MasterWorks 2: Kaleidoscope
The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra presents Masterworks 2: Kaleidoscope with special guest, Bryan Cheng, cello. Bryan is an accomplished cellist and was recent winner of the 2022 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium. The concert conducted by Marc David, features: Kaleidoscope by Mercure; Concerto for Cello No. 2 by Saint-Saëns; Élégie by Fauré; and, Symphony in D by Franck. Masterworks 2 takes place at 8pm on Friday, November 18, 2022 at the Arts & Culture Centre St. John’s.
Following recent prize-winning successes at some of the world’s most prestigious international competitions, including Queen Elisabeth, Concours de Genève, and Paulo, Canadian-born, Berlin-based cellist Bryan Cheng has established himself as one of the most compelling young artists on the classical music scene. He made his sold-out Carnegie Hall recital debut at age 14, his Elbphilharmonie debut aged 20 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (Joshua Weilerstein), and in 2022 was the first cellist to be awarded the coveted Prix Yves Paternot in recognition of the Verbier Festival Academy’s most promising and accomplished musician.
In the 2022-23 season, Bryan makes his ›Debüt im Deutschlandfunk Kultur‹ with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (Alpesh Chauhan) at the Berliner Philharmonie playing Saint-Saëns No. 2, returns to the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Laurence Equilbey) with Beethoven Triple and National Arts Centre Orchestra Ottawa (Yan Pascal Tortelier) with Saint-Saëns No. 1, and appears with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (Christian Arming) playing Haydn No. 1, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (Daniel Raiskin) playing Korngold and Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke (Jean-Michel Malouf) playing Elgar, Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (Marc David) playing Saint-Saëns No. 2, and Wiener Stadtorchester.
Previous solo highlights include appearances with the Brussels Philharmonic at BOZAR, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande at Victoria Hall, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Lahti, Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Springfield (MO) Symphony Orchestra, Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim, and Schleswig-Holsteinisches Sinfonieorchester, as well as a coast-to-coast Canadian tour with the National Youth Orchestra as winner of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Michael Measures Prize. Bryan has collaborated with such esteemed conductors as Giordano Bellincampi, Jonathan Darlington, Stéphane Denève, Jacques Lacombe, Susanna Mälkki, Peter Oundjian, Matthias Pintscher, and Dalia Stasevska.
As member of the Cheng² Duo, CelloFellos, and as chamber musician, Bryan performs extensively across the globe. He has had the privilege of working with partners such as Angela Hewitt, Christian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt, and Antje Weithaas. Recital and festival highlights this season include debuts at Munich’s Gasteig, Berliner Philharmonie’s Kammermusiksaal, and Orford Musique, re-invitations to the Großer Saal of the Elbphilharmonie, Brussels’ Flagey, Halifax’s Cecilia Concert Series and Port Hope’s Friends of Music, recital tours throughout South Africa, the Pacific Northwest (California, Idaho, Montana, Washington), and Vancouver Island, as well as appearances at Switzerland’s Verbier Festival, Germany’s Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Poland’s Krzyżowa Festival, and Québec’s OSM Virée classique, in recital with violinist Andrew Wan.
He has released a trilogy of albums on German label audite—Russian Legends (2019), Violonchelo del fuego (2018), and Violoncelle français (2016)—which has been critically-acclaimed by The Times (UK), Süddeutsche Zeitung, ORF Radio (Austria), WCRB Classical Radio Boston, and BBC Radio Scotland, among others.
Bryan plays the “Dubois” Antonio Stradivarius cello, Cremona, 1699 graciously provided to him by Canimex Inc. from Drummondville (Québec). He is a recipient of the Deutschlandstipendium and has been supported by the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation with generous multiyear scholarships.
PIERRE MERCURE, who was born in 1927 and died tragically on January 29, 1966, initially studied piano and later cello, […] organ and bassoon. In addition to his musical activities, he took demanding programmes in mathematics and philosophy in a French college classique. While still at college, he enrolled at the Montréal Conservatory and concentrated mainly on bassoon with the idea of playing in an orchestra. In 1946, he was hired by Wilfrid Pelletier as a bassoonist for the Montréal Symphony Orchestra. He played there for about four years, also studying composition at the Conservatory with Claude Champagne.
His first important work was a “symphonic fantasy” entitled Kaléidoscope, which has become, since 1948, one of the most frequently played works in the Canadian repertoire. In 1948, Mercure completed another work, Pantomime, which is the best illustration of the composer’s intention to develop a personal, independent style while remaining musically “objective”, that is, by the study of contrasts in the lines, and the examination of form and new sonorities. What one finds here as well is an outside influence, and a very strong one, that of the painter Paul-Emile Borduas.
