This Season

arrowPast Seasonsarrow

Concert Program Cover

First Concert of the 71st Season

The Russians are Coming!

Sunday, October 25th, 2009
Cordier Auditorium
Scott Humphries, Conductor

  Overture from A Life for the Czar Mikhail Glinka  
  Lieutenant Kijé Suite Symphonique, Op. 60 Sergei Prokofiev  

I. The Birth of Kijé
II. Romance
III. Kijé's Wedding
IV. Troika
V. The Burial of Kijé

  Saxophone Concerto in E flat, Op. 109 Alexandre Glazunov  
  Barbara Burdge, alto saxophone  
  Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 Pyotr Il'ych Tchaikovsky  

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Overture to A Life for the Czar Mikhail Glinka

Mikhail Glinka is now (surprisingly) known as “The Father of Russian Music.” That is surprising, not because it isn’t true; it is. It’s surprising considering Glinka’s early development. He was almost self-taught. He took three piano lessons from the Irish composer John Field. His most sustained training was for five months, under Siegfried Dehn in composition. This was in Berlin, which brings me to another reason for surprise at Glinka’s later association with the 19th century school of Russian nationalism, which he virtually founded.

Glinka’s early days were filled with language study, travel, and women. He was a good-looking young man who had been pampered by an overbearing grandmother who turned him into a hypochondriac, and discouraged his musical interest. Once free of her influence, he began to pursue those interests. He went to Italy for his health, and developed a great love of things Italian...especially Italian women. For those he fancied, he wrote songs of praise, most of which were rather more sentimental than musical. In Italy, he sporadically engaged in study, but he objected to the dry academic approach he found there, and learned more from his acquaintance with Bellini and Donizetti. Before long, however, he tired of Italy, and began to feel that he could never be Italian.

It was at this point that he left Italy for Germany, and his studies with Siegfried Dehn. After his abortive adventure in Italy, he began to think that his place was to write Russian music, so even while in Berlin, he began to compose music on Russian themes. The death of his father prompted his return to Russia, where he married a pretty girl, named Mariya Petrovna Ivanova. Whether he was satisfied with her beauty is not known, but he certainly expressed disdain for her wit. “My wife was one of those women for whom finery, balls, carriages, horses, livery, and so on were everything. She had a poor understanding of music, or, to put it better, she really understood nothing at all.” When Glinka was working on A Life for the Czar, she complained that he was spending too much money on manuscript paper!

A Life for the Czar is considered to be the first truly Russian opera, even though it had many Italian elements. His next opera was Ruslan and Lyudmila, which used many Russian themes. Unhappy with the public and critical reception of Ruslan and Lyudmila, Glinka set out for Paris, and then Spain, where he spent much time studying Spanish music. He wrote his First Spanish Overture while in Spain, but most of his “foreign” music was written while he was in Russia.

Glinka continued to travel widely until his death, in Berlin. His travels produced a series of “musical postcards,” such as his “Spanish” compositions, a notion that was picked up by Tchaikovsky (Capriccio Italien), Rimsky-Korsakov (Capriccio Espagnole), and Ippolitov-Ivanov (Caucasian Sketches). Non-Russian composers such as Liszt (Rhapsodie Espagnole) were also influenced by Glinka in this way.

  Lieutenant Kijé Suite Symphonique, Op. 60 Sergei Prokofiev

Prokofiev was one of a long line of revered composers who produced film music, starting perhaps with Saint Saëns, and including Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams, Sir William Walton, Jacques Ibert, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein.  Recently, the popularity of music written by composers heretofore known primarily as film-score producers has focused attention on their more "serious" music. I refer to people like Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, and Miklós Rózsa.

Film music is a sort of black sheep of the musical family. Many critics consider it unworthy of comment. It is often said that film music, to serve its purpose, must of necessity, be bad music. That is, it must be unnoticed, so as not to detract from the screen activity. They say that when there is memorable film music, it is at the expense of the film. I would ask then, How can there be good operatic music?

