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Concert Program Cover

Third Concert of the 51st Season

 

Sunday, March 11th, 1990
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
       
  Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 26 Max Bruch  
 

I. Allegro moderato
II. Adagio
III. Allegro energico

   
  Kathryn Robertson, violin  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Scarlatti Portfolio Benjamin Lees  
 

I. Gavota
III. Andante
IV. Allegro
V. Andante
VI. Allegro
VII. Fuga

 
       
  Jubilee Ron Nelson  
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(1756-1791)
 
 

There is a famous anecdote concerning this music. It was written on commission from Emperor Joseph II, and it was an enormous success upon its first performance. The Emperor commented that the arias were "too fine for our ears, and there are too many notes!" Mozart is supposed to have replied, "Exactly as many, Your Majesty, as are needed."

The Emperor might have been complimenting Mozart. He had commissioned a simple Singspiel, which is a light opera, or operetta, combining music with spoken dialogue. The Singspiel grew out of an earlier time when audiences, who were more interested in plot than music, wanted a play, spiced up with an occasional song. The Singspiel evolved into a musical with bits of dialogue. The Emperor may simply have been surprised that Mozart took his task so seriously, and produced something a good deal more than a "mere" Singspiel.

Mozart was delighted at the opportunity to write a work in German, for a change, and to be able to play around with an "exotic" setting: Turkey. He boasted in letters that he was writing "Turkish music." To our ears, it doesn't sound very Turkish, but the inclusion of bass drum, cymbals, and triangle seemed wildly exotic to the Viennese.

There are a number of surprisingly "modern" concepts in the work. A "Seraglio," of course, is a Turkish harem. A Spanish lady, together with her English maid, has been kidnapped and immured in the Pasha's harem. The English girl is feisty, and a distinct source of discontent with her "emancipated" English ideas. There is a rescue attempt (the "abduction") which fails. The conspirators are caught, and matters appear to take a turn for the worse when the Pasha discovers that the would-be rescuer is the son of a lord who had once imprisoned the Pasha and had robbed him of great wealth. What greater reason would the Pasha have for ordering them all executed? To everyone's surprise, the Pasha sets them all free, because he wants to demonstrate his superiority over his Christian enemy by not sinking to his level of barbarity.

We have here a touch of Feminism, and a surprisingly flattering portrayal of the hated "infidel" in a sparkling work of the Classical Period.


 
       
  Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 Max Bruch
(1838-1920)
 
 

Max Bruch was born in Cologne, and died at Friedenau (near Berlin). He spent his life in Germany, except for a three-year period when he was director of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Bruch's early formal training was at Bonn, birthplace of Beethoven. He showed a great lyric sense at an early age, probably as the result of his mother's influence; she was an accomplished vocalist, and his first teacher. Critics have tended to consider his choral work to be his best, but the public has always preferred his works for violin or cello.

Bruch was interested in folk music, particularly German, Scottish, Welsh, and Jewish. Even though he was not Jewish, one of his two most popular works is the Kol Nidrei, for cello and orchestra. Of the three violin concerti he wrote, the first is the most popular, and except for the Kol Nidrei, it is almost the only piece keeping Bruch's name alive.

Bruch sketched out the concerto when he was only nineteen years old, but it underwent many transformations before it was first performed publicly, nine years later, in 1866. Two years later, with the aid of Joseph Joachim, Bruch revised it, and in 1872, the Spanish violinist, Sarasate, introduced it to American audiences.

Cynics might say it sounds like Mendelssohn, accompanied by Beethoven. Certainly Bruch was eclectic. Hints of Brahms and Mendelssohn are apparent in the Finale. Perhaps this is the influence of Joachim, who was a Brahms enthusiast. Brahms, himself, did not appear to think much of the concerto; his only comment concerned the quality of the paper Bruch had used for the manuscript!

The work is in three movements, the first and second of which are linked by an orchestral passage.

Allegro Moderato -- The violin enters almost at once with a melody echoed by the orchestra. A new, and more lyrical melody is announced by the violin, and then repeated by the orchestra as the violin trills its way up the scale. The orchestra develops the theme while the violin embellishes, and then the violin restates the theme just before the orchestra softly leads to the second movement...

Adagio -- After a long, slow introductions, a second theme is introduced and developed, and it is here that Richard Strauss is evoked, alternating with Mendelssohn.

Finale -- The Finale is doubtless the best-known part of the concerto. It begins Allegro Energico, with the violin melody suggesing gypsy music. This portion is richly orchestrated with a variety of folk-like melodies tossed back and forth between the violin and the orchestra. The work ends, as suggested, "energetically."


 
       
  The Scarlatti Portfolio Benjamin Lees
(b. 1924)
 
 

Benjamin Lees was born in Harbin, China, to Russian parents, and was brought to the United States one year later. His early life was spent in California, where he studied at the University of Southern California, and with George Antheil. He wrote film music for several years, partly as the result of his association with Antheil. He has written at least three symphonies, a concerto for orchestra (patterned after the one by Bartók), a concerto for violin, and, in 1965, won the Pulitzer Prize for his cantata Vision of Poets.

Many reviewers write of him as a "conservative" composer, but I suspect he will not seem conservative to the average concert-goer. These reviewers were writing in the age of atonality, and since Lees enjoys the emotional implications of key conflicts, and kept away from the fashionable Schönbergian tonal neutrality, he seems hopelessly old-fashioned to them.

Since Béla Bartók and George Antheil were two of the most obvious influences on Lees, and since they were both thought of as enfants terribles in their own time, there is a good deal in the music of Lees which the public will consider quite avant garde. I would rate Lees as middle-of-the-road: not as conservative as Vincent, Barber, or Copland: not as "advanced" as Carter, Schuller, or Brown

A number of twentieth-century composers tried to recapture the values of the classical period, but in two very different ways. An obvious and perhaps superficial way, was to resurrect traditional forms (Prokofiev: Classical Symphony), or to make use of earlier themes (Stravinsky: Pulcinella).

A more imaginative approach, if less accessible to the average listener, is to adopt the principles of the classical composers, but invent a new form to embody those principles. That was the route taken by the serialists like Berg and Schönberg. Much of Lees' music has a restless, almost Romantic, aspect to it, but when he does lean toward Neo-Classicism, it tends to be a fresh look at old forms rather than an invention of new ones.

Much less of Lees' music is "hectic," with rapid changes of meter, and alternating moods. Lees, himself, describes on piece from the late fifties as "...having many faces -- turning one and then another to us in quick succession. It seems to me that our own time is also represented by many faces such as these; a composer can but reflect the time in which he lives.... I see ours as desperate, but not despairing: hopeful, not hopeless."

The present work, written in 1978, is in a lighter vein. Lees gives a nod to the classics (justifying the designation "conservative"), by writing a suite of short pieces derived from sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. Scarlatti was a Baroque composer, botn in 1685, the same year as Bach and Handel. Lees chose seven keyboard sonatas, for which he wrote "transformations." The second movement will be omitted in today's performance.

The movements we are to hear are:

Gavota (Allegro)
Andante
Allegro
Andante
Allegro
Fuga (Fugue)


 
       
  Jubilee Ron Nelson
(b. 1929)
 
 

Ron Nelson was borh in Joliet, Illinois. He received his musical education, culminating in a DMA, at the Eastman School, where he studied with Howard Hanson and Wayne Barlow, among others. His music is eclectic, showing diverse influences from Indonesian to Jazz. In the 1960s he became interested in non-Western music, and began to experiment with pieces that would be conducive to meditation. Some works show the influence of Indian ragas, with their barely perceptible changes capable of an almost hypnotic effect on the listener.

His work shows him to be fully aware of teh variety of experimentation in the twentieth century, with its serial, atonal, and even aleatoric (chance) techniques, but for the most part retains the concept of tonal centers. Although the work we are to hear today was written in 1960, when he was falling under the spell of the Orient, it bears little evidence of that influence. Nelson wrote some film scores, and this piece represents him in that frame of mind.

Jubilee is a short, light piece, conservative in concept, making little demand on the listener. There is a soaring melody in the first part and an extended fugal section near the end.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda Kanzawa Hare, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Stephanie Beery
Jodi Goble
Amy Grush
Chin Me Kim
Byron Plexico
Moo Il Rhee
Angela Rogers
Daniel A. Seibert
Vernon Stinebaugh
Patrick Weybright +
Michael Wurzburger +^

Viola
Annette Martin *
Julia Anne Lindower +
Naida Walker MacDermid
Deb Steiner +

Cello
Waverly Berry Conlan *
Betty Bueker
Tim Spahr
Rebecca B. Waas
Lisa White +

Bass
Ed Golightly *
Randy Gratz
George W. Scheerer

Piccolo
Amy Hodson +^

Flute
Maryanne C. Beery *+^
Suzy Oaks +

Oboe
Susan Turnquist * (co-)
Lisa Kinsey *+^ (co-)
Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Bassoon
Donna Russell * (co-)
Takashi Yamano * (co-)

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer *
Bryan L. Gibson
Trent House
Lois Geible

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Stan Storey
Stan Beery

Trombone
Larry Dockter *
Jaime Shoup +
Joseph Neff

Tuba
Mike Harkness +

Timpani
David Mendenhall

Percussion
John Beery
Tana Tinkey

Harp
Melanie Richeson

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
Kathryn RobertsonKathryn Robertson, 17-year-old American violinist, made her professional debut at age six with Ronald Ondrejka and the Indiana Chamber Orchestra. She has also appeared as soloist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Munci Symphony, and the Lima Symphony as first prize winner of their Young Artist competitions. During the 1989-90 season, Miss Robertson will be guest artist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Philharmonia and the North Manchester Symphony.

She has studied with Agnes Nelson, Neil Weintrob, Conny Kiradjieff, and James Buswell. At age 10 she was featured soloist on a WANE-TV broadcast. A member of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic since she was 14, Miss Robertson is rapidly becoming an outstanding young recitalist performing several concerts each season throughout the Midwest. Miss Robertson has been a first place winner of the Indiana Federation of Music Clubs and Indiana Music Teachers Association competitions. A scholarship student at the Aspen Music Festival for the last three summers, she was the 1989 first place winner of the Indiana Aspen Scholarship. Since 1983 she has been a scholarship student of Kurt Sassmannshaus in the Starling Preparatory String Project.

Currently the recipient of a Starling Fellowship at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, she is continuing her studies with Professor Sassmannshaus and performs regularly in the master classes of Dorothy DeLay.