CSO: Elgar and Penderecki

Welcome Chicago Symphony patrons!  Here are some extra insights, materials and links pertaining to the CSO’s recent concert of Elgar and Penderecki.

Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934)
Variations on an Original Theme “Enigma” (1899)

Elgar was a lover of puzzles, none more puzzling than this cryptogram he sent to his good friend Dora Penny (of the “Dorabella” variation):

It’s commonly known as the ‘Dorabella Cipher’, and much like the Enigma Variations, it has never been solved.  The BBC site has a wealth of information on the Cipher and a section where you can weigh in if you think your cryptogrammatical skills are up to the challenge.

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933 – )
Concerto Grosso No. 1 for 3 Cellos and Orchestra (2000 – 2001)

Penderecki’s first major success as a composer came with the extremely moving Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in 1960. It features a wide variety of “extended techniques” for the strings – everything from playing behind the bridge, to playing with extreme amounts of vibrato, to tapping their bows on the wood of their instruments.  One early critic wrote that Penderecki asks his string players to do everything but play their instruments.

Listen to it here:

By 2001, the year of Penderecki’s Concerto Grosso, his musical language had softened considerably, and after writing a number of film scores, he had incorporated different styles into his writing – tonal, atonal, and everything in between.

If you’d like another listen to the Concerto, you can find the premiere on YouTube (much like everything else that has ever happened).  It’s in four parts:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV