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Concert Program Cover

Second Concert of the 70th Season

Our Homegrown Legacy: Fire and Ice

Sunday, December 7th, 2008
Cordier Auditorium
Scott Humphries, Conductor

  Overture to Music for the Royal Fireworks G.F. Handel  
       
  Ritual Fire Dance,
from El Amor Brujo (Love, the Sorcerer)
Manuel de Falla  
       
  Overture to Orphee aux Enfers
(Orpheus in the Underworld)
Jacques Offenbach  
       
  The Skaters' Waltz (Les Patineurs) Emile Waldteufel  
       
  Intermission  
       
  Symphony No. 1 - "Winter Daydreams"
Mvt. 1 Allegra Tranquillo and Mvt. 3 Scherzo
P.I. Tchaikovsky  
       
  Concert Suite from The Polar Express Alan Silvestri  
       
  Sleigh Ride Leroy Anderson  
       
  Christmas Singalong John Finnegan  
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Overture to Music for the Royal Fireworks George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
 
 

Handel was an exact contemporary of Bach, born in the same year, and dying only nine years later. Both came from north German middle-class families, borth were Protestants, and both took their religion seriously. However, while Bach remained a provincial, family-man, Handel became a well-traveled man-of-the-world. His stay in Italy stamped his music with an Italian quality most notable in his oratorios.

Handel had a short temper and a ready wit. Once, when an English singer objected to the way Handel was accompanying him on the harpsichord, and threatened to stamp it to pieces if Handel didn't do things HIS way, handel is said to have replied "Leg me know when you will do that and I will advertise it, for I am sure more people will come to see you jump than to hear you sing."

It was customary in those days to celebrate victories with fireworks. Handel was commissioned to write a piece to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. The event was to take place in London's Green Park, with a special set designed by Servadoni, and elaborate fireworks by Charles Frederick. The king requested "as many martial instruments as possible," and "hoped there would be no fiddles." The music was a great success, but the set caught fire, and then it rained. Servadoni was enraged and drew his sword on Frederick, whom he considered responsible. He later apologized.

Music for the Royal Fireworks is a suite. The suite was a very popular musical form at that time. It consisted of a series (suite) of short pieces, almost always of a dance nature. Suites were supposed to appeal to the masses, and were a sort of Baroque or Rococo "easy-listening."

This suite consists of five movements:

I - Ouverture (Largo - Adagio - Allegro): The overture is in three parts. It begins with a military drum-roll, and there are fanfares to reinforce the military atmosphere.
II - Bourrée: A sprightly dance, here displaying a certain amount of counterpoint.
III - La Paix (The Peace): Slow, and measured, this section seems appropriate to the celebration of a peace treaty, but the work as a whole is quite bellicose.
IV - La Réjuissance (Rejoicing): We return here to the bombastic, military motifs with drums and brass.
V - Menuet I - Menuet II: There are almost always one or two minuets in a suite. The minuet is a stately dance, and one of the few old dances to continue to be featured in ages to come in the third movement of symphonies. The first one features the woodwinds, the second one, drums and brass.


 
       
  Ritual Fire Dance, from El Amore Brujo
(Love, the Sorcerer)
Manuel de Falla
(1876-1946)
 
 

Spain has served for decades as inspiration to others. It has been said that the best Spanish music has been written by Frenchmen. More than that, perhaps the "Spanish" music with which we are most familiar is not only by Frenchmen, but by Russians, as well. Think about it. What "Spanish" music do you know? the Bolero, by Ravel? Iberia, by Debussy? Rhapsody Espagnole, by Lalo? Carmen, by Bizet, España, by Chabrier, Le Cid, by Massenet, or Capriccio Espagnol, by Rimsky-Korsakov? And as for opera, in addition to Carmen, there are countless operas set in Spain (Beethoven's Fidelio, Dallapiccola's The Prisoner, Donizetti's La favorite, Mozart's Don Giovanni, and Marriage of Figaro, Rossini's Barber of Seville.

