Program Notes

Program Notes by Don Anderson © 2013


September 21, 2013

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”
Ludwig van Beethoven
b. Bonn, Germany / December 15, 1770; d. Vienna, Austria / March 26, 1827

This mighty work, which Beethoven composed in 1803, is a longer and more innovative symphony than any previous piece of its kind. Initially he considered dedicating it to Napoleon Bonaparte. But when the French leader crowned himself emperor, Beethoven scratched his name off the title page. The first movement is vast in scale and filled with memorable themes. One of this symphony’s innovations was the use, as the second movement, of a funeral march An immensely vital, red-blooded scherzo sweeps away the funeral march’s clouds. The finale consists of a joyful set of variations on a melody that Beethoven had composed for his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus.

Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Sergei Rachmaninoff
b. Oneg, Russia / March 20, 1873; d. Beverly Hills, California, USA / March 28, 1943

Rachmaninoff composed this concerto for his first tour of North America. The premiere took place in New York in November 1909, with the composer as soloist. The tremendous demands it places upon the piano soloist kept it on the fringes of the repertoire until the young Vladimir Horowitz showed that other pianists could master its difficulties. The prominent part it played in the Oscar-winning motion picture Shine (1996) has given it an even greater lease on life. Many of the concerto’s melodies have the color and emotion of Russian folksong.


October 26, 2013

William Tell Overture
Gioachino Rossini
b. Pesaro, Italy / February 29, 1792; d. Passy, France / November 13, 1868

Premiered in Paris in 1829, William Tell is the last of the nearly 40 operas that made Rossini the most popular composer of his era. It tells the story of the thirteenth century Swiss patriot who led his countrymen against their Austrian oppressors. Rossini introduced this four-hour opera with an expansive overture, climaxing in a thrilling gallop (also known as The Lone Ranger).

Sinfonia concertante for violin and cello, Op. 29
Miklós Rózsa
b. Budapest, Hungary / April 18, 1907; d. Los Angeles, California, USA / July 27, 1995

Best known for his Oscar-winning film scores, Rózsa also composed a great deal of concert music. He wrote this exciting and colorful piece in 1958, to showcase the artistry of violinist Jascha Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. It combines the brilliance of a concerto with the substance of a symphony.

Maskarade Overture
Carl Nielsen
b. Sortelung, Denmark / June 9, 1865; d. Copenhagen, Denmark / October 3, 1931

Nielsen’s comic opera Maskarade (Masquerade, 1906), is a romantic farce involving disguises, deception and young love among Danish aristocrats. He introduced it with a bustling potpourri of melodies from the opera.

Symphony in C Major
Georges Bizet
b. Paris, France / October 25, 1838; d. Bougival, France / June 3, 1875

Bizet composed this charming work in 1855, when he was a student at the Paris Conservatoire. Naturally for the work of a student, it shows the influences of those composers he knew and admired, such as Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Rossini.


January 25, 2014

Music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
b. Salzburg, Austria / January 27, 1756; d. Vienna, Austria / December 5, 1791

Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525

Mozart completed this enchanting serenade for strings in August 1787, while he was at work on his masterful serio-comic opera, Don Giovanni. It is not known if it was performed during his lifetime, and some doubt exists as to whether he intended it to be played as a chamber work, or as has been most common, by a string orchestra. What no one questions is its beguiling freshness and charm.

Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488

This lovely concerto was premiered in Vienna in March 1786, with the composer as soloist. It opens in leisurely fashion, with the orchestra presenting the movement’s principal materials. The soloist then treats them with a winning mixture of elegance and delicious flights of fancy. The atmosphere changes radically in the slow movement, one of Mozart’s most poignant creations. The finale brings further contrast, lightening the mood completely.

Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543

Mozart returned to composing symphonies in 1788, after a two-year gap. In quick succession he composed the three symphonic masterpieces that proved to be his final examples of the genre: Nos. 39, 40 and 41. No. 39 is playful and elegant in character.


April 12, 2014

Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485
Franz Schubert
b. Vienna, Austria / January 31, 1797; d. Vienna / November 19, 1828

Schubert composed his Fifth Symphony in 1816. It is a genial and thoroughly refreshing piece. It contains just enough hints of darker emotions – forecasting the “Unfinished” Symphony in B Minor of 1822 – to lend it substance.

Carmina Burana
Carl Orff
b. Munich, Germany / July 10, 1895; d. Munich / March 29, 1982

Orff countered the overly complex musical styles of the mid-twentieth century by creating theatrical spectacles in which straightforward, communicative music, words and movement combined to produce immediate and striking impressions that appealed to a broad range of audiences. Named after a medieval song collection that was discovered in a German monastery, Carmina Burana was Orff’s first and greatest success. He chose two dozen poems from the collection and set them for soloists, chorus and orchestra. The score opens and closes with a grand and very familiar hymn paying tribute to luck. Other topics include the welcome approach of spring, and the joys of wine and the tavern. The final section deals with romantic love.

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