HCS Progam LibraryDr. John Snyder, Associate Professor of Music Theory
Ph.D., Indiana University. Member of Editorial Advisory Committee for Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum; Fellow of Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory; Studies in Medieval music; Classes in Schenkerian analysis and History of Music Theory.
Here you may browse the Houston Civic Symphony's growing collection of programs. You'll improve your appreciation for and understanding of the composers and works featured in our concerts and recordings .
Festive Overture, op. 96 Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–75) learned the piano from his mother, a professional, at age nine. He entered the Petrograd Conservatory in 1919, but had to play the piano in cinemas to augment the family income, as his father had died. These were the years of the Civil War; times were hard, and Glazunov, then director of the Conservatory, argued the sickly teenager’s great talent to the authorities in order to obtain funding and extra ration cards for him. He completed a diploma in piano in 1923, and another in composition, under Maximilian Steynberg, two years later. His first symphony was composed as a graduation piece, and was highly acclaimed at its premiere in 1926. Within two years it had been played in Berlin and Philadelphia. In the meantime, Shostakovich had earned an honorable mention as a pianist at the Chopin Competition of 1927.
Shostakovich eventually composed fifteen symphonies, matched by a series of fifteen string quartets, not to mention an enormous amount of music for other media, including opera and film scores, ballets, choral music, other chamber music, and, of course, the piano. Having come of age in revolutionary times, Shostakovich felt that citizenship carried moral duties, with which he was constantly striving to balance his calling as a musician and artist. His struggles with the Party apparachniks during the Stalin years are well known, especially the uproar over his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. Through it all, he earned among his peers a reputation for honesty and integrity.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, the USSR experienced a period now known as “The Thaw.” Although Shostakovich’s personal life continued to have its troubles, the relative freedom led to a more optimistic artistic expression, including works decidedly less complex in construction and sunnier in disposition than before. Among these is the Festive Overture from 1954. The work is in a very straight-forward sonata form, with a sprightly first theme and lyrical second theme. This is preceded by an introduction that is essentially a fanfare, and which returns at the end of the recapitulation, where it leads into the coda.
Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra, op. 109 Alexander Glazunov
The son of a book publisher and a pianist, Alexander Glazunov (1865-1938) began serious piano study at age nine, and started composing two years later. In 1879, Balakirev recommended him to Rimsky-Korsakov, with whom he studied for two years, making astounding progress. He completed his first symphony at age sixteen, and promptly became associated with the “Belyayev Circle,” a group dedicated to furthering the progress made by the Nationalists. After 1887 he was involved, with Rimsky-Korsakov, in completing Borodin’s unfinished works. His exceptional memory is responsible for the recovery of the overture to Prince Igor, as Glazunov was able to write it down as he had heard Borodin play it at the piano. The 1890s were especially productive years for Glazunov, with the completion of three symphonies, two string quartets, and a successful ballet. His Violin Concerto dates from 1904. In 1899 he took a position at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which he held for thirty years, becoming director in 1905. Two years later he received honorary doctorates from both Oxford and Cambridge; during his time in England he studied the curricula at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, with an eye toward improvements at his own institution. His increasing teaching and administrative duties led to an appreciable falling-off in his compositions after the Fist World War. His prestige paved the way for a good working relationship with the new regime, but by 1928 he was happy for the opportunity to travel. Nominally on leave until he resigned his posts in 1930, he settled in Paris in 1932 as his health began to deteriorate. He composed rather little during his last years, but some of these works, including the Saxophone Concerto, show a revival of his old polish. Although the next generation considered him old-fashioned, he remains an important figure in the history of Russian music, and his works are still often performed in Russia. He is said to have combined Rimsky-Korsakov’s virtuosity in treating the orchestra, Tchaikovsky’s lyricism, and Taneyev’s contrapuntal skill.
The Concerto for Saxophone and String Orchestra was composed in 1934, on a commission from the German-born saxophonist Sigurd Rascher. Rascher (1907-2001) was a pioneer on his instrument, extending the range and commissioning new works from leading composers (including Ibert and Hindemith); in 1939 he moved to the United States, where he founded the Rascher Saxophone Quartet and enjoyed a long and very successful career. Glazunov’s Concerto is cast on one extended movement, though the traditional fast-slow-fast architecture is discernible. The first “movement” is at a moderate tempo, with flowing melodic lines. This is contrasted with a livlier, scherzando section, after which the opening material returns, though much abridged. The middle of the concerto is an Andante, more pensive in character and less stable in key. After building to a passionate climax, an echo of the very opening of the concerto ushers in a cadenza. A short bridge leads to the finale, a vivacious, jig-like movement displaying the composer’s contrapuntal prowess, which is interrupted by brief contrasting sections and ends with a grand flourish. contrapuntal prowess, which is interrupted by brief contrasting sections and ends with a grand flourish.
Symphony No. 2, Op. 73 Johannes Brahms
Of Brahms’s four symphonies, the Second is easily the sunniest in disposition. Brahms began composing the work in the 1877, while enjoying a summer residence in Pörtschach. He played over parts of it (at the piano) for Clara Schumann in October; she found it “genial in mood and so cleverly worked out.” Though given to brooding, Brahms was not without a sense of humor (as the Academic Festival Overture attests). He poked fun at himself by suggesting to several friends and even to his publisher that his new symphony would have to be printed on black-edged paper, and that the performers would need to wear black crepe armbands. The work was premiered on December 30, 1877, by the Vienna Philharmonic under Hans Richter.
The symphony is in the traditional four movements. The first is in sonata form; the key scheme is unusual only in that the second theme is presented in F-sharp minor, and a third theme is heard in the expected A Major. It is no wonder that Clara Schumann was impressed by Brahms’s cleverness: the opening presents two motives, heard in the cellos and the horn, that nearly saturate the entire movement. The neighbor-note idea of the cellos is transformed by all manners of means: inversion, doubling of note values, halving of note values, and being spun out into longer tunes. The horn call is likewise transformed; it even becomes the accompaniment to the first contrasting theme. But Brahms handles these “learned devices” with such ease that they do not intrude on the listener’s consciousness; rather, they give the movement, which is immediately accessible, a depth that rewards repeated hearings.
The second movement is contrastingly introverted and emotional. The outer parts of its ternary form feature lyrical melody supported by rich harmony. The middle section begins gracefully, but becomes more agitated. After the return of the opening theme, the agitated idea makes one more brief appearance; the movement closes quietly.
The third movement displays more of Brahms’s cleverness. It is a rondo, roughly in ABACA form—but the B and C sections are derived from the A material. The necessary contrast is obtained by altering the tempo and meter: A is in a moderate triple meter, but B is in a fast duple meter, and C is in a fast triple meter. Again, this device is used so deftly that one is scarcely aware of the high art involved. And, in a further twist, the initial idea of the A material is derived from the opening of the first movement.
The last movement is also cast in sonata form, with very clearly drawn themes. The opening is hushed, but a more boisterous idea soon appears, signaling that this will be a high-spirited finale. The second theme is quieter and more lyrical. A closing theme introduces some metric wizardry: although the movement is in duple meter throughout, some passages are written to sound as if they were in quintuple meter, others simulate triple. The development is less extensive than that of the first movement, and the recapitulation is completely straightforward. The coda is suitably large, and builds to a climax featuring the trombones, who eventually get the last word, bringing the symphony to an exciting close.
Excerpts from L’Arlesienne Georges Bizet
The son of musical parents, Georges Bizet (1838-75) first learned the piano from his mother, and entered the Conservatoire in his native Paris shortly before his tenth birthday. Four years later, already a fine pianist (his sight-reading skills became legendary), he began studying composition with Halévy (whose daughter he eventually married). Through his piano teacher he also met Charles Gounod, who became his friend and mentor. In 1857 he won the Prix de Rome, and spent three years abroad—the first and only extended journey. After his return to Paris, he settled into a life of largely routine musical employment (such as arranging other composers’ music), and composing when he could. He was especially interested in opera, and apparently contemplated about thirty operatic projects; of these, only a handful were completed (five staged during his lifetime), and of these only two, Les pêcheurs de perles (1863) and Carmen (1875) have held any place in the repertoire. Carmen, of course, secured Bizet’s place in history, and it is much to be regretted that the composer died only months after its premiere.
In 1872, Bizet undertook the project of writing incidental music for a play by Alphonse Daudet, L’Arlésienne,based on his short story of the same title. The little tale is a very dark tragedy set in southern France, about a farm boy who falls in love with a young woman from Arles, his parents’ objection to the match, the revelation of her lack of virtue, and his eventual suicide. As the budget was limited, Bizet had to compose for an orchestra of only 26 players, including a then-new instrument, the alto saxophone. Bizet later selected four pieces from this music and arranged them for the standard orchestra. In 1879, Bizet’s friend Ernest Guiraud put together a second Suite. This afternoon’s performance includes two numbers from each.
The Prélude is in two parts; the first is based on a Provençal Christmas carol (thus setting the scene for the play in Provence), which is heard five times, varied in mood, orchestration and harmony. The second section contrasts completely, introducing themes associated in the other incidental music with the young lovers. The Adagietto (no. 3 in Suite I) underlies a melodrama (dialogue spoken over music) presenting the reunion of the old mother with her sweetheart of her youth. It is scored muted strings only, and describes a single, exquisite arc from pianissimo to fortissimo and back. The Pastorale (no. 1 from Suite II) is a ternary form, the outer sections of which are in essence the original entr’acte to Act II of the play. The middle section is music sung off stage by a wordless chorus, accompanied by a harmonium and a tambourin; this has of course been re-orchestrated by Guiraud. The Farandole is a Provençal dance, consisting of the winding patterns of a chain of alternating men and women, following a leader. Daudet’s story specifically refers to the dance, which the protagonist leads by way of hiding his deep distress. As it stands in the Suite, the piece is more Guiraud’s composition than Bizet’s; it recalls the carol of the Prélude, superimposing on it the tune of Bizet’s farandole in a tour-de-force of orchestral color, rhythmic energy, and contrapuntal skill.
Elegiac Fantasy Beau Benson
Completed earlier this year, Beau Benson’s Elegiac Fantasy represents a confluence of several current trends. First, in writing for his own performing medium and skills, he is part of a revival of the composer/performer tradition to which Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and many others belonged, but which had become nearly extinct by the time of Rachmanninoff in the early twentieth century. (Hence, his biography appears elsewhere in the program, under his role as soloist.) Second, this music displays the recent neo-tonal tendency exhibited by a number of composers (even including Krzysztof Penderecki). Finally, the incorporation of Medieval materials exemplifies the modern composer’s awareness of history, and the degree of eclecticism now available to all creative artists.
The piece is framed by melodies from two Medieval chants. The piece opens with the first phrase of the “Libera me,” from the service for the dead: “Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda, quando coeli movendi sunt et terra” (“Free me, Lord, from eternal death on that frightful day, when heaven and earth shall be moved”). Following a brief interlude in D minor, the chant resumes with a subsequent phrase (at the text “Tremens factus sum et timeo, dum discussio vernerit atque ventura ira”; “I am made afraid and fear when the scattering comes, and the wrath to be”). This opening is followed by free development of ideas from the plainsong, along with quasi-improvisatory elements, leading to a climactic moment that is followed by a long, cadenza-like section for the solo guitar. The orchestra re-enters for a slower, lyrical section in D major; this breaks off, with a short cadenza for the guitar, after which the music returns to D minor, at a faster tempo, for an orchestral fugato. After another climax, music from the first part of the work is heard again, followed by a gradual crescendo to a final climax. A second plainsong melody, “Ego sum alpha et omega...” (“I am the alpha and the omega...”), from a twelfth-century liturgical drama (Jeu de Pelerins d’Emmaus) is then introduced, and ends the piece quietly and serenely. About the work, Mr. Benson has written, “The underlying message is that I hope and believe that we are part of something larger than we can see, and the suffering that is experienced in life is not in vain.”
Symphony No. 9 Antonín Dvorák
The son of an innkeeper, Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) first learned the violin from a local schoolteacher. Leaving home at 16, he studied at the Prague Organ School, afterward supporting himself as a violist, and later as a church organist. His first compositional successes, in the 1870s, attracted the attention and support of such luminaries as Brahms, Liszt, and von Bülow. Dvorák joined the faculty of the Prague Conservatory in 1891, as a professor of composition. Like Mendelssohn and his contemporary Edvard Grieg, Dvorák also served as an administrator. Though he did not actually found an institution, he spent the years 1892-95 mostly in the United States, as director of the newly-founded National Conservatory. He became director of the Prague Conservatory in 1901. Dvorák’s music incorporates many elements of Czech national and folk music, but is also firmly grounded in the Romantic style then flourishing throughout Europe.
The “New World Symphony” was, befitting its title, the first work Dvorák created entirely, including initial sketches, after arriving in New York. Some thematic ideas were noted in mid-December, 1892, and sketches for the symphony were begun about a month later. The entire symphony was completed and orchestrated by the end of May 1893. The work was premiered in New York on December 16, 1893; the reception was overwhelmingly favorable, and the symphony has remained a favorite in the repertoire ever since.
The symphony is cast in the traditional four movements, in the customary order: fast, slow, dance-like, and fast. The first movement is in the expected sonata form, with a slow introduction, in which the first theme of the Allegro is foreshadowed. The exposition proceeds through the initial theme and a lengthy transition (which has its own theme), finally settling into the second theme, in G major, played by the flute. The themes are treated to a thorough development, and the recapitulation restates them in order—but not all in the home key. Dvorák chooses to place the second theme in A-flat major in the recapitulation, a departure from tradition that is nevertheless in keeping with the tonal freedom of the late nineteenth century.
The famous Largo opens with a striking chord progression in the low winds and brass, which serves not only to bring us to the unexpected key of D-flat, but also acts as a structural marker, reappearing in one guise or another several times during the movement. The main theme, introduced by the English horn, has become familiar through the words added later by W. A. Fisher. The oboe introduces the theme of the contrasting section, in C-sharp minor. A fugato and crescendo bring us to a climax, at which themes of the first movement are echoed, and out of which the return of the English horn melody emerges.
The scherzo is unusual in its formal complexity: though it has relationships with the typical scherzo-trio-scherzo form, the individual sections are not themselves neat, binary structures. The contrasts are wide, and even the tempo is somewhat elastic. In the transition to the trio, and in the coda, the first movement’s main theme makes yet another cameo appearance.
The finale is a large sonata form, with a very substantial coda. The first theme is somewhat modal in character, and resembles the first theme of Dvorák’s own Cello Concerto. The second theme is stated by the clarinet, with counterpoint in the cellos. The development is extensive, and treats not only the themes introduced in this movement, but also weave in echoes of the themes of all three preceding movements. The recapitulation restates the principal themes; in the second theme, the roles of the strings and winds are reversed. In the coda, the previous movements’ themes appear once again, before the triumphant conclusion.
This was not the first cyclic finale—the idea had become almost common by the 1890s—but Dvo ák’s handling of it is particularly compelling. Themes are skillfully modified so as to make their transplantations completely natural. Furthermore, the process is not restricted to the final movement (as in Franck’s Symphony), but grows throughout the entire four-movement cycle, with each movement making reference to at least one of its predecessors. And many of the themes of later movements are latent in the themes of earlier movements: the rising third that forms the oboes’ answer to the horn phrase becomes the English horn melody in the Largo, and the second melody of the third movement’s trio is transformed into the closing theme in the finale. (An interesting reversal of this procedure may be heard in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, to be performed on the Civic Symphony’s season finale on May 11.) Not only is the finale an apotheosis of the symphony, but the symphony seems to have been a sort of final summary of the genre for Dvo ák. He lived and composed actively for a full decade more, but wrote no more symphonies, instead turning his symphonic ideas to the tone poem.
Much has been made of the use Dvorák may have made of American musical materials. He certainly took an interest in the music of both Native Americans and African Americans, and suggested that these musics might be sources for a truly American musical language. Furthermore, he had for some time been intrigued by Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, and was considering writing an opera on the subject. This project came to naught, but some preliminary sketches were recycled in this symphony. The Largo was inspired by the “Funeral in the Forest” scene in Hiawatha, and the scherzo is derived from music intended to depict the Indians dancing in the woods. The actual materials, however, are not identifiably American; the pentatonic scale influence, for example, is also strong in Czech folk music and in Dvorák’s compositions generally. And the technical means employed in working with these materials belong entirely to the European late Romantic era.
The works on this program span just over two centuries, but share a surprising number of features. Apart from certain principles of formal organization, all are for somewhat reduced forces. And even so, all feature unusual combinations of instruments. The Dvorák Serenade is notable for its reliance on double reeds, the inclusion of a cello and a bass, and for its use of three (rather than the normal two or four) horns. Mozart's Symphony no. 25 is one of only four in which he employed four horns. And neither of these uses the flute, which is the featured instrument in the Rutter. The Suite Antique also uses the harpsichord, in a rare appearance in modern music.
Serenade in d minor Antonín Dvorák
The son of an innkeeper, Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) first learned the violin from a local schoolteacher. Leaving home at 16, he studied at the Prague Organ School, afterward supporting himself as a violist, and later as a church organist. His first compositional successes, in the 1870s, attracted the attention and support of such luminaries as Brahms, Liszt, and von Büt;low. Dvorák joined the faculty of the Prague Conservatory in 1891, as a professor of composition. Like Mendelssohn and his contemporary Edvard Grieg, Dvorák also served as an administrator. Though he did not actually found an institution, he spent the years 1892-95 mostly in the United States, as director of the newly-founded National Conservatory. He became director of the Prague Conservatory in 1901. Dvorák's music incorporates many elements of Czech national and folk music, but is also firmly grounded in the Romantic style then flourishing throughout Europe.
The Serenade in D Minor was composed in early January, 1878, and received its first performance he following November. This was a period in which Dvorák had already achieved fame at home, and was enjoying increasing international recognition. The Serenade's four movements correspond roughly to the usual symphonic cycle. The first is a march, and is in ternary form rather than the sonata form that would be expected in a symphony. The second movement is a minuet in F major (certainly an archaism by this time), with a trio that is at double tempo. This presto is in fact a furiant, a Czech dance that Dvorák incorporated into a number of his works. The juxtaposition is striking; the two seemingly disparate sections are in fact joined by a motive of running scales in thirds, heard first towards the end of the minuet in the clarinets. The third movement, in A major, is rather slow, beginning with a syncopated accompaniment figure. Over this, a dialogue develops between the clarinet and the oboe. The middle part of the movement builds on this material to a climax, after which the opening dialogue returns, this time with the clarinet in dialogue with the bassoon. The finale is constructed on two ideas introduced at the outset, which are subsequently developed through various keys. The theme of the first movement returns for a cameo appearance just before the coda, in D major.
Suite Antique John Rutter
Born in 1945, John Rutter is best known for his work in choral music. He studied music at Clare College, Cambridge, and taught at the University of Southampton and at Clare College. Since 1979, however, he has devoted himself entirely to composition, with a few editing projects (including the Fauré Requiem), and recording choral music with the Cambridge Singers, which he founded. Influences on his style include Holst, Vaughan Williams and Britten; one may also hear traces of Faur$eacute; and Duruflé.
The Suite Antique, one of Rutter's few instrumental works, was composed in 1979. The six movements do resemble the Baroque suite in some ways, but differ decidedly in others. The lush, slightly dissonant harmonies of the prelude are distinctly twentieth-century traits, as is the modal (Dorian) coloring. The Ostinato is not of the Baroque type, which was normally a descending bass line, but is built around an energetic rhythmic pattern (which employs the hemiola effect Bernstein used in I want to live in America”). The Aria is reminiscent of many Baroque slow movements, with its slowly descending bass line, complete with octave skips, und a long-breathed melody. The old-fashioned minuet has been replaced by its descendent, the waltz, and one with a jazzy character at that. The Chanson is much like the Aria, but where earlier movement was in E minor, this one is in B Mixolydian (B Major, with the seventh scale degree lowered). The final movement, Rondeau, is named for its form: ABACADA plus Coda. It acts as the Gigue acts in closing a Baroque suite, but this movement is not quite in jig time: it is an eighth-note per bar short, being in 5/8 instead of 6/8, with a few changes towards the end. Rutter changes the orchestration of the A material at each appearance, so that within this movement, as in the suite as a whole, the old is made new again.
Symphony No. 25 in g minor Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life and career (1756-91), from child prodigy to supreme artist dead at age 35, are now so familiar that little if any retelling is needed. The sheer volume of output in his short life would be astounding even if it were of mediocre quality; that his vast uvre is so consistently of surpassing quality as well, is truly a miracle. Furthermore, Mozart's interests ran the entire gamut of musical genres: from dances to symphonies, from simple songs to large-scale Masses and operas.
Symphony No. 25 was composed in the autumn of 1773, and comprises the usual four movements of the Classical symphony. Known as the "Little G Minor"” in contrast to the "Great G Minor"”(Symphony no. 40), this symphony is perhaps best known to the public through its use in the film version of Amadeus. These two are Mozart's only extant symphonies in minor keys.
The outer movements and the Andante are all in sonata form (the Andante somewhat abridged). Both first and last movements feature opening themes presented in orchestral unisons, a device more common in the symphonies of J. C. Bach and C.P. E. Bach. Furthermore, the second theme of the first movement shares a prominent motive with the first theme of J. C. Bach's Symphony in G Minor, op. 6, no. 6. The Menuet is in the expected binary form, as is the Trio. For the Trio, Mozart reduced the orchestra to the winds only—another example of the composer's unusual usage of timbre in this work.
Finlandia Jean Sibelius
It is ironic that the greatest of Finnish nationalist composers did not learn Finnish before the age of ten. Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was originally educated in Swedish, and only later came into contact with nationalist ideas in Finland. A violinist, he also studied law, and was awarded a government stipend for musical study in Berlin. Finland was then under the control of the Russian Tsars, and in the 1890s a program of Russification fueled the nationalist movement.
Sibelius composed Finlandia (originally Suomi herää), one of his many tone poems, in 1899, as part of incidental music for a series of scenes dealing with Finnish history. He revised it for publication the following year. The work begins obliquely, with uncertain tonality and dramatic use of the low brass. The key eventually settles, first into F minor, and then into A-flat Major. A quiet, contrasting theme, now familiar from its adaptation as a hymn tune, makes its appearance two-thirds of the way through. (This theme evokes, but does not really quote, a nationalist song from the 1880s, Herää, Suomi! [ Awaken, Finland! ] by Emil Genetz.) But, in keeping with the Romantic idea of thematic transformation, careful listening will reveal that this melody springs from the same lower neighbor-note figure of the opening, but with its character completely transformed.
Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss, Jr.
Although intended for a career in banking, it seemed inevitable that Johann Strauss, Jr., (1825-99) would follow his father's footsteps into the world of popular music. A violinist, he led his own orchestra from 1844, merging it with his father's orchestra on the latter's death in 1849. He wrote huge quantities of dance music, which was enormously popular in its day (and some of which still commands respect). At the instigation of his wife (who had a background in the theater), he began trying his hand at operetta in the 1860s. Few of his efforts in that vein had lasting success; certainly none has held the stage like Die Fledermaus (1874). The plot is at least as convoluted and contrived as anything in Gilbert and Sullivan; a synopsis would be unintelligible. Suffice it to say that Adele, a chambermaid, is at a costume ball (in diguise), where she is jokingly accused by a Marquis of resembling a chambermaid. In keeping up her (disguised) appearance, she puts him down thoroughly.
Scene and Aria: Ah! perfido Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven's life, career, and eventual triumph over deafness (1770-1827) are now as much the stuff of legend as of biography. Although now remembered almost entirely for his instrumental works, particularly his piano sonatas, strings quartets, and the nine symphonies, Beethoven also composed a fair amount of choral and vocal music, including an opera, Fidelio, which he described as the dearest of his children, having cost him the most labor pains. Earlier in his life, he composed the present scene and aria, partly based on a pre-existing text by Pietro Metastasio (librettist for innumerable eighteenth-century operas), with a concluding aria on an anonymous text. Beethoven composed this for or during a visit to Prague, at which time it was sung by Josepha Duschek, who had been close to Mozart. The piece is a fine representative of a genre of works presenting abandoned women in anguish. The opening Scena is an extended recitative. The Aria that follows is a gentle Adagio; the finale, which has something of the character of a cabaletta, returns to a quicker pace, but is much more constant in tempo than the opening; it also includes some appropriate vocal fireworks.
Symphony No. 8 in B Minor ( The Unfinished ) Franz Peter Schubert
The short and tragic life of Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) requires little retelling for musical afficionados. Born into a family of amateur musicians, Schubert for a time earned his living as a schoolteacher before turning to composition full time. He spent nearly all of his career quite literally in Beethoven's shadow in Vienna, and Beethoven's experiments with form had profound effects on Schubert. Nevertheless, Schubert's real gift lay in melody, as his nearly 600 songs attest, and even his instrumental music is filled with singing.
Why Schubert left his eighth symphony unfinished is a great mystery. He had sketched the scherzo and a few bars of the trio in piano score (and even orchestrated a little of the scherzo), before abandoning the work in late October, 1822. About two years later, the score came into the possession of Schubert's close friend, Anselm Hüttenbrenner, again under circumstances not easily explained. Still stranger is the fact that the score lay in Hüttenbrenner's library until 1865, at which time the conductor Johann Herbeck began preparations for its premier, which finally took place on December 17, 1865 more than three dozen years after the composer's death.
The first movement is in sonata form, but is somewhat unusual in that its opening melody (which is not, strictly speaking, an introduction) does not return at the recapitulation. It is heard in the development, and again in the coda, making it integral to the movement. The first theme group also includes a haunting melody, played by the oboe and clarinet in unison. The second theme, quintessentially Schubertian in its lyricism, is surely the most recognizable theme in the symphony. The second movement is also in sonata form. Although the key scheme is relatively conventional, Schubert indulges in many fleeting and very colorful modulations to remote tonalities, which are in large part responsible for the movement's piquant character.
Overture to The Ruins of Athens Ludwig van Beethoven
Even before motion pictures had sound, they had music, and theaters had orchestras to provide what celluloid could not. And before there were movies at all, music had its place in the theater, even in genres not inherently “musical” in nature. Thus Mendelssohn wrote music to accompany Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Edward German provided dances for Henry VIII. Though hardly a man of the theater, with only one opera and one ballet to his credit, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) nevertheless composed incidental music for several plays, scattered over the course of his career. The best known of these efforts are the scores for Egmont and Coriolanus, and these are remembered almost exclusively for their overtures. Beethoven composed music for von Kotzebue’s festival play The Ruins of Athens in 1811; the first performance took place early in 1812. Besides the overture, the music includes several songs and choruses, and the best-known item, a Turkish March.
The Ruins of Athens is not a tragedy (unlike Coriolanus and Egmont), and Beethoven kept his curtain-raiser appropriately light and airy. The general shape is conventional enough: a slow introduction followed by an allegro. But the allegro is here not in the expected sonata form, there being no genuine second theme. Instead, the allegro is a more a ternary design, with the middle section acting as a trio. There is a lengthy preparation for the return of the principal theme, and its ending is slightly elongated to function as a coda.
Concerto in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra Max Bruch
First taught music by his mother (a singer), Max Bruch (1838-1920) began to compose before he was in his teens, and at age fourteen won an award that enabled him to study with three leading composition teachers of the time, Hiller, Reinecke, and Breunung. In the early 1860s he settled in Mannheim and composed an opera, Die Loreley (produced in 1863), and a cantata for male voices, Frithjof (1864); these works quickly earned him a place in German musical life. From 1865-67 he was music director at Koblenz, and it was there that he composed his first violin concerto in G minor. Although he was to compose two more violin concertos and the Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra (among other fine efforts), the present offering quickly became so popular as to upstage the rest of his oeuvre, much to Bruch’s dismay. Bruch ended his career as director of a master class in composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1890-1911), but even before his appointment there he was becoming an outsider in German musical life, due to his forthright criticism of the New German School (Wagner and Liszt). Nevertheless, he was considered a good composition teacher, and the young Vaughan Williams and Respighi were among his pupils.
The G-minor Violin Concerto is in three movements, with the first being somewhat unusual in form. It is titled Vorspiel (Prelude), and begins much like a conventional sonata form movement. An introductory section (which, however, is at the main tempo) is followed by a fairly conventional exposition, in which two themes are presented: the first dramatic with many chords for the soloist, and the second lyrical. A development follows, leading through closely related keys, and returning to the tonic—but there is no conventional recapitulation. Instead, the introductory material returns, framing the movement. There is, however, no final cadence; rather, the introductory material dissolves into a bridge, leading seamlessly to the second movement. This adagio is in sonata form, though the themes are not strongly contrasting, in the expected key of E-flat major. This movement displays Bruch’s considerable skill at shaping melodies. The finale begins with a transition from the slow movement, returning us to the key of G, but this time G major. The sonata-form exposition begins with the entrance of the solo violin; again, the first theme features chords and double-stops, followed by a lyrical second theme. The movement is formally straight-forward and uncomplicated. It is perhaps noteworthy that none of the movements contains a real cadenza.
For further reading:
Fitfield, Christopher. Max Bruch: His Life and Works. New York: G. Braziller, 1988.
A Musical Joke Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) died a month short of his thirty-sixth birthday, the Berlin Musical Weekly printed an obituary notice that included the observation “In his life he was constantly the object of cabals, which he at times may well have provoked by his sans souci manner.” As Peter Davies notes, “Sans Souci, a term coined in 1718, offers an excellent description of Mozart’s carefree manner and frivolity.” Robert Gutman tells how Mozart, his wife Constanze, and their close friend Gottfried von Jacquin engaged in “merrymaking” that he describes as “madcap.” Gutman imagines von Jacquin egging Mozart on in creating a musical practical joke, a lampooning of the failings of lesser composers (or a caricaturing of the work of perfectly competent ones). But where Gutman sees lighthearted humor, Davies presents evidence for cyclothymic disorder as the source of Mozart’s well-documented oddities of character—including his sense of humor.
Whatever the origins of the little divertimento known as A Musical Joke (completed in 1787), it is indeed a delightfully funny piece. The humor varies, moreover, from sly witticisms apparently intended for insiders to near slapstick. Among the former are violations of eighteenth-century part-writing conventions, which would hardly offend anyone now, and whichwould have required a keen ear to detect then. At the other extreme, he writes in the Minuet horn parts calculated make the players sound as though they have mis-transposed and are in the wrong key. In between, there are spoofs of a number of musical conventions of the day. The first movement’s first theme has a metrical structure that somehow comes out a measure short of expectations. The solo violin cadenza in the third movement gets hopelessly lost, and is rescued by a trill of a third (then fashionable, but only briefly so). The main theme of the last movement is a binary form, but a thoroughly atypical one: the first strain modulates to the wrong key, then aborts that and cadences in the tonic; the second strain wanders to tonally distant places, at a stylistically impossible point in the movement. The fugal passages are so bare as to be amateurish. And there are comically inappropriate changes in dynamics throughout all the movements. The final blow is the presentation of the last three chords in four keys simultaneously—as it were, an eighteenth-century Bronx cheer in music.
The literature on Mozart is vast; the following may be of special interest.
Davies, Peter J. Mozart: His Character and Health. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.
Gutman, Robert W. Mozart: A Cultural Biography. NY: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1999.
Huapango J. Pablo Moncayo
José Pablo Moncayo García (1912-1958) was born in Guadalajara, and studied at the Mexico City Conservatory. His principal composition teacher was Carlos Chavez, and he later took some additional lessons from Chavez’s friend Aaron Copland. He began his professional career in 1931, as a percussionist with the Mexico Symphony Orchestra (now the National Symphony Orchestra). He served as conductor of that ensemble from 1949-54. Moncayo was interested in working with Mexican folk idioms in a nationalist vein, and to that end in 1934 was a founder of the Grupo de Jóvenes Compositores, later known as Grupo de los Cuatros (“Group of Four”). The other members were Blas Galindo Dimas (1910-93), Salvador Contreras (1910-82), and Daniel Ayala Pérez (1906-75). Eventually the other composers went their separate ways, adopting various modern idioms, so that Moncayo’s early death represents the closing of that phase of Mexican music. Moncayo himself worked also with Impressionistic techniques in such pieces as Amatzinac and Bosques, and his opera, La mulata de Córdoba. These have, perhaps unfortunately, been overshadowed by his most popular work, Huapango, composed in 1941. This piece is based solidly on Mexican folk materials, incorporating especially the folk dances el siquisirií, el balahú, and el gavilán. The result is a very appealing mix of distinctly Latin rhythms; when two or more are combined, the resulting cross-rhythms become quite colorful.
Overture “Of New Horizons” Ulysses Kay
Born into a musical family in Tucson, Ulysses Kay (1917-95) first studied piano, and later the violin and saxophone. He pursued undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona, followed by an M.A. at Eastman. He also studied composition at the Berkshire Music Center, and at Yale with Paul Hindemith. From 1942-46, Kay served in a Navy band, playing various wind instruments, and played piano in a military jazz orchestra. After the war, he studied further at Columbia University on a Ditson Fellowship, and in Europe on Rosenwald and Fulbright fellowships. He earned many honors, including the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, and election to the Institute of the American Academy. He was, in 1958, a member of the first group of American composers sent to the USSR by the State Department on a cultural exchange mission. He also served on cultural missions in Italy, Yugoslavia, France, and England. He was appointed to the faculty of Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1968.
Kay’s style favors vivid orchestral colors; vibrant, jazz-influenced harmonies; and a distinctively angular lyricism. His music often employs complex contrapuntal textures and procedures, and is generally based on neo-classical formal models. His oeuvre includes several orchestral works, band pieces, songs, choral music, and a number of dramatic works, notably an opera, Frederick Douglass. His Overture “Of New Horizons” was composed in 1944, and features most of the elements of Kay’s mature style. It is cast in sonata form with a rhythmically energetic opening theme and a more lyrical second theme. In the coda, these themes are combined contrapuntally, with the first theme in augmentation and the second in canon.
Constance Tibbs Hobson and Deborra A. Richardson, Ulysses Kay: A Bio-Bibliography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994).
Lucius R. Wyatt, “Kay, Ulysses,” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, rev. ed, (London: Macmillan, forthcoming).
Lincoln Portrait Aaron Copland
Born in New York City to immigrant parents, Copland (1900 1990) first learned the piano from an older sister. He progressed quickly, studying piano with Leopold Wolfsohn, Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler. He studied harmony, counterpoint, and form with Rubin Goldmark, and soon began composing. He spent the years 1920 24 in France at the American Conservatory at Fountainbleu, studying composition under Nadia Boulanger. He returned to Europe several times during the 1920’s, hearing music by the leading composers of the era.
His compositions of these early years show a wide range of influences, from Debussy to Jazz, increasingly incorporated into a unique, personal style. Serge Koussevitzky was an important early interpreter and champion of Copland's orchestral music. In the 1930's, Copland began to pursue a more consciously American musical idiom. Though he never pursued an academic career, Copland became very active as a lecturer, and taught at Harvard when Walter Piston was on leave. He wrote a number of articles and two books, What to Listen for in Music and Our New Music (second edition title, The New Music, 1900 1960). His lecture series given as Norton Professor of Poetics at Harvard (1951) was published afterward as Music and Imagination. Not content to rest on his laurels, Copland explored many of the newer musical ideas, including serialism, in the 1950’s and ’60’s.
Lincoln Portrait was composed in 1942, not long before Fanfare for the Common Man. The work is the fruit of a commission from André Kostelanetz, one of three works based on American national figures. (Jerome Kern chose Mark Twain; Virgil Thompson paired New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia and journalist Dorothy Parker.) Interestingly, Copland’s first idea was also for a literary figure, Walt Whitman, but Kostelanetz suggested that he consider a statesman. Copland selected Lincoln, in part because of the impression that Lord Charnwood’s biography of Lincoln had made on him. Copland worked out the text himself, using quotes taken from the Charnwood biography. The piece was premiered May 14, 1942, by Kostelanetz and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with Williams Adams as narrator.
The work is cast in a large ternary design, slow-fast-slow, with the spoken text coming in the final section. The opening section features an early American melody, “Spring Mountain,” which was originally an elegy for a young man. The fast, middle section draws on Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races” for its principal idea. This section, with its snare drum and brass “bugle calls,” not to mention its moments of tonal conflict, “depicts a battlefield as accurately as a military painter,” as Léon Kochinitzky put it in an early review. At the climax, “Springfield Mountain” returns in a canon, leading to the return of the opening material.
A complete and authoritative biography of Copland has appeared recently: Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Man, the Music (New York: Henry Holt, 1999).
Symphonic Variations on an African Air Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Though nearly forgotten in recent decades, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was in his time and for some years after his premature death among the best-known and most frequently performed British composers of his generation. His father, a native of Sierra Leone, had shown considerable intelligence and had been sent by the colonial authorities to England to study medicine. He returned to Sierra Leone about the time Samuel was born, but his mother elected to remain in England. Samuel thus grew up in Croydon, south-east of London, where he attended the local British School and studied violin with Joseph Beckwith. He also began composing, though none of his juvenile efforts has survived. His obvious talent and industry attracted the attention of Col. Herbert Walters, who became, in essence, his patron, underwriting his further education at the Royal College of Music. Victorian society had its prejudices concerning race and class, but the director, Sir George Grove, was in a better position than most Englishmen to see beyond color, and enrolled Coleridge-Taylor for the fall term of 1890.
The Royal College of Music was then relatively new, but was rapidly gaining stature. The composition faculty included Hubert Parry and Charles Stanford, with whom Coleridge-Taylor studied. First, however, he had to learn to play the piano; he did not become a virtuoso, but learned to write competently for the instrument, and to play well enough to perform many of his own compositions. In Stanford’s class he was in very good company; the best remembered now are Gustave Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The next year he published an anthem for mixed chorus and organ, In Thee, O Lord, marking, at the age of sixteen, the beginning of his long relationship with Novello & Co. This was followed a year later by four more anthems. Coleridge-Taylor completed his studies at the Royal College of Music in the spring of 1897, and had already arranged for a livelihood teaching violin and conducting several ensembles in Croydon. In the mean time, his work had come to Elgar’s attention (via Novello); when Elgar was too busy finishing his Caractacus to compose something for the Three Choirs Festival of 1898, he suggested that the commission be given to Coleridge-Taylor. The result was an orchestral work, Ballade in A Minor, op. 33, which was premiered on September 12, 1898, and received enthusiastically. But Coleridge-Taylor was already preparing for the first performance of his cantata, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, which took place November 11, 1898, at the Royal College of Music. This premiere was not merely successful, it was sensational. Two more cantatas followed: The Death of Minnehaha in 1899, and Hiawatha’s Departure in 1900. Coleridge-Taylor was suddenly famous, and the trilogy quickly made its way around the concert halls not only of England, but of the entire British Empire. The first American performances took place in Boston, in 1900, with instant success.
The obvious success of a composer of African descent inspired an effort in the African American community in Washington, D. C., to mount a performance of the cantatas using black performers exclusively, with the composer conducting. Preparations proceeded fitfully for some three years, but Coleridge-Taylor did conduct the Hiawatha trilogy in Washington in November, 1904. He made two further trips to the United States, in 1906 and 1910; on the last trip, his activities included an appearance as conductor with the New York Philharmonic. Coleridge-Taylor had prepared for the first visit in part by reading W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folks; the composer had met Du Bois in 1900, when they were among the thirty-two participants in the first Pan-African Conference (held in London). Among the musical fruits of his new awareness of the African American community is his Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, a set of piano pieces based on melodies from Africa, America, and the West Indies, published in 1904. One of these, Bamboula, was completely reworked and expanded as an orchestral piece for his 1910 visit; another, “I’m Troubled,” was re-used as the theme for the Symphonic Variations on an African Air, composed in 1906.
“I’m Troubled in Mind” was in the repertoire of the Fisk Jubilee Singers; it came to them from a former slave whose father had sung it with great pathos. The melody itself is spare—nearly pentatonic—and recalls in some respects Dvo ák’s Cello concerto and “New World” Symphony. (Coleridge-Taylor had indeed idolized the Czech composer in his formative years.) The melody comprises only two phrases, so Coleridge-Taylor alters the second cadence and doubles its length. But many of the variations that follow transform this essentially binary idea into ternary forms. In this, the variation process resembles Elgar’s in the Enigma Variations; one may also detect some influence of Tchaikovsky in the orchestration. Nevertheless, the work is not derivative, but highly original in its treatment of the materials. There are nine (or perhaps fourteen) variations, during which the theme is transformed in a surprising number of ways, appearing as a scherzo, a waltz, a passage of sweeping lyricism, and more. The middle sections of some of these contrast with their outer sections so greatly as to seem like new variations; the number of variations is thus somewhat unclear. The harmonic and rhythmic resources are similarly large and varied. But perhaps the most outstanding feature is the orchestration, which is colorful without making the orchestra seem disjointed, and rich without being thick. The work ends with a coda—Geoffrey Self calls it a “peroration”—that once again, and not unfittingly, calls to mind the New World Symphony.
Geoffrey Self, The Hiawatha Man: The Life and Work of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1995).
William Tortolano, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Anglo-Black Composer, 1875-1912 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977).
An Outdoor Overture Aaron Copland
With this work, the Civic Symphony celebrates the centennial of Aaron Copland’s birth, November 14, 1900. Born in New York City to immigrant parents, Copland (1900 1990) first learned the piano from an older sister. He progressed quickly, studying piano with Leopold Wolfsohn, Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler. He studied harmony, counterpoint, and form with Rubin Goldmark, and soon began composing. He spent the years 1920 24 in France at the American Conservatory at Fountainbleu, studying composition under Nadia Boulanger. He returned to Europe several times during the 1920’s, hearing music by the leading composers of the era.
His compositions of these early years show a wide range of influences, from Debussy to Jazz, increasingly incorporated into a unique, personal style. Serge Koussevitzky was an important early interpreter and champion of Copland's orchestral music. In the 1930's, Copland began to pursue a more consciously American musical idiom. Though he never pursued an academic career, Copland became very active as a lecturer, and taught at Harvard when Walter Piston was on leave. He wrote a number of articles and two books, What to Listen for in Music and Our New Music (second edition title, The New Music, 1900 1960). His lecture series given as Norton Professor of Poetics at Harvard (1951) was published afterward as Music and Imagination. Not content to rest on his laurels, Copland explored many of the newer musical ideas, including serialism, in the 1950’s and ’60’s.
An Outdoor Overture was composed in 1938, while Copland was working on Billy the Kid, on a commission from the New York High School of Music and Art. As the English critic Cecil Smith put it, “Youth and freedom and tireless energy are the subject matter of the Overture.” The work has five principal thematic elements: an introductory fanfare, the theme first heard in the solo trumpet, a faster theme featuring repeated notes, a slower theme introduced by the flute, and a resolute march introduced by the violins. The whole falls into two large sections, with the second acting as a varied restatement of the materials introduced in the first. Pollack finds elements of sonata form in this, with the second section acting both as development and recapitulation. Although associated with student and amateur orchestras since its composition, no less a figure than Leonard Bernstein has found the Overture worthy of professional organizations. Elliott Carter, in reviewing the premiere performance, wrote, “Its opening is as lofty and beautiful as any passage that has been written by a contemporary. It is Copland in his ‘prophetic’ vein....”
A complete and authoritative biography of Copland has appeared recently: Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Man, the Music (New York: Henry Holt, 1999).
Concerto in C Major for Cello and Orchestra Franz Joseph Haydn
“Papa” Haydn (1732-1809) was in several respects indeed the father of the Classical period in music. Though he invented neither the string quartet nor the symphony, these genres developed principally in his hands, and his works in these genres are the earliest that have remained continuously in the repertoire. He also composed concerti, operas, oratorios (including two monumental late works, The Creation and The Seasons), piano music, and innumerable trios involving the Baryton, the instrument of his employer, Prince Nicholas Esterházy.
When Haydn entered the service of the Esterházys in 1761, he quickly set about improving the musical establishment there. One of his first recommendations was the appointment of his friend Joseph Weigl (1740-1820) as principal cellist at Eisenstadt. Haydn composed the present concerto for him (judging from the inscription on the only surviving set of parts), apparently prior to 1765. Haydn included this work in his personal catalogue of his compositions (begun in 1765), but the score and parts disappeared within a few decades, leaving the musical world in the uncomfortable state of knowing of the work without being able to hear it. Fortunately, as single set of parts survived, and was discovered in Prague in 1962.
The Concerto is cast in the usual three movements, but on a scale unmatched before Beethoven. All three movements are in the double-exposition variant of sonata form—rather unusual, as this form is normally associated only with concerto first movements. The first movement in particular is very Haydnesque in is “monothematicism”; that is, the second theme begins exactly like the first, but in another key. Contrasting themes follow, of course; the development and recapitulation are as expected, with a cadenza before the coda. The second movement is structurally similar, but with a greatly reduced development. The finale follows the same plan as the first movement, without a cadenza. In both the second and third movements, Haydn gives the soloist dramatically understated entrances, on sustained, soft notes. In the slow movement, this leads to lyrical melody; in the finale, the solo cellist quickly joins the general vivacity of the music. All three movements are demanding, employing the full range of the cello; the finale in particular is filled with virtuoso passage-work.
The following will provide an introduction to the literature concerning Haydn and his music.
Landon, H. C. Robbins. Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976-80).
Idem, and David Wyn Jones. Haydn: His Life and Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).
Wheelock, Gretchen. Haydn’s Ingenious Jesting with Art: Contexts of Musical Wit and Humor (New York: Schirmer Books, 1992).
Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, op. 17 Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Influenced by folk materials but not strictly a nationalist composer, Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) employed the greatest range of compositional technique of any of the Russian romantics. After studying law and a brief career in government service, he returned to school in 1861 at Rubenstein’s conservatory in St. Petersburg. He taught harmony and counterpoint at the then-new Moscow Conservatory from 1866 until 1877, when a yearly stipend from his patroness, Madame von Meck, enabled him to turn his full attention to composing. During his years as a professor, Tchaikovsky was in contact with Mily Balakirev, who, as the foremost Russian nationalist composer, was both encouraging to the obviously talented Tchaikovsky and wary of his academic milieu.
Tchaikovsky composed his Second Symphony in 1872, and it was premiered the following year. The early 1870s were the period when Tchaikovsky was most interested in nationalism, and the symphony reflects this in its use of two Ukrainian melodies and other materials having a Slavic character. The latter part of the decade proved difficult for the composer, though he completed both the Fourth Symphony and Eugen Onegin in 1878, the years 1878-1884 (following his disastrous marriage in 1877) amounted to a creative drought. He thus found work in revising some early compositions, and devoted two months to the Second Symphony, completing the revisions in January, 1879. After 1884, he steadily became both more productive and more recognized on the world scene; his induction into the Order of St. Vladimir by Tsar Alexander III was later matched by an honorary doctorate from Oxford. The last half of the 1880s saw the premiers of such masterworks as the Fifth Symphony, Queen of Spades, Sleeping Beauty, and his string sextet Souvenir de Florence, among others. But the last three years of his life, though still productive, were marked by increasing melancholy and personal crisis, leading to his suicide in 1893, shortly after the premiere of the Sixth Symphony.
The Second Symphony is in the traditional four movements. The first has an introduction that opens with a Ukrainian melody “Down by Mother Volga,” played by the horn. The first theme of the Allegro is marked by its rhythmic vitality; the lyrical second theme could hardly be more contrasting. The closing idea recalls the first theme, now in E-flat major. After an extensive development, a dramatic ritardando and accelerando lead to the recapitulation. The coda dissipates the energy built up in the closing theme, also returning us to C minor, and ends with an echo of the opening horn solo. The second movement is a march, light-hearted but with the occasional, oddly-flavored harmony. It is largely recycled from Tchaikovsky’s opera Undine, most of which he destroyed after it was rejected by the St. Petersburg Opera. The third movement, again in C minor, is a whirlwind scherzo, in the usual binary form. The trio, in E-flat major, presents a change of meter and features a tune that resembles Slavic folk music, especially in its six-bar phrasing. The finale begins with another slow introduction, after which the violins introduce the lively Ukrainian melody “The Crane,” in C major. This feature of the symphony prompted Nicholas Kashkin to give the work its nickname—in Russia, Ukraine was often called “Little Russia.” After treating this tune to a series of variations, all involving increasingly flashiy orchestration, Tchaikovsky brings us, via a transition, to a contrasting theme, in the remote key of A-flat major. This lilting tune is an outstanding representative of Tchaikovsky’s melodic gift. The development is extensive, with several abrupt changes of character. The first theme, having been heard several times in the exposition and treated thoroughly in the development, is omitted in the recapitulation, which begins with the second theme. “The Crane” returns, however, and at an even faster tempo, in the coda, to finish the movement and the symphony brilliantly.
Interested readers may wish to consult the following books:
Brown, David. Tchaikovsky, 4vols, (New York: Norton, 1978).
Leslie Kearney, ed. Tchaikovsky and his World (Princeton,: Princeton University Press, 1998).
Overture to Der Freischütz Carl Maria von Weber
Born into a family of musicians, Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) led a short but colorful life. His first musical studies were not promising, and were discontinued, but later, systematic studies with such masters as Michael Haydn and the Abbé Vogler produced rapid development. Weber became an accomplished pianist, and in his younger days also sang to his own guitar accompaniment. He was also an innovator in the field of conducting. In 1804 he took his first post, as Kapellmeister in Breslau. This and several succeeding appointments were short-lived, for various reasons, and his life took on a distinctly unsettled character. As director of the Opera in Prague in 1813 he met his future wife, the soprano Caroline Brandt. They were married in 1817, after Weber had assumed the post of Royal Saxon Kapellmeister at Dresden. As the title indicates, he had to share the limelight—Italian opera still reigned supreme, and he had to work hard to create a Germanic opera, and to generate interest in it. Weber was small, slightly built, and limped from early childhood; by his late thirties his health had begun to fail seriously. In 1825 he accepted a commission to compose an opera (Oberon) for the English stage. Although the libretto left much to be desired, he completed the music that year and went to England the next year, to oversee production. He concealed the gravity of his illness from everyone, apparently driving himself to make the opera a success and secure some financial security for his wife and children. He was found dead in his room a few weeks after the opera had opened, and was buried in London. His remains were removed in 1844 and re-interred in Dresden, under the supervision of a later Dresden Kapellmeister—Richard Wagner.
Weber read Johann August Apel’s ghost story Der Freischütz soon after its publication in 1810, and apparently thought immediately of making an opera of it. The libretto was prepared by the poet Friedrich Kind, and the opera composed during the years 1817-21. Its premiere in Berlin in June, 1821, proved to be an historic event: not only was it an immediate success with the public, but no small number of composers (including Wagner and Berlioz) were later influenced by their first contact with it. The tale is set in eighteenth-century Bohemia, and involves members of the local huntsman’s guild, the local prince’s daughter, a marksmanship contest (her hand is the prize), magic bullets, and an appearance by the evil Samiel (either Satan himself or his emissary). It has been observed that half of the opera is set at night, which is viewed both as beautiful (the heroine sings from her balcony in the moonlight), and as sinister (the casting of the magic bullets in the famous Wolf’s Glen scene).
Cast in sonata form with a slow introduction, the overture to this opera includes several melodies from the opera, and captures the essence of the drama as well. The horn quartet in the introduction immediately conjures up the forest and the hunt. (This association remained strong in German Romantic music: the horn quartet at the opening of the overture to Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel similarly presents the music to which the children, lost in the woods, later sing their evening prayer.) The tremolos and dark harmonies that follow suggest evil, and this music reappears in the Wolf’s Glen scene. The turbulent first theme of the allegro, in C minor, is associated with the forces of evil. The repeated chords in the horns at the end of the transition are used in the opera to signal the hero’s entrance into the Wolf’s Glen. The second theme, first played by the clarinet in E-flat major, is part of the heroine’s second-act aria. A development follows, but, before the recapitulation, we hear again the sinister tremolos from the introduction. After the first theme has been restated, there is a pregnant pause, after which the home key of C major appears in brilliant orchestration, leading to the restatement of the second theme, and on to the coda. The music thus aptly renders the opera’s opposition of the forces of light and darkness: the dramatic change from C minor to C major resembles, and may have been inspired by, the similar change in Haydn’s oratorio The Creation, at the words “and there was light.”
There is no readily available study of Der Freischütz; two biographies of Weber are of interest:
Warrack, John. Carl Maria von Weber, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). Weber, Max Maria von [the composer’s son]. Carl Maria von Weber: The Life of an Artist, trans. J. Palmgraves-Simpson, 2 vols. (London: Chapman and Hull, 1865; repr. New York: Greenwood Press, 1969).
Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins Johann Sebastian Bach
Few names are more prominent in musical history than that of the family Bach, whose greatest member was Johann Sebastian (1685-1750). He spent the last 27 years of his life in Leipzig, where he produced, among other things, a vast quantity of cantatas and other sacred works. Though he is remembered now largely as a sober church musician, his early career was more checkered. Raised and educated musically in the family home of Eisenach by an elder brother, Johann found himself on his own at the age of fifteen. After several years of traveling, perfecting his art, and holding a succession of positions, he secured his first major post in 1708, at the court in Weimar. Immediately before his move to Leipzig, he was in the employ of Prince Leopold at Cöthen, who “loved and understood music,” from 1717 to 1723.
It has long been assumed that Bach wrote his Concerto for Two Violins while at Cöthen, as most of his work then was instrumental rather than choral, and he is known to have composed the Brandenburg concerti during those years. But Christoph Wolff has recently suggested that the work may actually date from 1730-31. It is certainly a mature work, evincing Bach’s musical depth as much has his technical mastery. It is cast in the three-movement form typical of Baroque concerti. The first and last movements are shaped by the alternation of tutti and solo sections. The opening tutti of the first movement is unusual in that it also involves a fugue-like exposition. It has been suggested that the second movement owes something to the slow movement of Vivaldi’s A-minor Concerto for two violins, op. 3 no. 8; both are marked Largetto and are highly introspective in character. But Vivaldi’s largetto is based on a repeated ground, introduced by the orchestral tutti; Bach’s is duet-aria, featuring the solo violins throughout. Further, Vivaldi set his slow movement in D minor (the subdominant of his concerto’s home key), while Bach used the relative key (F major) for his. This duet is remarkable for the sublime arches of the melodic lines. The final movement is again fast, and formally similar to the first, but with metrical twists that sometimes seem to belie the three-four meter.
The literature on Bach and his music is vast; the following are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
David, Hans T. and Arthur Mendel, eds. The Bach Reader (New York: W. W. Norton, 1945).
Geiringer, Karl. The Bach Family: Seven Generations of Creative Genius (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954, repr. New York: Da Capo Press, 1981).
Spitta, Philipp. Johann Sebastian Bach: His Work and Influence on the Music of Germany, 1685-1750, trans. Clara Bell and J. A. Fuller-Maitland (London: Novello, 1889; repr. New York: Dover, 1951).
Wolff, Christoph. Bach: Essays on his Life and Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).
Symphony No. 85, “La Reine” Franz Joseph Haydn
“Papa” Haydn (1732-1809) was in several respects indeed the father of the Classical period in music. Though he invented neither the string quartet nor the symphony, these genres developed principally in his hands, and his works in these genres are the earliest that have remained continuously in the repertoire. He also composed concerti, operas, oratorios (including two monumental late works, The Creation and The Seasons), piano music, and innumerable trios involving the Baryton, the instrument of his employer, Prince Nicholas Esterházy.
When Haydn entered the service of the Esterházys in 1761, the symphony was in its infancy. Giovanni Battista Sammartini in Italy, Johann Anton Wenzel Stamitz at Mannheim, and Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach at Berlin, among others, had written symphonies. The first symphonies were essentially expansions of the Italian opera overture of the time, the overture’s three sections, fast-slow-fast, becoming three separate movements. The third movement quickly became standardized as a minuet; when that stately dance came to be viewed as an unsatisfactory finale, a fourth movement was added to the cycle, resulting in the form as we know it today. Haydn’s relative isolation at Esterház provided him the freedom him to follow his own Muse; he both expanded the form in structure and deepened it in content, establishing the symphony as a vehicle that has served composers well, to the present day.
In his first two decades at Esterház, Haydn’s expended much effort composing comic operas (which are now seldom performed). But Haydn’s interest in that medium gradually turned to more serious subjects, and by the mid-1780s he was aware that his tastes and his employer’s had diverged. A handsome commission in 1785 from the Concert de la Loge Olympique of Paris, for six symphonies, was thus timely. Haydn completed the set the next year, and in them advanced his symphonic style and technique still further; indeed, the “Paris Symphonies” were later overshadowed in Haydn’s ouevre only by his last six, the “London” symphonies. Symphony No. 85 was probably completed in 1785, and was premiered with the others during the 1787 season. No. 85 proved Marie Antoinette’s favorite. The first edition, issued soon after, consequently bore the title “La Reine de France.”
The symphony is in the customary four movements, though the “slow” movement (the second) is hardly slow. The first is in sonata form, and also has a slow introduction. The second theme is not strongly differentiated from the first in character (though it does not one of Haydn’s so-called “monothematic” sonata forms). The development is substantial though not quite Beethovenian. The second movement is a theme with four variations and a coda; in its general character (and even its opening motive) it calls to mind the Romanze of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The third movement is the expected minuet with trio; trio is distinctive due to the extensive use of pizzicato . The finale is a five-part rondo with coda. As is often the case with Haydn’s rondos, the couplets are not alternate themes but rather developmental episodes. The symphony as a whole, and the finale in particular, may be characterized as buoyant and cheerful.
The following will provide an introduction to the literature concerning Haydn and his music.
Landon, H. C. Robbins. Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976-80).
Idem, and David Wyn Jones. Haydn: His Life and Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).
Wheelock, Gretchen. Haydn’s Ingenious Jesting with Art: Contexts of Musical Wit and Humor (New York: Schirmer Books, 1992).
Overture to La Forza del Destino Giuseppe Verdi
Born in the same year as Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) outlived his German counterpart by more than a fifteen years—and produced in that period two operas (Otello and Falstaff) and various other works, such as the forward-looking Quattro pezzi sacri of 1898. Verdi’s life would itself make an operatic plot: from modest beginnings, with talent recognized early, through many years of supporting himself as a church organist, studying privately with local masters (he was rejected by the Milan Conservatory), finally emerging as the dominant composer of opera in Italy in his century. During the period of his first two operas (which met with mixed success at best), his wife and their two small children all died within two years (1838-40). (Verdi later very happily remarried, but that is another story.) His third opera, Nabucco, produced in 1842, was a great success, and brought him international recognition almost overnight. Following Ernani in 1844, Verdi completed fourteen operas in the next nine years; his pace understandably slowed considerably thereafter.
La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny), which was premiered in St. Petersburg in November, 1862, was one of only two operas Verdi wrote in the 1860s. The libretto was prepared by F. M. Piave, after the play Don Alvaro, o La fuerza del sino (1835) by A. P. Saavedra, Duke of Rivas, with additional scenes drawn from Schiller’s play Wallensteins Lager (1799). The overture is essentially of the potpourri type, consisting of music drawn from the opera to follow. But Verdi has taken the remarkable step of unifying the overture by including a particular, restless motive in the counterpoint or accompaniment to nearly all of the melodies used. This motive is first heard in the violins following the introductory bare octaves of the brass, as the principal idea; in the slower segment that follows, it appears as an ominous echo in the low strings. The motive comes in both obvious and subtle guises throughout the overture; it is as inescapable as destiny itself.
The literature on Verdi is quite large; the following may be particularly good starting points.
Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, Verdi: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).
William Weaver, ed. and trans., Verdi: A Documentary Study (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977).
Erik Satie (1866-1925) endured an unsettled childhood, living with his grandparents from age six to twelve, following the death of his mother. He then rejoined his father in Paris, and entered the Conservatoire the next year. His talent was recognized, but his laziness and frequent absences could not be overlooked, and he was dismissed after three years for lack of progress. A few years later, Satie’s father founded a music publishing company; Satie published some songs, the three Sarabandes (1887), the three Gymnopédies (1888), and Gnossiennes (1890).
At this point, Satie was introduced to the artistically revolutionary circle active on Montmartre, and quickly took up residence there. He met Debussy the next year, and about that time became active in the “Rose + Croix” artistic movement. He left Montmartre in 1898, and supported himself for several years as a café-concert pianist. He studied under D’Indy and Roussel at the Schola Cantorum from 1905-08. He first gained prominence in 1911, when Ravel played the Sarabandes at a concert, and Debussy conducted his orchestration of the Gymnopédies. Soon after the beginning of the First World War, Jean Cocteau heard Satie’s music and took up his cause. The scandalous opening of Satie’s ballet Parade in May, 1917, resulted in the formation of a group of young composers around him. Though actually fluid, perception of the group was defined in 1920 by Henri Collet, who dubbed them “Les Six.” Ravel summed Satie up aptly as a “precursor both brilliant and clumsy.” Satie continues to fascinate, as much for his aesthetics as for his actual compositions.
Debussy orchestrated two of the three Gymnopédies in 1896. He chose the first and the third, but ordered them in reverse. Both resemble very slow, languid waltzes. Like much of Satie’s music, they have an aimlessness in both melody and harmony. Cadences are seldom clear, and one may find it difficult to know when the piece has reached its conclusion. All this is in keeping with Satie’s idea of “wallpaper music”—a precursor of our modern “background music”—which was intended to provide ambiance, but not command attention.
Among writings about Satie are the following:
Alan M. Gillmore, Erik Satie (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992).
Pierre-David Templier, Erik Satie. transl. Elenor L. French and David S. French (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1973).
Concertino for Trombone and Orchestra, op. 4 Ferdinand David
Ferdinand David (1810-73), was a leading violinist of his generation, a leader in chamber music and orchestral circles, and active as a composer and editor. It is thus curious, if not ironic, that his compositional output is today represented almost entirely by a concertino for trombone. Born in Hamburg, David studied violin with Spohr and theory with Hauptmann. While a violinist in the Koenigstadt theater orchestra, he made the acquaintance of the Mendelssohns, with whom he played chamber music. He led a string quartet in Estonia from 1829-35. The next year, at Mendelssohn’s invitation, he assumed leadership of the Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig; he was also involved with the Stadttheater orchestra, and took charge of church music in Leipzig. In 1843, he was appointed head of the violin department of the new Leipzig Conservatory. Among his pupils were Joachim (briefly), Wilhelmj, and Wasielewski. But his pedagogical influence reached beyond his studio, as he brought out editions of studies by Kreutzer, Rode, and Paganini, and prepared the first practical edition of Bach’s unaccompanied violin works. His edition of Corelli’s “La Folia” Sonata is still sometimes used, and he is well remembered as the violinist for whom Mendelssohn wrote his Violin Concerto.
The Concertino for Trombone was composed in 1837, for the multi-virtuoso Carl Traugott Queisser. It proved to be a favorite among David’s original works, and was performed at a memorial concert for David following his death. The work is cast in the typical concertino shape: three sections, the first and last of which are the exposition and recapitulation of a sonata form, with a contrasting quasi-movement in place of a development. The double exposition of the concerto is problematic in the more compact concertino; David cleverly begins quietly, with lyrical material that we later recognize as the “second” theme, thus providing for an orchestral opening and a grand entrance by the soloist. The contrasting “movement” is in this case a funeral march, following which the themes of the first section are recapitulated as expected.
Symphony No. 1, op. 10 Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitry Shostakovich 1906-75) learned the piano from his mother, a professional, at age nine. He entered the Petrograd Conservatory in 1919, but had to play the piano in cinemas to augment the family income, as his father had died. He completed a diploma in piano in 1923, and another in composition, under Maximilian Steynberg, two years later. His first symphony was composed as a graduation piece, and was highly acclaimed at its premiere in 1926. Within two years it had been played in Berlin and Philadelphia. In the meantime, Shostakovich had earned an honorable mention as a pianist at the Chopin Competition of 1927.
Shostakovich eventually composed fifteen symphonies, matched by a series of fifteen string quartets, not to mention an enormous amount of music for other media, including opera and film scores, ballets, choral music, other chamber music, and, of course, the piano. Having come of age in revolutionary times, Shotakovich felt that citizenship carried moral duties, with which he was constantly striving to balance his calling as a musician and artist. His struggles with the Party apparachniks during the Stalin years are well known, especially the uproar over his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. Through it all, he earned among his peers a reputation for honesty and integrity.
The First Symphony is cast in the usual four movements, with the slow movement third rather than second. The first movement, in F minor, is in a modified sonata form, with an introduction. The themes are distinguished not merely by character, but by tempo and meter as well: the waltz-like second theme contrasts strikingly with the march-like first theme. The second movement, in A minor, is, in essence, a scherzo. But it is not a speeded-up minuet, as it is in duple meter. Again, contrast is achieved via slower, quieter material, in triple meter. The third movement, in D-flat major, is filled with a grand lyricism that is nevertheless distinctly twentieth-century in character. The finale, which returns us to F minor (and ends in F major), is cast in a modified sonata form, with an introduction. A triumphant second theme contrast with the nervously busy first theme; both are developed extensively. Two sections in a much slower tempo add an air of mystery, and provide for radical transformations of both themes. And whereas the first three movements all ended quietly, the return of the second theme, in F major, leads to a brilliant coda, ending the movement and the symphony fortissimo.
The musical language is tonal throughout, but decidedly twentieth-century in its treatment of dissonance. The relationship of tonalities is also modern: the keys of the four movements outline an augmented triad, creating a hidden layer of instability. The orchestration accentuates the pungent harmonies and dissonances, not least by the inclusion of the piano as an orchestral instrument.
Those interested in Shostakovich will want to read:
Solomon Volkov, ed., trans. Antonina W. Bouis, Testimony: The Memoirs of Shostakovich (New York: Harper & Row, 1979).
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and career (1756-91), from child prodigy to supreme artist dead at age 35, are now so familiar that little if any retelling is needed. The sheer volume of output in his short life would be astounding even if it were of mediocre quality; that his vast œuvre is so consistently of surpassing quality as well, is truly a miracle. Furthermore, Mozart’s interests ran the entire gamut of musical genres: from dances to symphonies, from simple songs to large-scale Masses and operas.
Mozart composed his last three symphonies (nos. 39-41) in the summer of 1788. It has been commonly reported that, unlike nearly all of his other work, these symphonies were composed for their own sake only, and not for any particular purpose. Part of this lore even holds that they were not performed in Mozart’s lifetime. But recent scholarship has uncovered considerable evidence that Mozart arranged for performances of these works in different times and places, and made revisions (especially to the wind parts) to accommodate the different ensembles involved.
Symphony No. 40 is cast in the usual four movements, each of which is in an expected form. The outer movements are in sonata form, with extensive developments, and the second movement is in an expanded binary structure, approaching sonata form. The third movement is a minuet with trio; the minuet and trio are each in the expected binary form. But this symphony is famous for the extraordinary nature of its content rather than the regularity of its structure. The character is on the whole quite dark. The first movement begins in hushed agitation; the first theme enters with an appoggiatura motive that only adds to the unease. The more cheerful second theme, introduced in the relative major, is thoroughly transformed when it is recapitulated in the tonic minor. The development section features the appoggiatura motive, in combinations of unprepared dissonances so striking as to earn them a citation in Arnold Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre of 1911. Even the slow movement, which is in e-flat major, is introspective, and contains some anguished moments. The minuet is thoroughly uncomfortable: one should be able to dance, if only mentally, to a dance movement, and the irregular phrasing frequently leaves the listener on the wrong foot, as it were. The trio heightens the effect by providing a relative model of symmetrical phrasing, which is undone by the minuet’s return. The finale begins with a “Mannheim rocket” (an ascending arpeggio figure), conventional enough except for the reversed dynamics: a soft question receives a loud answer. Compared to the opening of the “Jupiter” symphony, for example, this seems out of character to the point of being impolite. As in the first movement, the lyrical second theme appears first in the relative major, with a noticeable change of character when it is restated in the tonic minor. The development section opens with a remarkable series of notes, stated in bare octaves. All twelve notes of the chromatic scale are used in a space of nineteen notes. The passage features the interval of the diminished seventh, and has the effect of calling one’s sense of tonality into question. The first theme developed thoroughly, using sequence and imitation. A series of modulations eventually leads to c-sharp minor—the tonality most distant from the home key of g minor. The movement ends with a coda so perfunctory as to seem brusque.
Sinfonia concertante, op. 41 Franz Danzi
Franz Ignaz Danzi (1763-1826) was born into a musical family in Mannheim, where his father had settled after leaving Italy. The elder Danzi was a cellist in the famous Mannheim court orchestra under Johann Stamitz, and it was from him that Franz first learned the cello, piano, and voice. His older brother was a violinist and his sister a soprano and composer. Franz himself played in the Mannheim orchestra from age 15, and studied further at the Mannheim School of Music directed by Abbé Vogler. His first compositions were for the new National Theater in Mannheim; he wrote incidental music at least as early as 1782. He moved to Munich in 1783, where, in 1788, he had a pronounced success with his comic opera Die Mitternachtsstunde (The Midnight Hour). He married in 1790, and toured widely for several years with his wife, who was a soprano. After 1798 he accepted a series of Kapellmeister positions, at Munich, Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe. In Stuttgart he developed a close relationship with Carl Maria von Weber. He composed a great deal for the theater, including operas of all varieties, and also choral music, songs, and orchestral music. He is remembered now, however, largely for his chamber music, particularly that for woodwind quintet, a medium of which he was an early exponent.
The Sinfonia concertante, op. 41, one of several concerti Danzi wrote for multiple soloists, dates from about 1814, during the composer’s years in Karlsruhe. It is in the three movements usual with the classical concerto. The first is in sonata form, with double exposition. As is often the case with works for multiple soloists, there is no cadenza. There is, however, plenty of brilliant passage work for the flute and clarinet alike. The Larghetto is a cantabile duet for the solists, accompanied by a reduced orchestra. The finale is a polonaise in rondo form, a type used also by other composers of the period for concerto finales—the last movements of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Weber’s Horn concerto come to mind. This one is a seven-part rondo (ABACABA); the B material is in the dominant key the first time, and in the tonic the second. The C material takes us to the relative minor. There are connecting passages as well, including an orchestral ritornello. But it is the soloists who shine, carrying most of the thematic material, along with some showy, virtuosic displays.
Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome) arr. Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is now remembered almost exclusively for his three orchestral showpieces The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals—but he had other musical bents as well, as the present offering illustrates. After completing studies at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna (1891-1901), Respighi was active for some years both as a string player and pianist. He visited Russia twice in the years 1900-03, studying orchestration with Rimsky-Korsakov. Musicology was then in its formative years, and old music was being revived, at least in a scholarly way. Respighi began to take an interest in neglected Italian music of the relatively remote past. In 1913 he settled in Rome, as professor of composition at the Liceo (later Conservatorio) di Santa Cecilia, of which he later served also as director.
Before about 1910, Respighi’s music shows much influence by his teachers and models; later, he began introducing archaic musical elements into his music. His three suites of free arrangements of 16th and 17th Century lute pieces, all titled Ancient Airs and Dances (Antiche Danze ed Arie), represent the logical conclusion of this line of thought. Pines of Rome, though not overtly incorporating such elements, nevertheless benefits from the composer’s work with them. The musical language is tonal, but with modal tinges and characteristically twentieth-century treatments of dissonance. Respighi composed Pines of Rome in 1924. For the American premiere in 1926 he wrote to the New York Philharmonic program annotator, “While in his preceding work, The Fountains of Rome, the composer sought to reproduce by means of tone an impression of Nature, in The Pines of Rome he uses Nature as a point of departure, in order to recall memories and vision. The century-old trees which so characteristically dominate the Roman landscape become witnesses to the principal events in Roman life.” The four movements are described in a preface to the score as follows:
I. The Pines of the Villa Borghese. Children play in the pine groves . . . the dance round in circles, they play at soldiers, marching and fighting, they are wrought up by the own cries like swallows at evening . . . suddenly the scene changes, and II. Pines near a Catacomb. we see shades of the pine-trees fringing the entrance to a catacomb. From the depth rises the sound of mournful psalm-singing, floating through the air like a solemn hymn, and gradually and mysteriously dispersing. III. The Pines of the Janiculum. A quiver runs through the air: the pine-trees of the Janiculum [one of the fabled seven hills of Rome] stand distinctly outlined in the clear light of a full moon. A nightingale is singing. IV. The Pines of the Appian Way. Misty dawn on the Appian Way: solitary pine-trees guarding the magic landscape; the muffled, ceaseless rhythm of unending footsteps . . . a fantastic vision of bygone glories: trumpets sound and, in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun, a consular army bursts forth . . . mounting in triumph to the Capitol.
As in the earlier Fountains, Respighi’s orchestration is brilliant and imaginative. Among the many special effects, one might note that some of the celli are required to tune their lowest string down a half step at the end of the third movement, and retune it to normal pitch during the fourth. The score also calls for a gramophone (now replaced by a tape deck), to play the bird songs at the end of the third movement.
Aaron Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man
Born in New York City to immigrant parents, Aaron Copland (1900-1990) first learned the piano from an older sister. He progressed quickly, studying piano with Leopold Wolfsohn, Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler. He studied harmony, counterpoint, and form with Rubin Goldmark, and soon began composing. He spent the years 1920-24 in France at the American Conservatory at Fountainbleu, studying composition under Nadia Boulanger. He returned to Europe several times during the 1920's, hearing music of the leading composers of the era.
His compositions of these early years show a wide range of influences, from Debussy to Jazz, increasingly incorporated into a unique, personal style. Serge Koussevitzky was an important early interpreter and champion of Copland's orchestral music. In the 1930's, Copland began to pursue a more consciously American musical idiom. Though he never pursued an academic career, Copland became very active as a lecturer, and taught at Harvard when Walter Piston was on leave. He wrote a number of articles and two books, What to Listen for in Music and Our New Music (second edition title, The New Music, 1900-1960). His lecture series given as Norton Professor of Poetics as Harvard (1951) was published afterward as Music and Imagination. Not content to rest on his laurels, Copland explored many of the newer musical ideas, including serialism, in the 1950's and '60's.
Fanfare for the Common Man was composed in late 1942 (soon after A Lincoln Portrait), as part of a series of patriotic fanfares commissioned by Eugene Goosens for the Cincinnati Orchestra's 1942-43 season. It was premiered in the spring of 1943. Copland had considered several other titles, all of which related to the then raging Second World War. Copland made his final choice to recognize that it is the common fold who did most and suffered most in that conflict. The work stands apart from the other fanf ares in the commissioned series, and indeed from practically all other fanfares, in its avoidance of clichés. Though built from short motives, it is comparatively lyrical. The intervals of the fourth and fifth are featured, among the more ordinary triad outlines. The thetic (down-beat) rhythmic idea heard in the percussion at the outset reverses the more stereotypical arsic (up-beat) fanfare rhythm, creating a more solemn atmosphere.
A complete and authoritative biography of Copland has recently appeared: Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Man, the Music (New York: Henry Holt, 1999).
Joan Tower - For the Uncommon Woman
Though born in New Rochelle, New York (in 1938), Joan Tower spent her childhood in South America, returning to the US in her mid-teens. She attended Bennington College and Columbia University, eventually earning a DMA in 1978. She studied primarily with Otto Luening and Chou Wen-Chung, but her teachers also included Darius Milhaud, Charles Wuorinen, and Wallingford Riegger. In 1969, Tower founded and became the principal pianist for the Da Capo Chamber Players in New York. Between 1974 and 1980, she received three Composer Scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and a Guggenheim fellowship. She has been commissioned by the Koussevitsky Fund and the Naumberg Fund, and was composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony form 1985-87. She has served on the faculty at Bard College since 1972.
Tower's earlier work was intensely serial, but since 1974 has become more lyrical, and is often inspired by images. She has acknowledged the influence of Beethoven and Stravinsky on her compositional approach. Her Piano Concerto (1985) is sub-titled "Homage to Beethoven," and an orchestral work from 1980 is entitled Petroushkates. Among her many works are five for various small brass ensembles (some with percussion) entitled Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, the first of which was premiered in Houston in 1987. The present offering, for large orchestra (which is not called a "fanfare") dates from 1992. Though the harmonic language is thoroughly modern (and rather dissonant), the work indeed shows Stravinskian qualities in it rhythmic treatment, and a Beethovenian concern for motivic aspects. The general hustle and bustle of the piece creates a festive air, accentuated by vivid orchestral colors.
J. Todd Frazier - Revelation through Imagination a prayer of renewal for the new age
A native Houstonian, Todd Frazier studied composition at the Eastman School of Music with Samuel Adler and at the Juliard School with David Diamond. Following some additional post-graduate work at Juliard, he returned to Houston to direct the annual American Festival for the Arts program. Recent works include his Second Symphony, "Buffalo Altar," which was commissioned by the Eastman School, and a Guitar Concerto, "Brazos de Dios." Both will be premiered this May on a concert of the Society for the Performing Arts, the former with actor Barry Corbin as narrator, and the latter with Houston guitarist Susan McDonald.
The present offering is the third movement of Frazier's First Symphony (the last movement of which is in progress). It was composed in summer, 1999, for this concert, and reflects the composer's attitude towards the new millennium: it is reflective and meditative. The language is neo-tonal; tone color plays a primary role, with blocks of sound being treated as "sonic objects." Contrary dynamic shading causes these sonic objects to grow out of or fade into each other, creating an effect of movement in acoustical space. The slow tempo and changing meters give a sense of timelessness that is intrinsic to the movement's character.
Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, op. 55
Beethoven's biography is so familiar as to need little retelling. Born in Bonn in 1770, he settled in Vienna in 1792, remaining there until his death in 1827. Recognized as a prodigy, he developed a more powerful style of piano playing than Mozart had cultivated. As a composer, however, he was a comparatively late bloomer, and did not produce anything of lasting importance until he was in his mid-twenties. And, by age twenty-eight, he noticed a progressive hearing loss; his increasing deafness isolated him from musical currents and fads of the day, and forced him to pursue his own path, directed exclusively by his personal muse.
Unlike his predecessors Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven tended to express intensely personal matters through his music. In this, he heralded the Romantic era. His eighth Piano Sonata (Sonate Pathétique), composed in 1798, is generally felt to be an expression of his anguish in the initial stages of his deafness. The Eroica symphony, completed in the summer of 1804 but not premiered until the following spring, expresses a more optimistic view of life. As is well known, Beethoven had originally planned to dedicate the work to Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he saw as a liberator of the downtrodden masses. But when Napoleon declared himself Emperor, Beethoven destroyed the original title page, giving the work a new title: Sinfonia eroica ("heroic symphony" in Italian).
Beethoven's first two symphonies were already on a par with the largest symphonies of Haydn and Mozart. Even so, the first hearers of the Eroica could hardly have been prepared for the sheer monumentality of the work. The first movement runs to nearly 700 measures; The principal themes are given expansive presentations in the exposition, and then treated to exhaustive working-out in the development. Beethoven even introduces a new theme in theme in the development, which is restated in the very substantial coda.
The second movement is a funeral march. Beethoven had previously written a "Funeral March for a Dead Hero" as the second movement of his Piano Sonata in A-Flat, op. 26. But whereas the earlier march is gloomy, with repeated notes in dotted rhythms, this one is more lyrical, solemn rather than brooding, altogether noble. The trio changes from C minor to C major, building to a grand climax before returning to the first theme. The return is not simply a restatement, however; Beethoven completely reworks the material as a double fugue, and concludes with an extended coda.
The Scherzo is also of unusual proportions, though cast in the expected form. The Scherzo proper is a binary structure, though the second strain is unusually long and complex. The Trio features the unusual grouping of three horns. Beethoven covers his seams by writing a transitional passage leading to the return of the Scherzo, which is slightly reworked. The coda, for a change, is compact.
The finale is a set of variations; in this, it foreshadows the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven chose for his theme a rather unprepossessing contredanse, which he had used several times before. It appeared in an early set of German dances, and was recycled in his only ballet (Prometheus). And he had already written a set of variations for piano (op. 35). But for the Eroica, he broke with the traditional pattern of theme-and-variations, which Jan LaRue has described as a "musical link sausage," by incorporating free and fugal episodes. The result is a more continuous and cohesive structure. After a brief introduction, Beethoven begins by presenting not the theme itself, but its bass line only; to this he adds first two and then three contrapuntal lines. The result is that the full theme appears as Variation III! A fugal treatment follows after a transition, and then Variation V, which begins in the very remote key of B minor. The next variation transforms the theme into a march (in G minor); this is followed by another fugal section. After a free development section, the theme returns a slower tempo; it is given two variations, but the theme's repeats are written out and themselves varied, so that we get four variations in the time of two. A coda follows, ending the movement and the symphony with a brilliant flourish.
Among the many biographies and studies of Beethoven, one that might especially interest the non-specialist is Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (New York: Schirmer Books, 1998).
"Russian Easter" Overture Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Russian music was divided in the later Nineteenth Century between the internationalists, among whom Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky were the most prominent, and the Nationalists, chief among whom were the "Mighty Five": Cui, Borodin, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), though the youngest of the group, had the most lasting influence, not only through his compositions and his book on orchestration, but also through his students (who included Ippolitov-Ivanov, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev). Although he had studied the piano as a youngster, he had an otherwise limited musical background, and indeed at first pursued a career as a naval officer. He composed in his spare time, and, despite his lack of real credentials, he was appointed professor of composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1871, resigning his naval commission in 1873. He worked hard to make good his deficiencies, even enrolling in Tchaikovsky's counterpoint class (he said it was the hardest work he ever did), and making himself a consummate orchestrator. He is remembered for his operas (more in Russia than elsewhere), and for orchestral music such as his Russian Easter Overture, Capriccio espagnol, and Sheherazade.
Rimsky-Korsakov composed Russian Easter during the summer of 1888, the same period during which he also completed Sheherazade. According to remarks in his is autobiography, he drew on childhood memories (having grown up near an Orthodox monastery). He also was aware that the popular celebration mixes the sacred and the profane: "the overture contains reminiscences of the ancient prophesy, the Gospel story and a general picture of an Easter service with its 'pagan merry-making.' Do not the flowing beards of the priests and sextons in their white surplices and vestments, singing in Allegro Vivo tempo...take one's imagination back to pagan times? And what about all those Easter eggs, loaves and burning candles....It was this legendary and pagan side of the festival, this transition from the gloomy and mysterious evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious rejoicing of Easter Sunday, that I wanted to represent in my overture." The composer went so far as to attach to the published score a program, which consists mainly of excerpts from the Orthodox liturgy for Easter (which is based of course on the Scriptural accounts familiar in all branches of Christianity). The program concludes with additions by Rimsky-Korsakov: "'Resurrexit' ["He is risen"] sang the choirs of angels in heaven to the sound of the trumpets of the archangels and to the noise of the wings of the seraphim. 'Resurrexit' sang the preists in the temples in the midst of clouds of incense and of the light of innumerable candles and the sound of triumphant bells."
Broadly speaking, the overture consists of a slow introduction (which features quintuple meter) and an allegro, in sonata form. But this simple outline is much obscured by sub-sections of contrasting tempo and character, and by insertions of cadenzas for various soloists. In particular, the imitation of a priestly chant by the trombone, supported by a choir of low strings, reminds us of the programmatic nature of the work. And as such, there is relatively little in the way of development; the composer was primarily interested in painting a picture for us. Indeed, so much of the work's effect depends on orchestral color that many of the harmonic effects (with their modal tinges) are would now seem banal, were it not for Rimsky-Korsakov's splendid orchestration.
Lieutenant Kijé Suite Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) showed great musical talent as a child. After studying piano with his mother, he continued with Reinhold Glière before entering the St. Petersburg Conservatory at age thirteen. His composition teachers there included Rimsky -Korsakov and Tcherepnin; he also won first prize in piano before graduating. He was fond of keen dissonances and biting sarcasm, and even his earliest compositions raised eyebrows. In 1918 he fled the revolutionary turmoil, reaching the United States via Japan. Among the music composed in the U.S. was his opera The Love for Three Oranges. He spent the years 1920-33 in mainly in Paris, and during this time wrote mostly instrumental music, including symphonies, two of his ten piano sonatas, chamber music, and ballets. During the next two or three years he made several exploratory visits to the Soviet Union, and eventually resettled there in 1936. He was generally treated well by the authorities, and managed to avoid the difficulties in which his younger contemporary, Dmitri Shostakovich, often found himself. Even so, the Central Committee of the Communist Party denounced his music in 1948 (along with that of Shostakovich and Khatchaturian, et. al.). The music composed after his return to his homeland includes his last piano sonatas, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, the oratorio Aleksandr Nevsky, and Peter and the Wolf.
Lieutenant Kijé was Prokofiev's first Soviet commission. The film maker Feinzimmer, based in Leningrad, approached Prokofiev in the summer of 1933, to write incidental music to accompany a film about a soldier who never was. The story, in brief, is as follows: The Tsar mistakenly 'notices' a Lieutenant Kijé on a roll sheet. There is no such person, but none of the other officers is willing to tell the Tsar that he is in error. But the Tsar takes an interest in this figment of his imagination, and the staff scramble to invent details of Kijé's life in answer to the Tsar's inquiries. When His Majesty becomes so interested that he wishes to meet the Lieutenant, however, the game is up, and the conspirators must regretfully report that Kijé has met an untimely but honorable death, and has been duly buried. It is, of course, "The Emperor's New Clothes," but without the revelation at the end. Making fun of the vanquished Tsar must have seemed appropriate at the time, but, in light of the power that Stalin wielded (and the purges of 1937 and after), the irony seems rather grim. In any case, the project appealed to Prokofiev's sense of humor, and he composed the music in a few months time. The films was never realized, but Prokofiev simply extracted the present suite from the score; it has become one of his most-performed and best-liked works.
In light of the story, the movements require little explanation. Troïka refers, in this case, to a particularly Russian sort of sleigh drawn by three horses abreast-that is, the movement is a sleigh ride. At Kijé's burial, we hear bit of the previous movements bass in review, as if in a eulogy, ending fittingly with the music that heralded his birth. The musical materials are throughout typically Prokofievian: clear though often changing tonalities; triadic harmonies, frequently with added notes; and the characteristic dissonances. The orchestration is also colorful, featuring solos for several instruments (from piccolo to double bass, and including a saxophone), military fanfares in the brass, much percussion, and such special effects as the balalaika imitations in the strings in the Troïka.
Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, op. 56 (Scottish) Felix Mendelssohn
Born into a well-to-do family, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-48) enjoyed the advantages of a sound education and frequent exposure to fine arts and music. As the Mendelssohn household in Berlin often sponsored musical soirées, young Felix hear much music as a child, an participated as pianist in adolescence. Talented also in the visual arts, he chose a career in music, studying composition with Karl Friedrich Zelter. (Nearly forgotten today, Zelter was then well known, and a leader in Berlin's musical life; it is said that Goethe preferred Zelter's setting of his poems to Beethoven's.) The young Mendelssohn was a fine pianist, and began composing before entering his teens. His best early works are the Sinfonias, mostly for string orchestra, and the overture to A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, which he composed at age seventeen. In 1829, at his parents' behest, he undertook an extensive concert tour, on one leg of which he made the first of ten visits to England, where he was well received and was to become very popular. He also traveled to Scotland, and the place left an indelible impression on him. His Fingal's Cave (Hebrides) Overture is one souvenir of this trip, and the first sketches for the Third Symphony date from this period also.
But Mendelssohn was not to return to his sketches and finish the Scottish Symphony for a dozen years. He was a very busy young man: he toured Europe as a pianist (his Fourth, "Italian" Symphony followed a visit there in 1832) and in 1835 he began his tenure as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. This association proved an enormous success for all parties. Mendelssohn raised the standard of orchestral performance, and introduced the mixture of older and newer works that has been a feature of symphonic programming ever since. Associated with Leipzig for most of his adult life, Mendelssohn was to found the Leipzig Conservatory and serve as its first director. He was also vital in rediscovering and reviving the music of another adopted Leipziger-J. S. Bach. He married in 1837, and his growing family-eventually five children-must also have made demands on his time.
By the time he returned to the Scottish sketches, during a less-than-satisfying stint in the Academy of the Arts for King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, Mendelssohn had matured as a composer. (The numbering of Mendelssohn's symphonies reflects the order of their publication; the Third was actually the last of the five to be completed.) This symphony does not paint the Scottish landscape, but rather communicates the character of the country and its people as Mendelssohn had perceived them.
The work is cast in the usual four movements, but, as in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Scherzo is placed second rather than third, and the slow movement therefore is third. The four movements are played without pause, and Mendelssohn uses various devices to meld them together without sacrificing their separate characters and identities. The Allegro un poco agitato of the first movement is in a straight-forward sonata form, with two restless but lyrical themes, each in a minor key. This is framed by an Andante con moto that serves as an introduction and returns (abridged) to act both as an epilogue to the first movement and as a bridge to the second. The scherzo, the most obviously Scottish of the four movements, represents the dance in the symphonic cycle, but is not a descendant of the triple-metered minuet. Instead, Mendelssohn gives us a lively, duple-meter piece that recalls the Highland Fling or a Scottish reel. The movement is not in the traditional ternary form (Scherzo-Trio-Scherzo), but in a modified sort of sonata form. The third movement is lyrical and somewhat introverted, with some dark, quasi-funeral march episodes. The final movement, Allegro vivacissimo, follows immediately, changing the mood abruptly. It is interesting that in additional notes Mendelssohn left but did not include in the published score, he further characterized this movement as "Allegro Guerriero" (warlike allegro)-the same marking Max Bruch later chose for the final movement of his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra. This movement is also in sonata form, with a first theme in a minor, and a contrasting theme in C major (which is transformed to the minor mode in the recapitulation). But this movement is not the finale; for that purpose Mendelssohn provides an epilogue, Allegro maestoso assai, which recalls the 6/8 meter of the first movement but is thematically independent. This epilogue is a highly unusual, perhaps unique formal twist in symphonic music; perhaps it represents the patina imparted by the passage of time to Mendelssohn's memories of Scotland. At any rate, it introduces a new idea, in A Major, which is skillfully built to a rich, warm conclusion-a coda not to the fourth movement alone, but to the Symphony as a whole.
Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila Mikhail Glinka
It is fitting that the father of Russian musical romanticism should have heard Russion folk songs, almost exclusively, in his early childhood. It was not until he was ten years old that Mikhail Glinka (1804-57) became interested in Western music. Three years later he was sent to school at St. Petersburg, where he received a rather unsystematic musical education (and much of that simply by being in St. Petersburg). He also excelled in languages, a gift of no small value to a man who spent years abroad, traveling to the musical capitals of Europe (Rome, Milan, Paris, Berlin), and also to Spain.
Ruslan and Lyudmila, an opera in five acts, was composed over five years, beginning in 1837, and premiered in 1842. Based on Puskin's mock epic of that title, creation of the libretto was turned over to V. F. Shirkov when Pushkin was killed in a duel. The plot involves the brave knight Ruslan and his fiancée Lyudmila, who (as foretold in the first act) are not to be united without having first passed through many trials. The rest of the opera is populated by fantastic characters, and includes episodes involving magic or sorcery. The rousing overture is in the expected sonata form, with some notable twists. The first theme material is lively and brilliant; the lyric second theme appears first in an unusually remote key. This melody is taken from Ruslan's aria in Act III, at the words "O Lyudmila,... My heart believes that the storm will pass, that fate will be assuaged and will give me back your love and your embraces..."(from the translation by Philip Taylor). In the coda, a twice heard sequence incorporates the whole tone scale in the bass line. The orchestration gives special prominence to the tympani, and in general foreshadows the masterful orchestration for which the Russian romantic composers were famous.
Les Filles de Cadix Léo Delibes
Having been introduced to music by his mother and uncle, Léo Delibes (1836-91) studied at the Conservatoire in Paris, and became a church organist. But he was also interested in the theater, and served also as a chorus master at the Ópera. In his thirties he began to produce works for the stage, including the ballet Coppélia (1870) and the opera Lakmé (1883). The latter is notable, among other features, for its oriental color. Delibes' ability to capture exotic flavor is also displayed in his song Les Filles de Cadix (1867). The poem tells of three young men and three young women, out on the town on a Sunday evening, dancing the bolero (the rhythm which pervades the piece). The ladies take great delight in the light-hearted, flirtatious banter of their young men, but reject the more serious advances of an aristocratic scion.
Estrellita Manuel Ponce
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) was precocious, becoming chief organist at the church of San Diego in Aguascalientes at the age of fifteen. He undertook further study in Mexico City and in Europe. He returned to join the faculty of the Mexico City Conservatory, as a professor of piano, but later spent many years abroad, living first in Havana, and still later in Paris. He resettled permanently in Mexico in 1933. Estrellita (Little Star) is an arrangement Ponce made in 1912 of a popular song. It enjoyed great popularity in Latin America between the World Wars, and Jascha Heifetz made an arrangement of it for violin and piano. The text (by an unknown author) addresses a star, asking if the singer's love for an absent sweetheart is reciprocated. (The annotator is indebted to Eduardo Garcia-Novelli for assistance with the Spanish).
"Ah! Je veux vivre" from Roméo et Juliette Charles Gounod
Charles Gounod (1818-93) is now best remembered to his opera Faust and for his setting of the "Ave Maria" based on Bach's C-Major Prelude. He had a lifelong interest in church music as well, but that part of his œuvre is largely forgotten; Roméo et Juliette, second in success only to Faust, premiered in 1876. The Valse is from the opening scene: Juliette is about to make her debut into high society; her father leaves her alone for a moment, she sings about her excitement as she stands at the threshold of adulthood:
Je veux vivre
I want to live
"Oh! Mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi Giacomo Puccini
Descended from a long line of musicians, Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) is remembered for his operas, especially Tosca, La Bohéme, and Madame Butterfly. Gianni Schicchi, the third of a set of one act operas, was written in 1918. It is set in medieval Florence, based on a passage from Dante's Inferno. The comic plot revolves around two lovers, Lauretta (Schicchi's daughter) and Rinuccio, whose family has been disinherited, as the family patriarch, Buoso Donati, has died, leaving all his possessions to the local monastery. Schicchi of course wants nothing further to do with them, but Lauretta pleads with him in "oh! Mio babbino caro" to look favorably on her and Rinuccio's love for each other. The rest of the plot involves Gianni Schicchi's scheme to foil Donati's will and secure an inheritance for his daughter's fiancé.
On the Beautiful Blue Danube Johann Strauss, Jr.
The waltz emerged from a family of similar German dances in the latter part of the eighteenth century, replacing the more formal minuet. Popular with the younger folk, it aroused worry in their elders: unlike the minuet, the waltz required couples to dance in an embrace - which became closer in the nineteenth century. And some worried that all the rapid whirling about would have deleterious effects on the dancers' health. Nevertheless, the waltz survived, and, after a decline in the second quarter of the century, was revived in Vienna by Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss, Sr., to become the greatest (and most enduring) dance craze of all time.
A son of "The Father of the Waltz", it now seems inevitable that the younger Johann Strauss (1825-99) would go down in history as "The Waltz King." In fact, his father opposed a musical career for his namesake, and had him educated to become a banker. Nevertheless, Viennese dancing seems to have run in the family, for Johann and his brothers created waltzes, two steps, polkas, operettas, and other popular music that have remained favorites with the Viennese for over a century. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, composed in 1867, is a chain of five waltzes, with an introduction and substantial coda. An instant and lasting success, these waltzes were treated to a showy piano transcription by Franz Liszt, and later featured in the soundtrack of the 1968 motion picture 2001.
Pavane, op. 50 Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was one of the major figures in French music at the turn of the century. Remembered particularly for his songs and for his Requiem, he also wrote a considerable body of piano music. His orchestral output is less, though his Pelléas et Mélisande suite is heard regularly. The Pavane, composed in 1887, evokes but does not reproduce the stately sixteenth century dance of that name, and foreshadows Ravel's Pavane pour une infante defunte. Its long melodic phrases look back on the Romantic era, while its modally tinged harmonies suggest the dawn of the twentieth century.
Fantasia on Greensleeves Ralph Vaughn Williams
Although the Greensleeves melody is now most readily associated with the Christmas carol "What Child is this?", it actually originated as a love song in Renaissance England. It is built on the romanesca, a standard dance bass formula of the time. The title derives from the original lyrics, addressed to "my lady Greensleeves." Fittingly, therefore, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) employed this and other Elizabethan materials in his opera Sir John in Love (1929), for which Vaughn Williams himself wrote the libretto, based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. "Greensleeves" is sung by Mrs. Ford, in her feigned seduction of Falstaff in Act III. Contrast in the Fantasia is supplied by a folk tune, "Lovely Joan," used to create an interlude in Act II. (The Fantasia was arranged from the operatic materials by Ralph Greaves in 1934.)
Romeo and Juliet: Overture-Fantasy Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
Influenced by folk materials but not strictly a nationalist composer, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) employed the greatest range of compositional technique of any of the Russian romantics. After studying law and a brief career in government service, he returned to school in 1861 at Rubenstein's conservatory in St. Petersburg. He taught harmony and counterpoint at the then new Moscow Conservatory, from 1866 until 1877 a yearly stipend from his patroness, Mme von Meck, enabled him to turn his full attention to composing. During his years as a professor, Tchaikovsky was in full contact with Mily Balakirev, who, as the foremost Russian nationalist composer, was both encouraging to the obviously talented Tchaikovsky and wary of his academic milieu. In the summer of 1869, Balakirev suggested to Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet as a subject for a tone poem, even going so far as to write four measures of an introduction. The result was Tchaikovsky's first real masterpiece - in its first incarnation. After its premiere in 1870, Tchaikovsky rewrote the piece, incorporating many ideas suggested by Balakirev. These mostly concerned the introduction and coda (and are substantial). The third version (1880) is the one performed today (and generally).
Designated "Overture-Fantasy," the work is in effect a tone poem, cast in sonata form, with a large introduction. Taking a cue from Liszt, Tchaikovsky in fact repeats a large part of this introduction, in an unusual key relationship, down a half step. The allegro guisto opens with a theme that fairly bristles with rhythmic energy. This energy is dissipated via a lengthy transition, at last giving way to the second ("love") theme, which displays Tchaikovsky's gift for lush melody. The key relationship is again unusual: B minor for the first theme and D-flat Major for the second. This is in some respects a characteristic of Russian music of the period. The development, like the introduction, also features half step key relationships. The recapitulation follows seamlessly, and the second theme is somewhat expanded. The first material returns, in a coda, leading to a pregnant silence. An epilogue follows, in which the love theme appears, along with a transformed version of a four note motive in ascending thirds, heard first in the introduction.
Summer Music J. Todd Frasier
Summer Music, composed in 1996, was inspired by my work with young music students in Houston through the American Festival for the Arts Summer Music Conservatory. Young people exhibit an excitement and love for life and learning that is contagious to the people around them, especially adults! This piece is filled with joy and freedom. Lyrical, singing themes characterize the outer sections of the work and a reflective hymn serves as the centerpiece. Just as young music students hum tunes while leaving the classroom, my intention with Summer Music is for listeners to hum its tunes while leaving the concert hall, recalling and inspiring the innocence and joy of a child. This performance of Summer Music is a world premiere and I want to thank the Houston Civic Symphony for its interest in and support of American music. I join a great many Houstonians in applauding the high quality performances of the Houston Civic Symphony and in recognizing its significance to the cultural life and future of Houston.
Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings Felix Mendelssohn
Born into a well-to-do family, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1848) enjoyed a childhood and adolescence of privilege. Young Felix displayed talent in both music and the visual arts early, and was provided every opportunity for study that Berlin could offer. Growing up in a household that regularly sponsored musical soirées, he had frequent occasion to hear fine music-making, and later to participate, as pianist and composer.
Mendelssohn's later career is well known and needs little retelling. He is remembered for his work in reviving the music of J. S. Bach, which had fallen into obscurity by the early nineteenth century. And, like the later Grieg and Dvorák, he was an educator, founding and for some years directing the Leipzig Conservatory. Three of his five later symphonies have remained in the repertoire, along with some piano music, chamber music and the great oratorio Elijah. His musical style is Romantic in spirit, but fairly conservative in means; Bach and the Classical composers were the greatest influences in his formative years.
The Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings was composed in 1823. The concerto however, was not published in Mendelssohn's time, and has only recently been revived. In it, we hear young Felix testing his growing compositional skills, trying out ideas, and learning how to solve technical and artistic problems.
The first movement opens with a theme that is decidedly Baroque in character. The running bass line supports austere, Corelli-like counterpoint in the upper parts. A transition introduces some changes in character: the texture becomes more homophonic, and the melodic lines more Clasical in character and phrasing. This charming melody, in F major, leads to a closing theme, which employs sudden shifts to D-flat major, a very Romantic twist. The second exposition repeats this material with the soloists. After a development, the themes are recapitulated, and the coda returns us to the home key of D minor, to close the movement with an energetic Presto.
The second movement is a tenary form in A major, with a contrasting section leading us through A minor and C major, before the return of the opening theme. This is a lyrical movement, foreshadowing the composers later Songs Without Words, or the slow movement of the Scottish Symphony.
The finale is a vigorous movement in a rather free sonata-rondo form. Here one can hear the Mendelssohn of the Rondo capiccioso finding his voice. The themes again contain hints of the Baroque mixed with Romantic touches, in a neo-Classical musical stew. Brilliant passage-work abounds, leading to a rousing conclusion.
Symphony No.9 Antonín Dvorák
The son of an innkeeper, Antonin Dvorák (1841- 1904) first learned the violin from a local schoolteacher. Leaving home at 16, he studied at the Prague Organ School, afterward supporting himself as a violist, and later as a church organist. His first compositional successes, in the 1870's attracted the attention and support of such luminaries as Brahms, Liszt, and von Bülow. Dvorák joined the faculty of the Prague Conservatory in 1891, as a professor of composition. Like Mendelssohn and his contemporary Edvard Grieg, Dvorák also served as an administrator. Though he did not actually found an institution, he spent the years 1892-1895 mostly in the United States, as director of the newly founded National Conservatory. He became director of the Prague Conservatory in 1901. Dvorák's music incorporates many elements of Czech national and folk music, but is also firmly grounded in the Romantic style then flourishing throughout Europe.
The New World Symphony was the first work Dvorák created entirely, including initial sketches, after arriving in New York. Some thematic ideas were noted in mid-December, 1892, and sketches for the symphony were begun about a month later. The entire symphony was completed and orchestrated by the end of May 1893. The work was premiered in New York on December 16, 1893; the reception was overwhelmingly favorable, and the symphony has remained a favorite in the repertoire ever since. The symphony is cast in the tradtitional four movements. The first movement is in the expected sonata form, with a slow introduction, in which the first theme of the Allegro is foreshadowed. The expostion proceeds through the initial theme and a lengthy transition (which has its own theme), finally settling into the second theme, in G major, played by the flute. The themes are treated to a thorough development, and the recapitulation restates them in order - but not all in the home key. Dvorák chooses to place the second themes in A-flat major in the recapitulation, a departure from tradition that is nevertheless in keeping with the tonal freeedom of the late nineteenth century.
The famous Largo opens with a striking chord progression in the low winds and brass, which serves not only to bring us to the unexpected key of D-flat, but also acts as a structural marker, reappearing in one guise or another several times during the movement. The main themes, introduced by the English horn, has become familiar through the words added later by W. A. Fisher. The oboe introduces the theme of the contrasting section, in C-sharp minor. A fugato and crescendo bring us to a climax, at which themes of the first movement are echoed, and out of which the return of the English horn melody emerges.
The scherzo is unusual in its formal complexity: though it has relationships with the typical scherzo-trio-scherzo form, the individual sections are not themselves neat, binary structures. The contrasts are wide, and even the tempo is somewhat elastic. In the transtition to the trio, and in the coda, the first movement's main theme makes yet another cameo appearance.
The finale is a large sonata form, with a very substantial coda. The first theme is somewhat modal in character, and resembles the first theme of Dvoráks own Cello Concerto. The second theme is stated by the clarinet, with counterpoint in the cellos. The development is extensive, and treats not only the themes introduced in this movement, but also weaves in echoes on all three preceeding movements. The recapitulation restates the principal themes; in the second theme, the roles appear once again, before the triumphant conclusion.
Much has been made of the use Dvorák may have made of American music materials. He certainly took an interest in the music of both Native Americans and African Americans, and suggested that these musics might be sources for a truly American musical language. Furthermore, he had for some time been intrigued by Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, and was considering writing an opera on the subject. This project came to nought, but some preliminary sketches were recycled in this symphony. The Largo was inspired by the "Funeral in the Forest" scene in Hiawatha, and the scherzo is derived from music intended to depict the Indians dancing in the woods. The actual materials, however, are not identifiably American; the pentatonic scale influence, for example, is also strong in Czech folk music and in Dvorák's compositions generally. And the technical means employed in working with these materials belong entirely to the European late Romantic era.
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 Edvard Grieg
Scandinavia and Scotland have had close ties at least since the Vikings invaded the British Isles in the Eighth Century. Thus is was natural that a Scotsman, Alexander Grieg, should have emigrated to Norway after the disastrous Battle of Culloden in 1745. Grieg changed the spelling of his name so that Norwegians would pronounce it correctly, but preserved contact with his homeland: his son and his grandson served as British Consuls in Bergen. His great-grandson, Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843-1907), became the leading Norwegian nationalist composer.
Young Edvard first learned the piano from his mother, and heard music-making regularly at home. Encouraged by Ole Bull, his parents sent him to the Lepzig Conservatory in 1858, where he studied with some of the finest teachers of the day: Wenzel and Moscheles (piano), Richter and Hauptmann (harmony and counterpoint), and Carl Reinecke (composition). He returned to Bergen in 1862, but not before having a serious bout of pleurisy, which left him with lifelong respiratory troubles. The rest of the decade, however, was a whirlwind of accomplishment. His interest in native Norwegian music was kindled; he gave the first concerts featuring his own music (and that of fellow Norwegians); he founded (with Otto Winter-Hjelm) the Norwegian Academy of Music; composed his Piano Concerto (which brought him international recognition); and met Liszt. The 1870s brought his first contact with Wagner's Ring, and also numerous compositions inspired by Nordic scenery. In 1880-82 he was conductor of the orchestra at Bergen, which was his last official position. In 1885 he settled at Troldhaugen, and established a routine of composing in the spring and early summer, traveling in the late summer, and spending autumn and winter on concert tours - in spite of his precarious health. In the 1890s came a "second nationalism", along with increased recognition. He met such giants as Tchaikovsky and Brahms, and was awarded honorary doctorates by Oxford and Cambridge. In his later years he also engaged in critical writing on Mozart, Schumann and Verdi.
Peer Gynt is a play in five acts, by Hendryk Ibsen, for which Grieg wrote incidental music in 1874-75, as his op. 23. The score comprises 23 numbers, from which Grieg later extracted two suites. The first suite opens with Morning Mood (originally number 13, the Introduction to Act 4). This piece displays Grieg's command of Romantic harmony: the opening motive is repeated in third-related keys, outlining the tonic (E-Major) triad, and other remote tonalities are touched upon before the music returns to the home key. Åse's Death (number 12) is a mournful aria for the muted strings alone. Its harmony is lush, but not chromatic; in this, and in its very regular phrasing, it resembles Norwegian folk idioms. Anitra's Dance (number 16) is likewise scored only for strings, and the violins are muted, but the character and color are quite different. The dance rythmns (it resembles a mazurka), idiosyncratic chromaticisms, and pizzicato accompaniment give it both kinetic liveliness and a haunting quality. The final movement, In the Hall of the Mountain King (number 7), is a tour de force of orchestral crescendo. The motive is repeated over and over, building to a climax from which only disintegration is possible. If Morning Mood owes much to Liszt, In the Hall of the Mountain King looks forward to twentieth-century treatments of ostinato, and may be felt to foreshadow such works as Ravel's Bolero.
In Nature's Realm Antonín Dvorák
The son of an innkeeper, Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) first learned the violin from a local schoolteacher. Leaving home at 16, he studied at the Prague Organ School, afterward supporting himself as a violist, and later as a church organist. His first successes as a composer came in the 1870s; his music attracted the attention and support of such luminaries as Brahms, Liszt and von Bülow. Brahms even recommended Dvorák's work to his own publisher. Dvorák joined the faculty of the Prague Conservatory in 1891, as a professor of composition, but spent the years 1892-95 mostly in the United States, as director of the newly-founded National Conservatory. He became director of the Prague Conservatory in 1901. Dvorák's music incorporates many elements of Czech national and folk music, but is also firnly grounded on the Romantic style then flourishing thoughout Europe. In Nature's Realm was composed in 1891, as part of a triptych; the other pieces are the Carnival and Othello overtures. Although eventually published as a concert overture, it is rather long for that purpose, and is in many respects more a tone poem. The work is a large sonata-form movement, in a vein characteristic of the late Romantic period.
The six-four meter and broad tempo, as well as the widespread use of hemiola, recall a number of Brahms' works, particularly the first movement of the Third Symphony, which is in the same key of F Major. In contrast to Brahms' dramatic opening, Dvorák begins quietly, and does not definitively establish the key until the piece is well under way. The second theme is introduced in the remote key of A Major (another parallel with Brahms' third) - again displaying the colorful, third-related harmonies of which the later Romantics were so fond. Successive ideas are increasingly vigorous, building the energy needed for a large work. After a development section, the recapitulation returns all the themes, in the home key, though a foray in D-flat Major provides some tonal contrast, and balances the A Major of the exposition. Among the last works Dvorák composed before leaving Prague for New York, In Nature's Realm looks forward not only to his Ninth ("New World") symphony, but also to the tone poems composed after his return to Prague.
