Haydn and Schubert
Thursday, July 28, 7:30 PM
Orchestra conducted Nicholas McGegan
Johann Sebastian Bach, Ricercare No. 2 from Musical Offering, BWV 1079
orchestrated by Anton Webern
Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 103 in Eb Major, Hob.I/103
Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759
Ricercare from the Musical Offering is a creative remastering, combining the work of two musical geniuses, two centuries apart. Webern writes music to fill in the blanks in Bach’s work, evoking a conversation between the two great composers, as if they’re discussing their divergent composition methods, each arguing their side with reciprocal respect and admiration. Webern presents a kaleidoscopic, 20th Century view of the Baroque in this arrangement. Webern was originally attracted to the idea of orchestrating this piece because Bach did not indicate on what instruments he wished the music to be performed.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 is nicknamed “Drum Roll” after the bold timpani solo which opens and concludes the first movement. The Romantic quality of Haydn’s later symphonies is showcased in the opening movement which takes the listener on a heroic journey complete with a full-orchestra fanfare at its close. The second movement depicts varied personalities in conversation, beginning with a discussion between low and high strings, each proposing their unique ideas and struggling to agree. They’re joined by the woodwinds and brass before a violin soloist takes the reins. The final movement returns to the joyful and triumphant spirit of the first movement for a satisfying full-circle conclusion. The Drum Roll was Haydn’s penultimate symphony and exemplifies his complete mastery of the form, yet also demonstrating that he was continuing to try new ideas.
Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, referred to as the “Unfinished Symphony,” is comprised of just two movements but has the magnitude of any full-length symphony. Composed six years before his death, this piece exemplifies Schubert’s imaginative and rebellious spirit as well as the depths of his emotional experience. The first movement contains a wealth of catchy, singable melodies that bloom with zest and power. In true Schubertian fashion, the spirit of the music can transform quickly, moving seamlessly from carefree to deeply passionate while harnessing the original melody to bind the movement together. The second movement highlights woodwind soloists in gorgeous displays of musical color before descending into flashes of intensity complete with powerful timpani. This piece offers a glimpse into Schubert’s soul as he bent the rules to fulfill his musical vision. The poignant first movement and sentimental second are as well integrated as any of Beethoven’s masterpieces.
In his six decades on the podium, Nic McGegan—long hailed as “one of the finest baroque conductors of his generation” (The Independent) and “an expert in 18th-century style” (The New Yorker)—served as Music Director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale for 34 years, and Artistic Director and conductor at Germany’s Göttingen Handel Festival for 20 years.
As a guest conductor, he has appeared with the New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong Philharmonics; the Chicago, Dallas, and Toronto Symphonies; the Philadelphia Orchestra; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw among others.
McGegan’s prolific discography includes more than 100 releases spanning five decades, including 20 albums recorded with Hungary’s Capella Savaria on the Hungaroton label and two recent albums with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra under the BIS label. His extensive discography with Philharmonia Baroque includes two Grammy nominees.
McGegan is committed to the next generation of musicians, frequently conducting and coaching students in residencies and engagements at Yale University, the Juilliard School, Harvard University, and the Colburn School. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and an honorary professorship at Georg-August University, Göttingen. He was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to music overseas.” English-born, McGegan was educated at Cambridge and Oxford.