North State Symphony "Composer's Palette" —
Program / Program Notes

Tchaikovosky and Yevgeny Kutik, the special guest violin soloistPROGRAM

Three Cornered Hat – Scenes and Dances from Part I
Manuel de Falla y Matheu

Le Tombeau de Couperin
Joseph-Maurice Ravel

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Yevgeny Kutik, Violin



Manuel de Falla y Matheu (Novembe 23, 1876 – November 14, 1946) was a Spanish composer. With Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados he is one of Spain's most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century.

Falla was born as Manuel María de los Dolores Falla y Matheu in Cádiz. His early teachers in music were his mother and grandfather; at the age of nine he was introduced to his first piano professor. In 1893 he was inspired by a concert of Edvard Grieg's works, later saying that at the time he felt that "my definitive vocation is music".

In 1896 he moved to Madrid where he attended the Real Conservatorio. He studied piano and composition. Even in his early works for piano and string instruments, Spanish folk influence is heard.  Falla became interested in native Andalusian music, particularly Andalusian flamenco. Among his early pieces are a number of zarzuelas ( folk opera). His first important work was the one-act opera La vida breve (Life is Short,  written in 1905,

In 1907 Falla moved to Paris. There he met a number of composers who had an influence on his style, including the impressionists Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas. In 1908 King Alfonso XIII awarded him a royal grant that enabled him to remain in Paris In 1910 Falla met Igor Stravinsky and traveled briefly to London. Shortly after World War I began and Germany declared war, Falla returned to Madrid.

In Madrid he composed several of his best known pieces, including:

  • The nocturne for piano and orchestra Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Noches en los jardines de España, 1916)

  • The ballet El amor brujo (Wicked Love, 1915) which includes the much excerpted and arranged Ritual Fire Dance

  • The ballet The Magistrate and the Miller's Wife (El corregidor y la molinera) which, after revision, became The Three-Cornered Hat (El sombrero de tres picos, 1917) and was produced by Serge Diaghilev with set design and costumes by Pablo Picasso.

Falla continued work in Argentina in 1939, following Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War. In 1940, he was named a Knight of the Order of King Alfonso X of Castile. Franco's government offered him a large pension if he would return to Spain, but he refused.

He died of cardiac arrest on 14 November 1946 in Alta Gracia, in the Argentine province of Córdoba. In 1947 his remains were brought back to Spain and entombed in the cathedral at Cádiz.

The Three-Cornered Hat. After a short fanfare the curtain rises revealing a mill in Andalusia. The miller, his wife and a pet bird depict a scene of domesticity. Soon the magistrate, his wife, and their bodyguard pass by, and then the dandified,  lecherous magistrate is heard coming back. The miller tells his wife that he will hide and that they will play a trick on the magistrate.

The miller hides and the magistrate sees the miller's wife dancing. After her dance she offers him some grapes. When the magistrate gets the grapes the miller's wife runs away with the magistrate following her. Finally he catches her, and the miller jumps out of a bush with a stick. The miller chases the magistrate away and the miller and his wife continue working.

That night, guests are at the miller's house. The miller dances to entertain them. His dance is interrupted by the magistrate's bodyguard. The miller is arrested, and the guests leave one by one. The miller's wife goes to sleep and soon the magistrate comes to the mill, but the magistrate trips and falls in the river. The miller's wife wakes up and runs away.

The magistrate undresses and hangs his clothes on a tree and goes to sleep in the miller's bed. The miller has escaped from prison and sees the magistrate in his bed. The miller thinks that the magistrate is sleeping with his wife and plans to switch clothes with the magistrate, and avenge himself by seducing the magistrate's wife. The miller leaves, dressed as the magistrate, and the magistrate  wakes up. He goes outside and sees that his clothes are gone, so he dresses in the miller's clothes. The bodyguard comes and sees the magistrate dressed as the miller and goes to arrest him. The miller's wife sees the bodyguard fighting with what looks like her husband and joins in the fight. The miller comes back and sees his wife in the fight and joins it to protect her. The magistrate explains the entire story and the ballet ends with the miller's guests tossing the magistrate up and down in a blanket.


Joseph-Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937) was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. Along with Claude Debussy, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music has entered the standard concert repertoire.

Le tombeau de Couperin is a suite for solo piano by Maurice Ravel, composed between 1914 and 1917, based on a Baroque suite. Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer (or in one case, two brothers) who had died fighting in World War I. Ravel also produced the orchestral version of the work in 1919.

Tombeau is a musical term popular in the 17th century, meaning "a piece written as a memorial.”François Couperin "the Great" (1668–1733) was one among a family noted as musicians. However, Ravel stated that his intention was not to imitate Couperin, but to pay homage to the sensibilities of the Baroque French keyboard suite. This is reflected in the structure which imitates a Baroque dance suite. However, neoclassicism also shines through with Ravel's pointedly twentieth-century chromatic melody and piquant harmonies, particularly in the dissonant Forlane.

Despite the devastation Ravel felt both after the death of his mother in 1917 and of his friends in the First World War, Le tombeau de Couperin retains a light-hearted flavour. When criticised for composing a light-hearted, and sometimes reflective work, for such a sombre topic, Ravel replied: "The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence."

The first performance of the original piano version was given in  1919 by Marguerite Long, the widow of Joseph de Marliave's, who was one of Ravel’s friends memorialized in the work

In 1919 Ravel orchestrated four of the six movements of the work (Prélude, Forlane, Menuet and Rigaudon). This version was premiered in February 1920, and has remained one of his more popular works. Ravel reached the height of his orchestration skills, turning a very pianistic piece into a superb orchestral suite with very few hints of its origins. The orchestral version clarifies the harmonic language of the suite and brings sharpness to its classical dance rhythms.

The orchestra version is scored for two flutes (one doubling piccolo), two oboes (one doubling cor anglais), two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, trumpet, harp, and strings. The orchestra requires an oboe soloist of virtuosic skill, who takes the melody both in the Menuet and for the pastoral C minor section of the Rigaudon.


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 – November 6, 1893), was a Russian composer whose works included symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, chamber music, and a choral setting of the Russian Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Some of these are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, which he bolstered with appearances as a guest conductor later in his career in Europe and the United States. One of these appearances was at the inaugural concert of Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1891.

The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, written by  Tchaikovsky in 1878, is one of the best known of all violin concertos. It is also considered to be among the most technically difficult works for violin. The concerto is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings.

As with most concertos, the piece is in three movements:

  • Allegro moderato (D major)

  • Canzonetta: Andante (G minor)

  • Finale: Allegro vivacissimo (D major)

There is no pause between the second and third movements.

The piece was written in Clarens, a Swiss resort on the shores of Lake Geneva, where Tchaikovsky had gone to recover from the depression brought on by his disastrous marriage to Antonina Miliukova. Presently he was joined there by his composition pupil, the violinist Iosif Kotek. A violin-and-piano arrangement of Édouard Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, played the day after Kotek's arrival, may have been the catalyst for the composition of the concerto.[1] He wrote to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck, "It [the Symphonie espagnole] has a lot of freshness, lightness, of piquant rhythms, of beautiful and excellently harmonized melodies....  [Lalo]… does not strive after profundity, but he carefully avoids routine, seeks out new forms, and thinks more about musical beauty than about observing established traditions."[2] Tchaikovsky authority Dr. David Brown writes that Tchaikovsky "might almost have been writing the prescription for the violin concerto he himself was about to compose."[3]

Tchaikovsky made swift, steady progress on the concerto, and the work was completed within a month despite the middle movement getting a complete rewrite (a version of the original movement was preserved as the first of the three pieces for violin and piano, Souvenir d'un lieu cher).[4] Since Tchaikovsky was not a violinist, he sought the advice of Kotek on the completion of the solo part.[5] " Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate the concerto to Kotek, but felt constrained by the gossip this would undoubtedly cause about the true nature of his relationship with the younger man.[7]

Tchaikovsky intended the first performance to be given by Leopold Auer, and accordingly dedicated the work to him. Auer refused, however, meaning that the planned premiere for March 1879 had to be cancelled and a new soloist found.]

The first performance was eventually given by Adolph Brodsky on December 4, 1881 in Vienna, under the baton of Hans Richter. Tchaikovsky changed the dedication to Brodsky.

Since it has since become the world’s favorite Violin Concerto, it is interesting how mixed were the first impressions. The influential critic Eduard Hanslick called it "long and pretentious" and said that it "brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear". Hanslick also wrote that "the violin was not played but beaten black and blue", and labelled the last movement "odorously Russian".

Fortunately other opinions prevailed, and even the original dedicatee, Leopold Auer, wrote, years later: “The concerto has made its way in the world, and after all, that is the most important thing. It is impossible to please everybody.”