The Breckenridge Music Festival will present a BMF Festival Orchestra Series concert titled “Scottish Fantasy & Schubert” on Friday, Aug. 15. The evening’s performance, under retiring music director and conductor maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann, will highlight works by Camille Saint-Saens, Max Bruch and Franz Schubert.
After 21 years on the podium, Zimmermann is retiring as conductor and music director for the BMF. This concert will be the first of his final week’s performances. The program includes French composer Saint-Saens’ “Overture to La Princesse Jaune, op. 30.”
The opera “La Princesse Jaune” was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on June 12, 1872. Predating two other operas with a distinctly Japanese flavor — the “Mikado” by 13 years and “Madama Butterfly” by 32 years — “La Princesse Jaune” is set in Holland. It has only two characters: Lena, a young woman, and her fiance and cousin, Kornelis, who seems to have fallen in love with a Japanese princess whose portrait has somehow cast a spell over him. The overture is light and lyrical, beginning with an English horn melody at an andantino tempo that works its way into the strings. An allegro giocoso introduces an oriental theme that will become the motive of the tenor’s delirious infatuation with all things Japanese.
German composer Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” for Violin and Orchestra, op. 46, will also be featured in the evening’s program. Bruch composed his Fantasy for Violin with Orchestra and Harp, making free use of Scottish folk melodies, in England during the winter of 1879-80, when he was serving as the conductor of the orchestra and chorus of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Because of the general unwieldiness of its title, the work is now almost universally referred to simply as the “Scottish Fantasy.” It was written, like nearly all of Bruch’s compositions for violin and orchestra, expressly for the celebrated Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908). The first performance of the Scottish Fantasy took place, with Sarasate as soloist, at a Bach festival in Hamburg late in September 1880. The “Scottish Fantasy” is freer in form and more rhapsodic than Bruch’s violin concertos, and the solo part is also more virtuosic. It abounds with technical challenges and calls upon the soloist to negotiate a variety of difficult figurations, double-stoppings and tricky staccatos, arpeggios, trills and runs.
BMF concertmaster Nathan Olson is featured in the “Scottish Fantasy.” Olson holds the position of co-concertmaster with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and is adjunct faculty at the University of North Texas. He has appeared as guest concertmaster with the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Omaha and Tucson and as principal second violin with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. An enthusiastic chamber musician, Olson is a silver medal winner at the Fischoff Competition and has served on faculty at the Innsbrook Music Festival.
The concert will come to a close with Austrian composer Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417 (“Tragic”). Although Schubert was only 31 years old at the time of his death, he bequeathed to posterity a staggering collection of musical compositions: eight symphonies, 19 string quartets, 21 piano sonatas, seven masses, several operas and operettas, more than 600 songs and countless other works. Despite this amazing productivity, only a few of these works were performed publicly during his tragically short lifetime, and even fewer were published. Recognition finally came in 1828, when the Vienna Musikverein presented an all-Schubert concert, but by that time, the composer was already seriously ill and had only a few months to live.
Since Schubert could not find any publishers for his music, he casually gave away his completed manuscripts to friends and relatives. For many years after his death, some of his finest compositions lay forgotten, gathering dust in closets and attics. In 1867, two Englishmen journeyed to Vienna to search for lost Schubert treasures — in particular, the incidental music that Schubert wrote for the play “Rosamunde.” Not only did they find the missing music, but they also found the manuscripts of Schubert’s first, second, third, fourth and sixth symphonies.