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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 41st Season

 

Sunday, November 11th, 1979
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to Rosamunde, Op. 26, D. 644 Franz Schubert  
       
  Aubade: Concerto for Piano and Eighteen Instruments Francis Poulenc  
 

Toccata
Recitative
Rondo
Presto
Recitative
Andante
Allegro Feroce
Conclusion

 
  (to be played without pause)
Donna Guenther, piano
 
       
  Intermission  
       
  Symphony No. 59 in A Major ("Fire") Franz Joseph Haydn  
 

I. Presto
II. Andante o piu tosto Allegretto
III. Menuetto
IV. Allegro assai

 
       
  Eight Russian Folk Songs, Op. 58 Anatol Liadov  
 

Religious Chant
Christmas Carol
Plaintive Song
Humorous Song
Legend of the Birds
Cradle Song
Round Dance
Village Dance Song

 
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to Rosamunde, Op. 26, D. 644 Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)
 
 

Schubert's incidental music to Rosamunde was a failure in his lifetime. It was played only three times: once in rehearsal, and twice for the play, which lasted for a "run" of two nights. In fact, the music was promptly lost, to be found many years later by Sir George Grove and Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan) on the floor of a closet in Vienna. It was through their efforts that the music finally found its large audience.

The Overture is the most popular of the suite known as "Incidental Music to Rosamunde," though, ironically, it does not figure among the eleven pieces Schubert wrote for that play. It was, in fact, written for another obscure play called Die Zauberharfe (The Magic Harp). Be that as it may, it is delightful music with many changes of mood, thoroughly theatrical, and easy to listen to.

It begins with fierce, brassy chords, and suddenly turns plaintive as the woodwinds enter. This is quickly followed by a waltz-like episode, then a sweet string melody, and finally a return to the fierce sounds of the opening. This section ends with four pianissimo phrases followed by a fortissimo chord.

The mood again changes to a light, rapid melody dominated by the strings, before being taken up by the full orchestra. After a modulation, the woodwinds take it up and lead into a galloping theme with the violins echoed in the lower strings, backed by triple-tongued trumpets. The light melody in the strings returns, and climax, reminding one of a Saturday morning movie serial ("Will the Lone Eagle escape the clutches of the Night-Riders?". I mean no disrespect; the Finale of Rossini's William Tell did as much for the "Lone Ranger."

The music returns to a pastoral mood before galloping off again into the sunset.


 
       
  Aubade: Concerto for Piano and Eighteen Instruments Francis Poulenc
(1899-1963)
 
 

Poulenc was a member of the group of French composers known as "Les Six." It consisted of Poulenc, Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Germanie Tailleferre, Arthur Honegger, and Darius Milhaud, who were strongly supported by Eric Satie and Jean Cocteau. They were most active as a group in the Twenties, about the same time the art movements of "Fauvism" and "Dadaism" were making news, and there is a strong connection with those movements. There was a desire in both French art and music to return to simple statements, stressing clarity of expression, wit, and gaiety, even at the expense of unity. The music of Les Six, and especially that of Poulenc, combined the color, gaiety and untutored quality of Fauvism with the irreverance, irony, and buffoonery of Dadaism.

Les Six took great pains to eliminate anything from their music that smacked of German influence. They, and Poulenc in particular, judged the Germans as taking the arts much too seriously. If the Germans thought of Art with a capital "A," then Les Six insisted on thinking of it as "after all, ONLY art." Their music was consciously non-serious, a sort of twentieth-century Rococo, drawing inspiration from areas of musical life considered transient up until then: the circus, music hall, jazz.

Critics tend either to like Poulenc, or hate him. The British critic, David Drew, appears to admire only Poulenc's candor. He says that "When he (Poulenc) has nothing to say, he says it." He goes on to accuse Poulenc of juxtaposing incongruous elements in such a way that they appear ironic, and then hoping this irony will act as a unifying factor. I take the view that Poulenc is revealing those traits of charm, wit, and gaiety we have (rightly or wrongly) come to think of as characteristically French. I do find the Poulenc, like Oscar Wilde, is so fearful that we will think he is taking himself seriously that he follows every profundity with a jeer, and any tenderness with a giggle. His music, therefore, veers wildly from mood to mood, major to minor, and with constant references to other composers, sometimes admiringly, as with Chopin, Stravinsky, Massenet or Chabrier, other times with malice, as with Richard Strauss or Wagner. If you like playing "Name That Tune," Poulenc is a gold-mine.

An "Aubade" is the opposite of a "Serenade." That is, it is "morning music" rather than "evening music." We are not supposed to know why this Concerto for 18 Instruments is called "Aubade"! Although this piece was written for a ballet, Poulenc instructs us not to reveal the "program" when the work is presented as a concert piece, as it is here. It is supposed to be able to stand alone, as absolute music (like a Hermit Crab out of its shell, some might say). I'll reveal only that the ballet begins at dawn, hence "Aubade." To subtitle it "Concerto" is to prompt structural expectations not fulfilled. Better to stick with "Aubade."

If "aubade" is a pastiche, as some critics have asserted, it is at least a pastiche executed with panache! I find it a delight which bears repeated listening. And it is not simply flashy (though it is certainly that!); there are moments of sweet melancholy, and others of soaring lyricism. To enjoy Poulenc's music, it is necessary only to adopt, even if temporarily, his stated principles, and not to demand more than he promises.

Poulenc was a gifted pianist, and demands much virtuosity from the soloist.

The work consists of eight movements, intended to be played without interruption. The first movement (Toccata) begins slowly and menacingly with the brass alone. The theme is repeated boldly by the piano, then, in variation, by the woodwinds. Suddenly, the music becomes "molto animato" with the piano agitatedly pounding out variations, and switching back and forth between major and minor keys.

The second movement (Recitatif) begins Larghetto, with horns, timpani, and piano, in another dramatic theme (based on Mozart's B-flat Divertimento, K. 229). This leads to a stately melody, featuring the clarinet, backed by plucked strings. The piano re-enters dramatically, and leads us abruptly to the next section.

The third movement (Rondo) begins allegro, with the piano leading off, to be followed by oboes and horns in a pastoral theme. This ushers in a Shostakovich-like episode which includes a braying of trumpets, reminding one of a "Bronx cheer." Then there is a wide, leaping or skipping motif parodied in the brass with a reference to the familiar children's jeer "YAH-ya-ya-YAH-ya," (a sing-song "Billy-is-a-sissy" chant). A sweet and melancholy mood sets in toward the end of the Rondo, which closes with powerful bangs of the timpani.

The fourth movement (Presto) again begins with the piano, soon joined by the woodwinds and strings, pizzicato. There is a sprightly, syncopated theme, bringing to mind the Stravinsky of Pulcinella.

The fifth movement (Recitatif) is in a melancholy mood, with an odd stumbling gait, suggesting stage action (Oh, Poulenc, why the secret?). Then the woodwinds and piano go into a plaintive mood.

The sixth movement (Andante) is highly varied, in color as well as mood. It begins with a return to an earlier dramatic theme, becomes lyrical, and ends affirmatively. There is a "dirge-like" melody, which was to emerge twenty-seven years later in Poulenc's heart-felt opera Le Dialogue des Carmelites.

The seventh movement (Allegro Feroce) is indeed ferocious, with roll of timpani, bleating of winds, and crashing piano chords.

The last movement (Conclusion) begins adagio, and is melancholy in nature. The score is salted with such directions as "tres doux," "douloureaux," "doux et triste," and "melancolique," all of which adds up to "sweet, sad, and melancolic." It is in this final scene that we are treated to the Stravinsky of Petrouchka, of eighteen years before. After a variation of the opening theme of the first movement, the "dirge" theme reappears, and the piano reiterates it in a chime-like manner, growing ever more insistent before fading to a serene ending, punctuated by a fortissimo chord from the winds, and one dry chord from the piano.


