I went to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Eastman Theatre on Thursday night, February 12, 1998. Four selections were performed. Two were by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the overture to Don Giovanni, K. 527 and Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major for piano and orchestra, K. 482. The other pieces were Theme and Variations: The Four Temperaments for piano and string orchestra by Paul Hindemith and Rounds for string orchestra by David Diamond. The piano soloist for the Hindemith and Mozart Piano Concerto was Emanuel Ax and Robert Bernhardt conducted.
The first piece, the Overture to Don Giovanni, written by Mozart in 1787, was performed by a smaller sized orchestra with some brass instruments and one set of timpani drums. It was composed in the Viennese classical style. The piece is written in an A B A form and is a light-hearted, easy-listening piece especially when you consider the opera it introduces. The second piece was Theme and Variations: The Four Temperaments, written by Paul Hindemith in 1940. It called for a larger orchestra, but no brass or percussion sections.
Also, the piano was the solo instrument for this piece. Hindemith has the pianist play notes all over the keyboard, and Emmanuel Ax has the virtuosity to oblige the composer. At times the strings and the piano soloist would toss the theme between themselves. The theme was very structured and not able to be hummed or sung easily. The theme is very scholarly and intellectual, very different from the piece by Diamond that had a more lyrical melody that could be hummed. This is typical of the expressionist and neoclassicist styles that Hindemith writes in.
The orchestra first introduces the theme and then four variations of it are played back and forth between the piano and orchestra. Each variation of the theme conjures a different emotion. Variation I -Melancholic is sad-sounding and starts off in a slow tempo with a piano solo and then a piano/violin duet. It then increases in tempo and the strings dominate until the piano rejoins them and the movement ends in a slow tempo. Variation II-Sanguine is a rather cheerful waltz in triple meter in the piano with the string section accompanying.
In Variation III-Phlegmatic, the piano again is the most important instrument even though there are some solos in the string section. Phlegmatic means sluggish or unexcited, but the tempo is at a moderately fast pace. Variation IV-Choleric, is a lively movement in which the music sounds almost agitated. The tempo slows down and then speeds up many times during the movement. The third piece, Rounds for String Orchestra, was written by David Diamond in 1944. This piece was written in three movements for a rather large and full orchestra.
In addition to having them play pizzicato, one thing Diamond had the string players do that was positively 20th century was to tap the wood of their bows on their cello or string bass. This produced a rather interesting striking sound. David Diamond composed in the neoromantic style and the melody is more sensual than that of the Hindemith piece. This piece is also in A B A form with the first and third movements being Allegros and the middle movement an Adagio.
The movements are played right after each other with no pause. The theme that is introduced in the first movement is stated first by the violas and then repeated by the cellos and basses. This theme is then repeated the same way in the third movement. The second movement is more lyrical and being in a slower tempo, it acts as a buffer between the two fast movements. The fourth selection was another Mozart piece, his Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 482, written in 1785.
The concerto had three movements and called for a moderate sized orchestra with only one set of timpani for percussion used only in the first and third movements plus, obviously, a solo piano again played by Mr. Ax. The piece is in an A B A form. The first movement, an Allegro, is in quadruple meter and in the major key, E-flat. The second movement is an Andante in triple meter in the minor key, C minor. The final movement is a Rondo Allegro also in the major key but in triple meter. All around the concert was an enjoyable experience. I think my favorite piece was the Overture to Don Giovanni.
The melody of the Diamond piece was certainly much more lyrical than that of any of the other pieces. The Hindemith piece had a difficult theme to follow; that was the type of piece that would become more enjoyable to me the more I listened to it. I also enjoyed the Mozart piano concerto, especially since it is in the classical style that I am partial to. All in all, it was an enjoyable evening at the RPO, and with the cheap seats that are available, I would definitely consider going back to another concert, and probably on a weekday night when it is not very crowded and parking is very available!