Adventures in a Perambulator John Alden Carpenter
Now largely forgotten, John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951) enjoyed a fair measure of poularity in his own time. Born in Chicago, where his family ran a ship-outfitting business, Carpenter was educated at Harvard (where he studied with John Knowles Paine). He later studied with the German-American theorist Bernhard Ziehn, who had settled in Chicago, and briefly with Edward Elgar. Like Charles Ives, two years his senior, Carpenter spent the years following college in business. Carpenter's family, recognizing his musical gifts, arranged that his part in the family enterprise should leave him a reasonable amount of time to pursue composition. He was able to devote himself to music full time, however, only after he retired from the firm in 1936. Carpenter's music owes something to Debussy (most obviously his use of the whole-tone scale), and maybe a little to Elgar. Stravinsky's influence can also be detected, among many others, but perhaps the strongest influences came from early jazz and from other Anerican folk and popular musics. Though now rather dated, Capenter's harmonies were considered novel at the time, and his interest in quintuple meters and other rhythmic devices of the turn of the century placed him, if not on the cutting edge, at least in the compositional mainstream. Neglected in the decades since his death, Carpenter's work is now receiving renewed interest. Among other signs of this is the recent appearance of a serious biography of Carpenter (Skyscraper Lullaby, by Howard Pollack; Washington: Smithsonian Institution press, 1995).
Adventures in a Perambulator, which Carpenter subtitled "fantastic suite", was composed in 1914. Although Carpenter was then inexperienced as an orchestral composer, the work was an instant success at its premiere in March 1915, in Chicago, and brought him widespread popularity, as other major orchestras played it on the East Coast. Three years later, Carpenter provided a detailed program, narrating the outing from the child's point of view. (The program will be read, in sections, before each movement.)
The Baby is characterized by a theme introduced in the cellos at the outset; the parallel fifths and arabesques create a sense of wide-eyed, innocent curiosity. And, while the influence of Debussy is immediately recognizeable, the sound is distinctively American. The motions of the baby carriage and the plodding of the Nurse are evident in their themes, introduced following the introduction. In the second movement, the Policeman's themes, heard first in the English Horn, has a deliberate, perhaps even pompous air about it. As the Policeman and the Nurse converse, one becomes aware of the contrast between the former's seductive chromaticism (in the lower register), and the latter's gracious, diatonic melody, played by the violins. The third movement, involving an organ-grinder, is quintessestially American: Carpenter quotes bits of melodies that one might actually have heard street musicians playing in pre-WWI Chicago. The most recognizeable of these, today, are the "Miserere" from Verdi's Il Trovatore and Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band". Movement four, The Lake, was probably inspired as much by Lake Geneva as by Lake Michigan; musically it is the movement most indebited to Debussy, and is an evocative bit of tone-painting. The fifth movement, Dogs, is a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of timbres, textures and tonal materials. The final movement concludes as Baby goes to sleep. Here Carpenter is using the convention of the cyclic finale, perhaps influenced by César Franck.
Howard Pollack has suggested that the cycle operates on more than one level. Besides the musical cycle, woven together by themes appearing in several movements, there is the cycle of the day: from morning to night. Further, there is the cycle of Baby's experience of the world: domesticity (Nurse), authority (Policeman), art (Hurdy-Gurdy), nature (The Lake) and love (Mother).
The Moldau Bedrich Smetana
Bedrich Smetana (1824-84), the father of Czech musical nationalism, was born into a German-speaking Bohemian family, and was educated entirely in German. His father was a keen amateur violinist, and Bedrich was encouraged early. He soon progressed beyond the expertise of the locally available piano teachers; his studies resumed at age 12, when the family moved.
His was a checkered career; in his youth he lived a very Bohemian existence in Prague, teaching piano and studying the craft of composition privately. His foray into the life of a traveling virtuoso was cut short by poor attendance at his first recital. He married in 1849, just after the revolution. The attendant surge in nationalism exposed his deficiency in the Czech language, and he was afterward at some pains to learn it. He had published a set of piano pieces, with the recommendation of Liszt (to whom they are dedicated), and he turned increasingly to composition. In 1856 he went to Sweden, where he taught piano, conducted and began to compose tone poems. His home life was tragic: three of four daughters died between 1854 and 1856, and his wife died in 1858. About 1874, symptoms of encroaching deafness began to appear; two years later he wrote into the finale of his string quartet, "From My Life", the high pitched sound that he heard almost constantly at that time. By the end of his life he was completely deaf, and sufffering from mental deterioration as well.
During the years from about 1872-79, Smetana composed a cycle of six tone poems, under the title Má Vlast (My Fatherland). These tone poems concern various aspects of Czech nationalism: history, geography, folklore. Futhermore, they are in some ways connected thematically, as music from one poem is quoted in another, in keeping with the needs of the subject. The Moldau traces the course of the river known in German as Moldau (Vltava in Czech) from its source in the Bohemian highlands until it has passed Prague en route to Germany. The two sources of the Moldau (cold water dripping from melted snow, and a warm spring) are depicted at the beginning, by plucked notes in the harp and strings and a murmuring motive in the flutes (in E minor). The stream grows, splashing on rocks, and eventually the theme of the river proper emerges, in the violins and oboes. After some development, this theme of the river is suddenly interrupted by a hunting scene (C Major, E Major), which in turn gradually gives way to a rustic wedding celebration (G Major).
Night falls; moonlight (muted strings) plays on the river, illuminating the revels of nymphs (A-flat Major). Horn calls depict the faded glory of a ruined castle. The music brightens with the dawn, and the river theme returns, this time to be interrupted by the turbulence of the St. John's rapids. Having passed the stretch of white water, the river resumes its broad and stately character, and its theme returns, now in E Major. Just downstream from Prague, the river passes the historic fortress Vyšehrad, which was the subject previous tone poem in the cycle. Smetana accordingly superimposes the Vyšehrad theme on the Moldau theme - a tour de fource of compositional skill, as the two themes are actually in different meters. As the river continues on into the distance, its music gradually becomes fainter, until is is all but lost in ther perceptual distance.
Fantasia on a Child's Hymn Don E. Keller
This piece was originally written for cello and piano. Orchestrated this past summer, the solo cello intro was written after the piece was completed and contains elements from both sections of the piece. The work was written for Sally's Master's Recital and is dedicated to Don and Sally's daughter Cora Elaine. Don started work on this piece and Cora would only go to sleep when her parents sang Jesus Loves Me. This hymn served as his inspiration(mainly because Don couldn't "get it out of my head". He composed the piece in a ternary form, "ABA". The "A" section features the cello, which plays a variation of the hymn tune. The "B" section features the climatic sequence, with the fullest instrumentation, followed by a contemporary harmonization of the hymn; played by a brass choir. The piece concludes as it began, with solo cello. The cello fades to nothing as the child drifts off to sleep.
Rhapsody in Blue George Gershwin
George Gershwin (1898-1937) was born in New York, where his parents had settled after immigrating from Russia. The family, which was never well off, lived in a Jewish community on the Lower East Side, where young George had virtually no exposure to music. He displayed considerable athletic ability and interest. His father bought an upright piano in 1910 (probably intended for one of George's sisters), and George quickly learned to play it. In 1912, he studied with Charles Hamlitzer, who introduced him to the music of Chopin, Liszt, and Debussy. Two years later, George left school and took a job as a piano player for a Tin Pan Alley music firm, "plugging" songs. His own first published song dates from 1916; three years later, he had his first big hit, "Swanee," recorded by Al Jolson. That same year also saw his first musical, "La La Lucile." From this point on, Gershwin moved from one success to another, composing a seemingly endless stream of hit songs, many of which have become classics of American culture. But Gershwin's brief study of classical music had left its mark: he wanted to do more than just write popular songs, and was dabbling in "serious" music even as his career in popular music was just finding its legs. A comission from Paul Whiteman led to Rhapsody in Blue, completed and first performed in 1924, with Gershwin as the piano soloist. The orchestration, however, was done by Whiteman's arranger, Ferde Grofé. Gershwin worked to fill this gap in his knowledge, and clamed to have orchestrated his later works himself. Rhapsody in Blue was euthusiastically received, and other commissions followed, notably for the Concerto in F (1925), An American in Paris (1928), and his masterpiece, the opera Porgy and Bess (1934-5).
George Gershwin soon became a household name, enjoying an income that was remarkable in the roaring twenties and thoroughly spectacular in the depressed thirties. His lifestyle matched his career: flamboyant, but with a serious side (he collected major art works). He remained a bachelor, and was romantically linked (in the press, and perhaps in real life) with a number of movie stars. Tragedy struck in 1937: in June, he complained of dizziness, and in July lapsed into a coma. Gershwin died during emergency surgery for a brain tumor.
Rhapsody in Blue is cast in a single large movement, and is, as the title suggests, rhapsodic in form and jazzy in character. From the opening clarinet glissando, the mood is one of jaunty self- confidence, which may be taken as a refiection of both Gershwin's personality and of the general mood of America in 1924. The many melodies of the piece follow one another whimsically, returning in other keys and with different orchestrations in a delightfully unpredictabie manner. Many tunes use the characteristic melodic inflections of jazz known as "blue" notes a likely source for the title. The tempo changes with almost every melody, and is sometimes elastic even within a tune. The rhythms are extensively syncopated, and the harmonies are the very stuff of 1920s jazz: dominant seventh and ninths abound, with various added notes, along with split-interval and altered-fifth chords. Still, Gershwin's interest in "serious" music can be found at work also: there are passages that employ the whole-tone scale, and it cannot be accidental that the slowest theme in the piece is in E Major, which is the very most remote key to the B-flat Major that begins and ends the work. Grofé's orchestration completes the picture, starting with a standard symphonic ensemble and adding a trio of saxophones, bass clarinet, and extra percussion.
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, op. 68 Johannes Brahms
The course of Johannes Brahms's life (1833-97) is sufficiently familiar to the musical public that little recounting is needed. Born and educated in Hamburg, Brahms spent most of his twenties on the move, first as accompanist to the Hungarian violinist Edouard Reményi, and then in various short-lived positions. At age 29 he settled in Vienna, which remained his home for the rest of his life. Considered rather old-fashioned because of his preference for the old genres and forms of absolute music, he breathed new life into the symphony and chamber music, avoiding opera and eschewing entirely the newfangled symphonic poem. Brahms also took more interest in choral music than did his contemporaries, an interest that both influenced and was informed by his activities a closet musicologist.
Hailed in his youth, by Schumann, as a genius, Brahms was expected by everyone, including himself, to compose symphonies. The pressure of trying to follow in Beethoven's footsteps was enormous; he wrote to Hermann Levi "You don't know what it is like, always to hear that giant marching along behind you." His First Symphony materialized only after a gestation of some twenty years. He began work on the symphony in 1855, and completed the first movement in 1862, the year he moved to Vienna. The second movement was not finished until 1874; the remaining movements followed relatively quickly, in 1875 and 1876. By then, Brahms had adopted the plan of planning and sketching compositions during the winter, and doing most of the actual composition during the summer, when he was free of other musical duties (such as conducting). The symphony was premiered in Karlsruhe on November 4, 1876, and was published the following year.
The first movement opens with a slow introduction, which is as remarkable for its dramatic impact as for its craftsmanship. The allegro is cast in the expected sonata form, complete with a repeat of the exposition. The highly agitated first theme incorporates motives from the introduction; the chromatic harmonic language leads seamlessly through the transition to the relative key of E-flat major. Even here, however, Brahms continues to employ motives from the first theme. The closing portion of the exposition moves into E-flat minor (recalling Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata); the result is that the repeat of the exposition comes as a rather abrupt shift back to C minor. The second time around, there is another surprise, as the development begins in B major. The material of the exposition is treated to extensive reworkings, passing through several tonalities, before arriving at the recapitulation. All the themes are restated, in the home key; the closing area is extended and built to a climax, featuring the timpani (and recalling the Introduction). The Coda, in contrast, relaxes the tempo and dies away quietly.
The second movement is a lyrical ternary structure, in E major. The contrasting middIe section is centered about C-sharp minor. The melodic gestures are intensified by chromatic inflections; even the major-mode sections are tinged with borrowings from the minor. The harmonies match the melodies, and the orchestration favors the lower registers and darker colors. In restating the primary material, Brahms re-orchestrates it, adding a part for solo violin.
The third movement is a substitute scherzo: its motion is gentle rather than frenetic. Furthermore, it is in duple meter, denying the minuet ancestor of this part of the symphonic cycle. Again, Brahms's craftsmanship is apparent: the opening clarinet phrase is answered by its exact inversion, starting a third lower. The Trio changes to compound meter and shifts to the remote key of B major. A brief transition leads to a restatement of the opening material, somewhat condensed; the concluding coda makes reference to the Trio.
The Finale, like the first movement, opens with an impressive introduction. Again, the orchestration favors the low register and darker colors. After a chromatic and unsettled beginning in C minor, the mood begins to lighten, as the horn plays a lyrical, chorale-like melody in C major. The entrance of the flute, playing the same melody in a much higher register than the rest of the orchestra, is a special moment a ray of sunshine, as it were, heralding the generally brighter mood of the Allegro. The main part of the movement is in sonata form, but with some twists. The exposition is not repeated, but Brahms makes us think that it will be repeated, as he starts the development with the main theme, in the home key. After an extensive development, he omits this theme at the recapitulation, reestablishing C major with the horn melody from the introduction. The remaining themes are restated in order, leading to a substantial (and very exciting) coda.
Despite its lengthy gestation, this symphony is highly coherent in character, progressing from the turbulent, brooding first movement through the introspective and reflective inner movements to the triumphant finale. In this, as well as in its home key, resemblance to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is undeniable. Further, the main theme of the last movement bears a family resemblance to the "Ode to Joy" theme of Beethoven's Ninth. Hans von Bülow went so far as to refer to the work as "The Tenth"; Brahms reportedly replied to someone who mentioned these correspondences to him, "Das bermerkt ja schon jeder Esel" ("Every ass sees this already.") Brahms generally eschewed the devices of cyclic unity popularized by Berlioz, Liszt, and others; nevertheiess, some very subtle motivic connections may be noted among the movements. Most obvious, perhaps, are the timpani strokes in the first movement and at the end of the second; and the falling third motive in the first, third, and fourth movements. Finally, there is the remarkable key scheme of the four movements: C minor, E major, A-flat major, and C major a series of rising major thirds, dividing the octave equally.
Overture to The Bartered Bride Bedrich Smetana
It is ironic that Bedrich Smetana (1824-84), father of Czech musical nationalism, could not speak or write Czech until nearly middle aged. He was born into a German- speaking Bohemian family, and was educated entirely in German. His father was a keen amateur violinist, and Bedrich was encouraged early. He soon progressed beyond the expertise of the locally available piano teachers; his studies resumed at age 12, when the family moved.
His was a checkered career: in his youth he lived a very Bohemian existence in Prague, teaching piano and studying the craft of composition privately. His foray into the life of a traveling virtuoso was cut short by poor attendance at his first recital. He married in 1849, just after the revolution, and its surge in nationalism, had exposed his language deficiency. He had published a set of piano pieces, with the recommendation of Liszt (to whom they are dedicated), and he turned increasingly to composition. In 1856 he went to Sweden, where he taught piano, conducted, and began to compose tone poems. His home life was tragic: three of four daughters died between 1854 and 1856, and his wife died in 1858. About 1874, symptoms of encroaching deafness began to appear; two years later, he wrote into the finale of his string quartet "From My Life" the high-pitched sound that he heard almost constantly at that time. By the end of his life he was completely deaf, and suffering from mental deterioration as well.
The Bartered Bride, Smetana's greatest operatic triumph on the international scene, went through several versions in the 1860's, reaching its final shape in 1870. The comic plot has too many twists to be capsulized; suffice it to say that the action is lively, with several Czech dances (including a polka and a furiant). The second act opens with a men's chorus in praise of beer (Smetana's father had been a brewer). Much of the music for the overture is derived from the finale of this act. The overture is cast, essentially, in sonata form. The first theme appears as a flourish for the whole orchestra, and then is spun out as a fugato, the subject working its way through the strings, culminating in a crescendo that ushers in the second theme. This is also spun out, this time in a sequence employing rather remote harmonic relations. The development is short, as is typical of overtures, and the recapitulation is greatly condensed. The nationalistic flavor comes not from actual folk songs, but from the skillful use of the elements of Czech music. The opening flourish uses the pentatonic scale, and the second theme uses rhythms reminiscent of the polka and foreshadowing the peasant wedding episode in Smetana's tone poem Vltava (The Moldau). Taken altogether, the overture is alive with rustic vitality, making it an exciting curtain-raiser.
Concerto No. 4 in G Major for Piano and Orchestra Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven's life (1770-1827) and career are too well known to require review. After he had faced the crisis of his own increasing deafness, which became noticeable in his late twenties, Beethoven's compositions became increasingly grand in scope and heroic in character. The Fourth Piano Concerto was composed along with the Fourth Symphony in the years 1805-06, and first performed in March 1807. Coming as it does between the Third ("Eroica") Symphony and the titanic Fifth, this Concerto represents a culmination of Beethoven's First Period and stands at the brink of his Middle Period.
The first movement is cast in the familiar sonata form, with the usual adaptation for the concerto, with "double exposition" (once without the soloist, and again with). But Beethoven has departed from tradition in giving the soloist the opening gesture, before the orchestra gets down to the business of the first exposition. Both the piano and orchestra begin quietly; Beethoven builds to the first forte patiently, developing the motive introduced by the piano. The second theme is characterized by an unstable tonality, using unusual modulations to create a sense of distance. After the development, the opening theme returns, this time heroically and fortissimo, to announce the recapitulation. This section closes with the cadenza, which is again unusual in that it does not end with fireworks; instead, there is a long diminuendo, allowing the orchestra to join the soloist quietly, and seamlessly begin the coda. Piano and orchestra build the final crescendo together.
The second movement, in E minor, is thoroughly remarkable, in its character, construction and orchestration. One would be hard pressed to think of another concerto movement in the entire repertoire that is more truly a dialogue -- the orchestra and soloist almost never play simultaneously. The orchestra is reduced to strings only, and, except for the final chords, they play entirely in unison. Further, though the strings begin with dramatic, almost angry gestures, the piano plays cantabile throughout, rising above the level of piano only in the brief cadenza. The effect of the piano's phrases seems to be to calm the strings, whose outbursts gradually lessen in intensity over the course of the movement.
The finale, cast in sonata-rondo form, begins immediately on the heels of the slow movement. The rondo theme enters quietly, with an air of hushed excitement. It also creates a moment of tonal suspense, as it seems to begin in the wrong key but it is only that the first chord is not the expected one. The soloist echoes the theme, with embellishments, and then the full orchestra plays it yet again, fortissimo. The transitional passage features abrupt shifts between the piano and orchestra. The contrasting theme is a lyrical idea, heard first in D Major and later in the home key of G major. There is an appreciable development section, following which the other themes return. The pianist has several small cadenzas; Beethoven himself provided the large one. The movement ends much like the first movement did: after a diminuendo, there is a faster tempo (Presto), with a crescendo to fortissimo, with a statement of the theme. But Beethoven is not yet finished; he reduces the orchestra and dynamic level again before the final crescendo giving us yet one more climax.
Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major Franz Anton Berwald
Franz Berwald (1796-1868) was only a year older than Franz Schubert, and though he outlived the Austrian by forty years, he was such a late bloomer that his compositional career was hardly longer. When Franz was born, the Berwalds had already been a major factor in Swedish musical life for half a century. Berwald's grandfather, born in Germany in 1711, moved to Sweden before mid-century; Franz's father and uncle were musicians, and his brother and at least one cousin were musically active in his own day. His granddaughter, a leading Swedish pianist of her generation, retired after directing the Richard Andersson school of music for thirty years, in 1965. Franz's career was much less stable. Trained as a violinist, he played in the court orchestra almost continuously from 1812 to 1828. Although he had begun composing some ten years earlier, he did not pursue that vocation seriously until 1829, when he went to Berlin on a court scholarship, intending to write operas. He made little progress; his most successful venture of the decade was to open and manage an orthopedic institute in Berlin. The 1840's were much better for him; in fact, he wrote in that decade nearly all of the music on which his reputation now rests. In 1841 he married and moved to Vienna; within a year or so he had completed his first two mature symphonies (a juvenile effort from 1820 is lost), two tone poems, and an operetta. With these in hand, he returned to Sweden, but his music was not well received, at least in part due to inadequate performances. He then spent the rest of the decade traveling, composing, and trying (with only spotty success) to get his music performed. One high point was the premiere of his cantata Ein ländisches Verlobungsfest in Schweden (A Rustic Engagement Fête in Sweden), with the famous soprano Jenny Lind (the "Swedish Nightingale") taking part.
Berwald completed his Third and Fourth Symphonies in 1845. Because they were not published until long after the composer's death, and then not in order of composition, the Fourth is sometimes referred to as the Third. The musical language of this symphony is only moderately chromatic by mid-nineteenth-century Austro-German standards, but progressive by the lights of the conservative Swedish musical establishment. The four movements are in the typical order and forms, though the key relationships are unusual: first and last movements are of course in the home key of E-flat, but the second movement is in the remotely related key of D major, and the scherzo is in the dominant key (B-flat). Berwald admired Beethoven's music, and imitates him most nearly in the treatment of rhythm, sometimes driving short rhythmic motives through sizable spans of music.
One of the most striking elements of this symphony is one that has deep Nordic roots: the interval of the third. North European music has been noted for its preoccupation with the third since at least the thirteenth century; one might cite as examples the Scandinavian hymn "Nobilis, humilis," which consists almost entirely of parallel thirds, and "Der May" by the Minnesänger Neithart von Reuenthal, in which thirds are projected harmonically, to the extent of outlining a ninth chord. Both usages are heard in the first movement of this symphony. Many passages throughout the work are heard in parallel thirds. The first theme, stated by the cellos after a brief opening gesture, outlines a thirteenth chord all the notes of the scale are presented, arranged as a series of thirds. Brahms was to employ a similar technique some thirty years later, in the first theme of his own Fourth Symphony.
The slow movement is in ternary form. The long-breathed main theme is heard in the strings and then the woodwinds, the key of D Major providing a distinct change of color from the first movement's key of E-flat. A slightly agitated contrasting section follows, leading to the return of the theme. The Scherzo follows without pause, returning us abruptly to flat keys. The Scherzo and Trio are each in the traditional binary form. The Scherzo is rather developed, using contrasting ideas and chromatic sequences. The Trio contrasts greatly, being quite short, and hardly rising above a pianissimo.
The Finale is in a modified sonata form. All of the themes are animated, and we again hear the projection of thirds both melodically and harmonically. The development explores some rather remote keys. The first theme is completely re-written at the recapitulation, but the second theme returns essentially intact. The Coda begins with an increase in tempo, and later becomes still more animated, bringing the work to an energetic finish.
Due to the late arrival of the parts, we will only perform the first two movements this afternoon.
Caucasian Sketches Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
Mikahil Mikhailovich Ivanov (1859-1935) was first taught music at home, and later at a local church school. At age 16 he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he completed his instrumental training in 1879, and his compositional studies in 1882, under Rimsky-Korsakov. He added his brother-in-law's name to his own, to distinguish himself from another composer of the same name. Though he composed during most of his long life, composition was not his primary activity. He also enjoyed a successful careers as a conductor, and administrator. Following his graduation from the Conservatory, he took an appointment to direct the academy of music in Tbilisi, Georgia, and organize the local branch of the Russian Music Society. During his decade there he also conducted opera. In 1893 he was appointed professor at the Moscow Conservatory, which he later directed from 1905-22. Though he might have retired after the revolution, he continued his career, working in the then-new field of radio. His memoirs appeared in 1934.
Ippolitov-Ivanov composed his Caucasian Sketches in 1894, as musical recollections of the years he had spent in Georgia. He left fairly specific notes conceming the pieces and their inspiration. The first, "In The Mountain Pass," depicts the composer's first trip into the Caucasus along the military road, through the Daryal Pass, the River Terek, the Aragva Valley, and Ananur Pass. In the echoing signal trumpets and cascading waterfalls, we can sense the panorama of the region. The second movement brings us a very specific event. In the village of Mleta, two Georgians sit on the roof of their hut, playing the tãr and the duduk, answering each other in free improvisation. The tãr is a stringed instrument of the lute family, and the duduk a double-reed wind; they are represented in the orchestra by a solo viola and the English horn. The improvisation is interrupted by the appearance of a dancing girl, at which point the musicians change to dance themes. The exotic sound of this movement is achieved through the use of an authentic Middle-Eastern scale, which contains extra half-steps and compensating augmented steps. The third movement, "In the Mosque," was originally called "At Sunset," and is based on the sunset call to prayers of the muezzin. The final sketch is a Turkish march a genre with a long history in European music, including examples by Mozart and Beethoven. This one, however, has a greater claim to authenticity, as its first theme is that of a Zeytun march. A Sardar is a minor noble in the region, and the music depicts a stately procession through a crowd of commoners. The orchestration is notable for the prominence of the piccolo and the percussion.
Overture to Candide Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) must surely be reckoned one of the most influential musicians of the century, having left indelible marks as a conductor, composer, and educator. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Bernstein studied at Harvard University, where his teachers included A. Tillman Merritt and Walter Piston. Following his graduation in 1939, he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute, under Fritz Reiner (conducting) and Randall Thompson (orchestration). During the next two years, he worked under Serge Koussevitsky at Tanglewood, and was named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1943. That fall, he conducted a demanding program on short notice, when Bruno Walter became ill, and delivered a spectacular performance that launched his conducting career virtually overnight. After numerous engagements in the musical capitals of Europe and the United States, he returned to the New York Philharmonic in 1957, becoming in 1958 the orchestra's first American-born musical director. When he resigned that position in 1969, to devote more time to composing, the orchestra bestowed on him the unprecedented title of "conductor laureate."
Bernstein was on the staff of Brandeis University from 1951 to 1956, during which years he wrote his book, The Joy of Music, followed in 1959 by The Infinite Variety of Music. In 1973, his alma mater invited him to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton lectures for that year; these were later published as The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard. But the educational activity for which Bernstein was most widely known was the series of Young People's Concerts, broadcast via the then-young medium of television, beginning in 1958.
As a composer, Bernstein was somewhat eclectic, fusing numerous stylistic elements including Jazz and popular influences alongside trends from more "serious" music. His output includes three symphonies, a Mass, the Chichester Psalms, songs, piano pieces, a film score (On the Waterfront), the ever-popular musical West Side Story, and an operetta, Candide. Based on Voltaire's satire, Candide premiered in 1956, and has been revised (and added to) several times since. Bernstein's music for this work is very much in the Broadway tradition, but with a sophistication that few could have brought to it. The overture, based on melodies used in the operetta, is cast in sonata form, with the expected key relationships. Bernstein's melodic gift is apparent especially in the second theme, but all of the tunes are "catchy" in one way or another. And the rhythmic ingenuity is remarkable: with apparent effortlessness, Bernstein has created a degree of complexity (many passages are actually polymetric!) that both beguiles at first hearing and rewards repeated listening.
Symphony No. 8, "Le Soir" Franz Joseph Haydn
"Papa" Haydn (1732-1809) was in several respects indeed the father of the Classical period in music. Though he invented neither the string quartet nor the symphony, these genres developed principally in his hands, and his works in these genres are the earliest that have remained continuously in the repertoire. He also composed concerti, operas, oratorios (including two monumental late works, The Creation and The Seasons), piano music, and innumerable trios involving the Baryton, the instrument of his employer, Prince Nicholas Esterházy.
