique 89,9, Classic 107.1 FM and Golden West Radio

Jan Lisiecki

The New York Times called 18-year-old Canadian Jan Lisiecki “a pianist who makes every note count.” Having signed an exclusive recording agreement with Deutsche Grammophon at the age of 15, his debut recording on the prestigious label features Mozart’s Piano Concertos K. 466 and 467 with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Christian Zacharias. Nominated for a JUNO Award for classical album of the year 2013, the CD was described by the New York Times as “pristine, lyrical and intelligent … direct, unmannered and fresh.” Lisiecki’s second DG album, released in April 2013, features Chopin’s Études op. 10 and op. 25.

Recognised for his poetic and mature playing, Lisiecki has been awarded many prestigious awards. In 2013, he received the Leonard Bernstein Award of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, in 2011, Jeune Soliste des Radios Francophones, and in 2010, Révélations Radio-Canada Musique. In 2012 he was named UNICEF Ambassador to Canada after being a National Youth Representative since 2008.

Performance highlights in 2013 included Lisiecki’s debut with Claudio Abbado and Orchestra Mozart, his BBC Proms debut with Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia at Royal Albert Hall in London, and his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the Bravo Vail Festival. Jan’s official debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra took place in April 2014 where he performed three different Mozart concertos in one week. The 2013/14 season included his debut with Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala in Milano under Daniel Harding, return engagements to Orchestre de Paris, debuts with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich and NHK Symphony in Tokyo, recital debuts at Santa Cecilia in Rome, in San Francisco, and his Wigmore Hall debut in London. Since the 2012/13 season Jan is a member of Konzerthaus Dortmund’s series, Junge Wilde.

Highlights of past seasons included Lisiecki’s New York Philharmonic subscription debut under David Zinman, the season opening concert of Orchestre de Paris under Paavo Järvi, and his debut with the BBC Symphony under Jiří Bělohlávek. Lisiecki has played at Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Barbican, Salle Pleyel, Tonhalle Zürich, Konzerthaus Vienna, and Suntory Hall. He has substituted for Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire, and has shared the stage with Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, and Emanuel Ax. He has performed in Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA, and throughout Canada. Worldwide recital debuts included Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Frankfurt, Gstaad, Hamburg, Lisbon, Nagoya, Osaka, Seattle, Tokyo, Vienna, and Zurich. Since 2011 Jan has appeared frequently at such summer festivals as Verbier, Radio France, La Roque d’Anthéron and ‘Chopin and his Europe.’

Lisiecki’s live performances of both Chopin piano concertos with Sinfonia Varsovia and Howard Shelley were released in 2010 by the Chopin Institute in Warsaw. The recording received the Diapason Découverte award in May 2010; Diapason describes Jan as “an unmannered virtuoso already with virile and, above all, irresistibly natural playing.” BBC Music Magazine commended “Lisiecki’s mature musicality,” and his “sensitively distilled” interpretation of the contrasting concerti, played “with sparkling technique as well as idiomatic pathos,” noting that “even in a crowded CD catalogue, this refreshingly unhyped debut release is one to celebrate.”

Jan’s performances have been broadcast on CBC Radio, BBC Radio, Austrian Radio, French Radio, German Radio, Luxembourg Radio, and Polish Radio, as well as on French Television 3 and on TV 1 and 2 in Poland. He was featured in the CBC ‘Next!! series as one of the most promising young artists in Canada, and in the 2009 Joe Schlesinger CBC National News documentary about his life: The Reluctant Prodigy. In May 2013 the German ZDF featured Jan in the news show Heute Journal.

On the school board’s recommendation, Jan was accelerated four grades and graduated from high school in January 2011. Since September 2011 he has been studying for a Bachelor of Music at the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto.

Dorothy Chang

The music of composer Dorothy Chang has been described as “evocative and kaleidoscopic” (Seattle Times) and praised for its colourful scoring and range of dramatic expression. Her music is rooted in the Western art music tradition but often reflects the eclectic mix of musical influences from her youth, ranging from marching band to traditional Chinese music.

Dorothy’s catalog includes works for solo, chamber and large ensembles as well as collaborations involving theatre, dance and video. Her music has been featured in concerts and festivals across North America and abroad, with performances by the Albany Symphony, Chicago Civic Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Queens Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Vancouver Island Symphony, as well as by chamber ensembles including eighth blackbird, the Smith Quartet, the Chicago Saxophone Quartet, Collage New Music and Music from China, among others.

Dorothy has received awards and honours from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the International Alliance for Women in Music, the National Society of Arts and Letters, Meet the Composer and the Jacob Druckman Orchestra Prize from the Aspen Music Festival. She has received commissions from the Canada Council of the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, the Barlow Endowment, Chamber Music America, the Harvard University Fromm Foundation and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. For the 2003-04 and 2005-08 seasons, Dorothy held a Music Alive composer residency with the Albany Symphony Orchestra. In 2008 she was awarded the inaugural commission from the Women’s Philharmonic Commissioning Project of Meet the Composer for a new orchestral work, Strange Air, which was premiered at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music by Marin Alsop and the festival orchestra.

