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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 55th Season


Sunday, November 7th, 1993
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla Mikhail Glinka  
  Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 2 Ottorino Respighi  

Laura Soave
Danza Rustica
Campanae Parisienses

  Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 Felix Mendelssohn  

I. Allegro molto appassionato
II. Andante
III. Allegro molto vivace

  Michael Davis, violin  

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla Mikhail Glinka

Glinka was born into a well-to-do family near Smolensk. His musical education was spotty, and did not turn really serious until he was in his thirties. He had heard much folk music as a child, and had been exposed to chamber music at the home of an uncle. In St. Petersburg he studied piano for a short time with the Irishman John Field, traveled in Italy, where he met Donizetti and Bellini and was strongly impressed by Italian opera. He settled in Germany for a time to study with Siegfried Walter Dehn.

He returned to Russia, determined to write a "Russian" opera, and produced A Life for the Tsar, based on the Polish invasion of Russia. Although it had many Slavic touches, it still showed many Italiante characteristics. This work was so popular that he gained an imperial appointment. His next important work was Russlan and Ludmilla, which is considered one of the earliest really Russian works. It was the beginning of the "oriental" vein in Russian music.

The opera, based on a poem by Pushkin, was not a great success, but its overture is one of the most popular works Glinka ever produced. Its themes are derived mostly from the last act of the opera (one of a few with a happy ending!), and are consequently of a cheerful nature. The brilliant orchestration is characteristic of Glinka.

  Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 2 Ottorino Respighi

Respighi (pronounced with a hard G) was born in Bologna, and died in Rome. He studied in Russia with Rimsky-Korsakov, and like him is admired for his brilliant orchestration. Many critics consider him a composer of pleasant, but slight music... certainly not the most important Italian composer of his generation, but the public votes otherwise. He is certainly the most popular Italian composer of his generation, at least outside Italy.

In his early days, he wrote songs. Later he wrote mostly orchestral music of an impressionistic character. That is, he evoked moods and painted sound pictures. His subjects were often exotic (Brazilian Impressions), or nostalgic (The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome, Roman Festivals). he was a superb orchestrator, producing a ballet, The Fantastic Toyshop, for Diaghilev, based on the music of Rossini, and The Birds, based on the music of Rameau, Pasquini, and other ealier composers.

In the late twenties and early thirties he wrote three suites based on early music. They were the Antiche danze ed arie per liuto, or Ancient Airs and Dances for the Lute. Today we are to hear second of the three suites, written in 1923. It is divided into four movements: I. Laura Soave, II. Danza Rustica, III. Companae Parisinses ed Aria, and IV. Bergamasca.

The first movement, Laura Soave (Gentle Laura). It is a simple tune, opening with reeds accompanied by strings pizzicati. The sections are played with the "terraced dynamics" of the eighteenth century. That is, there is very little in the way of crescendo or diminuendo, but rather the volume of sound increases or decreases abruptly.

The second movement, Danza Rustica (Rustic Dance), is much livlier, and features the brass. There is an oriental quality to it as a result of the modal tonality characteristic of much folk music.

The third movement, Campanae Parisienses ed Aria (Parisian Bells and Air), is again soft. The celesta suggests the soft tolling of the bells. There is a hint of Händel's Harmonious Blacksmith here. Respighi frequently honors the old masters in his music.

The fourth movement, Bergamasca, is a lively dance, ostensibly from the Italian city of Bergamo. It was a peasant dance never accepted by the aristocracy (as were many others), so it appears rarely in dance suites, and when it does, it seldom bears much resemblance to the dance that inspired it. This one has the form of theme-and-variations, and has the boisterous quality we might expect from a peasant dance.

  Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 Felix Mendelssohn

The "Big Three" of early nineteenth-century romantic composers were Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn. They had in common a slightly conservative, almost classical regard for structure. Mendelssohn was a prodigy who had written an opera and fifteen symphonies by the time he was fifteen (all later discarded). At the age of thirty-six he became conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. He fulfilled his obligation as a Romantic by dying at the age of thirty-eight.

Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Bach, and was largely responsible for reviving an interest in his music. It was on the occasion of his performance of a Bach Passion that he demonstrated his amazing memory. The wrong conducting score was provided, but rather than upset the orchestra, he simply pretended it was the right one, turning pages regularly, and conducting the work from memory.

Critics grant him his melodic gifts, but say his music is never deep, and that he was not an innovator. However, he was one of the first to write concert overtures, and he modified the form of the violin concerto by virtually eliminating the introduction.

The concertos of composers from Mozart through Beethoven commonly allowed a mood of "expectancy" to develop by delaying the entry of the solo instrument. Mendelssohn abandoned this practice, and the result can be heard in this concerto.

The first movement, allegro molto appassionato, begins with no orchestral exposition, just a bar and a half of "ready-when-you-are" low pizzicato and drum-beats, until the violin comes in with a soaring melody. There follows an equally melodious transition, and then the second subject is introduced. Here, the soloist holds a pedal point on the open G string, while the woodwinds take over the theme.

Mendelssohn has managed to write a cadenza with the character of improvisation expected of earlier concertos (at least in principle). This one is so effective, it begs for an encore, and Mendelssohn must have had his fingers crossed as, without the customary break, he went softly into the second movement.

Nowadays, audiences wait respectfully between movements, but interruptions were so common in Mendelssohn's day, that he eliminated the tutti beginning to his movements, and let the soloist rush into prominence just to thwart such outbursts. Here, he took his chances.

The second movement is in A-B-A form. "A" being restful, or even moody, and "B" being excited.

The third movement is marked allegretto non troppo: allegro molto vivace. The movement ends with such driving enthusiasm that more than one audience has been on its feet before the bow has stopped quivering.


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

Linda U. Kanzawa, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Martha Barker
Joyce Dubach
Matthew N. Hendryx
Rodney Morrison
Sandra Neel
Ervin Orban
Moo Il Rhee
Dinah A. Smith
Marcella Trentacosti

Annette Hopkins *
Joyce Gouwens
Naida MacDermid

Caroline Eddy *
Betty Bueker
Anne Gratz
Polly Hoover +^
Elizabeth Sluder
Cortland D. Stevens +^

Randy Gratz *
Darrel Fiene
George W. Scheerer

Mary Beth Gnagey

Kathy Urbani *
Sue Hibma

George Donner *
Kathy Thompson
English Horn
Rita Kimberley

Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Donna Russell *
Michael Trentacosti

Nancy A. Bremer * (co-)
Bryan Gibson * (co-)
Josh Eikenberry
Jenni Double +^

Steven Hammer *
Mike Clark

D. Larry Dockter *
Matthew Gratton +^
Joseph Neff

Tana M. Tinkey

Tana M. Tinkey

Debora DeWitt
Robin Gratz

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
Michael DavisExpect the unexpected in a recital or concerto performance by Michael Davis.

In the standard repertoire, Michael Davis very much enjoys programming with a special focus of interest. Whether it be the complete works for the violin by Prokofiev, the complete cycle of Beethoven, Brahms or Bach sonatas, or an overview of music written in a similar time span, or country, Michael Davis has a program of intriguing repertoire to tailor to the specific needs of the presenter.

Internationally known for his championship of new works, Michael Davis recently gave the United States premiere of the Kurt Schwertsik Violin Concerto. Performances of unknown or neglected masterworks such as the concertos of Delius, Nielsen, Reznicek and Shostakovich are but another facet of Michael Davis' art.

Artist professor of violin at The Ohio State University, Michael Davis also gives master classes and lecture/demonstrations throughout the United States. He plays a magnificent Joseph Guarnerius violin, dated 1709.

Compact disc recordings are available on the Schwann and Vienne Modern Masters label.

Michael Davis is an Ohio Arts Council fee support artist and is represented by Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates.