October 1, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
William Tell Overture
Composed in 1829
Rossini’s William Tell was the last of his 39 operas and after its premiere in 1829 he went into semi-retirement. He continued to compose vocal music in various genres. The opera is a musical portrait of life in the Swiss Alps.
The 12-minute overture is in four parts, each following without pause. The prelude, representing dawn, is articulated by five solo cellos, along with double basses. It begins in e minor with a solo cello, which is in turn, is answered by the section cellos and the double basses. Toward the end of the section, two hushed timpani rolls resembling distant thunder announce an impending storm. The section ends with the first cellist, playing a very high sustained pitch.
The second section portrays a storm, played in a minor mode by the full orchestra. It begins with strings and woodwinds, breaking into a full storm with the entry of the brass and bass drum. Eventually the storm subsides, and the section ends with solo flute. The third section is a pastorale, signifying the calm after the storm. It beautifully features a solo English horn and flute in dialogue.
The fourth and final section, the March of the Swiss Soldiers, is a high-speed gallop, featuring the trumpets. It alludes to the final act, which recounts the Swiss soldiers’ victorious battle to liberate their homeland from Austrian repression. Although there are no horses or cavalry charges in the opera, this segment is often used in popular media to denote galloping horses, a race, or a hero riding to the rescue. Most people will recognize this section as the theme from the television series, “The Lone Ranger.”
Aleksandr Arutiunian (1920-2012)
Trumpet Concerto in A-flat Major
Composed in 1950
Along with Aram Khachaturian, Alexander Arutiunian is ranked among the most important Armenian composers of their generation. As with Khachaturian, his style is quite approachable, exotically colorful, and features folk-like Armenian traits and catchy melodies.
Arutiunian was appointed artistic director of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in 1954, a post he held until 1990. He managed to avoid falling into disfavor with Soviet cultural bosses in the post-Stalin era, not necessarily an easy task, by composing unadventurous, though well-crafted works like his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra (1951) and a symphony (1957). A horn concerto (1962), achieved some popularity.
In 1965, Arutiunian joined the faculty of the Yerevan Conservatory where he taught composition for many years. While there he produced his popular quintet for brass, Armenian Scenes, and his tuba concerto (1992).
Arutiunian composed his Trumpet Concerto in 1949-50. It is his sixth major composition, a virtuoso showpiece, featuring Eastern European lyricism and harmonic textures. Arutiunian’s engaging and idiomatic trumpet concerto was quickly assimilated into the standard trumpet repertoire worldwide, earning highest international praise from audiences, critics and performers. In an interview with Allan Kozinn of The New York Times, Philip Smith, the principal trumpeter of the New York Philharmonic, observed “one of the reasons this piece has become so popular is just that it’s a flashy piece. It has a very Russian, Armenian, yet gypsy-ish kind of sound, with very soulful, beautiful melodies and plenty of exciting rapid-tonguing.”
Arutiunian conceived this work as a single-movement concerto, consisting of seven major sections which are all performed without break: Andante, Allegro energico, Menomosso, Tempo I, Menomosso, Tempo I, closing with Cadenza and Coda. The melodic and rhythmic characteristics of Armenian folk music strongly influenced all of Arutiunian’s work, but all of the melodies contained in the trumpet concerto are original, with nothing borrowed.
Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88
Composed in 1889
Dvořák was a Romantic era composer from the Bohemian region of today’s Czech Republic. Dvořák is considered a “nationalist” composer because his melodies capture the spirit and character of Czech – Bohemian folk music.
Dvořák composed Symphony No. 8 between August and November 1889 during a period of relative calm and reflection. It premiered in Prague in February of 1890, with the composer conducting. With his growing reputation across Europe and the United States as a composer, his own sense of peace and contentment is evident in this well-crafted work of warmth and relaxation, with boundless melodies.
The first movement opens with a melody of reflective yearning, played in a minor mode by low strings and winds, followed by a hopeful melody in the solo flute in a major key. The violas and cellos, later repeated by the winds, state the second theme. Utilizing the customary sonata-allegro form (exposition, development, restatement), Dvořák meshes high drama with beautiful melodies in this masterful first movement.
The second movement embraces several moods and atmospheres, starting with commentary from the strings, answered by a bird-like call in the flutes. The sometimes major/sometimes minor alternations of themes help create a sense of various pastoral settings, as though the themes are conversing among themselves. As in Beethoven’s Pastoral the music evokes the landscape of a tranquil summer day, briefly interrupted by a thunderstorm. In the end, all is well.
The third movement, a Minuet and Trio, features a melancholy theme in a minor mode, played by the violins, followed by commentary in the woodwinds. A gorgeous violin melody in the style of a Bohemian folk dance, in a major key, dominates the trio. A playful section in 2/4 time ends this radiant movement.
The final movement opens with a brass fanfare followed by a reflective theme in the cellos, beginning a series of variations. The drama returns with the sudden increase in the tempo, setting the tone for the heroic last movement.