San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Steven Isserlis, violoncello
MENDELSSOHN: The Fair Melusine, Op. 32
SCHUMANN: Concerto for Violoncello in A minor, Op. 129
BRAHMS: Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16
Pre-concert talk with Scott Foglesong at 7:15 PM*
(*6:45 PM on Sunday, March 11)
Brahms: Serenade No. 1 in D Major – Allegro Molto (excerpt)
(Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra)
The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra embraces repertory well beyond the confines of the 17th and 18th centuries; in this program, three works by 19th century composers are featured. Felix Mendelssohn’s evocative concert-overture “Zum Märchen von der Schönen Melusine,” better known as The Fair Melusine, Op. 32, was written for Franz Grillparzer’s stage adaptation of Goethe’s recounting of the story of the river mermaid Melusine on the legendary island Avalon.
Mendelssohn’s friend and colleague Robert Schumann graced the cello with one of its greatest concertos, his Op. 129, written in a two-week burst of inspiration in October 1850 shortly after Schumann’s arrival in Düsseldorf as municipal music director. Schumann referred to the work as a “concert piece” rather than a concerto, reflecting its freedom from standard form (its three movements progress without pause) as well as its fantasia-like qualities. The concerto is intimate, dreamy, gentle, and colorful; even the relatively chipper finale allows time for warm poetic musings.
Johannes Brahms was the famous protégé of Schumann. His stated goal was to adapt the musical forms of counterpoint (mastered by Bach) and development (a specialty of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven) into the language of Romantic music, and his two Serenades represent an evolution of the Baroque form called “serenata.” Serenade No. 2 calls for a full orchestra that excludes violins.