Gulda: Cello Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
As we return to Memorial Auditorium, it is the WFSO’s top priority to ensure the safety and health of our musicians, patrons, and staff. Despite the recent elimination of mask requirements, we will continue to follow the CDC Covid-19 Safety Guidelines. Face masks will be mandatory for all patrons, staff, and musicians, along with limited and socially distanced seating for audience members.
A native of Belgrade, Serbia, cellist Igor Cetkovic enjoys a career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestra member, and educator. Igor has served with orchestras across Europe and the United States, including the Bergen Philharmonic, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, and as principal cellist of the Serbian chamber orchestra, The St. George Strings. Igor has appeared as a guest soloist with the Yugoslav Army Orchestra, the St. George Strings, Kalamazoo Symphony, Saginaw Bay Symphony, Albion Symphony, and in solo and chamber music recitals all over the world. Igor’s performance career has allowed him to play in many of Europe’s greatest halls, including Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Barbican Center in London, and KKL-Luzern Concert Hall. Igor finished his doctoral studies at Michigan State University, studying under the renowned Suren Bagratuni. He also holds degrees from Stavanger University, University of Belgrade and Central Michigan University. Igor’s other principal teachers include his father Relja Cetkovic, Sandra Belic, Liv Opdal and Jamie Fiste.
Currently, Igor is an artist-in-residence and principal cellist of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, principal cello of the Saginaw Bay Symphony, assistant principal cello of the West Michigan Symphony and the cellist for the Burdick-Thorne String Quartet. Igor is also co-founder and artistic director of the Michigan Princess Classical Concert Series in Grand Ledge, Mi, inviting musicians from all over the world to perform little-known chamber works. Igor served on the faculty at Albion College, and has given masterclasses at the Flint Institute of Music, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, State Conservatory of Uzbekistan, and for MASTA (Michigan chapter of American String Teachers Association).
Friedrich Gulda: Concerto for Cello and Wind Orchestra (1980)
Born in Beethoven’s resting place of Vienna just over a century after the great composer’s passing, Friedrich Gulda (1938-2000) began his own musical career as a concert pianist at an early age, winning the prestigious Geneva competition at 16; at 20 he made his Carnegie Hall debut in the US. Alongside Glenn Gould, Gulda quickly became one of the most important interpreters of the piano repertoire in the post-World War II era, recording music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Debussy. Also like Gould, Gulda grew disillusioned with the formality of the classical music profession, moving his career in a decidedly different direction in the early 1960s towards jazz improvisation. Never one for following expectations (he once performed Schumann songs in the nude on stage with his girlfriend), Gulda refused to accept the esteemed Beethoven Ring awarded by the Vienna Academy of Music in protest against what he saw as the conservatism of classical music education. Gulda’s five-movement Concerto for Cello and Wind Orchestra is at one and the same time melodic, jazzy, dissonant, danceable, rocking, improvisational and virtuosic as it brings together an array of disparate musical styles—from the driving Big Band and 70s funk that opens the work’s “Overture,” to the traditional waltz-like Ländler which was popular in Beethoven’s Vienna. Composed for the cellist Heinrich Schiff in 1980—around the same time Gulda was collaborating with jazz pianist Chick Corea—the concerto’s scoring also calls for a drum set, guitar and two double-bases. The second movement, marked “Idyll,” returns us to the Austrian Alps with traditional melodic tunes that could easily find a home in one of Beethoven’s works for wind ensemble. The improvisatory “Cadenza” calls on the soloist’s virtuosity, while also embedding in it a variety of musical styles. A lovely dialogue between the flute, guitar and cello opens the lilting “Menuett,” which is followed by the bombast of the “Finale,” once again sending the ensemble on a different tact—that of a stylized beerhall or marching band—bringing this jaunty patchwork of musical styles to a close.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 F major, Op. 93 (1812)
Beethoven composed his Eighth Symphony towards the end of his “middle period” (1803-1813), a tumultuous time coincided with his increased hearing loss; an episode of unrequited love; a kerfuffle with his youngest brother, Johann, over his new live-in housekeeper; a quarrel with his good friend Johann Maelzel, inventor of the metronome; and having to learn to cope with the mortal illness of his other younger brother, Caspar. Visiting brother Johann at his home in Linz during the summer of 1812, the forty-two year old Ludwig returned his attention to completing his seventh and eighth symphonies, which were both begun in 1809. Situated between the Dionysian fervor and rhythmic power of No. 7 and the exalted spirituality and humanity of No. 9, the Symphony No. 8 in F major is the most charming and humorous of Beethoven’s symphonies. All four movements of the Eighth are clearly delineated, but they all somehow seem a little off-kilter. The first movement jumps right in without any kind of preamble. It is a joyous symphony—not in the “Ode to Joy” sense; rather, Beethoven is having fun here with a few musical jokes as the symphony at time stumbles on rather heavy-footedly, while at others it marches along to a regular beat. Indeed, the second movement is thought to be an affectionate parody of the metronome—perhaps even an apology to his above-mentioned friend—though others have heard a nod to Haydn’s “Clock Symphony.” Either way, the incessant ticking of the woodwinds moves us forward with monotonous regularity. The third movement, marked “Tempo di Menuetto,” finds Beethoven still at play as he replaces a slow and refined minuet with a hopping and stamping folkdance known as a Ländler (picture the scene in The Sound of Music where Maria and Captain von Trapp dance in the courtyard). The finale of No. 8 is pure Beethoven bombast, as the orchestra makes a mad dash full of surprises and unexpected effects while the composer continues to experiment with dynamics, instrumentation, and silent hesitations, closing this short and joyous symphony with a spirited, over-the-top coda.