Matinée 4

Wednesday 31.3.2021 14.00 CANCELLED
Espoo Cultural Centre
Wednesday 31.3.2021 14.00 Espoo Cultural Centre


Ryan Bancroft, conductor
Jukka Rantamäki, host

Charles Ives: Two Contemplations: I. Central Park in the Dark II. The Unanswered Question
Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen

Ryan Bancroft has designed an interesting programme that probes questions of eternity and infinity. Ives leads the listener into New York’s Central Park at night, while Strauss’s Metamorphoses reflect the senseless destruction wrought by war on art and art institutions.

We kindly ask you to check up-to-date information: Special arrangements in Autumn 2020
The program is subject to change.



Charles Ives

Two Contemplations (Central Park in the Dark; The Unanswered Question)

US composer Charles Ives had one of the strangest careers in the history of music. He was a successful businessman by profession, and the insurance company he founded was once one of the largest in the country. In parallel with that, hidden from the public, he wrote a rather extensive and often mind-bogglingly modern body of music that was not properly discovered until he had stopped composing. Ives experimented with the most astonishing stylistic means. He is perhaps best known for his penchant for taking familiar folk tunes, hymns and marches and superimposing two or three of them, usually in different keys.
The orchestral works Central Park in the Dark and The Unanswered Question both date from 1906. Although conceived as a pair under the heading Two Contemplations, both are also performed separately. They are studies of musical space and the relationship between static and mobile situations.
Central Park in the Dark is an obviously programmatic work where the listener may imagine themselves being where the title says. The mysteriously undulating strings reflect the sounds and silences of the night, while various sounds are heard from all around: melodies played by the clarinet, flute and oboe, a piano playing the ragtime hit Hello! My Baby, and a brass band playing the Washington Post March, the various musics cascading into a chaos at the culmination.
The Unanswered Question consists of three kinds of material. There is a quiet background formed by an extremely static string texture that according to the score should be played offstage. The other two elements are the question posed seven times by the trumpet and the increasingly long and complicated answers given by the four flutes (or other woodwinds). True to the title, the trumpet’s last question remains unanswered.

Richard Strauss


When the tide of the Second World War began to turn against Germany, Richard Strauss had the misfortune of witnessing the venues where his operas had been performed turn to rubble one after the other. The opera house in Munich was bombed in late 1943; the Dresden Opera, where Strauss had enjoyed many of his greatest successes, was obliterated in February 1945, and one month later the Vienna State Opera endured a similar fate.
The destruction of opera houses affected Strauss deeply and revealed to him the dual nature of the German psyche. He was suspected of being a Nazi sympathiser, but an extract from his diary reveals his true sentiments. In May 1945, when the fighting was over, he wrote: “On the first of May, the most terrible period in the history of humanity came to an end – 12 years of brutalism and ignorance, with the greatest criminals in charge who very nearly destroyed 2,000 years of German civilisation.”
After the bombing of the opera house in Munich, Strauss made a note of a brief motif under the title ‘Lament for Munich’. On the day following the destruction of the Vienna State Opera, he took out the sketch and began to outline a work which he completed a month later, in April 1945. Metamorphosen, subtitled ‘Study for 23 solo strings’, is a distillation of Strauss’s personal feelings into a compelling universal elegy.
Metamorphosen is in a single expansive movement, dominated by a rich and often polyphonic string sound. The music flows in broad arcs, escalating at times into grand climaxes. There is a reference to the funeral march in Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony at the very beginning, and subsequent studies have revealed references not only to Beethoven but also to Bach, Mozart and Wagner. After the greatest culmination, the music returns to the opening slow tempo, and the conclusion is dominated by sombre, tragic tones. A more extended quote from the Eroica funeral march emerges in the bass. Adjacent to this in the score, Strauss wrote the eloquent words “In memoriam”.

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