This Season

arrowPast Seasonsarrow

Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 53rd Season

 

Sunday, November 3rd, 1991
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Anniversary Overture, Op. 99 Malcolm Arnold  
       
  Lieutenant Kijé  Suite, Op. 60 Sergei Prokofiev  
 

I. The Birth of Kijé
II. Romance
III. Kijé's Wedding
IV. Troika
V. The Burial of Kijé

   
       
  Intermission  
       
  Serenade No. 5, Op. 43 Vincent Persichetti  
 

Prelude (Heavily)
Poem (Quietly)
Interlude (Simply)
Capriccio (Brightly)
Dialogue (Delicately)
Burla (With drive)

   
       
  Japanese Suite Gustav Holst  
 

Prelude - Song of the Fisherman
Ceremonial Dance
Dance of the Marionette
Interlude
Dance Under the Cherry Tree
Finale - Dance of the Wolves

   
       

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Anniversary Overture, Op. 99 Malcolm Arnold
(b. 1921)
 
 

Malcolm Arnold was born in England in 1921. As a boy, he studied the violin and the trumpet, winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. The trumpet began to claim more of his attention than the violin, and he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as a trumpet player.

His music is fairly popular, especially in Britain. But even there, his reputation among the critics is not high. Quite a few books on 20th century British composers do not mention him, and those that do refer to his music as "undemanding" or "light." It must be understood that in musical criticism as well as in any other field, there is the matter of "political correctness." The "New Viennese" school of the dodecaphonists (or atonalists) led by Schönberg, Webern, and Berg, was so successfully marketed, that a tune lasting more than a measure is often damned as decadent.

The disparity of views on Arnold between the public and the critics is largely due to his holding his own against the prevailing new academism of the "three A's" (Arnold Schonberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg). Arnold's music it too tuneful and attractive. He still thinks the major/minor scale has something to offer. He believes that music must communicate something to the public... a "gesture of friendship," as he puts it. He believes that the avant-garde is too pleased by the "structure" of the music, when such structure is merely mathematical and cannot be heard by the average person. He might paraphrase Mark Twain's ironic comment in another context and say that the New Viennese music is "better than it sounds."

There is another factor that is finally becoming less an impediment than it used to be as far as serious criticism is concerned: his interest in jazz. Arnold was particularly impressed with Louis Armstrong, whose music prompted him to concentrate on the trumpet. Jazz has become respectable among the critics. It has long influenced "serious" composers from Ravel to Milhaud. Leonard Bernstein is being taken pretty seriously (though one must admit that his dying was a shrewd career move!) and even Gershwin is getting a second look.

But the real reason Arnold has failed to win the approval of critics is that he makes his living writing film scores (he won an Oscar for The Bridge over the River Kwai). This keeps him from being considered a serious composer.

The work we hear today is a "concert overture," not incidental to a play, or to an opera. Nor is it closely related to the earlier French or Italian overture, though it begins rather in the Italian style, designed to wake up the audience. It is a rhythmic, fast-paced work, and tuneful. Arnold isn't much for development of themes (one of the critics' points against him), but his music is easily listened to. In fact, it may sound better than it is.


 
       
  Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60 Sergei Prokofiev
(1891-1953)
 
 

Prokofiev was one of a long line of revered composers who produced film music, starting perhaps with Saint Saëns, and including Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams, Sir William Walton, Jacques Ibert, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein.  Recently, the popularity of music written by composers heretofore known primarily as film-score producers has focused attention on their more "serious" music. I refer to people like Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, and Miklós Rózsa.

Film music is a sort of black sheep of the musical family. Many critics consider it unworthy of comment. It is often said that film music, to serve its purpose, must of necessity, be bad music. That is, it must be unnoticed, so as not to detract from the screen activity. They say that when there is memorable film music, it is at the expense of the film. I would ask then, How can there be good operatic music?

Those of us who have a special fondness for film music commonly cite Prokofiev as proof that fine film music is possible, in conjunction with fine films, for example: Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. That said, it must be admitted that Prokofiev, himself, believed that his music as written for the films was neither correctly structured nor adequately orchestrated for the concert hall. We hear Lieutenant Kijé in the revised concert version.