Those of us who have a special fondness for film music commonly cite Prokofiev as proof that fine film music is possible, in conjunction with fine films, for example: Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. That said, it must be admitted that Prokofiev, himself, believed that his music as written for the films was neither correctly structured nor adequately orchestrated for the concert hall. We hear Lieutenant Kijé in the revised concert version.

The name Kijé is the French spelling of what should be pronounced "kee-ZHEH." This is significant because the plot of the movie is based on a misinterpretation. Tsar Nicholas I receives a military report in which there is the phrase, "... Parootchiki, zheh ..." which means (approximately), "... the lieutenants, however..." (The "zheh" corresponds to the German "doch," and has no exact equivalent in English.) The Tsar misreads the phrase as "Parootchik Kizheh," (Lieutenant Kijé), and asks about the "brave lieutenant." To avoid embarrassing the monarch, his commanders continue to supply him with news of the exploits of the fictitious lieutenant. In efforts to conceal the deception, they get ever deeper. They conclude that the only way out of their dilemma is to kill off the hero.

I. Birth of Kijé (Allegro)
    A slow trumpet fanfare opens this section. It is followed by a drum-roll, and then a fife-and-drum theme that reminds us of toy soldiers. It is a simple theme, repeated with slight variations, and a difficult trumpet part.

II. Romance (Andante)
    This is a melancholy section, describing a love-affair, unhappy, of course. (Kijé is supposed to be Russian remember!). Originally, this part called for a baritone, but in the concert version, the voice is usually replaced by a bassoon. At first, we seem to hear Kijé moaning over his lost love. Then, the tone becomes more confident, as if to say, "There are plenty more fish in the sea!" After that, the music returns to a morose mood, as if to say, "But none like her!"

III. Kijé's Wedding (Allegro fastoso)
    The Tsar is saddened by Kijé's bad luck, so the Aides concoct a new romance which is more successful, culminated in marriage. The piece begins with a crash of the orchestra, and alternates between pompous pronouncements by full orchestra, and perky rhythms suggesting a wedding dance. There are variations featuring many instruments, including a very fluid part for trumpet.

IV. Tröika (Allegro con brio)
    After the wedding, the couple ride off in a "Tröika," a three-horse sleigh. The jogging gait of the horses has provided the rhythm for many Russian songs. A Russian hero must have a fondness for taverns, and here we have a drinking song, in the rhythm of the Tröika, sung to the couple by the driver, to the accompaniment of the sleigh bells and the cracking whip.

V. The Burial of Kijé
    The Aides solve their problem by having the imaginary lieutenant die a hero's death, by now, as a general. There is virtually no new music in this movement. It begins with the same fanfare we heard at the beginning of the suite, recalls several of the episodes of Kijé's life, and concludes with the final trumpet call.

  Saxophone Concerto in E-flat, Op. 109 Alexandre Glazunov

Considering how successful Glazunov was in his own time, it is surprising how little his music is played today. He was a prolific orchestral composer, but much of his work has been unrecorded until recently.

He was, for many years, director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and in that capacity influenced many young composers, notably Shostakovich, who writes very warmly of Glazunov, both for his erudition and his compassion. To quote Shostakovich, "Glazunov felt that no real harm would come to great and holy Art if some singer without a voice, the mother of children without a husband, was given a job in the chorus of an operetta company."

Glazunov was an authentic musical genius; his first symphony was performed in St. Petersburg, when he was only sixteen, and shortly after, in Germany, where it was praised by Liszt. Some critics believe that after his fourth symphony, he began to repeat himself. His output in later years dropped considerably, though the present work was written shortly before his death at eighty-one.

The saxophone is an unusual instrument to be found in "serious" music. Books on the instruments of the orchestra list works for saxophone by Berlioz, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Delibes, d'Indy, Strauss, Mahler, Hindemith, and others less famous. Such lists testify to the rarity of the instrument; writers found it unnecessary to make lists of works written for, say, the horn, or the violin.

The saxophone was invented in the 1840s by the Belgian instrument-maker Adolphe Sax. It was intended to strengthen the brass band by providing a robust tone with wood-wind characteristics. It later became popular among jazz musicians. As European composers began to take an interest in American jazz, the virtues of the saxophone became apparent, and if found its way into much so-called serious music. Although there is some evidence that Glazunov was influenced by jazz, or at least impressed by it, there is more Russian folk music in this concerto than there is jazz.

The work is one movement. It is very melodious and contains a wealth of rapid fingering exercises. Some critics liken it to a rhapsody, since, apart from a cadenza about half way through, it lacks the structure of the typical concerto. A cadenza is a solo passage of an improvisational nature, allowing the soloist to show off. At about the nine-minute mark, there is an attractive fugal passage, and the rhythm evolves into a cantering pattern. Despite the fact that Glazunov was eighty when he wrote this piece (the last year of his life), it has a jaunty flavor of youth about it.

  Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 Pyotr Il'ych Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky is so well-known that there is little need to provide a biography. Suffice it to point out that he was born into a middle-class family, who expected him to have a career in the civil service. He was one of the so-called Nationalist Composers, at least by some critics. Some of his Russian compatriots thought he was not Russian enough.

Tchaikovsky was inspired by Glinka to write music with a Russian character, and he frequently resorted to the use of Russian folk songs in his work. Like Glinka, he enjoyed travel, and he liked to composer "musical postcards" of foreign places, in which he incorporated local folk themes.

In the case of Capriccio Italien, some of the themes were ones he simply copied (with original modifications) from published material, but others, he picked up in the streets with his own ears, to paraphrase him. One of the ones he "picked up with his own ears" was the bugle call he hears every evening from his hotel room. It came from a nearby barracks, and it opens the work we hear today.

The first three minutes of the piece opens with the fanfare just mentioned and is punctuated with two sets of four notes with a gap between. This introductions comes to a slow ending at about four and a half minutes into the piece, when we hear a dance which grows louder and rises to a climax at about six minutes, where a much livelier dance begins.

Some nine minutes into the piece, there is a sort of calm, punctuated again by the four staccato notes that appeared in the opening, and this leads to a lively tarantella at about 10:45 minutes, followed by a saltarello, including tambourines. The tarantella and the saltarello are both folk dances, usually in 6/8 time. Tchaikovsky drew his inspiration from both Venetian and Roman sources.

The whole issue of "nationalist" music is an interesting one. While some composers urged the use of folk sources, others thought it coarsened the music, and deflected it away from classical purity. The English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (always pronounced "rafe," by the way), had an interesting take on that. He says that the so-called "classical" tradition is, itself, folk-based. It is Germanic. Just as the Russians, and later, the English drew upon the folk songs and dances of their own countries, Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart drew from their own folk roots. It's just that Germanic music grew to become the norm to the point where we don't recognize it as national.


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

  Violin I
Dessie Arnold, Concertmaster
Lois Clond
Rachel Nowak +^
Ervin Orban
Ilona Orban
Liisa Wiljer

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Erin Cole +^
Jennifer Iannuzzelli +^
Tyler Krempansky
Linda Kummernuss
Paula Merriman

Naida MacDermid *
Kelsey Airgood +
Julie Sadler

Margery Latchaw *
Cori Miner +^
Najah Monroe +^

Darrel Fiene *
Brad Kuhns

Barbi Pyrah

Kathy Urbani *
Sarah Curry +^
Barbi Pyrah

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

Erich Zummack *
Karen Labuda

John Morse *
Christen Humphries
Tammy Sprunger
Nicole Anderson +^
Brittany Cook

Steven Hammer *
Nicholas Kenny +^

Jon Hartman *
Paul Worfel

Robert Lynn

Dave Robbins *

Joshua Faudree +^
Nicholas Camacho +
Robin Jo Steinman +

Debra Lynn

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
Barbara BurgeBarb Burdge is associate professor of social work and the director of the social work program at Manchester College. As an undergraduate, she studied music education at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she was in the studios of Tridib Pal and Eugene Rousseau. She graduated from IU with a degree in psychology and a minor in music. She went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from Indiana University-Indianapolis and is currently completing her dissertation for the PhD in social work at IUPUI. She has taught at Manchester College since 2003.