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Sunday 14th September 2014 Print E-mail

Karelia Suite
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)


In 1893 Sibelius was invited to write music for a patriotic historical pageant to be presented by students of Helsinki University in Viborg, Karelia. This province lies in the south-eastern corner of Finland, and was very dear to Sibelius. In earlier years he had found stimulus in its folk music, and later he was to spend his honeymoon there. From the pageant's incidental music he subsequently compiled a "Concert Suite" of three pieces:

Intermezzo

This movement depicts the Karelians passing in procession to pay tribute to a Lithuanian prince. Sibelius said of this movement "There is this sense of the "Ur-Wald" the primeval forest, the feeling of some elemental power, that one is dealing with something profound."

Ballade

This rather melancholy movement, originally a vocal piece, depicts the deposed fifteenth-century king, Charles Knutsson Bonde, sitting in his castle being entertained by a minstrel. The orchestra is reduced to oboes, clarinets, bassoons and strings, but a cor anglais is added and used to great effect.

Alla marcia

This exhilarating march, written for the full orchestra, was inspired by a call to battle issued by Pontus de la Gardie, a French-born, sixteenth-century soldier who became Swedish high commander in a war against Russia.

As a result of her defeat in the "Winter War" of 1940, Finland lost Viborg and much of the province of Karelia to Russia.

Concerto for 2 Trumpets
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Soloists: Courtney Oxenford and Justin Williams

Vivaldi wrote more than 500 concertos (not just The Four Seasons), at least 46 operas, and a large amount of other instrumental and sacred choral music. After his death his music soon lapsed into obscurity until it was rediscovered in the early twentieth century.

Vivaldi's double concerto for trumpets and strings is one of the few solo works of the early 1700s to feature brass instruments. It is the only such piece by Vivaldi. The rarity of this work stems from the difficulties inherent in the Baroque trumpet. At the time, trumpets were natural, or valveless. The instrument's range was quite restricted, and much depended on the performer's lip control, as with the modern bugle. As with the great majority of Vivaldi's concertos, this one begins with a quick and sparkling movement to catch the attention of the audience and to showcase the bright tones of the solo trumpets. This is followed by a languid and very brief second movement with a violin obligato overlaying sustained string tones. For the final movement, Vivaldi returned to brilliant mode with quick energy and intricate passages for the soloists.

Symphony No. 5
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)


Tchaikovsky composed this symphony in 1888, and it was premiered on 18th November in St Petersburg, with the composer himself conducting. It received mixed reviews, and by the second performance Tchaikovsky wrote "I have come to the conclusion that it is a failure." Nevertheless, it has become one of his most popular works. Like Beethoven's Fifth, it has an overall progression from tragedy to triumph, perhaps explaining its particular popularity during the Second World War. On 20th October 1941, at the start of the siege of Leningrad, it was played and broadcast to London by the Leningrad Radio Symphony Orchestra, even though bombs were falling nearby during the second movement.

Andante- Allegro con anima

The Fifth Symphony adheres to the classic four-movement form, but the movements are unified to some degree through common reference to the "Fate" theme, announced by the somber clarinets in the first movement. It reappears often in the symphony, sometimes reworked considerably, and it engenders a bleak tone that governs much of the proceedings. And yet, not everything is bleak. Secondary melodies, rhythmic vivacity and variety, bring hope and brightness to the movement.

Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza

Few melodies are as immediately memorable as the languid, nostalgic solo for horn in the second movement that gradually passes to other winds. In the midst of the movement we are startled by a brutal interruption from the "Fate" theme, played by the brass. The rest of the orchestra, too, seems shocked, and holds its breath briefly before picking up the pieces of the languid melody (now with an overlay of contrapuntal elegance from various woodwinds) via some pizzicato chords.

Valse. Allegro moderato

A graceful waltz lightens the spirit for the third movement, its melody - Tchaikovsky said - derived from a song he had heard sung by a young boy in Florence some years earlier.

Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace - Molto vivace - Moderato assai e molto maestoso - Presto

In the long final movement the "Fate" theme returns, now transposed from the minor mode into the major. The composer works out his musical ideas circuitously in a journey that appears to culminate in a series of climactic B-major chords. But the adventure continues to a satisfying conclusion with four closing E-major chords that we may hear as triumphant but may just as easily sound ominous.

