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Concert Program Cover

Third Concert of the 76th Season

Unwritten, Unfinished, and Undergrads, Oh My!

Sunday, March 8th, 2015
Cordier Auditorium
Scott Humphries, Conductor

  Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("The Unfinished") Franz Schubert  
  "Nessum dorma" from Turandot Giacomo Puccini  
  Adam Ousley, tenor
Finalist, MSO Student Concerto Competition
  "Come Paride vezzoso porse il pomo" from L'Elisir d'Amore Gaetano Donizetti  
  Grant Ebert, baritone
Finalist, MSO Student Concerto Competition
  Exultate, Jubilate, K. 165 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
  "Il est doux, il est bon" from Hérodiade Jules Massenet  
  Erika Reffit, soprano
Winner, MSO Student Concerto Competition
  La mort de Cléopâtra ("The Death of Cleopatra") Hector Berlioz  
  Kelly Iler ('14), mezzo-soprano
Guest Artist
  Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera Don Gillis  

The Adams Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("The Unfinished") Franz Schubert

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 is 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 compose more than "charming" symphonies, and produced the marvelous Eighth ("Unfinished") and Ninth ("The Great")

"Classical" 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 score 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.

  "Come Paride vezzoso porse il pomo" from L'Elisir d'Amore Gaetano Donizetti

Unlike so many other famous composers, Donizetti was not from a musical family. In fact, he was from a poor family, but, as a choir boy, he impressed the German composer Simone Mayr so much that Mayr repeatedly supported Donizetti through recommendations, and even stipends, so that his humble background was overcome.

Donizetti was very prolific, writing more than seventy operas. His most famous ones are Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia, Don Pasquale, Lucia di Lammermoor, Maria Stuarda, La fille du régiment, and L'Elisir d'Amore. The last two mentioned were in French. Donizetti, who had spent much of his life in Naples, chafed under the censorship laws of the area, and moved to Paris. There the atmosphere was freer and his operas gayer. It is from this lighter period of his career that we find this cavatina.

"Cavatina" has several definitions, depending upon the context. With regard to the works of Donizetti and other Italian composers of that period, it is the opening aria of a principal singer. In L'Elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love), it is sung by Belcore, the Sergeant of the village garrison, who is attempting to woo Adina, a rich and beautiful landowner.

Belcore is a self-confident, swaggering soldier who approaches Adina, salutes her, presents her with a bouquet of flowers, and proposes to her. Assuming he is irresistible, he sings his cavatina, explaining that he is a sergeant in uniform, and women like a military man.

His song translates this way:

As the handsome Paris
     Gave an apple to the fairest,
     My lovely village maid,
     I give you this bouquet.
But more glorious than he,
     Happier by far am I;
     In return for my gift
     I will have your heart's love.

  "Nessun dorma" from Turandot Giacomo Puccini

Puccini was one of the most successful operatic composers in history. Although he wrote orchestral music, sacred music, and songs, he is thought of primarily as an opera composer. Almost all of his operas were popular. he was a typical romantic, in every sense of the word. His operas were infused with drama, and they took place almost anywhere but his native Italy: France, Spain, Japan, America, and China, the locale of Turandot.

The Chinese Princess, Turandot, is a beautiful but cold and heartless woman. She has had many suitors, but has accepted none. They all had to pass a test consisting of three riddles. They all failed and were beheaded. A new young suitor, a prince named Calàf appears incognito. He correctly answers all the riddles, but Turandot still refuses to marry him. He gives her one out; if she discovers his real name before dawn, he will be willing to die. In her efforts to discover his name, she decrees that no one in the realm should sleep that night (nessun dorma). All must devote themselves to that discovery.

The prince repeats Turandot's order, "No man shall sleep!" and vows that his name will not be discovered until he kisses her at daybreak.

Puccini didn't live to complete the opera, the finishing touches having been put there by a friend, Franco Alfano. For that, and other reasons, the opera, though containing great music, is thought of as imperfect by many critics. His main character is not admirable, and her conversion to a warm woman was too quick for believability. Had his life not been cut short by throat cancer, this opera might have been his crowning achievement. It is still a popular work with a number of great arias.

Puccini was something of a character. He loved la dolce vita, staying in the finest hotels, and reveling in his adoration. he was basically a kind person, but was not above putting down the self-important. No one was fonder of the great tenor Caruso than Caruso himself. On one occasion, when Caruso was dragging out his aria "Chi son? Chi son?" (Who am I?), Puccini called out, "Sei unimbecile!" (You're a fool!).