I have regaled you with this list simply to establish the popularity of Spanish themes outside Spain, itself. Spain seemed highly exotic to writers, composers, and artists. Its almost 800 years of Islamic domination produced a culture that seemed, and still seems, quite alien to other European countries. Spaniards have not always been pleased by this attention. If the instrumental music mentioned above was infused with the flavor of Spanish folk music, that's one thing. But the operas tend to stress cruelty, perfidy, betrayal, and other characteristics, unfairly thought to be more likely in Spain than in the "civilized" countries of Europe. There is a popular phrase, that "Africa begins at the Pyrenees." It's not popular in Spain, of course.

Some of Spain's greatest composers have writeen music that seems less Spanish than music by the French composers listed above. The nineteenth-century Spanish composer, Arriaga, for example, was known as "the Spanish Mozart." Spain has suffered from the same criticism as the United States ... that our nineteenth-century art and music were basically European. It took many years for our composers to find their voices as American composers. The same was true of Spain.

A great promoter of Spanish national music was the Catalan scholar and composer, Felipe Pedrell. He was the mentor of Enrique Granados, Izaac Albéniz, and Manuel de Falla.

Falla was born in Cádiz, a port city in the south-west corner of Spain, the source of Sherry wine. He learned to play the piano from his mother. When he was fifteen years old, the family moved to Madrid, where he began to study under the aforementioned Felipe Pedrell. Falla's music sounds quintessentially Spanish. That is, it is marked by references to Gypsy music, which in the case of Spain, refers to the Arabic influence. There are touches of Flamenco, of cante jondo (deep-song), use of the Phrygian and Mixolydian modes ... scales used before the development of the major-minor relationship. Most of all, there is the ever-present sense of the guitar.

An interesting characteristic of Falla's music is the physical absence of the guitar. Spain's most characteristic instrument, while there is the constant evocation of its spirit. This is especially true of El Amor Brujo. In many passages one can sense the strumming of the (missing) guitar.

Most of Falla's music relates to his beloved Andalusia. The Three-Cornered Hat, master Peter's Puppet Show, and Nights in the Gardens of Spain all were set in that southern region of Spain. El Amore Brujo is set there, as well. Falla intended it as a sort of zarzuela, a type of Spanish operetta, with spoken dialogue between songs and dances. He revised it more than once, and it became a work with songs interspersed between dances.

El Amor Brujo is a Gypsy story. Candelas is a beautiful Gypsy girl whose unfaithful husband has been killed. She falls in love with a handsome young man named Carmelo. However, the ghost of her husband torments her. She calls upon magic to rid her of the ghost. As part of the magic of the piece, there is the will-o'-the-wisp, which comes out of the magic cave. The will-o'-the-wisp represents love, which pursues you, but will flee if you pursue it. This provides us with the famous Ritual Fire Dance, the best-known part of this "operetta-ballet" work. The name of this dance, in the original Spanish, is la Danza del Fuego Fatuo, or Dance of the Will-o'-the-Wisp.

This work is almost always referred to by its Spanish name, which is sometimes translated as Love, the Magician. Brujo (pronounced "BROO-ho") means sorcerer, magician, or warlock.


 
       
  Overture to Orphee aux Enfers
(Orpheus in the Underworld)
Jacques Offenbach
(1819-1880)
 
 

This work is also known as "Orpheus in Hades," and was once translated in London as "Orpheus in the Underground" (Subway!). I prefer Orpheus in the Underworld.

Jacques Offenbach, perhaps the best-known representative of the light-hearted, even frivolous side of the French musical character, was German-born. Jakob Eberst (or Wiener, or Levy, or Eberscht, depending upon the source) was born in the village of Offenbach, near Cologne, Germany. His father was cantor at the synagogue in Cologne. At an early age, Jakob settled in Paris where, under the name of Jacques Offenbach, he took up the post of cellist in the orchestra of the paris Opéra Comique. He later became conductor at the Théatre Français.

Offenbach was very prolofic, writing over ninety light operas, most of which satirized the society of the Second Empire. He wrote with such infectuous wit that he could provoke audiences to laugh, even when they were the butt of the joke. Among other things, he was an incorrigible punster. Referring to his birth near Cologne, he sometimes signed his name "O. de Cologne."

His music is still popular enough that many who say they know nothing of opera can hum his tunes without knowing their source. In the work we hear today, there are at least two themes which most of the audience will recognize, one of which EVERYone will recognize! It is near the end.

The work can be divided into three parts. The opening, allegro con fuoco, is dramatic, but soon slows and softens to a solo for clarinet. The oboe joins in (allegretto), followed by the flute (lento). Soon, the harp and viola become prominent, and the clarinet brings part one to a close.

Part two begins angrily (allegro vivace) with brass, strings, and percussion, followed by bleating woodwinds. Toward the end of this section, the tempo changes from 2/4 to 6/8, and we have the vamous violin solo (allegretto) which did not appear in the original overture, but was added in 1860 for its first Viennese performance. It can be identified by its waltz-like rhythm.

The third and last section begins faster (piu mosso) with the most famous melody of the work. It, too, was added in 1860. I'm sure you can think of the name of it, but you must think of it twice!


 
       
  The Skaters' Waltz (Les Patineurs) Emile Waldteufel
(1837-1915)
 
 

Waldteufel is one of those composers who is known primarily for one successful piece: The Skaters' Waltz. Waldteufel is a French composer, born into a very musical family. When he was seven, the family moved from his birthplace, Strasbourg, to Paris so that his older brother could study the violin at the Paris Conservatoire. Later, Emile also studied at the Conservatoire, where one of his classmates was Jules Massenet, composer of the operas Manon, Thaïs, and Werther. His instrument was the piano, and throughout his career, he continued to compose at the keyboard, orchestrating his works later. His family had a dance band which became very popular in Paris. His compositions soon rivaled those of the older Johann Strauss in popularity. He was appointed pianist to Empress Eugénie of France, and regularly played for Napoleon III's grand court balls.

In 1874, the Prince of Wales attended an affair in Paris where he was impressed by Waldteufel's waltz, Manolo, and helped launch his career in London, which spread his fame and guaranteed financial security until his death in 1915. In addition to his well-known original works such as Les Patineurs, and Très jolie (Very Pretty), only slightly less known than The Skaters' Waltz, there were many works Waldteufel orchestrated from the music of other composers, most notably, Chabrier's España.

The Skaters' Waltz is "picturesque." That is, it brings forth images of the events of a very cold day on the frozen Seine two years before it was written. Ice skating had been a popular winter activity for many years, but in 1879, Europe had the coldest winter on record. The Seine froze from bank to bank, and sleighs were used through the streets of Paris.

There is a slow introduction with a horn motif which is almost the main theme in inversion, followed by rapid flute trills and violin glissandi, suggesting the falling snow. When the main theme appears, it seems tentative, like people timidly trying the ice. The ice is firm, and the skaters gain confidence. One can almost picture the enthusiastic skaters with rosy cheeks doing double Axels and triple toe-loops. At the end, there is a hint of sleigh-bells before the timpani bring the work to a dramatic close.


 
       
  Symphony No. 1, Winter Daydreams
Movements 1 and 3
Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky
(1840-1893)
 
 

Tchaikovsky was born into a well-to-do family. His father was a Major General. His mother was a cultivated woman of French descent who spoke French and German, and was somewhat musical. however, neither his father nor his mother approved of a musical career, and it was decided that he would train for the law. For four years he worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice, and although he had no intention of becoming a professional musician, he continued to play and to compose. At this time, he began studies at the newly formed St. Petersburg conservatory. While correcting one of Tchaikovsky's exercises, Anton Rubinstein commented that he had a talent for improvisation, a remark that determined him to resign his post and begin the serious study of composition.

