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2014/2015 Concert Program Notes

Click on a concert title or scroll down for detailed notes by Don Adkins.

"From his opening remarks Stewart’s enthusiasm spilleth over. Yet they were redundant, given Don Adkins’ excellent program notes that, without being at all pedantic, make the experience relevant and immediate, sometimes even urgent. (I read them with both pleasure and appreciation; for me they are ‘continuing education.’)" -Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay

Concert 1 CREATION
Saturday, October 4,
8 pm Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Sunday, October 5, 2 pm Mello Center, Watsonville

Overture to Candide (1956)
Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)

Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin spearheaded a campaign against communists in the United States during the period 1950-56. Aggressive questioning of suspects by groups such as the House Un-American Activities Committee and investigation of government employees, entertainment industry personalities (the Hollywood blacklist), educators and union activists often resulted in loss of employment, destruction of careers and sometimes imprisonment. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was heavily involved in these activities. Most of these actions were later overturned as unconstitutional and blatantly illegal. This “witch-hunt” was so prominent in our culture that a new term, “McCarthyism”, came into existence to describe accusations of disloyalty, subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.

Famed playwright Lillian Hellman, herself blacklisted, was outraged by these violations and agreed to write a musical version of Voltaire’s Candide with Leonard Bernstein, also blacklisted for a short time, in reaction to her persecution. Hellman wanted the work to be a play with incidental music but Bernstein convinced her to do it as a comic opera. He was convinced this would become “The Great American Opera.” The work opened on Broadway in 1956 but closed after only 73 performances because its language was overly intellectual for audiences and Bernstein’s music was too operatic. The overture, however, was conducted by Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic in January 1957 and became an instant hit on the concert stage. The overture continued to flourish over many years while numerous attempts to bring an acceptable Candide to the public had increasingly better results. The last contact Bernstein had with a newer version of Candide was in 1989. Even though he was seriously ill and would die the following year, he spent what energy he had recording a new concert version. He once wrote: “There’s more of me in that piece than anything else I’ve done.”

The distinctive opening fanfare of this short overture reappears several times, serving as the overall unifying element. Several melodies from the show are heard as well as a couple of new tunes, including the fanfare, written just for the overture. The melodies from the show are the duet between Candide and Cunégonde “Oh, Happy We,” “Battle Music,” and, in the last part of the overture, “Glitter and Be Gay.” The “Glitter and Be Gay” portion of the overture was well known in the United States for several years because it was used as the signature theme of the Dick Cavett Show both on ABC and later on PBS.

The Overture to Candide became a signature piece for Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, which played the overture at his memorial service in 1990 without a conductor, a practice that is still continued. Up to now they have played it at least 19 times without a conductor. They included the piece as an encore at their historic concert in North Korea on Feb. 26, 2008. Bernstein would have loved the irony of the situation since the most memorable line of Candide comes from an idea first stated by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and rephrased by Candide: “In this best of all possible worlds, everything is for the best.”

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In Seven Days (2008)
Thomas Adès (1971 – present)

Thomas Adès is an English composer, pianist and conductor. His music is performed worldwide including his most recent large-scale work composed in 2013, Totentanz. He has written two orchestral works with video: In Seven Days and Polaris (2010). His compositions include a wide variety of genre including orchestra, opera, choir and chamber music. In a 2013 interview, Adès commented: “In composing I don’t reach out and grab as many butterflies as I can and hope I find the right one. That’s not the way. Elgar spoke about the air being full of music: you just take as much as you need. That’s close to what I think.”

In Seven Days is a work for orchestra and piano that is coordinated with abstract video images. It was jointly commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and London’s Southbank Centre. Adès conducted the premieres at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and at Royal Festival Hall in London. He has also performed In Seven Days many times as the pianist under various conductors.

Daniel Stewart, music director of the Santa Cruz County Symphony, first met Adès in 2011 when Stewart was an assistant/cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A series of four concerts for the “Aspects of Adès” festival included In Seven Days which Stewart found to be “a miraculously effective and compelling emotional exploration; a profoundly moving and beautiful set of variations.” He has been looking forward to conducting it ever since. He is excited that tonight’s performance will include both the video and the pianist, Nicolas Hodges, who played the premieres and participated in the first recording.

Adès wrote the piece in collaboration with video artist Tal Rosner. Adès and Rosner worked simultaneously in creating the piece a moment at a time. Adès said that sometimes he would begin with ten seconds of music and other times Rosner would be the first with ten seconds of video.  Rosner said that they worked with the text of the Hebrew Genesis creation story word by word. They did not seek to present a literal view of the story. Rather, they chose to let the text suggest abstract sounds and patterns that they felt were shaped by the words. The effect seems to present more the process of creation rather than the actual things created. There is a sense that the energy created by the music is appropriate for what that energy is creating. The video is shown on six screens representing the six days of creation that were followed by the seventh day of rest. Rosner’s inspiration for the visual materials came from photographs and video taken of the two concert halls, both inside and outside, where the premieres were to take place. Rosner was especially fascinated with the scaffolding inside Royal Festival Hall. He often used the photos and video as the basic working material for his images. The composition took nine months to complete.

The twenty-nine minute piece has no breaks between the movements but the music combined with the images gives a good indication of where one stops and the next begins. Although it does not come across on first listening as an obvious theme and variations, there always seems to be the suggestion that the musical materials are closely related. Chaos-Light-Dark, which is the first third of the piece, begins with an active but hypnotic unison idea in the strings that gradually builds. The entrance of the piano, accompanied by a graphic representing the sun, is the beginning of Light. Separation of the waters into sea and sky is represented by the winds pulling away from the piano. Land-Grass-Trees begins with slow-moving sounds in the strings and gradually adds ascending and denser musical lines and visual images.

A brass-dominated celebration of this new life leads into Stars-Sun-Moon. The piano moves up into the upper part of the keyboard, the flute and piccolo join it and the visuals switch to star-like images. A solo piano section leads into Creatures of the Sea and Sky which begins with the smaller creatures played by a flock of piccolos. Larger creatures gradually appear in fugal entrances by progressively lower instruments. The music and videos are the most active so far as they suggest energetic and bounding figures full of life. Just as the orchestra cannot get any busier, a sudden short halt begins Creatures of the Land as the piano again joins in.The orchestra gradually builds but then gives way to solo piano with a couple of gongs that eventually slow things down for the final section. The final day of rest, Contemplation, can be heard in the sustained, transparent string sound with the piano slowly, and calmly, descending. The beginning music and video elements return like a distant echo. Adès described this ending as taking an aerial view of the whole thing and then gradually pulling the camera out in a slow fade.

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Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551  (1788)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

One of the greatest demonstrations of musical creativity over a short span of time took place during the summer of 1788, when Mozart wrote his last three symphonies in six weeks. The last of the three, Symphony No. 41, was written in just 16 days. Many of Mozart’s biographers have made a point of describing his life at this time as miserable: embarrassing letters to friends asking for money, a public that no longer supported his music, a move to less than satisfactory lodgings in the suburbs of Vienna, the death of a young child and the serious illness of his wife. This period, according to many writers, is the beginning of Mozart’s long slide into a “pauper’s grave” which is a misunderstanding of the actual situation. Along with these tribulations comes the mystery of why he wrote three symphonies, two of which (Nos. 39 and 41) were probably not performed during his lifetime. A look at the facts can clear up these misconceptions.

Mozart did lose a child to illness in June and his wife was quite ill. As to his career, he was not suffering any more than others in Vienna. Austria was at war with the Turks and was experiencing a depressed economy that affected everyone, including the aristocracy. Performance groups were being disbanded, concerts canceled and commissions to composers withheld. Every musician, not only Mozart, was being performed less often because fewer concerts were taking place. As soon as the economy improved, the number of commissions increased significantly, and by 1791 Mozart’s music was receiving just as many performances as ever. Antonio Salieri included Symphony No. 40, the version with clarinets, in a pair of concerts he gave in April of 1791 to benefit widows and orphans. Manuscripts of Mozart reworking the woodwind parts for this symphony come from this time period. It is not known whether or not Mozart heard the performances.

At the time, many families were scaling back households, selling horses, dismissing servants and doing everything possible to economize. Mozart moved his family from rather expensive lodgings in Vienna to a quieter place in the suburbs with a lower rent. He looked forward to this move because he now found himself with free time and wanted a quieter place to complete several projects for the coming concert season. His anticipation of a set of subscription concerts at the Casino during the fall of 1788 was his reason for creating his last three symphonies. He even printed tickets for the concerts and sent two free tickets to his friend and financial supporter Michael Puchberg. The concerts never took place because the usual subscription audience, the upper class and the aristocracy, were no longer in a financial position to afford the usual luxuries or had moved out of Vienna to avoid the tribulations of the war. His letters requesting loans of money from Puchberg, often interpreted as desperate requests, were written to a friend who regularly loaned reasonable amounts to many people. Puchberg was fully confident that Mozart would be able to repay the loan in a few months.

The music written by Mozart not only was the art music of his day, it was also popular with the middle class. His symphonies were designed to appeal to the audience member who was not necessarily a trained musician. He combined ideas that were new and innovative along with elements common to all composers of his time. The first movement of No. 41 uses a melody Mozart borrowed from an aria he had written in May 1788, Un bacio di mano, as an insertion into the opera Le gelosie fortunate  by Pasquale Anfossi. The principal melody of the second movement begins with a basic melodic shape used by Gluck, Haydn, and later Beethoven. Mozart himself used it in several works, such as the Piano Concerto in D Minor, Don Giovanni and Symphony No. 39. The last movement, considered to be the most significant symphonic creation of the 18th century, utilizes a 4-note phrase that can be traced back to early Jewish melodies and Gregorian chant. Haydn uses the same 4-note melody in the key of D major in the last movement of his Symphony No. 1.

The origins of the subtitle “Jupiter” have been found in the travel diaries of the London publisher Vincent Novello. Novello visited Mozart's widow in Salzburg in 1829 and wrote in his diary the following day: “Mozart’s son said he considered the Finale to his father’s Sinfonia in C – which Salomon christened the Jupiter – to be the highest triumph of instrumental composition, and I agree with him.” It appears that Johann Peter Salomon, the musician responsible for bringing Haydn to London to compose his last twelve symphonies, also left his mark on Mozart's last symphony.

It is interesting that the four-note theme of the last movement, C-D-F-E, is later found in Brahms’ choice of keys for his four symphonies, C minor-D major-F major-E minor; and by Schumann’s choice of keys for his four symphonies a whole-step lower, B flat major-C major-E flat major-D minor. Both composers greatly admired this symphony and, consciously or not, paid both it and Mozart tribute in their symphonic efforts. The movement where this theme appears is often quoted as the most remarkable example of the fugue ever written. Although the contrapuntal writing is unique and extraordinary, a full-blown fugue never actually appears. The excitement generated by this complex and energetic finale leaves no doubt in the listener that this was Mozart's ultimate symphonic statement.

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Saturday, November 8,
8 pm Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Sunday, November 9, 2 pm Mello Center, Watsonville

Cantata No. 202 “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten" (Wedding Cantata) (1718)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)

The Baroque cantata originated in Italy as a secular solo vocal work accompanied by a small group of instruments. This mini-opera with one character was comprised of recitatives (sung dialogue) and arias and was intended to be performed without costume or staging in small, more intimate settings. The German Lutherans took this concept and transformed the cantata into a sacred work intended for church performance with any number of vocalists and instruments, depending on the situation. The popular Italian opera style was tempting to some of these Lutheran composers and many of them, Bach included, were admonished and even contractually barred from bringing operatic style into the conservative church. The church cantata was extremely popular during Bach’s time and he composed hundreds of them. He occasionally returned to the original, secular Italian cantata model in works such as the “Coffee,” “Peasant,” and “Wedding” cantatas.

Tragically, a large number of his cantatas, both sacred and secular, have been lost because publication was not an important part of Bach’s professional life. The cantatas were written for specific performances and not thought of as a historical legacy. The hand manuscripts, which were usually the property of whoever paid for the event, would be used once or twice under Bach’s supervision and then often placed in some type of temporary storage where they were subject to fire, flood, nesting rats, recycling as wrapping paper or thrown out by enthusiastic cleaning ladies. The manuscripts that survived were sometimes reused by Bach with changes to match the new performance conditions. The original manuscript for the Wedding Cantata has disappeared but fortunately was roughly copied by a 13-year-old student Johannes Ringk who dated his copy 1730. This date then leads to speculation as to when the cantata was actually written. A strong possibility is the time period when Bach was working in Cöthen (1717 – 1723) although a later date during his years in Leipzig (1723 – 1750) is also possible.

Bach’s time in Cöthen was spent writing secular music. Cöthen’s churches were all Calvinist which meant that no instrumental music was allowed as a part of the sacred experience including Bach’s favorite instrument, the organ. Prince Leopold of Cöthen was an enthusiastic supporter of the arts, especially music. His travels made him familiar with the latest musical fashions throughout Europe and he was a talented performer on the harpsichord, violin and viola da gamba. He hired an orchestra of 18 of the best players available with the intention of raising the level of German secular music to that of the Italians. He treated his players extremely well and mixed with them more like a fellow musician than their Prince. Bach developed a close friendship with him that continued even after Bach left Cöthen for Leipzig. Bach wrote to his old school-friend Georg Erdmann: “There I had a gracious prince as master, who knew music as well as he loved it, and I hoped to remain in his service until the end of my life.” It was during this happy time that Bach may have composed the Wedding Cantata to be performed at a wedding party.

The Prince would take Bach and some of his instrumentalists with him when he traveled. One of these trips was a stay in Carlsbad, a meeting place for the European aristocracy, during the summer of 1720. Bach returned to find that his wife had suddenly taken ill and died. Bach, now a single father of four children, continued his work in Cöthen. Bach wrote and performed in cantatas for the Prince’s birthday and New Year’s celebrations. Singers were brought in from other courts to perform including Anna Magdalena Wilcke who eventually became Bach’s second wife. The Prince married a week after Bach’s wedding but, unfortunately, his new wife was neither interested in music nor supportive of her husband’s musical activities. Bach labelled her “amusa,” without a muse, and wrote to a friend that the Princess was “making the musical inclination of said Prince somewhat  luke-warm.” It was this declining musical environment and the desire to find a place with better educational opportunities for his sons that led Bach to leave Cöthen and take his last position in Leipzig at St. Thomas Church.

The format of the Wedding Cantata is typical in that it alternates between arias and recitatives. The arias utilize different combinations of instruments from the full group of solo oboe, strings and continuo (keyboard and cello); to continuo alone; solo violin and continuo; and solo oboe and continuo. The recitatives are all secco recitatives which means that they are accompanied by continuo only. Three of the arias, numbers 1, 3 and 7 are da capo arias: the performers repeat the beginning of the aria with the soloist providing appropriate embellishment in an improvisatory fashion. Bach, however, did not trust soloists to do a musical job of the da capo so he would usually make his solo lines complex enough that there was little room for improvisation. The text ties the coming of spring with the flowering of love and several mythological figures, including Cupid and his bow, are invoked. An unusual feature of this cantata is found in the last movement which begins as an instrumental dance, a gavotte, which the singer joins to bid that the couple’s contentment will last “a thousand radiant days of prosperity.” The dance was certainly intended to leave the wedding guests with a toe-tapping experience at the end.

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Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 for Voice and 8 Cellos (1938, rev. 1945)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959)

Villa-Lobos’ early musical life included small amounts of formal training, a tendency to sneak out of his house at night to jam with chorinhos (Brazilian equivalent to New Orleans jazz musicians), and the responsibility of supporting his fatherless family at age 12 as a cellist for theater orchestras and cafes. He was at first self-taught as a composer and synthesized all of his Brazilian influences into a unique style. He explained his early experience: “The map of Brazil was my harmony textbook.” When he was 18 he started a 7-year period of travels throughout Brazil to collect authentic folk songs and began his first formal musical studies at the National Institute of Music in Rio de Janeiro. A concert of his music in 1915 in Rio de Janeiro created a sensation because of its exuberance and radical character. He returned to his travels in 1921 when he went to the interior of Brazil to collect Indian songs. Later in his life Villa-Lobos could be counted on to tell tales about his adventures with the cannibals. It is possible that some of these stories were actually true.

The Brazilian government funded his musical studies in Paris 1923 – 1930. A Parisian reviewer wrote in 1930 about one of Villa-Lobos’ last concerts in France: “At the end of yesterday’s concert, ‘chez Lamoureux,’ certain virtuosos of the whistle, endowed with uncommon pulmonary vigor, showed their disgust for the Choros of M. Villa-Lobos. What a tumult… For a quarter hour, members of the audience bellowed invective at one another…” He returned to Sao Paulo to work in music education after the Revolution of 1930 that installed Getúlio Vargas as head of the government. In 1931 he was made Superintendent of Musical and Artistic Education in Rio de Janeiro. It was during this time that his career changed from sometimes reviled avant-garde composer to beloved Brazilian nationalist.

When he returned to Brazil, Villa-Lobos quickly became a major proponent of Brazilian cultural nationalism. He dedicated himself to both the musical education of young people and the composition of music steeped in Brazilian sensibility. At this time there was a strong debate as to the merits of Brazilian popular music such as the samba which was perceived as uniting Brazil as opposed to regional folk music which was seen as a potentially divisive element to a unified, modern Brazilian society. At the same time there was a fear that rural Brazilian folk music would disappear under the onslaught of urban popular music. One of Villa-Lobos’ responses to this issue was his composition 1930 - 1945 of the set of nine pieces under the title Bachianas Brasileiras. Villa-Lobos was able to side-step the popular-versus-folk issue by writing these works under the premise of “what would Bach write if he were Brazilian in the 1930s?” They were written in the same forms and sense of nationalism as the Brazilian Chôros, a popular instrumental genre of the time featuring virtuosity, improvisation, syncopation and, like Bach, counterpoint. This is the same type of popular urban music the teenage Villa-Lobos played with the previously-mentioned chorinhos.

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 was written for the unusual instrumentation of eight cellos and soprano. Villa-Lobos originally thought he would use violin for the melody but the internationally renowned Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão convinced him that it would be more effective with a soprano singing the line without words. Once the decision to use voice was made, Villa-Lobos followed the wordless section with a text in Portuguese by Ruth Valadares Corrêa about the beauty of twilight and the emotional conflicts created by the rising moon.  Corrêa sang the premiere in 1939. The music of is reminiscent of a type of Brazilian love song called the modinha, especially in the texted section. The opening wordless section returns as a distant hum. This is the end of the piece, titled Aria, as of 1938.

Villa-Lobos decided to add the second movement Dança in 1945. He chose a Portuguese poem by Manoel Bandeira about Irere, the little bird from the wilderness. The poem celebrates the poet’s love of nature and birdsong. Villa-Lobos emphasized the bird-song aspect of the poetry by placing specific vowels on high notes and insisting on a fast tempo to imitate the birds. The Aria returns at the end to tie the entire work together. Villa-Lobos conducted the first performance of the complete work in Paris October 1947. He eventually produced four versions of this work: nine cellos and no soprano; 8 cellos or small cello orchestra and soprano; soprano and guitar; and soprano and piano.

The most famous recording of the Aria was made by Bidú Sayão in 1945 when Villa-Lobos was touring the United States. Sayão and the recording engineer had waited for some time with the cellists in Columbia Studios when Villa-Lobos finally showed up to conduct. After a few minutes of conversation, the engineer said they were ready to record a test run. Villa-Lobos listened intently to the test run on headphones, took off the headphones and said: “That’s fine. We’ll go with that one.” He then picked up his hat and, to the amazement of everyone, walked out. Although this recording is not as perfect as later versions, it has sold more copies than any other recorded work by Villa-Lobos due, in part, to the extreme popularity of Sayão in the United States who was a New York Metropolitan Opera star. A recording of Aria by Joan Baez (surprisingly good) in 1964 added an entirely different fan base for his music. Guitarist Julian Bream wrote about this gregarious man: “Villa-Lobos was larger than life, quite extraordinary. He didn't seem to be a composer. He wore loud checked shirts, smoked a cigar, and always kept the radio on, listening to the news or light music or whatever. Villa-Lobos wasn’t refined in the intellectual sense, but he had a great heart.”

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Symphonie Fantastique (1830)
Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869)

The first performance of Symphonie fantastique was one of those rare musical events that appeared to come out of nowhere and disrupted the course of music history. There were hints from previous composers that this type of piece was possible but it took this remarkable young man and his passion to bring them together in a new way. Berlioz’s first symphony, written only three years after the death of Beethoven, was a startling and radical departure from the norm but was almost inevitable if Berlioz’s life is examined up to this point. The event that led to the composition of Symphonie fantastique was the performance of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Paris in 1827. Berlioz, although he spoke no English, immediately fell in love with the Irish actress playing the role of Ophelia, Harriet Smithson. He saw her again four days later as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. His life was then dedicated to attracting her attention which was difficult as every young bachelor in Paris was in love with her and she, apparently, was having a grand time.

This tendency to almost manic infatuation had first happened to Berlioz when he was twelve. He met Estelle Duboeuf, an eighteen-year-old beauty from the countryside surrounding his village in the Alps. Berlioz remembered that moment years later: “Her tall, elegant figure with large eyes poised for attack, though they were always smiling. And little pink boots! The instant I saw her I felt an electric shock. I loved her.” Berlioz called her his “cruel beauty.” He later said that he passed nights of sleepless misery and hid during the day like a wounded animal. Everyone knew of his infatuation and he could not avoid her amused disdain at other gatherings. When he moved from the village at age thirteen, he wrote a sad song which begins: “Now I leave forever my dear country, my dear friend [Estelle]. Far from them I’ll spend my weary life in sorrow and regret.” This melody later became the tune that is played by the violins at the beginning of Symphonie fantastique: “It expressed the overwhelming sadness of a young heart first experiencing the torture of unhappy love, and I welcomed it.” He was thirty when he saw Estelle again but she was married. He wrote her a passionate letter when he was forty and she was widowed but she did not answer. She finally allowed him to visit when he was over sixty and she nearly seventy. She was kindly but formal and puzzled at the attention of such a famous and elderly man. Berlioz left her an annuity in his will when he died.

At the same time Berlioz was reeling from Smithson’s stage charms and Shakespeare, he was also stunned by Ludwig van Beethoven’s Eroica, fifth and Pastoral symphonies, Victor Hugo’s poetry, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragic play Faust. He also read an 1828 French paraphrase of an English book by Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater. After hearing Beethoven’s symphonies for the first time, he felt his own work was forever changed. It was impossible to continue on Beethoven’s path so he had to go in another direction. One of Victor Hugo’s poems from Odes et Ballades, Sabbath Round, describes the sacrilegious round dance of witches and sorcerers with Satan to a parody of ancient church chant. Berlioz used this vision in the last movement of Symphonie fantastique. Goethe’s Faust and other works by Hugo supplied more diabolical direction to Berlioz’s imagination. Opium Eater provided one of the crucial elements in the story of the symphony. Before writing the symphony Berlioz presented two concerts of his own music which increased his reputation and visibility. In spite of this effort, he never met Smithson before she left Paris in 1829. Gossip of her sexual misadventures in London with her manager infuriated the love-sick Berlioz who vented his emotions by writing the symphony he had already been planning for a year.

Berlioz was twenty-six and a student at the Paris Conservatory when he wrote Symphonie fantastique in just three months. He tried to have it immediately performed but the logistics of the huge orchestra made a disaster of the first rehearsal. Berlioz then backed off and scheduled the premiere for later that year. He sent the program explaining the meaning of the symphony to the press weeks before the performance. He was immediately attacked by several critics and was able to manipulate the publicity to create a premiere that couldn’t be missed. Many notables heard the first performance including Franz Liszt but Smithson was not in town. Berlioz originally hoped for an orchestra of 220 players on the stage of the Paris Conservatory but had to settle for 130. Berlioz acknowledged that the project was too big to expect much from two rehearsals but felt that he got his point across to the audience. Reviews were mixed. Young Liszt, only nineteen at the premiere, was so impressed he later published an arrangement for solo piano in 1836.

Berlioz then moved on from Smithson, won the Prix de Rome composition contest on his fourth try and moved to Rome on a two-year subsidy. His work in Rome included polishing the Symphonie fantastique. He returned to Paris and performed a second premiere. To his amazement, Smithson was back in Paris although she was no longer a star performer. Berlioz sent her tickets to the concert which she attended without realizing her role in the creation of the symphony. After the performance she realized her part in the affair and, amazed by Berlioz’s apparent love for her, agreed to meet him. They were married in 1833 with Liszt as best man. They were happy for a couple of years until she began to suffer from her public neglect in contrast with her husband’s tremendous success in all of his projects. She turned to alcohol, they separated and remained so until her death in 1854.

Two terms always come up in any discussion of the Symphonie fantastique: idée fixe and Dies irae. In the early 1800s the French used the term idée fixe in the new discipline of clinical psychology to indicate a fixation of the mind held so firmly as to resist any attempt to modify it. By 1812 the presence of an idée fixe was an indicator of monomania, a single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind. Berlioz used this term to describe the melody that appears throughout the symphony representing the beloved of the tormented artist. There is no doubt the tormented artist is monomaniacal and, by extension, so is Berlioz. The theme used for the idée fixe came from an aria expressing the unhappy love of the heroine in his prize-winning cantata of 1828 Herminie.  The first movement presents the original version of the idée fixe in many different ways. The second movement party scene changes the melody into a waltz tune. The third movement features Alpenhorn-like tunes played by shepherds before the beloved’s melody appears and is cut off in a sinister fashion. The fourth movement death march, first written for his unperformed opera Les Francs-juges, uses a small portion of the melody just before the artist’s head is guillotined. The last movement funeral party transforms the melody into a spiteful, rollicking dance suitable for monsters and a twisted beloved. The Dies irae also appears in the last movement to indicate the Witches Sabbath. It is a chant that is used in the Mass for the Dead and would have been immediately recognizable to everyone in the Catholic French audience. Berlioz later combines it with the diabolical witches’ dance, leaving no doubt that the artist’s last party gives him nothing but torment. Berlioz also uses the witches tune to create a short fugue which, given Berlioz’s hatred of the academic styles forced on him at the Conservatory, probably represented the lowest levels of hell.

At first, Berlioz considered the program for Symphonie fantastique to be indispensable to understanding the symphony. He thought the audience should consider it as the spoken text of an opera. Berlioz continued to revise the program for 25 years. By this time he considered the program important for the audience but also stated that the symphony could be performed without the program if the titles for the five movements were printed. His original, much more detailed program placed the opium poisoning in the last two movements. The last version of the program, published in 1855, placed the poisoning at the beginning:

“A young musician of morbid sensitivity and ardent imagination poisons himself with opium in a moment of despair caused by frustrated love. The dose of narcotic, while too weak to cause his death, plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by the strangest of visions, in which his experiences, feelings and memories are translated in his feverish brain into musical thoughts and images. His beloved becomes for him a melody and like an idée fixe which he meets and hears everywhere.

Part one:Daydreams, Passions
“He remembers first the uneasiness of spirit, the indefinable passion, the melancholy, the aimless joys he felt even before seeing his beloved; then the explosive love she suddenly inspired in him, his delirious anguish, his fits of jealous fury, his returns of tenderness, his religious consolations.

Part two: A Ball
“He meets again his beloved in a ball during a glittering fête.

Part three: Scene in the Countryside
“One summer evening in the countryside he hears two shepherds dialoguing with their ‘Ranz des vaches’; this pastoral duet, the setting, the gentle rustling of the trees in the light wind, some causes for hope that he has recently conceived, all conspire to restore to his heart an unaccustomed feeling of calm and to give to his thoughts a happier colouring; but she reappears, he feels a pang of anguish, and painful thoughts disturb him: what if she betrayed him… One of the shepherds resumes his simple melody, the other one no longer answers. The sun sets… distant sound of thunder… solitude… silence…

Part four: March to the scaffold
“He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned to death and led to execution. The procession advances to the sound of a march that is sometimes sombre and wild, and sometimes brilliant and solemn, in which a dull sound of heavy footsteps follows without transition the loudest outbursts. At the end, the idée fixe reappears for a moment like a final thought of love interrupted by the fatal blow.

Part five: Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath
“He sees himself at a witches’ sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance-tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath… Roars of delight at her arrival… She joins the diabolical orgy… The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies irae. The dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the Dies irae.”

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Concert 3 THE MUSE
Saturday, January 24,
8 pm Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Sunday, January 25, 2 pm Mello Center, Watsonville

Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 (1936)
Samuel Barber (1910 – 1981)

Samuel Barber established himself as one of America’s important composers at the age of 23 when the Philadelphia Orchestra performed his first orchestral work Overture to School for Scandal. His tonal approach to music placed him outside of the atonal avant-garde which regarded him as a light-weight, neo-romantic composer of small significance. Fortunately, audiences did not agree with this assessment and Barber is now viewed as one of the great American composers of the 20th century. He was constantly pushed to defend his approach to music: “I write what I feel. I’m not a self-conscious composer. . . . It is said that I have no style at all, but that doesn’t matter. I just go on doing, as they say, my thing. I believe this takes a certain courage.”

The Adagio for Strings was originally composed as the second movement of Barber’s String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11 in 1936. Two years later Arturo Toscanini requested that Barber rework the movement for string orchestra for an upcoming tour of the NBC Symphony. Barber sent the score to Toscanini who returned it after a short time without any indication that he had even looked at it. Barber’s understandable anger did not last long when he discovered that Toscanini had memorized the score and didn’t need it anymore. Toscanini conducted the premiere in a coast-to-coast broadcast of the NBC Symphony. The piece immediately became one of the best known of all American compositions. The Adagio was inspired by a poem by Virgil from the Georgics. The following translation of the poem’s beginning is by Robert Pinsky:

As when far off in the middle of the ocean
A breast-shaped curve of wave begins to whiten
And rise above the surface, then rolling on
Gathers and gathers until it reaches land
Huge as a mountain and crashes among the rocks
With a prodigious roar, and what was deep
Comes churning up from the bottom in mighty swirls
Of sunken sand and living things and water . . .

In spite of Barber’s original inspiration, the Adagio soon became a work associated with mourning. It is often named in pop culture surveys as “saddest classical” work ever. It has been played for many funerals, especially American, including those for Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. The music was played for Princess Grace and several years later for Prince Ranier of Monaco as their coffins were transported from the palace to the cathedral. It also became a pop icon in its association with movies such as Platoon, The Elephant Man and Flashdance. It has also been used in episodes of The Simpsons and appears at the beginning of the song “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and The Family. The Adagio was one of the few American works to be played regularly in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It has also been used in many public memorials such as those that followed the events of 9/11. Barber also wrote a choral arrangement of the Adagio using a text from the Catholic Mass, Agnus Dei, which is translated “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us…grant us peace.”

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Apollon Musagète (1928, rev. 1947)
Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge was one of America’s great patrons of the arts. Her foundation funded the creation of many important musical works including Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland, the Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber, the Flute Sonata by Francis Poulenc, and several string quartets including those by Bela Bartók, Arnold Schoenberg, Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten, and Anton Webern. Her foundation approached Stravinsky in 1927 to write a ballet for a contemporary music festival in Washington D.C. that would take place in the Library of Congress the next year. The few restrictions given to Stravinsky were that the ballet not last more than 30 minutes, no more than six dancers would be used, and the instrumental group would not be too large. No mention was made of the subject matter or the musical and dance styles. Stravinsky was paid the princely sum of $1000 for the work. Stravinsky chose “to compose a ballet founded on moments or episodes in Greek mythology plastically interpreted by dancing of the so-called classical school.”

Apollo, the title Stravinsky later used, was basically completed by September of 1927. He immediately took it to his good friend and frequent collaborator in ballet, Sergei Diaghilev. Stravinsky played it for him on the piano three times in a row. Diaghilev was impressed: “It is, of course, an amazing work, extraordinarily calm, and with greater clarity than anything he has so far done; with filigree counterpoint around transparent and clear-cut themes, all in the major key—somehow music not of this world, but from somewhere above.” Stravinsky, in spite of the fact that the premiere would take place in Washington D.C., decided he would spend his energy on a production with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris. George Balanchine, at this time a 24-year old dancer, was chosen to be the choreographer. Stravinsky’s decision to write music that was, for him, extremely classical, limited and without conflict had a profound impact on Balanchine’s vision for the dance: “In its discipline and restraint, in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling, it seemed to tell me that I could dare not to use everything, that I, too, could eliminate.” Apollo established Balanchine as a first-rate choreographer and is his oldest work that is still danced today.

The scenario is divided into two tableaux. The first includes the birth of Apollo and the presentation of his lute. In the second tableaux Apollo interacts with three of the nine Muses: Terpsichore (dance), Polyhymnia (mime) and Calliope (poetry). Apollo is portrayed as the master of the Muses who present their arts to him for his approval. The dances include solos by Apollo and each of the three Muses as well as an ensemble dance and a pas de deux. The final section, the Apotheosis, depicts Apollo leading the Muses to Parnassus, the mountain known in mythology as the home of the Muses. Stravinsky described the Muses he chose to depict: “I reduced their number to three, selecting from among them Calliope, Polyhymnia, and Terpsichore as the most characteristic representatives of choreographic art. Calliope, representing poetry and rhythm, receives the stylus and tablets from Apollo. Polyhymnia personifies mime with her finger on her lips. Terpsichore, with her lyre, represents dance by combining in herself both the rhythm of poetry and the eloquence of gesture, and thus reveals dance to the world.”

Stravinsky thought of this work as a “ballet blanc”, a classical ballet of purity and unity. The score is written for string orchestra which is an extreme departure from his earlier ballets for large orchestras. The harmonic language is simplified resulting in a sense of little conflict in the music. Stravinsky utilized the rhythm schemes found in ancient Greek poetry and the poetry of the French baroque master Boileau who set the standard for French poetry based on his admiration of Horace, the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. The opening prologue is Stravinsky’s interpretation of the French overture from the baroque period: slow opening with uneven rhythms, quick and lively middle section and a return to the first section. The following solo violin section (Apollo’s Variation) seems to be inspired by J.S. Bach’s solo violin works. The fact that each section of the ballet manages to end on a major chord makes the overall form of the entire work easy to understand even on the first hearing. The use of historical references and clear structure gives Stravinsky a foundation to create a work that truly appears to be rooted in a more “classical” time. He wrote: “The very essence of this art reveals itself in all its purity. I found that the absence of many-colored effects and of all superfluities produced a wonderful freshness.”

The premiere of Apollon musagète  took place in Washington D.C. in April 1928. The ballet was choreographed by Adolph Bolm who had previously worked with the Ballets Russes. Bolm danced the role of Apollo, and the Muses were danced by Americans who had little recognition internationally. Stravinsky showed little interest in this production because he had secured the European performance rights for the Ballets Russes and was preparing the Paris performance, conducted by Stravinsky, for June 1928. The considerable talents of the Ballets Russes dancers, the reputation and resources of the company, and the choreography of Balanchine resulted in a production that far exceeded the Washington D.C. premiere and immediately became the standard interpretation. The spare, austere style of Apollo became Balanchine’s hallmark style for the rest of his career, especially in his work with the New York City Ballet. After a few years of performances by different conductors who experimented with changes in the score, Stravinsky returned to Apollo and published his final version in 1947. Even after this point different productions, including some by Balanchine, experimented with cuts to accommodate new approaches to the ballet. Stravinsky’s score is considered the peak of what is known as his neoclassical style period which includes the ballet Pulcinella and Symphony of Psalms for choir and orchestra.

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Serenade in C major for Strings, Op. 48 (1880)
Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

In the fall of 1880 Tchaikovsky’s servant and lover, Alyosha Sofronov, became eligible for the military draft in spite of numerous maneuverings by Tchaikovsky to have him exempted. During this time Tchaikovsky buried himself in work including the third version of the Romeo and Juliet Overture, 1812 Overture, Serenade for Strings and the supervision of performances of the operas Maid of Orleans in St. Petersburg and Eugene Onegin in Moscow. Tchaikovsky wrote about his personal cure for anxiety in September 1880:  “No sooner had I begun to spend a number of days relaxing, than I began to feel somewhat restless and rather unwell... Today I could not bear it, and endure it no longer, and I busied myself a little with designs for a future symphony—perhaps? I immediately began to feel cheerful, well and relaxed ... This effect proved not to diminish itself with time, and I satisfied my intrinsic need to work—especially composition. Now here I am already with designs for a symphony or string quartet [the serenade]; I do not yet know which.”

When the military draft finally took place in November, Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress Nadezhda von Meck: “I am on tenterhooks. Aleksey [Alyosha] leaves tomorrow or the day after, and parting with him will not be easy for me. It is difficult to lose (perhaps for a long time) someone to whom you are tied by ten years’ living together. I feel sorry for myself, but mostly I pity him. He will have to go through a great deal of suffering before he becomes accustomed to his new situation. To suppress my sad feelings I have been working intensely.” When Alyosha was drafted Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest: “I live tolerably only because I am always drinking!”

Like many composers, Tchaikovsky was often capable of rising above personal difficulties to create music, such as the Serenade for Strings, which did not reflect his own personal anguish. He wrote von Meck in October: “The overture [1812 Overture] will be very noisy. I wrote it without much warmth of enthusiasm; therefore, it has no great artistic value. The serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from an inward impulse; I felt it and venture to hope that this work is not without artistic qualifications.” After the serenade’s completion the end of October he wrote von Meck: “I am violently in love with this work and cannot wait for it to be played.” A private performance took place in December but the public premiere was delayed until October of 1881. Anton Rubenstein, another of Tchaikovsky’s musical idols, declared the piece one of his best. Tchaikovsky liked it so much that he later included it in his extremely successful tour of Germany, Prague, Paris and London in 1888.

Tchaikovsky idolized Mozart, once referring to him as “the Christ of music.” The first movement of Serenade for Strings is titled Piece in the Form of a Sonatina. He wrote to von Meck about this movement: “This is my homage to Mozart; it is intended to be an imitation of his style, and I should be delighted if I thought I had in any way approached my model.” Tchaikovsky’s sunny outlook in the serenade is probably due to the fact that he had spent some of the previous summer studying Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The rest of the serenade is all Tchaikovsky even though he maintains the lighter, non-symphonic character found in Mozart’s serenades. The second movement is a dance which, for Mozart, would have been a minuet. Tchaikovsky uses his favorite dance, the waltz. The slow third movement, Élégie, is more reflective than somber. The last movement celebrates the Russian side of Tchaikovsky. In case non-Russian audiences would miss it, he gave this movement the title Tema Russo. It features two Russian folksongs. The introduction “On the Green Meadow” was sung by wagon drivers along the Volga River. The quicker section features the folk dance “Under the Green Apple Tree.” The opening section of the first movement is brought back at the end and leads into the spirited finish.

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Saturday, March 21,
8 pm Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Sunday, March 22,
2 pm Mello Center, Watsonville

Sinfonia (2011)
Daniel Stewart (1981 – present)

Daniel Stewart is beginning his second year as music director of the Santa Cruz Symphony and is in his third year as conductor with the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. He has conducted orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States and Germany and has worked with several notable composers including Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Adams and Thomas Adès. Stewart has also played viola for many chamber groups and orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony and the New World Symphony. He earned a Bachelors of Music from the Indiana School of Music and a graduate degree in conducting from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Composers sometimes reveal the influences of other composers in their choice of styles or utilize popular music idioms in otherwise serious contexts. In the case of Sinfonia, there are several moments where influential composers are hinted at and different popular musical styles are called upon. The presence of ideas similar to other composers is usually not a conscious decision but, rather, a creative reprocessing of familiar musical voices. There are three moments of the inclusion of popular music that Stewart consciously included. A trumpet solo in the first movement invokes the soundtrack of a spaghetti Western. A clarinet solo near the end of the first movement is a nod to a typical jazz riff that sounds as if it came from a Benny Goodman swing piece. A high solo clarinet evokes an Argentinian tango in the middle of the last movement. This technique of including popular music in a more formal setting has been used as long as people have been making “serious” music. Even a composer as straight as J.S. Bach was contractually obligated to not use the more popular operatic style in his church music.

The composer wrote the following about Sinfonia:

“I wrote and scored my Sinfonia in a continuous three week period in December 2010, and conducted its premiere at the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2011. It is scored for two Flutes (2nd doubling Piccolo), Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet in Bb, Bass Clarinet in Bb, Bassoon, Contra Bassoon, four French Horns in F, two Trumpets in C, three Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (Bass Drum, Cajon, Cuica, Cymbals, Guiro, Shaker, Woodblocks), Piano, Harp, and Strings.

“The first movement is a fantasia, originating out of the types of serendipitous syncopations that permeate our increasingly electric landscape. The next several episodes involve a series of event horizons, including a quasi-bacchanal, meditation, storm, and finally a catharsis, which leads the narrative towards a sense of heightened awareness. 

“The second movement is a scherzo, with its main rondo-like substance in 6/8 + 7/4. It is altogether playful in nature until a lyric middle section takes over. This ultimately develops into what will become the heart of the third movement. It ends in a joyful celebratory chorus.

“The third and final movement was originally planned as the first movement. It begins from an invocation of a single note, heavy with unease. Its interlocutor is the motto-theme of the movement, a rising fourth, which gradually transcends its oppressive counterpoint and succeeds in transitioning into a lyrical serenade. This is followed by a relentless dance which eventually results in a cataclysm. Consolation and resolve bring about the final catharsis.”

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Pacifika Rondo (1963)
Lou Harrison (1917 – 2003)

Lou Harrison was a vital part of the Santa Cruz and Bay Area cultural scene from the time he moved to Aptos in 1948 until his death. His move back to the west coast (he was born in Oregon and raised in the Bay Area) was an affirmation of his commitment to create music that reflected the cultures bordering the Pacific basin, both Eastern and Californian rather the traditional Western cultures across the Atlantic: “Here [Pacifica] you assume you are American and are fascinated by Japan and Java and China and all around the Pacific basin.” Lou’s studies and associations with composers known for their unique approaches to music encouraged his own search for new inspirations outside of traditional European “classical” music. These composers included Arnold Schoenberg, Henry Cowell, John Cage and Charles Ives. Lou was a kind and gentle man of boundless energy and curiosity about everything who often saw things in a creative, unconventional way. When he wasn’t working on his own music he worked as a dancer, florist, record clerk, music copyist, playwright, music critic, conductor and teacher. He was also a strong advocate for gay rights and an exponent of the Esperanto language. Many musicians in Santa Cruz (this author included) had their own favorite Lou story.

Many pieces written by Lou utilized Indonesian gamelan, Asian instruments, or combinations of these with traditional western instruments. His partner William Colvig helped him construct sets of gamelan-like instruments (Indonesian pitched percussion) that could be tuned in different temperaments (especially just intonation) instead of our ubiquitous equal temperament tuning. He would write pieces that utilized these instruments. Many of his works are for unusual, unconventional combinations of instruments. Pacifika Rondo is written for organ, Western flute, piccolo, small fipple flutes (like recorders), miguk p’iri (Korean double reed instrument), trombones, celesta, vibraphone, piano, strings, pak (Korean wooden clapper), snare drum, bass drum, changgo (Korean hourglass drum), daiko (Japanese barrel drum), elephant bells (elephant in motion warning), triangles, maracas, gongs, jalataranga (Hindu bowls tuned with water), cheng (Chinese zither), sheng (Chinese mouth organ), kayagùm (Korean zither), and male voice screaming. Lou often learned to play national folk instruments in the country he was visiting. He would then build his own versions when he returned to Aptos. For example, the p’iri is an ancient Korean instrument. When Lou built his own version, he used painted Lucite to create a more stable instrument. The Koreans now use this version as well as the old and call it the miguk (American) p’iri.

Pacifika Rondo was written for the University of Hawaii’s Festival of Music and Art of this Century after Lou’s trip to Japan, Korea and Taiwan. This festival brought Asian composers together with American composers where they could become acquainted and experiment with the combination of different cultures. In 1963 Lou was resident composer for two months with the Philippine composer Lucretia R. Kasilag.

Lou’s program note for the premiere included the following:

“Hawaii is very nearly central in the Pacific Basin, and I have conceived and titled this work with that in mind – for I have composed it especially for this festival, and in it I have thought, with love, around the circle of Pacifika. Indeed, the form itself is a large round, odd-numbered movements being variants of the same kind of music. Musical techniques and styles are reflected from Korean and Japanese Court Music, and Chinese chamber music; there is a light touch of Mexican, and of Spanish-colonial music, and one intrusion of common ‘Atlantic’ modernism…(I should add, perhaps, that Dolphins are people, who have language, and who sensibly use their very large brains only to invent elaborate and good-natured games.)”

Lou later wrote about the individual movements of Pacifika Rondo:

“Each movement refers to a section of the Pacific Basin except for the sixth, A Hatred of the Filthy Bomb,which is a protest against the bomb and its contamination and destruction of Pacific life. The Family of the Court largely refers to Korea and its court life. Play of the Dolphins is in a sense mid-ocean music and the sound of the psalteries [zithers] suggests the movement of waves and the dancing of dolphins. Lotus is a tribute to Buddhism, a ‘temple’ piece. In Sequoia's Shade refers to California, particularly to its colonial days. The fifth movement, Netzahualcoyotl Builds a Pyramid (an homage to Carlos Chávez), looks to Mexico and Netzahualcoyotl, the Aztec emperor, a king of great wisdom and goodness. From the Dragon Pool [seventh movement] refers to the Sinitic Area and particularly China in which the dragon is considered benevolent.

“I have been told to try several of the ways in which I think classic Asian musics might of themselves, and together, evolve in the future, and have combined instruments of several ethnics directly for musical expression. In composing Pacifika Rondo I have thought, with love, around the circle of the Pacific.”

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Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 61 (1806)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Like many violin concertos, Beethoven’s was inspired by a specific performer. He first met Franz Clement in 1794 after hearing a recital by the fourteen-year-old prodigy. Beethoven wrote in Clement’s autograph book: “Continue along the road on which you have already made such a fine and magnificent journey. Nature and art have combined to make a great artist of you. Follow them both and, never fear, you will reach greatness, the highest goal that an artist can desire in the world. All my good wishes for your happiness, dear child, and come back soon so that I can hear your clear, magnificent playing once again.”

Clement soon settled in Vienna, where he became concertmaster and conductor at the Theater an der Wien. His violin playing displayed a flawless technique coupled with a graceful and tender approach to music, qualities that are apparent in Beethoven’s concerto.  He was one of the few people Beethoven would ask for criticism and was personally involved in some of the composer’s larger projects. His orchestra played the premiere of the third symphony with Beethoven conducting. Clement was the concertmaster for the premiere of Beethoven’s Fidelio in 1805. After the opera’s dismal failure, a group met at Prince Lichnowsky’s palace to discuss revisions. Clement played the entire opera from memory as the group discussed possible changes. Clement’s prodigious memory had also been displayed earlier when he wrote out a piano version of Haydn’s The Creation after hearing only two rehearsals and one performance.

When Clement approached Beethoven about a violin concerto in 1806, Beethoven was happy to compose a piece for one of his supporters. He first wrote the solo part without any assistance from Clement, then consulted with the violinist and produced a version that was much more playable. The final version that was approved by Beethoven and published was a combination of these two earlier versions with some new passages. The premiere in December 1806 was a disaster. Beethoven did not give Clement the completed version (whatever that was) until two days before the performance. Clement, due to his memory and his earlier work with Beethoven, probably was fairly well prepared in spite of the short time period. The orchestra, however, did not have time for a single run-through of the concerto and the audience was not prepared to hear a poor presentation of a work that they hardly understood. One critic complained of the “lack of continuity” and “needless repetition of certain commonplace passages....If Beethoven pursues his present path, he and the public alike will come to a bad end.” Clement’s own antics probably contributed to the poor reception of the concerto. Between the first and second movements he stopped to play one of his own fantasies on one string while holding the violin upside down!

Beethoven heard his concerto played only one more time, and Clement eventually faded from public view to die virtually unknown in Vienna. The concerto was considered unplayable in Vienna and received only a few performances for many years. The Belgian violinist Henri Vieuxtemps performed it in Vienna in 1834 with little success. In 1844 Joseph Joachim, age 13, was allowed to play the concerto in London under the direction of Mendelssohn in spite of a rule in England against the public appearance of child prodigies with the major orchestras. The performance was a complete success. Joachim considered the concerto “the greatest of the German concertos. The one that makes the fewest concessions.” He continued to champion the concerto during his lifetime and is responsible for its position as one of the greatest violin concertos ever written.

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Saturday, May 9,
8 pm Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Sunday, May 10,
2 pm Mello Center, Watsonville

Marche pour le cérémonie des Turcs (1670)
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632 – 1687)

The alliance formed between Catholic France and the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1536 caused a scandal not only in France but the rest of Christian Europe. Critics labelled it “the impious alliance” and “the sacrilegious union of the Lily and the Crescent.” It was an important and successful alliance which survived for over two and a half centuries because it served the strategic interests of both governments. France also managed to further Christian interests, in a limited way, in the Ottoman Empire which would have been almost impossible without the alliance. Louis XIV had strained relationships with the Ottoman Empire because of his constantly shifting alliance with the Austrian Hapsburgs who were often at war with the Turks. Both his wife and his mother were Hapsburgs.

A particularly acrimonious visit by the Ottoman envoy Suleïman Aga in 1669-70 (the envoy had been overheard saying that the Turkish Sultan’s horse was better adorned than the French King) and a French fad for anything Turkish prompted an extremely public reaction from Louis XIV. After the envoy’s departure the king commissioned the famous playwright Molière and France’s most talented court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully to create a play with a grand, absurdist Turkish spectacle/ballet. Louis assigned Chevalier Laurent d'Arvieux, an expert in Turkish customs, to assist Molière and Lully in preparing the ballet scene in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Although the scene, subtitled Turkish Ceremony,was intended to be farcical, there are surprising touches of authenticity including Turkish words and phrases. The scene uses the ritual for the reception of novices into the order of Mevlevi Dervishes as its basic structure. The chevalier also advised the costumer in the creation of Turkish clothing which was definitely designed to make an exaggerated theatrical impact. As usual, the rapidity with which this type of production was created and staged led to the show being completed by Molière and Lully only 10 days before the premiere.

Before he was crowned King of France in 1661, Louis was a highly respected and celebrated dancer who regularly participated in Lully’s ballets. After he was crowned, he commissioned Molière, the greatest dramatic poet of the king’s court and Lully, his greatest court composer, to produce a number of works later known as comedie-ballet. This innovative type of work combined music, dance and theater. The king would often dance in these dramatic ballets but retired from the stage before Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The ballet scenes in this play were the first to not include noble amateur performers. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme was the most popular of the nine comedie-ballets written by this team from 1664 to 1670. The performance was incredibly expensive due to the staggering number of richly appointed “Turkish” costumes that were created with attendant jewelry including 90 pairs of special shoes just for the singers, dancers and orchestra.

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme is a satire on the newly rich, pretentious, social climbing middle-class and the snobbish aristocracy. The title is an oxymoron: a “gentleman” in 17th-century France was nobility and, therefore, could not be bourgeois. In the 4th Act the main character believes his desire to be aristocracy comes true when he is given the made-up title of “Mamamouchi.” This is then celebrated with a Turkish spectacle including the obligatory turbans and dervishes. The targets for this absurd display include the Turkish language, Islamic prayer and the Koran. At this point in time, France was just beginning to colonize Northern Africa but did not yet claim these Islamic lands. Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs is performed during this act.

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O Magnum Mysterium (1572)
Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548 – 1611)

The Protestant Reformation of 1517 led the Catholic church to reexamine many of its doctrines through a series of meetings known collectively as the Council of Trent held 1545 – 1563. The council focused on the abuses of church music in 1562, including the use of popular music and overly complicated polyphony. The more conservative guidelines that were developed for church music were then adopted in different ways by Catholic composers including the three top composers of the Counter Reformation: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso and Tomás Luis de Victoria. They wrote music that avoided popular music styles, presented text in a way that was easier to understand and stepped back from compositional complexity that distracted the listener from a more direct religious experience. Reverence and purity permeate the style of this new church music. Victoria’s style was more emotional than many of his contemporaries. Francisco Guerrero, a composer of the Counter Reformation, summed up this new attitude toward sacred music in 1584: “My goal is not to caress the ears of pious persons with my songs, but on the contrary to excite their souls to devout contem­plation of the sacred mysteries.”

Victoria was the most famous Spanish composer in 16th-century Spain even though he, like Palestrina, only wrote sacred music. It is possible that young Victoria studied composition with Palestrina in Rome, but there is no doubt that he was familiar with the older master’s music because he was succeeded Palestrina as music director of the Collegium Romanum. He became a full priest in 1575. Most of Victoria’s career was spent in Italy before he returned to Spain in 1587. He spent the rest of his life as priest, composer, choirmaster and organist at the Convent of Las Desdalzas Reales in Madrid although he was able to travel frequently. His duties included being the chaplain for the extremely pious Empress Maria who lived in the convent. Victoria published his first book of 33 motets in 1572 which were dedicated to his first patron Cardinal Truchsess Otto von Waldberg, Bishop of Augsburg. Victoria’s dedication includes the line: “Indeed, greatest Cardinal in the musical arts, it is agreed that commendations be given, now for a long time I have relied on your patronages and hope so to remain.”

At this time, a motet was a sacred a cappella work for choir using a poetical text that was not a part of the Catholic mass. O magnum mysterium was one of the motets in this first book. There is some debate about when in the church year this motet was intended to be sung. According to Victoria in the published book of motets, it was to be performed the first week of January during the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. The text appears to place this motet in the celebration of Christmas but some subtle text decisions move it to a few weeks later. Most choirs choose to present this motet as a Christmas piece. The text declares the great mystery that the lowly animals should be present to view both the Messiah born in a manager and the blessed virgin who bore him. The alleluias at the end leave no doubt that this scene is a cause for celebration.

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Carmina Burana (1936)
Carl Orff (1895 – 1982)

Carmina burana comes from a collection of songs found in the library of a monastery in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. The original source, a 13th-century Latin codex, was brought to light when the Abbey of Benediktbeuern was secularized by the Austrian Emperor in 1803, a move undertaken in the spirit of enlightenment to redistribute wealth from the church back to the people. The codex was published in 1847 under the title later chosen by Orff for his work. The song texts are a collection consisting mainly of works by travelling musicians. These lively poems, about 200 of them, come from France, Germany, England and Italy and deal with all areas of human existence – sacred, secular, social and personal. The topics include the sensual pleasures of food, drink, romantic and physical love; satires on church, state and social interaction; and complaints about money and declining moral values.

Although we do not know most of the authors, the intellectual elite of the 13th century, both settled and nomadic, appear to be responsible for most of the Latin poetry and song texts. Troubadours who were trained and respected poets and musicians, and also often nobility, performed this style of music. Some of the texts mixed German and Latin or French and Latin. A few of the poems in this collection can be ascribed to some of the greatest thinkers of the time, such as Archipoeta who wrote, among other things, numerous love and drinking songs. Orff chose 24 of these texts for his work. The spiritual unity and exuberant life found in this material reflects the excitement of the 13th century and strongly attracted him: “In all my work, my final concern is not with musical but spiritual exposition.” The poetry also sketches a picture of humanity that is still recognizable today.

The illustration used as the frontispiece of the collection, a reproduction from the original manuscript, caught Orff’s imagination. A wheel of fortune is depicted, a symbol of constantly changing human experience. He decided to begin and end with the chorus “O Fortuna” and divided the rest of the texts into three sections depicting man’s encounter with different aspects of physical existence: 1. “Spring” and “On the Village Green,” 2. “In the Tavern,” and 3. “Court of Love.” Orff was once questioned about his choice of texts: “Sometimes I am asked why in the main I choose old material for my stage works. I do not feel it to be old, but only valid. The dated elements are lost and the spiritual strength remains.” Spirituality was essential to Orff’s artistic concepts, not as a way of expressing ancient ideas, but as a vehicle for depicting the mood and essence of his own contemporary experience.

The subtitle of the work, “Secular songs for soloists and chorus, accompanied by instruments and magic tableaux,” demonstrates Orff’s conception of this piece as a theatrical production. The first performances were staged in a wide variety of styles, ranging from a cosmological music-drama to an allegorical medieval mystery play. Orff’s entire musical output can be categorized as school or stage works: he considered all of his work to be theatrical. One acquaintance wrote: “Orff’s first reaction to the collection of Carmina burana was as a man of the theatre, who saw it as a colorful dance and song drama. The function of Orff the musician was to work out a setting for this dramatic inspiration. The mimed events are the primary source of the music, which is, consequently, rhythmic and incredibly concentrated.” If we depended on large theatrical performances for the only live presentations of this music, the opportunity to enjoy Orff’s creation would be extremely limited. Even though staging can make the symbolism easier to understand, most performances today are concert versions sometimes with minimal production elements.

Orff’s mature style is evident in all aspects of Carmina burana. The song forms are usually strophic, a repetition of the same music for the different verses. The orchestra creates static blocks of sound through the use of simple ostinatos, repeated accompaniment patterns, and unchanging tonal colors. This simplification is often given the label primitivism, a term that was strongly associated with the earlier music of Stravinsky and often pertained to the prominence of rhythmic drive. Orff used this approach to express what was important to him. Otto Oster wrote: “Rhythm is not merely the medium of Carl Orff’s art; it is the spiritual foundation of his musical architecture.” Orff felt that all of his theater works were dependent upon artistic primitivism: “The nearer one comes to the essence of the statement, the near to absolute simplicity, the more immediate and powerful is the effect.”

The musical styles include Bavarian folk songs, Gregorian plainchant, Italian opera and Lutheran chorales. The unifying factor that draws everything together is his simple approach to rhythm, pitch and orchestral color. His use of the voice is an essential element of his overall sound and one of his most important contributions to musical practice. Orff is highly sensitive to the tonal sub-structure of language: the musical qualities found in the spoken word. He uses the naturally occurring rise and fall of the text as the basic contour of his melodies. Even though many composers have done the same, Orff’s approach is so sensitive and effective that it is an indispensable element of his style.

From the first performance, Carmina burana has enjoyed tremendous success. It was first seen as a controversial but successful example of the new world-theater striving to present stage works outside of the standard European approach. As a large-scale choral work it has become one of the most performed internationally due, in large part, to its simple presentation of the universal concepts of fortune, nature, beauty, wine and love.

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