April 28, 2018
Program Notes by Endicott Reindl
John Corigliano (b.1938)
Composed in 1966
Originally written off an incidental score for the off-Broadway production of Helen Corigliano’s Elegy focuses on a love scene between the two main characters. Dedicated to the memory of the composer, Samuel Barber, best known for his Adagio for Strings, Corigliano was fascinated by his style of writing and wanted to pay homage to the popular composer. Barber and Corigliano mastered writing complex, beautiful musical passages that do not need ornamentation to emote their meaning. According to his website, he has “…One of the richest, most unusual, and most widely celebrated bodies of work from any composer in the last 40 years.”
Corigliano wrote in the score program notes, “The brief work, set at a single slow tempo, begins quickly with a key passage for paired flutes, builds during its course to two double forte (rather loud) climaxes for the whole orchestra, subsiding into a quiet close for strings and woodwinds.” Although short, this piece demonstrates Corigliano’s writing ability, to not just musically describe the love of the two main characters, but why they loved each other.
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Symphony in C
Composed in 1855
Georges Bizet was one of those folks, for whom academics and theory came easy to in life. He wrote his Symphony in C at the age of 17 while studying at the Paris Conservatory under famous composer Charles Gounod. As the story has been told over the years, he had no interest in having it performed or published. It wasn’t until after his death that his widow realized the gem it was. Bizet, looking to impress his teacher and mentor, incorporated a lot of similarities between his and Gounod’s composition style. Bizet became so intimately acquainted with Gounod’s Symphony in D after transcribing it for piano, that he in turn influenced his mentor.
Sticking to a traditional form of composition, although devoid of trombones, Bizet followed the style of the day in four movements, capping the start and finish in similar chords and flourishes. Many questioned his choice of composing a symphony in France during a time when opera was king.
Recorded as the only completed symphony ever written by the composer, he was keen to move into theatrical and opera writing. He would go on to write classics like Carmen. Bizet never visited Spain before or during writing the opera instead he looked for inspiration in the Provence region of France. Above all his symphony is known as a respectful gesture to his mentor Gounod.
Gabriel Fauré (1838-1875)
John Rutter, Arr. (b. 1945)
Originally Composed in 1890
Arranged in 1989
Composed as a shortened Catholic mass for the departed in Latin, Fauré focused on themes of eternal rest and consolation. Many of his earlier counterparts, like Mozart, focused more on the fire and brimstone of death. Fauré chose to omit the Dies irae and replaced it with the Pie Jesu, also noting that the final movement In Paradisum is not based on the funeral mass liturgy, but the actual burial. The work was originally written in seven movements for a full orchestra, chorus, solo soprano, baritone and organ. We feature the more intimate John Rutter edition. John Rutter explains his reasoning for reshaping the work:
“Gabriel Fauré began work on his Requiem in 1887 purely, in his own words, ‘for the pleasure of it’. At the time he was the choirmaster at the fashionable church of the Madeleine in Paris, and the completed first version of the Requiem was first performed there under his direction on 16 January 1888 on the occasion of the funeral service of a certain M. Joseph Le Soufaché. The work continued to be performed in this first version until 1893 when Fauré made an expanded version introducing the Offertoire and Libera me and including parts for bassoons, horns and trumpets. A third version followed – the familiar published one with full orchestra – which received its première in July 1900 at the Trocadéro Palace during the Paris World Exhibition, but it is not clear how much of this score was prepared by Fauré and how much was delegated to one of his assistants. The aim of this edition is to present the Requiem in a form as close as possible to Fauré’s original more intimate concept of the work.” –johnrutter.com
March 17, 2018
Program Notes by Endicott Reindl
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Appalachian Spring Suite
Composed in 1944
Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham commissioned Aaron Copland to create this now iconic American musical masterpiece as a ballet for a thirteen-member chamber orchestra. Enduring long after her death as an orchestral suite, the suite is one of Copland’s most beloved works. Written around “an American theme,” Copland identified uniquely American ideas encompassing what many musically understand as western expansion.
The suite tells of a celebration of American pioneers of the 1800s, after building a new Pennsylvania farmhouse. The piece chronicles their lives together, showing that their shared resources will see them through. This is expressed by the woodwinds passing along a melody and variations on that melody throughout the suite. Divided into eight sections, the suite begins slowly as the characters develop, moving ever more quickly until moving so fast that the music evokes both fear and wonder.
While Copland’s other works, such as Billy the Kid or Rodeo, made more explicit reference to American myth and incorporated actual folk songs, Appalachian Spring was far subtler. Ironically though, the obscure but catchy Shaker dance tune, Simple Gifts, has emerged as almost more popular than the work itself. Graham’s company toured with Appalachian Spring for almost three years, receiving great critical acclaim.