Although Tchaikovsky wrote six symphonies, he was not a symphonist by nature, a point made by a number of his contemporaries (Sergei Taneiev, Anton Rubenstein). Tchaikovsky, himself, understood this. He wrote "All my life I have been much troubled by my inability to grasp and manipulate form in music. What I write has always a mountain of padding: an experienced eye can detect the thread in my seams, and I can do nothing about it."

A "symphony" is a specific form. It normally consists of four movements, and each has an expected structure. "Development" is a very important part of a symphony. Beethoven was capable of starting with some simple idea, and develop it into a monumentla structure. Tchaikovsky strung together a series of attractive melodies, rhythms, themes, folk tunes, then made four parts, and called that a symphony. That, at least, was the view of a number of critics, and even his friends. Perhaps that is, at least in part, true. But he was a master of orchestration, and even in a work not overtly a symphony, cush as his Theatre Overture: Romeo and Juliet, he was quite able to produce a sonata form (the essence of the symphony) while incorporating a program (a story-line). A British critic, while acknowledging Tchaikovsky's weaknesses, put it this way: Beethoven took seeds, and made flowers. Tchaikovsky started with flowers, and made bouquets.

His first symphony was written only a year after he finished his studies in St. Petersburg, when he was beginning to teach at the Moscow Conservatory. It met with derision by Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky's former teacher, who refused to allow more than the two middle movements to be performed. Later Tchaikovsky revised the work to satisfy some of this critics, and we hear the revised version today.

Most symphonies are "abstract." They are not programmatic. That is, they don't tell a story. Tchaikovsky liked program music, which is one of the reasons he wrote so many ballets. The movements of this symphony actually had subtitles. Number one, which is labeled Allegro Tranquillo he described as "Dreams alont a wintry countryside." And the second movement, he subtitled "Land of Desolation, Land of Mists." Of course, he named the whole symphony "Winter Daydreams." We know that many symphonies are nicknamed, but rarely by the composer, himself. But these titles are meant only to set a mood, not to be literally picked apart for hints of sleigh-bells. Perhaps it's that I've been thinking about The Skaters' Waltz, but the third movement, Scherzo, makes me think of figure skaters. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has been used in figure-skating competitions.


 
       
  Concert Suite from the animated film,
"The Polar Express"
Alan Silvestri
(b. 1950)
 
 

Alan Silvestri is a prolific composer of film scores, and surely all of you have heard his music. Among his film scores are Forest Gump, Back to the Future I, II, III, Cast Away, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Death Becomes Her, Contact, What Lies Beneath, Romancing the Stone, Cat's Eye, Fandango, The Abyss, Father of the Bride, The Bodyguard, Blown Away, Richi Rich, Judge Dredd, Stuart Little, The Mummy Returns, and of course, The Polar Express.

The music for those movies is mostly orchestral, but he has also worked with electronic music in such films as The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Delta Force, No Mercy, and Flight of the Navigator.

Alan Silvestri was born in New York City, and grew up in nearby Teaneck, New Jersey. Unlike so many successful composers, he did not come from a very musical family. He says that his family was "not interested in music." He began to show an interest in drums when he was three (but who didn't?). Some people credit this early interest in drumming to his notable sense of rhythm in his later years. By the time he was in high school, he had taught himself to play a number of instruments, but mostly the guitar.

He ascribes his career in films to an accident. He and his jazz band thought they had a contract, which turned out to be a fraud. To extract themselves, they went to Hollywood, where they made contact with a friend who wrote lyrics for some well-known performers. The friend got a phone call from a low-budget producer who mistakenly thought the friend was a composer instead of a lyricist. The friend put the caller on hold, and asked Silvestri if he wanted to do a film score. The deal was made. Silvestri was twenty years old.

