Evening Concert

Emanuel Ax plays Haydn’s 11th Piano Concerto in New York


Tonight at 7:00 on The Evening Concert Emanuel Ax is the piano soloist in Haydn’s 11th Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic. Alan Gilbert conducts.  Also on the program, conductor Gilbert’s arrangement of Erich Leinsdorf’s symphonic study on Wagner, “A Ring Journey” and the New York premiere of Christopher Rouse’s “3rd Symphony”. 

The New York Philharmonic This Week (Program #13-41)
Alan Gilbert, cond.;  *Emanuel Ax, pianist
*HAYDN: Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major
Christopher ROUSE (b. 1949):  Symphony No. 3 (New York Premiere)

Symphony No. 3 By Christopher Rouse

Program Note by the Composer

Over the years I've often toyed with the concept of "rewriting" a work composed by someone else. By this I do not mean "correcting" or "improving" it; rather, my idea has been to take some central aspect of an already composed work and consider it anew.

My third symphony is an attempt to do just this. The unusual form of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 2 furnished the old bottle into which I have tried to pour new wine. Among Prokofiev's symphonies this one is, I believe, of especially high caliber, though it is rarely programmed. He called it his "symphony of iron and steel," and it is unquestionably one of his more aggressive and uncompromising scores. Cast in two movements — an opening toccata-like allegro followed by a set of variations — Prokofiev's own architecture was in turn influenced by that of Beethoven in his final piano sonata. I thus took this structure as my own and tried to maintain Prokofiev's own proportions between the two movements.

There is little in the way of actual quotation from Prokofiev's symphony. However, Prokofiev's opening repeated-note trumpet blasts also begin my symphony, though Prokofiev's D has here been replaced by an F. There is also a direct quote at the end of my first movement: the solo percussion passage at the end of Prokofiev's first movement has been transferred here by way of homage. As in the Russian master's score, the music of this movement is often savage and aggressive.

The second movement of Beethoven's sonata consists of a theme with four variations and the equivalent movement in Prokofiev's symphony of a theme with six variations. I decided to split the difference and commit to a theme-with-five-variations form. The variations are of notably disparate character, and the musical language ranges from the dissonant and barbaric to the overtly tonal. After the statement of the theme, the bright and glittering first variation gives way to a highly romantic variation scored for strings and harps only. The third variation is moderate in tempo and mood, but the short fourth is a mostly quiet whirlwind in an extremely fast tempo. The final variation, which follows without pause, possesses a bacchanalian abandon. A final reprise of the theme, again a reference to Prokofiev's form, brings the symphony to a close.

The work was completed in Baltimore, Maryland on February 3, 2011. Lasting about twenty-five minutes, it is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, four trumpets, four trombones, tuba, two harps, timpani, percussion (three players), and strings. It is dedicated to my high school music teacher, John Merrill; without his kindness and encouragement I might never have found the fortitude to persevere in my dream of being a composer.

Christopher Rouse

© 2011 by Christopher Rouse
These program notes can be reproduced free of charge with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Christopher Rouse