DARKO BUTORAC, Music Director
Recently praised by the Westdeutsche Zeitung for his "elegance and well-timed pacing", Maestro Darko Butorac is establishing himself as one of the world's most sought-after young conductors. Following his debut with the Belgrade Philharmonic in January of 2011 he was invited to both close the 2011 and open the 2012 concert seasons. In addition to his activities in Belgrade, notable concerts include collaborations with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Neuss and the Georgische Kammerorchester Ingolstadt (Germany), the Rubinstein Philharmonic of Lodz (Poland), the Tallin Sinfonietta (Estonia), and a debut at the celebrated Vienna Konzerthaus with the Slovenian Radio Orchestra in the spring of 2014.
Since taking the baton in 2007, Butorac has propelled the Missoula Symphony Orchestra to a new level of musical achievement, with an expanded repertoire and local premieres of works by established and emerging composers. Butorac and the orchestra have shared the stage with renowned guest artists including Grammy-nominated violinist Robert McDuffie, pianists Stewart Goodyear and Antonio Pompa-Baldi, and celebrated actor J.K. Simmons. The Symphony’s growing popularity has ignited ticket sales and established Butorac as a cultural leader in the community.
Within North America, Butorac has been featured as a guest conductor with the Charleston Symphony, the Canton Symphony, the Springfield Symphony, Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers, the Montana Lyric Opera and as the Principal Conductor of the Northwest Mahler Festival in Seattle. In May of 2013 Butorac was hired as the new Music Director of the Tallahassee Symphony in Florida, following a two-year long international search. Highlights of his guest conducting engagements abroad include the Mendoza and Neuquen Symphonies in Argentina, the Xiamen Philharmonic in China, the Slobozhansky Orchestra and the Kharkov Philharmonic in the Ukraine, and annual visits with Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra of Parma as the principal conductor of the Fidenza Opera Festival in Italy.
In 2003, Butorac was awarded a fellowship by David Zinman to study at the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival. Upon his return to the festival in 2004, Butorac was named Assistant Conductor of the Aspen Opera Theater Center and worked with Julius Rudel and Arnold Oestman. He has also worked extensively at the Brevard Music Center, Aspen Music Festival and Indiana University. His principal mentors are David Effron, Jorma Panula, Imre Pallo and David Zinman. For more information on Butorac, please visit www.darkobutorac.com.
LISA SMIRNOVA, piano soloist
Austrian-Russian pianist Lisa Smirnova is an internationally recognized concert artist renowned for her interpretations of baroque and Classical repertoire. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently remarked that her "sense of style, use of phrasing and ornamentation and tempi, that make the piano an instrument of harmony of vibrating strings, gave her performance its transcendent and unmistakable character."
Lisa Smirnova appears in the world's finest recital halls – the Wigmore Hall London, the Musikverein and Konzerthaus Vienna, Suntory Hall Tokyo, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as well as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and has also appeared at the Salzburg Festival, the Lucerne Festival, Schleswig-Holstein and Salzburg's Mozartwoche. She performs with distinguished conductors such as Manfred Honeck, Carlos Kalmar, Andrey Boreyko, John Storgards, and Ivor Bolton among others. A champion of contemporary music, the artist regularly collaborates with renowned composers such as Wolfgang Rihm, Rodion Schedrin, Giya Kancheli and Valentin Silvestrov. Highlights this season include performances with the Salzburg Chamber Soloists, Tallinn Sinfonietta, Ljubljana and Belgrade Philarmonics, and the Kuopio and Lahti Philharmonic orchestra at major European concert halls such as Vienna Konzerthaus and Cologne Philharmonic Hall among others, and a US Tour.
Ms. Smirnova will also perform a full cycle of Bach concerti for keyboard, as well as local premieres of "Concerto for myself" by Friedrich Gulda. She will be featured on disc with violinist Benjamin Schmid performing works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Weill.
