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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 63rd Season

Music of the Masters

Sunday, October 28th, 2001
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a Ludwig van Beethoven  
       
  Suite Modale for Flute and String Orchestra Ernest Bloch  
 

I. Moderato
II. L'istesso tempo
III. Allegro giocoso

 
  Carmen Fantasy for Flute and Orchestra François Borne
(arr. Guiot)
 
  Sharon Sparrow, flute  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Symphony No. 5 in D, Op. 107 ("Reformation") Felix Mendelssohn  
 

I. Andante - Allegro con fuoco
II. Allegro vivace
III. Andante
IV. Andante con moto - Allegro vivace

 
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
 
 

The Leonore Overture No. 3 was written in 1806 as an overture to Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio. There were four overtures after the principal character of the opera, and the last was named simply, The Overture to Fidelio.

The opera, one of the very few grand operas not to end in tragedy, concerns a young woman seeking to find and to free her husband who is illegally being kept prisoner by a wicked Duke. She disguises herself as a young man and becomes the assistant to the Duke's jailer in order to gain access to the prison. A complication arises when Leonora, dressed as a man, attracts the amorous attentions of the jailer's daughter. Since she has not yet found her husband, she cannot afford to reveal her identity.

When the Duke learns that the Governor is to make a surprise inspection, he has to dispose of his prisoner and sends the jailer and his assistant to dig a grave. Leonora finds that the prisoner is indeed her husband. When the jailer refuses to kill him, the Duke decides to do it himself, whereupon Leonora draws a pistol and confronts the Duke. At this moment, the distant sound of a bugle is heard, heralding the arrival of the Governor, and sealing the fate of the Duke. The lovers were freed, and lived happily ever-after. But the opera didn't.

Fidelio is seldom performed. It is often said it is difficult to stage effectively. I saw it staged beautifully at the Liceu in Barcelona, and staging seems to me to be the least of its problems! Beethoven's struggle to settle on a suitable overture is symptomatic of the problem with the opera as a whole.

From the first, the opera was not well received, and at each revival, Beethoven produced a new overture. The Overture No. 3 was a superbly dramatic piece of music, but it gave away too much of the opera, and (as you will hear) can stand on its symphonic merits alone. Beethoven realized that and withdrew it, producing a fourth and final overture in more traditional form. The opera has a similar problem: The orchestral writing leaves too little for the singers. It is simply not a singer's opera.

The Leonore No. 3 opens with a menacing chord, and then slowly proceeds down the scale, step by step, into the dungeon, as it were. One "bright point" in the overture suggests the scene when Leonora persuades the jailer to allow the prisoners to go up into the sunlight for exercise. Halfway through the work, we hear the trumpet call announcing the arrival of the Governor. There is a lyrical theme broken by a repeat of the trumpet call, and then the work becomes more triumphant toward the end, as the Duke's plan is foiled. The overture is almost too evocative of the plot details to make a good overture, but it certainly makes for good music.


 
       
  Suite Modale for Flute and String Orchestra Ernest Bloch
(1880-1959)
 
 

Bloch was born in Switzerland, the son of a Jewish dealer in clocks. His Jewishness was to have a profound effect on his development as an artist. Bloch showed his musical talent early, although there is no evidence that musicality was a family trait. His father considered music an unpromising career. In spite of this lack of encouragement, he was playing a simple flute by the age of six, and by the age of eleven had vowed to become a composer. The vow was a genuine one, written out and burned solemnly over a homemade altar.

Bloch studied in Brussels (with Ysaye), and during that time fell under the influence of the music of Franck. Later influences were Richard Strauss and Claude Debussy, though his music shows few traces of these influences except in principle.

Bloch came to the United States in 1916, and except for eight years spent in the Alps, he settled in this country, where he composed and taught younger composers now well-known, including Roger Sessions.

He went through several periods, ranging from Post Romantic to Neo-Classic and Serialist, but his best-known period began around 1911 when he turned out a series of gripping works expressing the Jewish spirit. He developed an intense interest in what he called "...the complex, glowing, agitated Jewish soul, ... the freshness and naivety of the patriarchs; the violence of the prophetic Books; the Jew's savage love of justice; the despair of Ecclesiastes; the sorrow and immensity of Job; the sensuality of the Song of Songs.... It is all this that I endeavour to hear in myself, and transcribe into music: the sacred emotion of the race that slumbers far down in our soul." The anguish he poured out during this period can best be heard in the Rhapsody Schelomo, which has a distinctly oriental flavor.

The work we hear today is one of his last, written two years before his death. It has a very French quality, and there are only occasional flashes of Hebraic anguish, which would go un-noticed by a listener not familiar with his earlier music. The word modale refers to the musical scales used before the current major-minor scales became popular. The names of the modes originated with the Greeks, and refer to regions: Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, et al. These were passed on to the early Christian Church and modified over time. They were eventually "out-moded" by the major-minor scales with which most listeners are familiar. In recent times, composers have revived the use of the modes ... a characteristic of Neo-Classicism, prompted also by new interest in folk music, which has always used modal pitch arrangement (particularly the Mixolydian mode). Other composers, coevel with Bloch, have made extensive use of the modes. Ottorini Respighi comes to mind. Bloch did not write much for the flute; he seems to have preferred the strings. Perhaps he agreed with Aristotle, who in his Politics wrote "The flute is not an instrument with a good moral effect. It is too exciting." I trust we will find thi example exciting.

Suite Modale is in four movements, marked I. Allegro moderato, II. L'istesso temp, III. Allegro giocoso, and IV. Adagio; Allegro deciso. They flow effortlessly into one another and, although the tempi vary considerably (often there is one measure of 2/4 dropped into a section of 3/4), the impression is of continuity.


 
       
  Carmen Fantasy on Themes by Bizet François Borne
(1840-1920)
(arr. Guiot)
 
 

Georges Bizet was born in Paris, and died there at the age of thirty-seven. He is often cited as an example of the misunderstood genius driven to an early grave by an indifferent or hostile public, his death being blamed on the "failure" of his opera Carmen. Actually, although the opera received some criticism for the "indelicacy" of its subject, it met with fair success at the box office, being performed some thirty-three times in the two-month period between its premiere and the death of Bizet from a ruptured artery. Carmen came to be the most often performed opera in the world. It has been staged in authentic costumes, in pseudo-Flamenco costumes, and in modern dress. The story has been made into at least four films, one fo them set in the U.S. South during the Second World War and featuring a cast of African-Americans, one set in modern day France, another in modern day Spain. Two orchestral suites grew out of it. There was also one ballet, and one ice-skating ballet, produced for Katerina Witt. Soon we may expect a version for basketball!

Two factors account for all this attention. Carmen, herself, has become a iconic figure, the female counterpart of Don Juan. She was both amoral and strong-willed ... a woman free from restraint (a combination that still intrigues audiences). And second, it is hard to find an opera with so many wonderful tunes. Suites and fantasies havegrown out of this music, so that it is often heard without the singing. A "Fantasy" is a piece of music that has little or no formal structure (unlike a sonata or a fugue). It often has an improvisational character. Carmen has inspired several fantasies, notably one by Vladimir Horowitz for the piano. In that version, the orchestral coloration can be well suggested by the piano. The Carmen Fantasy we hear today was composed for flute by François Borne. Since the flute can sound only one note at a time, it can take th place of the soloist in the opera who could sing only one note at a time.

The themes are joined without pause. After a short introduction, suggesting the doom that is sure to follow, the flute enters, and quickly introduces what sounds like an improvisation not heard in the opera. It suggests the fluttering of a bird (Carmen sings that "love is like a bird that flies when you try to catch it"). Shortly after this, there is the menacing "Fate Motive," which is repeated throughout the opera as an omen of death. The famous Habanera is played straight, without the impromptu quality of the previous section, but in the repeat, the flute plays variations on the theme over a traditional orchestral background. After this comes Les Dragons d'Alcala, a military number which was an Entr'acte in the opera; that is, an unsung interlude between acts. Then, while the orchestra plays the Song of the Toréadors, the flute improvises rapidly, and the work comes to a rousing close.

While it would have been easy to let the flute simply take the place of the missing voice, the orchestrator took the more interesting route of allowing it to embellish the music in a manner tha seems to be improvised. This fits the narrower definition of "Fantasy" given by Jean Jacque Rousseau, who declared that all fantasies should be improvised. He said that if the work were written down, it would be just another piece of music. Nobody took him seriously, however, and this Fantasy like so many others before it, was written down.


 
       
  Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 107
("Reformation")
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
(1809-1847)
 
 

Mendelssohn was born into a well-to-do family who nurtured his musical interests. Like Mozart, he was a prodigy, and some thought he would live to surpass the Master. At the age of seventeen he wrote the Overture A Midsummer Night's Dream, still considered a masterpiece, perhaps superior to anything Mozart had written at that age.

