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Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 68th Season

Mysterious Melodies and Haunting Harmonies

Sunday, October 29th, 2006
Cordier Auditorium
Suzanne Gindin, Conductor

  Funeral March of a Marionette Charles Gounod  
       
  Danse Macabre Camille Saint-Saëns  
  Paintings by Karen Klimpert
Video by James R.C. Adams
 
       
  Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra Ray Luke  
 

I. Adagio - Allegro - Adagio - Allegro
II. Andante
III. Allegro con brio

 
  Erich Zummack, Bassoon  
       
  Intermission  
       
  In the Steppes of Central Asia Alexander Borodin  
  Performed in memory of Jerald Schall,
Manchester Symphony Society Treasurer
1999-2006
 
       
  Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("Unfinished") Franz Schubert  
 

I. Allegro moderato
II. Andante con moto

 
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Funeral March of a Marionette Charles Gounod
(1818-1893)
 
 

Gounod was born in Paris, the son of a painter of considerable talent. His first teacher was his mother, who was a successful concert pianist. After studying atthe Paris Conservatoire, Gounod won the Prix de Rome, and while there became enchanted with early church music. He wrote much liturgical music and many songs, but he is best known for his opera, Faust. Orchestral excerpts continue to be popular as concert pieces, and parts of the opera have been worked into a ballet. The libretto took so many liberties with Goethe's work, that it has no appeal for lovers of Goethe, and the same thing could be said about his Romeo and Juliet, although this time, the aggrieved one is Shakespeare. Other popular works are a rather syrupy Ave Maria, based on a Bach prelude in C, and the charming Funeral March of a Marionette.

This was meant to be part of a piano series, Suite Burlesque, which was never finished. It was written in 1872 and orchestrated in 1879. Older members of the audience might remember it as the theme song for a Saturday morning children's radio show called "Let's Pretend," if memory serves. Middle-aged members of the audience will remember it (in modified form) as the theme song for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

As some have pointed out, this piece is a bit too fast for a march, certainly too fast for a funeral march. It is clearly meant to be a jaunty send-up of funerals. There is a story-line, or program. Two marionettes have been in a duel, and one of them is killed. His friends carry him to the grave. But part way there, they come upon a pub, and decide to rest, recall his virtues, get a bit drunk, but then, realizing it IS a death, after all, they resume their march to the cemetrry.  The music is in ternary form, the middle section taking on a more jubilant character before the final third returns to the somber opening theme.


 
       
  Danse Macabre Camille Saint-Saëns
(1835-1921)
 
 

Dance Macabre has first performed in 1874, to mixed reactions. Its subject was rather off-putting. What motivated Saint-Saëns to choose this subject is, to me at least, unknown. "Macabre Dance" is the obvious translation, though few are satisfied that it catches the intent of the composer. Saint-Saëns intended this to be a song, to the words of Henri Cazalis in a poem referring to a French tradition. The story is that Death appears at midnight, tunes his violin, and begins a waltz. The dead rise from the grave, and dance for him until the cock crows at the crack of dawn, whereupon the skeletons return to their graves. The poem is quoted below:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in a cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack --
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

Two tunes are heard; one is Death playing the violin, with its E string tuned a semi-tone down, and the other is a parody of the medieval Gregorian chant, Dies Irae, sung in Requiem Masses. I have counted no fewer than sixteen concert pieces, and countless film-scores using the Dies Irae as an allusion to Death.

In his youth, Saint-Saëns was quite an innovator. He was the first French composer to write symphonic poems, a genre established by his friend and mentor, Franz Liszt. Danse Macabre was one of four he wrote in this new form. Liszt, himself, was attracted to the macabre, writing a piano version of Danse Macabre, and then writing his own death music in his Totentanz (Dance of Death).

Why was Death such an attraction? Perhaps the French tradition has a parallel in Mexico. Mexico has its tradition of celebrating Death once a year, when parties are held to honor the dead. Children eat candy shaped like skeletons and wear death masks. It is not because they like death; it is an affirmation of the concept of life after death. One could almost say it is a mocking of death. It is likely that Saint-Saëns had the same thought as Mexican children when he wrote this piece. Just after a rathr scary passage, there is a lilting tune, and that is what makes me think Saint-Saëns was not intending this to be a morbid piece.


 
       
  Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra Ray Luke
(b. 1928)
 
 

Ray Luke was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1928. He hold a Ph.D. in musical composition from the Eastman School of Music. Although he has participated in workshops and musical retreats (the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire), his musical activities have revolved mostly around Oklahoma City, first at the Oklahoma City University as director of instrumental music and professor of composition, and later as Musical Director of the Oklahoma City Symphony.

Luke has been a prolific composer, working in many genres. His Concerto for Piano and Orchestra won the first prize in the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium International Composition Competition in 1969, and his opera Medea won first prize in the Rockefeller Foundation/New England Conservatory Competition in 1979.

His Second Symphony, long out of print, is an energetic, three-movement work that combines choppy rhythms with melodic elements, marking him as a 20th century composer capable of nimbly straddling the trends of the time. His work is sometimes discordant, but not excessively so. His works are generally short. The Second Symphony lasts for only twelve minutes. His prize-winning Concerto for Piano and Orchestra runs twenty minutes, and the work we will hear today for only nineteen minutes.

Luke wrote several pieces for the bassoon, and several of them were dedicated to Elizabeth (Betty) Johnson, a well-liked bassoonist and teacher at Oklahoma City University. Luke's Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra was commissioned in honor of Betty Johnson.

