Sibelius' First Symphony
MORNING SYMPHONY SERIES
Thursday 28 September 2023, 11am
Perth Concert Hall
West Australian Symphony Orchestra respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and Elders of Country throughout Western Australia, and the Whadjuk Noongar people on whose lands we work and share music.
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Sibelius’ First Symphony
Johan WAGENAAR Cyrano de Bergerac Overture (14 mins)
Jean SIBELIUS Symphony No.1 (38 mins)
Andante, ma non troppo – Allegro energico
Andante (ma non troppo lento)
Finale (Andante – Allegro molto)
Otto Tausk conductor
Wesfarmers Arts Pre-concert Talk
Find out more about the music in the concert with this week’s speaker, Margaret Seares. The Pre-concert Talk will take place at 9.40AM in the Main Auditorium.
WASO On Stage
Acting Principal 1st Violin
• Rosalind & Lyndsay Potts
Principal 2nd Violin
Assoc Principal 2nd Violin
• The Baker Family
Assistant Principal 2nd Violin
• Philip & Frances Chadwick and Jim & Freda Irenic
• The Baker family
• Unnamed (2)
• M & D Forrest and
• The Gregg family
• Janet Holmes à Court AC & Gilbert George
• Ruth E. Thorn and Michael & Helen Tuite
• Leanne & Sam Walsh AO
Geoffrey Bourgault du Coudray^
• Meg O’Neill, Chase Hayes & Vicky Hayes
• Meg O’Neill, Chase Hayes & Vicky Hayes
• Stelios Jewellers
★ Rod & Margaret Marston
Principal 3rd Horn
Francesco Lo Surdo
• John & Nita Walshe
• Dr Glenda Campbell-Evans & Dr Ken Evans AM
• Dale & Greg Higham
• Jean & Peter Stokes
Assoc Principal Percussion & Timpani
★ Section supported through the Duet program by
• Chair supported through the Duet program by
* Instruments used by these musicians are on loan from Janet Holmes à Court AC.
About the Artist
Otto Tausk is the Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Advisor of the VSO School of Music, where he has successfully raised the orchestra’s profile by launching a digital performances series and introducing Canadian contemporary music.
Tausk’s musical expertise ranges from Mozart and Beethoven to the early 20th century scores of Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Strauss, and to new works by today’s composers. In the 2023/24 season he performs masterpieces by Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich as well as Verdi’s Requiem and Haydn’s Creation, and gives the world premiere performance of a new work by British Columbian composer Nicholas Ryan Kelly.
He has appeared with the Concertgebouworkest, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with whom he made his BBC Proms debut in August 2018.
In 2011 he received the prestigious ‘De Olifant’ prize recognising his contribution to the Arts in the Netherlands.
About the Music
Cyrano de Bergerac Overture, Op.23
In The Musical Quarterly in 1955 Alexander Ringer wrote that:
Dutch music might well have continued along the road of pleasant mediocrity had it not been for the sudden emergence of two genuinely artistic and intellectual personalties contemporaries of Strauss and Wagner and in terms of personal philosophy their close kinsmen.
The two composers were the French-influenced Alphons Diepenbrock, and Johan Wagenaar who ‘broke precedent in his country by poking musical fun’.
Wagenaar was born, the illegitimate son of a Dutch nobleman, in Utrecht in 1862. He studied at the Utrecht School of Music and on graduating joined the teaching staff while also working as an organist at Utrecht Cathedral. He spent a year studying in Berlin in 1892, and became director of the Utrecht School of Music in 1896; from 1919 to 1837 he was Director of the Royal Dutch Conservatory in The Hague.
Possibly as a result of the Calvinist Reformed Church’s attitude to music, to say nothing of several drawn-out wars, there had been a hiatus in locally composed music in the Netherlands since the crop of great composers like Ockeghem, Willaert and Orlando di Lasso in the 15th and 16th centuries, though as a centre for performance and publication the country had acted as a magnet to the likes of Vivaldi and the Mozart family. In the late 19th century the Netherlands, like many smaller European countries, was subject to a growing sense of national identity; the Dutch both rediscovered the glories of their Renaissance composers’ music and looked ahead by, for instance, building the Royal Concertgebouw and founding its orchestra.
