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Concert Program Cover

Third Concert of the 53rd Season

 

Sunday, March 8th, 1992
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Oveture to Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
       
  The Lark Ascending Ralph Vaughan Williams  
  Symphony espagnole, Op. 21 Edouard Lalo  
 

V. Rondo

   
  Glenn Basham, violin  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Symphony No. 5 in D Major, Op. 107 ("Reformation") Felix Mendelssohn  
 

I. Andante - Allegro con fuoco
II. Allegro vivace
III. Andante
IV. Choral: Ein 'feste Burg ist unser Gott.
     Andante - Allegro Maestoso

 
       

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.


 
       
  The Lark Ascending Ralph Vaughan Williams
(1872-1958)
 
 

British composer Ralph (rhymes with "safe") Vaughan Williams is best known as a symphonist, having written nine symphonies. However, he wrote concertos for various instruments, a mass, chamber music, and a great deal of vocal music, including five operas. His harmonies reflect an interest in folk music and medieval modes. Vaughan Williams and Hols combed the English countryside collecting folk music, just as Bartók and Kodály did in Hungary. His music, even in his symphonies, tends to be pictoral; he was inspired by the English countryside and by British poetry. Though his symphonies frequently have a dramatic quality, with driving rhythms and menacing sonority, much of his music is reflective and pastoral, reminding us of Delius. Such is the piece we hear today.

The Lark Ascending was written in 1914. It is a Romance or Fantasia, terms which are vague enough to include any composition short on form and long on lyricism. "Romance" suggests a song-like quality which well describes The Lark Ascending. Frequently, pieces featuring solo instruments are written to exploit the talents of specific performers (vide Lalo and Sarasate, below); this one was written for Marie Hall, who gave its premier in 1920. The idea came from a poem by George Meredith.

After a brief orchestral introduction, the violin begins to soar against an orchestral drone. The intention is to suggest the gliding flight of a bird. A more energetic middle section suggests the fluttering of wings and darting motions before the violin floats gently away.


 
       
  Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21 Edouard Lalo
(1823-1892)
 
 

The Symphonie espagnole is neither a symphony, nor Spanish, though it does have a Spanish flavor. It is more of a concerto for violin and orchestra than anything else. It is a five-movement work, though it is often played without the third movement, the Intermezzo (traditional symphonies have four movements, while concerti have three). The apparently idiosyncratic title is actually characteristic of the Romantic period, during which Form sometimes took a back seat to Emotion.

Lalo came from a family with Spanish origins, though that fact is almost irrelevant, inasmuch as "exoticism" was routine among Romantic composers. One need not look to Spanish roots for explanations of Bizet's Carmen, Massenet's Le Cid, Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, and later, Debussy's Iberia, and Ravel's Bolero. The "African" country, Spain, held a great attraction for Romantic composers in general, and French ones in particular. Hispanophobes are fond of asserting that the best Spanish music was written by Frenchment!

Lalo wrote a great number of songs and chamber works, but he was initially unsuccessful, and grew bitter at his lack of public recognition. For some ten years he resigned himself to being a performer in chamber works. His instrument was the viola. A happy marriage may have been responsible for pulling him out of his doldrums, and his admiration for the Spanish violinst Sarasate prompted him to write a violin concerto. Sarasate was pleased with the work, and premiered it. Tchaikovsky praised it (he was prompted by Lalo's work to write his own violin concerto), and almost overnight, Lalo became a success.

The violin concerto was followed shortly by the Symphonie espagnole. The work we hear today is the fifth and final movement, the Rondo. A rondo is essentially a version of the ternary form, with an expanded middle section. Just how that middle section is expanded can vary considerably from composer to composer and from period to period. In this case, it is very simple. The work begins with an eleven-note descending phrase repeated as a crescendo about fourteen times before the entry of the solo violin with a countering rising phrase. Variants of this phrase are heard until about halfway through the work when a contrasting theme is voiced in the form of a Spanish habanera. The work ends with a return to theme A. The Symphonie espagnole is without a doubt Lalo's most popular work. If it work appeals to you, I recommend trying his Cello Concerto in D, and the Concerto for Violin, Op. 20.


