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From the Heart of the Lover

February 9, 2014 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

$23 - $53

Purchase Tickets
Butterworth: English Idyll No. 2
Wagner: “Prelude & Liebestod” from Tristan & Isolde {Christina Kowalski, soprano}
Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27
Special Guest: Spinto Soprano Christina Kowalski

Bio for Christina Kowalski

Christina Kowalski

A native of Germany, she earned her Master’s Degree in Music and Drama from the Hochschule für Musik und Kunst in Frankfurt am Main. Ms.Kowalski appeared in productions of the Frankfurt Opera Studio as the Governess in “Turn of the screw” and Parascha in Stravinsky’s “Mavra”. She toured with “Febi Armonici” under Maestro Michael Schneider throughout Germany and appeared as Amore in “Poppea” at the Stadttheater Eisenach and the Berlin Philharmonic. Ms. Kowalski held an all-Schubert Recital in Vienna, and was a member of the Lied-Klasse of Professor Charles Spencer in Frankfurt, Kammer Saengerin Gundula Janowitz in Vienna and Ms. Elena Lazarska at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Ms. Kowalski made her Debut in the United States as Marzelline in Beethoven’s “Fidelio” at the Mark Theater in Portland. Since then she has performed, among others, with Portland Opera, Skagit Opera ,Washington East Opera, Rogue Opera, the Metthow Valley Chamber Music Festival, the Seattle and Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestras, Seattle Concert Opera , Olympia Symphony , Vancouver Symphony, Vashon Opera, Opera Pacifica, Seattle Opera Guild and Coeur D’Alene Opera. With Coeur d’Alene Opera alone she appeared as Lauretta in “Schicci”, Adina in “E’lisir”, the Contessa in “The Marriage of Figaro”, Clorinda in “La Cenerentola” and Mimi in “La Boheme”. Her most recent performances include Butterfly with Rogue Opera , Lauretta with Vashon Opera and Marguerite in Faust with Opera Pacifica. Her future engagements include appearances with the Seraphin Trio and Rosalinde in “Die Fledermaus” with Skagit Opera. Ms. Kowalski also was the featured Artist at the Bad Salzhausen Sommer Festival in Germany in June 2013. She has been an affiliate artist faculty member at the University of Puget Sound since 2005 and is a newly matriculated doctoral student at the University of Washington. Her CD “The Seven” is available on CD Baby and Amazon.com.

Program Notes:
George Butterworth

Born July 12, 1885, London, England.
Died August 5, 1916, in the Battle of the Somme, near Pozières.
English Idyll No. 2, for small orchestra

Having attended the Royal College of Music in London as an Organ scholar, Butterworth returned to his native Northeast England. A meticulous craftsman, Butterworth produced only a handful of works, including the song-cycle A Shropshire Lad (after the gloom-laden poems by A.E. Housman) in 1912-3. The young Butterworth enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry and destroyed many of his manuscripts before going to the front, as he predicted—like so many youths—that he would not return from the Great War; he was killed at the Somme in 1916 when only 31, shortly after being awarded the Medal of Courage.

The second English Idyll is full of autumnal reflection and opens with an oboe melody larded with harvest-time ripeness. A wintry chill pervades the music in the louder and more agitated middle section, before the music calms for a poignant farewell. It is suspected that Butterworth was gay—something he obviously had to keep guarded—and this, like several other works, contains certain fingerprints which acted as musical code to send loving messages to his partner from afar.

Richard Wagner

Born May 22, 1813, Leipzig, Germany.
Died February 13, 1883, Venice, Italy.
“Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde

Wagner’s passionate music drama Tristan und Isolde is a true watershed work in the history of Western music. Work on the mighty The Ring of the Nibelung was interrupted between 1857-9 so Wagner could pen Tristan and, as Barry Millington states, “give artistic expression to the oceanic sexual passion he was experiencing at the height of his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck.” Although this intoxicating work was completed by 1859, it forges a link to the 20th century as its intense chromaticism had a profound effect not only on Liszt, Mahler and Richard Strauss, but the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Webern and Berg) who pioneered “12-tone” and atonal music. The opening of the “Prelude” to Tristan is practically 12-tone music as Wagner avoids any key center: the chords and orchestration are constantly changing—not to mention special—that they overhauled harmonic analysis overnight. Composers such as Debussy and Stravinsky (neither of whom were diehard Wagnerites) were so mesmerized by the musical language of Tristan that it radically effected their own works in many ways.