On another occasion, he was luxuriating in his hotel suite in pajamas when the desk clerk informed him that there was a young lady waiting to see him. He asked what she was like and, when informed that she was charming, had her shown up. He asked her to wait while he changed into something more formal. Upon returning, he found her standing stark naked! His immediate thought was that she was mad, and was about to ring for security. When he reflected that it could be dangerous to oppose the will of a lunatic, he decided that it would be better to humor her.

  Exultate, Jubilate, K. 165 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Revisionists point out that the popular conception of Mozart as a very rapid composer is based on ignorance of the fact that, unlike many others, he composed not at the keyboard, but in his head. It was not easy to know when he was composing, since he could do that (as he often did) while playing billiards, or drawing pictures (he was a talented artist, according to his wife, Constanze). One instance serves to illustrate this.

Legend has it that he wrote the overture to Don Giovanni the night before its first performance, while Constanze kept him awake by telling him stories. Research suggests that it was before the second rehearsal, but still, he wrote it in one night. This was possible because he had already composed the piece, and had only to write it down when the time came. He often wrote music while carrying on conversations.

Even with this demystification of his genius, it is apparent that Mozart was a rapid composer, simply on the basis of his enormous output.

Regarding many of his works, we can find a good deal of commentary among his letters. But in the case of the Exultate, Jubilate, we find little more than an off-hand remark in a letter to his sister, that he was writing a motet "which must be ready tomorrow." It was written to be sung by a man, a castrato named Venanzio Rauzzine, according to the biographer W.J. Turner, but it is known as being for soprano, orchestra and organ. Mozart wrote it in Milan when he was sixteen years old.

  "Il est doux, il est bon" from Hérodiade Jules Massenet

Throughout the 19th century, the French art world had been almost obsessed by the story of Salome, Herod, and John the Baptist. Gustave Moreau exhibited his paintings of Salome dancing before Herod, and St. John's head on a platter. Mallarmé had written a dramatic poem about the incident. Gustave Flaubert had published Hérodias. It was a perfect subject for Massenet.

Massenet was the most popular operatic composer of his France. Critics, especially those outside France, disapproved of him. He was accused of pandering to popular taste, and the French popular taste was not to be admired. They liked romantic, or even sensuous themes (you know the French). Well, that was the critical appraisal. The public liked melody, so Massenet gave them that. He had a gift for melody that rivaled Puccini's He is characterized as being safe, lacking in invention -- in short: conventional (and, what's worse, successful).

This was a period in French musical history when many strong innovative composers such as Berlioz and Saint-Saëns were passed over in favor of less serious composers. When Massenet won a coveted position over Saint-Saëns, he sent the older composer a courteous telegram: "My dear Colleague: the Institut has just committed a great injustice." Saint-Saëns cabled back, "I quite agree." After that, their relations were rather cool.

Among the criticisms of Hérodiade was that it was not true to scripture. Other writers and composers were intrigued by the Salome story, and no version was true to scripture. Oscar Wilde wrote an erotic story that was turned into an opera by Richard Strauss where Salome, in some productions, appears nude on stage. There are few known facts about Salome. It is not clear from scripture that the dancing daughter of Herodias was named "Salome." It is just assumed. Herodias had daughters, one of whom danced, and one of whom was named Salome. The whole story is pretty much based on speculation, so Massenet's version is as "authentic" as any other. Massenet was very good at eroticism tempered by religion; or religion spiced up with eroticism.

The aria we hear today, "Il est doux, il est bon," (He is kind, he is good) is sung by Salome, in reference to John, who had comforted her in her search for her mother. He had told her to go to Jerusalem. She did not find her mother, but longed to hear "his melodious voice" once more.

  La mort de Cléopâtra ("The Death of Cleopatra") Hector Berlioz

When thinking about composers (or artists, or poets) whom history has already labeled as "masters," we might consider them as always having held an honored place in history. Berlioz is certainly one of the "great" French composers of his age, but the French didn't think so at the time. They thought of him only as journalist! He was a well thought-of music critic, and little more. He was very bitter about that. In his memoirs, he complains about having "to speak one evening of a great master and the next of an idiot in the same serious is the depth of humiliation." His music was admired by Liszt and Paganini, whose stipend permitted Berlioz to devote more time to composing and less to reviews, but they were both foreigners. The French were addicted to easy listening, a fact which Berlioz had to consider in his critiques of the musical world of Paris at the time. The Parisians loved the "trivialities" of Auber and Adam, and the familiar and the flattering of the Opéra Comique.

