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Concert Program Cover

Fourth Concert of the 67th Season

Spring Fling!

Sunday, April 30th, 2006
Honeywell Center, Wabash
Suzanne Gindin, Conductor

  The Four Seasons -- Summer Antonio Vivaldi  
  Dessie Arnold, violin  
  Church Windows Ottorino Respighi  

The Flight into Egypt
Saint Michael the Archangel
The Morning Prayer of Saint Clare
Saint Gregory the Great

  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Sergei Rachmaninoff  
  Simon Mulligan, piano  

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  L'Estate (Summer, from The Four Seasons) Antonio Vivaldi

The Manchester Symphony Orchestra continues its series of seasonal performances of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with a rendering of L'Estate (Summer). Each of the "Seasons" is a Baroque concerto, and each is an early example of "program music." That is, music that is intended to suggest extra-musical events, or even tell a story without the use of words. Although we associate program music with the Romantic age, there are reports of such music from as long ago as 400 B.C.

The Four Seasons are four of a set of twelve concerti Vivaldi called Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Inventione (The Competition Between Harmony and Invention). In the Baroque period, there were two types of concerto; one was the concerto grosso, where the orchestra was divided between a small group of instruments (the concertino) and the rest of the orchestra (the grosso, or large part), and the other was with one instrument pitted against the whole orchestra. It was the latter form that evolved into the modern concerto. The Four Seasons are more like the concerto grosso than the solo concerto, but not exactly like either. Some passages feature a small group playing against the larger one, but there are also sections where a solo violin plays against the rest. (Bear in mind that concerto really suggests "conflict," not "harmony," as it often does now.)

Each of the four concerti was accompanied by a sonnet, possibly written by Vivaldi, himself.

In the season of enervating heat
Man and beast and the trees alike all droop.
The cuckoo's call is soon joined
By the song of the turtle-dove and the finch.
Sweet zephyrs are rudely driven
By contending Northern winds.
The shepherd laments in dread
Of the havoc of the tempest.
He is weary and knows no rest
Assailed by lightning and thunder
And by swarms of infuriated flies.

You will hear the birds, and the wind, and certainly the storm. At the end, you may even hear the buzzing of insects.

  Church Windows Ottorino Respighi

Ottorino Respighi was a prolific and eclectic composer. He is sometimes referred to as an "Impressionist" composer because he wrote a number of works expressing nature's sounds, and he enjoyed painting tone piectures, a la Debussy (Images). Among such works are his Pines of Romes, Fountains of Rome, and Roman Festivals. In the former, he evokes images of the Roman legions marching along the Appian Way, and he has a nightingale sing during one movement of that work. In the latter, he suggests the spectacle of the Christians going to their deaths in the Circus Maximus.

But Respighi also had great respect for the art and music of the past, and arranged for modern chamber orchestras works of early composers such as Molinaro, Vincenzo, Caroso, and others not well-known to the public. He believed that music should have a very human component and scorned music that he thought was produced as an intellectual puzzle. His interest in the Renaissance and Baroque periods was expressed in a number of works, such as Ancient Airs and Dances, The Botticelli Triptych, and Church Windows.

For Church Windows, Respighi resurrected the old ecclesiastic modese, giving the work an archaic sound. The work consists of four movements, each subject found in stained glass windows, with Respighi's own comments.

1. The Flight Into Egypt. The little caravan proceeded through the desert, in the starry night, bearing the Treasure of the World (Matthew 2:14)
2. Saint Michael the Archangel. And a great battle was made in the heavens; Michael and his angels fought with the dragon and his angels. But these did not prevail, and there was no more place for them in Heaven. (Homily XII of St. Gregory)
3. The Matins of Saint Clare. But Jesus Christ her bridegroom, not wishing to leave her thus disconsolate, had her mimraculously transported by angels to the church of St. Francis, to be at the service of Matins. (The Little Flowers of St. Francis XXXIV)
4. Saint Gregory the Great. Behold the Pontiff! ... Bless the Lord ... Sing the hymn to God. Alleluia!

