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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 57th Season

 

Sunday, October 22nd, 1995
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 Ludwig van Beethoven  
       
  Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
(Songs of a Wayfarer)
Gustav Mahler  
 

Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
Ging heut Morgen über's Feld
Ich hab' ein glühend Messer
Die zwei blauen Augen

 
  Mary Creswell, mezzo-soprano  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Song Selections George Gershwin  
 

Someone to Watch over Me
Love Walked In
Love Is Here to Stay
By Strauss

 
  Mary Creswell, mezzo-soprano  
       
  Four Cornish Dances, Op. 91 Malcolm Arnold  
 

Vivace
Andantino
Con moto e sempre senza parodia
Allegro ma non troppo

 
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
 
 

Gnaeus Marcius Coriolanus was a 5th-century B.C. Roman patrician who, according to legend, captured the Volscian town Corioli, from which he took his name. He left Rome when accused of misconduct for seeking to abolish the starving plebians' tribunate in return for giving them grain. Thereafter he led the Volscians against Rome until his mother and wife entreated him sto stop. The Volscians then killed him. Shakespeare's play Coriolanus is based upon Plutarch's version of his life.

Thus, the Grolier Encyclopedia describes the man who inspired this overture. Several authors in various countries expanded upon Plutarch's story of the noble Roman. We are, of course, most familiar with Shakespeare's version. Beethoven was familiar with both Plutarch's account and Shakespeare's play, and they may both have influenced him, but he based his work primarily on the drama by his acquaintance Heinrich J. von Collin, Court Secretary in Vienna.

Beethoven had hoped to collaborate with Collin in an opera, but nothing ever came of it. Perhaps this overture was intended to persuade Collin to produce a libretto. Of course this is not an overture to anything; it is a concert overture. There is no record that it was ever played before a performance of Collin's tragedy Coriolan.

The overture was written in 1807, and the themes bear some resemblance to those in Beethoven's fifth symphony, written in the same year. Like all musical forms, the "overture" evolved through several stages. By the time Beethoven wrote this, overtures for operas or plays provided a sort of synopsis of the action, with elements intended to convey moods or events to follow. It is therefore reasonable to attempt a "programmatic" analysis of this overture.

Collin's version of this tale differs from Shakespeare's in that Coriolanus (or in German, Coriolan) is not killed by the Volscians, but commits suicide. He has been driven from Rome and has joined the Volscians, the traditional enemy of Rome. He leads the Volscian forces against Rome, and is on the point of victory when his wife and his mother, still living in Rome, come to his tent to plead with him to spare the city. They succeed, and he withdraws his troops. He has preserved family honor by not conquering Rome, but believes he has betrayed his promise to the Volscians. Like so many heroes of Greek drama, much admired by Collin, he takes his own life in remorse.

The opening chords suggest the determination and strength of Coriolanus. This motif recurs throughout the piece, and ends it as the hero dies. The second theme (some musicologists refer to it as the first principle theme) enters allegro conbrio and reflects the agitation of Coriolanus grappling with conflicting obligations. The first four notes of the seven-note measure remind us of the opening of the fifth symphony. The whole phrase has that staccato effect so characteristic of Beethoven.

The next major theme is lyrical, and unlike the previous one, has no dotted notes, producing a feminine grace, suggesting (to this writer, at least) the exhortations of Coriolanus' wife and mother. These two themes interplay and conflict with each other, the former being gradually softened by the latter, until at the end, Coriolanus has given in.

The end comes with the soft dying of the Coriolanus motif, a brief reiteration of the agitated theme, and a final four pizzicato notes, pianissimo.


