Autumn Fantasy Program Notes

Autumn is a season of change. It is sometimes warm, sometimes cold, and usually a welcome relief from the heat of the summer. Autumn is falling leaves and back-to-school, sweaters, hot chocolate, and Halloween. Halloween is the second most celebrated holiday here in America. The whole month of October seems to be consumed with it! Murray Symphony would like to add to your celebration with a musical offering that is exciting, ethereal, eerie, and exotic. Our music tonight is representative of the fun and fantasy that have become the Fall.

Autumn Leaves – Johnny Mercer, Jacques Prevet, Joseph Kosma, Arr. Alfred Reed

Johnny Mercer is widely regarded as one of America’s greatest songwriters and lyricists. He wrote over 1,400 songs during his career. In 1945 there was a poem written by French screenwriter and poet Jacques Prevert for a ballet. A year later, Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma set the lyrics to music for its inclusion in Marcel Carné’s film Les Portes De La Nuit, a moody drama depicting post-World War II Paris. Mercer’s lyrics were adapted in English and have been recorded by many of the most recorded best-selling artists in America including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ertha Kitt, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Jackie Gleason and others.

Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns

The Danse Macabre (from the French language), also called the Dance of Death, is an artistic genre of allegory of the Late Middle Ages on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance Macabre unites all. Though the Dance of Death isn’t, strictly speaking, associated with Halloween, the macabre imagery resonates with the holiday’s connections between life and death. Skeletons, skulls, and corpses reminiscent of those grim medieval dancers often show up in haunted houses, as yard decorations, and as costumes. Sometimes grisly, sometimes cartoonish, today’s dancing skeletons are far removed from their predecessors in the Danse Macabre. According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays is fiddle (here represented by a solo violin). His skeletons from all walks of life, including the rich and poor and the royal and peasant, dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.  This familiar tone poem tells the story of that fantasy night. It is based on a poem written by Henri Cazalis.

Zig and zig and zig, Death rhythmically
Taps upon a tomb with his heel;
Death at midnight plays a dance air,
Zig and zig and zig on his violin.

The king calls forth the spirits that include one couple in particular who have been separated by death and are allowed to dance together on this one night. This legend can be seen in countless pieces of art but heard in only this one familiar piece of music.

Video Games Live  – Arr. Ralph Ford

The video game phenomenon has taken the musical world by storm! With hundreds of thousands attending the concert tours, it’s fast becoming the newest form of popular music. Themes included in this suite are Halo, Civilization IV and Kingdom Hearts. Serious music in a popular venue.

A Dance of Clowns – Felix Mendelssohn, Arr. Jerry Brubaker

In 1827, at the age of 17, Felix Mendelssohn wrote a piece capturing the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s comedy, A midsummer Night’s Dream. The piece, which was a concert overture, quickly became a popular favorite throughout Europe. In 1843 the Prussian King, Frederick William IV, requested that Mendelssohn write incidental music for a coming production of the play.  It is a story of fantasy and dreams. A Dance of Clowns is one of 14 short pieces written to add flavor and color to the play very much like the music written for today’s movies. This lively theme represents the obnoxious bray of the character Bottom, who has been transformed into a donkey by the mischievous Puck.

 Pavannne for a Dead Princess—Maurice Ravel

The English translation, Pavanne for a Dead Princess, is accurate enough in the strictly literal sense. The word Infante is a term for a princess of the royal house of Spain. Ravel, however said he had a programmatic image in mind, not a funeral lament for a dead child, but rather a dance that might have been danced by a little princess. “In other words, the piece is not poetic but more a fantasy and sort of nostalgic. It might be more accurately be “Pavanne for a Princess from a Faraway Time.”

The Evil Eye and the Hideous Heart –  Alan Lee Silva

The Tell-Tale Heart is a short story by American writer Edgar Allan Poe. It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity while simultaneously describing a murder he committed. The victim was an old man with a filmy “vulture-eye”, as the narrator calls it. The narrator emphasizes the careful calculation of the murder, and he hides the body by dismembering it, and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately, the narrator’s feelings of guilt, or a mental disturbance, result in him hearing a thumping sound, which he interprets as the dead man’s beating heart. Our performance is narrated by Paul Anderson who has edited Poe’s story to fit the music.

Polovtzian Dances from Price Igor – Alexander Borodin

These dances are from and exotic scene at the end of Act II of Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. Prince Igor is an opera in four acts with a prologue, written and composed by Alexander Borodin. It recounts the campaign of Russian prince Igor Svvatoslavich against the invading Cuman Or “Polovtsian” tribes in 1185. The Polovtsi were a nomadic Turkish people who ruled much of Southern Russia from the 11 to the 13 centuries. They were ultimately attacked by Mongols and were dispersed. The libretto was adapted from Russian folk tales. The harmonies and rhythms have a distinctive Russian feel and flair. Many audiences, however, are most familiar with the melody which was used by Artie Shaw in 1940 and in the musical Kismet in 1953. It is known as the song, Stranger in Paradise. When this musical was commissioned it was requested that the music be based on this music by Borodin. It has been adapted and recorded by many others since then including several video games, animated movies and cartoons and the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Games.