From the North and Above

Poster for Winter concert_smaller

Please join us for fascinating night of music including Grieg and Holst. Fan favorites such as: Mars and Jupiter from the Planets, and In the Hall of the Mountain King.

Tickets are $6 for general admission and children 10 and under are free.

Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem – Tschaikowsky

Tschaikowsky was commissioned to compose an overture to be played for the visit of the Tsarevich (heir to the throne) to Moscow, accompanied by his new Danish bride, Princess Dagmar of Denmark. The Tsarrevich would eventually be crowned Tsar Alexander III of Russia and remain a devoted follower of Tchaikovsky’s music, awarding the composer both the Order of St. Vladimir (Fourth Class) in 1884 and a state pension in 1885.

A newspaper article of the time states, “in the original programme an overture by Mr Tchaikovsky was advertise … It was decided that Mr Tchaikovsky’s overture, which combines the themes of the Russian and Danish national anthem, should not be performed because the talented young composer, for some unknown reason, set our Russian national anthem in the minor key, which completely transforms the character of this well-known tune.”

In 1892 Tchaikovsky wrote: : “The “Danish Overture” was once dedicated to the heir to the throne, and I received some jewelled cufflinks, which I immediately sold for half a kopek to Dubuque. This was so long ago that I don’t remember the how and why, but in any case you cannot seek permission to print the dedication, for reasons that I’ll tell you about in person. And so it should be printed without any dedication

When it was written, Tchaikovsky was a young composer at the Moscow Conservatoire. Late in his life, Tchaikovsky judged his Danish overture to be superior to his vastly more popular 1812 Overture, but this very early piece never gained a foothold in the repertory during the composer’s lifetime or since.

The overture opens with an andante introduction, punctuated by bold statements from the brass. This opening theme employs parts of both the Russian anthem and the Danish “Kingsong”, meant to symbolize the union of the two realms. Next, brass and percussion call forth the hurried allegro middle section, where the same two subjects are mixed and reworked. Finally, the overture ends with a grand presentation of the Danish anthem in bold and stark colors.

Peter IlichTchaikovsky
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, was a Russian composer of the romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. Tchaikovsky was honored in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension.
Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840 and was the oldest of 6 children. His family would be considered middle class at the time. He started piano lessons when he was 5 and did very well. His parents, however, wanted him to work in civil service. When he was 10, he was sent to boarding school and when he was 14, his mother died.  He finished his schooling and took a job as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice.

After four years, he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1865.
The formal Western-oriented teaching he received there is what made his music more appealing to Western society.  It was a mixed blessing. His style became a combination of Russian and Western styles. This created artistic and personal conflict at times. It also made his music fresh and interesting to Western audiences.
While his music has remained popular among audiences, critical opinions were initially mixed. Some Russians did not feel it was sufficiently representative of native musical values and expressed suspicion that Europeans accepted the music for its Western elements.
He sometimes regarded as the most popular Russian composer of all time. His music has always had a great appeal for the general public.
He died in St Petersburg on November 6, 1893.

The Planets – Gustav Holst
The Planets, Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst.

From its premiere to the present day, the suite has been enduringly popular, influential, widely performed and frequently recorded.

Holst’s initial score for the work was four hands and two pianos, except for Neptune which was scored for one organ. He thought the piano was too percussive to express the mystery that was his ideas for Neptune. He later scored it for orchestra which is the form that became the most familiar. His orchestration reflects the influence of contemporary composers, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Glazunov.  All of these composers were part of a transition from traditional tonalities to more modern and experimental sounds.

The concept of the work is astrological rather than astronomical(which is why Earth is not included): each movement is intended to convey ideas and emotions associated with the influence of the planets on the psyche, not the Roman deities. Holst had always been interested in theosophy and had read a book called “The Art of Sythesis” by Alan Leo. Each chapter of the book is labeled with a heading much the same as each of the movements of this work.

Although The Planets is his most popular work, he did not think it was his best creation. However, his favorite movement was Saturn.

Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst was the son of a Swedish father and English mother. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London and his solo instrument was the trombone, and for some years after leaving the college he made his living as a trombone player in the Carl Rosa Opera Company and in various orchestras. He became music master at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in 1905 and director of music at Morley College in 1907. These were the most important of his teaching posts, and he retained both of them until the end of his life.

Holst composed works using traditional English folk songs and then began experimenting with the new sounds and harmonies he heard in the music of Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg using extreme chromaticism. It was this influence that can be heard in his most popular and well-known work, “The Planets”.

