Mozart and More

October 10/11, 2020

 

 

 

 

The Program

The Three Intermezzi for piano, Op. 117, are compositions that Johannes Brahms created for solo piano. The intermezzi were described by the critic Eduard Hanslick as "monologues"... pieces of a "thoroughly personal and subjective character" striking a "pensive, graceful, dreamy, resigned, and elegiac note."

The Intermezzi of Opus 117 were composed in 1892.

First Intermezzo

The first intermezzo, in E♭ major, is prefaced in the score by two lines from an old Scottish ballad, Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament:

 

Balow, my babe, lie still and sleep!

It grieves me sore to see thee weep.

Second Intermezzo

 

The middle section of the second intermezzo, in B♭ minor, seems to Brahms’ biographer Walter Niemann to portray a "man as he stands with the bleak, gusty autumn wind eddying round him."

Final Intermezzo

The final intermezzo, in C♯ minor, has an autumnal quality also, suggesting the cold wind sighing through the trees as leaves are falling.

 

Featured Artist

Steve Bjella

 

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was very lucky to grow up in a loving family of six kids in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In our household music was ever present with all of singing and taking lessons on an instrument; it’s no wonder five of us became professional musicians! In Cedar Rapids, the public schools had a thriving music program with wonderful music educators, and students could start instrumental lessons in third grade. My best friend was starting violin and, having a toothless grin at the time, I decided to join him on a embouchure-free instrument. The rest is history.

What has been your most memorably performance to date?

As far as memorable performances, there have been so many! Live chamber music performances on WFMT radio in Chicago and Wisconsin Public Radio, premiering new solo works, making recordings, performing some of the great concerti across the country, and being able to make music with my wonderful colleagues in the CWSO.

What can the audience be listening for in the Mozart or what is your favorite moment?

Mozart’s Symphonie Concertante is one of my favorite concerti! Typical of any of Mozart’s works, you wouldn’t want to change a note! The playful interplay between the soloists and the orchestra is enchanting, and the slow second movement is heart-wrenching in it’s beauty.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

I was playing a live recital performance on Wisconsin Public Radio with pianist Michael Keller at the Elvehjem Museum of Art in Madison, and half-way through the first piece, a photographer came within a few feet of us and starting snapping photos for several minutes. Security finally came and removed him; all of this while continuing to perform for our live audience in the hall and on the radio. After the concert they informed us that the photographer was not paparazzi, but rather a university student taking a photography class who thought it would be fun to capture some impromptu moments.

What are some hobbies/interests you enjoy outside of music?

Hobbies include biking, hiking, reading, and sharing time with family and friends across the country.

 

 

 

 

What is interesting about this concert

  • Brahms - I didn't know this Intermezzo specifically until Alex Ross mentioned it in an article (Grieving With Brahms) about how Brahms helps him cope in difficult times. I often turn to Brahms' music as well and thought an arrangement of the Intermezzo would be a calm, reflective way to open a concert after these months of turmoil.

 

  • Mozart - Steve and Mary played some Mozart duos last year. As I was listening to them perform, I thought that they would sound terrific together on the Sinfonia. Also, selfishly, I thought it would be special to have Mary featured on my first concert as music director.

 

  • Wagner - We often think of Wagner as this grandiose musical figure who wrote operas that last for days. The Siegfried Idyll is a compact, simple piece that he wrote as a birthday gift for his wife. It also happens to be the first orchestral piece I ever conducted in graduate school.

 

  • Ravel - This is such a fun piece! Behind Brahms, Ravel comes in a close second as my favorite composer. It is astounding how many colors he is able to draw out of a small ensemble with no percussion and little brass.

 

Concert Experience

Here's a simple rundown of how you can make the best out of your concert experience...

 

Free pre-concert talk with the maestro an hour before the show

 

Bring your drinks to your seats

 

Phones must be on silent

 

Clap when you like what you hear

 

 

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What you'll hear

 

Concert Directions

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