This Season

arrowPast Seasonsarrow

Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 34th Season

 

Sunday, November 5th, 1972
Manchester College Auditorium
James Carlson, Conductor

  Overture to Donna Diana Emil von Řezníček  
       
  Piano Concerto No. 3 in E Major Béla Bartók  
 

I. Allegretto
II. Adagio religioso
III. Allegro vivace

 
  Annie Petit, piano  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo Aaron Copland  
 

1. Buckaroo Holiday
2. Corral Nocturne
3. Saturday Night Waltz
4. Hoe-Down

 
       
  Overture to La Belle Helene Jacques Offenbach  
       

Program Notes by John H. Planer

  Overture to Donna Diana Emil von Řezníček
(1860-1945)
 
 

Emil Nikolaus Freiherr von Reznicek was born in Vienna on May 4, 1860, and died in Berlin on August 2, 1945. In 1878 he began studying law at Graz, but a year later he entered the Leipzig Conservatory. Reznicek was especially interested in dramatic music and served as theater conductor and composer in Graz, Zurich, Berlin, Jena, and Mainz. In 1888 he became a military conductor in Prague, and during his stay there he composed his second opera, Donna Diana; the premier performance was on Beethoven's birthday -- December 16, 1894. Although Reznicek wrote many operas, symphonic poems, symphonies, a violin concerto, songs, and chamber music, today he is known primarily for his overture to Donna Diana.

The overture requires a large orchestra, including a piccolo and four horns. After a brief, two-measure introduction that is tonally ambiguous, the main section begins -- in D major and in a 3/16 meter. The form and rhythms are classical -- that is, they are more closely related to the music of Rossini and Mozart than to the music of Debussy and Wagner. The overture itself is in sonata form, and the first section, or exposition, is repeated, as in many operatic overtures by Mozart. Sonata form is a special type of ternary or ABA form: the first section or exposition presents two contrasting themes in different keys; the second section develops the themes by presenting them in different keys and by varying them rhythmically and melodically; the final section or recapitulation then reconciles the two themes from the exposition by presenting them in the same key. Reznicek's overture follows this pattern closely.

After the introduction the violins and flute state the first theme -- a rocking melody in D major that moves in rapid sixteenth-notes. The contrasting theme is in A major, is played by the violins, and is somewhat more sustained and lyrical. The triangle announces the beginning of the development section, and Reznicek moves rapidly through distantly-related keys. The texture is reduced to flute, clarinet, and oboe soloists and low strings, while the string basses slowly descend chromatically in preparation for the recapitulation. Formally, melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, the overture to Donna Diana is the heir of the classic period. Musically it is a light and pleasing composition that is effective either as an introduction to an opera or as an independent composition.


 
       
  Piano Concerto No. 3 in E Major Béla Bartók
(1881-1945)
 
 

Bela Bartok was born in Hungary on March 25, 1881, and died in New York on September 26, 1945. He was important not only as an outstanding composer of the twentieth century but also as an educator; an editor of the keyboard music of Bach, Couperin, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Chopin; a concert pianist (in 1907 he was appointed professor of piano at the Royal Hungarian Musical Academy); and an ethnomusicologist who published important studies of Rumanian, Hungarian, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, and Slovakian folk music. Bartok's father directed an agricultural school, and his mother was a teacher in the elementary schools. Bartok was raised in various regions of Hungary and learned firsthand the diversity of Hungarian folk music. He became concerned about the origins and authenticity of much of the popular music he heard, and, together with Zoltan Kodaly, he began a critical study of the traditional musics of central Europe. His exposure to these repertoires has directly influenced his musical style.

The Third Piano Concerto was begun in the summer of 1945 and is one of the last compositions that Bartok wrote before his death. Indeed the last seventeen measures of the final movement were left incomplete; Bartok's friend and student, Tibor Serly, completed the movement from Bartok's sketches. In relation to his earlier compositions, the Third Piano Concerto is somewhat less percussive and dissonant. Each movement has its own tonal center: the first and third movements center around E, while the second movement is in C. The three movements are arranged in the traditional fast-slow-fast sequence, but the third follows the second without pause.

Bartok's musical style is similar in many respects to the folk music of central Europe. Melodies often are built upon pentatonic, modal, folk, or even symmetrical, synthetic scales; they frequently are built up of a group of short motives, each consisting primarily of whole and half steps and each having a small range. The harmonies are usually derived from the melodic scales which underlie the melodies. Although traditional progressions do occur in this concerto, more often the harmonies are harsh and dissonant. The pungent dissonances usually arise from the combination of several independent contrapuntal lines rather than from a progression of traditional harmonies. Yet, like Debussy, occasionally Bartok uses dissonant chords for the pure pleasure of the sonority rather than for their function in a harmonic progression. Drones and ostinatos occur frequently.