 
       
  Symphony No. 59 in A Major ("Fire") Joseph Haydn
(1732-1809)
 
 

This symphony dates from the so-called "early middle period." The numbering of Haydn's symphonies is in dissaray, so that the "59th" is earlier than one is led to expect, coming as it does between numbers 35 and 38. There are two manuscripts dated 1769, but Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon believes it was written even earlier, about 1766 or 1767. It acquired its name, "Fire Symphony," as the result of its being played in 1774 as entr'acte music for a play by Gustav Grossmann, called Die Feuersbrunst (The Conflagration). In fact, one manuscript states that it was written as entr'acte music for the play. The music has so many theatrical qualities that one could easily believe that assertion, were it not for the two previous manuscripts.

The 59th is really a neglected Haydn symphony. As recently as 1968 there were no recordings of it listed in Schwann. Even today there are only two listed, compared with eight for the 101st and eleven for the 94th! Critical commentary, also, is hard to find. Haydn, himself, made no reference to it in his published correspondence. Liner notes for both recordings have to resort to the same source (the above-mentioned Mr. Landon) for short comments.

This neglect can perhaps be explained by the fact that the 59th was written during the so-called Sturm und Drang period of Haydn's career. Space permits no fuller description of Sturm und Drang (usually translated "Storm and Stress") than that it was a German Romantic literary movement growing out of the writing of Rousseau, and exemplified by Goethe's Die Leiden des junger Werthers ("The Sorrows of Young Werther"). At about this time, Haydn and other Austrian composers began to write symphonies in a minor key which are said to be deeper, more emotional, more symbolic... in short, Romantic.

Although Haydn has long been considered the Grand Master of Classical Form because of his development of the sonata form, and the elegant architecture of his symphonies, it is true that there are strong elements of Romantic drama in his work as well. Late 19th and early 20th century critics admired this "modern" quality in Haydn's music, pointing out that it foreshadowed Beethoven, and tended to ignore the sunny, light works like the 59th, also written during this period, because they were "atypical," that is, they didn't fit the theory of Haydn as a proto-Romantic.

As it turns out, the nineteenth century critics were jumping to conclusions about the relationship of Viennese music to the German Sturm und Drang movement, since recent scholarship reveals that many of the symphonies so designated were written before the literary movement of that name developed.

Unhappily for critical theorists, Haydn did not pass through neatly defined periods like some 19th century Picasso. While his concept of Symphonic structure can be seen developing throughout his career, the character of his music fluctuated as the mood struck him. His symphonies are simply not all alike in any particular "period." with the "Fire Symphony" we find him in a witty mood.

The symphony is in four movements. The first opens tutti, and is rhythmically driving and light-hearted ... even jaunty, with violins accelerating from eighth to sixteenth notes while drumming out the tonic A. The movement (presto) begins forte, and ends pianissimo, with many rapid and unexpected shifts between forte and piano throughout.

The second movement is slow (Andante o piu tosto allegretto), and opens with strings only. The principal theme has a lovely, flowing quality like a lullaby. Twice in this movement the horns make a military intrusion which the strings ignore, placidly restating the lullaby. This distinctly martial horn call (marked fortissimo) comes about nineteen bars after the entrance of the winds, and reminds us of the fact that the music was played at the presentation of Grossmann's Die Feuersbrunst. Landon cautions us not to be swayed by this, reminding us of the earlier manuscripts, but the horn call clearly suits the military atmosphere of the play, even though it appears to have been written four years before the play was produced. In any case, the horn call, as you will see, foreshadows things to come.

The third movement (Menuetto), like the first, begins tutti, but like the second, emphasizes the strings... especially in the singing Trio section. Both the second and the third movements stress legato playing in contrast to the staccato playing of the sprightly first, and the rousing, even military fourth.

In the Finale, the winds have it. Reversing the procedure of the second movement, the fourth opens for the winds alone, with fanfares reminding us of Handel's Water Music. The winds dominate this movement as the strings did the previous two. After all, we were "warned" by the unexpected horn-calls in the second movement. What seemed disruptive at the time seems unifying in retrospect.


