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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 50th Season

 

Sunday, October 16th, 1988
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor Karl Otto Nicolai  
  (First number on the opening concert of 1939-40 season)  
       
  Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 Camille Saint-Saëns  
 

I. Allegro non troppo
II. Allegretto con moto
III. Allegro non troppo

   
  Anne Martindale Williams, cello  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Toccata Girolamo Frescobaldi  
  Après un rêve, Op. 7 Gabriel Fauré  
  Anne Martindale Williams, cello
Bonnie Robinson, piano
 
       
  Manchester Variations R. Gary Deavel  
 

Introductions
Variation 1 - March
Variation 2 - Elegy
Variation 3 - Dance
Variation 4 - Ballad
Variation 5 - Finale

   
  (Commissioned by the Manchester Symphony Orchestra in 1985)  
       
  Overture to Nabucco Giuseppi Verdi  
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor Karl Otto Nicolai
(1810-1849)
 
 

I wonder how many of you recognize the names Richard Anderson and Barbara Babcock. I would guess practically none. Yet, you have seen them hundreds of times on television, or in the movies, and you always recognize them as performers you have seen many times, but whose names you don't remember. They always give solid, competent performances, even winning Emmy awards, but somehow, they never make a strong enough impression for us to notice their names. Such was the fate of Otto Nicolai.

Few people immediately recognize the name of Nicolai, but many people recognize his music... or, to be precise, one piece of music, the overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor. It is very popular, and is almost alway played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra during its final concert of the year.

Otto Nicolai was a German composer, born in Konigsberg, who wrote operas in the Italian style. He might have been better known if he had accepted the commission to write Nabucco, but he rejected the libretto, and the commission went to a reluctant Giuseppe Verdi. He also might have been better if he hadn't died at age thirty-nine.

Apart from the Overture we are to hear, Nicolai did make one other important contribution to the world of music; he founded the Vienna Philharmonic, hence its regular performance of his works (proceeds from the final concert, devoted to the music of Nicolai, go to the Vienna Philharmonic Society's pension fund.)

The work begins softly, and slowly. Some of you will wonder why I said the piece is familiar. Wait. it gets much more familiar about three minutes into the work, and by minute four, half the audience wil give the "aha!" reaction. Half a minute later, the pace is really picking up, and by the time five minutes have passed, we have contrasting themes vying with one another, one theme, dramatic, the other, lyrical. The piece ends dramatically, in the fashion of almost all overtures. Six months from now, when we hear it again on National Public Radio while driving to work, we will remember only that we used to know who wrote it.


 
       
  Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 33 Camille Saint-Saëns
(1835-1921)
 
 

Saint-Saëns had a long and productive life. He was born in Paris, and died in Algiers at the age of eighty-six. He showed talent at a very early age, was writing songs when he was six, and gave his first public performance at the age of eleven. He was a fine organist, starting at the Eglise Saint-Merry, and then (for twenty years) at the Madeleine. He wrote operas (Samson and Delilah), symphonies (his Third, "Organ" symphony is best known), concerti (five for piano, three for violin, and two for 'cello), chamber music, and tone poems. Some will be surprised to know that Saint-Saëns was one ofthe earliest composers to write music for film, L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise (1908), scored for strings, piano, and harmonium.

Saint-Saëns was something of a paradox. He was extremely erudite, a sort of musical antiquarian. In some respects, at least briefly, he was an innovator, but for the most part, he was very conservative. His music has not worn well with the critics, who consider him competent, even expert in the development of traditional forms, but lacking in creative depth.

Usually some amusing, even endearing anecdote can be found concerning any well-known composer, but Saint-Saëns seems to have been an opinionated individual, with an abrasive personality. He liked to think of himself as "the French Mendelssohn," and he has been so described by his admirers, but at least one critic says bluntly that he lacked the charm of his model.

He defended the Romantics, including Wagner (at first), and attacked the moderns savagely in brilliantly written articles. The only "moden" who seemed to admire him was Ravel, who found inspiration in Saint-Saëns' trios and in his piano concerti. His attacks on the moderns may account for the critics' grudging praise of his skills, but not his spirit. Martin Cooper quotes and endorses Alfred Cortot's evaluation of Saint-Saëns' music as having "...neat and even brilliant rhythms, more intelligence than sensibility, more verve than feelings."

In an effort to promote a French nationalism, he was co-founder of the Societé Nationale de Musique, which included such composers as Franck, Lalo, Chausson, D'Indy, and Fauré. During that period, he wrote the first French tone poem, Le Rouet d'Omphale ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel"), and several others which have maintained their popularity. Many of his works are programmatic despite his insistence on the abandonment of visual inspiration.

He began as a follower of Wagner, but soon became his greatest detractor, deploring Wagner's influence on French music. Leter, he came under the influence of Liszt, an influence which can be heard in the First Cello Concerto. As a measure of his conservatism, he was the only French composer of the nineteenth century to write successfully in the traditional concerto form, although he did incorporate some innovations derived from Liszt. In concent, the Lisztian influence can most easily be heard in the piano concertos, with their frequent use of dramatic arpeggios, but in form, Liszt's penchant for cyclical recurrence of theme can be noticed in Saint-Saëns' cell concertos.

The first concerto for cello was written in 1873, and is played straight through, with no movement breaks. Themes heard in the first part are reprised in the last. In the last portion, there is a motif which will appear later in the Danse Macabre.

Whataver Saint-Saëns' music may lack in emotional depth, it certainly is an audience-pleaser because of the demands it makes on the virtuosity of the performer.


 
       
  Manchester Variations R. Gary Deavel
(b. 1930)
 
 

In 1977, Patricia Helman wrote the words and I the music for the college song, "Manchester Fair." In these variations I have used six motives from that song. They appear in various melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic disguises -- some more transparent than others. Their order is frequently rearranged. Only in the finale do they unmask and conform to their original shape and order.

The work is comprised of an introduction and five variations. The "Introduction" is in a moderately slow temp and presents the three principal motives and their mirror images. The first variation is a quick "March." The woodwinds are features, backed by drum and triangle. The second variation is an "Elegy." The oboe solo at the outset is derived from the principal motive, but cast in a medieval mode (Phrygian). The third variation features frequently changing meters and is called "Dance." The string motive heard at the beginning and end of the variation is taken from the bass line of the first phrase of the song. The fourth variation is called "Ballad." The bassoon plays a mirror version of the principal motive decorated by an obligato line in the violins. The resulting duet features open fourths and fifths -- intervals frequently prominent in country music. The fifth variation of "Finale" begins in a gigue rhythm. The woodwinds, brass and strings each have the gigue figure in turn. The full orchestra concludes with a complete statement of "Manchester Fair." There is a brief coda with references to the "Fight Song" (oboe), "Alma Mater" (flute) and "Manchester Fair" (clarinet).

"Manchester Variations" was commissioned by the Manchester Symphony Society in 1985 and is dedicated to Robert Jones and the Manchester Symphony Orchestra.

-- R. Gary Deavel


 
       
  Overture to Nabucco Giuseppe Verdi
(1813-1901)
 
 

Verdi, like Saint-Saëns, lived well into his eighties. Like Saint-Saëns, he had an early interest in the organ. In other respects, they were quite different. Saint-Saëns was intellectual, highly cultivated, sophisticated, and somewhat aloof. His music was polished, clever, and entertaining. Verdi, on the other hand, was of humbler origin, had no pretentions, and wrote music of great emotional power. When King Vittorio Emmanuele wished to knight him, Verdi replied, "Io son un paesano," (I am a peasant).

Verdi was born in a small town, Roncole, not far from Parma. His parents owned a shabby inn. His musical aptitude was discovered by the local organist, who took him under his wing. Legend has it that the first time he heard the organ, he was so entranced that three times he failed to hear the priest's request for water, and was sent tumbling down the steps by that irritated man. In any case, he played well enough that the commune provided money with which to study at the Conservatory of Milan. He did NOT play well enough, however, for the Conservatory of Milan to accept him!

His first opera to be produced was Oberto, performed at La Scala when he was but twenty-six. It was successful enough that he was commissioned to do three more. The first, Un Giorno di Regno, was a failure. The second of these was Nabucco.

Nabucco was a great success. It was effective musically, but its political message contributed greatly to its popularity. Itals was, at that time, divided, and under the control of Spain and the Hapsburgs. The plot of Nabucco had to do with the Jews under the situation of the Babylonians, and there was a clear parallel with the situation of the Italians vis a vis the Spanish. The arts are frequently used to say that which is not permitted to be said, by means of allegory. Verdi was popular not simply for his music, but also for his strong support of the patriot Vittorio Emmanuele. He was so popular that his name was scrawled on walls all over the northern part of Italy: Viva Verdi! It was no coincidence that the name spells out the initials of the phrase Vittorio Emmanuele, Re d'Italia (Long Live Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy).

It is interesting that Nabucco was almost not written. Verdi turned it down several times before being almost forced to write it by the producer Merelli. Verdi had liked the libretto (by Solera), but he was so demoralized by the failure of Un Giorno di Regno, following on the heels of the deaths of his two children and his wife, that he had resolved to write no more music. Only the persistence of Merelli and the beauty of the libretto were able to break his depression.

Italian opera has always been famous for its bel canto melody. This reputation was established by such composers as Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini. But it was Verdi's great contribution to combine the rich orchestration of his contemporary, Wagner, with this lyricism, and thus produce the fusion we know as Italian Grand Opera.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Ervin Orban, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Stephanie Beery
Carolyn Caldwell
Jodi Goble
Amy Grush
Linda Hare
Angela Rogers
Dan Seibert
Vernon Stinebaugh
Jon Thomas
Roxanne Thomas
Lynne Truman
Vera Singer Wickline
Michael Wurzburger +^

Viola
Bruce Graham *
Peter Collins
Kristina M. Lange
Delpha Laycock
Naida Walker

Cello
Waverly Berry Conlan *
Betty Bueker
Valerie Goetz Boud
Christina Palmer +^
Rebecca G. Waas

Bass
Adrian Mann *
Randy Gratz
George Scheerer

Piccolo
Amy Hodson +^

Flute
Maryanne C. Beery *+ (co-)
Kathy Urbani * (co-)
Suzy Oaks +
Oboe
James Nagano *
Lisa Janel Kinsey *+^ (co-)

Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Bassoon
Takashi Yamano *
Mike Trentacosti

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer *
Katherine Benninghoff
Lois Geible
Nicole Hine

Trumpet
Mike Clark * (co-)
Steven Hammer * (co-)
Stan Beery

Trombone
Larry Dockter *
Tammy McCauley
William Benninghoff

Tuba
Mike Harkness +

Timpani
Dave Mendenhall

Percussion
Dale E. Reynolds +
Todd Corcoran

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
Anne Martindale WilliamsAnne Martindale Williams joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as the assistant principal cellist in 1976 and withinthree years became the first woman in the orchestra's history to be named principal cellist. She made her solo debut with the orchestra in May of 1980 at Heinz Hall, performing Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor. Since that time she has been a featured soloist in works by Tippett, previn, Strauss, and Haydn, both in Pittsburgh and on tour at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, and in Florida. Mrs. Williams' solo in "The Swan" on the Pittsburgh Symphony's recording of the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens was described by Grammophon's critic, Edward Greenfield, as "...the most memorable performance of all." She has also recorded with Word Records.

Mrs. Williams divides her time between the orchestra, teaching, and chamber-music activities. She has appeared annually in chamber-music recitals presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Andre Previn and Christoph Eschenbach, among others. On a nationally televised segment of "Previn and the Pittsburgh," shejoined Yehudi Menuhin and Andre Previn in a performance of Beethoven's Trio in C minor. In January of 1986, she made her London debut in a performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She has most recently appeared in a nationally televised series: Concertos, produced by the BBC, performing the Brahms Double Concerto with Salvatore Accardo and the Royal Philharmonic, Andre Previn, conducting.

Mrs. Williams is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where she studied with Orlando Cole.