The rhythms are often complex, as in the last movement, where the basic 3/8 meter is juxtaposed against 2/4 and where the downbeat is displaced. Occasionally Bartok employs additive meters such as 5/4 or 7/8 -- meters found frequently in the folk musics of central and eastern Europe. In order to preserve the excitement of such metrical shifts, the pulse is kept constant -- that is, the beat infrequently accelerates or decelerates. Rhythmic patterns are often short and thus capable of easy expansion, variation, and development -- much in the same way that Beethoven used short motives. Bartok's transcriptions of folk music were made extremely carefully, and the notation of his own music was just as precise, as an examination of the scores of his music reveals. Bartok frequently used contrapuntal techniques, such as fugues, strettos, canons, and inversions, as in this third movement of the third concerto. Indeed canons are often found in the folk music of eastern Europe, and Bartok also admired, performed, and edited the keyboard music of Bach. Bartok's style is also somewhat percussive -- that is, frequently the piano or the orchestra play detached, staccato chords; this characteristic, however, is somewhat less obvious in this concerto than in his earlier compositions.

The first movement of the Third Piano Concerto alludes to the traditional sonata form. The first theme or rather the first group of motives is stated by the piano above a static pedal on E and is soon restated by the orchestra. The melody suggests a Rumanian folk melody. In contrast, the second group of motives consist almost entirely of leaps without an anchoring tonal center. The development begins with a reference to the opening motive by a muted French horn and is supported by a long pedal on A-flat in the cellos and basses. The recapitulation begins with a statement of the first theme in the piano, above trills in the violins.

The second movement is in an ABA or ternary form. In the first section the piano and strings participate in a dialogue contrasting the sustained timbre of the strings with the percussive timbre of the piano; the piano speaks in slow chords while the strings imitate one another by outlining the same chords in long, legato phrases. The central section is somewhat faster. the piano and orchestra combine forces -- sometimes tossing short motives back and forth and developing them and sometimes with the orchestra commenting upon the runs and arpeggios of the soloist. During a visit in Nashville, Carolina, in 1944, Bartok notated the sounds of birds and insects in the early evening. These impressions found their way into this lovely section. The final portion of the second movement returns to the original tempo. The piano plays a two-part invention with each hand presenting and imitating short, rhythmic and melodic motives, while the woodwinds and later the strings present the slow, legato, and primarily homophonic melody that the piano played in the first section. The balance in importance between the soloist and the orchestra is marvelous. Neither predominates over the other: each has an opportunity to present important material, and each accompanies the other at different times.

The third movement is linked to the second, Although the meter is ostensibly 3/8, Bartok delights in shifting to 2/4, in combining trochaic and iambic rhythms to provide interest, and in superimposing two different 3/8 meters in which the downbeats to not coincide. The form of the movement is a rondo -- not so much on the basis of a recurring melody as a recurring rhythm. Fugal and canonic passages provide contrapuntal as well as cerebral pleasure.

Bartok's music is often difficult to appreciate fully on first hearing, especially since the melodic and rhythmic structures of central and eastern European folk musics differ significantly from the traditional music of western Europe and North America. Yet with careful listening and repeated exposure, the music of Bartok can be easily and quickly understood. And truly, appreciating the brilliance and feeling of the Third Piano Concerto is well worth the effort!


 
       
  Four Dance episodes from Rodeo Aaron Copland
(b. 1900)
 
 

During July and August of 1938, Aaron Copland (born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 4, 1900) composed his second ballet, Billy the Kid. The premier, which occurred in Chicago in October of that year, was extremely successful. Four years later the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo commissioned another ballet about the American West -- Rodeo. The music was composed between May and September of 1942 and was originally subtitled "Courting at Burnt Ranch." The plot tells of a cowgirl at a rodeo who tries to attract the attentions of the Champion Roper and Head Wrangler by exhibiting her skills as a rider. The men ignore her until she appears dressed in feminine attire, whereupon she accepts the invitation of the Champion roper to join him in the concluding dance, a hoedown. After the successful premier of the ballet, Copland excerpted the Four Dance Episodes.

I. "Buckaroo Holiday" quotes two American cowboy songs, "Sis Joe" and "If He'd Be a Buckaroo by His Trade," both of which are printed in the collection Our Singing Country by Alan and John Lomax. "Buckaroo Holiday" is built of many contrasting sections which provide interest and variety. A descending, syncopated c-major scale opens the movement and recurs periodically; other sections present exciting syncopations and unexpected, displaced accents which suggest the "vamp" patterns of early jazz; several measures of rests humorously partition the melody of "If He'd Be a Buckaroo," and this melody is also presented in a short, three-part canon. While Copland was a student of Nadia Boulanger, he became interested in Dixieland jazz and the blues; his interests later expanded to include Latin American popular music, American folk songs and the hymns and dances of the Shakers. Many of his works, such as Rodeo, Billy the Kid, Appalachian Spring, The Red Pony, The Tender Land, Our Town, and Lincoln Portrait reflect these interests.

II. "Corral Nocturne" is a slow, sustained movement that does not quote any folk songs. The meter shifts from 5/4 to 4/4, 2/4 and 3/2.

III. "Saturday Night Waltz" begins with the strings "tuning" by playing perfect fifths on the open strings. After a short transition, the oboe and strings play a free variation of the tune "I Ride an Old Paint."

IV. "Hoe-down" is based upon the square-dance tunes "Bonyparte" and "McLeod's Reel." The open fifths and drones clearly suggest American folk fiddling, while the syncopations and accented weak beats provide rhythmic verve.


 
       
  Overture to La Belle Helene Jacques Offenbach
(1819-1880)
 
 

Jacques Offenbach (originally Jacob Eberst) was born in Cologne on June 20, 1819, and died in Paris on October 5, 1880. His father, Issac Juda Eberst, was born in Offenbach am Main; her served as cantor in the synagogue at Cologne, where he was known as "Der Offenbacher," the man from Offenbach. When Jacques was fourteen, his father brought him to Paris to study the cello at the Conservatoire. One year later young Offenbach entered the orchestra of the Opera-Comique. He became especially well-known as a composer of light operas, writing over ninety within a span of twenty-five years. La Belle Helene (German: Die schöne Helena) was an operetta in three acts; it was first performed on December 17, 1864, and was an immediate success. Today, however, the operetta is rarely performed, and Offenbach is remembered chiefly for his operetta Tales of Hoffmann, for his overtures to Orpheus in Hades and La Belle Helene, and for Manuel Rosenthal's arrangement of his melodies into the ballet entitled Gaite Parisienne.

The overture to La Belle Helene is easily enjoyed. Although a large orchestra is required, the melodies are frequently repeated and are easily remembered; the rhythms are simple yet effective. Offenbach avoids the harmonic and contrapuntal complexities of much of the music of the nineteenth century -- much of Gilbert and Sullivan did in their operetta several decades later. Offenbach himself observed that "know-how is better than knowledge," and his compositions, like many other French works, are designed to entertain rather than to provide intellectual complexities. If many of Offenbach's compositions are not masterpieces, they are, nevertheless, diverting works that in their day were immensely popular and that still retain much of their charm today.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin I
Gail Allen, + Concertmaster
Linda Stanley +
Tim Smith +
Jeff Hendrix
Gordon Collins
Eloise Guy

Violin II
Judy Myers *+
Carrie Schoomer +
Wendy Myers +
Phil Burkholder +
Janis Eiler +
Vera Wickline
Sylvia Bechtelheimer +
Diane Ramsbey +

Viola
Dave Burkholder *+
Mac Marlow

Cello
Susan Favorite *+
Norman Waggy +
Jill Gaska
Andrew Tousley +

Bass
Mark Tomlonson *+
Randy Gratz +
JoElyn McGowan

Piccolo
Paula Coutz +
Muriel Snider +

Flute
Bev Moore *
Muriel Snider +
Paula Coutz +

Oboe
Stephanie Jones *
Eric Burkhardt +
Clarinet
Robert Jones *
Mark Huntington +
Jamie Van Buskirk +

Bass Clarinet
Jamie Van Buskirk +

Bassoon
Thomas Owen *
Ted Hopkins
Arlene Crist +

Horn
Karen Shank *+
Paul Ray
Mark Bechtel +
Lucy Wilson +
Beth Norris +

Trumpet
Wynn Bonner *+
Leonard Webb +
Bill Cook +

Trombone
Larry Wiser *+
Brad Bohrer +
Mary Yost +

Tuba
Art Conner

Percussion
Jim Tyler
Martha Roberts +
Terry Swick +
Wanda Kline +

Timpani
Jan Swartz +

Piano/Celesta
Wanda Kline +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
       
 
Annie PetitThe Parisian pianist Annie Petit is a prize-winning artist whose concerts throughout Europe have been praised, not only for the clarity of the technique which she exhibits, but also for her sensitivity, interpretation and sense of style.

A student of Benvenuti at the National Conservatory of Paris, Miss Petit won the conservatory's First Prize in Piano and chamber Music in 1954. She received the Interpretation Prize at the Franz Liszt International Competition in Budapest in 1956 and, following that, participated in a master class conducted by Alfred Brendel, Paul Badura-Skoda and Jorge Demus during the Vienna Festival.

She launched her solo career in 1960, playing orchestra concerts and recitals in France, England, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Hungary. Among her many television and radio appearances was a televised performance with the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 of the Bartok First Concerto.