MACA CLASSICS SERIES
Friday 2 & Saturday 3 June 2023, 7.30pm
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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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Masonic Funeral Music (7 mins)
Andrew SCHULTZ Bassoon Concerto (21 mins) (World Premiere)
Sable Island Gallop
Interval (25 mins)
Gustav MAHLER Symphony No.1 Titan (56 mins)
Langsam, schleppend – Im Anfang sehr gemächlich
Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
Asher Fisch conductor
Jane Kircher-Lindner bassoon
Asher Fisch appears courtesy of Wesfarmers Arts.
Jane's chair is supported by Meg O'Neill, Chase Hayes & Vicky Hayes through the Duet program.
Wesfarmers Arts Pre-concert Talk
Find out more about the music in the concert with this week’s speaker, Ashley Smith. The Pre-concert Talk will take place at 6.45pm in the Terrace Level Foyer.
Wesfarmers Arts Meet the Musician (Saturday only)
Join tonight’s soloist, Jane Kircher-Lindner for a post-concert interview immediately following the Saturday evening performance in the Terrace Level Foyer. Uncover more about the music and hear insights into the performance experience.
Listen to WASO
This performance is recorded for broadcast on ABC Classic. For further details visit abc.net.au/classic
WASO On Stage
Acting Principal 1st Violin
• Rosalind & Lyndsay Potts
Principal 2nd Violin
Assoc Principal 2nd Violin
Assistant Principal 2nd Violin
• Philip & Frances Chadwick and Jim & Freda Irenic
• Unnamed (2)
• The Gregg family
• Janet Holmes à Court AC & Gilbert George
• Pamela & Josh Pitt
• Ruth E. Thorn and Michael & Helen Tuite
• Leanne & Sam Walsh
• 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
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
Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor
A renowned conductor in both the operatic and symphonic worlds, Asher Fisch is especially celebrated for his interpretative command of core German and Italian repertoire of the Romantic and post-Romantic era. He conducts a wide variety of repertoire from Gluck to contemporary works by living composers. Since 2014, Asher Fisch has been the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO). His former posts include Principal Guest Conductor of the Seattle Opera (2007-2013), Music Director of the New Israeli Opera (1998-2008), and Music Director of the Wiener Volksoper (1995-2000).
Born in Israel, Fisch began his conducting career as Daniel Barenboim’s assistant and kappellmeister at the Berlin Staatsoper. He has built his versatile repertoire at the major opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and Semperoper Dresden. Fisch has conducted at leading American symphony orchestras including those of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia. In Europe he has appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the Orchestre National de France, among others.
Highlights of Asher Fisch’s 2022-23 season include Lohengrin and La forza del destino at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, as well as concerts with the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Queensland Symphony, Sydney Symphony, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Fisch’s 2021-22 season featured Adriana Lecouvreur at the Vienna State Opera, a gala concert at the Hungarian National Opera with Kristine Opolais, Otello and Der Rosenkavalier at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and concerts with the Colorado Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Other recent seasons included concert and opera engagements with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival, Sydney Symphony, Teatro Massimo Orchestra in Palermo, Carmen, Die Zauberflöte, and Parsifal at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Ariadne auf Naxos with the Bayerische Staatsoper at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Tannhäuser at the Tokyo National Theater, and Pagliacci and Schitz at the Israeli Opera.
Asher Fisch’s recent recordings with WASO include Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in 2018, which won Limelight Magazine’s Opera Recording of the Year in 2019, Bruckner’s Symphony No.8 and tenor Stuart Skelton’s first solo album Shining Knight, all of which were released on ABC Classics. Fisch’s recording of Ravel’s L’heure espagnole with the Munich Radio Orchestra won Limelight Magazine’s Opera Recording of the Year in 2017. In 2015, he recorded the complete Brahms symphonies with WASO, released on ABC Classics to great acclaim. His recording of Wagner’s Ring Cycle with the Seattle Opera was released on the Avie label in 2014. His first Ring Cycle recording, of the Helpmann award-winning State Opera of South Australia production, garnered praise and awards including the Prix Lauritz Melchior and Académie du disque lyrique Paris. Fisch is also an accomplished pianist and has recorded a solo disc of Wagner piano transcriptions for the Melba label.
Asher Fisch appears courtesy of Wesfarmers Arts.
About the Artist
Originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, Jane moved to Perth in 2006 to take up the Principal Bassoon position with WASO. Prior to this she was Principal Bassoon with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra from 2003-2006. She has also performed with the Melbourne, Queensland and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras.
Jane has appeared three times as a soloist with WASO, most recently in 2022 performing Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante. She also performs with a variety of chamber ensembles and has recorded for ABC Classic. In demand as a teacher, she teaches bassoon at The University of Western Australia and the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
Jane completed her undergraduate studies at Victoria University of Wellington. After receiving several prestigious scholarships, she continued her post-graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where she graduated with a Master of Music in Orchestral Performance. Her teachers in New York included Whitney Crockett and Patricia Rogers (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) and Frank Morelli (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra).
Image credit: Daniel James Grant
Jane's chair is supported by Meg O'Neill, Chase Hayes & Vicky Hayes through the Duet program.
About the Music
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Masonic Funeral Music, K.477
One of the more far-fetched theories about Mozart’s last days, and the supposed neglect that followed his death, is that he had offended the Masonic brotherhood in Vienna by revealing secrets of their ritual, in his opera The Magic Flute. Actually there was no secret about the membership of Vienna’s Masonic lodges, which included some of the most prominent of noble families - in fact, this Funeral Music of Mozart’s was composed for a service of memorial to two such men.
At the time Mozart became a Mason, Vienna’s lodges contained many supporters of the reforms of the Emperor Joseph II. Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation open to adherents of all faiths, claiming to be based on the common fundamentals of religion, and professing a morality laying particular emphasis on benevolence, expressed through allegories and symbols associated with the art of building. The rituals are secret, but membership and meeting places are not.
Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute should be regarded as the work where he reveals most fully what attracted him to Freemasonry. Its librettist, Schikaneder, was a Mason too. Here obscurantism and irrationally exercised power are rejected, while an Enlightened morality, and human brotherhood, is celebrated in hymn like music almost as simple as the songs of the Masonic ritual.
Masonic symbolism appears not only in Mozart’s ‘Masonic’ works, but also in compositions having no apparent connection with Freemasonry. The figure three played a large part in the symbols. According to one expert, the number of flats in the music’s key signature corresponded to the degree of initiation into the Masonic order. The three flats of the Masonic Funeral Music (C minor) would therefore correspond to the third degree, of Master Mason.
Mozart was initiated into the Lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (Beneficence) in 1783. In 1785 he was passed to a larger lodge, Zur wahren Eintracht (True Concord), where he was made a Master Mason on 13 January. In August 1785 a piece with male chorus, called Master Music, was performed there on the occasion of a member’s elevation to the Third Degree. This seems to have been an early version of tonight’s piece. On 17 November, at the lodge Zur gekrönten Hoffnung (Crowned Hope), the Maurerische Trauermusik (Masonic Funeral Music), a new version of the same music, but without chorus, was played at a Lodge of Sorrows (Memorial Service) for Count Franz Esterházy von Galántha and Duke Georg August von Mecklenburg-Strelitz. On 7 December, the Masonic Funeral Music was performed at another lodge, Zu den drey Adlern (The Three Eagles) with added wind parts, including three basset horns and a contrabassoon. The two additional basset horn players, Anton David and Vinzent Springer, were ‘foreign’ Masonic Brothers who happened to be in Vienna at the time. The final scoring of the music reflects the availability of what H.C. Robbins Landon calls ‘an extraordinary and fortuitous collection of musicians’.
This is the most impressive of Mozart’s specifically Masonic pieces. ‘One of the most beautifully elegiac pieces of music ever written’, says one commentator. The effect of the sombre minor key is reinforced by the choice of wind instruments, and writing which exploits their lower registers. In the first part of the chorale theme Mozart uses the Gregorian plainchant beginning the Lamentations of Jeremiah, associated with Holy Week, the Miserere, and the Requiem. It is intoned first by oboes and clarinet, later joined by the whole wind choir, in a kind of slow march. The C minor turns to major at the end, an effect of radiant hope.
David Garrett © 2002
Year of Composition:
Most recent WASO performance:
28 August 1969. Thomas Mayer, conductor
two oboes, clarinet, three basset horns, contrabassoon, two horns, strings.
About the Music
Bassoon Concerto, Op.117
II. Exquisite Aeon
III. Sable Island Gallop
From the composer:
My Bassoon Concerto is a three movement work for bassoon and full orchestra with a duration of about 21 minutes. The work was commissioned for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra by Geoff Stearn and written in very close collaboration with the orchestra’s Principal Bassoon and the wonderful soloist in the work’s premiere, Jane Kircher-Lindner. Bassoon Concerto was written in the second half of 2022 during which time I was the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The bassoon has a unique and expressive voice and is probably somewhat unusual as a solo instrument in a concerto. But its expressive and distinct personality, large range, surprising agility and many moods make it a fascinating instrument for which to write a large solo work. In my Concerto I have opted to use the full orchestra with an emphasis on a wide range of timbre and colour. The orchestral scoring of the work uses the complete family of woodwind: piccolo, flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon. At various times each of the woodwind accompany the solo bassoon. In the brass, the trumpets have a particularly prominent role – they are nearly always muted and the work places a lot of emphasis on the blend and frequent echo duets between trumpet and solo bassoon. In the second movement the trumpets move to antiphonal positions on either side of the stage. Percussion also have important parts to play in the orchestration of the Concerto with the use of vibraphone and marimba and many tuned percussion instruments throughout the work and, in the galloping fast rhythms of the last movement, use of the exciting classic salsa combo of timbales and bongos.
