Program Notes

PROGRAM NOTES

October 28, 2017

 

The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe  – Harry Gregson-Williams & Steve Barton, arranged by Stephen Bulla
Harry Gregson-Williams is an English composer who has composed music for  all of the Shrek films and various other well-known movies such as Total Recall, Arthur Christmas and Cowboys & Aliens, among others. C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia as a fantasy for children that also expressed the author’s view of universal good and evil. The first of seven books, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has been depicted in numerous films. The latest movie produced by Walden Media, was produced in 2005 and was a great popular and financial success. It won an Academy Award and several others. The DVD release was the best selling DVD in North America in 2006.

The Water Goblin—Antonin Dvorak

This piece was inspired by a poem written by Jaromir Erben, a Czech historian, poet and writer of the mid-19th century. His collection of poems titled Kylice contains poems based on traditional themes and folk tales. Dvorak wrote a symphonic poem depicting one of these stories. It is about an evil goblin who abducts a young girl and takes her to be his wife in his underwater castle. When he does allow her to return for a brief visit with her mother, she is forced to leave her child with the Goblin to insure she will return. Her mother refuses to let her return to the water and the Goblin, true to his word, kills their child and leaves the beheaded body on the doorstep.

Dvorak’s tone poem follows Erben’s poem almost literally. In may places the text fists exactly to Dvorak’s music. Each character has a melodic theme that can be heard as each takes center stage in the narrative with the Water Goblin theme returning with some regularity. These themes change from major to minor reflecting the action of the storyline. The tympani solo near the end foreshadows the horror of the ending.

Dvorak’s talent at combining the instruments of the orchestra paints an extraordinary musical narration of this story. It is a very rich tone poem that is not only wonderful to hear, but also to perform.

The Funeral March of a Marionette – Charles Gounod
Program music is music that tells a story. This piece, originally written as a piano solo, tells the story of a marionette who dies in a duel and is solemnly carried through the town.  At one point the mourners can be heard stopping at a local tavern and enjoying some refreshments and visiting. This section can be identified because it is in a Major key, then the march, in d minor returns as they complete the march to the end. The reason we find it as part of the Halloween repertoire is that is was heard for 10 years, from 1955 to 1965 on the popular show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Because of this show, it has been forever enshrined part of Halloween repertoire.

“Frenetic strings depict dueling marionettes. A bold cymbal crash brings one of them to his death. A moment of doleful music slowly gives way to a surprisingly perky march, the main melody sung by the clarinet. The marionettes process with the corpse but the music turns almost cheerful. A few of the puppets, seemingly tired of tramping, duck into a tavern for refreshment. They fall back in line just before Gounod’s march reaches its destination. “  — From NPR Classical, npr.org

Overture to Hansel & Gretel – Engelbert Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck was born in 1854 was a gifted child who began composing at age 7. Of course his parents wanted him to be an architect When he was young, as most children, he was enamored of fantasy and fairy tales and never lost his enthusiasm for those stories. Hansel and Gretel is his best known work.

Hansel and Gretel is an opera by Engelbert Humperdinck. The libretto was written by his sister, Adelheid. She had written some verses about that folk tale and requested that her brother put them to music for a Christmas party. It has been associated with Christmas since it’s premier in December 1893, however, the story of a witch that eats children seems to fit appropriately on this spooky program. Just after this first performance, Humperdinck began orchestrating the work. Slowly, the composition became a three-act opera and was performed in December 1893. The opera was an instant success.

The overture contains reference to songs and dances from the opera. Humperdinck considered the overture to be a prelude and he called it ’Children’s Life’.  It opens with ‘Evening Prayer’, which is one of the most beautiful chorales for the French horn section ever written. Towards the end of the overture, all the various themes are woven in a beautiful counterpoint. There is  a stirring climax and the opening horn chorale once again that establishes the dreamy mood with which the opera begins.

A Night on Bald Mountain –  Modest Mussorgsky
Mussorgsky wrote this tone poem, one of the first by a Russian composer,  which was inspired by Russian literary works and legend. He described it as a “musical picture” of St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain.  He wrote, “Unless my memory deceives me, witches used to gather on this mountain, talk scandal, and wait for their chief, Satan. After his arrival, they form a circle around the throne on which the chief, in the form of a giant goat, has seated himself, and they glorify him. When Satan has reached enough of a rage, thanks to the witches’ glorification, he gives the sign for the sabbath to begin and then picks himself out the witches who have taken his fancy. That’s the way I did it.” He also wanted that story to be put in the program so the public would understand. He thought is was a wonderful piece of music, it was never performed in any form during Mussorgsky’s lifetime. Five years after Mussorgsky’s death, Rimsky-Korsakov re wrote it and published it as a “fantasy for orchestra.  The piece we know today was actually written by Rimsky-Korsakov using parts of Mussorgsky’s original. The piece finally achieved lasting fame and became a concert favorite. Later, because of the 1940 Walt Disney animated film, Fantasia, it became known by an even larger audience.

Resurgences – Robert Sheldon

Robert Sheldon, born in 1954 is one of the most performed composers of wind band music today.  His music is performed around the world and appears on many international concert and contest lists. He regularly accepts commissions for new works. He has taught instrumental music in the Florida and Illinois public schools and also taught at Florida State University. He is Director of concert Band Publications for Alfred Music. He conducts Regional and All-State Honor bands throughout the United States and abroad.

Resurgences is a celebratory piece expressing the joy and exhilaration of a new beginning.  The piece was written for the 100th anniversary of Manatee High School (Bradenton, Florida) and concurrently the grand opening of their new Performing Arts Center.  It was a new beginning of a very successful music program at the school. It premiered on December 3, 2011 with the composer conducting. The piece was written so that the band AND orchestra could perform it simultaneously.

The Lord of the Rings – Johan DeMeij
The literary classic, The Lord of the Rings was written by J. R.R. Tolkein. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949. it is one of the best-selling novels ever written. Johan DeMeij premiered this piece, his first Symphony, since in 1988, long before Peter Jackson and Newline Cinema created the blockbuster films we know in 2001 with music written by Howard Shore. Unlike the film music which was written to accompany visual action, DeMeij wrote his symphony to portray this action in tone colors. It starts with the central theme of the Ring and proceeds to explore themes depicting Gandalf the wizard, the Hobbits, Lothlorien, the home of the Dwarfs, the great battle and the return of the King.

Game of Thrones  Ramin Djawadi arranged Larry Moo
Ramin Djawadi is and Iranian-German composer born in 1974. He has His best-known work is the score for Game of Thrones. He graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1998 and moved to Los Angeles and worked as an assistant to Klaus Badell.  He composed and arranged music for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. He is also known for his works on movies such as Clash of the Titans, Pacific Rim, Warcraft and the Grammy-nominated score for the 2008 Marvel film Iron Man. His television credit include music for several series including Prison Break, Person of Interest, and Westworld. Djawadj has been nominated for 7 awards since 2006 for outstanding music scores on TV and movies.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama series adapted from George R.R. martin’s series of fantasy novels. It has run on HBO for 7 seasons. It is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. There are several plot lines and a very large cast. It follows a web of alliances and conflicts among the dynastic noble families either vying to claim the throne or fighting for independence from the throne. There is also a story ac that centers on a brotherhood that defends the realm against the ancient threats of fierce people and legendary creatures and an impending winter that threatens to destroy everything. The series has a worldwide audience and has been acclaimed by critics for acting, characters, story, scope and production values. It received 38 Emmy Awards. 3 Hugo Awards and four nominations for the Golden Globe. Many of the actors have also received Emmy awards and nominations.

The music includes themes for each of the major houses and also for some of the main characters. The themes evolve over time much as the characters. Daenerys Targaryen’s theme started with a single instrument and later incorporated more instruments.

