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Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Andante Festivo
Composed in 1938

Celebrations can come in all shapes and forms. Sibelius was asked to compose a piece of music in 1922 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Säynätsalo, Finland sawmills. Originally asked to compose a cantata (not dissimilar to the style of J.S. Bach), he settled on a string quartet for the instrumentation. As an avid radio listener, Sibelius was aware of the intricacies of the technology and the low initial quality of their speakers. When he was asked to conduct a piece of music to represent his native home of Finland, during a radio broadcast from the New York World Exhibition, he decided to adapt his earlier string quartet. He worked diligently to ensure that work was overtly smooth and flowed with melodic phrases.

Premiering on New Year’s Day 1939 via radio, it is the only known time the composer conducted his own work. He ensured the ensemble kept a slow, singing tempo, which allowed the strings to soar during their higher passages. Unfortunately, it would prove to be the last time the famed composer would conduct. Little is known why Sibelius added timpani in rearrangement, perhaps to add more presence to the final cords, as there is precious little work for strings and solo timpani. The work was played during his funeral.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Divertimento for Strings in D Major, K. 136
Composed in 1772

Written before his sixteenth birthday, Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major has risen above a lot of his other incidental instrumental works in continued popularity. Containing a fully mature structure, this work is full of elegance and delightful melodies. As a common piece of repertoire for string quartets, the first violins take the solo voice through the first movement. And in lockstep with the compositional form of the day the piece retains elements of the sonata-allegro form (A, B, A).

When thinking of Mozart many think of his masterworks like his Requiem, Opera’s The Magic Flute or Don Giovanni, or popular symphonies like his Symphony No. 40. Smaller works like his serenades, sinfonias, notturno, or divertimentos can get lost in the shuffle. These works generally were written to help Mozart secure funds while working on larger more complex ideas/compositions. Likewise, even today, we do not know if Mozart had a system to differentiate each one from another.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons
Composed in 1716-1717

To say that The Four Seasons is one of the most popular or most listened to pieces of classical music would be an understatement. Four concerti (plural for concertos) comprise our illustrious seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter in Vivaldi’s magnum opus. The works were a first in musical composition, in that the composer used the musical version of onomatopoeia or the use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

To illustrate the seasons within each concerto the composer is evoking ideas like a fox hunt and gunshots or chattering teeth in Winter. Vivaldi took the novel step to publish accompanying sonnets (or poems) that depicted the spirit of each season. In essence, the concerti are early versions of program music. Each work is scored in three movements. To the present day, the music itself can be found in any matter of media. From car commercials to the Weather Channel, to movies like The Secret Life of Pets, or cartoon mainstays like The Simpsons, Vivaldi’s work has permeated all corners of culture some three hundred years later.

2024-2025 Season

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