In 1949, a Québec government grant enabled him to pursue his studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. In 1952, Mercure was asked to produce music programmes for the CBC French television network, and he created the very successful television series “L’heure du concert”.
The central core around which Mercure’s work has developed is an ongoing search for new forms and the need to leave behind the bounds of the conventional so as to discover new worlds of sonorities, such as electronic and musique concrète. This has been his approach from the time of his earliest compositions. For Mercure, “the artist, the composer must be sincere in his presentation of our new era. He must play his role in this continually developing world (… ) The artist must choose: make that world his or escape from it.”
Concerto for Cello no. 2 (1902)
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) Second Cello Concerto is a tour de force, in the vein of concertos by Dvořák and Prokofiev. It is a cyclic work in two large movements, a composition style Saint-Saëns employed in several of his works, most notably the First Violin Sonata, the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the “Organ Symphony.”
As in the works mentioned above, the Concerto movements are further divided into two parts: a four-movement layout of Allegro – Andante (Adagio) – Scherzo – Finale. The tonal scheme of the Concerto is identical to that of the First Violin Sonata: D minor – E-flat Major – G minor – D Major.
The Concerto opens with a fiery bolero rhythm, which permeates part I of the first movement. An organ-like woodwind transition leads into the more serene part II, based on the ascending line from the work’s opening theme. Both parts of the first movement have elements of sonata and ternary forms.
The first movement closes with an ascending scale in harmonics by the soloist (as in the First Concerto) and a peaceful horn call, whose melodic content is reminiscent of Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel. The beauty of the Andante portion of this movement is only rivaled by the Adagio from the “Organ Symphony.”
The frantic opening of the second movement gives way to a relentless perpetual motion by the soloist. The woodwinds punctuate the solo line with a new version of the opening bolero figure. This Scherzo unfolds in sonata form, which is abruptly halted by a free cadenza based again on the bolero motive.
A trumpet fanfare announces a complete restatement of the two themes of the opening bolero, now in the major mode, and settling in the joyous Finale, based on an inverted Andante theme. The Finale, part II of the second movement, is similar to the brief A-Major coda found at the end of the First Cello Concerto.
Élégie (c. 1883)
The Élégie actually dates unofficially back to 1880, at which time Fauré still intended it as part of full sonata for cello and piano. Though he found the positive reaction to an early private performance encouraging he never did finish the sonata. The orphaned single movement did not suffer much though, and soon took on a new life as a highly appealing concert work, which is how we know it today. Fauré called the “new” piece Élégie and dedicated it in tribute to cellist Jules Loeb, who had passed away in 1883. The piece was first performed that December in its sonata guise – cello and piano – but Fauré would orchestrate it several years later at the request of conductor Eduoard Colonne. For a composer who is remembered more for his many small efforts than his few grand ones, the Élégie represents Fauré’s voice as surely as his Requiem. His style would certainly evolve in various ways as he aged (indeed it was already starting to do so by the time the Élégie was orchestrated) and he would prove an innovative link between declining Romantic and the rising 20th Century. It is from early distillations of the Romantic Era aesthetic into simple, often mono-chromatic mood settings that we know Fauré best, however, and the somber straight lines of the Élégie display his lifelong gift for combining passion with grace.
(Courtesy of: https://utahsymphony.org/explore/2012/01/faure-elegie/)
Symphony in D (1888)
César Franck (1822–1890) was a key figure in 19th-century French music. For over three decades he was organist of St Clotild church and a professor at the Conservatoire. He is widely considered to be one of the creators of French symphonic music, owing in particular to his Symphony in D minor (1886–1888). The work received its premiere on 17 February 1889, with Junes Garcin conducting the Conservatoire orchestra. Franck’s music does not have a specific poetic programme; it is simply a “classical symphony” where the music of all three movements can be traced back to versions of a single motif.
The opening slow passage in the sonata-form first movement is not an introduction but the first part of a two-faced main theme, followed by a fast second part based on the same material. This is repeated in the F minor key, and the second subject includes a melodious and a bright, hymnic theme. Opening with a cor anglais solo, the second movement combines the slow and scherzo movement of a classical symphony in a five-part rondo form. The cheerful D-major opening theme of the third movement is reminiscent of the love tune in Les preludes. Again the construction follows the sonata form, and the music integrates the material of the previous movement, creating a kind of summary of the symphony.