The Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, under the direction of William Drury, will present its spring concerts on Saturday, April 15, at 3 PM, and Sunday, April 16, at 3 PM, at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Falmouth.
Stephanie Weaver Yankee will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, known as the Emperor Concerto, with John Yankee, founding music director of the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, as guest conductor.
Weaver Yankee, former executive director of Cape Conservatory, and Yankee are delighted to be returning to Falmouth for this concert and looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
“April is a wonderful time to be in Falmouth, with spring in the air,” said Yankee. “Locals always celebrated when the first crocuses appeared. There is such an open, gracious spirit in Falmouth, and we are excited to be asked back and work with the FCPO again. Fritz and Laura Sonnichsen and Melanie Hayn have worked hard to maintain and continue growing this very impressive musical organization. And it has been pleasure to get to know Bill Drury through emails and over the phone. He has been very supportive and entirely easy to work with in this rather unusual collaborative effort.”
Yankee and Weaver Yankee began working together professionally on various musical projects, including the Conservatory’s children’s chorus, in 2011. It was only shortly before they left for San Diego in 2019 that they realized they shared more than a love of music and decided to build a life together. “Along with our wide range of shared musical philosophies, priorities, and dreams,” said Yankee, “we learned we both enjoyed similar non-musical pursuits such as sports, exercise, word games, books, pets, nature, travel, and more.” The couple married in January 2021 in San Diego.
Weaver Yankee is executive director of La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, and Yankee teaches and guest and substitute conducts. They had been invited to return to Falmouth in the spring of 2020 to perform Concerto No. 5, but the covid pandemic canceled that concert.
“This concerto is a technical tour de force, so noble and heroic, beginning with a dramatic solo piano cadenza,” said Weaver Yankee. “I had worked on the piece intensively in 2020; it was disappointing to have to shelve it without performing it then. I’m glad to have the opportunity to perform it in Falmouth now, but it can be unnerving to practice with the conductor in earshot, hearing every wrong note! Fortunately, we work well together.”
“It’s a magnificent work,” said Yankee, “strong and forward-moving, I am particularly drawn to the marvelous interplay between the piano and the orchestra. One such example is in the middle movement’s second variation when the pianist, along with strings, accompanies a woodwind trio that carries the melody. The role-reversal, so fresh and original, at the same time gives the pianist an opportunity to be in the ‘background’ for a short spell before coming again to the fore and carrying the work to its completion. Of course, it’s a challenging concerto to perform, but we have had the rare opportunity and benefit to be in a situation where the soloist practices and the conductor prepares at the same time–in the same room!”
The Emperor Concerto, written in 1809 and 1811, was Beethoven’s last completed piano concerto. It is his best-known and most frequently performed piano concerto and is considered one of the most popular ever written.
“This is Beethoven’s most majestic concerto,” said Laura Sonnichsen, violinist, who serves on the orchestra’s board of directors. “It has a heroic spirit, full of boldness and grandeur. The orchestra is thrilled to be playing it with Stephanie and John.”
Beethoven wrote the concerto in Vienna, at a time when the city was under relentless bombardment by Napoleon’s troops. Of his difficult living conditions, he wrote to his publisher, “What a destructive, disorderly life I see and hear around me: nothing but drums, cannons, and human misery in every form.”
The concerto did not receive its nickname from Beethoven; he would have disapproved of honoring Napoleon by naming it after him.
William Drury will lead the orchestra in the first half of the concert with Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute and Schubert’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major.
Mozart’s opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), premiered in 1791, just three months before his death at the age of 35. One of his most successful and frequently performed works, The Magic Flute was composed to a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, who based his tale on various German and Austrian stories and fairy tales.
Prince Tamino is asked to find Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, who has been kidnapped by the evil Sarastro. Papageno, a bird-catcher, who is part bird himself, accompanies him on his quest. To protect them, Tamino is given a magic flute, and Papageno, a set of magic chimes. Then the story gets complicated, serving as an allegory for Masonic beliefs and rites, as both Mozart and Schikaneder were Masons.
The Overture builds on the Masonic belief in the mystical significance of the number three, beginning with three dramatic notes in the E flat chord, followed by a vibrant Allegro fugato, and another solemn three-note chord in B flat. The Overture is notable for its use of counterpoint and dynamic contrasts.
Franz Schubert composed his Symphony No. 1 in 1813 at the age of 16. Described by one conductor as “lovely and enchanting,” the symphony reflects the influence that Haydn’s “London” Symphonies had had on Schubert.
“Schubert’s first symphony is a piece of many moods, with dynamic interplay among the sections of the orchestra,” said Hayn, oboist and president of the orchestra. “This makes it a fun piece to work on as a musician and a delightful one to listen to.”
The work begins with a solemn Adagio, moving to a lively Allegro. The second movement begins with a cheerful melody that turns plaintive. The Menuetto evokes a traditional Austrian folk dance, while the final movement begins simply with just the violins, but quickly becomes more complex and energetic.
Admission is by donation, with a suggested donation of $20. Tickets are available only at the door. For more information about the concert and the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, visit falmouthchamberplayers.org, or call Fritz Sonnichsen at 508-274-2632.
The concert is funded in part by the Falmouth Cultural Council, the Mass Cultural Council, the Falmouth Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation, Cape Cod Melody Tent, and the Woods Hole Foundation.