When Haydn entered the service of the Esterházys in 1761, the symphony was in its infancy. Giovanni Battista Sammartini in Italy, Johann Anton Wenzel Stamitz at Mannheim, and Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach at Berlin, among others, had writton symphonies. The first symphonies were essentially expansions of the Italian opera overture of the time, the overture's three sections, fast-slow-fast, becoming three separate movements. The third movement quickly became standardized as a minuet; when that stately dance came to be viewed as an unsatisfactory finale, a fourth movement was added to the cycle, resulting in the form as we know it today. Haydn's relative isolation at Esterház provided him the freedom him to follow his own Muse; he both expanded the form in structure and deepened it in content, establishing the symphony as a vehicle that has served composers well, to the present day.
Symphony No. 8 was probably composed in 1761, either just before or soon after Haydn's arrival at Esterház. With Symphonies 6 and 7, it forms a trilogy: the three have the titles "Le Matin" ("Morning"), "Le Midi" ("Noon"), and "Le Soir" ("Evening"). Haydn's late symphonies (especially No. 104) are familiar to concert-goers, but opportunities to hear his earlier efforts have not been common. The scoring is quite light one flute, two oboes, one bassoon, two horns, and strings. The movements are all in the expected forms and key relationships: the outer movements are both sonata forms, the Andante is a large rounded binary structure (verging on sonata form), and the Minuet and Trio are each binary structures. What is more interesting to note is the resemblance to the Baroque concerto grosso, in the use of concertante parts for the principal violins, cello, and bassoon. The finale is subtitled "La tempesta" ("The Tempest"), but this is much too sunny of disposition to be real "storm music." It does, however, "go like the wind," leaving its hearers in high spirits.
Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo Aaron Copland
Born in New York City to immigrant parents, Aaron Copland (1900-1990) first learned the piano from an older sister. He progressed quickly, soon studying with Leopold Wolfsohn, and later with Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler. In 1917 he began studying harmony, counterpoint, and form with Rubin Goldmark (nephew of the composer Karl Goldmark), and soon began composing. He spent the years 1920-24 at the American Conservatory at Fountainbleu, near Paris, where he studied composition under Nadia Boulanger. He returned to Europe several times during the 1920's, hearing music of the leading composers of the era.
His compositions of these early years show a wide range of influences, from Debussy to Jazz, increasingly incorporated into a unique, personal style. Serge Koussevitzky was an important early interpreter and champion of Copland's orchestral music. In the 1930's, Copland began to pursue a more consciously American musical idiom. He became a good friend of the Mexican avant-garde composer Carlos Chavez, and made many visits to Mexico. He also took an interest in American folk song, making arrangements of a number of these, and also set poetry by American poets, notably Emily Dickinson.
Though he never pursued an academic career, Copland became very active as a lecturer, and taught at Harvard 1933 and again in 1944, when Walter Piston was on leave. He wrote a number of articles and two books, What to Listen for in Music and Our New Music (second edition title, The New Music, 1900-1960). In 1951, he became the first American invited to hold the Norton Professor of Poetics chair at Harvard; his lecture series was published afterward as Music and Imagination. Not content to rest on his laurels, Copland explored many of the newer musical ideas, including serialism, and the 1950's and '60's.
Copland's ballets are prominent among his many and varied orchestral compositions. Rodeo was written in 1942, for Agnes de Mille. It occupies the same general milieu as Billy the Kid (1938) and is a much more boisterous score than Appalachian Spring (1943-44). All three scores are nevertheless distinctively American. Like Appalachian Spring, Rodeo incorporates American folk tunes appropriate to the setting. "Buckaroo Holiday" uses two: the work song "Sis Joe," and the cowboy song "If he'd be a buckaroo by his trade." The former has some quirks of rhythm that Copland exploited imaginatively, lengthening its rests and displacing its accents to great effect. He treats "If he'd be a buckaroo" similarly, though less quirkily, yielding an air of humor and high spirits. "Corral Nocturne" and "Saturday Night Waltz" do not use borrowed material. The former creates its mood through its gently flowing, if odd, meters, and its orchestration, which sometimes blends but more often contrasts the various instrumental families of the orchestra. The Waltz begins with a fast introduction, and settles down to a slow waltz tempo sentimental, but with enough rhythmic interest to avoid being saccharine. "Hoe-Down" is a marvelous transfer of the square-dance fiddle to the symphony orchestra. Copland weaves at least three genuine fiddle tunes into this movement: the principal idea of the rondo-like form is derived from a tune known as "Bonyparte" (or possibly from a similar tune, "Bonaparte's Retreat"); the contrasting sections feature "McLeod's Reel" and "Old Yaller Houn'." As in the other dances, there are clever rhythms, metric twists, and imaginative orchestration, but above all, a foot- stompin' good time.
Sinfonia India (Symphony No.2) 1936 Carlos Chávez (1899-1978)
Mexican composer, conductor, and teacher, Carlos Chávez did not receive any formal training in composition but learned it through studying the works of the great masters. He did, however, receive some formal training in piano. What influenced Chávez was his frequent contact with Mexican Indian culture which is evident in many of his works, most notably the ballets El Fuego Nuevo and Los Cuatro Soles. Considered one of Latin Americas' most popular composers, Chávez portrays through his music a unique style which brings forth the Latin American musical culture.
The American composer Aaron Copland wrote the following: "Carlos Chavez is one of the best examples I know of a throughly contemporary composer. He has faced in his music all the major problems of modern music; the overthrow of German ideals, the objectification of sentiments, the use of folk material in his relation to nationalism, the intricate rhythms, the linear as opposed to vertical writing, the specifically modern sound images. It is music that belongs entirely to our own age. It propounds no problems, no metaphysics. Chávez's music is extraordinarily healthy. It is music created not as a substitute for living but as a manifestation of life. It is clear and clean sounding, without shadows or softness. Here is contemporary music if there ever was any".
Sinfonia India, also known as Symphony No.2, is considered one of his most nationalistic works in which Chávez combined modernism and primitivism and is one of his few works that uses Indian themes. In Sinfonia India, Chávez utilizes three native Mexican melodies and an array of native percussion instruments. Some are: Indian drum, water gourd or tenor drum, Tenabari (a string of butterfly cocoons) a soft rattle, Teponaxtles or xylophone, Grijutian (a string of deer hoofs) a hard rattle, Tlapanhuehuetl (bass drum) and Raspador Yaqi or rasping stick.
Sinfonia India is in a three part form played without pause, with the ending of each leading into the next. Recurring thematic material derived from folk melodies gives form and continuity. The main structural component is the eighth note: played by all the instruments throughout, making a sound that is percussive and which therefore may be played by any instrument grouping. What makes this piece unique is that driving pulse established at the beginning with constant changes in meter. Frequent changes in time signature are of two-fold importance: for the purpose of eighth note groupings and for the accentuation which adds to the excitment at the conclusion.
Brentano Lieder Op.68 (1918) Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
One of the great composers of the German song, Richard Strauss enthusiatically embraced the Romantic style in his works. Strauss defined the Romantic period using melodic lyricism in his operas and songs. As a pianist and violinist, Richard Strauss demonstrated great promise as a musician, and as a child began composing at the age of six. What can be heard in his music has been described as having the fullness of Wagner with the style and grace of Mozart. It certainly is then no surprise that Strauss's two favorite operas were Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte and Wagner's Tristan.
Most of Strauss's lieder were composed between 1885 and 1906. He orchestrated many of his own songs as well as allowing others to orchestrate them, and in some, the accompaniment was originally composed with the orchestra in mind. Like Schubert, he was unselective in choosing the texts for his songs as long as they provided the musical impulse that he felt necessary for conveying the ideas. In Brentano Lieder, Strauss's mastery of the Romantic German song is fully realized. Within the framework of this song collection lies a purely German Romantic style that embraces this stylistic period. The songs were composed in 1918 and orchestrated in 1933 and 1940 which correspond to important German historical turning points.
The first of the songs makes full use of the orchestra providing rich harmonic color contrasts with bright flourishes that accentuate high points in the music, providing an exciting introduction. The next pieces demonstrate Strauss's mastery over text closely following the melodic contrasts of the music that evokes images of passion and longing. These four songs are relatively light in texture with many playful dialogs between voice and woodwinds with the strings providing harmonic background. The piece ends conveying feelings of hope and fulfillment.
Three Cornered Hat Suite (1919) Manuel deFalla (1876-1946)
El Sombrero de Tres Picos
A Spanish composer, deFalla, through his music, evoked the unique traditional music of his country. Similar in style to Ravel, deFalla displayed all the attributes of the Romantic musical genre. Like Chávez, deFalla explored native music; however, he did not believe in the use of actual native folk tunes as a systematic procedure for composition. DeFalla's music is considered to be completely Spanish in expression and feeling. Many of the characteristic features of Spanish popular music may be found in his works. The process by which deFalla achieved his artistic mastery of a purely sounding Spanish style came about through assimilation of the native folk heritage rather than through its imitation. In addition to his genius, such factors as the environment in which he lived as well as his own intuition played a part in his success in capturing a purely Spanish style.
In his ballet, The Three Cornered Hat, composed in 1919, deFalla makes elaborate use of native Spanish music that is similar in statement to Stravinsky's use of native inspired thematic material in Petrouchka. The Three Cornered Hat was written as a revised version of an earlier work entitled El Corregidor Y La Molinera in 1917. That work was based on a well known story which was also used by Hugo Wolf in his opera, Der Corregidor, which has remained one of the most popular items in the Russian Ballet repertoire. DeFalla began writing the work in 1916 and completed it in 1919 and it was orchestrated in 1938. The Three Cornered Hat is a set of four pieces known as Homenajes (Homages). Each Homenaje was written in honor of a musician who was significant in Defalla's life, as follows: E.F. Arbos, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas, and Felipe Pedrell.
Pélleas et Mélisande Incidental music op.80 Gabriel Fauré 1845-1924.
French composer, teacher, pianist, and organist. Considered one of the most advanced composer of his generation. Fauré's style was influential on many 20th century composers. His innovations of harmonic and melodic development were also influences in the teaching of harmony for later generations. The youngest of six children, Faure spent hours playing the harmonium in the chapel which adjoined the school where he attended. His father, with the advice of an old woman who had heard the young Fauré play, sent him to study music at the Ecole de Musique Classique et Religieuse so that he might prepare for the profession of choirmaster. The subjects he studied while attending school included plainsong, the organ, and polyphonic works. Fauré met Saint-Saens while attending school and although not part of the school syllabus, Saint-Saëns introduced his students to contemporary music which included Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner.
Fauré's music divides into four styles that contain his responses to musical concepts of the time. The first period includes characteristics of romanticism. His second period was more graceful, melodious, and languid. The third period, during which the present suite was composed, showed bold and forceful expressivness and included the the great piano works. The elements of this period are evident in the lyric tragedy Prometheé which contains delicacy and profundity, but also measured force. In his last period, Fauré pursued a solitary and confident course ignoring the innovations of his younger contemporaires. Economy of expression, bold harmony and enrichment of polyphony give his work of this period an authentic place in the 20th century composition. In spite of Fauré's continuous stylistic development, certain traits characterize nearly all his music. Much of his individuality comes from his handling of harmony and tonality. Without completely destroying the sense of tonality and with a sure intuitive awareness of what limits ought to be retained, he freed himself from its restrictions.
First performed in London, 1898, Pélleas et Mélisande is in four movements. The Prelude (Quasi Adagio) evokes Mélisande and has an atmosphere of intrigue. Second is a brief Andantino quasi Allegretto Fileuse (Spinner), the two themes of which are developed to a reoccurring muted accompaniment reminding one of the humming of a spinning wheel. Fileuse is brief and has an underlying tension produced by the strings while the theme is played by the oboe accentuated by brass and harp. The third, Sicilienne was originally composed for Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The movement has a song quality which features a duet between the harp and flute. The Molto Adagio is based on a four-note motif announcing Melisande's death. The movement is a stark contrast to the preceeding movement in that it has the solumness of a funeral march that is portrayed by rich orchestral colour and bold harmonic texture. A slowly building crescendo in the strings and brass marks the conclusion of the piece with the timpani, woodwinds and strings giving a serene ending.
Le Boeuf sur le Toit (1919) Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
A French composer, Milhaud was Born in Aix-en-Provence into a well-to-do Jewish family long settled and closely in touch with cultural life. He began studying violin at the age of seven and soon after began composing. Milhaud entered the Paris Conservatoire primarily as a violin student but gradually went into composition. His teachers included Leroux, Dukas, Ge'dalge, and Widor but friends who were writers and artists influenced him as much as his musical contemporaries.
In 1918, Milhaud became one of Les Six. There was not much to bind the group together, and eventually all went separate ways, but not before such works as Le Boeuf sur le Toit (1919) and Les Maries de la Tour Eiffel (1921), which was jointly composed by the group. These branded Milhaud as an "unprincipled exploiter of fashionable oddities". During a visit to London in 1920, Milhaud first heard jazz. When he returned, he devoured all the American popular music he could find. In 1922, he toured the USA and in 1923, inspired by authentic black jazz in Harlem, he composed the ballet Le Création du Monde to a popular senario by Cendrars. After returning to the USA in 1940, Milhaud held a teaching position at Mills College, and spent the war years there, composing prolifically. When he returned to France in 1947, he combined this post with that of Professor of Composition at the Paris Conservatoire and also established relationship with the Aspen School of Music. Milhaud traveled widely throughout his life despite his severely disabling rheumatoid arthritis which eventually confined him to a wheelchair.
Le Boeuf sur le Toit, (literally The Cow on the Roof) was commissioned as a movie sound score for a short silent film by Charlie Chaplin The Nothing Doing Bar, gay and full of movement. As a pantomime, Le Boeuf sur le Toit was first performed in Paris on February 21, 1920 with Milhaud conducting. The setting for the performance is an American Speak-Easy during prohibition.
Distinctly rhythmic from the onset established by the Guiro, a Latin percussion instrument, the main theme based on a popular Brazilian folk song is repeated a dozen times throughout and introduces each section of the work. The thematic material is sequential with variation and contrasting melodic development. The reccurring theme and variation, a consistant rhythmic base, and changes of orchestral texture give this lively piece a film-score quality. One can almost imagine watching a movie while listening to the music.
Pavane pour une Enfante Défunte (1899) Maurice Ravel 1875-1937
Due to his father's work, the Ravel family moved to Paris shortly after Maurice's birth in Cibourne, and lived there from then on. At the age of seven he began with a distinguished piano teacher, Henry Ghys. At twelve, he began studies of harmony with Charles Rene, an association that produced his earliest known essays in composition. He gained admission to the Paris Conservatoire two years later. At the Paris World exhibition of 1889, Ravel and Debussy first encountered the Javanese gamelan, which produced a lasting facination. At the same event concerts of Russian music given by Rimsky-Korsakov also left a lasting impression and influenced his orchestral style.
Ravel: "In my own composition, I judge a long period of gestation necessary. During this interval I come progressively and with a growing precision, lo see the form and the evolution that the final work will take in its tolality. Thus I can be occupied for several years without writing a single note of the work, afler which the composilion goes relatively quickly. But one must spend lime in eliminating all thal could be regarded as superfluous in order to reali=e as completely as possible the definitive clarity so much desired."
Ravel's technique is attributed to an unusual extent on manipulation of what have been termed musical objects a phrase that suggests a musical element considered in its own right as self-sufficient; an end in itself, therefore, free from the functional roles that are expected of musical subjects. Ravel was popular in his day due to his distinctive style and bold experiments with musical form. He also made appearances as a conductor and as a pianist.
The Pavane was written in 1899, dedicated to the Princess de Polignac and first performed by the Spanish pianist, Ricardo Vines, a fellow student, in l902. It was one of Ravel's first popular works. Originally written as a piano piece, the orchestral version begins with the solo horn playing the melodic line with the strings accompanying. A brief interlude by the full orchestra adds richness and depth at the close of the introduction as well as each section. A work of repeating sections with only slight development, the Pavane focuses on the portrayal of mood as the central figure with vast orchestral embellishments accentuating the ambiance of tone color. An underlying ostinato pattern played in the strings occurs throughout. The strings in this piece remain in the background while the brass and woodwinds bring out the melodic line. The final episode of the theme is is brought into focus and asserted by the full orchestra while both the strings and brass bring out the theme in its' final form - rich in texture and timbral quality.
Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor (1868) Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Gifted, fluent, and a prolific composer, Saint-Saëns embodied in his works many of the essential French qualities, above all, clarity and order. He impressed an entire generation with his mastery of the art and his lucid interpretations at the keyboard. Saint-Sa&emul;ns began taking piano lessons from his aunt at the age of two and a half. He had perfect pitch and composed his first symphony just after his third birthday. He was a child prodigy and gave performances of works by Bach, Handel, and Mozart. At the age of ten, he made his formal debut with piano concertos by Beethoven and Mozart and as an encore, one of Beethoven's piano sonatas from memory. At the Paris Conservatoire, which he entered aged thirteen, Saint-Saëns attended organ classes with Francois Benoist. Winner of a brilliant Premier Prix in 1851, he began composition lessons.
From 1861 to 1865 Saint-Saëns had a professional teaching appointment at the Ecole Niedermeyer. His pupils there included Gabriel Faure, then a boy of sixteen. Although strict about purely technical matters, Saint-Saëns was an inspiring teacher, and his students remembered him with gratitude. In his memoirs: "Music is something besides a source of sensuous pleasure and keen emolion, and this resource, precious as it is, is only a chance corner in the wide realm of musical art. He who does not get absolute pleasure from a simple series of well-constructed chords, beautifid only in their arrangement, is not really fond of music. "
The first concertos are notable as early examples. The popular Second in G Minor took seventeen days to write and was performed within three weeks. Not having had time to work on it in terms of performance, the composer himself as the soloist did badly, and except for the Scherzo (which was an immediate success) it was poorly received. Despite this bad beginning, the concerto very quickly became popular. Liszt declared the work one of his favorites.
The first movement, Andanté Sostenuto, begins with a piano cadenza with varying tempo changes and broken arpeggios. The orchestra joins in with accentuation by the timpani. The central theme emerges in the piano espressivo. Within this movement tempo changes, dynamic richness, and contrasting harmonic textures lead to a brilliant closing cadenza, ending with a statement of the orchestra's solemn theme.
A contrasting second movement is a playful Scherzo that opens with the timpani and dialogue between the piano and woodwinds. The movement in 6/8 is light, lively and dance-like in character. The main theme . introduced by the strings is immediately followed by playful exchange between the piano and strings with accentuation by the woodwinds. The movement ends again with the timpani playing softly repeated by the flute and very slowly by the piano.
The finale Presto, like the first movement, begins with the piano embellished by the orchestra. Bold dynamic ranges, contrast of colour and harmonic texture, and richness of thematic development distinguish this movement and make it one of virtuosity.
Slavonic Fantasy and Dance of the Russian Peasant David Rubinoff (1897-1986)
Rubinoff began playing the violin at the age of five and was soon performing in the Russian Army band and in the orchestra for state functions. This son of a cab driver and a laundress went to study at the Warsaw Conservatory after winning a scholarship in a music contest. He graduated at the age of eleven. Victor Herbert was in the audience for the graduation concert and was so impressed that he brought Rubinoff and his entire family to America. However, because Rubinoffs father had signed him into the Russian Army, the family had to split up and leave the country in the dark of night. Once here they lived with Herbert while Rubinoff studied at the Forbes School in Pittsburgh, playing at hotels and theatres in the evenings. He first married at the age of fifteen, then divorced; World War I was beginning.
Rubinoff was such a violinist and showman that he gained a following, Rudy Valee being one of his admirers. With Valee's help he got into radio, doing a national weekly show. Rubinoff made movies, was in the first issue of Life magazine, and played for schools, hospitals and prisons. He entertained the troops during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and performed for Presidents Hoover, Eisenhower, Johnson and Kennedy. Rubinoff married a Ziegfeld Follies girl, divorced, then married a divorcee who worked in a cosmetics department. At the age of seventy-five he took his fourth wife, Dame Darlene Azar Rubinoff, a Houston resident. Rubinoff loved his music so much that he was still performing on his Stradivarius shortly before his death in 1986.
From 1930 through 1937, Rubinoff had a radio program sponsored by Chase and Sanborn. The Slavonic Fantasy was written as an overture for that show. It begins slowly and soulfully, then builds to a haunting vivace melody followed by an exciting presto finish. The Dance of the Russian Peasant was written by Rubinoff to play for his graduation from the Warsaw Conservatory. The trills represent the blue summer sky over Rubinoffs childhood home in Grodno, Russia. After a serious beginning, the happy dance begins, mimicking the laughing, dancing feet of gypsies frolicking in the park.
Concerto in C Major for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Op. 56 Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven's (1770-1827) life story is among the most familiar in musical history. A child wonder, exploited (and abused) by his father, Beethoven went on to create a sensation in Vienna with his powerfully expressive playing. Plunged into the depths of despair by unmistakable signs of increasing deafness while still in his late twenties, Beethoven recovered his determination and went on to compose many immortal masterpieces.
The first decade of the Nineteenth Century was the period in which Beethoven emerged from his crisis of 1798. Recovering on the strength of his indomitable personality, and through the therapy of hard work, he composed in those years many of the works for which he is best remembered. He was also able to continue a certain amount of performing and conducting. The advanced deafness that was to isolate him in later life was still some years off, as were the famous letter to the "Immortal Beloved" and the bitter legal wrangling over his nephew Karl. This period was also marked by the episode of Beethoven's unrequited love for the recently widowed Josephine von Brunsvik, to whom he gave piano lessons.
This "heroic" phase of Beethoven's career was marked by increasing scope and grandeur in his compositions, not to mention growing power and drama. These years saw the completion of such works as the "Waldstein" and "Appassionata" Piano sonatas (opp. 54 & 57), the Third Symphony ("Eroica," op. 55), and the Fourth Piano concerto (op. 57). To this list must be added Beethoven's great "labor pains," as he put it, over his opera Fidelio. The Triple Concerto was composed in 1803-4; the premiere was, however, not until 1808. Given the august company of its immediate predecessors and successors, this concerto has always seemed anomalous. It certainly lacks the drama of its companions, being almost Classical in its emotional reserve; yet it rivals the other works in scope, making the material seem inadequate to the task. But, as Tovey points out, the work does repay hearing it on its own terms.
Much of the interest in the Triple Concerto lies in the unique solo group. Concerti for multiple soli were common in the Baroque period, but not in the Classical or Romantic eras. In the present case, Beethoven has, in effect, updated Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto; Bach had used a trio of instruments (flute, violin, harpsichord) as his concertino, with a cello joining the harpsichord frequently when it functioned as continuo. Beethoven's trio of soloists makes up a very commonly used chamber ensemble of the Classical and Romantic periods, the piano trio. It is thus entirely self-supporting whenever it needs to be, and the interplay among the soloists, individually and as a trio, and the orchestra, becomes much more varied than would otherwise be the case.
The first movement, Allegro, opens with an orchestral statement of the main themes, per the Classical norm. The material is restated by the soloists, with some additional material introduced. While Beethoven employs the traditional shape for a concerto first movement, his key scheme is unusual. Rather than move to the dominant for the second theme group, he turns to the submedient, beginning the second theme in A Major, and changing later to A Minor. A development ensues, at the end of which a long dominant preparation builds to a climactic tutti recapitulation. Beethoven's use of the relative minor key in the exposition is replaced in the recapitulation by the parallel minor; the change to C Minor and back to C Major adds harmonic color to the textural intricacies being explored. A brief but brilliant coda, Più allegro, closes the movement.
The second movement is an introverted, cantabile movement, featuring long melodic lines for the cello and violin. It is in the distantly related key of A-flat Major, a relationship that Beethoven had employed in his First Piano Concerto, and would use again in the "Emperor." The orchestra is here cast almost entirely in a supporting role, with the strings muted throughout. At the end of the movement, Beethoven introduces a device he was to use again in the Fifth Symphony, "Emperor" Concerto, and elsewhere: he does not close the movement in itself, but writes a bridge to the finale.
The final movement is a five-part rondo (ABACA) plus Coda, a common structure for symphonic and concerto finales. Alla Polacca refers to a stately Polish dance in triple meter, better known in English-speaking areas by its French name: Polonaise. The Polonaise is now most closely associated with Chopin (who was then not yet born), but the dance is much older. Bach wrote several, and Mozart wrote a Rondeau en Polonaise as the middle movement of his Piano Sonata in D Major, KV 271. But these were of a gentler sort than the Polonaise brillante, which was becoming popular in the early Nineteenth Century. Carl Maria von Weber wrote a number of these, and in fact ended his Horn Concerto with one, composed just two years before the Triple Concerto. Beethoven's is not quite in the brillante vein, on the whole, but he gives us a bit of that flavor, in the C section, in A Minor. In this section, also, we hear the characteristic accompanimental rhythm of the polonaise. After the final A section, there is a rapid, showy coda, marked Allegro, and in duple meter; this gives way to a final appearance of the main theme material, leading to the conclusion.
Symphony in E Minor, op. 32 "Gaelic" Amy Beach
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1867-1944) was born in Henniker, New Hampshire, into a family long established in New England. The young Amy exhibited tremendous precocity in memory, musicality, and general intelligence: she learned to speak at an unusually early age, and before her second birthday could recite nursery rhymes. She had absolute pitch, and could sing several dozen melodies from memory even before she could speak. She associated various keys with different colors (a phenomenon known as synaesthesia, the best-known example of which is Scriabin), and had such a marked preference for major keys that her mother could chastise her for misdeeds simply by playing music in a minor key at the piano.
The Cheneys moved to the Boston area about 1871, and it was at this time that Amy began to study piano, first with her mother, and later with Ernest Perabo and Carl Baermann. Her progress was very rapid; she was playing individual pieces (including a Chopin Waltz) in public a year later. She was taking part in larger and more serious programs in her early teens, making a formal debut at Boston's Music Hall, with orchestra, in 1883. Solo recitals followed, and she played Chopin's F Minor Concerto with the Boston Symphony two years later. She had begun composing, though without formal instruction; some of her early efforts favorably impressed the few who knew of them.
Late in 1885, Amy married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a surgeon prominent in Boston society. Beach was then a widower, and actually the same age as her father. Dr. Beach both encouraged his wife in her musical career and tried to shield her from any possible criticism - understandable but mutually exclusive goals. Mrs. Beach thus restricted her performing largely to salon-like appearances for the socially elite, though she accepted other engagements when they were convenient. She also found herself with time to compose. (The couple had no children; in contrast one may cite Clara Schumann, who, balancing an active performing career with motherhood, consciously gave up composing.) Starting with smaller forms - piano pieces and songs - she quickly gained the skill and confidence to tackle larger genres. In 1892 she scored twin triumphs: the first when her Mass in E-flat was performed at a Handel and Haydn Society concert, with by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the second when her concert scena and aria Mary Stuart was performed by the New York Philharmonic.
Following her husband's death in 1910, Beach felt able to resume a more active career as a pianist. She made a tour of Europe in 1911-14, and another in 1926-27. Between these tours she was active in the United States as a pianist and composer, and was active in several musical organizations. She worked on making the MacDowell Colony a reality, and spent several summers there. Beach remained active in musical circles well into her seventies. Her compositional output eventually grew to 152 opus numbers, nearly all puhlished in her lifetime. These works include many songs, piano pieces, a piano concerto, some chamber music, a generous amount of church music, a secular cantata Peter Pan, and one symphony.