Wagenaar, as Ringer put it, ‘poked fun’. Discussing Wagenaar’s humour, scholar Jos Wouters has argued that:
The shallow sentiments so frequently encountered in Italian and French opera dating from the beginning of the last century, led to his writing a number of ‘period’ pieces. In these, through exaggerated effects, he succeeded in turning the undesirable elements to ridicule.
In this respect he does indeed resemble Richard Strauss in certain works, and the concert overture Cyrano de Bergerac
(1905) is in many respects a tone-poem along the lines of Till Eulenspiegel. The central character in Rostand’s play – who sacrifices his own chance of happiness for that of his best friend, Christian, and his cousin, Roxane, with whom they are both in love – is, as Wouters puts it, described by seven of his attributes ‘valour (fanfare), love, poetry (string orchestra after fanfare), merriness, chivalry, humour and satire’.
Gordon Kerry ©2006
2 November 1905 Amsterdam, composer conducting.
First WASO Performance:
This is the first performance by WASO.
two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets and two bassoons; four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba; timpani and strings.
About the Music
Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.39
Andante, ma non troppo – Allegro energico
Andante (ma non troppo lento)
Finale (Andante – Allegro molto)
Who is the real Sibelius? Is he the passionate creature of the First and Second Symphonies; the lofty, clear-thinking classicist of the Third and Sixth Symphonies; the dark nay-sayer of the Fourth or the creator of those epics of intensity, the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies? This very unknowability is what makes him a fascinating figure. As the years progressed, Sibelius’ imagination revolved increasingly around the idea of music itself as drama, the unfolding of musical events as a universe of narrative, parallel to our own.
It is tempting to talk of the first numbered symphony entirely from the perspective of Sibelius’ later music, to emphasise what is prophetic and play down whatever is not. There is much in the piece that foretells of his later achievements. However it is also the work of a man still in his early 30s, immensely gifted and skilful, but still coming to terms with many of the musical influences around him.
The feature of the work that immediately marks it out as ‘Sibelian’ is the modal inflection of the long, winding tune which opens the first movement. Although Sibelius’ modal writing was to change character as he developed, it was never to leave him. This opening melody is characteristically Sibelian, too, in its economy of means: a solo clarinet over a timpani roll is all he needs to suggest something ancient, eternal, bard-like. As he grew older, the modesty of his instrumental forces stood in great contrast to the lavish orchestras called for by Strauss, Scriabin and many of his other contemporaries.
The manner in which Sibelius puts his material together in this movement tells us a lot about the consistency of his principles of musical organisation. It is possible to write in terms of conventional analysis, but the music comes to the listener more organically and intuitively than that. Notice, for example, how the second major theme, a dancing idea first heard on the flutes, becomes broader and more lyrical when it passes to the oboe and how it is, in any case, clearly derived from the solo clarinet theme that sets the symphony in motion.
As the tempo of the movement quickens the musical undergrowth grows thicker, combining the melodic ideas together in an ingeniously devised musical tempest, at the other end of which a ringing transformation of the main theme on the brass announces that we are in a mood of summary and conclusion. This technique of gradual crescendo and pulse-quickening; a short, bracing survey of the vista from the summit; then an abbreviated rounding-off, would become a vital part of Sibelius’ musical personality.
The slow movement reminds us that, however subtly he organises his material, he is still, in this work, captivated by the rhetoric of the Romantic symphony. The warm, tender opening tune is the seed from which all else in the movement derives. In the course of the movement this song-like theme takes on many guises but the overall effect is neither intricate nor fussy but passionate and intense. The many sustained long-held notes (pedal points) Sibelius uses to intensify feeling – again, integral to his composing style –are particularly evident here.
The short scherzo is notable for its integration of the timpani into the main melodic material. The pastoral trio which follows suggests a bucolic calm that would be unusual in Sibelius’ later music, while the gradually quickening pace of the foreshortened reprise gives the final minutes an air of hectic excitement.
