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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 48th Season

 

Sunday, November 16th, 1986
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Epic March John Ireland  
       
  Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 Felix Mendelssohn  
 

I. Molto Allegro con fuoco
II. Andante
III. Presto

   
  Gail Steward, piano  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Petite Suite Claude Debussy  
 

En Bateau
Cortege
Menuet
Ballet

   
       
  Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a Ludwig van Beethoven  
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Epic March John Ireland
(1879-1962)
 
 

English music of the twentieth century has not (with a few scattered exceptions) been much admired in this country. And even the exceptions (Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Host's The Planets, Vaughan-Williams' Variations on Greensleeves) have been popular only as Boston Pops sugarplums. In fact, Pomp and Circumstance just about sums up the viewpoint of the American musical establishment.

Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev were the darlings of the Americans, while Nielsen, Sibelius, and Jarnefelt were the preference of the English. It got to the point where, if you heard some music that sounded Russian, but you knew it wasn't, it was probably American, and if you heard music that sounded Scandinavian or Finnish, but wasn't, it was probably English!

Ireland was born in the industrial north, at Manchester, but spent most of his life in the Channel Islands (until the German invasion) and in London. He was a musical craftsman, very concerned about the structural integrity of his music. His painstaking method precluded a large output. He was a fine pianist, and some of his best work is for that instrument. He had a lyrical gift which shows to good effect in his vocal music.

Ireland was strongly influenced by Brahms, Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky. In fact, he was so strongly affected by Brahms in his early years that he destroyed or withheld all his works done up to 1906. The influence of Brahms lived on his structure. Debussy and Ravel impressed him for their conciseness, and Stravinsky for his rhythm and sonority.

Epic March was written in 1942, and is his last orchestral composition. The score is prefaced by a dictionary definition of the word "epic": "Concerning some heroic action or series of actions and events of deep and lasting significance in the history of a nation or the race." As most of you will recognize, 1942 marks a critical moment for Britain, when its survival as a nation was in question.

The work opens dramatically, and almost immediately we sense the martial character. Roman legions are evoked. Some of you will recognize a hint of Holst and Vaughan-Williams in this music, but rather than reflecting a direct influence, this is the result of a common interest in English folk-song and the Mixolydian mode in which much of it is written.


 
       
  Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 Felix Mendelssohn
(1809-1847)
 
 

Mendelssohn was charming and refined. So was his music. Perhaps the word most commonly used to describe it is "elegant." Of the "Big Three" composers of the early nineteenth century (Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn), he was the least innovative. He was very popular in his time, but even his supporters would have hesitated to describe his music as "great." As performer and conductor, his talent was formidable. He was largely responsible for the belated recognition of Bach, and when he conducted the first performance in over a century of the St. Matthew Passion, and found that the wrong score had been delivered, he conducted from memory, turning the pages at the right moment to avoid unsettling the orchestra.

As a youth, Mendelssohn was compared to Mozart. They were both prodigies. It was just that Mozart continued to grow musically, while Mendelssohn was content to refine his youthful powers. That his youthful powers were considerable can be attested to by the words of that irrascible Canadian genius, Glenn Gould, who, notwithstanding a diatribe against Romantic piano composition, singles the young Mendelssohn out for praise:

"...I don't think any of the early romantic composers knew how to write for the piano. Oh, they knew how to use the pedal, and how to make dramatic effects, splashing notes in every direction, but there's very little real composing going on. The music of that era is full of empty theatrical gestures, full of exhibitionism, and it has a worldly, hedonistic quality that simply turns me off." (Wow!)

A moment later, Gould is praising early works by Richard Strauss, and describes them as "...minor miracles: as refined, as polished, as anything Mendelssohn did in his teen-age years. And with the exception of Mendelssohn, no sisteen-year-old has ever written with such craft and assurance - I am not forgetting Mozart." These comments are from an interview published in the "Piano Quarterly," Fall 1981.

The Romantics used the piano as a homophonic instrument instead of a contrapuntal one, and that is what Gould dislikes about early Romantic piano music. Music of this era reflects the development of the piano-forte. Mozart had only five octaves to work with. Beethoven had six. Mendelssohn had seven. Together with the expansion of the keyboard range, came the greater dynamic range, and the change from the delicate fingering of Mozart to the powerful wrist and forearm playing of Liszt and Chopin. Mendelssohn is conservative in this latter respect, perhaps because he was less robust.

Like a good romantic, Mendelssohn died at the age of 38, but in other respects he did not follow the romantic pattern. He did not suffer like Mozart. He came from a wealthy, cultivated, loving, and understanding family. He moved in the highest social circles, and was respected by all but his most bitter rivals. Franz Liszt made a disparaging remark about him while dining at the home of Robert and Clara Schumann, and was forced to apologize and leave the table.

The present concerto is conservative in some ways, and "modern" in others. Earlier concertos allowed for a long orchestral introduction, a la Mozart. For the romantics, Beethoven may have set a bad example with his first three concertos, by leaving as long as three-and-a-half minutes before the entry of the piano. This had been done skillfully by Mozart (and even by Beethoven - in his 3rd), but the practice degenerated in the first two decades of the 19th Century, to orchestral introductions that seemed to be hastily written to fill the space, pro forma, before the solo entry. Other times, the orchestra said too much, making the piano entry anticlimactic.

Mendelssohn has the piano jump right in so that the orchestra and piano share the whole operation. There is not even a gap between first and second movements, and only a brief pause to announce the third. The concerto is reformed as a whole. This musical integrity is driven home by references in the final movement of themes heard in the first.


 
       
  Petite Suite Claude Debussy
(1862-1918)
 
 

Debussy was the founder of what became known as the Impressionist School in music. The term was in reference to the Impressionist painters of the latter half of the nineteenth century. The groups were seen to be both anti-Classical, because they seemed soft on structure, and anti-Romantic, because they avoided dramatic subjects or great deeds. The Impressionist composers dealt with tone for its own sake as the painters had dealt with light for its. Monet, founder of Impressionism, said that light was the "chief personage in the picture."

There is also a strong connection between Debussy and the Symbolist poets like Verlaine and Mallarmé, who wrote vaguely, leaving as much as possible to the imagination. The Romantics tried to show; the Symbolists tried to suggest.

Debussy's music frequently suggests a plot ... that is, it is programmatic. But usually, it suggests moods, or even moments. Critics found it too disorderly. Even a modernlist like Eric Satie ridiculed Debussy, writing a slanderous satirical poem even referring to his marital problems (both his mistress and his wife attempted suicide). Students at the conservatory were forbidden to have his music in their possession, and one was expelled for breaking that rule.

Petite Suite poses no difficulties for today's listener. It includes four separate movements. The first, En Bateau (In the Boat), suggests the gentle swaying of a boat, and is cast in three-part form. The second movement, Cortege (Procession), is a bright march in moderate temp with quick dotted rhythms heard throughout. The third movement is a Menuet in moderate triple meter. Oboe, English horn, and bassoon are prominent. The fourth movement is in fast duple meter, and with accented, dance-liek rhythms is aptly titled Ballet.

The work was originally written for piano alone, and later orchestrated by Henri Busser.


 
       
  Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
 
 

The Leonore Overture No. 3 was written in 1806 as an overture to Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio. There were four overtures after the principal character of the opera, and the last was named simply, The Overture to Fidelio.

The opera, one of the very few grand operas not to end in tragedy, concerns a young woman seeking to find and to free her husband who is illegally being kept prisoner by a wicked Duke. She disguises herself as a young man and becomes the assistant to the Duke's jailer in order to gain access to the prison. A complication arises when Leonora, dressed as a man, attracts the amorous attentions of the jailer's daughter. Since she has not yet found her husband, she cannot afford to reveal her identity.

When the Duke learns that the Governor is to make a surprise inspection, he has to dispose of his prisoner and sends the jailer and his assistant to dig a grave. Leonora finds that the prisoner is indeed her husband. When the jailer refuses to kill him, the Duke decides to do it himself, whereupon Leonora draws a pistol and confronts the Duke. At this moment, the distant sound of a bugle is heard, heralding the arrival of the Governor, and sealing the fate of the Duke. The lovers were freed, and lived happily ever-after. But the opera didn't.

Fidelio is seldom performed. It is often said it is difficult to stage effectively. I saw it staged beautifully at the Liceu in Barcelona, and staging seems to me to be the least of its problems! Beethoven's struggle to settle on a suitable overture is symptomatic of the problem with the opera as a whole.

From the first, the opera was not well received, and at each revival, Beethoven produced a new overture. The Overture No. 3 was a superbly dramatic piece of music, but it gave away too much of the opera, and (as you will hear) can stand on its symphonic merits alone. Beethoven realized that and withdrew it, producing a fourth and final overture in more traditional form. The opera has a similar problem: The orchestral writing leaves too little for the singers. It is simply not a singer's opera.

The Leonore No. 3 opens with a menacing chord, and then slowly proceeds down the scale, step by step, into the dungeon, as it were. One "bright point" in the overture suggests the scene when Leonora persuades the jailer to allow the prisoners to go up into the sunlight for exercise. Halfway through the work, we hear the trumpet call announcing the arrival of the Governor. There is a lyrical theme broken by a repeat of the trumpet call, and then the work becomes more triumphant toward the end, as the Duke's plan is foiled. The overture is almost too evocative of the plot details to make a good overture, but it certainly makes for good music.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Ervin Orban, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Mary Berkebile
Ruth Berkebile
Carolyn Caldwell
Christine Erickson +
Eloise Guy
Linda Hare
Angela Rogers
Vernon Stinebaugh
John Thomas
Roxanne Thomas

Viola
Annette Martin *
Peter Collins
Delpha Laycock
Naida Walker

Cello
Waverly Berry Conlan *
Elizabeth Bueker
Jennifer Kirk +^
Rebecca B. Waas

Bass
Brad Kuhns
Kevin Piekarski
George Scheerer

Piccolo
Nancy Bloom +^

Flute
Kathy Urbani * (co-)
Maryanne Beery +^ * (co-)

Oboe
Susan Turnquist * (co-)
Michael D. Beery + * (co-)

English Horn
Susan Turnquist
Clarinet
Wendy Duff *+
Jane Grandstaff

Bassoon
Takashi Yamano *
Anne Teeters

Horn
G. Kent Teeters *
Nancy Bremer
Erin Dietsch
Lois Geible

Trumpet
Steven Hammer * (co-)
Jeff West *+ (co-)
Brent Huber

Trombone
David Schultz *+^
D. Larry Dockter
Charles Anders

Tuba
John W. Beery

Timpani
Dale Largent +

Percussion
Donald Kolugyer *
Terry McKee
Greg Wolff

Harp
Alison Snyder

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 

In Memoriam
Glenn Ruppel
(1905-1986)

Glenn RuppelIn sadness, joy, and gratitude, the Manchester Symphony Orchestra dedicates this concert to the memory of Glenn Ruppel, its Past-President. We mourn Glenn's recent death; we rejoice in our good fortune to have known him; and we are deeply grateful for his life.

The Manchester Symphony Orchestra was dear to Glenn -- not because it offered four concerts each year, but rather because it was a means of bringing people together -- in meetings of the symphony board, in the annual membership drive, in the banquet, in the orchestra, and in the audience. Into the spirit of communal endeavor, Glenn launched himself fully. But although he increased membership and income enormously, each individual member was as dear as a corporate sponsor. To Glenn the symphony was more than music, more than income and disbursements: it was the people whom he served -- our community.

Glenn might have served our community in many different capacities, for he was gifted in many ways, but he chose the symphony as the means of showing his concern for us all. Soft-spoken, kind, and shy -- yet dynamic and tireless in his efforts on behalf of the symphony -- Glenn was a man whose sensitivity was as profound as his clothing and presence were cheery. We miss his counsel and warmth; we rejoice in the success of his efforts on behald of our symphony; and we are deeply grateful for our good fortune to know, respect, and love him.

Our Guest Artist

Gail StewardGail Steward holds degrees from Manchester College, Memphis State University, and is presently a doctoral candidate in piano performance at Ball State University. She resides in Ashville, North Carolina, where she concertizes and teaches piano.

She has held faculty appointments at Anderson College, Indiana, and Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. Ms. Steward was a graduate assistant at Memphis State University and was named as Doctoral Fellow at Ball State University.

She has performed in both solo and chamber settings, and has appeares as soloist with orchestras throughout the mid-West and South.

Ms. Steward has studied with Daniel Fletcher, Pia Sebastiani, Sylvia Zaremba, Marvin Blickenstaff, and Genita Speicher.