 
Sunday 29th June 2014 Print E-mail

Overture, Poet and Peasant
Franz von Suppé (1819 - 1895)

Franz von Suppé was born on April 18, 1819, in Split, Croatia. His father – a man of Italian and Belgian ancestry – was a civil servant in the service of the Austrian Empire, as was his father before him; Suppé's mother was Viennese by birth. He had his first music lessons and began to compose at an early age. Suppé studied flute and harmony. At the age of 16, he moved to Padua to study law – a field of study not chosen by him – but continued to study music. Suppé was also a basso profundo singer. Suppé wrote music for over a hundred operas in Vienna.

The Poet and the Peasant (Dichter und Bauer in the original German) is one of von Suppé's earlier operettas, written in 1846 when he was 27 years old.  Like most of his work, the operetta itself is rarely performed. But the overture has become a classic at pops concerts for both bands and orchestras. The introductory segment begins with a brass chorale that is eventually joined by hesitant strings in their low registers. A solo cello enters, accompanied by arpeggios played on the harp. As this lyrical theme progresses, the accompaniment thickens until a climactic mid-point, after which the texture becomes thin again. A heavy string trill announces the aggressive middle section of the overture. After a few introductory bars we hear the famous, syncopated string melody that descends in wide leaps before climbing upward. This, in turn, is interrupted by a glittering waltz section that creates a more tranquil mood. The mood is short-lived, however, as the faster material returns, this time with a concentration on the initial phrases of the fast material, not the famous syncopated theme. When the waltz returns it again serves to provide dramatic contrast. The fast material wins in the end, however, as the syncopated theme arrives with full force and pushes ahead in Rossini-like fashion to a powerful close.

Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22
(First Movement - Andante sostenuto)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 - 1921)

Soloist: Sonya Pigot

The movement begins with a piano solo playing a long improvisational introduction in the style of a Bach fantasia. After the orchestra enters the restless and melancholy first theme is played, again by the piano solo. Saint-Saëns drew the theme from his student Gabriel Fauré's abandoned Tantum ergo motet. A brief second theme appears, followed by a middle section of increasing degrees of animato. The main theme is recapitulated fortissimo and the soloist is given a long ad libitum cadenza. The Bach-like opening motif returns in the coda.

Double Cello Concerto in G minor, RV 531
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)

  1. Allegro
  2. Largo
  3. Allegro
Soloists: Vivian and Monty Wain

Vivaldi left only one "double" concerto for cellos: RV531 in G minor. In all probability, this was composed for the Pietà during the 1720s. Its electrifying, cadenza-like opening leaves one in no doubt of its highly charged emotional content. Its slow movement, styled as that of a trio sonata, breathes an almost autobiographical sadness. Its frenetic finale, see-sawing in rhythm and tonality alike, keeps one on the edge of one's seat. This is a concerto to single out among the hundreds that Vivaldi wrote.

Symphony No. 7 in D minor
Antonín Dvořák (1841 - 1904)

  1. Allegro maestoso
  2. Poco adagio in F major
  3. Scherzo: Vivace – Poco meno mosso
  4. Finale: Allegro

Antonin Dvořák employed the idioms and melodies of folk music of his native Bohemia and Moravia in symphonic, oratorial, chamber and operatic works.

Dvořák was invited to visit England where he appeared to great acclaim in 1884. His Symphony No. 7 was written for London; it premiered there in 1885.

He completed a sketch of the 1st movement in five days, and he wrote to one of his friends: "I am now busy with this symphony for London, and wherever I go I can think of nothing else. God grant that this Czech music will move the world!" Ten days later he finished his sketch of the slow movement. He added a footnote "From the sad years". This refers to the recent death of his mother, and probably also to the previous death of his eldest child, and these events were in his mind especially in this movement. However, there is also a broader horizon - he wrote to a friend "What is in my mind is Love, God, and my Fatherland."

The movement starts with intense calm and peace, but also includes turmoil and unsettled weather. He told his publisher that "there is not one superfluous note". In the next month or so he completed the sketches of the 3rd and 4th movements. Dvořák said that the 4th movement includes a suggestion of the capacity of the Czech people to display stubborn resistance to political oppressors. In 1885 it received its brilliantly successful first performance at St James's Hall London, with Dvořák himself conducting.

