The roots of the Brno Philharmonic go back to the 1870s, when the young Leoš Janáček endeavoured to establish a Czech symphony orchestra in Brno. The works of the famous twentieth-century composer constitute the core of the orchestra’s repertory, and to this day the Brno Philharmonic continues to be considered the authentic performer of his oeuvre. The present orchestra was created in 1956 by merging the Brno based Radio and Regional orchestras, and since then has been among the leading Czech orchestras in terms of both size and importance. Today Brno Philharmonic is not only a strong player in the field of symphonic music at home and abroad, but also the primary organiser of the musical season in the second largest Czech city, an active instigator of festivals and a creative leader in orchestral programming. Its home is the beautiful building of Besední dům, the Brno counterpart to Vienna’s Musikverein, built in 1873 according to a design by Theophil Hansen, though the orchestra is now looking forward to its new modern concert hall.
American conductor, Case Scaglione, studied under David Zinman at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, where he won the James Conlon Prize. He was awarded the Aspen Conducting Prize in 2010 and in 2011 received the Conductor's Prize from the Solti Foundation US. He was one of three Conducting Fellows at Tanglewood in 2011, chosen by James Levine and Stefan Asbury. Scaglione received his Bachelor’s Degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and his postgraduate studies were spent at the Peabody Institute where he studied with Gustav Meier. He has served as an Associate Conductor with the New York Philharmonic and as the Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles.
Slovak violinist, Milan Paľa was born in 1982. His unique style of playing is unmistakable and he has been accepted amongst the world’s top performers. During his studies at the Ján Levoslav at the Bella Conservatory in Banská Bystrica, at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, Milan Paľa won numerous awards and attracted international attention. His close cooperation with composers has profoundly influenced his musical expression. A very busy concert artist, Milan Paľa commands a broad repertoire, and as a violinist who is also a virtuoso of the viola, his talents are in great demand for premiering modern literature.
Leos Janácek composed Šumařovo dítě (The Fiddler’s child) in 1912 and 1913. Its first performance took place on November 14, 1917, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Otakar Ostrcil. Vilém Zemánek, the conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, to whom the work is also dedicated, had invited Janácek to compose a new orchestral work, The Fiddler’s Child was the result. Based on a poem by Svatopluk Cech, the work is a moving commentary on the poverty and desperation of many Czech peasants. From the traditional tale, the composer crafted a profound symphonic poem. “In its spirit,” wrote the composer’s biographer Hans Hollander, “The Fiddler’s Child is an expression of Janácek’s philosophy of compassion and his faith in a redemption and beatification beyond all the misery of this world.” Throughout the work, Janácek ingeniously fashions his scenario thru instrumentation. Listen for the solo violin, representing the father; oboe for the sick child; a flute phrase for the uncertainty of life for the poor; a trio of violas for the drabness of the village; low strings for the village mayor.
Jaroslav Vogel recounted the story of The Fiddler’s Child thus, “An old fiddler has died. The village takes charge of what is left: his fiddle on the peg and his child in the cradle. An old woman is told to keep watch during the night. At midnight, she has a strange vision. The dead fiddler stands at the cradle luring the child with his playing to another, better world where it will neither die of hunger nor sell its soul like its father. The old woman drives the apparition away by making the sign of the cross at the very moment when the fiddler kisses the child. She then falls asleep. In the morning, when the village mayor arrives, he finds the fiddle gone and the woman rocking the child’s corpse.”
Karol Szymanowski wrote his Second Violin Concerto in 1932 and 1933. It was performed for the first time with violinist Paweł Kochański, under the baton of Grzegorz Fitelberg, at the Warsaw Philharmonic on October 6, 1933. Szymanowski’s childhood friends included the pianist Artur Rubinstein and the Paweł Kochański and he often composed with them in mind. After moving to America In the early 1920s, Kochański received a letter from Szymanowski who described writing the Second Violin Concerto as, "squeezed out of me, as out of a dessicated tube of toothpaste." Departing from his earlier modernist style, Szymanowski said the work was "horribly sentimental… beating all records of sentimentality… I am almost ashamed of myself!!"
Undoubtedly the leading Polish composer between Chopin and Lutosławski, Szymanowski drew inspiration from a wide range of influences, which he later merged with his explorations of folk music from his native Poland. The Second Violin Concerto is deeply fixed in Polish folk music, especially that of the Tatra Mountains around Zakopane. The piece has been described as earthy and sinewy, with the Highland folk element playing an important role. The opening violin melody foreshadows many of the musical ideas of the concerto. Following the end of the cadenza, the second half of the piece develops into an animated march leading to a tranquil andantino. The finale insinuates the opening with the principal theme returning.
Robert Schumann began his Second Symphony in 1845 and completed it the following year. Felix Mendelssohn conducted the first performance on November 5, 1846, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. In 1844 Schumann had begun to suffer from mental strain, auditory hallucinations, vertigo, depression, and symptoms associated today with bipolar disorder. That summer, he broke and his phobias and mood-swings began to dictate his life. “I sketched it at a time when I was ailing,” he said of his Second Symphony, “and I may well state that it was, as it were, the power of resistance of spirit that has influenced my work, and by which I have tried to prevail against my physical condition.”
Through most of 1845, he was not productive. Then suddenly, in a moment of lucidity, he wrote to Felix Mendelssohn, “Drums and trumpets in C have been blaring in my head. I have no idea what will come of it.” In December 1845, he began to sketch a work in the bright key of C major. “I would say that my resistant spirit had a visible influence on [the work] and it is through that that I sought to fight my condition,” he said. “The first movement is full of this combativeness, is very moody and rebellious in character.” What came of the vision was very likely the fanfare style motto that opens the Symphony and returns famously in the scherzo and finale. Schumann opens the piece in Bachian form with an introduction that is a chorale prelude and he quotes Beethoven in the final movement where one theme resembles “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder” a song from Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte cycle. “Take, then, these songs that I sang to you, beloved,” it starts, “sing them again in the evenings to the sweet sounds of the lute.” The movement is often considered a concession to his wife Clara for her undying support because the composer also references his own song Widmung (Dedication) which he presented to her on their wedding day.
Schumann wrote to D. G. Otten, the music director in Hamburg, three years later, “I wrote my symphony in December 1845, and I sometimes fear my semi-invalid state can be divined from the music. I began to feel more myself when I wrote the last movement, and was certainly much better when I finished the whole work. All the same it reminds me of dark days.”
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator