Our season opener features the internationally renowned violinist, Robert McDuffie, performing alongside his talented sister, Margery McDuffie Whatley, a member of the piano faculty at the University of Montana. McDuffie’s Grammy award-winning career finds him performing alongside major symphonies of the world, leading his Rome Chamber Music Festival and playing major compositions by Philip Glass. The talented brother and sister duo will play Felix Mendelssohn’s fantastic Concerto for Violin and Piano. The concert also features the Overture in C written by Felix' equally prodigious sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, and finishes with Symphony No. 3 by another incredible female composer of 19th century France, Louise Farrenc. Her beautiful Symphony No. 3 is a rare gem of the romantic era that is too seldom performed.
Fanny Mendelssohn: Overture in C
Felix Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin and Piano
Louise Farrenc: Symphony No.3, op.36, G minor
Program Notes - written by James Randall
Preparing these notes, I came across a Vietnamese proverb: “Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet.” While intimately connected, they are also independent. The proverb also hints at the sometimes oppositional or competitive nature of sibling relationships. Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, the composers featured in the first half of our concert, exemplify both the closeness of brothers and sisters, but also the rivalry. Both were child prodigies, or, as the Germans colorfully say—Wunderkinder
. We often read about Mozart’s precociousness (and should read more about his own overlooked sister, Maria Anna), but the early talents of Felix and Fanny were in many ways just as dazzling. The great German writer Goethe heard both Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn play improvisations at the piano. About Felix, he wrote to his friend Frank Zelter, Felix’s teacher, “what your pupil already accomplishes, bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time that the cultivated talk of a grown-up person bears to the prattle of a child.” To be fair, Mozart was seven at the time and Mendelssohn twelve. Still, it’s quite the endorsement. And Zelter was equally
impressed with Fanny, who was also a student. In an earlier letter, it was her musical talents that he singled out as “something special” rather than Felix’s.
Talent rarely thrives in a vacuum. In this respect, the Mendelssohn siblings were lucky to have encouraging parents who made sure they had every educational advantage. Each week their parents entertained lavishly in their Berlin home, hosting artists, literati, and the rich and famous. And, of course, they took this opportunity to show off the kids. Many of Fanny and Felix’s compositions, including the ones we hear today, were first heard in Sunday matinees at the Mendelssohn home.
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847): Overture in C Major (1832)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Strings in D Minor, MWV O4 (1823)
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875), Symphony No. 3 in G Minor, op. 36 (1847)
Downbeat Downlow Sponsor: