This Season

arrowPast Seasonsarrow

Concert Program Cover

Third Concert of the 42nd Season

 

Sunday, March 1st, 1981
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
       
  Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 Felix Mendelssohn  
 

I. Allegro molto appassionato
II. Andante
IV. Allegro molto vivace

 
  Peter deVries, violin  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Symphony No. 8 in D minor William Boyce  
 

Pomposo
Allegro

 
       
  The Comedians, Op. 26 Dmitri Kabalevsky  
 

1. Prologue
2. Gallop
3. March
4. Waltz
5. Pantomime
6. Intermezzo
7. Little Lyrical Scene
8. Gavotte
9. Scherzo
10. Epilogue

 
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(1756-1791)
 
 

The "overture," like any other musical form, has undergone an evolution. Originally, operas and oratorios began after a brief fanfare, or even with no introduction at all. After a time, composers began using what amounted to short suites, sometimes called "sinfonie" (Italian for "symphonies"), to set the mood for the coming play, opera, or oratorio. It wasn't until the late classic period that composers got the idea of giving hints in the overtures of themes to come in the operas themselves. Finally, the overture degenerated into a simple medly of the principal arias to be heard in the opera (as in the American Musical) or to brief introductions leading straight into the action (as in Wagner's Ring Cycle, e.g. Die Walküre).

Mozart wrote overtures of two types, both the sort wherein important themes from the opera are first introduced (as in Die Zauberflöte, or Magic Flute) and the kind that simply set the mood of the drama without setting forth anything to be related thematically to the opera itself. The Overture to the Marriage of Figaro is of the latter.

The Marriage of Figaro is an opera buffa (or comic opera) in the Italian style, based on a play of Beaumarchais, which was a sequel to his famous "Barber of Seville." Mozart chose to work with the sequel rather than the original, probably because Paisiello had already based an opera on that one which was popular in Mozart's time.

After Paisiello's had faded from memory, Rossini wrote another version, the now famous "Barber of Seville." It is thus that one engaging character, Figaro, the barber, became the central figure of three operas by three different composers.

The Overture, as mentioned, is not a foretaste of themes to come, but is, perhaps, a foretaste of things to come in the sense that it quickly establishes the mood of one of the most delightful and listenable operas in the repertoire. Its form is typical of the "pre-synopsis" sort of overture, in being patterned after the first movement of the symphony. It is in a truncated sonata form, with a first and second subject, some modulation, almost a variation in lieu of a development, followed by a recapitulation. All very brief, and all with a pulsing rhythm that brings out the amateur conductor in all of us.


 
       
  Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 Felix Mendelssohn
(1809-1847)
 
 

The "Big Three" of early nineteenth-century romantic composers were Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, and they had in common a slightly conservative, almost classical regard for structure. Mendelssohn was a prodigy, and had written an opera and fifteen symphonies by the time he was fifteen (all subsequently discarded). While he admitted to having dashed off some of his best-known works, he polished and refined the present concerto to the despair of his publisher. He was a hard worker, as both composer and conductor. At the age of thirty-six he became conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. He fulfilled his obligation as a Romantic by dying at the age of thirty-eight.

The concertos of composers from Mozart through Beethoven commonly allowed a mood of "expectancy" to develop by delaying the entry of the solo instrument. Mendelssohn abandoned this practice, no more noticeably than in the first movement of this concerto.

The first movement, Allegro molto appassionato, begins with no orchestral exposition, just a bar and a half of "ready-when-you-are" low pizzicato and drum-beats, until the violin comes in with a soaring melody. There follows an equally melodious transition, and then the second subject is introduced. Here, the soloist holds a pedal point on the open G string, while the woodwinds take over the theme.

Mendelssohn has managed to write a cadenza with the character of improvisation expected of earlier concertos (at least in principle). This is so effective, it begs for an encore, and Mendelssohn must have had his fingers crossed as, without the customary break, he went softly into the second movement. Nowadays, audiences wait respectfully between movements, but interruptions were so common in Mendelssohn's day, that he eliminated the tutti beginning to his movements, and let the soloist rush into prominence just to thwart such outbursts. Here, he took his chances.

The second movement is in A-B-A form. "A" being restful, or even moody, and "B" being excited.

The third movement is marked Allegretto non troppo: Allegro molto vivace. The movement ends with such driving enthusiasm that more than one audience has been on its feet before the bow has stopped quivering.


 
       
  Symphony No. 8 in D minor William Boyce
(1710-1779)
 
 

Little-known today, Boyce was much honored in his own time. When he died in his native London, he was buried with great pomp beneath the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.

From 1758 to 1769 he was Organist to the King, during which time he produced many pieces for organ. He was also a notable conductor, taking over the Sons of Clergy Festival in 1735, and being named Master of the Royal Band in 1755, a post he held until his death.

He wrote a great deal of music for the theater, and in his best-known works, the Eight Symphonies, one can detect both his love of theater and of choral music. The choice of the word "symphony" to describe these works is misleading, since the structure is that of the earlier "Concerto Grosso," in which a small section of the orchestra "competes" with the rest, much as a solo instrument plays with the full orchestra as a foil in the modern "concerto."

In the Baroque period, the Italians used the word "Sinfonia" to describe the overture to a theatrical performance. This probably accounts for the fact that Boyce called them "Symphonies" instead of "Concerti Grossi." In all probability, they were inspired by, or even derived from his many works for theater. In any case, the Eight Symphonies show an affinity for both the so-called Italian Overture (in the first five) and the French Overture (in the last three).