 
Sunday 13th April 2014 Print E-mail

Coriolan Overture, Op. 62
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)


Like Beethoven's overtures to Egmont, Leonore and The Ruins of Athens, the Coriolan Overture was originally written for the theatre. It was composed in 1807 for a performance, not of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, but of Heinrich von Collin's Coriolan. Collin was a minor official in the Austrian government, and his play appears to have had sufficient merit to enjoy sporadic appearances in Vienna during the early years of the century. Beethoven wrote this overture five years after the play's première, and there is only one recorded instance of the overture being presented in connection with a production of the play, at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 24 April 1807.

Coriolanus was a rebellious Roman general who lived in the fifth century BC. According to Plutarch, Coriolanus, during a time of famine, argued that grain should not be distributed to the plebeian masses unless they abolished their newly-established Tribune. For this, he and his family were banished from Rome and took refuge among the Volsci - whom Coriolanus eventually aided in their war with the Romans. His mother, Volumnia, and wife, Virgilia, pleaded with him to spare the city of his birth. This he did, but was killed by the Volsci for his treachery. In Collin's drama however, the tormented general commits suicide.

Coriolanus's frustrated rage and the conflicts he confronts are fully explored in the overture, and give rise to some of the most explosive and violent music Beethoven ever wrote. It is in the key of C minor, the same as his dramatic fifth symphony written around the same time.

Beethoven plunges us into the turmoil with agonized chords at the start. Coriolanus' indecision is apparent in the unstable, flexible rhythm of the principal theme, whose lurching accents and phrasing contrast with the movement's metre of 4/4.  At the conclusion, the hero's suicide is clear. No triumph emerges from this particular struggle.

Concierto de Aranjuez
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 - 1999)

Soloist: Robert Osler

1. Allegro con spirito
2. Adagio
3. Allegro gentile

Blind from the age of three as a result of diphtheria, Rodrigo studied composition in Spain before moving to Paris in 1927. There he met his countryman Manuel de Falla and the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi, who would become his wife. During the bitterly cold winter of 1938-39, with war looming, Victoria learned that she was pregnant. Seven months into the pregnancy she miscarried and was hospitalised for several days. During this time, a friend who was staying with them noticed that Joaquin spent long periods at the piano, playing a melody so sad it gave her chills. Evoking the saeta, a song sung by women from balconies during religious processions through the streets of Seville, this melody would form the basis for the slow movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez.

The opening movement, Allegro con spirito, is based on traditional dances such as the fandango. It is built on a series of alternations: the traditional alternation between the solo instrument and the orchestra, a thematic alternation between the strummed chords of the guitar and the melody introduced by the violins, and a rhythmic alternation between the written time signature of 6/8 and frequent passages in 3/4. The solo guitar uses techniques from flamenco, as well as contrasting punteado (picked ornamentation in flying scale passages) with rasgueados (strumming). The movement climaxes with a brisk fandango segment complete with lively brass, then the guitar brings the piece to a gentle close.

Gentleness becomes longing in the Adagio. The guitar strums quietly while the cor anglais plays a plaintive melody. The guitar and cor anglais pass the theme back and forth, and eventually the entire orchestra takes it up. Although a lengthy guitar cadenza leads the orchestra to a passionate climax, the movement ends quietly and reflectively.

The final movement, Allegro gentile, is a clever combination of Baroque-sounding counterpoint and dancing, folk-like melodies. As in the first movement, this one juxtaposes two time signatures, in this instance 2/4 and 3/4. Various solo instruments and groups pass the final theme back and forth, and after a final grand presentation, the movement and work end delicately.

The Concierto de Aranjuez has remained Rodrigo's most successful work, and has become the most popular guitar concerto ever written. While he maintained that there was no implied program, the title refers to the famous royal palace on the road to Andalusia on the Tagus River near Madrid. According to the composer, the music "seems to bring to life the essence of eighteenth-century court life, where aristocratic distinction blends with popular culture." The Concerto is meant to sound "like the hidden breeze that stirs the treetops in the parks: it should only be as strong as a butterfly and as delicate as a veronica (a pass with the cape at a bullfight)".

Serenade No. 1 in D, Op. 11
Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)

1. Allegro molto
2. Scherzo
3. Adagio non troppo
4. Menuetto I - Menuetto II
5. Scherzo
6. Rondo

Johannes Brahms remained haunted by the symphonic shadow of Ludwig van Beethoven. "You have no idea how the likes of us feel when we hear the tramp of a giant like him (Beethoven) behind us," he said. Although he began sketching a symphony in 1855, he did not publish his monumental Symphony No. 1 until 1876 when he was in his forties. Brahms was the ultimate perfectionist. He constantly revised his works and destroyed many scores he deemed unworthy.