 

 

 

May 16, 2015     Concert for Kids

Program Notes

 The Carnival of the Animals, Camille Saint-Saens 

Camille Saint-Saëns had no intention of offering “The Carnival of the Animals” to the public when he composed the piece early in 1886; he simply thought to provide an entertainment for his friends at Carnival time. Following the first private performance, Saint-Saens’ old friend and supporter, Franz Liszt, requested that the suite be given again. Thinking the work to be too frivolous to be considered as serious music, Saint-Saëns then specifically prohibited further performances, allowing only one piece of the fourteen-section composition to be performed during his lifetime – The Swan.  On February 26, 1922, a little more than two months after the composer’s death, the public premiere took place, and “The Carnival of the Animals” quickly became one of Saint-Saëns’ most popular works. Recognized as a whimsical introduction to classical music, “The Carnival of the Animals” consists of 14 movements, with each movement using different parts of the orchestra to embody the sounds of an animal, from roosters to elephants to kangaroos. The original score called for only eleven instruments: two pianos, a flute, a clarinet, a glass harmonica xylophone, string quartet, and double bass. Today, the strings are usually beefed up to orchestral proportions and some performances include recitation of verses written for the work by one of several poets or humorists. Tonight we are using Ogden Nash’s poem written for this piece. Saint-Saëns cleverly used a small group of instruments to represent the sounds and characteristics of specific animals:

  • For the sounds of a lion’s roar, he used an ascending and descending chromatic scale in “The Lion,” which gets louder and softer in the piano.
  • To capture the essence of “Hen and Roosters,” Saint-Saëns uses a very staccato (short) articulation in the pianos and strings to get that plucking sound.
  • For the “Donkeys,” the composer has the two pianos depict the animals running.
  • In “Tortoises,” the composer makes a musical joke, using Offenbach’s “Infernal Gallop” (which we know as the “Can Can”), slowing it down considerably so that it is neither “infernal” nor a “gallop,” to represent the slow nature of the tortoise.
  • The double bass, with its ability to play low pitches and to sound a bit cumbersome and graceful at the same time, is the obvious choice for “Elephant.”
  • For the jumping and energetic “Kangaroos,” Saint-Saëns uses only the pianos and writes grace notes (very short notes which are played right before the intended melodic pitch) before nearly every note. The melody jumps around and that, in combination with the grace notes, gives a jumping, leaping, and bouncing sound that represent the Kangaroos chasing each other.
  • For the “Aquarium,” Saint-Saëns wrote slow ascending notes in one piano, while the notes in the other piano are quicker and descending. On top of that, there is a floating melody line in the strings and flute. The combination of fast notes and a floating melody give the Aquarium a floating, dream-like quality. Originally, he wrote a part for the glass harmonica, which is generally replaced by the glockenspiel in modern day performances; it adds to the magical sounds of the underwater world.
  • The “Personages with Long Ears” were originally meant to represent Saint-Saëns’ music critics. This sarcastic and biting movement consists only of violins and has piercingly high notes contrasted with accented low notes to give it an edgy sound.
  • “The Cuckoo” is played by the clarinet, which repeats the same two pitches throughout the movement with a soft and beautiful piano accompaniment.
  • “Aviary,” or Birds, was cleverly written for the flute which has very fast and fleeting notes throughout the movement. The flute is accompanied by the strings which play tremolo (very fast and unstructured notes) for most of the movement and some piano interjections.
  • The “Pianists” showcases the major scale, something that pianists are notorious for practicing for hours a day!
  • For “Fossils,” Saint-Saëns uses music from his orchestra piece “Danse macabre” in which the dancing skeletons are represented by the bone-striking sound that only the xylophone could make. In addition, the frequent use of pizzacato (string plucking) in the string instruments adds to the boney sound. If you listen carefully, you will hear the melody of a long standing children’s song.
  • “The Swan” is to this day one of the most famous pieces played by cellists around the world. Its beautiful, graceful, and somewhat melancholy melody is written perfectly for cello solo and piano accompaniment.

 

Tonight’s concert will also feature:

Disney Magic, Arr. Bob Lowden. Featuring: “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah“, “Candle on the Water“, “Chim Chim Cher-ee“, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes“, “It’s a Small World“

Bugs Bunny’s Greatest Hits: What’s Up at the Symphony, Arr. Jerry Brubaker, Featuring: “This is it“, “William Tell Overture“, “The Barber of Seville“, “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down“, Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody“, Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance“, “The Ride of the Valkyries“ and “Merrily We Roll Along“

Music from “Frozen“, Arr. Bob Krogstad, Featuring: “Frozen Heart“, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?“, “In Summer“, “Let It Go“, “For the First Time in Forever“

Video Games Live, Ralph Ford, Featuring music from Halo, Civilization IV, Bounty Hunter and Kingdom Hearts.

March 14, 2015 – ‘Destination: Italy’ Concert

Program Notes

 

O. Respighi, Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite I

I.                 Balletto, “Il Conte Orlando”
II.               Gagliarda
III.              Villanella
IV.             Passo Mezzo e Mascherada

Like virtually every Italian composer, Ottorino Respighi (1858–1920) did his duty and wrote his share of operas. It’s unlikely, however, that you’ll ever have the chance to see a production of any of them, as good as they may be. Instead, he made his mark as a composer for the concert hall, more successfully than any of his fellow countrymen. His colorful and atmospheric style successfully blends elements of Romanticism (in particular the influences of Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Puccini) with the limpid pastel Impressionism of Debussy. In his suite of Ancient Dances and Airs (1917) Respighi drew most of the tunes he used in them from collections of lute music gathered and published during the 1880s by the Italian musicologist and lute soloist, Oscar Chilesotti. The results ingeniously present antique materials in a rich yet transparent contemporary instrumentation. Suite No. 1 opens with the Balletto detto “Il Conte Orlando,” published in 1599 by composer Simone Molinaro (c. 1570-1633). The first section grows from a gentle opening to a stirring climax. A quieter interlude based on the same theme follows, then the opening panel is repeated.  Vincenzo Galilei (c. 1520-1591) composed the following Gagliarda. An amateur composer and lutenist, he is best known as the father of Galileo, the pioneering astronomer and physicist. This is a bold, strongly accented number with richer scoring. Respighi uses a sweet tune, an anonymous Italiana, as the contrasting middle section. The composer of the third section, Villanella, is unknown. A villanella was a street song, derived from an earlier Spanish vocal form that came to popularity in Naples. It flourished side-by-side with, and in contrast to, the more refined madrigal. The finale, Passo mezzo e mascherada, provides both a dance and an air. It combines two contrasting forms, through a pair of anonymous melodies. The name of the opening, fast-paced passo mezzo remains obscure. It might mean step-and-a-half, referring to the pattern of the dance it accompanied. Respighi alternates it with a mascherada, a type of villanella designed to be sung and played at a masked ball, or by street players during Carnival season.

 

G. Frescobaldi (Arr. Hans Kindler), Tocatta
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583 –1643) was an Italian musician, one of the most important composers of keyboard music in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods.  Frescobaldi was one of the inventors of the modern conception of tempo, which is characterized by acceleration and deceleration within a piece. Frescobaldi’s music was a very important influence on later composers, among them Johann Sebastian Bach.  There are many different theories regarding the origins of Frescobaldi’s “Toccata”.  The first-known edition of the piece can be traced back to a work written for cello by Gaspar Cassado, which led to the orchestral adaptation in 1942 by cellist-conductor Hans Kindler.  This is the version we perform tonight.
G. Rossini, Overture to La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie)
Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792-1869) composed La gazza ladra or The Thieving Magpie, an opera in two acts, in 1817.   “Give me a laundry list and I will set it to music for you,” Rossini is supposed to have boasted, and indeed by the time they had heard and delighted in his thirty-four operas (composed over the course of fifteen years), the Italian public, who adored him, must have felt that such bravado was probably justified. La gazza ladra was composed in 1817, about midway through Rossini’s somewhat abbreviated career—he wrote his first stage-work in 1812 and his last in 1829, whereupon he retired to live happily (and wealthily) with his wife in Paris for the next 37 years and to become a celebrated gastronome as well (think tournedos Rossini). This particular opera never caught on. It is based on a silly story about a magpie that causes all sorts of trouble for the humans near whose habitations it lives. (At the big moment in Act I, the magpie flies in through an open window in Rome and slyly filches a silver coffee-spoon, which is later recovered from the naughty bird’s nest). A few of the opera’s arias are still sung, but it is the Overture that remains endlessly popular. One of the Overture’s trademarks is the snappy rolling of the snare drum. Rossini opens with a sampling of these, leading to an almost martial theme, enlivened by the occasional trumpet blast.

G. Verdi, Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was born in a small town, Roncole, not far from Parma. His parents owned a shabby inn. His musical aptitude was discovered by the local organist, who took him under his wing. Verdi never forgot his humble origin. When King Vittorio Emmanuele wished to knight him, Verdi replied, “Io son un paesano.” (I am a peasant.) His career began in tragedy. He lost his two children and his young wife within a span of two months, and, during this time, he was under contract to write a comic opera which opened in 1840 and was a failure. That, and the loss of his family, convinced him to stop composing, and it was only through the pleading of Barolomeo Merelli, La Scala’s impresario, who literally forced a libretto on him, that Verdi reluctantly returned to composition. Two years later, his third opera opened at La Scala in Milan. Nabucco was a great success, and his long career took off. Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) is from Verdi’s middle period, produced in 1853. The Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, is probably the best known part of the opera. Many of you will remember it from television commercials for the Land-Rover. The setting is a gypsy camp in the mountains of Biscay. The rhythm is that of hammer strokes on anvils. The men begin: “Look! The vast sky is casting off its somber robe of night, just as a widow puts by at last her dark veil of mourning. To work – take up the hammer! What can make a gypsy merry like his gypsy sweetheart?”
Peter I. Tchaikovsky, Capriccio Italien in A Major, Op. 45
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840 – 1893), Russian composer, traveled to Rome in 1879. Tchaikovsky made the journey at the invitation of his brother Modest, with whom he stayed during the winter of 1879-80. While in Rome, Tchaikovsky spent his time admiring the artistic treasures of the Eternal City, as well as studying English. While in Rome, Tchaikovsky penned revisions to his Symphony No. 2 (“Little Russian”), originally composed in 1872. Tchaikovsky also turned his attentions to Italian music. On December 27, he wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck: “Yesterday I heard a delightful folksong which I shall certainly use.” In the beginning of February, Tchaikovsky was able to report to von Meck: “I have already completed the sketches for an Italian fantasia on folk tunes for which I believe a good future may be predicted. It will be effective, thanks to the delightful tunes which I have succeeded in assembling partly from anthologies, partly through my own ears on the streets.”  Tchaikovsky composed his Capriccio Italien in the period of about a week. The work received its premiere in Moscow on December 18, 1880 and has remained a concert favorite ever since.

W. Mozart, La Clemenza di Tito: Aria Sesto  “Parto, ma tu ben mio” (for mezzo-soprano)
While Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)was working on The Magic Flute, he received a last-minute commission to prepare a new opera in honor of the coronation of Leopold II, the Holy Roman Emperor, as the King of Bohemia. The timeline was too short to work up a fresh libretto, so he selected La clemenza di Tito, an old standby.  Mozart worked on it for about a month before heading to Prague for final preparations. With some outside help on the recitatives, Mozart finished the score the day before the premiere on September 6, 1791.  Set in Rome around the year 80 AD, La clemenza di Tito concerns the attempts by Vitellia to exact revenge on the Emperor Tito (Titus), whose father executed her father when both had claims on the title of Emperor. Vitellia enlists the help of Sesto, whose loyalty to the Emperor is overcome by his infatuation with Vitellia. In one of the opera’s most memorable arias, Sesto leaves to carry out the execution, singing “Parto, parto” (“I go, I go”). The role was written for a male castrato, but it is now rendered as a “trousers” role for mezzo-soprano. Mozart decorated the aria with an obbligato solo for clarinet, in what served as something of a warm-up for the Clarinet Concerto completed that October.
Gaetano Donizetti, “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’elisir d’amore (for tenor)
L’elisir d’amore ( Italian: “The Elixir of Love” or “The Love Potion”) is a comic opera in two acts by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848). L’elisir d’amore was written under challenging circumstances. Early in 1832 the Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan commissioned Donizetti to compose a new opera, and Donizetti took a mere six weeks to complete it.  Along with Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, Donizetti was a leading composer of the bel canto opera style during the first fifty years of the Nineteenth Century. Although Donizetti did not come from a musical background, at an early age he was taken under the wing of composer Simon Mayr who had enrolled him by means of a full scholarship in a school which he had set up. Over the course of his career, Donizetti wrote almost 70 operas.  In L’elisir d’amore the gentle villager Nemorino is in love with Adina, and is upset with her apparent indifference to him. In hope of enhancing his attractiveness to her, he buys a bottle of “magic love elixir” — actually, just cheap Bordeaux — from the quack Dr. Dulcamara. Nemorino is mobbed by young girls (who have just learned that his recently deceased uncle has left Nemorino his fortune), and he thinks that he detects a hint of jealousy in Adina. When she still remains aloof, however, he sings of his feelings in the touching aria Una furtiva lagrima. Adina relents and admits her love. The couple is betrothed as the curtain falls.
G. Rossini, From La Cenerentola: Scena E Duetto: “Tutto È Deserto…Un Soave Non So Che” (duet for tenor and mezzo-soprano)
La Cenerentola (Cinderella) is a comic opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1869). Rossini composed La Cenerentola when he was 25 years old, following the success of The Barber of Seville the year before. La Cenerentola, which he completed in a period of three weeks, is considered to have some of his finest writing for solo voice and ensembles.  In this variation of the traditional Cinderella story, the wicked stepmother is replaced by a wicked stepfather, Don Magnifico. The Fairy Godmother is replaced by Alidoro, a philosopher and the Prince’s tutor. Cinderella is identified not by her glass slipper but by her bracelet. In this scene of the opera, it is the first time that Cenerentola and the prince meet. The two are immediately attracted to each other. He asks her who she is, and Cenenterola stammers a confused explanation, then runs away.

December 6, 2014 Concert

Handel’s “Messiah” Sing Along

George Frideric Handel was one of the most admired composers of the Baroque era. Although today he is most well-known for his oratorios, especially Messiah, he was most famous in his own day as a composer of 42 Italian operas. Other famous pieces by Handel include other choral works, such as the Coronation Anthems and orchestral works, including the Water Music and The Music for the Royal Fireworks and many concerti grossi.

Handel was born in Halle, Germany in 1685 – the same year as two other Baroque masters, Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti (although they never met, Handel and Bach share another interesting connection:  both died after unsuccessful cataract surgery performed by the same surgeon, John Taylor, who has gone down in history as a medical charlatan). Handel’s father was determined his son should become a lawyer, and did not encourage his interest in music.  Bowing to parental pressure, Handel enrolled in law school, but soon dropped out to become a professional musician, working for the Hamburg Opera Theater, first as a violinist and harpsichordist, and later as a composer.

After three years in Italy, Handel returned home to Germany in 1710, where he took charge of musical life at the court of Hanover – but Handel abandoned his post on a trip to London, where he lived for the rest of his life.

From 1711 to 1741, his first thirty years in his new home, Handel was a man of the theater. Not only did he compose nearly forty operas during this period, but he founded and managed his own opera company. But in the late 1730s and 40s, disaster struck Handel’s opera company. The popularity of Italian opera in London declined sharply, and box office revenues collapsed. In response to this series of disappointments, Handel turned to oratorio.  He probably didn’t make a deliberate decision to change the focus of his compositional life; oratorio began as a short-term solution for his financial difficulties.  Oratorio could be produced much less expensively than opera:  English singers were far less expensive than Italian divas; costumes, sets, and stage machinery were not required; and oratorio required far less rehearsal time, since they were neither staged nor memorized.

The idea for an oratorio called Messiah came not from Handel, but from Charles Jennens, a wealthy Englishman and literary scholar who edited Shakespeare’s plays. Jennens compiled the libretto of Messiah from the Bible, primarily the Old Testament. Rather than telling the story of Jesus narratively, it presents the significance of the Christian Messiah as a theological idea. Despite its religious subject matter, the libretto (and therefore the entire work) is clearly conceived of operatically: the Biblical texts were chosen and arranged by Jennens in the traditional operatic forms of recitative and aria (as well as choruses, and two pieces for orchestra alone), and the work’s three parts are subdivided into separate scenes, much like an opera.  Handel composed Messiah in approximately three weeks in August and September of 1741. Messiah is in three parts: part one brings various texts concerning Advent and Christmas.  Part two deals with His Passion, and ends with the triumphant Resurrection, and the Hallelujah chorus.  Part three deals with the Resurrection and extends it to all mankind, ending with the Amen chorus. Handel rarely performed Messiah in the same way twice. He made changes at almost every new performance to suit a new singer. In performances today you are likely to hear some from each of the three parts mixed and matched to our conductor’s own preferences.

