The Academy of St Martin in the Fields makes its highly anticipated return in a program featuring beloved Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2; the double-woodwind quintet Seascape by Ruth Gipps; and Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 “London.”
Renowned for its beautifully refined sound and vibrant interpretations, the Academy, led by Music Director Joshua Bell, makes a triumphant return for its fourth residency at Bravo! Vail.
All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.
Tomo Keller, Director/Leader
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2
RUTH GIPPS Seascape
HAYDN Symphony No. 104, London
Anne-Marie McDermott (piano) has been Bravo! Vail’s Artistic Director since 2011. Last summer, she performed the Vail premiere of Chris Rogerson’s Dream Sequence with the Dover Quartet, as well as the world premiere of Samaa’ (a piano concerto, also by Rogerson), commissioned by Bravo! Vail in celebration of her 10th year as Artistic Director. She regularly performs with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where she has been a member since 1995, and has recorded extensively for Bridge Records. This fall she performs with the New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden in the season opening of The McKnight Center of the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19 (ca. 1788-1801)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770 -1827)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19
Allegro con brio
Rondo: Molto allegro
Beethoven sketched parts of his Piano Concerto No. 2 as early as 1788, while a teenager in Bonn; completed it provisionally in 1794-95, a few years after he moved to seek his fortune as a pianist and composer in Vienna; and then revised it in 1798 and again just prior to its publication in December 1801, by which time he was acclaimed as a rising star, having made an indelible mark by releasing his First Symphony the preceding year.
A high-profile opportunity had come his way on March 29, 1795, when he was featured as both composer and pianist at a charity concert at Vienna’s Burgtheater to support musicians’ widows and orphans. It is widely assumed that this was the concerto he premiered on that occasion. Franz Gerhard Wegeler, a friend from his years in Bonn, was visiting Vienna at the time, and related that “not until the afternoon of the second day before the concert did he write the rondo, and then while suffering from a pretty severe colic which frequently afflicted him. … In the anteroom sat four copyists to whom he handed sheet after sheet as soon as it was finished.”
Anyone writing a piano concerto in Vienna at that time did so in the shadow of the late lamented Mozart. The texture of this work is truly orchestral, following the Mozartian ideal of an integrated texture in which the piano plays the role of primus inter pares. Nonetheless, within this idealized scoring the soloist has plenty to keep her or him busy; and if the finger-work sounds not quite Mozartian, the fact remains that, at this formative point in Beethoven’s career, the apple had not fallen far from the tree.
Seascape, Op. 53 (1958)
RUTH GIPPS (1921-99)
Seascape, Op. 53
The English composer Ruth Gipps began studying music at the age of three, published a composition when she was eight, and, at 15, entered the Royal College of Music, where the director predicted that she “will go far because she is … damned obstinate!” One wonders if he used the same term to describe motivated male students. Gipps often bridled at misogynistic attitudes from the musical establishment, but she did manage to fight her way into what was essentially the “men’s club” of mid-century British concert music. She attained professional level as both a pianist and an oboist and then took up conducting, this at a time when female conductors were all but unheard of. She countered resistance by establishing her own ensembles—the amateur One Rehearsal Orchestra (later renamed London Repertoire Orchestra), which she ran from 1955 through 1986, and the professional Chanticleer Orchestra (founded 1961), which promoted living composers. She secured occasional engagements conducting more established orchestras, provoking wonderment. In 1957 she became the first woman to conduct at London’s Royal Festival Hall—a program that included her own cantata The Cat and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, of which a reviewer observed (with a Colorado River allusion), “A woman is no more expected to conduct it than build a Great Boulder Dam.”
She wrote Seascape in 1958 for the Portia Wind Ensemble, an all-woman double-wind quintet (though with one of the standard oboes replaced by English horn). This elegant work reveals her essentially Romantic aesthetic, somewhat recalling the music of her composition teacher Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was inspired by a visit to a coastal village in Kent, where she recalled: “I could hear the sea. I always loved the sound of the sea and particularly storms.”
Symphony No. 104 in D major, London (1794-95)
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 104 in D major, London
After three decades working for the Esterházy princes in Austria and Hungary, Franz Joseph Haydn was pensioned off in 1790. He still had lots of creativity left in him, and he had grown so renowned that many opportunities presented themselves. He decided to accept an offer to undertake an extended residency in London, with guaranteed commissions for new works, lucrative publication deals, and income from a benefit concert. Haydn, who had never traveled apart from making the rounds of the various Esterházy palaces, embarked on this adventure with genuine excitement and no trepidation. He so enjoyed his 18-month residency in 1791-92, which included dinners with the Royal Family and the awarding of a doctorate by Oxford University, that he returned for a second go-round in 1794-95.
Haydn composed his final 12 symphonies for these visits—six for each trip—and they were invariably met with adulation. As a group, they are known as the “London” Symphonies, but the last of the set, his Symphony No. 104, is also nicknamed the London Symphony on its own. It brings to a close the extraordinary series of genre-defining pieces by the figure who would be acclaimed in posterity as “The Father of the Symphony.” Its premiere was a formal affair; an attendee reported that Haydn, seated at the keyboard, played “in tie wig, with a sword at his side.” A review stated that the piece, “for fullness, richness, and majesty, in all its parts, is thought by some of the best judges to surpass all his other compositions” and added that “a Gentleman, eminent for his musical knowledge, taste, and sound criticism, declared … that, for fifty years to come Musical Composers would be little better than imitators of Haydn.” (But then along came Beethoven.)
Did you know?
Presto Club for youth ages 8-14
New for 2023! The Presto Club is an opportunity for youth ages 8-14 to gather at select concerts to socialize pre-concert, engage with a designed interactive booklet during concerts, and participate in curated, post-concert Artist Meet and Greet opportunities. Students will be under the care and supervision of Education & Engagement staff.