Luke had a penchant for short passages where the solo instrument is accompanied only by harp and strings, a feature heard in this work. Concerti conventionally consist of three movements, and this one does, as well. However, they usually are made up of two fast movements flanking the central slow one. In this case, we have a general acceleration. The first movement is Adagio, the second, Andante, and the third, Allegro con brio. Luke likes to end on a dramatic note.


 
       
  In the Steppes of Central Asia Alexander Borodin
(1833-1887)
 
 

Alexander Borodin was a member of the famous Russian "Five," which included Cui, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. A curious fact is that none of these was a professional musician. Cui became a general, Rimsky-Korsakov was a naval officer, and wrote part of the first symphony by a Russian while he was at sea. He eventually became one of the great theorists on orchestration, and a teacher of many great Russian composers. They all came from fairly well-to-do families, and wrote in their spare time. Borodin claims to have owed a lot to the common cold, since it was only in those periods of convalescence that he had time to write music. His profession was medicine and he was also a professor of chemistry. The Five were a jovial lot, and worked well (and played well) together. Almost all of them left unfinished works which were completed by their friends.

The Five were nationalists, choosing as their dramatic themes stories from Russian history. Many of them incorporated folk-tunes in their works. Borodin was said to have used Russian folk tunes in his work In the Steppes of Central Asia, although some musicologists have found evidence that the tunes are original.

Borodin never took himself seriously. He was in awe of Liszt, who admired him and gave him every encouragement. Borodin died suddenly while enjoying himself at a party.


 
       
  Symphony No. 8 in B Minor ("The Unfinished") Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)
 
 

Schubert, like Beethoven, is considered by many to be a "transitional" figure, bridging the Classical and Romantic periods. The first six symphonies, written before Schubert was twenty-one, are in the Classical style, while the 8th and 9th are much more Romantic. It is the Romantic Schubert that is most admired by the musical public.

Interestingly, it is not simply that at a certain age he developed into a Romantic composer, because his "Classical" symphonies were still being written at a time when he had long since perfected the Romantic song cycle. A likely explanation is that he virtually originated the German art song, better known as a Lied (Lieder in the plural), and had no models to emulate. The symphony, on the other hand, had been developed as a classical form by Mozart and Haydn, and the youthful Schubert must have been hesitant about risking innovation in a form so well established by the masters. By the 1820s, Schubert had gained the confidence to composer more than "charming" symphonies, and produced the marvelous Eighth (Unfinished) and Ninth (The Great).

"Symphonies" are customarily in four movements. Schubert completed only two movements of this symphony, and began a third, which he abandoned. A great deal of speculation has gone into the question of why he didn't finish the Eighth. He had just been honored by a musical society, and as a token of his gratitude, offered to send them a symphony. It took him five months to reply to the honor, and it was at a time of great personal despair. Apparently, he finally sent what he had, two movements and part of a third, to the music director of the society, who was a friend of his, and (rather than risk insulting the society) the friend tactfully put the incomplete work in a drawer and forgot about it. The work wasn't performed until over forty years later. Even in its incomplete form, it is considered a masterpiece of dramatic invention.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin I
Dessie Arnold, Concertmaster
Jessica Bennett
Linda Kummernuss
Ervin Orban
Moo Il Rhee

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Janice Eplett
Kent Gwin
Casey Lambert +

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Caleb McMillan
Julie Sadler
Margaret Sklenar

Cello
Brook Bennett *
Tim Spahr
Tony Spahr
Sara Thomas

Bass
Darrel Fiene *
Sam Gnagey

Piccolo
Kathy Urbani
Jena Eichenlaub +

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Sara Kauffman +

Oboe
George Donner *
Nyssa Gore +
Deana Strantz +
Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington
James Tyner +

Bass Clarinet
Mark W. Huntington

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Amy Cox

Horn
John Morse *
Brittany Cook ++
Katie Daniels +
Sam Wysong

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Jason Lucker

Trombone
Jon Hartman *
Larry Dockter

Bass Trombone
Scott Hippensteel

Tuba
Robert Lynn

Percussion
Dave Robbins *
Michael Holler +

Harp
Megan Stout

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
++ Denotes student librarian
       
 
Erich ZummackErich Zummack was born in Germany, and emigrated to the USA with his family while still a youth. He grew up in California, where he studied music and bassoon performance. His first bassoon teacher was Don Christlieb, an internationally acclaimed bassoonist. Erich has performed with orchestras and ensembles and has appeared as soloist throughout the United States. He is currently the principal bassoonist with the Manchester Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held for the last twelve years. In addition to performing with several groups throughout the area, he gives private instruction in bassoon and highland bagpipe performance. His interest in modern music is reflected in his choosing to perform the Concerto by Ray Luke in today's program.
Karen Klimpert graduated from Manchester in 1985 with a BS degree in all-grade art education. She attended the American Academy of Art in 1986, and received an MATL (Master of Art in Teaching and Learning) degree from Nova Southeastern University in Florida in 2003. Karen has been teaching in the Warsaw school district for the last twenty years. She appeared on Manchester College's stage in You Can't Take it With You, and she has been active in set production for MC. Her work has appeared in Spectrum, and The Peace Studies Bulletin. She is the daughter of Rudi Klimpert, a highly successful painter now living in New Mexico.

This is her third collaboration with James R.C. Adams. In 1987 they presented a visual accompaniment to Mussorgsky's A Night on Bald Mountain. In 1989 they collaborated again on a production of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, for which Karen was the narrator as well as the painter for the video.

For these performances, Karen Klimpert produced the paintings, and James R.C. Adams produced the video. Adams, Chair of the Art Department, has been a member of the faculty since 1957, where (besides art) he taught Spanish for thirteen years, classes in the English Department, and Introduction to Music. He has written program notes for the Manchester Symphony since 1979.