The “Prelude” is like wading through luxurious treacle: the tempo is slow, the music hesitates to move to the next measure; each phrase sighs deeply with every note and interval. This is no conventional overture and the burning love between Isolde and Tristan (not unlike that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) is vividly depicted, drawing the audience into a humid labyrinth of swirling emotions. The “Liebestod” (“Love’s Death”) comes at the very end of Act III, so this current work neatly bookends the five hours it takes to perform Tristan in the opera house. In the concluding scene, Isolde explains how Tristan’s and her love for one another is, at last, being consummated through death. Isolde sings at the feet of Tristan’s dead body and happily follows him into death—not a mere suicide but an act of being drawn supernaturally upwards to leave this world, and those mortals who do not understand such an embracing love.

Serge Rachmaninov

Born April 1, 1873, Semyonovo, Russia.
Died March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills, California.
Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27

By 1906 Rachmaninov was in such demand as a concert pianist, conductor and society idol, that his schedule allowed little time for composition. Needing a break he packed his family off to Germany and worked in Dresden, at a secret location, and devoted himself to completing several projects. Rachmaninov completed a piano sonata, the tone poem The Isle of the Dead, and hurled himself into his Second Symphony. The fact that the composer’s First Symphony (1897) had been such a dismal failure loomed large in Rachmaninov’s mind. Following a near suicidal depression and an intensive course of psychotherapy and hypnosis, Rachmaninov resumed composing. The first great product of this new phase was the beloved Second Piano Concerto, but Rachmaninov’s overriding aim was to write another symphony to eradicate his painful memories. The Second Symphony was first performed on January 26, 1908. It was a huge success that Rachmaninov would later recall as the “most gratifying musical experience of my life.” The work was awarded the coveted Glinka Prize and within a few years was played all over the globe (the USA premiere was on November 26, 1909 in Philadelphia), establishing it as one of the most popular Russian symphonies since those by Tchaikovsky.

A slowly unfolding introduction (it lasts approximately five minutes) opens this epic Symphony. The music is impassioned and swirls through several climaxes. The lower strings play a 7-note “motto” theme: this theme is of capital importance as it forms the bedrock of many themes—and much counterpoint—in the entire Symphony. The English horn sounds a somber theme and forms the link to the Allegro moderato section of the movement. The violins take-up a variation of the 7-note “motto” and the choral-sounding woodwinds orate the song-like second theme. The music journeys its way through the intense development section when themes are pitted against each other, creating several agitated climaxes. The brass imprint a noble though dark edge to the music and the movement closes with an aggressive version of the main theme.

Horns and scurrying strings initiate the Scherzo second movement (Allegro molto), which sounds like a mighty Russian sleigh ride. As if Rachmaninov cannot resist writing gorgeous melodies for very long, the strings play a beautiful flowing theme—another variation of the 7-note “motto”—to form the requisite contrast to the frenzied opening material. The middle part of the movement is a difficult fugato initiated by the strings, which develops a softer tread when taken up by the brass and woodwinds. The end of this Scherzo movement foreshadows the close of his famous Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934), with its references to the Dies irae from the Gregorian Mass for the Dead.

The soul of the Second Symphony is the glorious Adagio third movement. Velvet-gloved strings set the stage for the long aria from the clarinet—one of the most opulent and dewy-eyed melodies in the symphonic literature. As Jim Svejda wryly comments “it is one of those characteristic Rachmaninov melodies which generations of shrewd music lovers have used to seduce unsuspecting dates!” The composer makes reference to several melodies heard earlier in the Symphony, notably the Introduction to the first movement, and it is a long-breathed paragraph of structural ingenuity. The Adagio’s uninhibited and lush Romanticism—the clarinet tune being recalled in a grand apotheosis—is what makes Rachmaninov so appealing to many, though it infuriated the academics and stone-hearted critics. The tranquil coda closes this movement with a tinge of sunset nostalgia.

At the start of the finale Rachmaninov changes tack with an eruption of symphonic energy in E major. There is a dance quality to this music which is more joyous and optimistic than the rugged opening movement—the birth of the composer’s second daughter at this time had much to do with this new-found happiness. Again, the music explores themes that have come before—the brief return of music from the third movement comes as a surprise—along with the addition of new calorific melodies. Rachmaninov is famous for his splashy endings (one writer refers to them as “Russian Hollywood”) and the denouement of the Second Symphony is no exception, as the full orchestra soars in a final verse of the movement’s principal theme. The energy and sense of triumph is overwhelming in the closing measures—the composer achieving a hard-earned victory over the demons of insecurity that had plagued him for so long.

Program Comments Copyright ©2014 by Huw Edwards








February 9, 2014
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
$23 - $53
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Olympia Symphony
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Olympia, WA 98501
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