Strauss and Sibelius

Concert Information

Performance dates
Thu. October 24, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Bernhard Gueller, conductor
Louis-Philippe Marsolais, horn
Symphony Nova Scotia
On the program

Emily Doolittle: green/blue
Richard Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2

Symphony Nova Scotia launches its classical season with a soaring concert of spectacular symphonic masterworks. Hear a bright, playful gem from Halifax’s own Emily Doolittle, followed by star Canadian hornist Louis-Philippe Marsolais in Strauss’ lively, virtuosic Horn Concerto No. 1. Then, for the grand finale, experience the grace, mastery, and deep, majestic power of one of Sibelius’ greatest works – the heart-pounding, soul-stirring Symphony No. 2.

About the Music

Composed: 2003
Premiered: 2003, Oregon
Duration: 14 minutes

green/blue was commissioned by Kenneth Woods for the Oregon East Symphony in the spring of 2003. The work is based in part on an earlier work, green notes, written for Tafelmusik, the great Canadian baroque orchestra. Emily’s collaboration with Tafelmusik came about at the Scotia Festival of Music, where she and they were in residence in 2001. One of the ideas of festival director Chris Wilcox was to have new works written for a group that specializes in performing very old music. In green notes, Emily took advantage of the transparent timbres and tonal purity of the baroque players in creating a new and fresh sound world. green/blue is a much longer and more involved work than green notes, and also takes advantage of the timbre of the “modern” symphony orchestra.

Among her works for orchestra, green/blue is the most extroverted and exuberant, taking full advantage of the range of power and colour in the orchestra. The work begins with a short, declamatory introduction – a series of bold, beautiful chords. The main portion of the work begins quietly, with a violin solo outlining a simple theme in what quickly starts to sound like D major. Voices join and the texture thickens as thematic patterns repeat, overlap and evolve. Emily is close to the sound world of minimalism, but the music is constantly growing and developing. This section grows to a furious climax in a high register, followed by a lyrical and pensive oboe solo. Eventually, the chords of the opening reappear, again slightly modified and elaborated, but still in the slow tempo of the beginning. Dying away to silence, the music begins one last time to regenerate itself, beginning very softly and gracefully, it increases in tempo and intensity until it becomes quite ecstatic. Just before the end, there is one last expectant silence, before the work ends strongly.

Program note by Kenneth Woods.

Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major
Composed: 1882-83
Premiered: 1885, Germany
Duration: 18 minutes

Although Richard Strauss was only 18, he had already completed about 100 works when he started composing Horn Concerto No. 1. With little formal instruction in composition, he had absorbed technique by imitation. He was surrounded by music at home, but making music with his father, a prominent horn player, was a pleasure spiced with apprehension, for the elder Strauss was given to outbursts of rage.

This concerto was first performed in 1885 by Gustav Leinhos with the virtuoso Meiningen court orchestra under Hans von Bülow, who had been impressed enough with the young man’s talent to commission an orchestral suite from him. This cheerful work, with its outdoor kind of melodies, was followed many years later, in 1942, by a nostalgic second horn concerto, when the composer was 78.

JEAN SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 2 in D major
Composed: 1901-02
Premiered: 1902, Finland
Duration: 46 minutes

Sibelius spent the first few months of 1901 in Rome, where he began to sketch his Second Symphony. When he returned to Finland, he worked on it steadily and completed it early in 1902. He referred to his new symphony as his “child of sorrow,” after Finland’s political situation had grown tense. Young Finnish men were being conscripted into the Russian army, and people feared Finland might be fully absorbed into Russia. Sibelius hoped that in those troubled times, his Second Symphony might provide a rallying point for those who hoped the Finnish language and culture might survive.

The composer himself conducted three performances of the symphony in March 1902. All were sold out, and it was the greatest success of his career to date. On hearing this symphony, some considered it a musical portrait of the Finns’ resistance to Russianization, and wrote detailed explanations of what the composer was thought to have depicted in his work. Sibelius himself did not provide any such notes.