The titles of the three movements give hints to my artistic concerns in the work. In the first movement (marked ‘Misterioso – Moderately fast, graceful and freely’) the bassoon moves from lyrical solo passages to bravura chromatic clowning and back again to arpeggiated lyricism. And there are hints to the famous Thelonius Monk song, Misterioso, in quiet corners of the movement. The second movement (‘Exquisite Aeon – Sustained, slow, expansive’) is a musical snapshot of the vastness of time and space in which a sequence of widely scored orchestral chords provides a backdrop to duets between lower strings and bassoon with an elaborate decoration of ethereal percussion and other fleeting colours. The third movement (‘Sable Island Gallop - Fast and playful’) takes a short and brilliant folksong from the Canadian east coast that celebrates Sable Island’s wild ‘crazy horses’ as its musical source for the rapid surges of percussive rhythms and playful bassoon virtuosity. To quote the song: “On the stormy western ocean, Just eighty miles from land, Lies a barren little island, Composed of grass and sand. You’re chasing crazy horses From daylight until dark.”
Commissioned for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra by Geoff Stearn.
© Andrew Schultz, 2022.
This is the world premiere of this work. Asher Fisch, conductor; Jane Kircher-Lindner, soloist.
Piccolo, flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon; four horns, two trumpets, three trombones and tube; timpani, two percussion, harp and strings.
About the Music
Symphony No.1 in D Titan
Langsam, schleppend – Im Anfang sehr gemächlich (Slow, dragging – Very comfortably)
Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (Forcefully, yet not too fast)
Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen (Solemn and measured, without dragging)
Stürmisch bewegt (Stormily)
Gustav Mahler once told his friend Natalie Bauer-Lechner that ‘composing is like playing with building blocks, where new buildings are created again and again using the same blocks. Indeed these blocks have been there, ready to be used, since childhood, the only time that is designed for gathering.’
Mahler’s First Symphony proved the point. Composed in 1888, he drew his idea for the first movement and middle section of the slow movement from his own Songs of a Wayfarer, the song cycle he’d composed in 1884. The scherzo contains a tune first composed by Mahler as early as 1880. The First Symphony also quotes from Wagner’s Parsifal, Liszt’s Dante Symphony, and German drinking songs.
A failed love affair played its part too. Back in 1884, Mahler and the soprano Johanna Richter parted ways after an intense affair and Mahler poured out his rejected soul in poetry, some of which found its way into the Songs of a Wayfarer and indirectly into the symphony. ‘The symphony begins where the love-affair ends,’ Mahler wrote subsequently. ‘The real life experience was the REASON for the work, not its content.’ Mahler composed the bulk of the work in just six weeks in the early spring of 1888, juggling the conducting of opera rehearsals and performances at the Leipzig City Theatre with early morning and late evening composition. In early 1888 this punishing regimen had resulted in his completion of Weber’s opera The Three Pintos. Inspired by its success, the 28-year-old Mahler launched into his new symphony with fanatical concentration. ‘It flowed out of me like a mountain river. For six weeks I had nothing but my desk in front of me.’
When the first movement was done, he played it on the piano for the Weber family, who were stunned and requested an encore. But the work would never enjoy such immediate approval again.
By contemporary standards, the completed symphony was massive. Nearly an hour long and in five movements (originally including a slow movement, Blumine), it employed a large orchestra including seven horns and four trumpets. Mahler conducted the premiere in 1889 in Budapest (where he was now Artistic Director of the Royal Hungarian Opera), heading it ‘A Symphonic Poem in Two Sections’ and including a detailed program.
The Hungarian audience was divided, with some of Mahler’s admirers hailing it as a masterpiece, but with the majority of the public being mystified, or worse, offended.
In response, Mahler locked his manuscript away for three years, only returning to it in 1893. ‘As a whole, everything has become more slender and transparent,’ he wrote to Richard Strauss about the revision, successfully performed in Hamburg in 1893. Strauss himself programmed it in Weimar, but there, wrote Mahler, ‘my symphony was received with furious opposition by some and wholehearted approval by others. The opinions clashed in an amusing way, in the streets and in the salons.’
