Masterworks 3: Pulling Out the Stops

Masterworks 3: Pulling Out the Stops

Scott Seaton | Conductor

  • Saturday, February 8, 2020 @ 7:30PM Cascade Theatre, Redding, CA
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  • Sunday, February 9, 2020 @ 2:00PM Laxson Auditorium, Chico, CA
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Free pre-concert talk one hour before each performance.

Single Tickets range from $18 to $55 with discounts available for students and seniors.

Guest Artists:
Oliver Moore, piano | 2019 Young Artist Audition High School Winner
Butte MTAC Youth Orchestra | Yoshie Muratani, Director
Shasta College Youth Strings | Jeff Specht, Director

MARQUEZ Danzon No. 2
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1
SAINT-SAENS Symphony No. 3 "Organ"

Inspired by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Saint-Saens created his resoundingly beautiful “Organ Symphony” on the grandest of scales, employing the “King of Instruments”. Young Artist Audition winner Oliver Moore will take us on a tour of the lush Romantic themes in Liszt’s First Piano Concerto. Youth orchestras from both Chico and Redding will join the symphony for Arturo Marquez rhythmically thrilling Danzon No. 2.

Guest soloist bio:

Oliver Moore, an 18 year old native of Chico, is thrilled to be back home to perform with the North State Symphony. As a pianist, he has won top prizes in competitions across the country, including the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. An intrepid interpreter of the piano repertoire, he is especially fond of the technically demanding and deeply spiritual music of Franz Liszt.

Oliver Moore has placed first in the Redlands Bowl, California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT), and Music Teachers Association of California North (MTAC) Concerto Competitions. He has also appeared as soloist with the Hollywood Chamber and Paradise Symphony Orchestras. Oliver has studied under Dr. Robert Bowman, Marilyn Mcgee, and Jim Beinhoff, and graduated from Inspire School of Arts and Sciences in 2019. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in piano performance at the University of Kansas under internationally renowned pedagogue Dr. Scott McBride Smith. With a special interest in American music, Oliver is currently the pianist for the top jazz ensemble at KU, and has appeared as a featured performer in the West Coast, Scott Joplin International, and Sutter Creek ragtime festivals.


Arturo Márquez described Danzón No. 2 as “a very personal way of paying my respects and expressing my emotions towards truly popular music.”   Born in Mexico, where his father and grandfather were popular musicians in Sonora and Chihuahua, he is now acclaimed among leading composers of contemporary Mexican art music, known for his use of traditional musical idioms, and perhaps best known for a series of compositions based on the danzón, a form that originated in Cuba in the 1850s. The danzón evolved from an older form called the contradanza that was introduced by French colonists who escaped the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s. Over the ensuing years the intense rhythmic idioms and dance traditions from Afro-Cuban Jabanera fused with the European form to create this dynamic style, that eventually found its way to the salons of Mexico. Márquez described the origin of Danzón No. 2 from a 1993 trip to Malinalco with painter Andrés Fonseca and dancer Irene Martínez, where the dance halls in Veracruz and the Salón Colonia in Mexico City left an indelible mark on him. He writes that he “started to learn the danzón’s rhythms, its form, its melodic outline, and to listen to the old recordings by Acerina and his Danzonera Orchestra… [Danzón No. 2] endeavors to get as close as possible to the dance, to its nostalgic melodies, to its wild rhythms.” Commissioned by Mexico’s National Autonomous University whose orchestra premiered it in 1994, the work is dedicated to his daughter Lily who was two years old at the time. Its popularity soared in 2007 when Gustavo Dudamel performed it throughout the U.S. and Europe while touring with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra.


Notice two important characteristics, salient from the start. First, the extended legato melody that is introduced by the clarinet; it frequently returns, sometimes in a variation. The tonal colors of the melody are always changing with many instruments playing solo lines.   Secondly, notice the rhythm pattern of the claves at the beginning of the piece - it also repeats throughout with different instruments and variations. Sometimes the melody disappears and the music becomes almost all rhythm, of which the five-stroke clave pattern (2 + 3; 3 + 2) is the structural core. Dynamic contrast is another characteristic; for example, Márquez often retreats into a pianissimo level in order to soften listeners for his next intrepid burst.  Written for full orchestra (2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones and bass trombone, tuba, piano, timpani, claves, snare drum, suspended cymbal, guiro, tom-toms, bass drum, and strings), it features solos for clarinet, oboe, piano, violin, French horn, trumpet, flute, and piccolo.


Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 premiered in 1855 in Weimar, Germany, with the composer as soloist and Hector Berlioz conducting the Court Orchestra. The concert was much anticipated, as Liszt was considered the greatest pianist of his time, having spent his entire career to this point concertizing throughout Europe.   The opening theme was written many years prior, in 1830; at that time, he described it as “a concerto after a plan that I think will be new and whose accompaniment remains to be written.” The earliest version was never performed, but rather, reworked over decades to find its eventual form. Even after the premiere he continued his edits. This single theme weaves its way through the entire concerto, progressively undergoing all manner of transformation. Liszt’s compositional technique is essentially an extended variation on a recurring theme that grows from a few basic motifs transformed in character through tempo and rhythm. The ponderous opening measures become feather-light in the slow movement, and in later sections, morph into a glorious march.


Although the concerto is presented as a single movement, an underlying four-movement form typical of concertos is clearly discernible.  The opening Allegro maestoso starts with powerful strings and light winds in semi-tones before the pianist bursts forth with impressive octave flourishes that give way to an early cadenza. The soloist’s part demands a virtuosic pianist with blazing octaves, complex figurations, and arpeggios racing up and down the keyboard. The opening theme then returns to dominate the remainder of the movement. The slow Quasi Adagio has a beautiful, lyrical variation on the melody.  Listen for the triangle “soloist” in the scherzo section. Liszt’s zest for percussion was annoying to his conservative critics - one critic even described it as the “Triangle Concerto.” In the finale, some of the previous themes are brought to new life as they become a light, virtuosic etude.  Liszt’s performance instructions were that he “would like the entry of the Allegro marziale for the theme on the oboes and clarinets … to be very strongly accented and rhythmically defined… [they] must function like trumpets at this moment, in a military style.” The music of the scherzo reappears in the final Presto in which we hear again the chromatic theme from which the concerto sprung and a torrent of octaves traversing the entire keyboard in half-steps. The accompanying orchestra calls for: 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle, cymbals, and strings.


Camille Saint-Saëns composed Symphony No. 3 in 1886 on a commission by the Royal Philharmonic Society. The composer conducted both its London premiere in 1886 and its French premiere the next year.  Franz Liszt was a friend and influential mentor to Saint-Saëns, so much so, that his manuscript bore the inscription, “À la mémoire de Franz Liszt,” who unfortunately passed away two months before the premier. This C minor symphony was popular from the start; the composer was even hailed as the “French Beethoven” citing his flair for orchestration and melody. Saint-Saëns was an accomplished performer on both piano and organ, and this symphony includes prominent roles for both instruments, although despite its moniker, it does not feature the organ in a solo or concerto format, in fact, the organ is only used in two of the four movements.   A symphony “with organ” may be a more appropriate description.  “This symphony is divided into two parts,” Saint-Saëns wrote, “Nevertheless, it embraces in principle the four traditional movements, but the first is altered in its development to serve as the introduction to the Poco adagio, and the scherzo is connected by the same process to the finale.” The fusing of movements was also a formal device used by Liszt in particular.


A brief, slow introduction announces a rising four-note motif that is the main musical theme first played by the strings. That theme is introduced and then transformed and revamped, with examples of it found throughout the symphony. Notice how it integrates the historic dies irae chant (from the Catholic requiem mass for the dead) that is also associated with both Berlioz and Liszt. A second, more lyrical melody eventually is combined with the main motif before the Poco adagio is reached without pause. Here, an “extremely peaceful, contemplative theme,” as the composer described it, is presented low in the strings over soft organ harmonies. The calm and beauty, however, eventually give way to the energy of the Allegro. The second movement begins with a scherzo-like transformation of the symphony’s main theme, with “arpeggios and scales, swift as lightning,” on the piano.  This gaiety is challenged by the austerity of the low brass and basses. “There is a struggle for mastery,” Saint-Saëns writes, “which ends in the defeat of the restless, diabolical element.” This solemn theme rises “and rests there as in the blue of a clear sky.” A mighty organ chord “announces the approaching triumph of calm and lofty thought” and the ensuing Maestoso.   Listen for the piano of four-hands under the lyrical string melody.  The final Allegro begins fugally and eventually returns to the cyclic nature of the symphony, transforming and repeating the theme until the climactic finish powered by the large orchestra of 3 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes and English horn, 2 clarinets and bass clarinet, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, organ, piano, and strings.


-Theodore Bell