Sibelius’ admiration for Tchaikovsky is most evident in the finale. The very opening is a good example. The tune with which the symphony began is presented afresh in a highly impassioned, Tchaikovskian manner by the strings, with brass declamations. The ferocity of the tune’s subsequent development also bears some resemblance to the spirit of Tchaikovsky’s more rousing symphonic moments. On the other hand, the arioso-like quality of the big tune which comes to dominate the second half of this movement is essentially operatic: after all, Sibelius had not altogether abandoned the idea of writing a major work for the lyric stage. The work’s final pages are more equivocal and the symphony ends, like the first movement, with two pizzicato chords. The emotional ambivalence of this conclusion tells us how enigmatic so much of his music could be.
Abridged from a note by Phillip Sametz ©
This work, published by Breitkopf & Härtel, has been supplied by Clear Music Australia Pty Ltd as hire agents for Breitkopf & Härtel in Australia.
18 July 1900, Berlin. Robert Kajanus conducting.
Most recent WASO performance:
14-15 June 2013. Arvo Volmer, conductor.
two each of flutes (both also piccolo), oboes, clarinets, bassoons; four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba; timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, harp and strings.
Crescendo – getting louder (literally, ‘growing’).
Pizzicato – plucking, rather than bowing, the strings
Engage | Excite | Experience | Educate
From the centre of Perth to the furthest corners of the state, we have provided the soundtrack to life in WA since 1928.
As the State Orchestra, Perth’s first and finest, WASO is the largest employer of performing artists in Western Australia and reaches two million people with musical experiences each year on stage, in our community, and online.
From concert halls to classrooms, hospitals to aged care, we bring joy, inspire learning, and nurture participation in our community, because everybody deserves the opportunity to experience live music. Every year, through community and leading industry partnerships, we engage a new generation of young and emerging artists to help secure a bright future for music in Australia.
We celebrate our rich classical music heritage with great artists from all over the world and commission and perform new repertoire to renew and expand it.
The Orchestra collaborates widely with major arts companies and independent artists, performing opera to ballet, movies to musicals, jazz to rock. We champion the diversity of music in all its forms, with a team of talented and passionate people who create unforgettable experiences for all West Australians to enjoy.
Asher Fisch is Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of our Orchestra and we are proud to call Perth Concert Hall home.
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Reconciliation in action
In 2022 WASO began a new chapter in the organisation’s history by committing to a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Our RAP gives the organisation structure and accountability as we play our part to advance reconciliation in Australia, addressing a range of actions based around the core pillars of respect, relationships and opportunities.
Our journey through the first stage of our RAP has already seen some fantastic outcomes that have occurred by intentionally focusing on reconciliation in the world of music. We were thrilled in January to see one of our brilliant Crescendo students, Sandra Hart, travel all the way from Kwinana to Sydney where she spent a week with Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO and Ensemble Dutala; Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chamber ensemble. This was an incredible opportunity for Sandra to be mentored by musicians such as Deborah and Aaron Wyatt, and continue to develop her violin talents nurtured in WASO’s Crescendo program.
Aaron Wyatt will be familiar to many WASO supporters, having appeared regularly as a casual viola player with WASO. We have watched with pride as his career as a composer and conductor has grown, and were thrilled when Aaron accepted our invitation to return to WASO next year to open our 2024 season, conducting his work The Coming Dawn. Beyond the stage, our RAP work has focused on internal organisational growth and learning. So far this year, WASO staff have partaken in a smoking ceremony led by Elder Barry McGuire, learned about Noongar music traditions with Professor Clint Bracknell, participated in local events like the Walk for Reconciliation in Kings Park (Kaarta Koomba) and learned about the history of the Uluru Statement with Nolan Hunter. We are grateful for everyone who has shared their time, knowledge and culture with us so that WASO can be an increasingly respectful and culturally aware collaborator with First Nations artists.
To continue playing our part to advance reconciliation in Australia, WASO is proud to advocate for a Voice to Parliament. You can read WASO’s full statement of support on our website. We acknowledge the diversity of views on the voice and encourage our community to read the Uluru Statement and hear the invitation within it: “We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. In 1967 we were counted. In 2017 we seek to be heard… We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
Image: Sandra Hart plays violin in a Crescendo end-of-year concert. Credit: Daniel James Grant.