Like Mozart, Mendelssohn could compose without a keyboard, and even while engaged in conversation. He worked in many forms: oratorio, song, chamber music, concerto, and symphony. He was born into an age that admired the symphonic form, but despite his other virtues, Mendelssohn was ill-equipped to write great symphonies. He had a great gift for pictorialism, but not for devising themes capable of dramatic development, as required for the symphony. The result is that he is best known fot those programmatic pieces which benefit from a pictorial approach (he was an excellent artist, from all acounts).

He wrote five symphonies, only two of which are heard frequently. They are attractive works, and had great appeal at one time, but their picture-painting and programmatic qualities, representing nostalgic recollections of travels in Scotland and Italy, made them less popular with critics of a formal bent. The first symphony was a youthful work not taken very seriously. The second, subtitiled The Hymn of Praise, and containing a final choral movement a la Beethoven's Ninth, is rarely heard. The third, The Scotch, is still in the repertoire, as is the fourth, or Italian. The fifth is not given high marks by most critics, and Mendelssohn, himself, thought it should be burned. It was not published until some twenty years after his death, which accounts for its number, five; it was actually written ten years before the fourth.

The Fifth Symphony was written to celebrate the tercentenary of the Augsburg Conference in 1830, hence the title Reformation Symphony. The Roman Catholic Church succeeded in preventing its performance in Augsburg, and it wasn't performed until 1832, in Berlin. Mendelssohn worked some traditional Lutheran hymns into the symphony, including the Dresden Amen, also used later by Wagner in Parsifal, and Ein' Feste Burg.

The Dresden Amen can be heard in the first movement. About ten minutes into the movement, there is a hint of Fingal's Cave, the themes of which Mendelssohn was developing at the same time he was working on the symphony. Even those who discount the symphony as a whole admit the second movemtn has a lot going for it. It is in ternary form, very sprightly, and typically Mendelssohnian.

The third movement, marked andante, is a mournful interlude which moves without a break into the fourth movement, announced by a statement of the Lutheran chorale Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott! Mendelssohn was a great champion of the music of Bach, and almost single-handedly revived interest in his work. This love of Bach is manifested in the contrapuntal writing in the last half of the movement. The fugal treatment of the chorale provides a suitably triumphant character to the final movement of the Reformation Symphony.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda Kanzawa Ard, Concertmaster
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Amy Bixler +
Sherry Gajewski
Lita Luginbill
Rodney Morrison
Sandra Neel
Margaret Piety
Moo Il Rhee
Carolin Schober
Rebekah Yoder +

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Peter Collins
Jill Hess
Emily Mondock
Julie Sadler

Cello
Tim Spahr *
James Eaton
Laura Koczan +
Amanda Schwersky

Bass
Darrel Fiene *
Mark Huxhold

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Barbi Pyrah

Oboe
Rita K. Merrick *
George Donner
Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Jane Grandstaff
Mark W. Huntington

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Michael Trentacosti

Contrabassoon
Thomas Owen

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer *
Kim Reuter +
Steven Bergdall
William Klickman

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Nathan Reynolds +^ (Asst.)
Richard Pepple

Trombone
Jon Hartman *
Larry Dockter
Scott Hippensteel

Timpani
David Mendenhall


* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
       
 
Sharon SparrowSharon Sparrow is currently in her fourth season as Second Flute in the Detroit Symphony. A native of New York State, Ms. Sparrow received her Bachelor of Music degree at The Juilliard School and Master of Music degree at Mannes College. She began her professional career as Principal Flutist of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Next, she moved to Indiana to serve as Principal Flute of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for nine seasons, where she had the privilege to perform as soloist with the orchestra on numerous occasions. Her most influential teachers were Thomas Nyfenger, Julius Baker, and Geoffrey Gilbert. Ms. Sparrow is dedicated to exposing children to classical music, and with a colleague in Indiana, began a Kindermusik program there which continues to thrive.

She is currently a member of Cuttime Players, a group of eight DSO musicians who perform many different styles of music to all types of audiences, including very young children. Ms. Sparrow enjoys chamber music, and has the great fortune to collaborate with her colleagues on both flute and piano in recitals. When she is not performing or teaching, you are sure to find Ms. Sparrow playing with her two children, Hannah, 8, and Zachary, 6, or on a tennis court practicing her new hobby.