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Concert Program Cover

Fourth Concert of the 56th Season


Sunday, May 14th, 1995
Cordier Auditorium
John Beery, Conductor

  Marche Militaire Française from Suite Algérienne Camille Saint-Saëns  
  Overture to An Italian Girl in Algiers Gioacchino Rossini  
  Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041 Johann Sebastian Bach  
  Mark Sternberg, marimba  
  Overture to The Jolly Robbers Franz von Suppé  
  Selections from Porgy and Bess George Gershwin  

I Got Plenty O'Nothin'
It Ain't Necessarily So
Bess You Is My Woman


Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Marche Militaire Française from Suite Algérienne Camille Saint-Saëns

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," familiar to those who remember the old radio show, The Shadow), and several others which have maintained their popularity. Many of his works are programmatic despite his insistence on the abandonment of visual inspiration.

The Suite Algérienne was the result of his familiarity with Algeria, where he died. The Marche is quite French in character, the only section of the Suite without a hint of North Africa.

  Overture to L'Italiana in Algeri
(The Italian Girl in Algiers)
Gioacchino Rossini

L'Italiana in Algeri is a typical opera buffa (comic opera), replete with improbable coincidences, sly deceptions and virtue defended... all leading to a happy ending.

Mustafa is the arrogant Bey of Algeria, who, tired of his faithful wife, Elvira, decides to marry her off to his Italian slave Lindoro. Thus disencumbered, he would pay suit to one of the beautiful Italian girls of which Lindoro had spoken. He sends his pirate chief Haly off to find a suitable Italiana, on pain of death for failure to find one.

Luckily for Mustafa, and certainly for Haly, an Italian vessel chances to founder on the Algerian shore, debarking the beautiful Isabella and her middle-aged suitor, Taddeo, who poses as her uncle(!). She has come looking for her lover, Lindoro (!!), who had been lost at sea in those waters.

Mustafa is enchanted by Isabella, who, quite aware of her charms, devises a means of gaining freedom for herself, Lindoro, and Taddeo. Mustafa is throughly outwitted, and as Isabella, Lindoro and Taddeo sail away to Italy, the Bey admits his folly, and magnanimously takes back his adoring wife Elvira. (This was written, remember, in 1813.)

The Overture opens very slowly with a six note motif, pizzicato. After a loud chord, the oboe picks up the theme to the background of plucked strings. The low strings suggest the (comically) menacing Mustafa, just before two loud chords announce the allegro section... a jaunty, and very Rossinian theme of military character, complete with trumpet fanfares.

This is immediately followed by the overture's best remembered theme, taken up first by the oboe, then by other woodwinds. There is a short portion of scurrying violins chased by woodwinds, (perhaps meant to suggest the amorous pursuits of Mustafa) leading to the typical Rossinian crescendo.

After a brief, languid interlude, another theme appears, closely related to the first. It if followed by the well-loved theme mentioned above, succeeded again by the scurrying of violins, leading to the final crescendo.

  Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
(Transcribed for Marimba)
Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach is so well-known that I feel justified in dispensing with a biographical note. Suffice it to say that he is the example par excellence of the Baroque composer; so much so that his life-span, from 1685 to 1750, is frequently used as a convenient parameter for the Baroque Age.

Bach left us two (or perhaps three) violin concerti. We know he frequently reorchestrated his works (and the works of others) to feature other instruments. Some of his keyboard concerti may well be the survivors of earlier pieces for the violin, now lost, and we know that the fourth Brandenburg Concerto began life as a G major violin concerto.

The word concerto in Italian (and other Romance languages) has come to mean simply "concert," and that word in English suggests cooperation, as in "We must work in concert to get the job done." However, concerto really suggests competition. The solo instrument is vying for prominence with the orchestra. By the time of Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, and Mendelssohn, this competition was apparent. The solo instrument using its suppleness in a struggle to overcome the brute force of the orchestra is like a Portuguese bull-fighter astride a delicate, but agile Arab horse pitting himself against a 1500-pound bull. But in the time of Bach, orchestras were much smaller, and the forces were more evenly matched.