Berlioz tried four times to win the Prix de Rome before succeeding. Contestants had to write a fugue to show their scholarly abilities, and then had to write a cantata, to words set by the examiners. One of the cantatas he submitted was La mort de Cléopâtra. It didn't win a prize. You may judge for yourself whether or not it should have. Berlioz did, finally, win the Prix de Rome. The time he spent in Rome contributed to his attraction to Italian history and resulted in the production of some of his most successful works, such as Harold in Italy and Benvenuto Cellini.

The text for this cantata was by Pierre-Ange Vieillard. It has become a favorite of sopranos and mezzo-sopranos. it is, of course, a lament by Cleopatra of her downfall.

  Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera Don Gillis

Don Gillis was born in Cameron, Missouri. He graduated from Texas Christian University with a BM, and an MA with an MM from North Texas State College. In 1944, he became the Program Arranger for NBC. In 1967, he was appointed chairman of the Music Department of Southern Methodist University, and later became chairman of the Music Department of Dallas Baptist College. A larger portion of his career was spent as Director of the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of South Carolina.

Gillis brought a bizarre sense of humor to a profession (music education) which can sometimes be a bit too earnest. His witty compositions often carry fanciful names. Although he has written much serious music, his best-known works are Symphony No. 8½, The January February March, and The Tulsa Symphony, a Portrait in Oil (in reference to the oil capital of Oklahoma).

The title of the piece we are to hear today is not as funny as one might think, since there are many "overtures" for unwritten operas. In fact, there are many sorts of overtures. In the 18th century, the word was sometimes used to indicate a symphony, as in the case of Haydn. In the 19th century, there developed a so-called "Concert Overture." Examples are Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, Dvorak's Carnival Overture, Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, Tchaikovsky's Overture: 1812, and the Theatre Overture, Romeo and Juliet.

There just might be a difference here, inasmuch as these composers had no opera in mind when they wrote the aforementioned overtures. Perhaps Gillis had one in mind, but never wrote it. I think, on the basis of his record, that Gillis was just being cute.

This short, jaunty piece has elements of jazz syncopation combined with a Latin beat.


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

  Violin I
Elizabeth Smith, Concertmaster
Thomas Dean +^
Kristin Westover
Pablo Vasquez
Colleen Phillips
Ilona Orban

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Rachel Nowak
Paula Merriman
Alexandria Roskos +^
Linda Kummernuss
Will Stanley

Julie Sadler *
Carrie Shank +^
Margaret Sklenar
Renée Neher +^
Olivia Jenks +^
Katie Breidenbach +

Robert Lynn *
Michael Rueff +^
Chris Minning

Darrel Fiene *
Katie Huddleston +^

Kathy Davis *
Kathy Urbani
Alyssa Rocheck +^

George Donner *
Nyssa Tierney

Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington
Angela Ebert +^
Bass Clarinet
Angela Ebert +^

Erich Zummack *
Freddie Lapierre +^

Christen Adler *
John Morse
Dana Dillon +^
Laura Dickey +

Steven Hammer *
Joey Shepherd
Grant Ebert +^

Jon Hartman *
Chris Hartman +^
Larry Dockter

David Dicken +^

Dave Robbins *

Dave Robbins *
Mackenzi Lowry +^#
Kevin Friermood +^

Tim Reed

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MU student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
# Denotes assistant to the Director
Kelly IlerKelly Iler is a first year graduate student at the University of Northern Colorado currently pursuing her Masters in Music. Originally from Indiana, she received her Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance from Manchester University.

During her time at Manchester, she performed the roles of Zita in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and Katasha in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. While pursuing her Masters degree, Kelly has performed the role of Dorabella in scenes from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, and participated in the fall production of Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. She will be participating in UNC's production of Carmen in April, and performing with Opera Classica Europa in July.

While at Manchester University, Ms. Iler was under the tutelage of Dr. Debra Lynn. She is currently studying with Dr. Diane Bolden-Taylor at the University of Northern Colorado.