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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 62nd Season

Music of the Masters

Sunday, October 29th, 2000
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to The Marriage of Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
  Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  

I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro assai

  Ning An, piano  
  Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 Johannes Brahms  

Allegro molto
Menuetto I and II


Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro
(The Marriage of Figaro)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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.

  Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 Anatol Liadov

In 1786, while Mozart war writing the opera The Marriage of Figaro, he took time to write a short opera, The Imperssario, and this concerto. It was one of a series of concertos Mozart wrote as a means of earning a living (yes, not even Mozart produced art for art's sake!). As breadwinner, Mozart frequently interrupted work on large-scale compositions to write smaller works he could perform regularly at public concerts. The public concert was beginning to gain momentum during Mozart's lifetime as was interest in the piano itself. Mozart was the first to perform a piano concerto at a public concert (in Vienna, April of 1771).

As an aside, for those of you wondering what the "K" stands for in Mozart's titles, it is a substitute for an "opus number." Today, composers number their works in order of composition. These are the opus numbers. In Mozart's day, opus numbers were not generally used, so it is only through correspondence and publishers' dates that we can estimate the order of composition by Classical composers such as Mozart and Haydn. A scientist (botany and mineralogy) named Ludwig from Köchel, who was a great admirer of Mozart, took it upon himself to produce a catalog of Mozart's works, numbered in order of composition as nearly as he could determine. That is why on the radio you sometimes hear something that sounds like, "Concerto number 23, keckel-listing 488."

The "concerto" did not begin in Classical times, but it reached its full development at that time. Mozart liked the medium, no doubt because he was an excellent pianist. In a letter to his father, he wrote, "Concertos are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why."

Most of Mozart's piano concertos are written in the major key. There are only two exceptions. Mozart usually employed the minor key to convey a sense of sorrow. His more mature symphonies, when he was involved in the sturm und drang movement presaging the arrival of Romanticism, were in a minor key, but most of his music is lyrical, optimistic, and easy to listen to. His Concerto No. 20, K. 466, was in D minor, and has been called a "stormy masterpiece." Apparently Mozart found a way to balance sorrow and attractive lyricism without resorting to the minor for a whole work. It is notable that in this "most lyrical" of his concertos, he casts the second movement in the minor mode.

The work is in three movements, typical for a classical concerto. The first movement is allegro (lively), also typical of a classical concerto. Like most concertos until the Romantic period, the soloist doesn't appear until at least a minute has passed. Several themes are introduced in the first part of this movement (the "exposition"), and it is the third theme Mozart chose to develop in the middle part of the movement (the "development"). Mozart wrote the cadenza for this movement. A cadenza, typically, is a point in a concerto left unwritten as an invitation to the performer to improvise, something fully expected by the audiences of the time. This is a rather "bare bones" cadenza, which provokes some performers (Alfred Brendel) to embellish the line. Others (Artur Schnabel) play it as written. A good case can be made for either approach. There is a hint of melancholy before the opening themes are repeated (the "recapitulation"), and this brief touch of melancholy prepares us for the above-mentioned central movement, the Adagio.

The second movement, Adagio, is deeply sorrowful, but at the same time lyrical or melodic. Here, the piano imitates the human voice, and were it not for the mournful quality, we would be tempted to hum along with it.

The third movement, Allegro assai (very lively), is like a village festival after a funeral! High spirits abound. It is in rondo form, a musical structure more fully explained in these notes for the Brahms Serenade. The final movement of that work, following the classical tradition, is also in rondo form.

  Serenade for Large Orchestra No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 Johannes Brahms

A "serenade" is, literally, a piece of music for the sera, or evening ... eine Kleine Nachtmusik, if you will (you are no doubt familiar with that serenade by Mozart). It is supposed to have the spirit of music played outdoors at night, outside the window of a maiden. This serenade won't sound quite like that. Picture lugging the timpani down the street! By the time of Brahms, the orchestral group had grown, and so had the length of the serenade. This one, with six movements, is more like a suite than a serenade. It is much longer than a typical serenade, almost fifty minutes, depending on the conductor. We hear it this time, reduced to about twenty-five minutes by the omission of movements two and three.