Born in Winfield, Illinois, Dorothy began her music studies on piano at age six and began composing at the age of fourteen. She received degrees in composition from the University of Michigan (B.M., M.M.) and the Indiana University School of Music (D.M). She is currently an Associate Professor of Music at the University of British Columbia.

String Quartet No. 2 ‘Intimate Letters’
Leoš Janáček

Transcribed for string orchestra by Michael Oesterle, on commission from the MCO (World premiere performance). For biographical information on Janáček, please turn to page 59.

In 1917, when the unhappily married Janáček was 63, he met Kamila Stösslov´. Thirty-seven years younger than him, she was the wife of an antiques dealer. He rapidly developed a profound love for her, one destined to endure and intensify over the 11 remaining years of his life. It was no less deep for being entirely platonic, since she didn’t return it.

He poured out his feelings not only in the letters that he wrote to her, some 700 of which survive, but in a torrent of the most passionate and greatest music he ever composed. His feelings saturated such works as the song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared, the operas Kát’a Kabanova, The Cunning Little Vixen, and The Makropulos Affair (all of whose heroines he modeled on her), and most of all the second string quartet (which he subtitled ‘Intimate Letters’), the 74-year-old composer’s final composition.

“You came into my life like a bright vision,” he wrote to her. “You can be felt everywhere, you’re in harmony with everything, you conciliate, you stroke, you tame. Your letters come to me like a warm ray of spring … At once I smile, at once I see everything in a welcoming light … We belong to one another. I think that some day I’ll send you my manuscript of those Intimate Letters — after they’ve played it to me, so that I know if it’s worth something too in terms of music.”

He composed String Quartet No. 2 from 29 January to 19 February 1928, shortly after completing his grim final opera, From the House of the Dead. Referring to the Quartet, he wrote to Kamila, “It’s my first composition which sprang from directly experienced feeling. Before then I composed only from things remembered; this piece was written in fire — earlier pieces only in hot ash.”

His first thought was to replace the standard viola of a quartet with an older instrument, the viola d’amore (literally ‘viola of love’). When Quartet No. 2 was rehearsed, he found the viola d’amore’s voice too soft to hold its own within the ensemble, and he reluctantly returned to the standard instrument.

On the first day of work on the quartet, he wrote to Kamila, “Today it’s Sunday, I’m especially sad. I’ve begun to work on a quartet; I’ll give it the name Love Letters.” He later changed the title to Intimate Letters, because, as he wrote, “I don’t deliver my feelings to the tender mercies of fools.”

“I’m now able to write about (the letters) even in music,” he continued. “Our life is going to be in (the Quartet) … There have already been so many of those dear adventures of ours, haven’t there? They’ll be little fires in my soul and they’ll set it ablaze with the most beautiful melodies.” On 8 February he wrote that the third movement would be “very cheerful” and would “dissolve into a vision which would resemble your image, transparent, as if in the mist.”

In another letter, he wrote that “The first movement described the impression when I saw you for the first time,” and the second “would flare up in the Luhačovice heat” (referring to the spa town where he and Kamila had first met).

Regarding the third movement, he wrote, “Today I wrote in musical tones my sweetest desire. I struggle with it. It prevails. You are giving birth (to our child). What would be the destiny of that new-born son? What would be yours? Just as you are, laughing with tears in your eyes — that is how it sounds.” The situation he referred to was purely imaginary. Once he had finished the movement, he wrote, “You know, feelings on their own are sometimes so strong that the notes hide and run away. A great love — a weak composition. But I want (the Quartet) to be a great love — a great composition.”

On 18 February he wrote regarding the third movement, “Today I was successful with that movement ‘When the earth trembled.’ It will be the best. Only the most beautiful melodies can find a place in it. I just hope I can still bring off the last movement, which will be like worrying about you.”

In early March he wrote, “I said to my wife, ‘if this work is recognized as exceptionally beautiful then you ought to be convinced of her influence on my soul, on my work!’ Oh little soul, we’ll flicker together in that cinema! We won’t go there now in vain. I can’t say which incidents I communicate in these ‘intimate letters.’ Whether those, where the earth trembled — whether when you slumped in that chair as if cut down … All this feeling as if it were piled up on itself — as if it had lifted you and me from the earth, as if everything around was joyfully, longingly hovering; and in that feverish mood these intimate letters were born. So you’ve got something new for the album, something which can never be destroyed. I ask fate, or, if you like, God, for these moments of our life never to fade away in us. And I have tears in my eyes at these words. I love you so much; and how happy I am for that reason.

“When I wrote those intimate letters, you were alive beside me. I lived through fond memories, at a faster rate, perhaps rather like a flower in a hothouse. I lived more vigorously, just as my blood demands. Now it’s finished. I’ve grown calm, as if I’ve come into the cool. This doesn’t suit my character; I can’t bear lazy calm! And now I don’t know what to take up. I’d take you up — but you’re far away. You would ruffle my thoughts as though a brood of ducklings had descended with noise and splashing onto a fish pond.”

As biographer Jaroslav Vogel has written, “Thus the second quartet is related to the first by what it expresses — fateful passion and love. The second quartet, however, openly concerns Janáček himself, and does not end tragically but joyfully…” The composer was able to hear a private performance by the Moravian Quartet shortly before his death on 12 August 1928. The public premiere took place in September.

Describing Janáček’s music poses unusual challenges, since the character and tempo within any given movement change so often, and regularly do so with startling abruptness. The first movement begins with an introduction in slow tempo that is fraught with tension and suspense. The tempo accelerates, ushering in a vigorous movement that is nonetheless regularly dotted with pauses for passionate, lyrical reflection. The second movement opens in a mood of calm that soon shifts to a blistering sense of intensity. Janáček called for ‘flautando’ effects at several points, asking the players to produce high, ‘flute-like’ sounds.

The third movement opens with a theme that is innocent and almost dance-like, even ‘Russian’ sounding. The music moves through a kaleidoscope of contrasting emotions, from tender to ferocious. The finale starts with a spring and swagger in its step, then heads off in several divergent directions before the opening refrain briefly returns. Liberally sprinkled with trills, triplets and pizzicati, and boasting a brief mini-cadenza for second violin, the remainder of the piece wends its way to a short, sharp close. “Thus ends a work which, for intensity and passion scarcely has an equal in the chamber music repertoire,” Jaroslav Vogel wrote, “even though it was written by a seventy-four-year-old composer in the last year of his life.”

On 25 May 1928, Janáček wrote to Kamila that he wished her name to appear on the title page of Quartet No. 2, which he dedicated to her. It didn’t, probably due to the jealous feelings of the composer’s wife. By the time the music was published a decade later, Kamila Stösslová had been dead for three years. She succumbed to cancer in 1935, at the age of 43.

Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537, ‘Coronation’
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart’s popularity with the fickle Viennese public faded during the late 1780s. He hoped to regain their favour with a new piano concerto, the type of work that they had most enjoyed from him. The creation of Concerto No. 26 proved difficult, however. It stretched across a period of several months (an unusual circumstance for him), and the final stages appear to have been undertaken in great haste. In the autograph score, the orchestral part is complete but the soloist’s is not. It appears that editor Johann Anton André filled in the missing notes when the concerto was published after Mozart’s death.

Mozart finished work on the concerto on February 24, 1788, only to have the series of subscription concerts which he had planned for the Lent season, and at which he expected to premiere it, fall apart for lack of support. The first performance took place on short notice in Dresden, Germany on April 14 of the following year. “During dinner,” Mozart wrote to his wife, “word came that I was to play the next day, at half past five at court. That is something extraordinary here; for it is very difficult to get a hearing; and you know that I had no thought of anything in Dresden. The following day I played the new concerto in D; next morning, I received a very beautiful snuffbox.”

This may also have been one of the two concertos Mozart performed in Frankfurt on September 23, 1790, at an all-Mozart concert that formed part of (or shortly followed) the festivities marking the coronation of Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor. Accurate or not, its association with that event is the source of its nickname, ‘Coronation’ Concerto.

Some Mozart scholars praise the piece but feel that it marks a change in character from the ‘golden dozen’ piano concertos (Nos. 14 to 25) he had composed between 1784 and 1786. Edward Downes, for example, writes, “Present-day listeners should avoid the pitfall of measuring the ‘Coronation’ Concerto by the great piano concertos with the emotional urgency of several earlier items in the canon. Its whole texture can scarcely be called symphonic by mature Mozartean standards. It is much closer to the graceful allure of a divertimento or serenade and if approached with this exception, it proves a most engaging work.”

Whether or not the concerto was performed in connection with the coronation, the first theme of the opening movement has the grand, imperial character which would have made it entirely appropriate to the occasion. The second subject provides graciously flowing contrast. The ‘working out’ of these materials may not be the most dramatic or sophisticated of Mozart’s career, but the music falls on the ear with unfailing delight.

The piano begins the slow movement all by itself, casting a spell of gentle intimacy that endures, virtually unruffled, throughout this exquisite reverie. The soloist also leads off the last movement, one of the more restrained finales of a Mozart piano concerto. This overall sense of decorum still leaves plenty of room for animation and good humour.

Haley Rempel, two-minute talk
Number 31: ‘The Trouble with Mozart’

Haley Rempel, two-minute talk
Number 10: ‘The Death of Mozart’

Praised for her warm tone and expressive playing, Canadian flutist Haley Rempel is gaining reputation for her sophisticated interpretations as well as her unique ability to capture audiences. Haley facilitates the MCO’s Pizza Club events.