The name Kijé is the French spelling of what should be pronounced "kee-ZHEH." This is significant because the plot of the movie is based on a misinterpretation. Tsar Nicholas I receives a military report in which there is the phrase, "... Parootchiki, zheh ..." which means (approximately), "... the lieutenants, however..." (The "zheh" corresponds to the German "doch," and has no exact equivalent in English.) The Tsar misreads the phrase as "Parootchik Kizheh," (Lieutenant Kijé), and asks about the "brave lieutenant." To avoid embarrassing the monarch, his commanders continue to supply him with news of the exploits of the fictitious lieutenant. In efforts to conceal the deception, they get ever deeper. They conclude that the only way out of their dilemma is to kill off the hero.

I. Birth of Kijé (Allegro)
    A slow trumpet fanfare opens this section. It is followed by a drum-roll, and then a fife-and-drum theme that reminds us of toy soldiers. It is a simple theme, repeated with slight variations, and a difficult trumpet part.

II. Romance (Andante)
    This is a melancholy section, describing a love-affair, unhappy, of course. (Kijé is supposed to be Russian remember!). Originally, this part called for a baritone, but in the concert version, the voice is usually replaced by a bassoon. At first, we seem to hear Kijé moaning over his lost love. Then, the tone becomes more confident, as if to say, "There are plenty more fish in the sea!" After that, the music returns to a morose mood, as if to say, "But none like her!"

III. Kijé's Wedding (Allegro fastoso)
    The Tsar is saddened by Kijé's bad luck, so the Aides concoct a new romance which is more successful, culminated in marriage. The piece begins with a crash of the orchestra, and alternates between pompous pronouncements by full orchestra, and perky rhythms suggesting a wedding dance. There are variations featuring many instruments, including a very fluid part for trumpet.

IV. Troïka (Allegro con brio)
    After the wedding, the couple ride off in a "Troïka," a three-horse sleigh. The jogging gait of the horses has provided the rhythm for many Russian songs. A Russian hero must have a fondness for taverns, and here we have a drinking song, in the rhythm of the Troïka, sung to the couple by the driver, to the accompaniment of the sleigh bells and the cracking whip.

V. The Burial of Kijé
    The Aides solve their problem by having the imaginary lieutenant die a hero's death, by now, as a general. There is virtually no new music in this movement. It begins with the same fanfare we heard at the beginning of the suite, recalls several of the episodes of Kijé's life, and concludes with the final trumpet call.


 
       
  Serenade No. 5, Op. 43 Vincent Persichetti
(1915-1987)
 
 

Vincent Persichetti was born in Philadelphia. He has written at least eight symphonies, a series of six serenades, a concerto for piano (four hands), and many other works. His work sounds clearly "twentieth century," rather austere, but not as uncompromising as, say, William Schuman. One European source describes him as enjoying "...the esteem of a limited but cultured public."

A "serenade" was originally a song sung in the evening (sera means "evening" in Italian) to a young lady by a young many, or group, standing beneath her window. For some composers it still has amorous connotations. It came to mean, also, a suite of short pieces of contrasting nature, frequently featuring a sonata form, as in Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Breaking from tradition, Persichetti drops Italian and uses English to indicate the way the movements should be played:

Prelude (Heavily), Poem (Quietly), Interlude (Simpply), Capriccio (Brightly), Dialogue (Delicately), Burla (With Drive).

Persichetti's music flirts with atonality, but holds audience interest through driving rhythms and choppy bursts of sound. As promised, the movements vary considerably. The Prelude is choppy, the Poem is dreamy and atonal, the Interlude is waltz-like and folkloric. The Capriccio, featuring the woodwinds, has the choppiness of the Prelude. The Dialogue has a delicate, disjunctive melody characteristic of twentieth century writing, and the Burla is like a jaunty jig.


 
       
  Japanese Suite Gustav Holst
(1874-1934)
 
 

Gustav Holst was a British composer with an unusual reputation. Unusual in the sense that he is accepted in some quarters as an important contributor to British musical development, while in others, he is thought of as an uneven composer at best, second-rate at worst. In contrast, although musicians like Benjamin Britten, or Igor Stravinsky may be more admired by some than by others, there is a general agreement as to their stature in twentieth century music.