Simple Gifts, originally penned in 1848 by Shaker Joseph Brackett, extols the virtues of a simple life. The piece has become synonymous with American growth and expansion. The music inspires visions of pioneers crossing the heartland and growing the American footprint. Copland felt the song lent itself to the American ideal that we are always looking to grow as people, as a community and a nation.
Reinhold Glière (1875-1956)
Composed in 1951
Sometimes in life a chance encounter can have a profound impact. Reinhold Glière had such an encounter with Valery Polekh, a very accomplished horn player of the day. During a rehearsal break of Glière’s ballet, The Bronze Horseman, they chatted about the possibility of Glière writing a horn concerto. He agreed and said that he would write it in his spare time. Agreeing to write this new work in his “spare time” almost bordered on insanity, as Glière was working on another opera, another ballet, and numerous vocal and orchestra works. In all that he produced, he would never publish a piece that he felt unfinished or uncomplimentary towards his homeland – the Soviet Union.
Glière’s horn concerto has become the best known of his acclaimed works. Thanks to the addition of valves to the French horn in the early 19th century, the horn was able to take on a larger role as a solo instrument. Before then, horn players could modify the pitch by changing how they blew into the instrument or by adjusting the cranks of the instrument. Because of this change in the physical structure of the horn, it was propelled to be the “rock star” of the orchestra for its large range and tonal qualities.
Written at a time when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union had become “icy” again, Glière was a bright spot in Soviet arts and culture. At the time, any public artwork or musical contributions were required to focus on the glory of the whole. The individual was supposed to fulfill his/her duties being the best worker possible to support that whole. Glière was awarded more than 15 honors for his compositions, ranging from the Glinka awards, the Orders of Lenin and the Stalin Prize. Despite his success and awards, his horn concerto was never recognized or awarded by the Soviet Union.
The horn concerto, or dialogue, starts out with the horn leading the theme, eventually passing it back and forth with the symphony. Each time this occurs the passages swell and become even fuller. The horn is depicting the inner-spirit of the dedicated individual and the beauty contained within. Oddly, Glière chose to write his concerto in an older classical style that encompasses only three movements. Eventually, at the end of the third movement, the orchestra showcases the virtuosity of the soloist, incorporating difficult technique and long cadence.
Bedřich Smetana (1875-1956)
Music from Má Vlast (My Homeland): Vyšehard, Šárka, & The Moldau
Composed between 1874 and 1879
The WSO will present three of the six symphonic poems, composed by Bedřich Smetana, pioneered by fellow composer Franz Liszt. Each poem contains ideals of nationalist music, painting an image in the listener’s mind of the beauty of the country, its origins, and legends. The symphonic poem evokes the content of a non-musical source, generally literature or pastoral landscapes, through the orchestral setting. In these poems, Smetana writes of his beloved Bohemian homeland, the Czech Republic.
The first poem translated means “The High Castle,” details the Vyšehard castle in Prague, which was the seat of the earliest Czech kings. The poem starts out with the harp of the mystical singer Lumir, eventually crossing over into the tones of the castle’s arsenal. The score calls for two harps to accomplish the opening arpeggios (chords), which create a serene scene that eventually gets passed around the orchestra, moving towards the climax. Once the climax is reached, it is cut short depicting the fall of the castle and all falls almost silent. The harp opening is heard again, reminding us of the beauty of the castle (now destroyed) as the listener is slowly transported down the river next to the castle.
The third poem in the series is about the female warrior Šárka – a legend in the tale of The Maidens’ War. She tied herself to a tree to bait the princely knight into believing she was a captive of the rebelling women. Once released from her perch she agrees to serve her new male suitor and his companions. Unbeknownst to her suitor, she serves them all drugged wine and quickly signals their slumber to her waiting accomplices. Once asleep, the warrior maidens take their vengeance on the sleeping men and murder them. This movement contains a sense of urgency of the hunt.
The Moldau, or Die Moldau, as it is known in German, is Smetana’s answer to describing the beauty of Bohemia’s great rivers. In the second poem, Smetana best described this work himself, saying, “…Starting from the two small springs, the cold and warm Moldau, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Moldau through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer’s wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night’s moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft.” The last poem contains the composer’s most famous tune, an adaptation of the melody of La Mantovana, which is the basis for the current Israeli national anthem.
Keys to the Heart
February 17, 2018
Program Notes by Endicott Reindl
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Clair de Lune
Composed in 1890
Suite bergamasque is arguably one of most famous, if not the most famous, piano suite penned by Claude Debussy. The whole suite is named for the bergamasque or bergamask, a reputedly clumsy dance performed by natives of Bergamo, Italy. Contained within this suite, is Clair de Lune, renamed for Paul Verlaine’s poems. Originally titled Promenade sentimentale¸ Debussy did not stray far from the meaning when renaming the piece, which translated means, “moonlight.” The poet Verlaine writes in the original poem of people looking fanciful like landscapes with charming masks, playing the lute and dancing, disguising any inner turmoil.
Originally written for the solo piano, composer André Caplet arranged the piece for the full orchestra. When Debussy was composing his famous melodies, he was struggling to make ends meet, towards the end of his Bohemian period. Debussy gained popularity as a composer after writing Clair de Lune, because of his tremendous professional growth. The movement stands out in contrast from the other movements in the suite as the other three were expressly written in Baroque style. Debussy’s use of compound meter shows contrast for his dance movements evoking the bergamask. Also as the third movement, it is the lyrical climax of the suite.
Debussy built complex harmonies to accompany a melody that is passed around sections of the orchestra, as arranged by Caplet. Debussy’s music suggests pausing and enjoying the company, and being present in the moment after a long evening of dance.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1
Composed in 1795
If Vienna was the golden city of music in the late 18th and early 19th century, Beethoven was one of the crown jewels in the city’s adornment. Forever immortalized as one of the masters of classical music, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 demonstrates his ability to incorporate the stylings of Mozart and Haydn into his own musical personality. When the piece was debuted, Ludwig, himself, was the solo artist, a rarity to have the composer also perform as the soloist during a debut. His first piano concerto was his third attempt at the concerto form, a form that proved challenging to Beethoven in his earlier days.
When breaking down the mechanics of this concerto, or dialogue, Beethoven had yet to champion the idea of the solo piano and the orchestra performing as one voice. Rather, there is a respectful distance between the two, existing as separate voices. In the first movement, the piece begins with an exploration of pomp and grandeur, with long brass and timpani phrases. Then, as we become comfortable with this endeavor, he switches into a second subject via the violins but in the key of E-flat, up from the original key of C. This subject continues until the piano is introduced as a softer, gentler form of the subject, as the winds continue to interrupt and change the key to G major.
The second movement contrasts the first with Beethoven orchestrating a slower and more “intimate” movement. Normally the trumpets and tympani are tacet but Beethoven also dropped the flutes and oboes leaving a less-than chamber sized orchestra. These drops in instruments are music to the ears of the clarinets, who now have the starring solo role. The finale is light-fingered and whimsical, as much as it is moderately paced and moving.
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Composed in 1890
The adored yellow chrysanthemum, (crisantemi) is the inspiration for Puccini’s string elegy. Written in one night, the composition is scored for a string quartet, but is more frequently performed by a string orchestra. Better known for his contributions to opera, Puccini was also an accomplished orchestral composer. He was born into a musical family in Tuscany and gained musical success in his hometown. Later in life Puccini acknowledged that his true talent lay “only in the theatre,” and so his non-operatic works are understandably few, but more than one would imagine.
I Crisantemi is a single, darker-contrast, continuous movement. Puccini found his two melodic ideas, contained in the piece, worthy enough to repeat in the last act of his opera, Manon Lescaut. Apparently Puccini found imitation a form of flattery. The piece was composed in response to the death of the Duke of Savoy, Amedeo.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Symphony No. 4 “Italian”
Composed in 1833
Mendelssohn composed Symphony No. 4 in 1833 at the invitation of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. He conducted the premiere and thanks to its success Mendelssohn’s music influenced British composition for the rest of the century. When composing the symphony, Mendelssohn wrote to his sister Fanny saying, “The Italian symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done, especially the last movement.” The piece celebrates all that is Italy to the listener, especially the joy and temperament of the people.
The symphony is comprised of four movements, beginning with a joyful first movement in sonata form. The sonata form is a very traditional composition form of the time and even to today. It encapsulates an exposition of a theme, development of a theme, and then recapitulation of that theme. Moving from joyful expression, the second movement incorporates the theme of a religious procession as one might have witnessed in Naples. The movement is in the key of D minor, a common key for Gregorian Chant, still very popular at the time with the prevailing Catholic religion.
The third movement is a minuet, or dance, in which the French horns, in trio, carry the melody. The minuet was a social dance of the French for two people usually in ¾ time. The word was adapted for the Italian minuetto, meaning slender/small referring to the very small steps called for in the dance. Finally, Mendelssohn breaks free into forms of the saltarello and tarantella, both very popular dances in the 1800s and attributed to the customs of the people. Although widely popular, Mendelssohn always felt there was something missing from his work, looking to fine tune it for a number of years.
Bruch & Brahms
October 21, 2017
Program Notes by Endicott Reindl
Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Composed in 1912
Nature was a powerful force for Frederick Delius, known as Fritz, until age 40 when he moved away from Florida. Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring was the first of two pieces written for a small or reduced orchestra, technically known as a tone poem. Tone poems (also known as a symphonic poems) illustrate the content of a poem, book, landscape, or painting. Not being overly religious, Delius looked instead to the natural world for inspiration in composing his music. This is especially noted in his Requiem that does not follow the traditional Christian liturgy.