That Boyce is known at all today may be due to the efforts of the English composer Constant Lambert, who published an edited version of the Eight Symphonies in 1928. Lambert symplified the orchestration in order to encourage their performance. Later, probably as a result of the popularity prompted by Lambert's version, a new, "restored" edition was published. The Eighth Symphony was less altered than the others; only the harpsichord part was omitted, since in 1928, few musical groups had such an instrument, and a piano would have upset the balance.

Today, we hear only the first movement, which is divided into two parts: the first marked pomposo, and the second, allegro. The French Concerto characteristically begins slowly and ends more gaily. "Pomposo" looks like "pompous," but a better translation in this context is "Stately." There is an attractive fugal treatment given to the second section, marked Allegro.


 
       
  The Comedians, Op. 26 Dmitri Kabalevsky
(b. 1904)
 
 

The Soviet Union has produced many successful composers. Some, like Prokofiev and Shostakovich, in spite of the Marxist aesthetic; others, like Khachaturian and Kabalevsky, because of it. Marxism requires that the arts serve the "class-struggle" first of all, then to celebrate Man's accomplishments and his ability to control his destiny, and finally to instill patriotism and self-sacrifice to the collective. Moreover, the means chosen by the artist must be comprehensible to the common man.

Some artists, like Shostakovich, have been able to fulfill most of those criteria, but rarely the last. And even in fulfilling the first, they have had to resort to ingenious strategems to relate the philosophical content of their music to the demands of the Marxist ideologue.

Kabalevsky seems to have been able "to move easy in harness," because of his natural instincts, which urge him toward lilting melodies and driving rhythms (easily understood by the common man) and away from disturbing philosophical concerns. His concession to twentiety-century experimentation takes the form of witty references to Prokofiev or Shostakovich (as we shall hear).

Kabalevsky is a very active educator, working with children, and writing music for children. The Comedians is such a work. It is a suite of ten dances, representing the antics of a group of traveling buffoons.

The Prologue is rousing and gay, with a touch of Tschaikowsky.

The Comedians' Galop features the xylophone and snare drum and gives us a touch of Khachaturian.

The March is slow, also makes much use of the snare drum, and gives us more than a touch of Prokofiev -- specifically Peter and the Wolf.

The Pantomime is slow, dramatic, and angry, apparently depicting the menace of some Russian ogre.

The Intermezzo has fluttering flutes over gently thumping tympany. The plucked strings recall Tschaikowsky.

The Little Lyrical Scene presents a kind of barcarole.

The Gavotte is a short, sprightly piece in A-B-A form.

The Scherzo is a kind of Rondo, in A-B-A-C-A, with the A motif played twice.

the Epilogue brings the suite to a rousing close, beginning with themes stated already in the Intermezzo, but repeated here much more forcefully. Here, Kabalevsky is more daring with his melodic line, producing leaps that are rather unexpected -- at leas unexpected for those unfamiliar with Shostakovich's Age of Gold written ten years earlier!

Readers believing they are detecting sarcasm here are really detecting only recognition. Kabalevsky is surely not among the most original of Soviet composers, but he is a brilliant orchestrator, and has a winning way with folk melody. His music is eminently listenable, and while he makes life easy for his audience, he does not make it easy for the orchestra.


 
       
 

Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Marion Etzel, Concertmaster
Carla Slotterback *
Mary Berkebile
Carolyn Caldwell
Rosemary Manifold
Ervin Orban
J. Renée Rose +
Kirsten Rupel +
Britta Samuelson +
Mary Weatherholt +

Viola
Ronda Mendenhall *+
Vanessa Cox +
Linda Hare
Brian Marcus

Cello
Jerry Lessig *
Christine Beery
Joellen Placeway
Carol Smucker

Bass
Sam Gnagey *
Mark Tomlonson

Flute
Sharon Stiles *+
Donna Gillespie +

Oboe
Carla A. Joseph *+
George Donner
Clarinet
Margaret Parker Trentacosti *
Jane Grandstaff

Bassoon
Amy Smith *+
Mary Patterson +
Amy Statler +

Horn
Michael Wells *
Eric Jones +
Terri Lahr +

Trumpet
Alan Severs *
William Nulte

Trombone
D. Larry Dockter

Tuba
Marvin Crider +

Timpani
James Brooks
Barry Coe +

Percussion
James Brooks *
Andre Hawkins +
Mary Mannion +
Amy Statler +

Piano
Michele Miller +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
       
 
Peter deVries began studying the violin in Michigan under the instruction of Robert Wepman. He has since studied under James O. Buswell IV and Josef Gingold at Indiana University. He was a recipient of a Performance Scholarship during undergraduate studies and then held a University Fellowship in Performance during graduate school. He has received a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music degree in violin performance, both from Indiana University.

Mr. deVries made his recital debut in Carnegie Recital Hall in January, 1980, when he appeared in a joint recital with tubist Harvey Phillips. Since then he has appeared numerous times around the country including, most recently, in a series of recitals with Charles Webb, in Wabash, Indiana, in conjunction with the Honeywell Foundation artist series.

Mr. deVries is presently an Associate Instructor of violin at Indiana University and holds the position of concertmaster with the Indianapolis Philharmonic.