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Guest Artist:

Christopher Goodpasture, Piano
Tessa Laengert, Soprano


GERSHWIN – An American in Paris Arias by Puccini and Charpentier
RACHMANIOFF – Piano Concerto #2

May 4–5, 2019
Oakville Performing Arts Centre

Program Notes


George Gershwin (1898 – 1937): An American in Paris


Gershwin had achieved international fame with his Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and the Piano Concerto (1925) (performed most recently by the OSO in 2017 and 2016, respectively).  Based on a commission from the New York Philharmonic for a new piece in 1928, Gershwin created this tone poem, inspired by his own visits to Paris. It has long been debated if Gershwin was really a “serious” composer, but while in Paris, he was influenced by several other composers, including Prokofiev, Ravel, and Stravinsky. Gershwin himself, in turn, influenced those same people.


Gershwin denied that he had a detailed program associated with the piece we are performing today, but he did provide an outline. An American is strolling in the streets of Paris, enjoying its atmosphere.  Traffic is heard, with off-key blasts of taxi horns (Gershwin had famously bought some real ones in Paris).  In a slower middle section, the trumpet plays the “homesick blues”, later interrupted by a Charleston (on two trumpets). Finally, the “blues” theme is transformed from sadness into joy, and the sights and sounds of Paris shine through once more.


Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943): Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18


  1. Moderato II. Adagio sostenuto III. Allegro scherzando


This work reflects a triumph over adversity.  After the disastrous reception of his first symphony in 1897 (the conductor, Glazunov, had arrived drunk, and did not take the work seriously), Rachmaninov endured a three-year period of intense depression.  He consulted a hypnotist, Dr. Dahl, who used subliminal techniques to restore Rachmaninov’s confidence in his ability to write a new piano concerto. Composition began in 1900, and the work was premiered in Moscow in the following year, with Rachmaninov himself as soloist. The music describes Rachmaninov’s progression from sombre introspection at the opening, to the triumphant Finale, celebrating his release.  The work is dedicated to Dr. Dahl – and in fact the violas are used more frequently than usual, acknowledging Dahl’s own musicianship as a violist. It is now one of the most popular piano concertos by any composer.


The concerto’s morbid opening has eight poignant chords that gradually build in tension and lead to a soaring second theme.  The “romantic” second movement begins on muted strings, and continues with a wistful melody on the flute and clarinet, which then become a counterpoint to a theme in the piano. These roles are later reversed.  Again, the emotional level builds to a climax, and a beautiful coda. The vigorous finale has echoes of Tchaikovsky.


Notes © by Stephen Walter


About Christopher Goodpasture

Bio to come.

About Tessa Laengert

Bio to come.

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