Her recordings, spanning the standard repertoire, have been given the highest praise by critics worldwide. Her debut album for ECM of the Eight Great Suites by Georg Friedrich Handel won the BBC Instrumental Choice of the year in 2011. The Financial Times remarked that "...Smirnova shows, what we, and most pianists, have been missing, for she paints the gigues, fugues and sarabandes with such spirit and wit, that it's impossible not to be won over by their joy and sophistication."
October 29 & 30, 2016
Schumann — Introduction and Concert Allegro
In 1853, Schumann wrote this short, dramatic piece for piano and orchestra to accompany a gift of a grand piano to his wife, the famed pianist Clara Schumann.
Mozart — Piano Concerto No. 14
Though relatively brief in length, this piano concerto is one of Mozart’s most inventive, employing a parade of colorful themes and a triple-meter first movement.
Brahms — Symphony No. 4
Premiered in 1885, this last symphony by Brahms follows an arc from serenity to despair. Within that long progression lies some of the composer’s most captivating, subtle music.
Program Notes: Joe Nickell
Robert Schumann was already considered one of the most important German composers of his age when, in 1853, he met a fair-haired 20-year old prodigy recommended to him by the violinist Joseph Joachim. The elder composer immediately recognized greatness in this young man, and wrote as much in a highly influential essay in the journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, where he proclaimed that the young Johannes Brahms would “give expression to the times in an ideal fashion.”
Schumann’s praises would prove prescient, if not altogether surprising; today, we recognize Brahms as the most important German symphonist of his time. For his part, Schumann isn’t exactly a forgotten composer.
The music of Brahms and Schumann thus makes for a natural pairing. As a third course, today’s concert features a piano concerto by Mozart that represents a kind of internal changing of the guard: a transitional work that historians now regard as his first great “mature” concerto.
Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) — Introduction and Concert Allegro
Born in 1810, Robert Schumann came of age in an intoxicating era of artistic evolution. Painters like Delacroix, writers like Poe and Brontë, and fellow composers including Liszt and Berlioz were exploring new forms and aesthetics, collectively building the foundation of what would ultimately be dubbed the Romantic style.
Schumann proved a pivotal figure in his time. His flowing, lush music simultaneously hearkened to the influence of Beethoven — the pastoral beauty, the heroic grandeur — while pointing toward the stylistic principles and aesthetic ideals that would become the hallmark of Romantic music: the emphasis on familiar folk melodies and references to other arts (particularly poetry); the dense textures and flexible forms; the grand scale.
Much of Schumann’s writing for the piano can be credited to romantic love. In 1840, Schumann married Clara Wieck, a pianist nine years his junior. Today Clara Schumann is remembered in her own right as a significant composer as well as one of the most talented pianists of the time. And many of Robert Schumann’s greatest works were inspired (and premiered) by her.
In 1853, Robert gave his wife a grand piano as a gift. On the top of it, he placed the manuscript for a new work for orchestra and piano. Its title, Introduction and Concert Allegro for Piano and Orchestra, was hardly inspired; yet the music in its pages was remarkable.
The piece opens with plucked chords in the orchestra. The piano enters with a lovely tune that quietly takes its time to develop. The mood expands, the orchestra awakens, and soloist and ensemble trade passages of increasing excitement. A long cadenza highlights all that has come before and leads to a final, exuberant coda.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) — Piano Concerto No. 14
Among the many credits to his celebrated name, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart must surely take primacy in the development of the form known as the concerto. Granted, other composers had long labored in the concerto form, producing virtuoso showpieces for instrumental soloist and backing ensemble. But in today’s concert repertoire, aside from a handful of works by Haydn, it is generally the concertos of Mozart that serve as the earliest examples of the form.
In 1784, the 28-year-old composer set about writing a new piano concerto for his student Barbara von Ployer. By that time Mozart was hugely popular in Vienna; moreover, he seems in retrospect to have turned a corner in his compositional approach. Always an effortless master of form, Mozart here set himself up with new challenges.
For his first movement, he chose a triple-meter time signature — a first for him and an approach rarely heard in the concertos of other composers. For thematic material, he again eschewed tradition and chose at least five tunes to feature, each with its own distinct character. Throughout the movement, the piano interacts with the orchestra almost conversationally, tossing these ideas back and forth as the excitement builds.
The second movement offers a gentle respite, with richly sonorous orchestral colors casting a halo around the piano solo. Then comes a highly inventive finale. Mozart employs a rondo form, in which a primary melody appears and reappears amidst adventurous episodes and diversions. This approach allows the composer to treat us to surprising new ideas at the same time that he builds a sense of familiarity.
Finally, in a clever flourish, Mozart ends the concerto with the movement’s main theme presented in a new time signature.
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) — Symphony No. 4
Many historians and musicians credit Johannes Brahms for encapsulating in his work the musical developments of the 19th Century, creating a kind of quintessential Romantic style while also hearkening to the principles established by the masters of the earlier Classical era. Exalted for music in a variety of forms, from piano miniatures to sprawling symphonies, Brahms today stands shoulder-to-shoulder among the unquestioned greats, his influence laid over the music of later composers like a shimmering cloak.
So it is somewhat ironic to point out that in his lifetime, Brahms struggled mightily and often doubted that he would ever produce even a single symphony.
The problem started, in a sense, in 1854, when Brahms set out to write a large-scale sonata for two pianos. Soon, that music morphed into a conception for a symphony. Over the course of a couple of years, the music morphed yet again, ultimately becoming a piano concerto — Brahms’ first large-scale work for orchestra.
In its first performances, the concerto was quite poorly received: most critics ravaged the work, criticizing in particular its traditional form. The composer, already shaken by the challenges he went through to produce the work, was thrown into further self-doubt about his skills as an orchestrator. For years after, his output consisted almost entirely of works for solo instruments and small ensembles.
It wasn’t until nearly two decades later that Brahms would finally premiere his First Symphony. All along, Brahms worked on the music, subjecting it to countless revisions, abandoning entire movements and leaving it untouched for years at a time. In 1870 he declared he would never finish the piece. Fortunately for the rest of us, he was wrong.
With the completion of the First Symphony, Brahms found his stride. His Second Symphony was completed in the course of a summer; so too, six years later, was his Third. A year later, he composed what would ultimately become his final symphony.
The Fourth represented both a radical evolution and a distilled reflection of Brahms’ worldview and compositional brilliance. Its journey from serenity to despair sets it apart from any symphony composed up until that time. It is subtly shaded, enigmatic, and layered with rich rewards.
The first movement begins with a falling and rising figure that drifts languidly like a feather on a breeze. This simple tune becomes the foundation of a sprawling, powerful movement in which yearning and nervousness collide, building energy from their friction and leading to a cataclysmic conclusion.
The second movement begins with a horn call, as if for a new dawn. A peaceful melody appears, set against pizzicato strings. This searching music takes the extroverted conflict of the first movement and transforms it into an inner exploration; in the end it feels no less hefty, even as it finds a sense of warmth and peace that the first movement never resolved.
Within the context of what has come before, Brahms’ third movement always seems to come as a surprise: an exuberant, sparkly outburst of dancing energy. The colorful use of triangle and piccolo give the music a mirthful quality that seems at odds with the power of the first two movements.
The fourth movement begins not with a sigh but a cry: eight piercing chords in a minor key. Then comes a set of 32 variations on that theme. The variations take the form of a passacaglia — an even older form in which a musical theme is evolved over a recurring bass line. While that might sound like a formula for repetition, Brahms takes us on a dramatic, taut musical journey that seems to go ever deeper, right to its tragic conclusion.
We may not walk away from a performance of Brahms’ final symphony filled with joy. Yet within its many layers we cannot help but find beauty and catharsis. Words fail to capture the music’s glimmering mystery. The heart, however, recognizes it well.