Having no experience in composition, Silvestri went to a bookstore and bought a book called, "How to Score a Film." He spent the night reading it, and met the director the next day. He was given two weeks to score the film. The film was called The Doberman Gang, and received fairly good reviews. Silvestri's career was launched.

His only failure was when, for one movie, his music was rejected for being too good! A film score, he was told, should not be better than the film. It is a well-known theory, especially in America, that film music should not be particularly memorable. It is supposed only to support the film, and not call attention to itself. This has led to the American view that film music is not important, and when a serious composer such as Aaron Copland writes for Hollywood, his reputation is sullied. Such an attitude is not common in Europe where film music has been written by such composers as Camille Saint-Saëns, Georges Auric, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Jacques Ibert, George Antheil, Arthur Honegger, Sir Malcolm Arnold, Sir William Walton, and many other well-known and highly respected composers of "serious" music.

In recent years, this attitude may have shifted a bit, with the help of such composers as Copland, Roy Harris, and Virgil Thompson. If film music is not supposed to be memorable, or to be able to stand on its own, it is hard to explain the success of John Williams, whose scores for the Star Wars series, Superman, and the Indiana Jones films are certainly memorable.

Alan Silvestri's rise was rapid. He combines the rhythmic drive of Danny Elfman with the sweeping lyricism of John Williams. It is a successful mix.

Most of the music in The Polar Express is vocal, but there are orchestra interludes. The "Concert Suite" from the film is only about five-and-a-half minutes long. About six individual parts can be heard (without breaks). There is a short opening, with an unmistakable locomotive motif, complete with train whistle. This is followed by a longer, slow theme with the scale being run up and down slowly and lyrically. That theme is further developed in the next part as a fast, jazzy section, featuring the brass.

There follows a slow, lyrical section, which is, itself, followed by a short, dramatic bit. Finally, there is a return to the opening theme of the train-chugging theme with a very short, and dramatic coda.


 
       
  Sleigh Ride Leroy Anderson
(1908-1975)
 
 

Leroy Anderson was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1908, and died in Woodbury, Conn., in 1975. He studied composition at Harbard with Georges Enesco and Walter Piston. Anderson became very active in musical circles. He was chairman of the board of review of the American Society of Composers, and was a board member of the New Haven and Hartford symphony orchestras. He was a linguist, specializing in German and Scandinavian languages, and served with U.S. Intelligence in Iceland and the U.S. during the Second World War.

He is best known for his attractive melodies and jaunty rhythms in such pieces as The Syncopated Clock and Sleigh Ride. He was also notable for his use of unconventional instruments, as in The Typewriter and The Sandpaper Ballet (yes, a typewriter and sandpaper were both used as instruments).


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin I
Dessie Arnold, Concertmaster
Janice Eplett
Ervin Orban
Ilona Orban
Liisa Wiljer

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Erin Cole +^
Heather Hufgard +^
Jennifer Iannuzzelli +^
Linda Kummernuss
Paula Merriman
Emma Naragon +^

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Jessica Jacoby +^
Julie Sadler
Margaret Sklenar

Cello
Margery Latchaw *
Tim Spahr
Rosemary Bond +^
Erica Hedges +^
Najah Monroe +

Bass
Darrel Fiene *
Brenton Carter

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Sarah Curry +^

Oboe
George Donner *
Nyssa Gore +^
Deana Strantz +^
Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington
Amy Reidhaar +^

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Karen Labuda

Alto Saxophone
Barb Burdge

Horn
John Morse *
Nicole Anderson +^
Brittany Cook
Tammy Sprunger

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Nicholas Kenny +^

Trombone
Jon Hartman *

Tuba
Robert Lynn

Timpani
Dave Robbins *

Percussion
Joshua Faudree +^
Olyesa Savenkova +
Robin Jo Steinman +

Piano
Debra Lynn
Tim Reed

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient