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Concert Program Cover

Fourth Concert of the 76th Season

The Nature of the Classics

Sunday, April 26th, 2015
Honeywell Center, Wabash
Scott Humphries, Conductor

  Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 ("Pastoral") Ludwig van Beethoven  

I. Allegro ma non troppo - "Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon arriving in the Country"
II. Andante molto mosso - "Scene by the Brook"
III. Allegro - "Merry Gathering of Country Folk"
IV. Allegro - "Thunderstorm"
V. Allegretto - "Shepherd's Song -- Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm"

  In the Steppes of Central Asia Alexander Borodin  
  Blossoms of Spring Michael Hopkins  
  Molly on the Shore Percy Grainger  

The Adams Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 ("Pastoral") Ludwig van Beethoven

Unlike Balmages, Beehoven needs no introduction. But, perhaps, this symphony does. Since the days of Haydn and Mozart, symphonies are expected to consist of four movements with rather predictable structures. The first movements were in "sonata form," which I won't detail here. Suffice it to say that the music was "abstract" -- that is, not intended to convey any visual imagery. That is not to say that it had no dramatic effects or was aloof from human dilemmas. The sonata form provided ample scope for confrontation, struggle, and resolution. Symphonies were capable of mimicking human drama without being explocit. All of Beethoven's nine symphonies are in four movements ... except number six, which has five movements. What's more, it is unabashedly "programmatic." Well, perhaps not "unabashedly." Beethoven showed a little embarassment for having written program music, which at that time (and now) was considered a bit too tricky, appealing to the unsophisticated audience.

Vivaldi, in his Four Seasons, had truly been "unabashed." He detailed the extra-musical effects we were supposed to notice, to the point of marking his score in reference to the sonnets that inspired him. He called our attention to the songs of the cuckoo, the turtle-dove, and the goldfinch. Beethoven, on the other hand, expressed some reservations about his use of bird-song in the Pastoral Symphony. When a friend was probing for more interpretive information, Beethoven referred him not only to his imitation of the nightingale, quail, and cuckoo (which you can all hear), but "the yellow-hammer, appearing in an arpeggio phrase." This joke was Beethoven's way of saying not to take the program too seriously. He prefaced his score with the comment, "more an expression of feeling than painting."

Beethoven had noticed that village musicians often went to sleep while they were playing, and would wake up with a start to play again, doing it several times during a performance. Beethoven tried to capture that effect in the third movement.

The opening of the symphony would be unlikely to inspire the listener to think of the "Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon arriving in the Country," as it was titled. But having read that description, it is likely that the listener would agree that the music is appropriate to the title of the first movement.

  In the Steppes of Central Asia Alexander Borodin

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.

Borodin never took himself seriously. He was in awe of Liszt, who admiried him and gave him every encouragement. He once told Liszt that he was only a Sunday musician. Liszt responded with "But Sinday is always a feast day, and you have every right to officiate."

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

The Five were a boisterous bunch, and did a lot of partying. Borodin died suddenly while enjoying himself at one of those parties.

  Blossoms of Spring Michael Hopkins
(b. 1968)

Michael Hopkins is an Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he teaches undergraduate courses in string techniques, orchestra methods, and music technology, and graduate courses in psychology of music and research methods. Prior to joining the faculty, Hopkins was an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Vermont from 1999-2010 where he was conductor of the UVM Orchestra and taught courses in music education and music technology.

Dr. Hopkins has appeared as a guest conductor at orchestra festivals throughout the United States and is the founding director of the Burlington Chamber Orchestra. He is very active as a composer and arranger, with over forty published works for orchestra. Dr. Hopkins has performed as a double bassist with professional orchestras in Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Blossoms of Spring is scored for two violins, viola, cello, and double bass. It runs for just over five and a half minutes, and has a languid, Delius-like character.

  Molly on the Shore Percy Grainger

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes Grainger as an "American composer, pianist, editor, folk-song collector, writer, and teacher of Australian origin." Grainger became an American citizen in 1918. He is, perhaps, best known as a folk-song collector, though he was most successful as a concert pianist. His compositions were written intermittently over long stretches of time, making them hard to tabulate. He was very active, and had a mind which seemed to flip from one thing to another. He regularly rec-scored his works, many of them far more than once. He was the despair of publishers. He also re-scored the works of other composers. Among them are Ravel, Grieg, and Debussy.

Grainger was a globe-trotter. Raised in Melbourne, Australia, he moved to London in 1901 as a concert pianist. He toured Britain, central Europe, and Scandinavia, where he fell in love, both with Scandinavia and with Ella Viola Strom, whom he married in 1928. He was obsessed with folk-song, admiring its freedom of expression, and he sought in his music to express the personalities of its singers. It is unclear how he expected to do that.

Grainger was a very unconventional composer. He sought to develop a "free" music, "a music whose melody, rhythm and texture were liberated from the traditional constraints of scale, beat and harmony," in the words of musicologist David Josephson.

Surely there is a term that describes someone who is more than eccentric, but less than mad. Whatever that word is, it would describe Percy Grainger. Two anecdotes suffice to illustrate the point.

Grainger was very athletic, and very fond of running, often from one performance to another. In South Africa, he misjudged the distance, and was almost late for a performance. Through binoculars, he could be seen in the distance, in a cloud of dust, and accompanied by a group of Zulu warriors. He asked that they be seated in the audience, but had to abandon that idea when it was explained to him that he would be immediately deported!

North Manchester had a taste of his eccentricity, when the police discovered a "tramp" sleeping in the grass, at the corner of routes 114 and 13 where McDonald's is now. It was Grainger, who had gone to sleep after a run from Wabash. Luckily, he made it to his performance at Manchester College.

Here is what Grainger said about Molly on the Shore:

In setting Molly on the Shore, I strove to imbue the accompanying parts that made up the harmonic texture with a melodic character not too unlike that of the underlying reel tune. Melody seems to me to provide music with initiative, whereas rhythm appears to me to exert an enslaving influence. For that reason I have tried to avoid regular rhythmic domination in my music. Equally with melody, I prize discordant harmony, because of the emotional and compassionate sway it exerts."

"My life," he said, "has been one of kicking out into space, while the world around me is dying of good taste."


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

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

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Rachel Nowak
Paula Merriman
Alexandria Roskos +^
Linda Kummernuss
Colleen Phillips

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

Robert Lynn *
Michael Rueff +^
Chris Minning
AJ Jabarin

Darrel Fiene *
Katie Huddleston +^
Rod Sroufe

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 *
Grant Ebert +^

Jon Hartman *
Chris Hartman +^
Larry Dockter

David Dicken +^

Dave Robbins *

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

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MU student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
# Denotes assistant to the Director