It is interesting to note that Respighi first wrote these pieces as "Piano Preludes," before orchestrating them, but, as an advocate of program music, he wanted more appropriate titles and descriptions. His close friend and librettist, Claudio Guastalla, after much thought, suggested the titles and descriptions noted above. Respighi and Guastalla were much amused by later annotators' efforts at interpretation based on these afterthoughts. (My thanks to Jon Hartman for this information).

The first movement is a series of variations on a simple theme, and for the most part is rather mournful. The second movement is dramatic, and fierce, as might be expected from the subject. The third movement is in homage to the Franciscan order of "The Poor Clares." It commemorates the miracle of St. Clare's being borne to mass by the angels when she was too ill to go on her own. Pope Pius XII made her patron saint of television. The fourth movement honors Saint Gregory, who was responsible for the establishment of the "rules" for music of the early Church of Rome.

Since the subjects were selected after the music was written, it is up to the listener to decide if the music is appropriate to the subject. Program music is incapable of spelling out the "plot" of any program, but it can suggest possibilities. Music that could represent a battle could just as well represent a storm, or even an argument. It would be easy to write a different program for any program music, and the public would be none the wiser.

  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff (or Rakhmaninov, as it is in Groves) was my first "favorite composer." I think I was introduced to his music at a movie that featured at least part of his Piano Concerto No. 2. I remember being disappointed that I had to buy a four-disc album just to get "the good part." That part was turned into a pop tune called "Full Moon and Empty Arms." Since I had all four records (the old 78s), I thought I should at least play them, and then I found that the other parts were even better than the "good part." It was that experience that taught me that music that has an immediate appeal soon palls. It takes time to appreciate the truly good stuff.

Rachmaninoff (he chose that spelling when he came to the U.S. in 1918) is a composer very much in the Romantic mold. He was a bit behind the times since others, like Schönberg, were writing "advanced" music. Rachmaninoff still wrote melodies. Almost all his music was written in a minor key, something which appealed to a teenager trying to summon up a good dose of Angst and Weltschmertz. Eventually, I grew up and began to side with the critics. Luckily, in later years I mellowed and began to experience with fresh ears the melancholic warmth of his music. Who could listen to the Rhapsody on a  Theme of Paganini, and not love it?

It's a wonder that Rachmaninoff did not call his rhapsody a concerto. It is structured rather like one, with a number of variations that are grouped into what amount to three movements. There are even passages that are almost solo, and have the earmarks of cadenze, seeming almost improvised.

After a brief introduction, the theme by Paganini is stated. As you probably know, Paganini was a great violinist, and some said he had sold his soul to the Devil for the ability to play so well. That accounts for the inclusion, in the seventh variation, of the medieval chant, the Dies Irae, or Day of Wrath, sung at funeral masses. You will recognize the theme, which has been used by countless composers to bring death to mind.

Without a doubt, the most famous variation is the eighteenth, andante cantabile, which was used in the romantic film, Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. the film is a time-travel fantasy in which Richard, the character played by Reeve, falls in love with a woman in a photograph taken in 1912. He finds a way to return to that time to meet that woman. The eighteenth variation was played often in that film and was described as the woman's favorite music.

When I saw the film for the first time, I thought there was an anachronism, since the music was not written until 1934, but is heard in the film in 1912. A second viewing reminded me of just how clever the film makers were. Richard is in a rowboat with Miss McKenna (Jane Seymour) and hums the theme. She asks what it is, and he tells her it is by Rachmaninoff. She says that Rachmaninoff is one of her favorite composers, but she doesn't know that piece. That is, of course, because he was yet to write it! It was not an anachronism at all, since Richard is from the future and knows many things that have not yet happened. (But there is an anachronism unrelated to music: the many flags on the hotel show fifty starts instead of forty-nine!)

Rachmaninoff was renowned as a great pianist. Some of his performances have been preserved on records and piano rolls and testify to his incredible fingering. He had a hand span of ten keys, which few performers can match, so must substitute arpeggios for such wide chords. The Rhapsody places great demands on the performer, with rapid passages relieved by lyrical ones. "Who could listen to the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and not love it?"