Holst fell under a succession of influences, some, typical for the age, others more idiosyncratic. Among the composers who most impressed him were Wagner, whose influence may be seen in Holst's rich orchestral color, and later, Stravinsky in his eventual rejection of sentiment in his music.

Other influences were Eastern philosophies, astrology, and British folk music. This latter has an affinity with oriental music. He was fascinated by the Dorian and Aeolian modes common to English folk songs, and their melodic simplicity meshed perfectly with his oriental tendencies as revealed in his many works related to Hindu writings.

Holst's best-known works are The Planets, a richly orchestrated rendering of the attributes of the Gods (not an astronomical work, but an astrological one), and the Suites for Band, based on folk songs.

The Japanese Suite is one of his many "Eastern" works. It was written at the request of the Japanese dancer Michio Ito, and is in six sections: Prelude -- song of the Fisherman, Ceremonial Dance, Dance of the Marionette, Interlude, Dance Under the Cherry Tree, and Finale -- Dance of the Wolves.

The work opens with the bassoon playing a mournful tune (Song of the Fisherman), immediately establishing the pentatonic character of the piece. The melody is repeated in the strings over an ostinato reminding us of koto music.

Except for one section, the thematic material used by Holst was supplied by Michio Ito, and it is interesting to see what a Westerner does orchestrally with Eastern thematic material.

Holst's critics might describe the second section as too theatrical. One can readily imagine it as background music to a war film, accompanying a shot of Japanese battleships steaming up the Sulu Straits!

It may be disappointing to realize the Dance of the Marionette is the only section that is pure Holst, since it is the most derivative of all, imitating rather blatantly the Dolls' Dance from Stravinsky's Petrushka, published two years earlier. However, one could also generously consider it a tip-of-the-hat to an admired contemporary.

The final section, Dance of the Wolves, is a frenetic, almost demonic piece, reminding us of the ballet music of Khatchaturian.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda Kanzawa Hare, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Stephanie Beery +^
Amanda Catron
Nelson Dougherty
Joyce Dubach
Matthew Hendryx
Tracy A. Knechel +
Ilona Orban
Moo Il Rhee
Tameche Shock
Vernon Stinebaugh

Viola
Annete Hopkins *
Kate Burdey
Joyce Gouwens
Naida MacDermid

Cello
Joe Kalisman *
Jennifer Barnhart +
Betty Bueker
Joshua Stevenson
Lisa White +

Bass
Randy Gratz *
Darrel Fiene
George Scheerer

Piccolo
Suzy Oaks +

Flute
Amy Hodson *+^
Jennifer Wallace +

Oboe
Lisa Kinsey *+^
Kathleen Andersen

English Horn
George Donner
Clarinet
Robyn Jones *
LeAnn Compton +
Jane Grandstaff

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

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer * (co-)
Bryan L. Gibson * (co-)
Josh Eikenberry
John Higgins

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Mike Clark

Trombone
D. Larry Dockter *
Jon Hartman +
Scott Hippensteel

Tuba
William DeWitt

Timpani
David Mendenhall

Percussion
Tana Tinkey
Keith Roberts +

Piano
Debora DeWitt

Harp
Martha Warren

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

Today's Concert

A concert designated as "Music of the Twentieth Century" usually strikes fear in the heart of the concert-goer. The typical expectation is that any music of the twentieth century will be characterized by gross cacophony, bizarre rhythmic combinations and total absence of conventional melody. While this may sometimes be the case, the music on our program today exhibits a more moderate approach to composing in the twentieth century, and points up the fact that there is a great variety of twentieth century musical vocabularies and languages.

Whatever one's personal feelings may be about music of this century, the year 2000 is fast approaching. At that point, we can no longer rationalize our fear of twentieth century music by suggesting that a piece written by Schoenberg in the 1950's, for example, is too new and strange to understand and appreciate. Listeners in the 1950's would not have suggested the same thing about the music of Richard Strauss written around 1900.

The preceding examples may be an oversimplification of the situation with twentieth century music. In any case, the music on our concert today represents the conventional side of twentieth century music and is, perhaps, a gentle nudge to explore more adventurous forms of creativity on other occasions.