 
       
  Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 107
("Reformation")
Feliz Mendelssohn Bartholdy
(1809-1847)
 
 

Mendelssohn was born into a well-to-do family who nurtured his musical interests. Like Mozart, he was a prodigy, and some thought he would live to surpass the Master. At the age of seventeen he wrote the Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, still considered a masterpiece, perhaps superior to anything Mozart had written at that age.

Like Mozart, Mendelssohn could compose without a keyboard, and even while engaged in conversation. He worked in many forms: oratorio, song, chamber music, concerto, and symphony. He was born into an age that admired the symphonic form, but despite his other virtues, Mendelssohn was ill-equipped to write great symphonies. He had a great gift for pictorialism, but not for devising themes capable of dramatic development, as required for the symphony. The result is that he is best known fot those programmatic pieces which benefit from a pictorial approach (he was an excellent artist, from all acounts).

He wrote five symphonies, only two of which are heard frequently. They are attractive works, and had great appeal at one time, but their picture-painting and programmatic qualities, representing nostalgic recollections of travels in Scotland and Italy, made them less popular with critics of a formal bent. The first symphony was a youthful work not taken very seriously. The second, subtitiled The Hymn of Praise, and containing a final choral movement a la Beethoven's Ninth, is rarely heard. The third, The Scotch, is still in the repertoire, as is the fourth, or Italian. The fifth is not given high marks by most critics, and Mendelssohn, himself, thought it should be burned. It was not published until some twenty years after his death, which accounts for its number, five; it was actually written ten years before the fourth.

The Fifth Symphony was written to celebrate the tercentenary of the Augsburg Conference in 1830, hence the title Reformation Symphony. The Roman Catholic Church succeeded in preventing its performance in Augsburg, and it wasn't performed until 1832, in Berlin. Mendelssohn works some traditional Lutheran hymns into the symphony, including the Dresden Amen, also used later by Wagner in Parsifal, and Ein' Feste Burg.

The Dresden Amen can be heard in the first movement. About ten minutes into the movement, there is a hint of Fingal's Cave, the themes of which Mendelssohn was developing at the same time he was working on the symphony.

Even those who discount the symphony as a whole admit the second movemtn has a lot going for it. It is in ternary form, very sprightly, and typically Mendelssohnian.

The third movement, marked andante, is a mournful interlude which moves without a break into the fourth movement, announced by a statement of the Lutheran chorale Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott! Mendelssohn was a great champion of the music of Bach, and almost single-handedly revived interest in his work. This love of Bach is manifested in the contrapuntal writing in the last half of the movement. The fugal treatment of the chorale provides a suitably triumphant character to the final movement of the Reformation Symphony.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

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

Viola
Annete Hopkins *
Joyce Gouwens
Naida MacDermid

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

Bass
Randy Gratz *
Darrel Fiene
George Scheerer

Piccolo
Suzy Oaks +

Flute
Amy Hodson *+^
Jennifer Wallace +

Oboe
Lisa Kinsey *+^
Kathleen Andersen
Clarinet
Robyn Jones *
LeAnn Compton +
Jane Grandstaff

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

Contrabassoon
Thomas Owen

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer * (co-)
Bryan L. Gibson * (co-)

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Mike Clark

Trombone
D. Larry Dockter *
Jon Hartman +
Scott Hippensteel

Timpani
Tana Tinkey

Percussion
Keith Roberts +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
Glenn BashamBuilding on his wide experience and obvious enjoyment of music, Glenn Basham brings genuine excitement to his recital and concerto performances. Born in Washington, DC, he is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts (B.A.) and the Indiana University School of Music (M.M. with High Distinction) and is presently Concertmanster of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. He is also Artistic Director of the Northeast Indiana Chamber Music Festival and a member of the Freimann Quartet. He was previously a member of the Detroit Symphony under Antal Dorati.

Glenn was the only American violinist invited to perform in the Eighth (1988) J.S. Bach International Competition in Leibzig (GDR). He won first place in the 1986 Young Artist Competition, sponsored by the Renaud Foundation and the Lansing Symphony. He is also the only student to have simultaneously held two scholarships (The Vittorio Giannini Memorial Scholarship and the Nancy Reynolds Merit Scholarship) while at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

His teachers have included Alexander Prilutchi, Vartan Manoogian, and Yuval Yaron. Glenn has received extensive coaching in chamber music performance from the Juilliard Quartet and Josef Gingold.