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

  Violin I
Dessie Arnold, Concertmaster
Benita Barber
Jessica Bennett
Linda Kummernuss
Ilona Orban
Moo Il Rhee

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Janice Eplett
Kent Gwin
Heather Hufgard +

Naida MacDermid *
Jessica Jacoby +
Julie Sadler
Margaret Sklenar

Brook Bennett *
Jason Ney
Sarah Reed +
Tim Spahr
Tony Spahr

Darrel Fiene *
Sam Gnagey
Mark Huxhold

Jena Eichenlaub +
Allison Hoover ++

Kathy Urbani *
Jena Eichenlaub +
Allie Hoover +
Sara Kauffman +

George Donner *
Nyssa Gore +
Deana Strantz +

English Horn
Brian Welfle
Lila D. Hammer *
Aimee Gerdes
Mark W. Huntington

Bass Clarinet
Mark W. Huntington

Erich Zummack *
Amy Cox

Cameron Hollenberg +
Brittany Cook +

Steven Hammer *
T.J. Faur
Jason Lucker

Jon Hartman *
Larry Dockter

Bass Trombone
Scott Hippensteel

William DeWitt

Dave Robbins *
Rob Dymond +
Michael Holler +

Megan Stout

Alan Chambers
Debora DeWitt

Marilyn Sexton-Maxon *

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
++ Denotes MC student librarian
Simon Mulligan Simon Mulligan was 19 when he celebrated his début at London's Barbican Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a month later recorded his first disc under the direction of Yehudi Menuhin. Their seven-year collaboration and friendship culminated in what was to be Lord Menuhin's final concert in Dusseldorf in March, 1999.

Born in London, Simon performs and records internationally as a soloist and chamber musician. He recently signed an exclusive multi-album deal with Sony Classical. His first Sony disc, "Piano," has been successful throughout Europe, South America, and the Far East. Simon has recorded more than 15 albums, including performances of Martinu's Triple Concerto (conducted by Menuhin) for Supraphon, Rosza's Spellbound concerto with the BBC Symphony (conducted by Slatkin), Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, his own Suite for Piano and Orchestra, and the Nocturnes of Chopin. He has recorded four albums for the Nimbus label, including a premiere recording of music by pianist Alexis Weissenberg. Simon's love of improvisation has led to articles in several jazz and classical music publications, including Downbeat, JazzTimes, and Gramophone magazines. The Weissenberg album was awarded "Instrumental CD of the Month" in BBC Music Magazine and Germany's Fonoforum magazine, as well as the Barnes & Noble and Amazon Web sites.

As a chamber musician, Simon has collaborated with many notable artists. he gave recital tours with cellist Lynn Harrell for five years. Since 1998, he has given worldwide recitals with Joshua Bell, most recently at New York's Carnegie Hall, London's Wigmore Hall, and Hamburg's Musikhalle. Simon has supported Van Morrison and Dame Shirley Bassey on tour and was invited to perform for H.M. The Queen's "Remembrance Day" concert at London's Royal Albert Hall.

A keen composer, Simon writes for film, television and for his jazz quartet. Collaborations with film composer Michael Kamen include The New Moon in the Old Moon's Arms recorded for Decca, conducted by Leonard Slatkin with the BBC Symphony. Simon features on the soundtrack to Kamen's score for Band of Brothers, the award-winning HBO television series produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. As an arranger, his commissions include the recording of Copland's Old American Songs, Kurt Weill's songs from the Threepenny Opera, and severl notable film scores. Simon's playing of Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata features in the film The Piano Player, starring Christopher Lambert and Dennis Hopper. He recently provided the score to the theatre production Full Circle, starring Joan Collins. As a jazz pianist, he has led his own quartet since he was 13, performing at festivals through the UK, Europe, Shanghai, and Barbados.

A Music Scholar at  St. Paul's School, London, Simon studied under Alexander Kelly at the Royal Academy of Music and Jaques Rouvier at the Paris Conservatoire. Alfred Brendel invited Simon to study the works of Beethoven before winning a scholarship to the Fondazione per il Pianoforte at Lake Como, Italy. There, his mentors included Charles Rosen, Alexis Weissenberg, and Murray Perahia.