The concerti of the Classical and Romantic periods had evolved to the point where the Sonata form was expected. In this concerto (one of the oldest works in this form remaining in the repertoire), the structure is more of a ritornello (a precursor of the rondo) with themes recurring, as implied by the word. The early concerti of Bach defy analysis of the sort we are used to applying to later concerti. The solo is much more integrated thematically with the orchestra than in the Romantic period.

Today's performance of the A minor concerto for violin, you may have noticed, is transcribed for the marimba, a percussion instrument probably invented by the Maya, and unlikely to have been known to Bach. Would he have been offended by the transcription? Probably not; it was the sort of thing he did himself, borrowing from his own works and others'. We are used to hearing Bach transformed by the likes fo the Swingle Singers into a kind of skat, by Walter Carlos and the Moog synthesizer into electronically Switched-on Bach, and Leopold Stokowsky into a lush,  romanticized film-score for Disney's Fantasia.

The marimba lends itself well to this transcription. The violin part has no double stops. That is, only one string is played on at a time. The marimba player could play "double stops" if he had to, but here, he doesn't have to. However, since the allegro movements really move, with few notes longer than an eighth, the player has plenty to occupy both hands without having to play two notes at a time!

  Overture to Banditenstreiche (Jolly Robbers) Franz von Suppé

Suppé, one of the most Viennese of composers, was born in Dalmatia with the marvelously Italo-Gothic name of Francesco Ezecchiele Ermenegildo Cabaliere Suppé-Demelli; but he was taken to Vienna at an early age, and was certainly Viennese by upbringing.

He is one of those composers who is very well known, but for only a very small proportion of their output. Although he has over 150 works to his credit, over sixty of them operas, he is known almost entirely for two or three overtures. Best known are the Poet and Peasant, and the Light Cavalry.

This work begins with a fanfare, then some very soft, almost funereal music, with a repeat of the fanfare, in a higher register. This is followed by a march, with bugle-like sounds. Soon, the music becomes dramatic, only to be followed by a lyrical midsection. There then appears a "trotting" rhythm, turning sprightly, and reminding us of a horse parade. The work ends with the usual rousing finale characteristic of Suppé.

  Selections from Porgy and Bess George Gershwin

Little needs to be said about George Gershwin, an American composer who became very popular for his "Tin Pan Alley" music, and leaned toward the "Classical" with his Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, and his folk opera, Porgy and Bess. Some of his most memorable songs have come from that opera, which, by the way, is the only American opera ever performed at the famous Teatro alla Scala di Milano.

The songs performed today include:

I Got Plenty O'Nothin'
It Ain't Necessarily So
Bess You Is My Woman


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

Linda Kanzawa, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Matt Baker +^
Martha Barker
Stephanie Beery +^
Joyce Dubach
Matthew N. Hendryx +
Hanna Muller
Moo Il Rhee
Melanie Rondeau

Naida MacDermid *
Joyce Gouwens
Dinah Smith

Jim Eaton *
Caroline Eddy
Anne Gratz
Polly Hoover +^
C.D. Stevens +^
Lisa White

Randy Gratz *
Darrel Fiene

Kathy Urbani *
Sue Hibma

Rita Kimberley *
Michael Beery
Lila Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Donna Russell *
Erich Zummack

Nancy A. Bremer * (co-)
Bryan Gibson * (co-)
Jennifer J. Double +^
Catherine Beery

Steven Hammer *
Scott D. Steenburg +^
Mike Gutierrez +

D. Larry Dockter *
Joe Neff
Andrew Smith +

William DeWitt

Mark Sternberg +

David Mendenhall
Terry Vaughn

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
Mark SternbergMark Sternberg is a first-year student from Elkhart, Indiana. He is a music education major at Manchester College. He is the 1995 winner of the Manchester Symphony Orchestra's College Solo Competition.

Mark is an accomplished performer on marimba, snare drum, tympani, and drum set. A member of the Jazz Ensemble, Concert Band, A Cappella Choir, and Entertainers, he is also in the Honors Program.

Before entering Manchester College, Mark studied privately with Scott Allen in Elkhart. Mark was a member of the Elkhart Concord High School Band, directed by Mr. Max Jones.