I. Allegro molto. This movement is rather like the opening movement of a symphony. In fact, the first three movements could work as classical symphonic structure. In keeping with the notion that a serenade should be for a small instrumental ensemble, this one WAS, until Brahms re-scored it for a larger group. With the soft opening for horn and clarinet, it sounds like a serenade for small group. It has a bucolic sound, with a hint of bag-pipe drones. Soon, the volume swells, and we are in the midst of romantic sweep embodied in classical structure. This is an early work. In fact it is the first of Brahms' orchestral publications. He was not decided as to the proper description, once calling it a "Symphony-Serenade," in its orchestral version.

II. (Not played today) Scherzo. The Danish composer, Carl Nielsen, admired Brahms, and his work often reflects a Brahmsian influence. Nothing in Brahms sounds more like that later Nielsen than the opening of this movement.

III. (Not played today) Adagio non tropppo.

IV. Menuetto I, II, I. Lively, almost Mozartian opening with upper woodwinds playing over a bassoon ostinato. Not long after becomes very Brahmsian with strings playing a rolling melody of the sort later to be heard in his symphonies.

V. Scherzo, Allegro. The horn opens this movement as it did the first. It is a lively movement lasting less than three minutes. It contains a bit of counterpoint.

VI. Rondo, Allegro. This lasts almost 6 minutes, time enough for a nice rondo to unfold. A rondo is a structure in which several themes appear and reappear. For example, theme A followed by theme B, then A, then C, then A, then B, and finally A again. This example is symmetrical: ABACABA, but rondos do not have to be symmetrical. They DO have to have several recurring themes, as this one does.

You may have noticed that the woodwinds and horns are favored in this work ... a reminder that a serenade is supposed to suggest the outdoors as well as evening. Horns are associated with hunters, and woodwinds are associated with shepherds.


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

Linda Kanzawa Ard, Concertmaster
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Christina Berger
Christina Beyer +^
Amy Bixler +
Emma Doud
Jaime Eller +^
Sherry Gajewski
Matt Hendryx
Rodney Morrison
Sandra Neel
Margaret Piety
Moo Il Rhee
Jeremy Van Deman
Rebekah Yoder +^

Naida MacDermid *
Peter Collins
Emily Mondock
Eric Stalter +^

Tim Spahr *
Valeria Goetz Doud
Weiquin He
Laura Koczan +
Tony Spahr

Darrel Fiene *
George Scheerer
Kathy Urbani *
Barbi Pyrah

Rita K. Merrick *
George Donner

Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington

Erich Zummack *
Gerik Fon

Nancy A. Bremer *
John Morse
Bill Klickman
Kim Reuter +

Steven Hammer *
Nathan Reynolds +^

David Mendenhall

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
Ning AnNing An is an accomplished 22-year-old pianist living in Boston and studying with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music. In May of 1999, Mr. An received third prize, known as the European Community Prize, in the prestigious Queen Elizabeth International Piano Competition of Belgium. He also took third prize at the most recent Cleveland International Piano Competition. His stellar performance in the Queen Elizabeth afforded Mr. An the opportunity to play a number of prestigious concerts in Europe and to make a CD with the other medalists. Mr. An has played at some of important venues in this country, including concerts in Boston and Cleveland. Mr. An just finished competing in the prestigious International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland, as a result of his winning the National Chopin Competition in Florida earlier this year.

Born in the Republic of China, Mr. An has been a U.S. citizen since 1995. "... everything he touched had plangent tone and melting, poetic sensitivity. Each piece seemed to grow from within rather than being hammered into shape from the outside. Even the Dante Sonata, for all its searing bravura, glowed with tender tone coloring, and Chopin's Third Sonata, so hard to hold together, seemed all of a piece in Ning's hands." (James Roos, reviewing Ning An, The Miami Herald, June 14, 2000.)