One of the major criticisms was that the program of the symphony, adapted from Jean Paul Richter’s novel Titan, was ‘confused and unintelligible’. The closest connection that could be made with the music was simply a vague Promethean element, a similarity of fantasy and grotesque humour, and a sense of heroic, titanic struggle. Mahler himself said that he had in mind only a generalized concept of ‘a powerfully heroic individual, his life and suffering, struggles and defeat at the hands of Fate.’
Mahler took the criticism to heart and when the next performance occurred in 1896, it bore no program and was labeled simply ‘Symphony in D major’. Blumine was dropped, turning it into the four-movement work familiar today, but even then the symphony failed to capture the imagination of its audience. For years afterwards Mahler lamented the work’s ‘cold effect on the listener’. In 1906, he advised a Paris producer not to program the work. And as late as 1909, he told Bruno Walter that there had been ‘no particular response’ to a New York performance.
Right from the outset, the score gives a clear indication of the work’s intentions. Over a suspended note, the composer writes the direction ‘like a sound of nature’ and soon we hear a cuckoo’s call which will permeate the movement as a whole. As the original program stated, it is intended to depict ‘Spring without end…the awakening of nature in the early morning.’
It need hardly be stated how revolutionary this ‘natural’ approach to composition would have sounded back in 1889. Even in the post-Beethoven era, the strict rules of traditional composition remained current in the musical capitals of Europe, and aside from the storm scene in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and ‘Forest Murmurs’ from Wagner’s Siegfried, there were still few precedents for a composer attempting to imitate the sounds of nature, and never at the very beginning of a symphony!
With the rise of scientific discovery and the theoretical work of Emile Zola, however, a naturalistic revolution was sweeping theatre and literature. Mahler adapted the aesthetic to music, and in doing so created a new kind of symphonic form. In it, the inconsistencies, the expansive structures, and the clash between the sublime and the facile that so characterise everyday existence found a musical form, as the tight classical structures of sonata form were exploded, quite literally with instruments now going beyond the frame and playing offstage.
Each of the work’s usual four movements has its own take on this revolutionary aesthetic. In the second movement, it’s Mahler’s employment of the ländler – not the refined waltz that we have come to expect but a much cruder, earthier and more authentic kind of peasant dance. This is Schubert and Bruckner curdling in the world of fin-de-siècle decadence and anxiety.
The slow movement is perhaps even more startling and characteristic. It’s a funeral march, but set to a children’s nursery tune – Bruder Martin in German, Frère Jacques in French. Its inspiration was a woodcut entitled The Huntsman’s Funeral Procession in which animals follow a dead man’s coffin: hares, cats, frogs and crows, all making music. Mahler’s take on the children’s illustration begins on a solo double bass and is later interrupted by some crude street music. It’s the sound of everyday life, but with fantasy and grotesquerie thrown in for an intensely unsettling effect.
The critics didn’t quite know how to react. One wrote, ‘We do not know whether we should take this “funeral march” seriously or interpret it as parody. We are inclined to assume rather the latter, as the main motive…is a well-known German student song, Bruder Martin, which we ourselves have frequently sung, albeit not at funerals but while happily drinking.’
And then of course there is one of the most famous transitions in all Mahler, with the Funeral March giving way to the shocking, shrieking, almost despairing attacca into the final movement. Mahler described this transition as being ‘like a flaming accusation of the Creator’ and also ‘the cry of a deeply wounded heart’. But this apocalyptic final movement ends in triumph, with the radiant key of D major gradually taking over for a conclusion of deep beauty and emotion.
Adapted from a note by Martin Buzacott © 2003.
20 November 1889, Budapest. Gustav Mahler, conductor.
First WASO performance:
The West Australian Symphony Orchestra first performed the four-movement version of Mahler’s First Symphony in 1966 under the direction of Thomas Meyer.
Most recent WASO performance:
20-21 November 2015. Asher Fisch, conductor.
four flutes (2nd, 3rd, 4th also piccolo), four oboes (3rd also cor anglais), four clarinets (3rd, 4th also E♭, 3rd also bass clarinet), three bassoons (3rd also contrabassoon), seven horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, two timpani, cymbals, triangle, tam-tam, bass drum, harp, strings.
Sonata form – A term conceived in the 19th century to describe the way most Classical composers structured some movements of a symphonic work or a sonata. It involves the exposition or presentation of themes or subjects: the first subject is in the tonic or home key, the second in a contrasting key. The resulting tension between keys is intensified in the development, where recognisable melodic and rhythmic aspects of the themes are manipulated as the music moves further and further away from the ultimate goal of the home key. Tension is resolved at the recapitulation where both subjects are fully restated in the tonic. There is sometimes a coda (literally, ‘tail’) to enhance the sense of finality.