MOZART & SHOSTAKOVICH

Saturday, March, 4 2023 8 pm ~ George Weston Recital Hall, 5040 Yonge Street


Rays of hope

A brilliant young pianist in the famous ‘Elvira Madigan’ concerto,

and Shostakovich’s passionate post-war WHY?


SINFONIA TORONTO

NURHAN ARMAN Conductor

SUNNY RITTER Pianist


Program

MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467

VANIA ANGELOVA Passacaglia world premiere

SHOSTAKOVICH Chamber Symphony in F major Op 73a


Single tickets go on sale August 22

Program notes


Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Orchestrated by Ignaz Lachner


Completed in March 1785, this may be the best-known of all Mozart's piano concertos, thanks to having its lyrical second movement used as background music in the popular 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan.


In his all-too-short life, Mozart composed many piano concertos, starting at age 11 and continuing until just a few months before his death at 35. Mozart was famous for his pianistic skill. His playing "captivated every listener and established Mozart as the best keyboard performer of his day," according to critic Franz Niemetschek. While playing his concertos Mozart improvised his cadenzas; they were never written down. Modern pianists are therefore forced to either write their own cadenzas or use cadenzas written by others.


K. 467 is one of Mozart's most technically challenging concertos. His father Leopold called it "astonishingly difficult." Its difficulty lies less in the complexity of the notes than in the need to play them all smoothly and beautifully. Mozart’s mastery made this seem simple, as evidenced by contemporary newspaper accounts, but his letters show that great effort went into preparing for such “effortless” performances.


In this concerto the orchestra and soloist are equal partners, unlike many classical concertos where the soloist predominates and the orchestra accompanies. Additionally, unlike many concertos, this concerto is thematically unified. It gives the audience a coherent picture of an imaginary universe with a wide array of characters. The solo piano and the orchestra engage repeatedly in musical conversations as equals.


The famous second movement Andante makes us think of a tranquil dreamscape, broken up occasionally, by enigmatic dissonances. Some of the harmonic explorations are so daring that Leopold thought perhaps the copyist had made mistakes in the score, producing "wrong sounds." Surprising, almost harsh passages break up what is otherwise calm and relaxing music. By contrast, the concluding movement, Allegro vivace assai, is lighthearted and jolly. Here too the orchestra and piano converse with ease, good friends out for a night of fun. After the piano cadenza, the piece's main theme reappears, and the movement ends with a victorious flourish.


Passacaglia by Vania Angelova (1953 - )

World premiere


Composer, pianist and conductor Vania Angelova obtained a doctorate in composition at the University of Montreal after completing a masters in piano with Professor Regina Horowitz, sister of the great Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz, as well as a masters in composition with Professor Igor Kovach in the former USSR.


Angelova’s oeuvre includes compositions for symphony and chamber orchestras, a wide range of chamber music, two oratorios, several orchestral suites, a capella and orchestral-accompaniment arrangements of ancient and modern choir music, and scores for seven movies. Her works have been performed in Canada, Eastern and Western Europe and Ukraine.


Passacaglia is the final section of Angelova’s Polyphonic Miniatures Angelova’s most recent suite for string orchestra, from which other sections were premiered by Sinfonia Toronto in March 2022.


Chamber Symphony in F major, Opus 73a by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Orchestral version by Nurhan Arman


Shostakovich’s interest in the string quartet came later in his musicl development than for most composers, when he was 31; but this may be due to the fact that he did not regard them as a smaller form - his quartets are major works, actual symphonies composed for four instruments. Their large-scale architecture is imbues with the same depth and breadth of emotion as his full-orchestra works, and he fully explores the extreme potential of string quartet textures, using the instruments’ highest registers and special tonal effects to carry out complex structural designs such as thematic references between movements and intricate interplay between lines.


Composed just after a Soviet military victory during the Second World War, this quartet does not exult; rather, Shostakovich expresses his anguish about the conflict and hopes for peace. The basic motif of the sonata-form first movement’s cheerful opening, two quick sixteenth notes leading to an eighth note, returns in later movements, a reminder of the happiness of a world without war. Shostakovich originally gave each movement a title but later removed them; the first movement’s was “Calm unawareness of future cataclysm.”


The second movement rondo is built on three themes, two vigorous and acerbic, with an ostinato accompaniment, and a third which is shimmering and spectral. Its suppressed title was “Rumblings of unrest and anticipation.” The third movement scherzo’s three ominous themes and its irregular alternation between duple and triple rhythms capture the unpredictability and brutality of military engagements and occupation.


The Adagio fourth movement swings between powerful collective outbursts of grief and softer, more private mourning scored in lighter textures and higher registers. Sustained laments die away in the lowest register as the viola line weeps over a fading heartbeat in the cello line.


The final Moderato grows directly out of the last viola note of the Adagio, responding to grief with a cello theme of consolation which is later reaffirmed by the first violins. A more innocent past is recalled with motifs from the first movement, but these are only reminiscences… by the end of the movement Shostakovich’s message is clear: lost days of peace cannot be reclaimed.


Biographies


Sunny Ritter, Pianist - Hailed “a phenomenal child prodigy” (Ottawa Life Magazine), Canadian pianist Sunny Ritter received her professional training at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Taylor Academy in the studio of Dr. Michael Berkovsky, at Vienna’s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst, and currently at the Universität Mozarteum.


Since her first gold medal at six-years old, Sunny has triumphed at more than twenty-five international piano competitions in Austria, Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia, Spain, Poland, and Canada. She swept up First Prize and all special prizes at the Steinway Klavierspielwettbewerb and received the Grand Prize across all age categories at the Mihaela Ursuleasa International Piano Competition (5,000 Euros). At ten years old, she competed at senior level at Toronto’s Kiwanis Festival and won the top prize; she was younger than the competition’s youngest winner to date, Glenn Gould. Most recently, in a performance broadcast on Austrian national television (ORF), Sunny won the “Goldene Note” for Austria’s best rising-star pianist.


Sunny gave her first solo-recital in Ottawa and made her orchestral début in Bucharest and at Vienna’s Rathaus at eight years old. She has since performed in renowned concert venues on both sides of the Atlantic. She was anticipating her début at Koerner Hall when Covid struck. But Sunny didn’t miss a beat. A pioneer of the lockdown-livestream, she was soon beaming herself across the planet with realtime solo-recitals like Defying the Together. Sunny’s fundraising initiatives, such as Playing from my Heart for the Heart & Stroke Foundation are among her proudest achievements. Sunny loves the piano because it’s a kind of magic: These keys unlock hearts.


Sinfonia Toronto now in its 24th season, has toured twice in Europe, in the US, South America and China, receiving glowing reviews. It has released four CD’s, including a JUNO Award winner, and performs in many Ontario cities. Its extensive repertoire includes all the major string orchestra works of the 18th through 21st centuries, and it has premiered many new works. Under the baton of Nurhan Arman the orchestra’s performances present outstanding international guest artists and prominent Canadian musicians.


Maestro Nurhan Arman has conducted throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Canada and the US, returning regularly to many orchestras in Europe. Among the orchestras Maestro Arman has conducted are the Moscow Philharmonic, Deutsches Kammerorchester Frankfurt, Filarmonica Italiana, St. Petersburg State Hermitage Orchestra, Orchestre Regional d’Ile de France, Hungarian Symphony, Arpeggione Kammerorchester, Milano Classica and Belgrade Philharmonic.


Sinfonia Toronto respectfully acknowledges that we work in the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and Haudenosaunee peoples