 

October 25, 2014 Concert

Of Music, Myths & Monsters

 

 

 

Hebrides Overture, Op. 26 (Fingal’s Cave)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)

Felix Mendelssohn once stated, “It is in pictures, ruins, and natural surroundings that I find the most music.”  Perhaps no work and no surrounding were as equally matched for compositional success as Mendelssohn’s trip to Scotland and the writing of his Hebrides Overture.  Mendelssohn was only twenty years old when he traveled to the Hebrides Islands, off the west coast of Scotland, and later to Fingal’s Cave, on the Island of Staffa.  After seeing the stunning scenery in the Hebrides, he composed the opening bars of his overture, sending it to his sister Fanny with the following note, “In order to make you understand how extraordinarily The Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there.”  The following day he ventured to Fingal’s Cave (named after the character Fingal, from a third-century Gaelic tale), having to row there in a skiff, and sat at the mouth of the awe-inspiring, sea-level, basalt-rock formation and marveled.  Mendelssohn was dreadfully seasick on his trip to the cave, but was able to appreciate the magnitude of the formation nonetheless.  Mendelssohn’s work was a new type of overture which emerged during the nineteenth-century, referred to as the concert overture.  Concert overtures are not drawn from a stage work or opera, but rather, are stand-alone works to be programmed as an overture in a concert hall.  Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture is not programmatic, in the sense that it does not follow a narrative or tell a story; but it is thoroughly evocative of the sea and the scenery Mendelssohn experienced during his time in the Hebrides and Fingal’s Cave.

 

 

Dance Macabre, Op. 40                                          
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

By the time he reached his 20th birthday, Camille Saint-Saëns was already known internationally as a composer and pianist to be reckoned with. Not only was he a precocious talent, but during the first half of his 84-year life he was also a champion of new musical forms. A friend and disciple of Franz Liszt, Saint-Saëns adapted many of the Hungarian trailblazer’s new ideas to his own compositional voice. One such innovation was the symphonic poem — a form in which musical ideas followed a narrative, emotional structure rather than traditional patterned musical constructs. Between his mid-30s and mid-40s, Saint-Saëns penned four symphonic poems. The third of these, written in 1874, would become the most famous: the short, lively “Danse Macabre.” In this case, the composer was working from an actual poem, by Henri Cazalis.

 

Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) by Henri Cazalis.

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.

 

The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.

 

Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

 

So effectively did the composer capture the rattle of bones and devilish playfulness of the poem, that “Danse Macabre” was initially rejected by the public as too dark and demonic. But time would prove such criticism laughable; “Danse Macabre” has since become the composer’s most-performed work.

 

Night on Bald Mountain
Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881)

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) tried many times to write the music that we know today as Night on Bald Mountain, and he never got it into satisfactory form. He first had the idea for this music in 1860, when at age 21 he thought about writing an opera based on Gogol’s story St. John’s Eve. Soon this turned into plans for a one-act opera based called The Witches, and at the center of both of these was to be a horrifying witches’ sabbath. But these plans for a stage-work came to nothing. Then in 1867 Mussorgsky told Rimsky-Korsakov that he had completed what he called a “tone-picture” for orchestra, now titled St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain. In the years after his death, the composer’s friends tried to get his chaotic manuscripts into performing order, and in 1886 Rimsky-Korsakov turned to the St. John’s Eve music, which now existed in a number of versions. Instead of simply going back to Mussorgsky’s purely orchestral version of 1867, Rimsky felt free to draw upon the music.  Mussorgsky took as his starting point the old Russian legend of a witches’ sabbath on St. John’s Night on Mount Triglav near Kiev. That legend tells of midnight revels led by the god Chernobog (sometimes depicted as a black goat), festivities that come to an end with the break of day. Mussorgsky himself left a summary of the events depicted in his music: “Subterranean din of supernatural voices. Appearance of Spirits of Darkness, followed by that of the god Chernobog. Glorification of the Black God, The Black Mass. Witches’ Sabbath, interrupted at its height by the sounds of the far-off bell of the little church in a village. It disperses the Spirits of Darkness. Daybreak.”

 

The Devil’s Dance (from “The Witches Of Eastwick”)
John Williams (b. 1932)

Raised on jazz and the Hollywood machine, Juilliard-trained composer John Williams is a household name. He’s the composer of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, the innovator who penned unforgettable themes for Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the winner of five Academy Awards and 21 Grammy Awards.  The Devil’s Dance is part of the many successes written by John  Williams and from the 1987 movie “The Witches of Eastwick”, based on the novel of the same name by John Updike and starring Jack Nicholson, alongside Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon as the eponymous witches.  The story is based around three female protagonists, the ‘Witches’ Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont. Frustrated and bored by their mundane lives in the town of Eastwick, a shared longing and desire for “all manner of man in one man” comes to life in the form of a charismatic stranger, a devil-like character, Darryl Van Horne. Seducing each of the women in turn Darryl teaches them how to further expand the powers locked within, though their new unorthodox lifestyle scandalizes the town. As these powers become more sinister and events spiral out of control, the women come to realize that Darryl’s influence is corrupting everyone he comes into contact with and resolve to use their new-found strength to exile him from their lives.

 

Themes from ‘Night at the Museum’  
Alan Silvestri (b. 1950), Arr. Moore

Night at the Museum is a 2006 American fantasy adventure-comedy film based on the 1993 children’s book of the same name by Milan Trenc. It follows a divorced father trying to settle down, impress his son, and find his destiny. He applies for a job as a night watchman at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History and subsequently discovers that the exhibits, animated by a magical Egyptian artifact, come to life at night.  Alan Silvestri is an American composer and conductor who works primarily in film and television. He is best known for his frequent collaboration with director Robert Zemeckis, including composing major hit films such as the Back to the Future trilogy and Forrest Gump, as well as the superhero films Captain America: The First Avenger and Marvel’s The Avengers.

  

Highlights from ‘Jurassic Park’
John Williams (b. 1932), Arr. Custer

This is another blockbuster by composer John Williams!  Jurassic Park is the twelfth project on which renowned composer John Williams worked with Steven Spielberg.  “Jurassic Park” is a 1993 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. It is based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, with a screenplay written by Crichton and David Koepp. The film centers on the fictional Isla Nublar, an islet located off Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, where a billionaire philanthropist and a small team of genetic scientists have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs.

 

 Phantom of the Opera Selections
Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948), Arr. Custer

The phenomenon of this stage production continues with the release of the motion picture that has introduced Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s timeless music to yet another audience. Calvin Custer’s medley features six musical highlights from both the film and stage versions: All I Ask of You, Angel of Music, Masquerade, The Music of the Night, The Phantom of the Opera, and Think of Me.  “The Phantom of the Opera” is a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux. It was first published as a serialisation in Le Gaulois from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910. The novel is partly inspired by historical events at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century and an apocryphal tale concerning the use of a former ballet pupil’s skeleton in Hector Berlioz’s 1841 production of Der Freischütz.  The novel has received many successful stage and film adaptations.

 

Kernkraft 400 (“Zombie Nation”)
Arr. Ralph Ford

You may not recognize the name but you’ll sure know the music!  Recorded by German techno artist “Zombie Nation,” it’s widely played and extremely popular at sporting events. Zombie Nation is a German techno and electro project of the Munich,  Germany based DJ and producer Florian Senfter. Zombie Nation’s single “Kernkraft 400” was on music charts worldwide in 1999.  The first Zombie Nation record contained the song “Kernkraft 400”, German for “Nuclear Energy 400”, which is a remix of the soundtrack of the 1984 Commodore 64 game Lazy Jones by David Whittaker called “Star Dust”.

 

 ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’
Klaus Badelt (b. 1967), Arr. Ricketts

 

The pirates of the Black Pearl capture the beautiful Elizabeth Swann, as they believe her blood will set them free of their curse; by day they appear normal, but by moonlight they are revealed as skeletal zombies. Will Turner sets off to rescue her, enlisting the help of pirate Jack Sparrow, who has his own agenda after being overthrown as captain of the Pearl by the mutinous Captain Barbossa. Ted Ricketts has adapted the exciting film score with this well-paced medley that captures the most dramatic moments from the original soundtrack. Includes: The Medallion Calls, The Black Pearl, To the Pirates Cave, One Last Shot and He’s a Pirate.

 

 

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