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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 61st Season

 

Sunday, October 24th, 1999
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Jubilation - An Overture Robert Ward  
       
  Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major, K. 191 W.A. Mozart  
 

I. Allegro
II. Andante ma Adagio
III. Rondo: Tempo di Menuetto

 
  John Miller, bassoon  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 Ludwig van Beethoven  
 

I. Allegro con brio
II. Andante con moto
III. Allegro
IV. Allegro

 
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Jubilation - An Overture Robert Ward
(b. 1917)
 
 

Robert Ward was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the 13th of September, 1917. he studied first at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., with Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers, then at Juilliard with Frederick Jacobi, and finally with Aaron Copland. It is no surprise, then, that his music is tonal, rhythmic, and with a distinctly American flavor.

Ward was a band leader during the Second World War, an experience which prompted him to write many works for band in addition to five symphonies, three operas, a piano concerto, a string quartet, and many short orchestral works and songs. His opera The Crucible won a Pulitzer prize. he was a "main stream" composer during the '50s, and therefore remains popular with audiences at a time when critics have "moved on."

Speaking about his own work, Ward says:

There is, I suppose, some risk in declaring a work "well sounding," particularly since contemporary music is more often associated with cacophony. On the other hand, whatever else critics or listeners may have said about my music, few have ever denied me the ability to evoke what are generally pleasant sounds from the orchestra.

Speaking about Ward's work in general, critic Paul Snook says:

...this is music of such sweep and openness and buoyancy that only an American could have written it. The absence of these qualities from much of today's music, though undeniably a reflection of the more despairing times we live in, is nonetheless missed by many of us. It is refreshing to hear this invigorating note reaffirmed in the music of Robert Ward.


 
       
  Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat, K. 191 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(1756-1791)
 
 

Mozart wrote only one authenticated concerto for the bassoon (two others are referred to in some catalogs, but none has been found). It is easy to understand why musicologists expected there to be others considering that this one shows such a thorough understanding of the peculiar qualities of the instrument. In its lower register it can be menacing, comic, or doleful. In its upper register it can be sprightly, delicate, or humorous. Mozart took full advantage of these characteristics in his operas and orchestral music, and is well-known for his writing for wind instruments. If his concerto for bassoon had proved disappointing, that would have accounted for its being the only one. It is, however, masterful, and has continued to be a concert favorite.

The bassoon was already a well-established solo instrument. It was extremely popular in the earlier Baroque period, having inspired Vivaldi to write no fewer than 39 concertos for it. perhaps the self-confident Mozart thought he could handle the bassoon as well or better than anyone else and said all he needed to in that one concerto.

The first movement is in the expected sonata form, beginning with a dramatic entry of the orchestra, followed after a minute by the solo instrument. This movement contains a great deal of very fast fingering and staccato puffing. At about five and a half minutes into the movement comes the cadenza. Traditionally this was a point at which the orchestra would stop playing to give the soloist an opportunity to show off his or her skills, and the whole range of options offered by the instrument. In Mozart's day, the performer was expected to improvise the cadenza. Performers of Mozart concertos may improvise or use a cadenza written by the composer himself, or by a later performer in the style of the original composer. Nowadays, composers write a cadenza to take the compositional burden off the performer, but they still make it flashy, and improvisational in character. Often there is a cadenza in only the first movement, or the first and last movements. In this case, there is a cadenza in the first and second movements.


 
       
  Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
 
 

I have heard people say that, yes, they like "classical music." When pressed to specify, they say, "I like the Clair de Lune, the Moonlight Sonata, and The Fifth Symphony." It turns out that they know only those pieces, and it doesn't occur to them to wonder which "fifth symphony." There are probably hundreds of "fifth symphonies," but we all know to which one they are referring: Beethoven's Fifth! This may be the world's most famous symphony, and we are so used to it, we often don't bother to add the name of the composer. That dramatic opening: ta-ta-ta-TAAH has become part of our culture. It is ironic that in the Second World War, this German music was used by the British as a symbol of the confidence they had in their eventual victory over the Germans (the rhythm of the opening corresponds to the Morse code symbol for the letter V for "victory").

The whole first movement is based on those opening notes. There is more there, of course, but we notice their occasional absences more than anything else. In fact, throughout the other movements there is a repetition of the same rhythm. That so much can be derived from such a simple sequence speaks volumes for Beethoven's inventive powers. In the second movement, the same rhythm which appeared "fateful" in the first movement seems almost sweet. The variations on the theme in this movement alternate between sweet and dramatic. Musicologist Tovey describes it as "smiling through tears." As the movement comes to an end, we expect the soft tones to drift to silence, but instead, the music swells to a triumphant end.

