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.
JENNIFER FRAUTSCHI, violin soloist
Jennifer Frautschi, a two-time GRAMMY nominee and Avery Fisher career grant recipient, has garnered worldwide acclaim as an adventurous musician with a remarkably wide-ranging repertoire.
Highlights of her past season included performances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Tucson Symphony, as well as return engagements with the Alabama, Arkansas, Belo Horizonte, Chattanooga, Phoenix, and Toledo Symphonies and the Rhode Island Philharmonic. This past summer she performed at the Ojai, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Moab, Bridgehampton, and SaltBay Music Festivals.
Her discography includes the Stravinsky Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Robert Craft, and two GRAMMY-nominated recordings with the Fred Sherry Quartet, of Schoenberg's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, and the Schoenberg Third String Quartet. Her most recent releases are a recording of Romantic Horn Trios, with hornist Eric Ruske and pianist Stephen Prutsman, and the Stravinsky Duo Concertant with pianist Jeremy Denk. With pianist John Blacklow she will release two discs on Albany Records this year: the first devoted to the Schumann sonatas; the second an exploration of recent additions to the violin and piano repertoire by American composers.
Born in Pasadena, California, Ms. Frautschi was a student of Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School; she also attended Harvard, NEC, and Juilliard, where she studied with Robert Mann. She performs on a 1722 Antonio Stradivarius violin known as the "ex-Cadiz," on generous loan from a private American foundation.
September 24 & 25, 2016
Adams — Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Penned in 1986, this aptly named work brilliantly employs minimalist techniques —consonant harmonies and repeating patterns — to build a powerful musical machine.
Prokofiev — Violin Concerto No. 1
One of the Russian composer’s most lyrical works, this violin concerto combines unique colors and phrasing with traditional melodic and formal material.
Mendelssohn — The Hebrides Overture
Inspired by a visit to a remarkable cave along the shore of an island off Scotland, this concert overture features what one historian has called “the greatest melody Mendelssohn ever wrote.”
Debussy — La Mer
The instrumental masterpiece of one of France’s greatest composers, La Mer magically depicts the ever-changing character of the sea. Sit back and let the flow take you where it will.
John Adams (1947- ) — Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Starting in the 1960s, a new generation of American composers began experimenting with a markedly new approach to music-making. These artists — among them Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass — aimed to build music out of the simplest possible threads, employing repetitive, mechanical rhythms, consonant harmonies and little in the way of traditional melodies. The style was soon dubbed “Minimalism.”
Massachusetts-born composer John Adams at once embraced and elaborated on this new style as he developed his musical voice in the 1970s. In his diverse and acclaimed music — which includes operas, symphony-length concert music, chamber miniatures and more — Adams takes elements of the minimalist style and blends it with a genuine love for earlier composers like Mahler and Debussy. In so doing, Adams manages to infuse his music with a sense of drama and a breadth of color and form which draws the listener in and consistently captivates.
These appealing characteristics are on full display in Adams’ best-known concert piece, Short Ride in a Fast Machine. The piece begins with a simple, incessant beat on a woodblock. The clarinets begin to swirl; other instruments interject stammering rhythmic phrases, building on a repeated chord that slowly morphs through the addition and subtraction of different notes. The music winds up an increasingly taut energy leading to a pair of false climaxes before finally roaring to a thrilling conclusion.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) — Violin Concerto No. 1
1917 was the most tumultuous year in the history of Russia. Two revolutions, one in February and another in October, upended the country’s system of political and economic power. Many artists fled or found themselves too wrapped up in the events of the time to produce new work.
For Sergei Prokofiev, 1917 turned out to be a great year — the most productive of his quarter-century life to that point and arguably the time period when he staked his claim on history. That year he completed his First Symphony, known as his “Classical Symphony.” This would become Prokofiev’s most well known work during his lifetime — a playful, exuberant exercise in historical imitation that (temporarily) belied the composer’s reputation as an overreaching modernist. At the same time he penned his Third and Fourth Piano Sonatas, began the cantata Seven, They Are Seven, worked on his Third Piano Concerto (another piece that would become an international calling card), and produced his First Violin Concerto.
While his country engaged in revolution, Prokofiev was too busy revolting. Such was always his way. During his years at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, he had irritated his fellow students by keeping tally of their mistakes. His original music was undeniably brilliant but also exhibited a sarcastic detachment and irreverence toward contemporary tastes and trends.
Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto was, in its own way, an encapsulated revolution. By 1917, atonality had become the language of contemporary classical music across the western world. And now, here comes a gorgeous, lyrical miracle of a concerto. Certainly Prokofiev’s music has its jagged edges in spots. But compared to the music that other composers were producing at the time, the First Violin Concerto is most remarkable for its sheer romantic beauty.
The first movement begins softly with a melody that seems to search through the surrounding instrumental elements for sure footing. It begins to sing. The mood grows excited. Then blooms a glistening, lovely section that fades into pristine quietude.
This is a narrative of the first movement. But it is also a narrative of the overarching structure of the three movements. That’s one of the many brilliant characteristics that make this violin concerto so profoundly satisfying. Where concertos traditionally utilized progressions of tonality to create a sense of wholeness and unity, this concerto follows a more intuitive narrative to connect small moments with a larger, resonant reality.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) — The Hebrides Overture
Along a remote island coast off Scotland gapes the mouth of a cave framed by towering hexagonal pillars of basalt. Within, the hard rock and complex geometrical intricacies of the cave create a remarkable resonance for the sound of the waves. The cave’s Gaelic name, An Uaimh Bhinn, means “the melodious cave.” Fingal’s Cave, it is more commonly known — a reference to an 18th century poem by James Macpherson.
In 1829, the young composer Felix Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s Cave, located in an archipelago known as the Hebrides. Shortly thereafter he wrote to his sister Fanny: “In order to make you understand how extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there.” His letter included the opening music for what he would later develop into the Hebrides Overture.
The music begins with a development of the snippet that Felix jotted to his sister — a haunting, resonant melody that slowly rises from the quiet depths of the orchestra. Dramatic flourishes echo the sound of waves crashing ashore while also building musical tension. Then follows the second theme, a major-key tune once proclaimed “the greatest melody Mendelssohn ever wrote” by the musicologist Sir Donald Francis Tovey. Finally the tides begin to recede. The music ends on an almost nostalgic note: Calm has returned to “the melodious cave.”
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918) — La Mer
The turn of the 20th century was a time of radical upheaval in the classical music world. The Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg was beginning to experiment with “keyless” compositions, abandoning the most basic structural foundation of western music. Composers including Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel were exploring harmonic and thematic approaches that eschewed other fundamental characteristics of the classical canon.
One of the composers who was considered a radical by audiences and critics of the time was Claude Debussy. The French composer’s approach incorporated exotic harmonies, fluid structures and striking instrumental effects that seemed far distant from the music of composers like Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Rather than hearkening to the music of the historical masters, Debussy listened to the strains of the fast-expanding world around him — the performances of Javanese Gamelan music at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris influenced him greatly — and incorporated what he heard and saw into his music.
Today, Debussy’s music seems familiar, almost traditional. That’s because his use of sensuous textures and voluptuous harmonies had a profound influence on the approach of film score composers in the 20th century. As our ears have grown accustomed to the once-radical devices that Debussy used in his music, our hearts have opened to some of the most remarkable, vividly evocative music ever written.
Arguably the composer’s crowning masterpiece in this respect is La Mer (The Sea), composed between 1903-1905. When the three-movement piece for orchestra premiered in Paris, the public reaction was largely negative, fueled in part by public outrage over Debussy’s recent decision to leave his wife and move in with another man’s wife. Audiences slowly warmed to the music, however; today it is one of the most oft-performed works of its time.
Debussy actually penned La Mer during a retreat in the mountains. His inspiration for the work largely came from literature and seascapes. His stated aim was not to tell a story or depict a specific scene. Instead, he sought to capture the experience of the sea: its unpredictable swells, its shimmering light and fathomless depths.
So, while it is tempting to discuss sections of La Mer in specifically descriptive terms (here a wave crashes; there a storm begins to brew), doing so threatens to undermine the work’s overarching brilliance. What we hear in La Mer seems to change with every listening — just as the sea is never the same a day later. This is emotional, intuitive music, connecting with us in subtle ways, constantly providing new discoveries.
The work’s three movements roughly mirror a symphonic structure: A powerful first section, an exciting middle movement, and a climactic finale. Debussy did give descriptive titles to each movement: first comes “From dawn to midday on the sea,” then “Play of the Waves,” and finally “Dialogue of the wind and the sea.”
These are apt descriptions, but still vague — as they surely should be. It is impossible to capture the sea, and just as challenging to encapsulate La Mer. Sit back and let the waves take you where they will.
- Joe Nickell