Symphony #5 – Alexander Glazunov

Glazunov’s Symphony No. 5 is also known as “The Heroic” It was dedicated to Sergei Taneyey, a Russian composer, pianist and teacher.  It was first performed in St. Petersburg in 1896. A Leipzig newspaper called the symphony “very profound” and “sparkling”. It contains memorable themes and definitive rhythms. It is in a traditional standard symphonic form but contains the heart and feeling that is more like the moving works of Tchaikovsky and elements from the nationalistic composers Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Alexander Glazunov

Glazunov was born in 1865 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  He was the son of a wealthy publisher. He began studying piano at the age of nine and began composing at 11

His teacher recognized his talent and brought his work to the attention of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In December 1882, when Glazunov was 16, Rimsky-Korsakov premiered his first symphony. It was extremely well received. He continued to study and teach at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He was so popular that even when the Bolsheviks took over, he maintained his position at the school even though his politics were in conflict with the ruling party.  In 1930 he resigned from the Conservatory and toured throughout Europe and the United States. He eventually lived in Paris where he wrote a Saxophone concerto and conducted an orchestra in the first complete electrical recording the The Seasons. Although his music does not reflect Russian folk music, he does incorporate the unmistakable emotional and spiritual qualities which are recognized as Russian.

Peer Gynt Suite – Edvard Grieg

Peer Gynt Suite was written as incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name. It premiered along with the play on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo). He originally composed 90 minutes of orchestral music for the play. He wrote it was a very frustrating experience that proceeded more slowly than Grieg wished. Although the premier was favorably received, he felt the Swedish government had given him so many specifications he was unable to compose as he would have liked. This was his explanation of the short length of these pieces. He later went back and extracted certain sections for two four-movement suites.

The play is full of high drama, adventure, tragedy, and comedy all mashed into one. Grieg’s characteristically clean music perfectly fits the strong Norwegian feel and ideas of the play, and breathes life into the moods and episodes.

Peer Gynt is the hero. He’s the typical Norwegian scoundrel: lazy, indulgent, and impetuous, who dreams of being the ruler of the world. The play charts his entire life of dreams, travels, and crimes. around the world and distant lands It tells the story of the downfall and subsequent redemption of a Norwegian peasant anti-hero. Unlike Ibsen’s previous dramas, it was written in verse and wasn’t originally intended for stage performance.
Second to Grieg’s Piano Concerto, the Peer Gynt Suite No.1 is the composer’s most popular work, and of its four movements Morning and In The Hall Of The Mountain King are among the most loved of all short orchestral compositions.
Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg was born in 1843 in Bergen, Norway. He was a composer and pianist and is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers. His music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions put the music of Norway in the international spectrum, as well as helping to develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius did in Finland and Antonín Dvořák did in Bohemia. He was enrolled in the Leipzig Conservatory when he was 15. There he learned composition in the style of Mendelssohn and Schumann. He came to know the northern folk tunes of his country. He was one of the founders of the Copenhagen concert society, for the production of works by young Scandinavian composers. He then moved back to Bergen where he was granted an annual stipend by the Norwegian government. Grieg is the most celebrated person from the city of Bergen and there are numerous statues, and many cultural entities named after him: the city’s largest concert building (Grieghallen), its most advanced music school (Grieg Academy) and its professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor). The Edvard Grieg Museum at Grieg’s former home, Troldhaugen, is dedicated to his legacy.

Wild Blue Yonder – Brendan McBrien

The composer wrote: “On a recent trip to the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, I went away impressed by the human compulsion for flight. With frames designed for surface travel, humans were drawn to the air. How curious that seemed to me, yet how clever the solution. From observation to experimentation, from kites to gliders, and from the Wright Flier to walking on the Moon, our species appears committed to leaving the ground!  This ingenuity, combined with countless trials and number crunching, have borne humans aloft and broken the chain of earthbound travel.  This work celebrates the end of that journey–that experience.  Enjoy your flight!”

Brendan McBrien grew up in Sunnyvale, California, where he began his musical training on the horn in 4th Grade. He began private study on the horn in high school After moving to Southern California, he received his Bachelor and Masters degrees in music from California State University, Long Beach. He began teaching in Irvine in 1988 and is currently the director of instrumental music at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School.  His numerous compositions and arrangements for band and orchestra are performed worldwide and published with the Alfred, Kendor, Kjos, and Wingert-Jones Music Companies. He is an active adjudicator, clinician, and frequent honor group conductor, and has served multiple terms on the board of the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA). He has presented several workshops at both the CBDA and the CMEA state conventions as well as numerous presentations for the SCSBOA. He has received multiple awards from the SCSBOA, has been honored with the Irene Schopfle Lifetime Achievement Award from the OCMAA, and was awarded Middle School Teacher of the Year for the Irvine Unified School District in 2013. He currently lives with his wife, two sons and a daughter in Orange, California.