May 2017 Symphony

May Symphony: Mahler's World

Scott Seaton | Conductor

  • Saturday, May 13, 2017 @ 7:30PM Cascade Theatre, Redding, CA
  • Sunday, May 14, 2017 @ 2PM Laxson Auditorium, Chico, CA

Guest Artist
Diego Bustamante, Piano
Young Artist Audition Winner

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20, I
Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp minor

Gustav Mahler once said, “A symphony must be like the world.  It must contain everything.”  There is certainly no exception with his fifth symphony, which takes us on an emotional roller coaster from tragedy to triumph with an orchestra on the largest of scales.  Also on the program is Diego Bustamente, our Young Artist Competition Winner, who will dazzle us with the soaring melodies and crisp rhythms of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20.

Free pre-concert talk one hour before each performance.

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Diego Bustamante, Piano
Diego is 18 years old and lives in Paradise. He is currently completing his college preparatory requirements at Butte College while enrolled as a senior at the Progressive Schoolhouse in Chico. He has been studying piano for ten years, starting in the Musikgarten program directed by Jill Lundberg. Now he studies under the direction of Dr. Robert Bowman and has been with him for eight years. His achievements include, winning the Paradise Symphony Young Artist Auditions in 2013 and 2016, both times getting to solo with their orchestra; performing in the 2015 Music Teacher's Association of California's Piano Panel Honors Recital, which features young pianists selected through a statewide audition process; and winning 1st place in the 2016 Classical Masters Music Festival competition. Along with his love of classical music, Diego is also a very active ragtime musician. He has won the West Coast Ragtime Society's youth competition 5 times and plays annually at the Sutter Creek and West Coast Ragtime Festivals. One of his more unique experiences was accompanying a silent movie at the 2016 Chico Silent Film Festival. He also completed his very first CD in 2015, called "Ragtime and Classical,  Side by Side." This fall, he will be going to University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music (with a generous scholarship) to pursue his bachelor's in piano performance. Aside from his love of music, Diego loves nature and is an avid birder, and has begun leading groups on birding field trips.



Wolfgang-amadeus-mozart_1-revertAmadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 in D-minor, K 466, stands unique among his compositions and has become one of the favorite concertos across many generations. This music shows a different side of Mozart’s art that is less polished, interjected with intense outbursts, and in an untraditional form. Beethoven was fond of it and included it in his personal concert repertory, and also composed cadenzas for it, because Mozart never transcribed one himself. This piece became the only one of Mozart’s piano concertos to gain popularity in the 19th Century. In general the Romantics respected him, but were not fond of the innocence that no longer described the world in which they lived. Nonetheless, audiences were receptive to K. 466 because it represented a break from his typical sculpted elegance and patina of serenity. Friederich Blume noted that it was his first concerto in which conventionalism gave way to “the language of the heart." Atypical of Mozart’s aesthetic sensibility around the concerto form, we hear a sort of dialogue among the orchestral instruments and the continual rhythmic and thematic variations create excitement. The winds are allowed to shine, and the soloist has personality independent of the orchestra. The writing is dramatic with intense dynamics and unusual modulations and textures – all essential ingredients that appealed to romanticized taste. Mozart was early to recognize that the percussive sound of the piano and its and wide tonal range could stand up to the orchestra as an equal, further giving No. 20 a unique character. He wrote to his father: "Here and there are things that only connoisseurs will be able to appreciate fully, but I have seen to it that those less knowledgeable will also be satisfied without knowing why." He often linked certain keys with specific emotions, and the choice of D-minor is rare, tending to be associated with danger and uneasiness; No. 20 is one of only two Mozart piano concertos written in the minor mode. Composer Olivier Messiaen wrote that: “The first movement of the concerto is in the same key and the same style as the first scene of Don Giovanni—the same anguish weighs down on its themes, the same flashes shine in the night.” Mozart was still at the time a darling of Viennese society, so he had the luxury to take a chance, especially if he was the performer, and so K. 466 was premiered at a subscription concert in 1785 at Vienna’s Mehlgrube Casino. Scored for solo piano with flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings, Mozart finished only the day before its premiere and it was reported that the ink on its parts was still wet on the night of the performance. The first movement opens with swirls of agitation from the strings devoid of a lyrical melody to cut the tension. Syncopation keeps the rhythm unsettled as the piano enters gently with a quiet, diminutive theme that the orchestra repeatedly attempts to suppress, only to be mocked by the soloist. The piano and orchestra refuse to mesh as the soloist exercises the entire range of the instrument amid an orchestra full of muted sounds. The contest concludes unresolved as both fade away at the movement’s end, exhausted in a draw.



4ce7bc7a0bd24_bGustav Mahler described himself as a “summer composer” because he used the seasonal break from his job as conductor of the Vienna Court Opera to pursue his composing. That schedule allowed him to work intensively on concurrent projects that he had developed but had been too busy to work on during his performance season. The result of this method was a kind of cross pollination of thematic material. In 1901, while residing in a villa on the Austrian lake Worthersee, he wrote several songs in addition to two movements of his Fifth Symphony, and in the following summer he finished, and eventually conducted its premiere himself in Cologne in 1904. In the winter prior to its conception, Mahler met his future wife, Alma Schindler, daughter of the famous landscape painter. He proposed to her in the fall of 1901 and his symphony seems to reflect this profound exuberance in his personal life. He once stated that "a symphony must be like the world; it must contain everything," and true to his belief, Symphony no. 5 takes the listener on a wildly emotional journey using a huge orchestra full of color and immense power. His orchestration included four flutes and two piccolos, three oboes and English horn, three clarinets and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, six horns, four trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, harp, bass drum, cymbals, small bass drum, snare drum, glockenspiel, slapstick, tam-tam, triangle, and strings. Sensing the overpowering nature of the brassy, percussion-heavy score, he continued to make revisions for several years after the premiere. Today, Mahler’s music occupies a significant place in the orchestral repertory, bridging the Romanticism of the 19th century and the modernism of the 20th. The Fifth Symphony represents a significant development in his compositional approach to a more purely instrumental style unlike that of his previous programmatic works based on folk tales and song. While he alludes to three of his songs, it is more or less an instrumental concept with textures more polyphonic and set in perpetual variation. The Fifth Symphony is divided into five movements that define three functional parts, with the third movement scherzo in the middle.


The two movements of Part 1 portray tragedy, moving from bleak to worse in the first. A glimmer of hope arises in the second, only to deflate in disappointment. His first three symphonies also included funeral marches, but in the Fifth the edgy funeral exhorts toughness over tenderness. Reminiscent of the insistent trumpet call from the first movement of his Fourth Symphony, a fanfare opens this symphony as well, and that rhythm dominates the movement. The march is followed by double trios; the first appears as a surprising break of the relative quiet, while the second is a more grief-ridden passage for the strings, burdened by a lumbering pace. Listen for the thematic rising minor ninth falling to the octave that introduces the second movement, until the trumpet call returns to dampen the mood again. The second movement develops the first trio of the opening march, expressly bitter, even angry, although punctuated with quiet moments. Beware of a surprise outburst when this musical grief suddenly gets skittish and light, but then returns even more depressed. Near the end, a semitone of hope emerges as a D-major brass chorale brightens the scene for a moment, only to sputter and crash. Mahler returns to the slow tempo and alludes to one of the songs that he had also composed during that summer of 1901, from Kindertotenlieder -Rückert’s mourning after the death of his child. The third movement is the longest movement and alone defines Part 2 of the Symphony. The lively Scherzo opens with unison horns that introduce a virtuosic obbligato by the principal. Curiously, Mahler directed the performers to play “vigorously, not too fast,” and mashed Austrian country dance with Viennese waltz. The horn plays a prominent role throughout, and in the trio section we hear a haunting horn solo over ethereal sounds from the orchestra. The fourth movement Adagietto serves to introduce the finale, and in modern times it is popular concert fare as an excerpt. You may recognize it as the music for the 1971 movie “Death in Venice.” Mahler’s beautifully lyric melody from the strings is accompanied ever so gently by the harp with a halting rhythmic flow. Mahler was emphatic in his notes that he wants it “very slow,” and gave precise instructions to performers the melody was to be played “pianissimo, molto ritardando, espressivo, and crescendo.” Many regard the Adagietto as an implied declaration of love to his love, Alma. This beautiful melody is reminiscent of his song setting of “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (I am lost to the world), written that same summer, and shares similar features like melodic contour, simple harmony, and lean orchestration. The song ends with the phrase, “I live alone in my heaven, in my loving, in my song.” The lively Finale commences without pause, and the melody from the Adagietto returns in a lively up-tempo as one of the themes. About 75 minutes earlier we began in a dark C-sharp minor world, and now we end in an optimistic D major. Like Beethoven’s Eroica, the Symphony rises from overwhelming tragedy to sweeping triumph as the brass chorale that fell to defeat in the second movement returns in a grand conclusion, this time sustained in its full glory.

Notes by Theodore Bell


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