The third movement of a "classical" symphony, as developed by Mozart and Haydn, was expected to be a rather sedate minuet and trio, that is, a stately dance played twice with a contrasting part between (originally played by three instruments, hency "trio"). Beethoven changed the character of the symphony by introducing the scherzo as a substitute for the minuet. Initially they were in a similar rhythm but a different tempo. Haydn had introduced the scherzo in some of his works, but reverted to the minuet. "Scherzo" means "joke," but that shouldn't be taken too literally. It usually means "light," "sprightly," and as time went on, Beethoven's scherzi got faster and faster. Here, the movement begins softly, and with a march-like determination, sounding not the least bit humorous. But then it changes to fugal section, which DOES sound rather sprightly, with the music suggesting growing confidence. Then there is a return to what some call a "spooky" quality before the march returns, this time softly in the woodwinds.

And now, something surprising happens. The scherzo becomes quieter and quieter supported by a soft drum-beat, and just as we are wondering when it will come to a quiet close, there is a tremendous crescendo and the final movement begins ... without the usual pause between movements. if that weren't enough of a shock, we have the outburst of the trombones, piccolo, and double bassoon...the first time they ever appeared in a symphony. Romanticism is on its way, and Wagner would not fail to notice the trombones!

All of this innovation was not without its critics, but they were soon won over. Hector Berilioz was an early admirer of Beethoven, and particularly of the fifth symphony. He worked hard to persuade his former teacher Jean-Fran├žois Lesueur (who had a profound dislike of Beethoven's music) to accompany him to a performance. Let me quote Berlioz' recollection:

When it was over...I found him in the corridor, striding along with a flushed face. "Well, Master?"

"Ouf! Let me get out. I must have some air. It's amazing! Wonderful! I was so moved and so disturbed that when I emerged from the box and attempted to put on my hat, I couldn't find my head!"

The next day when they met, Lesueur admitted that he had been deeply moved, but shook his head and remarked, "All the same, music like that ought not to be written."

"Don't worry, Master," I replied, "there is not much danger."


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda Kanzawa Ard, Concertmaster
Joyce Dubach *
Dessie Arnold
Martha Barker
Christina Beyer +^
Amy Bixler +
Emma Doud
Jaime Eller +^
Matt Hendryx
Rosemary Manifold
Margaret Piety
Moo Il Rhee
Rebekah Yoder +^

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Ted Chemney
Peter Collins
Eric Stalter +^

Cello
Tim Spahr *
Valeria Goetz Doud
Joseph Kalisman
Robert Lynn
Devid Rezits
Tony Spahr

Bass
Darrel Fiene * (co-)
Randy Gratz * (co-)
Adrian Mann
George Scheerer

Piccolo
Janet MacKay

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Barbi Pyrah

Oboe
Rita K. Merrick *
Ben Wiseman
Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff

Bass Clarinet
Mark W. Huntington

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Michael Trentacosti

Contrabassoon
Thomas Owen

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer *
Bryan Gibson
John Morse
Bill Klickman

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Richard Pepple (asst.)
Shawn Sollenberger *+^ (co-)
Nathan Reynolds +^

Trombone
Jeremy Dawkins *+^ (co-)
Jon Hartman * (co-)
Joel Roman +

Tuba
William DeWitt

Timpani
David Mendenhall

Piano
Debora DeWitt

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
John MillerJohn Miller received his early musical training at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the New England Conservatory in Boston. He also holds a BS degree in humanities and engineering from MIT and was awarded a Fulbright grant for music study in Amsterdam. While in Boston, he founded the Bubonis Bassoon Quartet and made the premier recording of the Hummel Bassoon Concerto, released with the Weber Concerto on Cambridge Records. He assumed his present position as Principal Bassoon of the Minnesota Orchestra in 1971, when he also joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota. Since then, he has continued his solo career, performing with numerous orchestras throughout the world, and has presented master classes and recitals at many of the world's major conservatories and music schools. He is also active with the American Reed Trio which has traveled extensively in the USA and Norway. Among his recent recordings are four concertos by Vivaldi and the Mozart and Vanhal concertos, all conducted by Neville Marriner on two Pro Arte discs. His teachers have included Louis Skinner, Arthur Weisberg, Stanley Petrulis, Sherman Walt, Stephen Maxym, and Thom de Klerk. One of Mr. Miller's recent educational activities, the JOHN MILLER BASSOON SYMPOSIUM, given annually since 1981, has attracted an international mix of hundreds of professional, student and amateur bassoonists.

Mr. Miller's appearance is sponsored with the generous support of Fox Products, Inc.