 
       
  Eight Russian Folk Songs, Op. 58 Anatol Liadov
(1855-1914)
 
 

Anatol Liadov was born in St. Petersburg in 1855 and died there in 1914. He came from a long line of professional musicians, and was honored in his day, achieveing a professorship at the conservatory in St. Petersburg, where he had previously studied under Rimsky-Korsakov. He had the misfortune to follow in the wake of such giants as Tschaikovsky, Glinka, and Rimsky-Korsakov, and his work seems too imitative of others' for him to have received much acclaim.

Liadov was active in the collection of Russian folk music, and thus had some influence in the development of Soviet music with its emphasis on the common man. The Eight Russian Folk Songs will remind listeners of the works of a number of later Russian composers, particularly Stravinsky, because he prompted the use of folk themes in serious music.

The eight pieces are divided so as to form three groups, each one beginning with a slow movement. There are two pieces in the first group, and three in the next two groups.

The first piece is called "Religious Song" and consists of a simple melody (in C major) repeated four times, with the themes overlapping in such a way as to remind one of "rounds." Each time the theme is repeated, a new instrument is featured. Gradually, the whole orchestra is involved, and the effect is of chiming church-bells, reminding one of Mussorgsky's Boris Godounov or Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture.

The second piece of the first group is a "Christmas Song" or "Koledo," in E minor. It is a quicker piece with a richly orchestrated mid-section.

The opening piece of the second section is called "Plaintive Song." In this piece, the celli have the major role. This is in A minor.

The next piece in the second section, "Humorous Song," is given over to the woodwinds. It is in A major.

The third piece of the middle group is the "Legend of the Birds," in D minor. It opens with an imitation of a chicken, reminding one of Rameau (!), and, less surprisingly, of Mussorgsky in Pictures at an Exhibition. This piece offers the richest orchestration so far.

The third group opens with a "Cradle Song," reminding some of the later Firebird by Stravinsky.

This is followed by a very short, but lively "Round Dance," for piccolo, in G Major.

The final piece is "Village Dance Song," in C major, showing off the entire orchestra.

The work begins and ends in the key of C major, with a midsection in keys related to the subdominant. This, together with the alternating rhythms, contributes to the unity of the work.


 
       
 

Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Marion Etzel, Concertmaster
Carla Slotterback *
Mary Berkebile
Ruth Berkebile
Venona Detrick
Linda Hare
William Kownover
Renée Rose +
Kirsten Rupel +
Carolyn Snyder
Julie Weatherholt
Mary Weatherholt +

Viola
Samuel Nicarry *
Gordon Collins
Myrna Frantz +
Denise Lutter

Cello
Loren Waggy *+
Jerry Lessig
Joellen Placeway
Vicky White

Bass
Jerry Whipkey *+
Calvin Bisha

Piccolo
Linda Nordlin

Flute
Thomas Owen *
Linda Boyd +

Oboe
Beth Miller *
Polly Edwards
English Horn
Stephanie Jones

Clarinet
Tim Clark *+
Jane Grandstaff

Bassoon
Mary Patterson *+
Amy Statler +

Horn
Jonathan Snyder *+
Phil Landis +
Michael Satterthwaite
Verle Ormsby

Trumpet
Alan Severs *
Mark Stafford
Keith Willsey

Trombone
Larry Dockter *
Christopher Garber

Bass Trombone
Hugh Callison

Timpani
Ken Jordan

Percussion
Barry Coe +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
       
 
Donna Guenther has taught piano at Manchester College since the fall of 1978. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, a Master of Music degree from Southern Illinois University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music. During her education she has had the opportunity to study privately with internationally renowned artists such as Claude Frank, Ruth Slenczynska, and Theodore Lettvin. For two summers she was a participant in the International Music Courses at Cascais, Portugal. Miss Guenther has performed numerous solo and chamber music recitals in the states of Massachusetts, Maine, Illinois, and Ohio.