PROGRAM Voices of the Silenced

Overture for Small Orchestra                                                                        Hans Krása
Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings in D minor          Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

James Lyon, violin and Timothy Shafer, piano

Allegro
Adagio
Allegro molto

--intermission—

By the Rivers of Babylon (premiere)                                                             Eliezer Elper
commissioned by the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund
Symphony No. 2                                                                                        Erwin Schulhoff

Allegro ma non troppo
Andante con moto
Scherzo alla Jazz: Allegro assai
Finale: Allegro con spirit

Program Notes    

Hans Krása was born in Prague on 30 November 1899. His affluent family encouraged and generously sup­ported his musical studies, to the extent that his father hired instrumental ensembles in order for Hans to hear his composi­tions. Krása studied with Alexander Zemlinsky in Prague, and in 1921 he began working as a vocal coach at the New German Opera. He spent considerable time in Paris, where he came to admire, among others, the works of Igor Stravinsky.

Krása’s first important success as a composer came in 1920 with his Four Orchestral Songs, based on the “Songs from the Gallows” poems of Christian Morgenstern. His 1923 Symphony was performed under Serge Koussevitzky in Boston, and his 1933 prize-winning opera Verlobung im Traum (Betrothal in a Dream) was conducted in Prague by George Szell.

In 1938 Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister wrote a children’s opera called Brundibár (Bumblebee) for a government competition. Rehearsals started in 1941 at the Jewish orphanage in Prague, which served as a temporary educational facility for children separated from their parents by the war. In the winter of 1942 the opera was first performed at the orphanage but by this time composer Krása and set designer František Zelenka had already been transported to Theresienstadt. By July 1943, nearly all of the children of the original chorus and the orphanage staff had also been transported to Theresienstadt. Only the librettist Hoffmeister was able to escape from Prague in time.

Theresienstadt, 35 miles north of Prague, is now known for its being exploited with Nazi propaganda intended to deceive the world and cover up the campaign of genocide against the Jews. The Nazis cynically presented Theresienstadt as "the Fuhrer's gift to the Jews," but in fact it was a transit camp through which prisoners were systematically transported to death camps in the East.

Reunited with the cast in Theresienstadt, Krása reconstructed the full score of the opera, based on memory and the partial piano score that remained in his hands. On 23 September 1943, Brundibár premiered in Theresienstadt. The production was directed by Zelenka and choreographed by Camilla Rosenbaum, and was shown 55 times in the following year.

There are reports from survivors that the Nazi commandants pushed Krása to write the Overture for Small Orchestra as an overture to Brundibár because the Nazis thought that, to be a proper opera, Brundibár needed an overture. The Overture has a similar pulse and a certain thematic connection to Brundibár but there is no evidence that it was performed in the camp.

Krása was deported to Auschwitz on October 16, 1944, and murdered in the gas chambers two days later.

 

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was born into a wealthy Hamburg family in 1809, but shortly afterwards, when the French occupied the city, they moved to Berlin. On the paternal side, Mendelssohn was the grandson of the 18th-century Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), but was not raised in the Jewish faith.

The Concerto for Piano, Violin and Strings in D minor was written in 1823 when he was 14 years old. Mendelssohn composed the work to be performed with his violin teacher and friend, Eduard Rietz in a private concert at the Mendelssohn home in Berlin. Following this private performance, Mendelssohn revised the scoring, adding winds and timpani. A public performance was given on July 3, 1823 at the Berlin Schauspielhaus.

As Mendelssohn’s career developed he was almost universally lauded as a musical genius. What is more, Mendelssohn also became the artistic director and chief conductor of The Gewandhaus in Leipzig, a venue that has long been recognized as one of the most important performing centers in Europe. Mendelssohn not only initiated the revival of music by Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart, he also assured that his brand of musical historicism was disseminated throughout Europe and beyond.

When Felix Mendelssohn died at the incredibly young age of thirty-eight, he simply had not yet made arrangements for literally hundreds of unpublished musical manuscripts and artworks, alongside thousands of personal letters to and from the composer.

It was Richard Wagner who declared “Judaism the evil conscience of our modern civilization” in his 1850 treatise Judaism in Music. And when Wagner declared Mendelssohn’s music “an icon of degenerate decadence,” some part of the public unfortunately agreed.

We forget that Wagner was only four years Mendelssohn’s junior. The reason for Wagner's vitriol was simple: he felt threatened. In the years after his death, Mendelssohn's influence made him the most important figure in German musical culture and before Wagner could launch his musical and social revolutions, he believed he needed to destroy Mendelssohn.

The rise of the Third Reich in the 20th century did further damage to Mendelssohn’s reputation in Germany. The Nazis tore down his statue that had stood before the Leipzig Gewandhaus, banned Mendelssohn’s music but left his grave unscathed in the Trinity Cemetery of Berlin and liquidated the family banking house.

But they were unable to expunge Mendelssohn completely from German culture. When Richard Strauss was asked to write new music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he replied that he could not improve on Mendelssohn’s music.

In later years the propaganda machinery of Nazi Germany added Mendelssohn’s name to various lists of forbidden artists. At that time, according to Stephen Somary, founder and artistic director of the Mendelssohn Project, “a majority of Mendelssohn manuscripts — both published and unpublished — were housed in the basement of the Berlin State Library. To protect them they were smuggled to Warsaw and Krakow during the winter of 1936/37, and when those cities fell under Nazi control in 1939, they were hurriedly smuggled out again and disbursed to locations wide and far between.” Following WWII, the majority of manuscripts remained buried behind the Iron Curtain. Among these items of course was the Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Strings.

The concerto remained unpublished until 1960, when the Astoria Verlag in Berlin issued a miniature score, edited and arranged by Clemens Schmalstich. Finally, in 1999 the 1960 miniature score was reissued in a scholarly edition with the wind and timpani parts added.

 

The composer Eliezer Elper holds his Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University, Israel. His compositions are broadcast on the Israeli classical channel, Kol ha-Musica. His works have recently been performed in Israel, Poland, Austria, Turkey, Italy, Russia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia, Brazil, Ukraine and the United States.

In recent years Eliezer Elper has composed a number of works for string orchestra. The premier of Greetings from the Holy Land took place in Rovno, Ukraine (2013). The premier of Mein Städtele Jerusalem took place on the same day in Seoul, S. Korea and in Kaluga, Russia (2016) and is to be repeated in Kaluga in 2017. A major piece, The Sun, Boulevard and... Barbed Wire for strings (in memory of the Holocaust) is to be premiered in Makhachkala, Dagestan, RF (2017).

In 2016 Elper’s piece Bу the Rivers of Babylon for symphonic orchestra was commissioned by the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund. The piece is dedicated to the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra.

The music is based on Psalm 137. The early lines of the poem are very well known, as they describe the sadness of the Israelites, asked to "sing the Lord's song in a foreign land." This they refuse to do, leaving their harps hanging on trees. The poem then turns into self-exhortation to remember Jerusalem.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, we also wept, when we remembered Zion. We hung our lyres on the willows in its midst. For there, those who carried us away captive required of us a song; and those who tormented us required of us mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ How shall we sing God’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. (Psalms 137:1-6)

 

Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague on 8 June 1894. Upon the recommendation by Antonín Dvořák, he was accepted as a piano pupil at the Prague Conservatory at the early age of ten. He continued his studies in 1906 in Vienna, in 1908 in Leipzig with Max Reger and in 1911 in Cologne. After his military service in the Austrian Army during the war, he was resident in Germany until 1924 where his interest was particularly aroused by the radical direction taken by the avant-garde: Dadaism and jazz, Impressionism, Expressionism and Neo-Classicism. He also struck up a lively correspondence with the Viennese composer, Alban Berg. A brilliant pianist Schulhoff was considered to be a specialist of Alois Hába’s quarter-tone music.