Delius was the second of fourteen children and was always drawn to music as a profession and a way of life. In his later years, he was ridiculed for his devotion to music since he never held a musical position in England, staged a concert or conducted an orchestra. His one focus in life was crafting his own style of music, one filled with chromatic harmony—harmony that follows up or down the scale.
The piece begins with the charming exchange of cuckoo calls, first with solo oboe, then a response from the string section. Listeners can envision the start of a bright sunny day, as the violin’s lush, connected style evokes a waking of nature to greet the day. More woodwinds and French horns join as the piece grows, each heralding the day. As the day develops, he incorporates the Norwegian folk song, “In Ola Valley,” made known to him by composer Percy Grainger, famous for his work, O Danny Boy. From a young age, Delius had marveled at Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg instead of Mozart or Beethoven. He was drawn to the simple, full melodies of the Norwegian composer and looked to grow the rich harmonies.
Although the symphonic poem is only six minutes long, listeners can appreciate the nuances of the day. As the poem winds down, the clarinet picks up the cuckoo calls just before the end.
Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor
Composed in 1866
Max Bruch started on the right “musical foot” with his earliest tutor Ferdinand Hiller, an esteemed pianist/composer. Bruch wrote his first piece of music, an ode to his mother’s birthday, at the age of nine. His parents, realizing his intrinsic gift, enthusiastically supported his musical training. Eventually Bruch wrote more than 200 works, with his first violin concerto becoming a staple of the violin repertoire.
His Violin Concerto No. 1 placed him squarely with other Romantic composers like Johannes Brahms rather than the newer avant-garde composers such as Franz Liszt or Richard Wagner. During his lifetime, Bruch was known more for his choral works than instrumental music. His concerto, or dialogue for solo violin and orchestra, incorporated many new structural traits. He included linking movements and omitted the classical opening exposition (overture), which is why the work only has three movements. Audience members will not be disappointed by the lush, full sound of the work as its lyrical melodies span nearly the entire range of the instrument.
Bruch was not an extravagant person preferring to write his music with an ode to the earlier era’s use of rolling melodies and graceful rhythms. The Allegro Moderato movement juxtaposes the individual violin against the paced, yet ardent orchestra voicing. The violin becomes passionate and colorful in voice as the dialogue develops. The second movement, Adagio, is where Bruch develops his trademark lyrical melodies in three sentimental themes. Its development compares the growth of love for one’s home or a specific time in one’s life where you would like to linger. Finally, he crescendos into Allegro Energico, or “Lively with Energy” a folk dance.
Max Bruch was immortalized in his hometown of Cologne, Germany with a statuette amongst the ornately designed city hall. He traded away the musical rights to his violin concerto later in his life, around the turn of the century, leaving him almost penniless by his death. It is rumored that the family who purchased the rights for the work planned to sell signed pictures of Bruch in the U.S. before World War I and send him the money, but it never materialized.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1
Composed in 1876
A good bottle of wine takes time to age and ripen to perfection. Likewise, Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 took almost 17 years to complete, starting around 1860. Brahms was dissatisfied with the work after its 1877 premiere and extensively revised the second movement before the work was published. Brahms was initially unsure of his symphonic convictions, as his instinct for the scope and power of his music directly descended from Beethoven. Brahms’ first symphony is sometimes referred to as Beethoven’s tenth symphony, because of their strong parallels in style, form and dictation of music.
The entire first movement of the symphony is keenly dramatic, nowhere more so than in the extended, slowly building passage leading to a recap of the main melody. This sense of dynamic expansion, growing evermore loud and expressive, is definite; this is as grand a symphonic movement as he conceived. During the build-up of expression, through chaotic syncopated (off-beat) rhythms, the timpani shines forth with a pulsating beat. This exposition then rolls along as the upper woodwinds and cellos move the melody into the second movement.
The second and third movements are lighter in tone and tension than the first and last movements. The slow movement, Andante sostenuto, exhibits a gentle touch with lush, very full chords. The long violin solo is reminiscent of some of Beethoven’s later works: the late quartets and Missa Solemnis. The third, scherzo-like movement, has an easy spirit yet is full of complex rhythms and interwoven textures.
The fourth movement begins with a slow introduction, where a new melody competes with “gloomy, dramatic rhetoric.” In the Piu andante section, the horns and timpani introduce a tune that Brahms heard from an Alpine shepherd with the words, “High on the hill, deep in the dale, I send you a thousand greetings!” The last section contains a grand melody in a major key, as the novel, Beethoven-like main subject of the grand finale, just like remembering our, now empty, bottle of wine.