Brahms's early works were solo piano pieces. His first published orchestral work was the Serenade No. 1 in D Major. In many ways, the genesis of Brahms's symphonies was planted in this charming yet rigorous score.

The Serenade in its original form, as a nonet, pleased at its première. Nonetheless, Brahms chose to destroy the score and parts after he had made the orchestral version. Brahms's orchestration is close to what we find in late Haydn and early-to-middle Beethoven. The only oddity is the full quartet of horns, something you find occasionally in early Haydn and Mozart, but then not again until Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It is certainly a beautiful sound that Brahms has imagined here. As for overall design, Brahms must have had some of Mozart's serenades in mind. Those are often like symphonies expanded by an extra minuet, but Brahms also adds two scherzos. What gives the work its considerable length is not only the number of movements but also the large-scale symphonic processes required by the first movement, slow movement, and finale, as well as the sheer size of some of the themes.

Brahms' reverence for nature is apparent at the very opening, with a drone bass accompanying the opening solo horn theme. The lyrical second theme looks towards Brahms' mature works. The movement is truly symphonic in proportions, and ends with a lovely coda in which the opening horn theme is stated for the last time by solo flute.

In contrast, the second movement, a shadowy minor key scherzo prophetic of the equivalent movement in the Second Piano Concerto, is more concise. It is unlike a typical Beethoven scherzo, but more like an intermezzo.

The slow movement is calm, idyllic, spacious and in every way glorious. With the bassoons and low strings densely bunched in the middle and low registers, the sound is unmistakably Brahmsian. This movement is the heart of the Serenade. Like the first movement, it is bountiful in the amount of material it offers. Brahms gives the coda to the flute. It is true poetry, a few bars to make us hold our breath.

The fourth movement is a pair of minuets, with both being very lightly scored, perhaps reflecting their chamber music origin. The first begins with a trio for two clarinets and bassoon, with flute and cellos joining. The second is in G minor, for first violins accompanied by violas, cells and clarinets.

The second scherzo is much more animated than the first, with the horn again in the lead as in the first movement.

The final rondo is exuberant, summing up the entire work with the characteristic blend of vigour and warmth that marked so many of Brahms' mature works.

The D Major Serenade is a major essay of symphonic proportions. Brahms's first orchestral work distinctively bears the hand, voice, and genius of its creator.

 

 

 
Sunday 1st December 2013 Print E-mail

Conductor’s Note:

When I was asked to select the music for today’s concert, I was also preparing for ballet exams in my role as pianist for the Royal Academy of Dance. This gave me the idea to combine the two elements and use dance as the basis for my selection. Furthermore, this reminded me that so much of western music is firmly rooted in various dance forms. For instance, earlier forms such as the baroque suite consists of a set of regional dances, which not only have particular movement characteristics that dictate musical accentuation, such as the waltz, the jig (gigue) and so on, but sometimes even have titles that reflect their regions of origin. For instance, the allemande originates in Germany (l‘Allemagne), the angloise in England and the polonaise in Poland.

All the works presented today have some connection to national dance forms: rhythmic Spanish dances complete with castanets; a sad waltz from Finland; a Viennese-style march; a Swedish-flavoured minuet; a French sarabande; and finally several peasant dances from the Netherlands. Please, if you feel the urge to do so, tap your feet.  Even if you can’t resist the temptation there should be enough space for you to grab a dance partner and twirl and leap around, providing you don’t disturb the second trumpet player or harpist!

La Boda de Luis Alonso (Intermedio)
Gerónimo Giménez (1854 - 1923)


This work was first performed on 27th January 1897 at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid. It forms part of a Zarzuela- a sort of nineteenth century popular Spanish operetta- with the same title. The intermedio (intermezzo) is perhaps one of the composer’s best-known works, and contains many Spanish national traits. With its strong and lively rhythmic figures, the inclusion of castanets, and guitar-like patterns in the string parts, it conjures up familiar Spanish dance forms.  Slightly deviating from performances by other orchestras, La Boda has been expanded with a short introduction, arranged by our conductor Hans Kooij and horn player, Lance Cowled.

Valse Triste (Op. 44, No. 1)
Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)

The Finnish composer Sibelius composed six pieces as incidental music for the 1903 play Kuolema (Death). The first was entitled Tempo di valse lente - Poco risoluto. In 1904 he revised the piece, which was performed in Helsinki on 25th April of that year as Valse triste (Sad waltz). It was an instant hit with the public, took on a life of its own, and remains one of Sibelius's signature pieces.