 
       
  Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen Gustav Mahler
(1860-1911)
 
 

Mahler was a late Romantic composer of the Viennese School. He was a great admirer of Smetana, and a close friend of Bruckner. He showed his talent at an early age, graduating from the Vienna Conservatoire at the age of eighteen, with a number of prizes, both for piano performance and composition. He is well-known for his symphonies, of which he wrote nine numbered, plus extensive sketches for a tenth which was completed by others after his death. What was to have been his ninth symphony, he named Das Lied von der Erde, because of a superstition that a "ninth" would be his last, as it was for Beethoven and Bruckner. Ironically, he got over this notion, and numbered his next symphony the Ninth. It was to be his last complete symphony.

Some writers are highly critical of Mahler's symphonies, saying that they are little more than extended orchestral songs, lacking in Classical unity of structure. It is true that they are lyrical, and almost half of them involve choral parts and soloists. He combined the Viennese vocal line with Bohemian folk rhythms in much of his music.

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is usually translated as Songs of a Wayfarer. The song cycle was written in 1883, when Mahler was only twenty-three. He was acting as assistant conductor of the Kassel Opera, when he fell in love with Johanna Richter, a singer in the chorus. Her rejection of him was a serious blow, and his emotional response was this song cycle, based on poems Mahler had written to Johanna (with the exception of the first, taken from an earlier collection of German poems called Des Knaben Wunderhorn). The "Wanderer" is Mahler, himself, as he goes forth as an "exile of love." The songs were written before any of the symphonies and there are frequent references to them in the First Symphony, written some six years later.

There are four songs. The first, Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht, is melancholy. When his beloved marries, it will be a sad day for him. He will shut himself up in hit tiny room and weep for his lost love. A brief interlude recalls the beauty of the world with blooming flowers and singing birds, but then the gloom reasserts itself: Stop singing! Stop blooming! There will be no Spring for him.

The second song is more up-beat. Ging heut Morgen über's Feld describes in lively fashion how the hero takes a walk and is greeted cheerfully by birds and flowers. It is a gay song almost to the end, as the hero tries to convince himself that the world is a lovely place,and that he will be happy again. But he cannot shake of that woeful mood, and the song ends with Nein! Nein! Das ich mein' (Gluck) mir nimmer, nimmer blühen kann! "No! No! Happiness can never, never bloom for me!"

The third song is dramatic. Ich hab' ein glühend Messer, tells of a man in deep despair. He has a glowing knife in his breast. Nothing can stop the pain. He sees his beautiful beloved everywhere he looks. He wishes he were dead.

The fourth song is in the form of funeral march. Die zwei blauen Augen von Meinem Schatz could be interpreted as describing the death of the hero. He laments the fact that her blue eyes had ever looked upon him. He goes into the world without hope, and with no goodbyes. He sleeps under the linden tree which covers him with blossoms, and all is well again. Alles! Alles! Lieb' und Leid! Und Welt und Traum! "All, all! Love and sorrow, and world and dream."


 
       
  Song Selections George Gershwin
(1898-1937)
 
 

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, the only American opera ever performed at the famous Teatro alla Scala di Milano. He is best known for his songs, four of which are presented here.

Love Is Here to Stay
Love Walked In
Someone to Watch over Me
By Strauss


 
       
  Four Cornish Dances, Op. 91 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 New Viennese school. 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.

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.

But the main 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.

Arnold is very prolific, and although he is best known for his "pretty" music, he has produced at lelast nine symphonies, some of which have the dissonances commonly associated with 20th century serious music.

The musical public has now lost patience with music that looks better on paper than it sounds, appealing more to the brain than to the ear, and has begun to swing far in the other direction, to the Minimalism of Philip Glass, who writes music in search of a theme. Arnold's music provides the rhythmic effects which appear to attract the public to the Minimalists, but unlike them, he provides striking themes to inform the rhythms.

In 1956, Arnold wrote two sets of English dances at the suggestion of his publisher, as counterparts to the popular Slavonic Dances of Dvořák. The English Dances were soon followed by the Scottish Dances in 1957, then Cornish Dances in 1966, and the Irish Dances in 1986.