On his return to Prague, Schulhoff became the successor of Max Brod as the music critic of the newspaper Prager Abendblatt. After 1933, he was unable to continue his career in Germany due to his Communist convictions (he had for example set the Communist Manifesto to music) and also his Jewish roots. The planned first performance of his opera Flammen in Berlin was cancelled. During the 1930s, Schulhoff underwent an artistic transformation, his symphonic jazz compositions were superseded by symphonies in the style of Social Realism and in 1941 Schulhoff acquired Soviet citizenship. The German declaration of war with the Soviet Union meant that he was now categorized as a citizen of an enemy nation. He was initially interned in Prague on 23 June 1941 and subsequently deported to the concentration camp Wülzburg near Weißenburg in Bavaria where he died of tuberculosis on 18 August 1942.

 

 

PROGRAM-“Mostly Mozart” - Sun., Feb. 19, 2017 -- 3 pm - Bellefonte High School Auditorium

 Symphony in D, Op. 11 No. 2 in D Major          Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Allegro Presto - Andante - Presto

Concerto in A, K. 622 for Clarinet and Orchestra                        Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Moran Katz, clarinet
Allegro - Adagio - Rondo: Allegro

 --intermission--

 Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, K. 54                                                    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Adagio, Allegro - Andante con moto - Menuetto: Allegretto, Trio - Allegro

Early in 1779, (just ten years before the storming of the Bastille) Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, began performing music with Queen Marie-Antoniette at Versailles, at her request. In Vienna Marie-Antoniette had grown up with daily instruction in voice, harp and forte-piano and now as the first royal hostess at Versailles since Marie de Medici she supported and participated in performances of the finest classical music.

Joseph Bologne was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe to the plantation owner George Bologne de Saint-Georges and his African slave Nanon. They lived for some time on an estate on St. Domingue (now Haiti) before his family finally settled in Paris in around 1749. In the French capital Joseph’s talents for music and athletics were realized. At the age of 13 Saint-Georges became a pupil of La Boëssière, a master of arms, and also had riding lessons with Dugast at the Tuileries and would become one of the finest swordsmen in Europe.

Little is known of his musical education but it has been suggested that he studied the violin with Leclair and composition with Gossec. 1769 is the year of his first professional engagement, as a violinist in Gossec’s orchestra, the Concert des Amateurs. He made his public début as a soloist with the Concert des Amateurs in 1772, performing two of his own Violin Concerti Op 2. When Gossec became a director of the Concert Spirituel in 1773, Saint-Georges succeeded him as musical director and leader of the Amateurs which rapidly won recognition as one of the finest orchestras in France. (It was Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges who commissioned and premiered the six Paris Symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn.)

The first performance of the symphony on our program today was given in Paris at the Hôtel de Soubise, by the Concert des Amateurs. The music is identical to the Overture to the opera L'Amant Anonyme first performed 8 March 1780.

L'Amant Anonyme (The Anonymous Lover) is the only one of six operas by Saint-Georges to survive in its entirety. Madame de Montesson, who was the secret wife of the Duke of Orleans and a patron of Saint-Georges, sponsored the premier of the opera at her private theater in 1780. It tells the story of Valcour, a man secretly in love with his friend Leontine, but because of social norms is unable to tell her of his affections. It is entirely possible that Saint-George found himself in a similar situation.

Anton Stadler was born in 1753 in Bruck an der Leitha, 40 km southeast of Vienna. In 1756 his family moved to Vienna where his brother Johann was born.  The pair were to become two of the finest clarinetists in the city.

In his day, Anton Stadler enjoyed a reputation far beyond the confines of Vienna as an excellent clarinetist and player of the basset horn. It is uncertain just when his friendship with Mozart began, but the two men were probably already acquainted by 1784, when Stadler performed “a large wind piece” by Mozart (perhaps the Gran Partita, K. 361) at an academy in Vienna. Whatever the case, the first time they are known to have played music together was on 20 October 1785, at a benefit concert for Vienna’s Masonic lodges. Stadler also experimented with the construction of the clarinet, adding to the length of the instrument which extended the range of the instrument downward by four semitones, creating what is called a basset clarinet.

 At the peak of his compositional abilities and just weeks before his death, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed the Clarinet Concerto in A major. He wrote it specifically for his friend and fellow freemason, Anton Stadler and for the basset clarinet which Stadler had created. This was hardly the first time Mozart wrote for Stadler. He was the intended player for numerous orchestral parts and several chamber works, including the "Kegelstatt Trio" K. 498 and the Clarinet Quintet K. 581.

Mozart gave Stadler the completed concerto on October 9th or 10th along with traveling money (about $3,000 today) to travel to Prague, and told the clarinetist to make use of the concerto at the benefit concert the artist had arranged in that city. Stadler arrived in Prague on October 13th or 14th and according to Prague city records, Stadler's concert took place at the Royal Old City Theater on October 16th, 1791.

Like the original basset clarinet, the autograph of Mozart's clarinet concerto was lost, or perhaps even pawned by Stadler on the European tour that followed the Prague benefit concert. The concerto we hear these days is a version edited by modern day publishers so it can be played on today’s instruments. Ms. Katz performs the Henle Edition edited by Henrick Wiese.

For this concerto, Mozart chose an orchestra with flutes instead of oboes, bassoons, no brass instruments except for two horns, and a full complement of strings, to make it possible for the soloist to be heard distinctly above the ensemble.

The first movement begins with flowing melodies that exploit the clarinet's rich tone in an atmosphere of gracious lyricism. 

The Adagio second movement is undoubtedly one of Mozart's most sublime slow movements. This movement displays the exquisite singing quality of the clarinet and the musicality of the clarinetist. A reviewer wrote Stadler in 1784,

Never should I have thought that a clarinet could be so capable of imitating a human voice so closely as it was imitated by thee.  Verily, thy instrument has so soft and lovely a tone that nobody who has a heart can resist it.”

The finale is a capricious rondo that captures the lighthearted, comical quality of the clarinet.  Mozart contrasts the rondo theme with other melodies that are harmonically adventurous and unexpectedly moving. 

Mozart was 32 when he wrote his last three symphonies in the summer of 1788. Seven successful years as an independent composer-performer-impresario in Vienna had made him prosperous. However when the Austrian Empire, of which Vienna was the capital, declared war on the Ottoman Empire (today, Turkey) in February of that year, the Viennese economy fizzled, and Mozart’s career fizzled with it. His livelihood depended on the Viennese moneyed class, which dwindled as upper-class men left the city to serve as military officers, or went to their country estates to avoid questions about why they weren’t serving.

In June of 1788 Mozart moved his family from his apartment in the centre of Vienna to a more spacious suburban residence at Alsergrund 135 (today Währingerstraße 26), a seven-room apartment with a garden attached. The rooms were spacious and it is speculated that Mozart intended to use the large rooms for rehearsals of music he was about to compose. It was in this house that Mozart would compose his last three symphonies (Nos. 39, 40, and 41, all from 1788), and the last of the three Da Ponte operas, Cosi fan tutte, which premiered in 1790.

Evidently the music for Symphony 39 was already in Mozart‘s head as he made the move to Alsergrund and he finished it on June 25; No. 40 followed on July 26 and No. 41 on August 10. That’s two months give or take a few days, a compositional speed record for such masterpieces.

Contrary to common belief, Mozart heard and possibly performed the three symphonies. He had orchestra parts copied, an expense he would not have incurred unless he needed them for a performance and he went to the trouble of re-orchestrating the G-minor Symphony to add clarinets, an effort that would have made no sense unless the Symphony were going to be played.

Mozart included symphonies, most likely from this final set, in concerts he gave in Leipzig in 1789 and Frankfurt in 1790, and a Mozart symphony was performed at a concert led by Antonio Salieri in Vienna in 1791. Programs do not include numbers for these symphonies but it is not likely that Mozart would have passed up a chance to show off one or another of his new works. The orchestra for Salieri’s 1791 Vienna concert included the clarinetists Johann and Anton Stadler, probably the reason for the second version of the G-minor Symphony with clarinets.

The Symphony in E-flat is the only symphony from Mozart’s adulthood that does not use oboes, which means that the clarinets are given unusual prominence. It also has a slow introduction, a common feature in symphonies of the day, but rare in Mozart. This slow introduction is a grand procession eventually dissolving in a few misty bars before the energetic Allegro makes a cautious entrance.

The ambling Andante con moto and the energetic Minuet are typical of Mozart’s mature symphonies. The middle section of the Minuet, with one clarinet playing a simple but unforgettable little tune over the other clarinet’s bubbling arpeggios, would most likely have been composed with the Stadler brothers in mind.

Mozart’s finales are often remarkable for their sheer number of melodic ideas, but the finale of this Symphony relies essentially on a single theme, explored, varied and worked over in the style of Haydn.

 

 

Messiah Program Notes 2016

George Frideric Handel remains 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 compositions 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. 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. Hamburg was Germany’s most important center for Italian opera, and the energy and vitality of the theater must have whetted the young composer’s appetite for this new and wildly popular genre, because Handel left the next year for Florence, opera’s birthplace.

After three years in Italy, Handel returned 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 (Handel must have experienced heart-stopping anxiety a few years later when the Elector of Hanover – the employer he had deserted – was crowned King George I of England).

Handel composed 29 oratorios, including Israel in Egypt (1738), Saul (1738), L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1740), Samson (1743), Semele (1743), Hercules (1734), Belshazzar (1734), Judas Maccabeus (1747), Joshua (1748), Susanna (1748), Solomon (1748), Theodora (1750), and Jephtha (1751), in addition to Messiah.

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 had been an admirer of Handel’s since at least 1725, when he had become a subscriber of Handel’s published operas, purchasing their scores as they were published. The two met in the mid 1730s, and Jennens soon after began collaborating with Handel, provided him with libretti for two oratorios before Messiah (Saul and L’Allegro), and two after (Belshazzar, and probably Israel in Egypt).


Jennens compiled the libretto of Messiah from the Bible, primarily the Old Testament (even the title of the work is a Hebrew word taken from 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 began Messiah on August 22, 1741, and completed it twenty-four days later. The scholar Clifford Bartlett writes that “such speed was not unusual, nor was the time of year. Not much happened in London during the summer, so it was a good time to get ahead with the preparation for the next season . . . Bach could produce a cantata, organizing the copying of parts, and rehearse and perform it every week: Three weeks to compose an oratorio without the immediate responsibility for organizing the performance was, therefore, ample. But, however hasty the composition, the power of the musical imagination, the wealth of ideas, the depth of inspiration, and the sheer variety of invention continue to astonish.”

 

PROGRAM Oct. 23, 2016-“Pastoral Scenes”
Pastorale d’été
                                             Arthur Honegger [7’]
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61                    Ludwig van Beethoven [42’]
Claudia Schaer, violin
I. Allegro, ma non troppo
II. Larghetto -- III. Rondo
--intermission--

Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 “Pastorale”          Ludwig van Beethoven [40’]
I.
Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country
II.
Scene by the brook
III.
Merry gathering of the country folk
IV.
Storm, Tempest – V. Shepherds’ song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm

 

Wengen

Wengen

Pastorale d’été  There must have been a remarkable sunrise on one August morning in 1920, when Arthur Honegger put pen to paper to capture a musical image of the resort village of Wengen in the Bernese Alps. Nestled beneath the Eiger and Jungfrau mountains the village is filled with typical Swiss houses and farmsteads and from car-free streets and alleys the view of the massive Alps invited sounds of the Alphorn, songs of birds and wildlife and the deep drone of alpine mountainscapes for Honegger.

At the head of the score the composer inserted a quote from the French poet Arthur Rimbaud: “J’ai embrassé l’aube d’été” (“I embraced the summer dawn”) and he titled his piece Pastorale d’été (Summer Pastoral). The music begins with a languorous soaring theme by the horn, which is then taken up by the strings. Flute and clarinet tell us the birds are already singing. The middle section is lively and is colorfully orchestrated and the harmony shifts as if one is turning one’s head toward another view. The main theme returns to close the piece with the peaceful sounds of the opening. The work was dedicated to Alexis Roland-Manuel a French composer/critic, and Professor of Aesthetics at the Paris Conservatory.

Pastorale d’été was first performed on 17 February 1921 at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, conducted by Vladimir Golschmann. The work won a Prix Verley, a prize decided by the audience members present at the concert. The work is for chamber orchestra made up of strings and single winds: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn.

Violin Concerto Beethoven composed his concerto for 26-year-old violinist Franz Clement. More than just a virtuoso violinist, Clement was also an accomplished pianist, score-reader, and accompanist and from 1802 until 1811 he was conductor and concertmaster of Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. Beethoven headed the autograph manuscript with the dedication, “Concerto par Clemenza pour Clement, primo Violino e direttore al Teatro a vienna dal L.v. Bthvn 1806.”

It seems that Beethoven completed the concerto barely in time for the premiere at the Theater an der Wien on December 23, 1806. Clement reportedly performed the solo part at sight, but this did not prevent the undauntable violinist from interpolating, between the two movements of the concerto, a piece of his own, played with his instrument held upside down—or at least so it was said. Such showmanship was typical of musical performances of the period, but though the audience appears to have enjoyed the event, critical response to the concerto was lukewarm. It was not until 1844, almost 20 years after Beethoven’s death, that the work gained popularity when another young virtuoso, 13-year-old Joseph Joachim, took the piece on a European tour with his friend Felix Mendelssohn conducting.

By all reports, Clement’s technical skill was extraordinary and his intonation no less than perfect, but he was most highly regarded for his “gracefulness and tenderness of expression.”

Many soloists have composed cadenzas for Beethoven’s concerto and our soloist, Claudia Schaer, has chosen the Fritz Kreisler cadenzas, “…which I like even more for their beautiful dedication, ‘To my dear wife.’”

She continues, “…on a personal note, the Beethoven concerto has always been in my mind one of, if not the most sublime work, certainly for the violin, and perhaps at all. It speaks to me of hope and truth and all that's beautiful in the world, not with naiveté, but taking into account all that transpires.

“When I was a child, I remember my wonderful teacher, Lise Elson, saying that it is a concerto to play after one is thirty; one simply isn't mature enough for it beforehand. …The form of the piece, as well as the themes and musical lines themselves, are in a way so simple - one could say almost just scales and arpeggios - but how they are varied, orchestrated, put together is so rich and full of meaning - perhaps that is why.

“Knowing that the concerto was written just a few years after the Heiligenstadt Testament, in which of course Beethoven contemplates but then rejects suicide, finding meaning in Art, I can add a possible historical meaning to my feeling that the concerto is immensely life-affirming, despite all hardships; reaching joy despite grief and despair.”

The first movement, Allegro ma non troppo, opens with four strokes on the timpani, a gesture which, like the “Fate” motive opening his Symphony No. 5, is reinterpreted and recast, the rhythmic mortar of the entire movement’s musical structure.

The slow movement is a contemplative set of variations on an almost motionless theme first stated by muted strings. The solo violinist adds tender commentary in the first variation, the theme beginning in the horns, then taken by the clarinet, and then the solo bassoon. Near the end of the movement another variation is shared by soloist and plucked strings, but when the horns suggest still another beginning, the strings, now unmuted and forte, object. The soloist responds with a trill and improvises a bridge into the closing Rondo.

The final movement, a spirited Rondo, begins immediately. Beethoven has saved the most colorful and virtuosic passagework for this rustic dance movement.

Pastoral Symphony It was Beethoven’s deep love of nature that was the inspiration for his Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale.” Countess Theresa of Brunswick, a student and close friend of Beethoven, wrote: “He loved to be alone with Nature, to make her his only confidante. When his brain was reeling with confused ideas, Nature at all times comforted him.” Others reported that Beethoven refused lodging without nearby trees, could not be dissuaded from long daily walks even in heavy rain (for which he refused an umbrella), that he wandered around jotting down themes in his ever-present sketchbooks, and that he assumed a frightening presence by lapsing into the appearance and behavior of a vagrant. In a letter he wrote, “My bad hearing does not trouble me here.”

Anton Felix Shindler reported that Beethoven’s favorite book was a copy, dog-eared from use, of Christian Sturm’s Reflections on the Works of God in the Realm of Nature and Providence from which he copied passages such as: “One might rightly designate Nature the school of the heart; she clearly shows us our duties toward God and our neighbor.”

Although completed in the summer of 1808 in Weisenthal, near Heiligenstadt (then a rural resort near the bank of the Danube), sketches for the Pastoral are found in Beethoven’s notebooks as early as 1803. The most telling are two attempts that year to transcribe the sound of a stream, which eventually would emerge as the undulating introduction to the second movement. Although Beethoven provided descriptive titles for each movement, he cautioned against interpreting his intentions literally. He wrote in his sketchbooks: “The hearers should be allowed to discover the situations.” “Pastoral Symphony: no picture but something in which the emotions are expressed which are aroused in men by the pleasure of the country, in which some feelings of country-life are set forth.”

Heiligenstadt in Beethoven’s time

Heiligenstadt in Beethoven’s time

Beethoven said from the outset that his sixth symphony be titled “Pastoral Symphony, or a recollection of country life. More an expression of feeling than a painting.” The label is found in a letter Beethoven sent to his publisher in 1809. The titles of each movement were published in the program book at the first performance and on the engraved first violin part.

I. “Erwachen heiterer Gefühle bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande” (“Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country”) – Beethoven draws us in immediately with a gorgeous flowing theme over a rustic open-fifth drone (think rustic bagpipes).

II. “Szene am Bach” (“Scene by the brook”) – The mood of calm contentment continues as the strings invoke the sound of a gently babbling brook. Barely a minute from the end of the movement, the steady lilting activity halts as Beethoven introduces three bird-songs: a nightingale in the flutes, a quail in the oboes and a cuckoo in the clarinets. Lest there be any doubt, he actually labels each one in the score.

III. “Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute” (“Merry gathering of the country folk”) – We encounter country folk for the first time, intruding upon the solitude with a lusty peasant dance, though not for long. Nature will soon reassert itself to show who’s really the boss

IV. “Gewitter, Sturm” (“Storm, Tempest”) – Augmenting the instruments used so far, Beethoven adds a piccolo, trombones and tympani to add wind, rain, thunder and lightning to his musical portrayal of Nature’s tempest. The movement ends in a ravishing transition of a gently rising flute scale which signals the subsiding storm, parting clouds and the glorious light of the sun upon Nature’s pastoral landscape.

V. “Hirtengasang. Frohe, dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm” (“Shepherds’ song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm”) – The final movement is perhaps the most heartfelt of all. It begins with an Alpine hunting call that evolves effortlessly into a bucolic Rondo, perhaps one of the simplest of Beethoven’s works, completely saturated with the joy of Nature.

 

Program Notes April 24, 2016

PROGRAM-“Sounds of Hope”

Long, Long Ago                                                      T.H. Bayley, arr. Williams Minnich
Waltz                                                                             J. Brahms, arr. Williams Minnich
Concerto No. 2, in G Major, mvt. 3                                                                         F. Seitz
Double Concerto in D Minor, mvt. 1                                                                   J.S. Bach
Young Suzuki Violinists with Sally Williams Minnich, Instructor
Ben Firer, Assistant Conductor

Sonata No. 7, mvt. 1                                             Viktor Ullmann
World premiere of the orchestration by Ronen Nissan
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64                    Felix Mendelssohn
Giora Schmidt, violin
I. Allegro molto appassionato
II. Andante
III. Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace

--intermission--

Symphony No. 3 in Eb Major, Op. 55          Ludwig van Beethoven
I. Allegro con brio
II. Marcia Funebre – Adagio assai
III. Allegro vivace
IV. Allegro molto

 PROGRAM NOTES

Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944) was born in a part of Silesia that now is part of the Czech Republic, growing up and taking his education in Vienna. There he participated in Schoenberg's advanced courses in 1918-19, and at Schoenberg's recommendation, became one of Alexander Zemlinsky's conducting assistants at the New German Theatre in Prague in the 1920s. How highly Zemlinsky regarded him is seen in his having entrusted Ullmann with the preparation of Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder, as well as operas by Mozart, Strauss, Wagner, Berg and others, which he also conducted on occasion in place of Zemlinsky. In the 1930s Ullmann composed, taught and wrote articles for German musical publications in Prague.

Ullmann, was raised a Catholic and later converted to Protestantism before returning to Catholicism. His Jewish parentage, however, consigned him under Nazi racial laws to a fate that sent him from Prague first to Terezín and then to his death at Auschwitz.

Viktor Ullmann

Viktor Ullmann

When Czechoslovakia came under Nazi control, the performance of Ullmann's works was banned, and a public musical life became impossible for him. He tried unsuccessfully to emigrate to London or South Africa but finally found himself trapped in Prague. He was able to arrange places for two of his children on a Kindertransport to Sweden and then England. Ullmann was deported to Terezín on September 8, 1942.

During his two years of incarceration there, he was at the center of the camp’s intellectual and artistic life. There he composed over twenty musical works, and perhaps others that have been lost. This extraordinary output includes a string quartet, piano sonatas, song cycles, choral works, incidental music for a play, and an opera libretto. Rediscovering his family origins, he composed a number of works based on traditional Jewish themes, including a set of haunting Yiddish and Hebrew songs.

Instead of being given a customary work assignment, Ullmann was asked by the Freizeitgestaltung (Leisure time authority) to occupy himself with music, serving as critic and concert organizer (including the Studio for New Music, which he founded, and the Collegium Musicum) as well as assisting on other performances.

Ullmann’s seven Piano Sonatas were written between 1936 and 1944, the first four while he free-lanced in Prague, the last three while incarcerated at Terezín. In totality one sonata leads inexorably to the next, and one can trace the arch of his momentous life through these pieces. He starts with a young man’s homage to Mahler, and ends with a sonata motivated by his imprisonment – masterful and deeply expressive.

"In my work at Theresienstadt, I have bloomed in musical growth and not felt myself at all inhibited: by no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon, and our endeavor with respect to Arts was commensurate with our will to live. And I am convinced that all who have worked in life and art to wrestle content into its unyielding form will say that I was right." – Viktor Ullmann

Sonata No.7 (1944), dedicated to three of his children Max, Jean and Felice (Pavel, born in 1940 had already died in the camp) was the last of Ullmann’s works written before he was transported to Auschwitz. It is almost akin to a musical autobiography in which through the five movements he quotes his obvious loves in the shape of quotations and allusions to such composers as Bach, Mahler, Schoenberg and Wagner. Into this mix he adds echoes of Slovak hymns, Lutheran chorales and even a Hebrew folksong in the final movement. The opening Allegro movement which we will hear, reflecting the late German Romantic style, is exhilarating and life-affirming. The orchestration is by Ronen Nissan.

Ullmann was deported to Auschwitz on 16 October 1944, in one of the last transports, where he died in the gas chamber.

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Ferdinand David

Ferdinand David

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn was born on February 3, 1809, in Hamburg, then under Napoleonic rule, and died in Leipzig, Saxony, on November 4, 1847. Carrying out a plan that went back to 1838, Mendelssohn completed his Violin Concerto in E minor on September 16, 1844, and it was played for the first time on March 13, 1845, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus by Ferdinand David with the Danish composer Niels Gade conducting.

When Felix Mendelssohn founded the Leipzig Conservatory in 1843, one of the first faculty appointments he made was Ferdinand David, a violinist held in the highest regard as soloist, as a model concertmaster, as quartet leader, and teacher.

Ferdinand David was more than the first violinist to play the Mendelssohn Concerto; the work was intended for him from the beginning. David and Mendelssohn had been friends since 1825.

In the development of Mendelssohn’s Concerto, David played a role parallel to that taken a generation later by violinist Joseph Joachim with the Brahms Concerto. Mendelssohn’s Concerto is in fact the first in the distinguished series of violin concertos written by pianist-composers with the assistance of eminent violinists.

In his G minor and D minor piano concertos, Mendelssohn gives us just enough of an orchestral accompaniment to propel the soloist into action. In the Violin Concerto, he reduces the orchestra’s initial participation still further. There is only a backdrop for not as much as two seconds by the quietly pulsating drums and plucked basses before the violin sings its famous melody.

A couple of years earlier, in his Scottish Symphony, Mendelssohn experimented with the idea of going from movement to movement without a break. Here he takes the plan a step further, not merely eliminating the pauses but actually constructing links. The second movement Andante emerges mysteriously from the close of the first movement and between the Andante and the finale there is a wistful connecting intermezzo, only fourteen measures long. Only strings accompany the violin, setting the stage for the fanfare that announces the finale.

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When Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) arrived in Vienna in 1796, he began a rapid rise to fame as a performer and later as a composer.  Roughly concurrent with his arrival he started to experience trouble with his hearing, a condition that worsened with time.

Under the guidance of Haydn, Albrechtsberger, Förster, Salieri and others, he quickly mastered the classical style and his early works were well received.  Despite this success, he began to feel that he had absorbed everything his teachers had to offer.  The decision facing him was whether to devote his life to emulating the Viennese classicists or to seek a new avenue of expression.  To those close to him, he spoke of a 'new path'.  To many others, he didn't speak at all.  His hearing, by then, had deteriorated to the point where he was avoiding social contact.

In the autumn of 1802, while resting in Heiligenstadt, Beethoven drafted a tortured letter in the form of a will that has come to be known as the Heiligenstadt Testament.  In this document, he bequeaths his belongings to his brothers but writes mostly of his realization that his hearing was worsening and would likely leave him completely deaf in time. Though he struggled for the words, his fears were eventually laid to rest and his determination led him in the direction of a new, revolutionary style of musical expression.

Soon after his return from Heiligenstadt, Beethoven approached his work with renewed energy.  His philosophy and style of composition underwent a transformation and his music from that point on possessed a new expressive dimension.  Within weeks of returning to Vienna, he began his first sketches for the Eroica.  Clearly, the Testament had been a means of exorcising his fears but the Eroica would became an impassioned codicil to that will, a yearning to strike out on a new path. Self-determination and triumph over adversity may well be the program of the Eroica with Beethoven as hero.

Much is made of Beethoven’s intention to dedicate his symphony to Napoleon and his change of mind when he learned of Napoleon’s assuming the title of Emperor. Beethoven did indeed scratch out the name Napoleon on the title page of his symphony. It seems that Beethoven was making plans for a move to Paris and thought that this dedication would ease his introduction. When it became apparent that this move would not materialize but that Prince Lobkowitz was interested in licensing the symphony for a period of time, Beethoven removed the so called dedication and renamed the symphony “Eroica.”

One of the most perplexing issues of the Eroica-Napoleon connection has been: why did Beethoven include a funeral march followed by a joyous scherzo and finale?  Nineteenth century commentators were at a loss to explain the seeming contradiction of death and celebration in the context of an homage to Bonaparte.

Additionally, early writers noted thematic similarities between the Eroica and Beethoven's own ballet, Die Geschöpfe des Promethus (The Creatures of Prometheus) Op 43 as well as his Variations, Op 35 and 12 German Contradances WoO 14.  They were able to trace, passage by passage, the parallels to be found in the music but never touched upon the deeper kinship between the Eroica and Prometheus.  The distinguished Beethoven scholar William Kinderman, citing the work of Constantin Floros, has now proposed the possibility that the whole of the Eroica symphony is an allegory for the Promethus legend.  That is to say, the Prometheus legend as portrayed in Beethoven's ballet.

In the various Greek versions of the legend, Prometheus is punished by being chained to a rock where upon an eagle eats his liver every day only to have it regenerate each night.  After years of suffering Prometheus is finally freed.  In the version staged by Beethoven and the dance master Salvatore Vigano, Prometheus is put to death for his transgression and is later re-born.

Tracing the sequence of certain events in the ballet and comparing the resulting scenario to the progression of movements in the Eroica we arrive at a convincing fit.  Kinderman:

"Floros's work has shown that the links between the ballet and the symphony are more substantial than has usually been assumed. Floros traces various rhetorical and formal parallels between the opening Allegro con brio of the symphony and, in particular, the eighth piece of the Prometheus music, the 'Danza Eroica'. Still more important is the affinity of the two following pieces of the ballet, the 'Tragica scena' (no. 9) and 'Giuocosa scena' (no. 10, in which the dead Prometheus is restored to life), to the progression from the Marcia funebre to the scherzo in the symphony."  Beethoven, William Kinderman; Oxford University Press, 1997

That the Eroica could be a symphonic expansion of the Prometheus ballet, with the main character symbolizing the tortured and misunderstood artist, is more than plausible.  The scenario - heroic, tragic, joyous – seems to be more than a coincidence.

Program Notes February 14, 2016

PROGRAM
Part 1
The Concordia Singers and Benjamin Firer, conductor

“Adagietto” from Symphony No. 5 in C# Minor -- Gustav Mahler
"Scherzano sul tuo volto" from Rinaldo -- Georg Frideric Handel
"Se il cor ti perde" from Tolomeo -- Georg Frideric Handel
"O Pastorelle, Addio" from Andrea Chénier -- Umberto Giordano
"All in green went my love riding" from Earthsongs -- Ronald Perera
--intermission—
Part 2
Yaniv Attar, conductor and Danya Katok, soprano

Symphony No. 4 in G Major -- Gustav Mahler/Lee
1. Bedächtig, nicht eilen (Moderately, not rushed)
2. In gemächlicher Bewegung, ohne Hast (Leisurely moving, without haste)
3. Ruhevoll,poco adagio (Peacefully, somewhat slowly)
4. Sehr behaglich (Very comfortably)

In the fall of 1901 Gustav Mahler met Alma Schindler, the beautiful daughter of Emil Schindler, a highly respected Viennese landscape painter and perhaps the most important Austrian visual artist of the nineteenth century. As the story goes, Mahler immediately sat down and composed this Adagietto as a declaration of his love (having written the first two movements of his Symphony No. 5 earlier that summer).

Alma Schindler

Alma Schindler

The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg, in his personal copy of the Fifth Symphony, wrote: “This Adagietto was Gustav Mahler’s declaration of love for Alma! Instead of a letter, he sent her this in manuscript form; no other words accompanied it. She understood and wrote to him: He should come!!! (both of them told me this!).” Mengelberg’s own description of the Adagietto was “love, a love comes into his life.”

The fact that the music included a reference to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde may have been an acknowledgment that Alma was herself an accomplished musician and composer and would immediately understand the reference.

Mengelberg also wrote a short poem into his conducting score, words to go with the melody in the first violins.

"Wie ich dich liebe, Du meine Sonne,
ich kann mit Worten Dir's nicht sagen.
Nur meine Sehnsucht kann ich Dir klagen und meine Liebe."

(How much I love you, you my sun,
I cannot tell you that with words.
I can only lament to you my longing and love.)

The music is written for only strings and harp. Mahler's markings in the score clarify exactly what he wanted from a performance: espressivo, seelenvoll ("soulful"), and mit innigster Empfindung ("with the most heartfelt sentiment"). Beginning very quietly, this music is soon full of longing: its arcing, graceful melodies unfold with a bittersweet intensity, rise gradually to a soaring climax, and finally fall back to the peaceful close. We will be performing the arrangement for chamber orchestra by Yoon Jae Lee.

 

Scherzano sul tuo volto: Rinaldo (1711), was Georg Frideric Handel’s first London opera with a specially-written libretto partially derived from Torquato Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (1581). The drama is set during the siege of Jerusalem at the time of the First Crusade around1099.

Almirena, the daughter of the general of the Christian forces, has been promised in marriage to Rinaldo once the city of Jerusalem has been taken. In “Scherzano sul tuo volto” Rinaldo and Almirena celebrate their mutual devotion, but their happiness turns out to be short-lived as the enchantress Armida will soon abduct Almirena in an attempt to take Rinaldo for herself. The scene is a pleasant garden grove as Almirena sings:

The charming graces
Play in your face in their thousands.
The little Cupids
Laugh on your lips in their thousands.

 

In the lovely fire
Of your eyes
Love adds sweet sparks
To his powerful dart

 

Se il cor ti perde, o caro: Handel composed his opera Tolomeo in 1728. The setting is Cyprus around 108 BC. Tolomeo, King of Egypt, is driven out by his mother, Cleopatra (Caesar’s lady came later), and arrives in Cyprus posing as a shepherd. His wife, Seleuce, traces him to the island, where she poses as a shepherdess. Araspe, King of Cyrus, falls in love with Seleuce and intends to eliminate Tolomeo. In this duet Seleuce and Tolomeo reassure each other of their love.

If my heart loses you, O dearest,
In such bitter grief,
I can only say to you:

 

My treasure, farewell!
Now I go to die,
And forever in my suffering
I can never forget
My idol.

 

O Pastorelle, Addio: In the first act of Umberto Giordano's opera Andrea Chénier a soirée begins with a "pastoral" performance. A chorus dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses sings idealised rustic music while a ballet mimics a rural love story in stately court fashion.

O Shepherd, farewell!
To shores far away and lonely, we travel without you!
Ah! Ah! Far away we must go!
This dear land we leave forevermore!
Joy in our hearts we must leave behind until we meet again.

 

All in Green Went My Love Riding

Ronald Perera

Ronald Perera

Ronald Perera's compositions include song cycles, theater, chamber, choral and orchestral works, and several works for instruments or voices with electronic sounds. He is perhaps best known for his settings of texts by authors as diverse as Dickinson, Joyce, Grass, Sappho, Cummings, Shakespeare, Francis of Assisi, Melville and Ferlinghetti. His 1989 opera The Yellow Wallpaper received its New York premiere in December 1992 at the Manhattan School of Music.

He composed Earthsongs for women's chorus and orchestra in 1983 for the Smith College Glee Club. This is the 4th movement of 6.

E.E. Cummings’ rousing poem about hunting, complete with bows, arrows, hunting horns, and deer builds on traditional mythic imagery and a traditional balladic structure, told from the perspective of a speaker. The combination of imagistic language, alliterative word choice, and repetition builds to create a poem with surprising metaphoric language for love as a grand chase. Cummings manages to craft a playful, inventive, extended metaphor that makes even the most devastating of hits from Cupid's arrow sound like an adventure in an Arthurian legend. At its center, it is a poem about falling in love, the “hunt” for love culminating in the “arrow” striking the heart of the speaker!

 

Symphony No. 4 in G major

Except for the finale, which was composed as a song with piano accompaniment in February 1892, Gustav Mahler wrote his Fourth Symphony between June 1899 and April 1901.

Song and symphony are frequently intertwined in the work of Gustav Mahler. It is amazing to realize that one small song—“Das himmlische Leben” (Heavenly life), the one that serves as the finale for this symphony—inspired, influenced, and shaped so much important music.

Although it is the last music we hear in this symphony, the song was Mahler’s starting point. In the early years of the nineteenth century Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano published an anthology of seven hundred traditional German poems known as Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The youth’s magic horn). Carl Maria von Weber was one of the first composers to see the musical potential of this collection, and, by coincidence, it was his copy of the Wunderhorn poems that Mahler picked up one day in 1887, while he was visiting the home of the composer’s grandson.

From that volume Mahler chose a few poems and set them to music at once. For the next fourteen years, Mahler used Des Knaben Wunderhorn as the source for all but one of his song texts. On February 10, 1892, he completed a setting for voice and piano of the poem “Der Himmel hangt voll Geigen” (Heaven is hung with violins), a child’s naive picture of celestial bliss. Mahler wrote his own title, “Das himmlische Leben,” at the top of the page. A month later, he finished the orchestral version, colored by the sounds of a harp and the tinkling of bells.

Mahler had a special affection for the song and he often included it in concerts of his music. But when it came time to publish his Wunderhorn settings, “Das himmlische Leben” was held back. Mahler had decided to use the song as the finale of his Third Symphony instead. The rest of that symphony was conceived as a sequence of answers to life’s questions, concluding with “What the child tells me,” or “Das himmlische Leben.” But as work neared completion, Mahler lopped off the finale and carried it with him to his next symphony, the finale not of one, but, in a sense, of two symphonies.

arnold.jpg

In planning his Fourth Symphony, Mahler knew how his piece would end before he wrote his first page; he then had to work backwards in a sense, so that his song would appear as the logical destination of the three new movements. With this goal in sight, he conceived a symphony that would explore the road from experience to innocence, from complexity to simplicity, and from earthly life to heaven.

To convey the journey toward innocence, Mahler’s first three movements gradually diminish in complexity as they approach the pure and serene threshold of the finale. Mahler suggests his goal with the symphony’s very opening bars, scored for the sleigh bells and piping flutes that will later greet us in heaven. In a work full of flashbacks and fast-forwards, this is a momentary glance and no more. Mahler quickly introduces a lovely melody, “childishly simple and quite un-selfconscious,” in his own words, that, like many simple materials in music, will lead to the most complex developments.

Although Mahler left no titles for the movements in this symphony, fearing “their banal misunderstandings,” we know that the second movement originally was inscribed “Friend Hein Strikes Up,” after a character in German folklore, a sinister pied piper who plays his violin and leads his victims toward death. Alma Mahler amplified that hint by writing that here “the composer was under the spell of the self-portrait by Arnold Böcklin, in which Death fiddles into the painter’s ear while the latter sits entranced. Mahler assigns the central role to the solo violin, instructs him to tune his instrument up a whole tone (to give it a harsher sound), and to play it “wie ein Fiedel”—like the fiddle one knows from the street, not the concert hall. The two landler-like trios hint at the music of “Das himmlische Leben” to come.

Mahler once admitted that the slow movement, a spacious and magnificent set of variations, was inspired by “a vision of a tombstone on which was carved an image of the departed, with folded arms, in eternal sleep.” There is one immense uproar near the end that would surely raise the dead, however, and when this great wave erupts from G major and plants us for the first time squarely in E major, the gates of heaven are within sight. But first we sink back into G major to await the song from which this music first sprang.

And then, with a few bucolic phrases from the winds and the gentle plucking of the harp and strings, we hear the human voice for the first time in this symphony. A soprano sings of an innocent pastoral world and Mahler’s pen sketches cloudless blue skies and the eternity of E major. Angels bake bread, Saint Peter fishes in a pond stocked daily by God, and “there is just no music on earth that can compare with ours.”

We enjoy heavenly pleasures
and therefore avoid earthly ones.
No worldly tumult
is to be heard in heaven.
All live in greatest peace.
We lead angelic lives,
yet have a merry time of it besides.
We dance and we spring,
We skip and we sing.
Saint Peter in heaven looks on.

John lets the lambkin out,
and Herod the Butcher lies in wait for it.
We lead a patient,
an innocent, patient,
dear little lamb to its death.
Saint Luke slaughters the ox
without any thought or concern.
Wine doesn't cost a penny
in the heavenly cellars;
The angels bake the bread.

Good greens of every sort
grow in the heavenly vegetable patch,
good asparagus, string beans,
and whatever we want.
Whole dishfuls are set for us!
Good apples, good pears and good grapes,
and gardeners who allow everything!
If you want roebuck or hare,
on the public streets
they come running right up.

Should a fast day come along,
all the fishes at once come swimming with joy.
There goes Saint Peter running
with his net and his bait
to the heavenly pond.
Saint Martha must be the cook.

There is just no music on earth
that can compare to ours.
Even the eleven thousand virgins
venture to dance,
and Saint Ursula herself has to laugh.
There is just no music on earth
that can compare to ours.
Cecelia and all her relations
make excellent court musicians.
The angelic voices
gladden our senses,
so that all awaken for joy.

 

Messiah Program Notes

George Frideric Handel remains 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 compositions 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. 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. Hamburg was Germany’s most important center for Italian opera, and the energy and vitality of the theater must have whetted the young composer’s appetite for this new and wildly popular genre, because Handel left the next year for Florence, opera’s birthplace.

After three years in Italy, Handel returned 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 (Handel must have experienced heart-stopping anxiety a few years later when the Elector of Hanover – the employer he had deserted – was crowned King George I of England).

Handel composed 29 oratorios, including Israel in Egypt (1738), Saul (1738), L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1740), Samson (1743), Semele (1743), Hercules (1734), Belshazzar (1734), Judas Maccabeus (1747), Joshua (1748), Susanna (1748), Solomon (1748), Theodora (1750), and Jephtha (1751), in addition to Messiah.

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 had been an admirer of Handel’s since at least 1725, when he had become a subscriber of Handel’s published operas, purchasing their scores as they were published. The two met in the mid 1730s, and Jennens soon after began collaborating with Handel, provided him with libretti for two oratorios before Messiah (Saul and L’Allegro), and two after (Belshazzar, and probably Israel in Egypt).

Jennens compiled the libretto of Messiah from the Bible, primarily the Old Testament (even the title of the work is a Hebrew word taken from 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.

Music Hall Dublin, place of the premiere performance.

Music Hall Dublin, place of the premiere performance.

Handel began Messiah on August 22, 1741, and completed it twenty-four days later. The scholar Clifford Bartlett writes that “such speed was not unusual, nor was the time of year. Not much happened in London during the summer, so it was a good time to get ahead with the preparation for the next season . . . Bach could produce a cantata, organizing the copying of parts, and rehearse and perform it every week: Three weeks to compose an oratorio without the immediate responsibility for organizing the performance was, therefore, ample. But, however hasty the composition, the power of the musical imagination, the wealth of ideas, the depth of inspiration, and the sheer variety of invention continue to astonish.”


PROGRAM October 18, 2015

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791)

Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486 (The impresario): Overture [6’]

Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453 [30’]
Assaff Weisman, piano
I. Allegro --  II. Andante -- III. Allegretto

--intermission--

Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter) [30’]

I. Allegro vivace --  II. Andante cantabile--  III. Menuetto: Allegretto--  IV. Molto Allegro

Overture to Der Schauspieldirektor (The impresario), K. 486

It was a bleak, late winter day when the well-heeled citizens of Vienna mounted their coaches for the four mile drive to Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph. They were heading for a “Spring Festival on a Mid-Winter’s Day,” as Franz Joseph called it, a party to honor Duke Albert von Sachsen-Teschen, Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands, and his wife, the Archduchess Maria Christine, on February 7, 1786.

The site chosen for this Spring fling was the Orangerie at Schönbrunn Palace, a spacious greenhouse used for wintering over citrus trees and other plants from the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace. The preparations for the banquet included elaborate decorations of exotic flowers, blossoms and fruits, a service of excellent food and for entertainment two stages were erected, one at each end of the long glassed-in building.