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major (K. 467)
W. A. Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Soloist: Cindy Lee
1.    Allegro maestoso
2.    Andante
3.    Allegro vivace assai

This concerto was completed on 9th March 1785 - only four weeks after the completion of the previous D minor concerto, K. 466. The opening movement begins quietly with a march-like figure, but quickly moves to a more lyrical melody interspersed with a fanfare in the winds and trumpets. The famous second movement features muted strings, with a dream-like melody over an accompaniment consisting of repeated triplets and pizzicato arpeggios in the cellos and basses, repeated and elaborated upon by the piano. The final rondo movement begins with an orchestral joyous "jumping" theme, joined by the piano after a short cadenza. A "call and response" style is apparent, with the piano and ensemble exchanging parts fluidly.

Scherzo from Symphony No. 4 in E flat (Sinfonie naïve)
Franz Adolf Berwald (1796 - 1868)

Little known outside the borders of his native country Sweden, and generally ignored during his lifetime, Berwald completed his Fourth Symphony in 1845. It was not premiered until 1878, ten years after the composer’s death, as the originally planned 1848 premiere in Paris was cancelled due to political unrest at the time.

Not only did Berwald compose four symphonies, but he also composed several concerti, chamber works, vocal works, operas and operettas. Practically all his works are crafted with a certain and transparent witty creative power so typical of this composer.  Ironically, Berwald made his living mainly as an orthopaedic surgeon, and later managed a sawmill and a glass factory. This particular Scherzo was chosen for its reference to an earlier dance form, the Minuet, typically containing repeated short sections.

Sarabande (L.95)
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)

A sarabande is typically a slow dance form written in a triple meter with an accent occurring on the second beat. This example, best known as the second part of a set of three short piano pieces, Pour le Piano, was premiered in 1902 in the Salle Érard for the Société Nationale de Musique. It originated at a much earlier date of 1894, belonging to the series of Images oubliées. Later, it was orchestrated by Maurice Ravel- the version that we perform today.

Second Suite of Dutch Dances
Henk Badings (1907 - 1987)    

(Australian premiere)

Born in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Badings graduated from Delft University as a palaeontologist. He began his musical career as a full-time composer in the early 1930s. In his early years, Badings had some composition lessons with Willem Pijper, but the ideas of student and teacher differed vastly, and the period of lessons did not last long. Badings’ composition skills developed mostly autodidactly.

While Badings is the most prolific composer that the Netherlands has ever produced, with an oeuvre of over 1100 works, he has often been bitterly and stubbornly marginalised within the Netherlands itself. This is mainly due to an unjust accusation of Nazi collaboration made shortly after WWII, even though he was officially cleared in 1947. However, understandably Dutch cultural life remained overshadowed for many decades by a dark sentiment surrounding the war years. Many artists who filled prominent positions, or those who were permitted by the occupying forces to continue practising, found themselves persecuted after the war. It is only since the 1960s that Badings’ music has increasingly regained attention, both in the Netherlands and abroad.

During the late 1950s, Badings explored and pioneered electronic music and designed an electronic studio for Phillips in Eindhoven. He was also the first composer who produced an entire electronic opera for Dutch national radio. In 1960, Badings was appointed to the Adelaide Elder Conservatorium, where he taught composition, and built an electronic studio, which is still in use today. Although high on the list of candidates to become director of the Adelaide Conservatorium, the controversy surrounding his war years worked against him once again. Badings spent his final years composing for smaller scale ensembles and amateur orchestras, and attended as many performances as possible. He died in his country home in Maarheze in the southern part of the Netherlands, where his widow Hetty still resides.

A large body of Badings’ musical output contains the octatonic system, an eight-note scale consisting of alternating whole-tone and half-tone steps. Three other Dutch composers employed this system, Willem Pijper (1894–1947), Wolfgang Wijdeveld (1910–1985) and Anton van der Horst (1899–1965). Each used the octatonic system in a highly individualistic way - possibly in an attempt to establish a typical Dutch national idiom. In Pijper’s case this is almost certain, as he was apparently unaware of its previous use by composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky (and later by French composers such as Debussy and Ravel). Badings’ octatonic music particularly stands out, because the system is often superimposed onto traditional forms (neo-classical), which cause his music to sound strangely familiar, yet full of twentieth century dissonant harmonies.

The second suite of Dutch dances was composed for, and premiered in 1979 by the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands (NJO), dedicated to Ru Sevenhuysen, chief conductor at the time. The dances are based on regional dance forms, invoking clog dances, pipe-bands and rural musical forms, and include several fragments of national folk-tunes still sung today.

1.    Terschellingse dans    (a dance from Terschelling, a small island in the north)
2.    Westfriese Boerendans    (a peasant dance from the north east)
3.    Drentse dans    (Drentse - a province in the north west)
4.    Westfriese dans    (a berceuse from the north east)
5.    Rielen    (a Dutch circle dance related to the Scottish reel, which is also still popular in South Africa)

Our Soloist: Cindy Lee

Cindy Lee was born in Taiwan in 1993 and began learning piano and viola at the age of five with her mother, Tzu-Yu Guo, and Meiyu Lin. While at high school, Cindy performed in various solo, chamber music and orchestral concerts on both instruments. Some of her competition successes include second prize in the Mayor’s Music Competition (2006), third prize in the Pingtung Junior High School concerto competition (2008), and first prize in the Seasons Piano Competition.

Cindy moved to Australia in 2013 and is currently in her final year at Hobart College, studying with Hans Kooij and Shan Deng.

Our Conductor: Hans-Eduard Kooij

Born in the Netherlands, Hans settled in Australia in the early 1980s. He studied piano with Leah Horwitz and Natasha Vlassenko at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, where he also enjoyed his first experience as conductor, conducting the QUT George Street Revue. Since then he conducted several smaller Queensland ensembles, and worked as repetiteur for opera and dance companies and institutes including Qld Ballet Company, Qld Dance School of Excellence, Qld Lyric Opera and several visiting Australian and international companies, such as the Sydney Dance Company, the Royal Ballet Covent Garden, and the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre.  In 1996 he moved to Tasmania to complete his Honours degree with Beryl Sedivka at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, performing the Australian premiere of the complete works for piano by the Dutch composer Willem Pijper. This was also recorded for ABC FM. Since then he has broadened his field, working as a choral conductor with several Tasmanian choirs, including Sing Australia and Friends.  In 2012 he conducted the musical Sweeney Todd at Hobart College and Loose Canon Chamber Singers in their jazz concert at the Moonah Arts Centre.

Recently Hans formed part of the orchestra for Phantom of the Opera and acted as the local repetiteur for the Melbourne Opera production of Cosi fan tutte. Currently Hans is the state pianist for the Royal Academy of Dance, teaches privately from his studio in Mount Nelson, works as a freelance accompanist, and as instrumental accompanist (classical) at Hobart College. He plans to further develop his career as an orchestral conductor and will always keep exploring new musical challenges and repertoire.

 
Sunday 15th September 2013 Print E-mail

Jubel Overture, Op. 54
Carl Maria von Weber (1786 - 1826)

Weber’s Jubel Overture was composed in 1818 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the ascension to the throne of the King of Saxony, Friedrich August I. After the premiere Weber wrote in his diary: “Festival day. At night grand court concert in the Opera House. My Jubilee Overture went finely.”

After a grand introduction, perhaps symbolizing honour and respect for the king, comes a driving presto of jubilant celebration, ending with a brilliant fortissimo. The full orchestra then plays a solemn and grand rendition of “Heil Dir im Siegerkranz” (God Save the King), which was the German national anthem until 1922.

Andante Festivo
Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957)

Late in 1922, Sibelius was commissioned to write a work in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Savnatsalo sawmill near his country home in Finland, and he responded with a short movement for string quartet, Andante festivo. Sibelius was always inspired by nature, and the work is one of broad chords and a hushed solemnity. It is not what one might think of as "festive," but most definitely "andante" (a moderately slow, walking pace).

Sibelius later arranged the work for string orchestra and timpani, to be broadcast on New Year’s Day 1939 as a greeting to the world at the World Exhibition in New York. During the recording session at the Helsinki radio station, Sibelius perhaps foresaw the gathering clouds of war, urging the performers to "Play with more humanity."

This five minute gem has an almost sacred gravity, and to this day it continues to be played in Finland during solemn state occasions, as it was during Sibelius’ own funeral, which was estimated to have been attended by over 70,000 people.

“Sigurd Jorsalfar” - Three pieces for orchestra Op. 56
 Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907)

Grieg composed his incidental music for Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson's play Sigurd Jorsalfar (Sigurd the Crusader) in 1872, two years before he undertook his much better-known Peer Gynt music. The play itself is rarely staged, although its roots in the mystical world of Nordic folklore still remain compelling. The plot concerns the joint rulers of twelfth-century Norway, two brothers Sigurd and Øystein, and the beautiful Borghild, whose love for Øystein is unrequited but who is loved by Sigurd.

“In the King’s Hall” heralds a scene in which the brothers and their followers debate which of the two is to be the sole monarch.

“Borghild’s Dream” is a dramatic representation of the heroine’s inner turmoil and confusion.

In the “Homage March”, Sigurd is chosen by Borghild to lead his people, and is reconciled to Øystein. Grieg’s concert version is expanded from the original, with an introductory fanfare and broad central melody.

Symphony No. 3  in E flat (Op. 55)                          
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

1. Allegro con brio
2. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
4. Allegro- Poco andante- Presto

It has often been said that that this symphony is one of the most important ever written. Sir George Grove called it Beethoven’s “first obviously revolutionary music.” Romain Rolland likened it to the discovery of the New World: “The Eroica is Columbus’ caravel, the first to reach an unknown continent.”

To begin with, one can point to the unusual length of the symphony; at around 50 minutes it is nearly half as long again as any other symphony to date. But more important than the mere length is the substance. In previous symphonies, including Beethoven’s own, the development section of the first movement is almost invariably substantially shorter than the exposition, but in the Eroica it is two thirds longer, and the coda, which was traditionally merely a short closing gesture, is here only a few bars shorter than the exposition. The length and proportions are not a case of padding, but rather an exhaustive working out of the material and a concentrated building of energy and power.

Beethoven probably conceived the idea of his new symphony in 1802, just after writing his heartbreaking “Heiligenstadt Testament”, where he despaired at the gradual loss of his hearing and even expressed thoughts of suicide. Yet, he soon wrote to his doctor, “I will seize fate by the throat.”

Beethoven planned to dedicate the symphony to Napoleon, whom Beethoven admired as a liberator and fellow revolutionary. It was not Bonaparte’s military prowess to which Beethoven was paying tribute, but rather his republicanism and rejection of the ancien régime. However, when Napoleon declared himself Emperor in 1804, Beethoven was infuriated and tore the dedication inscription from his the title page of his manuscript. The symphony then received a new title: “Sinfonia eroica – per festeggiar il suovenire d’un gran uomo” (Heroic symphony to celebrate the memory of a great man).

The monumental first movement is the grandest part of this work. After two mighty opening chords the principal theme is played by the cellos. Other significant melodic ideas are a three note falling fragment and a loud semiquaver string figure. As already mentioned, this movement is not only built on a vast scale, but it is also noted for its obsessive, often dissonant thrusts against the beat.

The massive slow movement is a Funeral March in c minor. The main theme is in two parts, the first distinguished by sharply dotted rhythms, and the second with a broad majestic lyricism. The movement carries great weight, and in its central fugato episode, a searing intensity of feeling beyond any previous symphonic writing.

In the energetic Scherzo Beethoven plays with metric ambiguities – is the movement in duple or triple time? One of the most striking innovations is the use of three horns in its Trio section. Another is the sudden change of time for four bars that occurs in the final statement of the descending motive near the end.

The Finale uses as its subject a favourite idea of Beethoven, as he had also used it in three earlier works. A tempestuous introductory flourish begins, followed by a series of variations of almost bewildering diversity, including march rhythm and fugato. The culmination is a spacious and extended slow variation distinguished by its elaborate wind writing and majestic beauty.

This ground-breaking and monumental symphony had its first public performance in 1805, conducted by Beethoven at the Theater an der Wien.

Again to quote Romain Rolland: “The Eroica is a miracle even among Beethoven’s works. If later he went further, never did he take so big a single stride."

 
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Next Concert

Sunday 2nd April 2017
2.30pm

Mozart
Flute Concerto No. 2
Soloist: Kara Thorpe

Various
Soloist: Lana Kains

Arutiunian
Trumpet Concerto
Soloist: Darcy O'Malley

Beethoven
Fidelio Overture

Holst
Ballet Music from The Perfect Fool

Conductor: Jamie Allen

Stanley Burbury Theatre (TBC)
University of Tasmania
Churchill Ave, Sandy Bay

Tickets at door $25 $20(conc)

 
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