With his Second Symphony, Sibelius began his real development as a symphonic composer, breaking away from the traditional models of Tchaikovsky and Dvořák. He went on to compose five more symphonies, culminating in the Seventh in 1924.

About the Artists

Bernhard Gueller, conductor
Bernhard Gueller
Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia from 2002 to 2018 and Principal Guest Conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernhard Gueller continues to be acclaimed for his interpretations, phrasing, and excitement he brings to the podium. According to Die Burger in Cape Town, “The rendition of the Rachmaninov Symphony No. 1 in D minor was full of passion with huge power and glow. Maestro Gueller’s excellent insight breathed life into the work.” And from “Gueller proved an ideal conductor to handle a work of this scale ( Mahler’s Symphony no 4,“Resurrection”) and emotional import.”

Collaborations at a high level have been many, including some of Canada’s foremost musicians such as James Ehnes, Jan Lisiecki, Janina Fialkowska, Anton Kuerti, Jon Kimura Parker, and Marc-André Hamelin, along with other international stars such as Stephen Hough, Joshua Bell, and Metropolitan Opera singers such as Pretty Yende and Johan Botha.

He is acclaimed by musicians, critics, and audience for his musical purity, and continually garners praise for the fresh approach he applies under his “amazingly suggestive baton.”

Beginning his career as a cellist, Gueller won the United German Radios Conducting Competition in 1979 and for nearly 20 years ran tandem careers, deputing for the legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache who regarded Gueller as his best “pupil.” Gueller also attracted the attention of the renowned arts administrator Ernest Fleischman who “was deeply impressed by his extraordinary musicianship, his marvelous ability to communicate with the musicians, and… his charismatic impact on the audience.”

He has been Music Director in Nuremberg and Principal Guest Conductor of the Victoria Symphony in British Columbia and Johannesburg Philharmonic. His career has taken him to many top concert halls from America and Australia to Canada, Russia, Japan, China (Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong), Korea, South Africa, and Brazil, as well as countries in Europe such as Spain, Italy, France, Norway, Bulgaria, Italy, Sweden, and his native Germany, where he conducted the Stuttgart Radio Symphony and the Munich Philharmonic.

He has also conducted in festivals internationally, including the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in the International Festival of the Canary Islands, the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany, the Scotia Festival in Halifax, and the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival and National Arts Festival in South Africa.

Louis-Philippe Marsolais, horn
Louis-Philippe Marsolais
Canada’s most active horn soloist, Montréal-based Louis-Philippe Marsolais can be seen on stages all over the world. He shares his musical life between solo, chamber music, and orchestral playing.

His career took a giant leap in 2005 when he won three prizes at the prestigious ARD Competition in Munich. He is also an award winner in other international competitions, including Geneva, Rovereto, and Trévoux. Since then, he has performed with most orchestras in Canada, and has been on tour in the United States and throughout Europe.

He is also very active as a chamber musician. With the Pentaèdre wind quintet, he has performed throughout Canada, as well as in the United States, Europe, and Middle East. Since 2009, Louis-Philippe is also principal horn of Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s Orchestre Métropolitain and a frequent player of Les Violons du Roy.

A curious musician, he explores all musical eras. His expertise on the baroque and natural horns brings him to perform with different ancient music groups, and his virtuosity on the modern instrument has inspired many composers to write works he premiered.

Louis-Philippe Marsolais is horn professor at the music faculty of Université de Montréal. He also teaches at the Domaine Forget Summer Academy, and is a member of the Advisory Council of the International Horn Society since 2015.

Pre-concert chat

Enjoy FREE pre-concert chats before our Masterworks concerts. Join us 45 minutes before concert start time in the Sculpture Court, just outside the auditorium.

Ticket info

Single tickets are on sale now, and start at $35 (HST included) for most concerts! You can also save up to 35%, reserve the best seats in the house, and enjoy a great set of benefits with a ticket package. Click here to learn more about ticket packages, or call the Dalhousie Arts Centre Box Office at 902.494.3820 to book your tickets today.