Mozart: Overture to 'The Magic Flute'
Mozart: Violin concerto no 5 in A Major (Soloist: Sophia Jackson)
Bruckner: Symphony no 4 in Eb Major
Sophia Jackson was born in Devon and has been enthusiastic about music from an early age. She grew up in a musical household playing recorder and flute before moving to the violin at the age of 7, learning with Kim Van Der Kiste. Sophia made the most of local music tuition, enjoying the great diversity of musical experience offered at SaMMs from the age of 9 to 18. She enjoyed her first orchestral experiences with Devon Youth Symphony Orchestra, then joined Torbay Symphony Orchestra a couple of years later where she developed her passion for orchestral music.
Sophia was a keen member of the performing arts department at KEVICC taking part in all the musicals. In year 13 she had the opportunity to rehearse and conduct the ensemble for Footloose, her final musical at school.
Sophia started studying with professor Ofer Falk after the covid lockdown, having first met him in a masterclass organised by TSO. At first she had online lessons, then as restrictions were reduced she enjoyed the 412 mile round trip for face to face lessons!
In 2022 Sophia was awarded a scholarship at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance continuing her studies with Ofer. She has enjoyed taking part in many different projects and ensembles including her quartet coached by Michael Bochmann. She had the opportunity to play principal first violin for the year 1/2 spring Sinfonia strings project. Sophia loves many different areas of music. She has a particular passion for solo Bach, and she was delighted to be able to perform the Bach Chaconne in masterclasses with Elizabeth Wallfisch and Jennifer Pike this year.
Sophia has loved playing with TSO for the last six years and is excited to come back as soloist for Mozart’s Concerto no. 5 for violin and orchestra.
It's fairly safe to assume that pretty much everyone reading these programme notes has more than a passing acquaintance with the music of Mozart. I'm fairly sure that the same could not be said for Bruckner, whose 4th symphony takes up the whole of the 2nd half of tonight's concert. The pairing of Mozart in the first half with Bruckner in the second is not by chance. Strange as it may seen, there are a lot of similarities between the two composers.
First and foremost is the transparency that is a feature of both composer's music. Bruckner, for all the big Romantic forces at his disposal, loved the sound of a unisono orchestra - that is, all the instruments playing 'in one voice'. The whole orchestra - brass, woodwinds and strings - all playing as one is a hallmark of Bruckner's music. In actual fact, the orchestra in this symphony is only marginally larger than a Mozart orchestra - 3 trumpets (instead of 2), 4 horns (instead of 2) and 3 trombones and a tuba. Otherwise its double woodwinds and strings for both. The huge sound is created through the use of the unisono and the power of the extra brass - magnificent brass chorales are an integral part of the music and feature prominently in all the movements.
Bruckner (despite being a mid 19th century contemporary of Wagner) is nebertheless essentially a classical composer. Between the big blocks of orchestral sound alluded to above, blocks of delicate counterpoint, full of sensitivity, beauty and warmth present a more intimate view of the symphonic landscape, and here again, transparency of texture is paramount. String textures, woodwind figurations and hushed tremelando strings help create this very alternative ambience.
The difficulty many people have with Bruckner's music is a structural one. Although he sticks with the broad structures of sonata form, scherzo etc. which dominated the classical and romantic periods, within those forms he pretty much abandoned the linear progressions that everyone expected.
Understanding this point is the key that unlocks the Bruckner door.
In a conventional sonata form movement (the structure of 99.9% of 1st movements in a symphony) you first have an exposition - first theme - bridge - second theme - bridge; in this section the composer presents his musical material. This is the linear progression model. The exposition is followed by a development section (during which this material is developed) and the movement concludes with a more-or-less repeat of the exposition called the recapitulation.
Bruckner's model is more like LEGO - you have blocks of material - some big, some small and delicate - and he arranges them and repeats them as if building a large edifice - I often feel that I am walking through a vast cathedral - very sparse and spacious, but full of hidden nooks and crannies that seemingly appear out of nowhere. You stand and look at them, marvelling at the detail and then move on back into the space of the building.
Listening to a Bruckner symphony is akin to a meditation in sound - you don't ever travel far from the source, but the cummulative effect is both powerful and wondrous.
Mozart: Violin concerto no 5 in A Major, K219, ‘Turkish’
Allegro aperto – Adagio – Allegro aperto
Rondeau – Tempo di minuetto
Mozart’s relationship with the violin began at an early age. His father Leopold (1719 – 1787) was principal violinist and deputy capelmeister in Salzburg and was known throughout Europe for his ‘Treatise on the Fundamentals of Violin Playing’ which was published in 1756, the year of Mozart’s birth.
Mozart began lessons with his father at the age of six, and being Mozart, it didn’t take long before he was playing with other musicians who introduced him to the music of Tartine and Locatelli, two of Italy’s finest composers of music for the violin.
Although the exact dates of composition of Mozart’s five violin concertos are a little unclear, it seems as if all five were composed within a single year – in 1775 when Mozart was 19!
The five concertos demonstrate a trajectory of growing assurance and mastery of the form – the first two concertos still show the influence of the Baroque and especially Italian composers such as Boccherini and Tartini, but by the time we reach the 5th concerto Mozart is in full, unhindered flow.
The outstanding feature of this concerto is its almost romantic stretching of the structures which were the standard forms of the time – Sonata form for the first movement, song form for the second and another fast allegro for the third – often in rondo form (ABACADA etc…)
The first movement opens with what appears to be the main theme (a rising arpeggio) but turns out later to be a simple accompaniment to the real theme which is introduced by the solo violin. Furthermore, when the soloist enters after the opening tutti, the tempo changes to an Adagio (very slow) – a sort of quasi improvisation passage – before returning to the fast Allegro. This is the only instance in Mozart’s concerto repertoire where an Adagio interlude of this kind appears at the soloists entry. The rest of the movement is in standard sonata form – exposition, development and recapitulation.
The second movement is in three part song form, but has no repeat markings and is remarkable in how it flows from start to finish without a break. Here again, Mozart is somehow very prescient in exploring structural expansions and modifications in a way that is reminiscent of Beethoven and the Romantic era which followed.
The third movement is the one that has the ‘Turkish’ bits which explains the nickname for this concerto. It is essentially a Rondo, marked ‘Tempo d Minuetto’ and is consequently in 3 - this is in itself is unusual. There are also no less than four mini-cadenzas in this movement corresponding to the ends of the rondo episodes. About 2/3 of the way through there is a sudden change to a fast Allegro in 2 and a raucous dance emerges complete with cellos playing ‘col legno’ (using the wood rather than the hair of the bow). This is the Turkish element and is a slightly un-PC stereotyping, but best to remember that we are in the late 18th century…
The music returns to the Minuet theme and soon brings the concerto to an end with the same rising arpeggio theme, played piano, that began the whole concerto. Very lovely little and touching way to finish, allowing the music to drift off into the ether.
This concerto is special. It breaks the rules and conventions when the music demands it and gives the whole work an almost improvisatory feel. The themes in all the movements are utterly gorgeous, but the music of the 2nd, slow movement, stands out for its beauty and sublime serenity. Astonishing that a 19 year old could compose such music.