PIC The Orangerie at Schönbrunn Palace. Note the stages at opposite ends of the room.

PIC The Orangerie at Schönbrunn Palace. Note the stages at opposite ends of the room.

The Emperor had issued special orders for the evening’s entertainment, which was to consist of a newly composed, one-act opera buffa by Court Composer Antonio Salieri (Prima la musica e poi le parole — “First the Music and then the Words,” a theme treated again 150 years later by Richard Strauss in his last opera, Capriccio) and a one-act farce by the playwright Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger (Der Schauspieldirektor — “The Impresario”) with an overture and a few interpolated musical numbers by Mozart. Stephanie and Mozart had worked together four years earlier, when they produced The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Mozart was frantically busy composing music for his own Lenten concerts but most pressing were the preparations for The Marriage of Figaro, which was scheduled for its premiere at the Burgtheater on May 1st. He put Figaro briefly aside, however, and composed an overture, two soprano arias, a trio and an ensemble finale for The Impresario between January 18th and February 3rd.

Mozart lavished great care on his little overture, which is impressive enough to introduce a much grander work.

Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453

The year 1784 was a banner year for Mozart piano concerti. In that year he composed six of them not all for his own performances. The Piano Concerto in G, K. 453 was written for one of his most accomplished students, Barbara von Ployer, to be played in a concert at her father’s house in a Viennese suburb on June 10.

Mozart wrote to his father Leopold: “Tomorrow Herr Ployer is giving a concert in the country at Döbling, where Fräulein Babette is playing her new concerto in G…" I am fetching Paisiello (a prominent Italian composer whose opera Il barbiere di Siviglia was having a very successful run in Vienna) in my carriage, as I want him to hear both my pupil and my compositions.” Wolfgang reported that he was paid very well for this concerto.

European starling

European starling

According to Mozart’s expense book, on May 27, 1784, he paid 34 Kreutzer for a pet starling adding it to his beloved personal bestiary that already included a canary, a dog, and a horse. Sturnus vulgaris, European starlings, are virtuoso mimics, and Mozart taught his to sing the variation-theme from the finale of this concerto, though he was amused to find that the bird always held the sixth note (G) too long, and always sang the ninth and tenth notes (both also G) as G-sharp. When the bird died in 1787, Mozart administered last rites, read a poem he had written in its honor, and buried it with great solemnity in his garden at Alsergrund.

The orchestral exposition of the first movement of this concerto is made of an extravagance of melodies, an elegant parody of a military march. Where a traditional classical concerto would give two contrasting themes, this exposition offers no less than six, each one evolving out of the one previous. Contemporary Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf said of Mozart: “I have never yet known any composer who possessed such an astonishing wealth of ideas. I wish he were not so lavish in using them. He does not let the listener get his breath back…” Our soloist will be playing Mozart's own cadenzas.

The C major slow movement is harmonically dramatic with several powerful modulations and extensive chromaticism giving weight to music of great transparency. The opening statement from the piano swerves from major to minor, and from simple expression to passionate outburst.

The finale is a set of variations on the tune the starling sang. The variations grow in complexity and ingenuity until the fourth, which plunges headlong into the minor mode, laden with chromaticism. The final variation leads straight to a comic-opera finale, the official coda. Surely Paisiello, whose talent seldom ventured beyond the opera house, would have marveled at what seems to be a ready-made opera finale

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter”

In June of 1788 Mozart moved his family from his apartment in the centre of Vienna (now called the Figaro House, near St. Stephen’s Cathedral) to a more spacious suburban residence at Alsergrund 135 (today Währingerstraße 26), a seven-room apartment with a garden attached. The rooms were spacious and it is speculated that Mozart intended to use the large rooms for rehearsals of music he was about to compose.

In making this move and finding himself a bit short of cash, Mozart quickly wrote a letter to his friend and fellow Mason, Michael Puchberg on June 17, 1788, asking for a loan:

“In case you couldn't part with such a sum [one or two thousand Gulden] at the moment, I beg you to lend me at least a couple of hundred Gulden until tomorrow, because my landlord on the Landstraße (a previous suburban rental) was so importunate that (to avoid every inconvenience) I had to pay him on the spot, which put me in a messy situation! Tonight we will sleep in our new quarters for the first time, where we will stay both summer and winter; – on the whole I don't mind this, I even find it preferable; I haven't much to do in the city anyway and because I'm not exposed to so many visitors, I will have more time for work; – if I have to go into the city on business, which will not often be the case anyway, any fiacre will take me there for ten Kreuzer, moreover the apartment is cheaper and more pleasant during the spring, summer and autumn, because I also have a garden.”

It was in this house that Mozart would compose his last three symphonies (Nos. 39, 40, and 41, all from 1788), and the last of the three Da Ponte operas, Cosi fan tutte, premiered in 1790.

Evidently the music for Symphony 39 was already in Mozart‘s head as he made the move to Alsergrund and he finished it on June 25; No. 40 followed on July 26 and No. 41 on August 10. That’s two months give or take a few days, a compositional speed record for such masterpieces. We have no direct evidence as to why Mozart wrote the symphonies since he had never composed music without a specific performance and specific performers in mind, but in succeeding years he made long journeys hoping to improve his fortunes: to Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin in the spring of 1789, and to Frankfurt, Mannheim, and other German cities in 1790. The symphonies may have been shown or played then.

For many years the origin of the nickname "Jupiter" for Mozart's last symphony was unknown. Musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon has found mention of Mozart's symphony in the diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello, a nineteenth-century English couple who travelled widely and interviewed the composer's widow Constanze in 1829. According to them, the name was bestowed by Johann Peter Salomon, the entrepreneur responsible for Haydn's two visits to London in the 1790s.

The opening theme of the first movement follows one of Mozart’s favorite patterns, one he had learned from Johann Christian Bach (London Bach) and had begun using as early as his First Symphony: an energetic gesture, followed by a soft, almost pleading phrase. Also of note toward the close of the movement is Mozart’s self-quotation from an arietta he had written a year earlier to be inserted in Pasquale Anfossi’s opera Le gelosie fortunate.

The other-worldliness of the slow movement is brought about partly by the use throughout of muted strings and the absence of trumpets and timpani. It was Mendelssohn who discovered that the masterstroke of the main theme reappearing just before the final cadential section was an afterthought. Mozart had added an extra leaf in the autograph score at that point just to include it.

Mozart’s graceful minuet is almost completely derived from its opening theme, a graceful sigh, which develops a contrapuntal life of it‘s own as the movement progresses. Mozart bases the little melodic figure in the more lightly textured trio on the same figure, now slightly embellished. The loud outburst in the trio’s second half seems to preview the main motive of the finale.

The finale’s opening four-note motive (C-D-F-E), having originated in Gregorian chant, was well known in Mozart’s day as the start of the hymn Lucis creator. Mozart employed it in several earlier vocal and instrumental compositions as did numerous other composers. Mozart takes this motive along with a wealth of other ideas and combines them in a contrapuntal tour de force which at one time includes quintuple counterpoint (five tunes fit together to play simultaneously) and that concludes with a magnificent fugal coda.
-- Douglas Meyer, Conductor Laureate

The quintuple counterpoint

The quintuple counterpoint