The "Gaelic" Symphony, composed in 1894, premiered in Boston in 1896 to favorable reviews. Most American critics, however, seemed (by current standards) overly interested in the composer's gender, while in Europe the notice seemed to be more of her all-American training. Both reactions are reminders of the times. Beach grew up during the rise of the women's suffrage movement; Susan B. Anthony had been arrested for voting in Rochester, NY, in 1872, and by the 1890s the debate was at a fever pitch. Beach belonged to the circle of composers now referred to as "The New England School"; she enjoyed the support of her older contemporaries John Knowles Paine (1839-1906), George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931) and Edward MacDowell (1861-1908). All of them had studied in Europe; MacDowell was the first American composer who was considered to rank with the average German composer of the day. That America could produce a musician of Beach's caliber without Continental assistance thus came as a revelation.
The Symphony is in four movements. The first is in the expected sonata form. The opening, in the romantic tradition, begins from silence with a restless murmuring, over which the principal theme appears. A second theme group, in the relative major, is more lyrical, and in fact closes with the first of four folk-songs quoted in the Symphony: "Conchobhar ua Raghallaigh Cluann" ("Connor O'Reilly of Clounish"). The development is extensive, employing such devices as augmentation, diminution, and double counterpoint. A recitative for the clarinet announces the recapitulation. The second theme is restated in the unexpected key of A-flat major, but the concluding theme returns us to the tonic. The coda is long and powerful.
The second movement is a scherzo, but the outer parts are relaxed in character and tempo, in the manner normally expected in the trio, while the trio is conspicuously vivacious. Furthermore, the movement is monothematic: the material for the trio is a transformation of the Siciliano melody of the first section. (This is very much like Brahms' procedure in the third movement of his second Symphony.) The source for all of this is the Irish tune "Goirtin Ornadh" (The little field of Barley. )
The third movement is a very introverted Largo, in a ternary form somewhat modified for expressive purposes. Two themes are heard, one in E minor and the other in B major; after a short development, the first theme returns to close the movement. Both themes are form Gaelic sources: a fiddle tune "Paisdin Fuinne" and a song, "Cia an Bealach a Deachaidh Si" ("Which way did she go?"). The orchestration features solo passages for violin and cello; the bass clarinet adds to the dark color of the movement.
The finale is in sonata form, and opens with an idea taken from the Coda of the first movement. This idea is immediately developed, passing through several keys. The second theme is more lyrical, and is first presented in B major. A relatively short development leads to a somewhat condensed recapitulation. The coda begins quietly, but builds quickly to a forte, which is maintained to the end. The two themes (which are not derived from old material) are heard together at the climax, after which a series of fanfares in the brass brings the work to its conclusion.
Beach's Symphony invites comparison with Dvorák's New World Symphony, which premiered in 1893 and to which Beach's work is clearly a response. Both are in the same key, and some details are parallel, including the use of A-flat major in the first movements for the recapitulation of the second theme. But Beach used folk materials, while Dvorák did not; she did not pursue cyclic unity to the extent that Dvorák did. Both works use the English Horn and oboe prominently; Beach enlarges the orchestra further by including bass clarinet.
English Folk Song Suite Ralph Vaughan Williams
Born in Gloucestershire into a distinguished family, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-l958), grew up in Surrey. His first music teacher was an aunt, who was herself quite well trained, and gave the young Ralph a solid grounding not only in piano, but also in thoroughbass and harmony. Vaughan Williams later also took up the organ, violin, and viola. His formal education included two years at the Royal College of Music in London, followed by three years at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a MusB degree in 1894, and a BA in History in 1895. He then returned to the Royal College of Music for further study. His composition teachers during this time were C. Hubert H. Parry, Charles Wood, and Charles Villiers Stanford -- all highly respected at the time, though largely forgotten now.
Vaughan Williams had been drawn to composition from the beginning -- a four-bar piece he composed at age four survives -- but, in spite of his excellent musical training, his progress was frustratingly slow. He supported himself as a church organist, lecturer and writer about music, and music editor. He also began collecting folk songs, eventually amassing a body of more than 800 songs and variants, principally from Norfolk, Essex, and Sussex. Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the English musical scene, which was then dominated by German post-Romantic influences, he turned away from Continental thinking, and towards specifically English materials.
It was in the years preceding the outbreak of World War I that Vaughan Williams' own voice began to emerge in his compositions. The turning point seems to have come with On Wenlock Edge; other early successes include Toward the Unknown Region, Five Mystic Songs, and Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. His output was interrupted during his service in WWI (beginning at age 42!); after the war, he joined the teaching staff of the Royal College of Music, and also conducted the Bach Choir. He finally hit his stride as a composer, though he always felt that his compositional technique was amateurish, and produced many of the masterworks for which he is now best remembered. Honors were heaped upon him, including at least five honorary doctorates from British Universities alone, beginning with one from Oxford in 1919. In 1935 -- having previously declined a knighthood! -- he accepted the Order of Merit.
The English Folk Song Suite was composed in 1923, for miliary band. The orchestral version heard on this program was made by Gordon Jacob, who was not long afterward to write a textbook on orchestration; both versions were published in 1924. The work is a very straightforward one, in three movements. The folk melodies employed are not named, except for the title tunes of the first two movements. Many of the melodies employ modal elements, which were then re-entering European art music after centuries of neglect.
As befits a piece for military band, the outer movements are both marches. The first movement is, unusually for a march, in the so-called "arch" form: ABCBA. The two A sections, along with the C, are in F Dorian, a mode related to F Minor, but with the sixth degree raised (D natural rather than D flat). The Dorian mode is common in the British Isles, and familiar examples of it in folk and popular usages include the sea chantey "What Can You Do With a Drunken Sailor?" and Simon and Garfunkel's hit "Scarborough Fair." The change from 2/4 meter to 6/8 further distinguishes the C section. The B sections present a contrasting melody, in the key of A-flat Major. In the second movement, a gentle tune, Andantino and again in F Dorian, is contrasted by a livelier one, Allegretto scherzando, in F Mixolydian. (The Mixolydian Mode is much like the Major, but with the seventh degree flatted; an example from popular music is the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood.") The final movement is a very typical march, with trio; the tunes present a medley of Somerset folk songs. Following the British march tradition, the march proper returns after the trio in both cases. (This is in distinct contrast to the American march tradition; in Sousa's marches, among many others that could be cited, the trio ends the composition.) In this case, the march proper is squarely in Bflat Major, while the Trio presents two tunes, one in 6/8 meter and C Dorian, the other in 2/4 meter and E-flat Major.
Sinfonia Concertante Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The outline of Mozart's tragically short life (1756-91) is by now so well known as to make a biographical sketch almost unnecessary. Furthermore, the questionable authenticity of the work programmed makes biographical details seem irrelevant -- and thereby hangs a tale.
One of the most spectacular child prodigies in history, Mozart grew up in a musical family, taught (and exploited) by his violinist father. Concert tours kept him away from home for extended periods during his childhood and youth, and even after settling down in Vienna he found it necessary to travel to supervise productions of his operas and other compositions. On one such trip, in the spring of l778, he found himself in Paris. He composed, apparently sometime in April, a work resembling the present Sinfonia Concertante, and sold it to one Jean Le Gros, then Director of the Concert spirituel. Perhaps he was pressed for time and/or money; perhaps his formidable memory made the precaution seem unnecessary to him; in any case, he failed to keep a copy. Due to some intrigues, or at least inexplicable circumstances, the projected concert did not materialize, and the autograph (and only) score disappeared. Later that year, Mozart mentioned in a letter that he intended to write out again the work he had sold to Le Gros-but if he did, no evidence of the fact, much less the autograph itself, has ever been found.
But the puzzle continues, of course, or there would be no Symphonia Concertante on our program. In the mid-nineteenth century Otto Jahn (1813-69) undertook the writing of a definitive biography of Mozart. His thoroughness in amassing materials and checking all available sources set a new standard for research of this kind; indeed, the resulting biography remained the premier work on Mozart for a century. After Jahn's death, a copy of the Sinfonia Concertante was found among his papers -- in the hand of one of the copyists employed by Jahn, and dating from the 1850's. From what source this copyist worked remains a mystery, however, and the authenticity of the work remains suspect in musicological circles.
Happily, we need not resolve this issue to enjoy the work. Whatever its origin, the Sinfonia Concertante is a charming work in the mature Classical style. Its instrumentation, calling for a concertino of four wind instruments against an orchestral tutti, is unusual but not unheard of in the Classical period. Mozart indubitably composed other works for multiple soloists and orchestra, notably the Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra and another Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra. The present work is in the expected three movements, the most surprising feature of the overall shape being the fact that all three movements are in the key of E-flat Major. Whether this failure to employ a contrasting key for the middle movement is evidence that the piece was by a lesser composer, or merely an artifact of the limitations of the valveless horn for which it was written, is a question that cannot be answered.
The first movement is in the traditional double-exposition version of sonata form. The solo quartet makes its entrance after the orchestra has been through the principal thematic material once. The initial statement by the quartet echoes the orchestral unison that opens the movements, but thereafter various combinations within the quartet are exploited. Most often, the oboe and clarinet are paired, against the horn and bassoon, but other combinations are featured also. The cadenza is, of course, written out, and perfectly metrical -- it would have been highly impractical to ask the solo quartet to improvise a cadenza, or to play in a very free manner rhythmically, as was expected in single-soloist concerti of the period. The second movement, which is, as expected, slow, is in an abridged sonata form. It has contrasting themes, in the usual key relationship of tonic and dominant, but has almost no development section at all preceding the recapitulation. The finale consists of ten variations on a theme, followed by a coda. The theme and all variations but the last conclude with a tutti which, though itself subjected to some variation, functions in part as a ritornello. These variations include neither a change of mode nor an adagio variation, devices Mozart often employed in his variation movements. There is a brief adagio between the last variation and the coda, however, which serves a similar function, namely, to set up the finale. The coda begins as a variation, with a change of meter (another device Mozart routinely employed in concluding his variation sets), but soon parts company with the structure of the theme, in order to obtain the freedom necessary to make a rousing conclusion to the movement and concerto as a whole.
Symphony in D Minor César Franck
Having been born a little later than midway between Mozart and Vaughan Williams, César Franck (1822-90) had the double misfortune of being a child prodigy, like the former, but, like the latter, a late bloomer as a composer. Franck spent his early years in Liège, now in Belgium but then controlled by France. The family was not well off but his father was ambitious, and the young César was pushed to develop his obvious talent. He studied at the Liège Conservatoire from 1830 to 1835, taking prizes in solfêge and piano. In 1835, the family moved to Paris, where he studied piano further under Pièrre-Joseph-Guillaume Zimmermann and composition under Anton Reicha. He was a student at the Paris Conservatoire from 1837-42.
At the age of twenty, he launched a performing career which, in spite of his technical ability, did not take off. His early compositions received disappointingly mixed reviews. He then turned to teaching, both privately and in various institutions in Paris. He also turned his keyboard skills in another direction, as a church organist. In l853 he was organist at the Church of St Jean-St Franqois du Marais, which had just installed a new organ by the revolutionary builder Cavaillè-Coll, to whose firm Franck became a consultant. Five years later he took the prestigious post at Ste Clotilde, where his abilities as an extemporizer attracted notice. Franck turned some of these improvisations into his first major work, the Six Pièces for organ. In 1872 he returned to the Conservatoire, as professor of organ.
At the age of fifty, Franck was just emerging as a major composer. He had developed a personal view of tonality and musical structure, along with an exquisite command of chromatic harmony. A further impetus to his development came in 1874, when he first heard Wagner's Prelude to Tristan und Isolde. His mature output includes several tone poems, notably Les Eolides, a Piano Quintet, an oratorio, Les béatitudes, several highly original organ works, the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, and the present Symphony.
Franck cast his D-Minor Symphony, composed during the years 1886-88, in three movements rather than four, without, however, sacrificing any of the usual elements of the symphonic cycle. He accomplished this feat by telescoping the two inner movements -- the slow movement and the scherzo-into one. Such tours-de-force of pre-compositional planning have their roots in the late Romantic drive towards unifying large-scale works via elaborate thematic connections.
The first movement is in the expected sonata-allegro form, with a slow introduction. The portentous, even ominous idea stated at the outset is transformed at the Allegro into the principal theme, thus already beginning the process of thematic unity. After reaching the relative major (F major in this case), but before presenting the contrasting themes expected in that key, Franck repeats the introduction and first theme, beginning in the remote (to D minor) key of F minor. The contrasting themes follow, in F major. The development explores various combinations of the thematic materials, as well as very remote key relationships. Franck's frequent and distant modulations approach the limits of tonal coherence. The recapitulation begins with the Lento, in the home key of D minor, but the following Allegro is at first in the totally unexpected key of Eflat minor. Some of Franck's chromatic magic soon puts things right, and the second and closing themes follow in D major. The coda begins quietly, returning to D minor, and builds steadily to a thundering climax, at which point the opening motive reappears to close the movement, at the original Lento tempo. The second movement begins as an Andante, with strings playing pizzicato plus harp. The key is B-flat minor-again, a remote relationship with the preceding movement. The principal theme, a haunting, melancholy melody, is stated by the English horn. This melody and a contrasting one are developed by the orchestra, moving through various keys. But this movement must also function as the scherzo of the symphony; the appropriate new idea is introduced after a series of foreshadowings and pauses. The scherzo material is worked out so that it moves exactly three times as fast as the Andante; in Franck's explanation to his friend Pierre de Bréville, "each beat of the Andante would equal one bar of the Scherzo, so that aAer the complete development of the two ideas, one could be superimposed on the other." The two ideas are thus recapitulated simultaneously, leading to a peaceful conclusion in B-flat major.
The finale begins with a deft transition to the home key of D major. The principal theme, at once lyrical in contour and rhythmically alive in its syncopation, is introduced by the cellos. This idea is quickly passed through the orchestra, passing though several keys, and emerging again in D major, forte. The music subsides again, leading to a contrasting theme, introduced by the brass, in the remote key of B major. But resemblance to a normal sonata-form movement ends in the development, when the themes from the earlier movements begin to reappear. In Franck's words, "The Finale, as in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, recalls all the themes. But in my Symphony, they do not appear as mere quotations; rather they play the role of new elements, which is something else entirely." And the Finale is indeed more than a conclusion; it is an apotheosis. The first melody from the second movement reappears at a faster tempo, in keeping with the main tempo of the finale, and thus exchanges its melancholy for a sweeping nobility. As the motive of the opening Lento is heard in D major, with ascending arpeggios in the harp, its gloom evaporates. The brilliant coda that follows thus acquires an added depth and conviction.
Hector Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) was surely one of the most romantic figures of the Romantic period. His tempestuous infatuation with the Irish actress Henrietta Smithson (which inspired the Symphonie Fantastique of 1830) their courtship, stormy marriage, and eventual divorce, are well known. His musical career also had its difficulties. Intended by his family for a career in medicine, he studied music almost entirely on his own. He played the guitar, though certainly not as a virtuoso; unlike almost every other major composer of the time, he had no performing career at all. Berlioz supported himself in part by writing musical criticism, contributing significantly to that field. His compositional output is almost entirely for orchestra, or involves the orchestra. Indeed, he made the orchestra itself his instrument, to a degree previously not thought of, and seldom approached since. Besides the Symphony Fantastique, his works include operas (Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens) an oratorio (L'Enfance du Christ) a Requiem, incidental music, and several concert overtures.
Composed in 1843, the concert overture Roman Carnival had to wait almost six years for its premiere, which took place on February 3, 1849, with Berlioz on the podium. The overture follows what was then standard procedure, but with a few characteristic touches by the composer. The work may be viewed as an abridged sonata or "sonatina" form: introduction, exposition of two themes, abbreviated development, and recapitulation with coda. In this case, as was usual with Berlioz and many others of the time, the slow introduction is preceded by a "fast introduction" - which turns out to be a foreshadowing of the second theme of the sonata part of the overture. The real introduction features a melody borrowed from his opera Benvenuto Cellini, and heard first in the English horn. The ensuing Allegro vivace enters quietly and unobtrusively, but the rhythmic vitality soon creates a sense of boisterous, good fun. The recapitulation, unlike the exposition, begins loudly, and the second theme follows suit. But Berlioz does not proceed directly to the expected conclusion. The coda is greatly expanded, and Berlioz integrates the introduction with the main body of the overture (unity was a serious matter for the Romantic composer) by re-introducing the English horn melody, now in the bassoon. This involved something of a tour-de-force, as it requires superimposing the slow triple meter of the introduction over the fast duple meter of the allegro. This all leads to a development of motives from the allegro, culminating in a fugato, which leads to the brilliant finish.
Franz Doppler Concerto in D minor for Two Flutes and Orchestra
Franz Doppler (1821-1883) and his younger brother Karl (1825-1900) were first taught music by their father, Joseph, an oboist and composer. Native to Poland, the brothers made their careers primarily in Hungary. Franz debuted in Vienna at the age of 13, and the two brothers toured widely as virtuosi in their teens. Franz settled in Pest in 1838, becoming (at age 17!) principal flautist with the German Theater there. His brother joined him not long afterward, and soon both were playing in the Hungarian National Theater. Franz composed several operas in Hungarian, on Hungarian subjects, and enjoyed appreciable success. He was influenced mainly by the Italian school (especially Donizetti) but added elements of Russian, Polish, and Hungarian music as suggested by the operatic subjects. He was a good orchestrator, and his transcriptions of several of Liszt's piano compositions became popular. He also composed music for the flute, with various accompaniments, and for piano four hands. Interestingly, the brothers collaborated on some compositions, especially on various arrangements (mostly of folk music) for male chorus. The two brothers continued to make concert tours, one of which occasioned a meeting with Liszt in Weimar, and another of which took them to England. In 1858 Franz moved to Vienna, where he wrote one opera in German, some ballet music, and conducted the ballet. He taught flute at the Vienna Conservatory, beginning in 1865. Albert moved to Stuttgart in 1865, where he was Kapellmeiser until his retirement in 1898.
Although concerti for multiple soloists were common in the Baroque, they are sufficiently rare in the Classical and Romantic eras that the few examples that do exist (Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Brahms' Double Concerto) are quite conspicuous in the repertoire. Furthermore, the three works just cited all involve a mixture of solo instruments. The present offering is thus a real rarity: a Romantic concerto for a pair of a single instrument, and especially rare in that the instrument is the flute, which 19th century composers generally ignored as a virtuoso vehicle. Rare as it might be, however, the decision to write for two flutes is an obvious one in this case, given that the Dopplers were accustomed to concertizing together. (One cannot help musing on their name: Doppler is related to the German Doppel - double.) The date and circumstances of the concerto's composition are unknown; it seems not to have been published in the Dopplers' time, and is not listed among their works in musical reference sources. The work is heard here in a version "reconstructed and edited" about 25 years ago by Andras Adorjan.
The concerto is cast in the traditional three-movement form. The opening Allegro Maestoso, in sonata form with double exposition, is in D minor. The opening theme, in D minor, is dark and stormy in mood; it contrasts with the lyrical second theme, which is in the major mode. The alternately dramatic and lyrical orchestral writing acts as a foil for the brilliant coloratura of the flute passages. In this, the hand of a successful opera composer may be detected. The first movement lacks a proper ending; in the true Romantic spirit of unifying large forms, there is instead a transition leading directly into the slow movement. This second movement is a cavatina for flute duet, accompanied almost entirely by the harp. The combination recalls Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp. This movement is in the remote key of D-flat major: a relationship that suggests Eastern European influence. The finale follows, attacca, on the heels of the second. Again we hear two themes in alternation, the first in the minor and the second in the major mode. But the mood is lighter than in the first movement, and, after a cadenza displaying not only the technical capacities of the flute, but also the intricate ensemble skills of two flutists, the second theme returns, leading to a brilliant coda in D major.
Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A minor, op. 56 (Scottish)
Born into a well-to-do family in Berlin, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1848) enjoyed the advantages of a sound education and early and frequent exposure to fine arts and music. Talented also in the visual arts, he pursued a career in music, studying composition with Karl Friedrich Zelter. (Though nearly forgotten today, Zelter was well known at the time as one of the leaders of Berlin's musical life; it is even said that Goethe preferred Zelter's setting of his poems to Beethoven's.) The young Mendelssohn was a fine pianist, and began composing before entering his teens. His best early works are the Sinfonias, mostly for string orchestra, and the Overture to A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, which he composed at the age of seventeen. In 1829, soon after his 20th birthday, he undertook an extensive concert tour, at the behest of his parents. That same year, on one leg of this lengthy journey, he made the first of ten visits to England, where he was well received and was to become very popular. He also traveled to Scotland, which left an indelible impression on him. His Fingal's Cave (Hebrides) Overture is one souvenir of this trip, and the first sketches for the Third Symphony date from this period also.
But Mendelssohn was not to return to his sketches and finish this Scottish Symphony for a dozen years. He was a very busy young man: he toured Europe as a pianist (his Fourth Symphony, the Italian, was a result of a visit there in 1832) and in 1835 he began his tenure as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. This association proved an enormous success for all parties. Mendelssohn raised the standard of orchestral performance, and introduced the mixture of older and newer works that has been a feature of symphonic programming ever since. Associated with Leipzig for most of his adult life, Mendelssohn was to found the Leipzig Conservatory and serve as its first director. He was also vital in rediscovering and reviving the music of another adopted Leipziger - J.S. Bach. He married in 1837 (in contrast to Berlioz, happily) and his growing family - eventually five children must also have made demands on his time.
By the time he returned to his Scottish sketches, during a less-than-satisfying stint in the Academy of the Arts for King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, Mendelssohn had matured as a composer. (The numbering of Mendelssohn's Symphonies reflects the order of their publication; the Third was actually the last of the five to be completed.) This symphony does not paint the Scottish landscape; it communicates the character of the country and its people as Mendelssohn had perceived them.
The work is cast in the usual four movements, but, as in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Scherzo is placed second rather than third, and the slow movement therefore is third. The four movements are played without pause, and Mendelssohn uses various devices to meld them together without sacrificing their separate characters and identities. The Allegro un poco agitato of the first movement is in a straight-forward sonata form, with two restless but lyrical themes, each in a minor key. This is framed by an Andante con moto that serves as an introduction and returns to act both as an epilogue to the first movement and as a bridge to the second. The scherzo, the most obviously Scottish of the four movements, represents the dance in the symphonic cyc1e, but is not a descendant of the triple-metered minuet. Instead, Mendelssohn gives us a lively, duple-meter piece that recalls the Highland Fling or a Scottish reel. The movement is not in the traditional ternary form (Scherzo-Trio-Scherzo,) but in a modified sort of sonata form. The third movement is lyrical and somewhat introverted, with some dark, quasi-funeral march interjections. The final movement, Allegro vivacissimo, follows immediately, changing the mood abruptly. It is interesting that in additional notes Mendelssohn left but did not include in the published score, he further characterized this movement as "Allegro Guerriero" (warlike allegro) the same marking Max Bruch later chose for the final movement of his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra. This movement is also in sonata form, with a first theme in A minor, characterized by driving dotted rhythms,' and a contrasting theme in C major. But this movement is not the finale - for that purpose Mendelssohn provides an epilogue, Allegro maestoso assai, which recalls the 6/8 meter of the first movement but is thematically independent. A new idea is introduced at this point, in A major, and is skillfully built to a rich, warm conclusion a coda not to the fourth movement alone, but to the Symphony as a whole.
The Civilian Barber (Perhaps the Overture) P.D.Q. Bach (after 1700 something)
The definitive biography of P.D.Q. Bach describes, under the heading of Civilian Barber, an orchestral suite: Entrance of the Dragoons (tempo di Marsha); Dance of St. Vitus; His Majesty's Minuet; Fanfare for the Royal Shaft; Her Majesty's Minuet; and Departure of the Dragoons (tempo di on the double.) This suite is a collection of instrumental pieces which were, one supposes, originally well dispersed throughout Bach's environs. The manuscript was found lining the bottom of a birdcage stored in the basement of a house that had once belonged to the Bandmeister of Baden-Baden-Baden; Bach had sent him the piece, perhaps, in the hopes of obtaining performance at the local bandshell (evidently unfulfilled.)
In the opening movement, Entrance of the Dragoons, the marking, tempo di Marsha, is either a misspeling or a reference to one known to barracks-mates as "Puff, the Magic Dragoon." In any case this is irrelevant, since our research has been able to unearth only one fragment, labeled, simply, "Brightly." One might guess that originally this was the Overture. Somehow bits and pieces are reminiscent of something I heard somewhere.. someth!ng by Rossini? .. no, Beethoven! (?)
Welcome ;-} to the month of April.
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op. 35 Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (1840-1895)
The events leading to the composition and initial performance of this wonderful concerto constitute a tale of intrigue. Tschaikovsky, under the sponsorship of his patroness, Mme. vonMeck, was spending the spring of 1878 in Switzerland, partly as a retreat from his earlier disastrous marriage to a former conservatory student of his. He was accompanied by a young violinist, Joseph Kotek, also a fellow composer. The two spent the spring working on the violin concerto together, and both were evidently confident of its merit. Mme. vonMeck, though, strongly criticized the piece, prompting Tschaikovsky to write back "Your frank judgement on my Violin Concerto pleased me very much. It would have been very disagreeabie to me if you, from any fear of wounding the petty pride of a composer, had kept back your opinion. However, I must defend a little..."(the two never actually met, in person).
Tschaikovsky had intended to convince the professor of violin at the Imperial Conservatory in St. Petersburg to launch the Concerto on its career, and inscribed the original dedication to him. Professor Auer, though, after simply glancing through the score, declared it to be "impossible to play," and put it on a back shelf in his library. Leopold Auer, incidentally, was also the Czar's court violinist: the final authority. Thus, the piece was neglected until 1881 when a somewhat reluctant Adolf Brodsky performed it with the Vienna Philharmonic. The premiere performance was less than perfect: the orchestra was permitted only one rehearsal; there were errors in the parts; the players doubted it could be played at all. As a result, the orchestral parts were all played pianissimo so that the mistakes wouldn't be heard. The critics in general hated the piece; one called it "music that stinks in the ear." Even the soloist remarked to the composer that the had "crammed too many difficulties into it." Eventually, even professor Auer decided to play it and perform, and then, to teach the concerto; its dedication statement, meanwhile, had been changed from "Auer" to "Brodsky," who actually earned the honor. Its wide contemporary appreciation is largely due to the teachings of the good professor (which had effect only after Tschaikovsky's death, however.) Today the piece is a fundamental mainstay of the solo violin repertoire, and a favorite of music lovers everywhere.
The Concerto opens quietly, with an introductory statement by the strings and winds. The solo violin enters with a moderate statement of a somehow Russian melody, and this is gradually developed and embellished with a variety of soloistic and orchestral treatments. This gradually grows to a resounding climax, followed by a brilliant cadenza (which was written by the composer.) The coda following begins quietly again, then quickly picks up speed and volume building up to the final climax. The second movement is a very placid, simple, and pleasing Canzonetta, or songlet, with a rather frisky secondary theme, as stated by the solo. This is played almost as an introduction, and without pause, the Concerto plunges into the Finale Allegro Vivacissimo. The entire movement is so Russian in ambiance that one can easily imagine the Cossack dancers and possibly even smell vodka (That same critic found this to be in bad taste.) The Finale contains some of the most challenging solo violin passages in the entire repertoire. The final explosion of the coda is some of Tschaikovsky's most exhuberant work.
Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Edward Elgar was born outside Worcester, England in 1857, and at the peak of his career was probably the most renowned musician of his time and place. He came from a musical and supportive family; his father began as a piano tuner and owned a music shop. Edward spent his growing years learning, playing and composing in a wide range of musical forms and disciplines. He took formal violin lessons, and was self-taught on other instruments, including piano. His first composition was at the age of ten, for a family play. From the age of sixteen he was a professional freelance musician, composing during all free moments -- while traveling, or after teaching lessons. Later he succeeded his father as Organ Master at St. George's Cathedral.
The Enigma was written in 1898-99, at the height of his career. "In this music I have sketched, for their amusement and mine, the idiosyncrasies of fourteen of my friends..." Elgar said, and each movement is thus named or dedicated. He was accustomed to improvising at the keyboard for group entertainment on themes derived from names, or other ideas. In this Orchestral Suite, a quiet statement of the theme, labeled "Enigma," is initially presented by the strings and winds. The origin of this theme is left unexplained. The first variation is said to portray the composer's wife, and the last is a self-portrait. Of those between, the fourteen variations are marked with initials, nicknames and *** (which may simply be an unnamed interlude before the finale.) The names mean little these days, but the amazing contrasts among the movements are remarkable. His friends were indeed a various bunch. One movement, IX, Nimrod, Elgar described as "a record of a long summer evening talk when my friend grew nobly eloquent -- as only he could -- on the grandeur of Beethoven and especially his slow movements." Another variation, XI, depicts the church organist and his bulldog (who, fortunately, makes only one big entrance.) The first performance was June, 1899, in London, with Hans Richter.
The University of Cambridge conferred an honorary Doctorate in 1900, in recognition of the Enigma variations; it was considered to be the most distinguished British orchestral work of that time. "The Variations should stand simply as a piece of music. The Enigma I will not explain its dark saying must be left unguessed." The Enigma is indeed a major evocation of the full symphony orchestra; it eloquently demonstrates Elgar's command of the medium.
Traürmusik (Mourning Music) for String Orchestra Witold Lutoslawski
Lutoslawski (1915- 1994) was one of the most admired Polish composers of modern times. Born into a family of means and education, he began piano studies at the age of eleven, violin at thirteen, and entered the Warsaw Conservatory at fifteen. He also studied mathematics, graduating nine years later. Further study abroad was canceled by the Nazi invasion. He fled the l944 destruction of Warsaw, returning after the war to marry and compose. In l962 he accepted an offer to teach at Tanglewood, and taught in England, Germany, Scandinavia, and the United States.
As a composer, Lutoslawski was an innovative eclectic. His influences include Bartok, Polish folk music, and later, John Cage. In his rather small output he avoided the neo-tonal approach of his Polish colleagues. The Traürmusik had its world premiere by the Polish Radio Symphony in March, l958. The first American performance was by the Contemporary Music Society of Houston in April, l959. Later in the same year, it made a particularly strong impression at the Venice Festival. In contrast to one of the composer's earlier works (which was the first rejected by the Communist regime) the Traürmusik coincided with the Polish Revolution and its new-found freedoms. Thus Lutoslawski was able to introduce a freely personal use of the twelve-tone serial technique. The work was written in mernory of Bartok, but makes litle use of his strong folk influences.
There are four sections to the Traürmusik and they are played without pause. The first, a pensive Prologue, uses a flowing melody of tritones and half-steps which continually alternate in ascending or descending patterns. The piece begins with a solo cello joined immediately by other voices, which throughout the work are voiced in pairs, and reaches a climax in which fifteen individual parts can be heard. The second section, Metamorphoses, is the longest of the four sections. It is begun by isolated pizzicatos in the basses and violas with interspersed sul ponticello tremolo effects. A series of short fragments becomes increasingly agitated and picks up intensity and speed to reach a brief, dissonant climax in the Apogee section. The final section, Epilogue, returns to the tone row of the Prologue, and the texture thins gradually to the single cello with which the work began.
Concerto No. 2 in E flat for Two Horns and Strings Georg Phillipp Telemann
Telemann (1681-1767) is one of the best known German Baroque composers; yet only about thirty-five years ago, few had even heard of him. In his own time, Telemann outranked both Bach and Handel, being the best-known, most influential, and most prolific of all. Unlike them, however, a substantial amount of his work has been lost, and that which has survived is widely dispersed with differences of title, movements, instrumentation and details. Most of these still await classification, numbering and dating.
Telemann wrote eight or nine works featuring one or more horns. The now standard Concerto in D which appeared in the 1960's may be the earliest of all solo concertos; a Concerto in Eb for two horns, part of the Tafelmusic, was available in a modern edition by l933. The present concerto was not published until l982; the manuscript was badly damaged during WWII and required extensive reconstruction, done here by Edmond Leloir. Today's performance may in fact be the first time for the work to be heard in this country.
The concerto contains the usual three movements; an opening Allegro, a Largo in which the horns are tacet, and a final Vivace. In keeping with ihe practice of the period, the first horn part is high and florid, though not as much as many horn works of that period. The second horn uses mostly the middle range to partner the first horn, and to provide occasional independent passages in the bottom octave. The acrobatics found in second parts of later double concertos are not found, nor is the hand horn technique used (in which movements of the hand within the bell provide additional notes.) Thus, only seventeen notes occur between both solo parts, which shows what Telemann could do with limited resources. Three of the notes, however, are not seen in any other horn music of that period. It is not certain if these unusual notes were the result of the original performers' ability to somehow play them, or if they were added by the editor in the course of reconstructing the work.
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
The composition of the fourth symphony coincided with two major events in Tchaikovsky's life (1840-1895) which influenced the nature of the work. Since l865, he had heen teaching at Moscow Conservatory; he hated teaching, though, and was becoming increasingly neurotic and despondent. Then, Nadezhda von Meck entered his life: a wealthy widow with a passion for music, she had heard some of his work and commisioned more. Soon, she settled an annuity which enabled him to be free of all employment. Their relationship was carried out by correspondence, as by agreement they were never to meet. The second event was a passionate letter from Antonina Ivanovna Miliukov, a 28-year old former student, declaring her love. Her threats of suicide and other pressures led Tchaikovsky into a disastrous nine-week marriage, which provoked him to flee and attempt suicide. Only a trip to Switzerland with his brother enabled him to resume work and complete the fourth symphony. It was given its first performance on February 22, 1878 which the composer did not attend.
"Our Symphony has a program" wrote Tchaikovsky to Mme. von Meck. In a long letter he wrote out a detailed analysis: the opening fanfare in the horns, followed by the trumpets is "the kernel, the quintessence, the chief thought of the whole symphony. This is Fate, the fatal power which hinders one in the pursuit of happiness ..." With the waltz-like main theme "the feeling of depression and loneliness grows stronger..." The sprightly second theme, first presented by the solo clarinet... "a sweet and tender dream enfolds me..." and with the broader lyrical meiody which immediately follows "deeper and deeper the soul is sunk in dreams." These are shattered by the return of the fanfare. The movement contains some rhythmic passages which were unusual for the time and a number of solos for the woodwinds and the horn.
"The second movement shows another phase of sadness" he wrote, and went on to describe melancholy memories, irreparable loss, and being tired of life. The movement, in three-part song form, begins with one of the best-known orchestral oboe solos, later repeated in the bassoon -- an instrument for which Tchaikovsky had a particular fondness. The middle section is more cheerful.
For the third movement Scherzo "...there is no determined feeling, no exact expression." One finds "vague figures which slip into the imagination when one has taken wine and is slightly intoxicated." The familiar pizzicato theme in the strings is the basis of the first and last sections, while the middle Trio features arabesque figures in the woodwinds, with the piccolo given a particular workout. These are interrupted by hints of a military march in the brasses.
Sweeping runs in the strings and woodwinds usher in the final movement with its "picture of a folk holiday." The second theme, first given by the oboe and bassoon is developed a number of ways until "...fate reminds us once more of its presence": the fanfare which opened the symphony returns. Nevertheless, "...there is still happiness, simple native happiness. Rejoice in the happiness of others and you can still live." Thus the fourth symphony is brought to a lively and brilliant close.
Concerto For Flute, Harp and Orchestra, K. 299 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
This interesting work was composed in Paris in 1778 for the Count of Guines and his daughter, who played flute and harp respectively. Mozart gave composition lessons to the daughter for a period of four months. Unfortunately, she was not a good student and soon gave up on the idea To add insult to injury, Mozart was only paid for half of the lessons and received no salary for the concerto. It is only in the second half of the twentieth century that the work has had any kind of popularity, due to its unusual instrumentation. The first movement is busy, opening with melodic statements by the violins supported by the winds. The soloists enter without orchestral accompaniment at first; then the strings are added at intervals thoughout the movement to support them. A detailed cadenza occurs for both soloists before the end of the movement. The second movement is scored only for the soloists and strings. Like many slow movements of Mozart concerti, it is written in a singing style. An unusual feature of the movement is the divided viola part, which adds warmth and interest to the inner harmonies. The soloists interweave somewhat complicated lines together based upon the melodic material presented at the onset. The third movement is a brisk rondo, much like a gavotte, and typified by a variety of themes. The movement also uses staggered entrances between the strings, winds, and the soloists for variety and color.
Symphony No. 6 in A Major Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Among some of the largest works in the Western music tradition, from the standpoints of length and size of the orchestra, are the Bruckner symphonies. These, along with the symphonies of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), explore the limits of symphonic form and attempt to continue the symphonic traditions of Beethoven on a grander scale. Bruckner composed a total of 11 symphonies during his lifetime, of which two are student works and nine are numbered, the rest being completed after his death from the sketches that he left behind. Numerous revisions were made to the symphonies by friends of the composer during his lifetime in order to make them more accessible to the public and easier to play. Because of this, it is difficult to ascertain what the composer originally intended. It is only in the 1st half of the twentieth century that scholars have deciphered the manuscripts to come up with definitive versions from these revised symphonies. The Symphony No. 6 was composed between 1879 and 1881. It was premiered in a complete performance in 1899 with Mahler conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. As with other symphonies by this composer, Bruckner uses triplet figures and dotted rhythms as significant features of the rhythmic content.
The first movement opens with the cellos and basses stating the main theme of the movement. A fiery tutti restates the main theme in the brass, which is reinforced by the tympani As in Beethoven symphonies, a sense of tension is built in the movement by the use of cross-rhythmns in this case, triplet quarter notes against triplet eighth notes giving a feeling of three against four in the rhythmic patterns. Triplet figures in the strings act as a seconday theme area, followed by a tutti section that recalls the opening theme. A codetta of flowing eighth notes brings the movement to an end with a sense of peace and serenity.
The second movement, marked "Adagio," is profound, yet melancholy in its beauty. The main theme, much like a hymn, acts as a backdrop for the plaintive melody of the oboe. A funeral march follows as a seconday theme. The return of the opening statement is played by the horn with wind accompaniment. The themes return in the same order, but in altered orchestrations, with the funeral march reduced to several bars. The movement closes with a tonic chord pedal, the violas playing the final tonic chord of the movement. The "Scherzo" movement follows, with an impression of speed created at the onset by rapid notes in the second violins and violas. Short, punctuated figures in the low brass and strings give a sense of drive to the music. The lyric melodic figures of the trio section provide a pleasant contrast to the Scherzo before the reprise of the opening section.
The Finale is an episodic march. It opens with viola tremolo before the main theme is played in the winds and violins. This leads to a tremendous section of fanfare/march music in the brass, followed by a more lyric section or "Gesangsperiod." An extended orchestral crescendo returns to the opening march. The two contrasting sections return at the end to announce the conclusion of the movement, with the ending encompassing both the march theme and the opening theme of the first movement, which provides a cyclic aspect to the work as a whole.
Symphony No. 8 in b minor "Unfinished", D. 759 Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
In October of 1822, Schubert completed two movements of a symphony along with nine measures of a third movement (one hundred twenty one measures in a piano version,) which he presented as a gift to the Music Society of Graz which had made him an honorary member. Why Schubert sent an unfinished work remains a mystery, as is the reason that the Society's President, Anselm Hüttenbrenner, also a composer, kept the manuscript to himself for many years. It was not until 1865, thirty seven years after Schub ert's death, that a Viennese conductor, Johann Herbeck, was able to examine the work and give its first performance, while appeasing the then elderly Hiittenbrenner by including one of his overtures on the same program.
That the work can stand as a masterpiece with only two movements has been proven by its continued popularity; but to assume that Schubert left it so intentionally, as some critics have, is contrary to the practices of the time. Actually, completions by ot hers have been made and performed. but none have attracted much interest. The romantic mood of the work is very apparent from the opening bars by the lower strings, and the second theme especially, first presented by the cellos, has become one of the most famous of all melodies. Also notable is the lyrical writing for woodwinds and horns throughout, as well as the use of trombones, unusual for the time, augmenting the size of the otherwise classical period orchestra.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor, Op.18 Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Following the failure of his First Symphony in 1896, Rachmaninoff underwent a period of increasing despondency which alarmed friends and relatives. In early 1900 he began a series of sessions with Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a pioneer in the field of hypnosis, who treated the composer with endless repetitions of "You will begin to write your concerto", "You will work with great facility", "The concerto will be of excellent quality", and so forth. The treatments proved to be a great success, and because a new piano concerto had already been promised to friends in London, work proceeded quickly. The second and third movements were played in Moscow at a Prison Charity concert, with Alexander Siloti conducting and the composer as soloist, on October 14, 1900. The entir e work was presented in Moscow the following year, and then, in London, in 1902. The first American performance was by the Russian Symphony Orchestra in 1905, with Raoul Pugno as soloist; Rachmaninoff himself performed it with the Boston Symphony under Ma x Fiedler in 1909.
Nine introductory chords by the solo piano alone establish both the key and the tragic mood of the work. The melancholy first theme, set forth by the strings, and the lyrical second theme by the solo horn are the most notable features of the first movemen t. The second movement, a dreamy nocturne, is begun by a lengthy clarinet solo with the piano accompanying; the roles then reverse. The final movement, lively and dance-like, contains a soaring second theme later popularized as "Full Moon and Empty Arms", and the work finishes in a grand and stirring manner.
Appalachian Spring - Concert Suite Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Appalachian Spring was written in 1944 for the Martha Graham Ballet. The story concerns a young couple settling in pioneer Pennsylvania. It was first staged at the Library of Congress, followed by a New York performance on May 14, 1945. The title, chosen by Graham, is taken from a poem by Hart Crane which bears no relation to the ballet story. The work was originally scored for only thirteen instruments (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano and nine strings) to fit into a small hall. In May 1945, the ballet wa s awarded both the Pulitzer Prize for music and the Award of the Music Critics Circle of New York. In that same year, Copland made a concert suite from the work, for full orchestra, which retains all the essential music while omitting those sections which depended primarily on choreographic effect. The Suite was given its first performance by Arthur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic on October 4, 1945.
The tone of the music is set in the introduction, after which both tempo and action accelerate. After a tender Pas de Deux and some folk dances, the clarinet introduces the familiar melody based on the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" which gradually becomes mo re flamboyant.
Overture To Tannhauser (1845) Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Tannhauser was based on an old legend of a poet/musician who is torn between the love of the goddess Venus and the pure Elizabeth. The opera was to become one of Wagner's earliest triumphs It was first performed in Dresden in 1845 after a three-y ear period of composition. In addition to several of his others, this overture has become a staple of the orchestral repertoire.
The work opens with a statement of the Pilgrim's Hymn from the opera in the low register of the clarinets and bassoons which is continued in the cellos and violins in succession. A short melody arises in the oboes, leading to a restatement of the Pilgrim' s Hymn in the trombones with a rigorous string accomnpaniment This dies away into the opening statement by the clarinets and bassoons. A new melody is introduced by the violas. Short statements of themes between the winds and strings represent the music o f Venusburg, the home of the goddess. The violins play a swelling theme leading to an orchestral climax, representing the hero's song to Venus. A brief clarinet solo represents her reply. Tannhauser's song to Venus is repeated in a higher key in the full orchestra. But then, over a moving line in the violins, the Pilgrim's Hymn returns in the clarinets and bassoons, with its previous continuation in the cellos. The final statement of the hymn is intoned by the trombones in a grand tutti for the full orche stra at a slower tempo, with the addition of countermelody in the horns and rapid scale passages in the strings.
Suite From Pulcinella (1922) Igor Stravinksy (1882-1917)
After the success of his early ballets the Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913), Stravinsky turned to a simpler style of composition, namely that of neoclassicism. This work, using certain themes by P ergolesi, an early eighteenth century composer of operas, exemplifies this style. The elements of the modern compositional style are retained in the piece through the use of modern instrumentation and techniques of writing for the instruments. The title c haracter of Pulcinella is derived from the Italian comedia dell'arte stock character of the harlequin. The action of the ballet concerns Pulcinella's adventures as an object of admiration of the local girls and his exploits in fooling their jealo us boyfriends. He resolves the conflicts in the end by arranging the marriages of the local girls and their boyfriends. The suite was arranged from the original ballet into eight movements. The orchestra is divided into a group of solo strings and remaini ng strings, with the winds fluctuating between solo and tutti parts.
The suite opens with a Sinfonia, or overture. The opening melody is given in the violins, followed by the solo oboe and bassoon, accompanied by the cello and strings. A short tutti section leads into another section for solo strings, followed by winds. The second movement, entitled Serenata, opens with an oboe solo accompanied by flute and strings. Solos in the upper strings lead back to the opening oboe solo. This leads without pause into the Scherzino, which opens with a rigor ous melody in the full orchestra. Short solo passages are played between the tutti sections by solo winds and strings in alternation. A faster section for solo flute and strings playing harmonics leads us into the Allegro, with a prominent scale melody which alternates between the full orchestra and the solo groups. Short solos in the flute and violin highlight, this section. Scales in the winds proceed into the Andantino, which opens with solo violin and horns. A beautiful, lilting flut e solo is then played, accompanied by plucked strings. Alternating wind and string solos close out the movement the next movement, Tarantella, is a rapid dance which features the tutti strings. Short solos in the violin, flute, oboe and bassoon a re accompanied by the orchestra. A Toccata follows, opening with brass and winds in a prominent fashion. Short woodwind solos alternate with the solo violin before the opening melodic idea returns to finish the movement The Gavotte is a movement for solo winds playing a pastorale like melody. The first variation of this theme continues the same melody, but in a 6/8 rhythm, while the second variation is a decorated duet between flute and horn with the bassoon playing in an Alberti (arpegg iated) bass style. The Vivo is a showpiece for the solo trombone and contrabass. The Menuetto opens with a melody in the solo horn, which is taken up by the strings and solo bassoon aad in succession by the trombone and trumpet, respecti vely. A section for strings builds into a climax for the full orchestra, leading into the Finale, which reiterates in the solo instruments some of the melodic material from the previous movements to provide a sense of completeness and closure to the suite .
Symphony No.4 in E-flat Major, Op. 48 (1893) Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
A composer of great resource but seldom referred to outside of music circles, Glazunov studied with Rimsky-Korsakov at the age of thirteen and wrote his first symphony at the age of sixteen. In his early adult years, he completed some of the unfinished wo rks left behind by Borodin after his death in 1887. His later life was highlighted by his directorship of the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1905 to 1930. His best known works indude the Saxophone Concerto (1934), the Violin Concerto ( 1905), and the ballet Raymonda (1896-97) . He is considered important as a transitional figure between the "Russian Five" composers and the twentieth century composers Prokofiev aad Shostakovich.
Glazunov dedicated his fourth symphony to Anton Rubenstein. He considered the work to be his break from "nationalistic" music, but one can hear throughout the work a distinctive Russian influence. The first movement, marked "Andante-Allegro Moderato," ope ns with a mournful solo in the English horn with string accompaniment. Then the violins play this melody against a background of strings and horns. A brief transition occurs with short melodies in the woodwinds and strings. A soaring horn melody, followed by solo oboe and strings, respectively, presents a secondary melody. A return to the opening melodic ideas rounds out the movement. The second movement, a scherzo, opens with woodwind melodies against short staccato accompaniment in the orchestra. A seco ndary idea is given by the strings with woodwind accompaniment the horns and woodwinds present a new, bolder melody in a new key. A clarinet solo presents a new mood, which is taken up by the strings accompanied by upper woodwinds before a return to the o pening ideas, with a thicker orchestration, including the use of trumpet as part of the melodic component. The finale, marked "Andante-Allegro-Presto," begins with shimmering strings and winds with the opening melody in the violas, then in the solo horn. This melody is repeated at the onset of the allegro, marked by fanfares in the brass and woodwinds, which shifts to melodic material in the strings based on the opening melody. An oboe solo presents a secondary idea with string accompaniment, then the str ings take up this melody, followed by horn, before a juxtaposition of the two melodic ideas is given in the full orchestra. A return to the main theme occurs before a closing section reiterating both themes, as well as some of the material from the first movement in the solo woodwind lines and strings, providing a fitting ending to the work
Overture, The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave), Op. 26 Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy(1809-1847)
Mendelssohn visited the Hebrides, islands off the west coast of Scotland, in 1829 as part of a summer vacation. One of the attractions there was a huge cavern on the island of Staffa, Fingal's cave. Upon his return to Germany he began writing the overture and completed it in 1832. It was premiered with the London Philharmonic Society with Thomas Attwood conducting and received great reviews from the critics. Even Richard Wagner, one of Mendelssohn's biggest critics, later described the work as "one of the most beautiful pieces we possess." It should be noted that the purpose of the work was not to be a tone poem, but rather as a reaction to an event, as in the Beethoven "Pastoral" symphony.
The overture opens with lower strings and bassoons playing the main theme, which is evocative of the waves of the sea. This theme is repeated in the violins. A second theme is introduced in the cellos and clarinets as a variant to the main theme. Dialogue between the strings and winds of the main theme leads back to the opening texture. The piece ends with a calm subsiding of the orchestra to silence, as if the motion of the sea itself has come to a rest.
Pohjola's Daughter. Op. 49 Jean Sibeilius (1865-1957)
Sibelius took many themes for his symphonic poems from the legends of Finland. This "symphonic fantasia" was composed in 1906. It is a depiction in music of the attempts of an old man to win the hand of a fairy, Pohjola's daughter. He fails in the task but is able to put his sorrow behind him and return to his homeland.
The opening cello solo, commencing the telling of the tale, sets the somber mood for what is to follow. Scale passages in the winds and strings lead into solos in the winds on the main theme, which is based on the opening cello solo and leads to a climax in the full orchestra. The English horn and harp play a softer, gentler passage that initiates melodies in the winds. Sweeping motions in the strings and winds lead into a declamatory statement of the main theme, first in the horns and bassoons, then in the trumpets and woodwinds. A final climax in the brass and strings precedes the last closing section, with the strings returning to opening somber mood.
Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 73 ("Emperor") Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)
The Fifth piano concerto acquired its name from an early publisher or performer, not from Beethoven himself. The title seems to fit the noble quality of the work. Composed in 1809, it was not performed for two years due to the siege and bombardment of Vienna by Napoleon. The premiere took place in Leipzig on November 28, 1811, with Friederich Schneider as soloist. Beethoven did not perform the premiere, as he had for the other four piano concertos, because of his increasing deafness, which may also explain why this concerto was his last one for the piano. Reviews of the premiere were favorable and enthusiastic.
The first movement begins with single chords in the orchestra accompanied by piano arpeggios. The main theme is played by the full orchestra, and then a secondary theme is played by the strings, using pizzicato, and horns. The piano returns with these themes in turn and develops them, with orchestral accompaniment, before a short cadenza and coda for the orchestra. The Adagio, movement two, opens with its principal theme played softly in the violins, after which the piano displays a secondary theme with pizzicato string accompaniment. What follows is a bridging into the third movement without pause, or attacca. The piano states the two main themes with much rhythmic vitality. Toward the end of the movement, Beethoven uses an unusual scoring with a duet between the piano and tympani.
An American in Paris George Gershwin
Already rising to fame by the age of twenty-nine, Gershwin went to Paris in 1928. Returning later that year, he completed his new symphonic work, "An American in Paris," which had been commissioned by Walter Damrosch for the newly-formed New York Philharmonic Symphony Society. As part of the orchestration, Gershwin included four French taxi horns, a set of which he procured for the premiere while in Paris.
The opening theme, played by the violins and the oboes, is suggestive of the American walking through the streets, while around him other sounds become noticeable, such as taxicabs and a small band in a cafe playing the popular tune "Le Maxie." Pangs of homesickness overtake the visitor, represented by a short, blues-style trumpet melody. This does not last long as the orchestra introduces a new theme, that of a Charleston, in the winds. The blues theme returns, but only as a pleasant reminder of home. The work ends triumphantly, with our visitor happy to be enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris.
Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Jokob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, was one the illustrious German romantic pianists/composers. In 1812 he received his first piano lessons from his mother; he subsequently studied with Ludwig Berger and Carl Friedrich Zelter. Mendelssohn showed a surprising gift for composition at an early age. He wrote his first sacred music at age 11; his first symphony at age 12. By the time he wrote his first incidental music at age 17, he had already written 12 symphonies for string orchestra. Ruy Blas Overture, the incidental music written for Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas, was written in 1839. Because of his compositional techniques, the University of Leipzig bestowed upon him an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy when he was only 24 years old. In 1842, Mendelssohn organized the famous "Conservatorium." Some of the faculty comprised of, besides Mendelssohn himself, who taught ensemble playing and composition: Robert Schumann, who taught classes in piano and composition; eminent music theorist, Noritz Hauptmann, in music theory; and the famous violin virtuoso, Ferdinand David, in violin.
Violin Concerto, Op. 47 Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Jean Sibelius is known as Finland's greatest composer. After training for a career in law, he decided to go to music. After initially hoping to be a violin virtuoso, his studies eventually led him to composition. He studied first in Helsinki, then in Berlin and Vienna. He taught at the Helsinki Conservatory until a government pension, granted in 1897, freed him for full-time composition.
The period of time during the composition of his Violin Concerto (1903, revised 1905) was distressing. He had large debts and would go into bouts of heavy drinking which led him to a considerable strain. In 1904, Sibelius bought a plot of land close to Helsinki that proved to be a productive and important move. The next few years were prosperous in composition. The Violin Concerto is today considered a repertoire mainstay.
His composed chamber music, vocal music, symphonies, and incidental music continues to hold a place in the concert repertoire.
Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26 Karl Goldmark (1830-1915)
Karl Goldmark was the son of Jewish lower-middle-class parents of narrow outlook. He was one of over 20 children. Because of the tight financial situation he was unable to attend school regularly. In 1841 he began his first primitive instruction on the violin with a rural choir singer. Village folk music provided his first impressions. In 1844 his father sent him to Vienna where he studied violin under Jansa, but he had to give them up after a year and a half again for financial reasons. He stayed in Vienna earning a meager living and teaching himself violin and piano. Goldmark uas able to gain a post here in 1851. He was now able to teach piano and more importantly compose. From 1858 to 1860 he spent in Budapest; here he learned composition from books of Marx, Richter, and Sechter. He returned to Vienna and remained there the rest of his life composing operas, concertos, chamber music, piano music, songs, choral works, and symphonies. His best known work is most likely The Rustic Wedding Symphony, which was first performed in 1878.
The Rustic Wedding Symphony, as some critics say, should have been called a suite, since it consists of five movements beginning with a theme and variations. Regardless of genre, the Rustic Wedding Symphony proved to be a magnificent and celebrated work.
The first movement, titled "Wedding March," is a set of twelve variations on a folksong theme. The second movement, "Bridal Song," is a short piece in ternary form (A-B-A). "Serenade," the third movement is similar to a scherzo only in duple time. The fourth movement, "In the Garden," contains a "dreamy" (Goldmark's own word) melody in the clarinet and is said to be one of the most beautiful and luminous slow movement in the orchestral literature. The finale is called "Dance." Beginning with a fugue and ending with an exciting conclusion.