Cornwall is a Duchy of spectacular beauty in southwest England. It once had a language of its own, Cornish, a Celtic language related to Welse and Breton, but its last natural speaker died some years ago. Testifying to the fierce independence of these people, clubs have been formed to resurrect the language. The people are now mostly seafarers or farmers, though they were once miners. The tin and copper mines had been exploited by others ever since the Roman invasions, and are now abandoned. The Cornish Dances are a musical attempt to characterize the spirit of these people.

I. Vivace. The first dance starts with a theme in the brass, and although it is simply repeated without development throughout the movement, it does so in an appealingly rhythmic counterpoint.

II. Andantino. The second dance may be intended to depict the bleak moors and the abandoned mines. Or one might imagine the sea with an occasional crash of a breaker.

III. Con moto e sempre senza parodia. This dance reflects the influence of American evangelists Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey on Cornish hymn-singing. The compower respects this tradition and admonishes the orchestra to avoid the temptation to parody this music (senza parodia).

IV. Allegro ma non troppo - Vivace - Tempo primo - Vivace - Tempo primo - Presto - Tempo primo. Unlike the first three dances, which are coherent and simple, the fourth is disjointed. Here, Arnold combines a technique used by Respighi in The Pines of Rome with one introduced by the American Charles Ives in his Decoration Day. A parade passes, growing louder by the moment. Where Ives (and Arnold) differ from Respighi is in contrasting two musical groups. Ives has the two bands playing at cross purposes, as one actually hears marching bands when they pass by. Arnold contrasts a marching band with a group doing a jig. They alternate, but do not override one another except at the end where the marchers triumph. Another interpretation is that there is simply a "cross-cutting" from the marchers to the dancers, in the manner of cinema, so familiar to a writer of film scores.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda U. Kanzawa, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Martha Barker
Matt Baker +^
Beth Chiarenza
Joyce Dubach
Sherry Gajewski
Matthew N. Hendryx
Rod Morrison
David Neal
Margaret A. Piety
Na Yu

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Bethany Bruss
Peter Collins
Joyce Gouwens
Liisa Piik

Cello
Caroline Eddy *
Jim Eaton
Anne Gratz
Polly Hoover +^
C.D. Stevens +^
Preston Thomas +^

Bass
Randy Gratz *
Darrel Fiene
George Scheerer

Piccolo
Madalyn Metzger +^

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Sue Hibma
Barbi Pyrah

Oboe
Rita Kimberley *
George Donner
English Horn
George Donner

Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Bass Clarinet
Kris Bachman

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Donna Russell

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer *
Bryan Gibson
Jennifer J. Double +^
John Higgins

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Scott D. Steenburg +^
Richard Pepple

Trombone
Larry Dockter *
Robert D. Brown
Stephen Berkebile +

Tuba
William DeWitt

Timpani
Mark Sternberg

Percussion
David Mendenhall
Marc Coulomb

Harp
Anne Lewellen


* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
Mary CreswellMary Creswell, mezzo-soprano, is an active performer in opera, oratorio, and as a song recitalist. She is an enthusiastic teacher of voice who has served on the voice factulties of Western Michigan University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Grand Valley State University, and Albion College. Most recently Mrs. Creswell joined the music faculty of Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, and has spent the past eight summers teaching voice and performing at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan.

Operatic roles performed by Mrs. Creswell include Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Elizabeth Proctor in Robert Ward's The Crucible. Her oratorio repertoire includes the Verdi Requiem, Mozart's Requiem, Handel's Messiah, Magnificat by Bach, Elijah by Mendelssohn, and Vivaldi's Gloria.

The Detroit Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids, Springfield Opera Theatre, West Shore Symphony, and Interlochen Festival Choir and Orchestra are just a few of the organization with which this mezzo has performed. She was a Metropolitan Opera regional finalist and was chosen 1994 "Vocalist of the Year" by Mothers of America Inc. Mrs. Creswell has a M.M. from the University of Michigan, and a B.M. from Western Michigan University.