October 2013 Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna Overture Franz ...

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1 Oct 2013 ... Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna belongs to a musical genre that precedes the operetta‐‐a humorous play interspersed with song.

October 2013 Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna Overture Franz von Suppé (1819 ‐1895) Scored for 2 flutes (one doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, snare drum, bass drum and strings. Franz von Suppé—aka Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppé Demelli—was born in Spalato, Dalmatia (now Split, Croatia) to parents who, like so many others before and since, discouraged his aspirations for a musical career. Though he demonstrated promise as a composer at a young age, von Suppé agreed to move with the family to Padua, Italy where he intended to study law. However, upon his father's death in 1835, he relocated to Vienna (with his mother), enrolled in the Conservatory, and pursued his true passion. Having been swooned by the Italian music of Rossini and Verdi, he began to compose in the effervescent Italianate melodic style. At the height of his long and profitable career, von Suppé was the founder and leading composer of light Austrian operetta in the middle and late nineteenth century, enjoying a success that rivaled that of Frenchman Jacques Offenbach. A review of his first score (Young and Merry, 1841) praised the youthful von Suppé for all the same qualities associated with his later masterpieces: Melodious, rich in tender ideas and fine nuances, clearly and effectively orchestrated and containing such surprising modulations and transitions, that the overture and most of the songs and choruses had to be encored . . . The whole composition has traces of the Italian style but now and then goes in for thoroughly vernacular, simply handled themes. Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna belongs to a musical genre that precedes the operetta‐‐a humorous play interspersed with song. The overture to such a production rarely, if ever, related to the actual story line of the play. Its function was simply to get the attention of the audience, quiet the house, and set the scene for the entertainment. Even in this relatively early work, composed when he was only twenty‐four, von Suppé had a feel for how to grab the attention of the audience. The play closed after three nights, but the overture was a huge success. The lighthearted character of the play is apparent in the music from the very beginning, as the dramatic opening statement by brass and winds is answered, perhaps mocked would be a better word, by a pizzicato response. This is then followed by a brief and calming chorale, played by the woodwinds and brass, capped off by a recurrence of the dramatic opening material and another brief chorale. All of the preceding bluster cum melancholy turns out to be merely an introduction to an extended cello solo, featuring a plaintive melody over a waltz accompaniment played by pizzicato strings. The lyrical melody occurs twice before the full orchestra takes over, providing a new closure to the tune in the high strings. The cello takes over once again, ending its passage with an expressive mini‐ cadenza. The opening bang returns abruptly, signaling a change to come. An exceptionally active and agitated tune commences in the strings and the remainder of the overture is a

whirlwind of melodic material intended to excite the listener and propel the music onward to its dramatic conclusion. “Ombra mai fu” from Xerxes George Frederic Handel (1685‐1759) Scored for strings and soprano (originally for castrato). There are two things about the opera Xerxes (also know by its original Italian title Serse) that everyone seems to agree: 1) the opera, as a whole, was a complete failure when it premiered and 2) the opening aria, sung by the title character, contains one of Handel’s most gorgeous and well‐know melodies. After a meager five performances in April 1738, the opera disappeared from the stage for nearly 200 years. The reasons for the poor showing are usually placed squarely on Handel’s choice of libretto (text). The conventions of opera at the time Xerxes was composed did not allow for the mixing of comic and tragic elements in the same production. The libretto, written 75 years earlier than the music, is filled with such undesirable juxtapositions and Handel was game to try something that was perceived as revolutionary (and clearly unwanted at the time): the representation of more than one sentiment in the course of an opera. For those who speak opera, Handel also shook things up musically with regards to the formal and familiar construction of his arias. Abandoning the structure of the heavily favored ‘da capo’ aria (A‐B‐A in form), Handel instead employs short, tuneful arias interwoven with brief recitatives, ensembles and instrumental sections. Revived in 1924, Xerxes has grown to become one of Handel’s most popular and frequently performed operas, second only to Giulio Cesare. Indeed, the features that Handel’s audiences found so disconcerting—the shorter arias, faster moving plot, and the blatant mixture of tragedy and comedy—likely account for its popularity today. The plot of the opera is loosely based on Xerxes I of Persia (ca. 480 BC) and, loosely summarized, involves a half dozen characters professing love to someone who doesn't love them, except for one couple who truly love each other, but in secret. They (the couple in love) fend off an advance from a man who loves the woman while simultaneously fending off the jealous and manipulative sister‐of‐the‐secretly‐loved‐woman who is doing her level best to split the couple up because she wants the man her sister is with. There is quite a bit more, including an exciting temper tantrum ending that has threats of death being cast about by a certain Xerxes who cannot have the spouse he wants. But who needs all that confusion? Don't worry about it—everything works out just fine before the opera comes to a close. The comic element is introduced at the outset of the opera with the tyrannical Xerxes singing the opening aria, the subtle and delicate “Ombra mai fu.” While the text is not overtly humorous, Handel is playing on the irony of the absurd situation we are viewing: Xerxes praising the shade provided by a tree in the most earnest and fervent terms with a heart‐stirring melody that hardly seems appropriate for the situation. The aria has only one simple line of text—perhaps the most beautiful music ever penned to describe the splendor of a tree:



“Never was made the shade of any plant, more dear and lovely, or more sweet.” “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” from Don Giovanni W. A. Mozart (1756‐1791) Scored for flute, oboe, bassoon, 2 horns, strings and solo soprano. Genius is a title that is perhaps thrown about a bit recklessly when ascribing adjectives to historic personalities. However, any that deny Mozart this moniker, surely would be placed in the stock and pillories for public ridicule. While most emphasize Mozart’s musical prowess (a worthy focus, indeed) consider today his multi‐lingual skills in the operatic realm. Since Italian opera was all the rage in the late eighteenth century, any serious composer was expected to write in Italian, and Mozart was only too happy to comply. Mozart clearly understood the subtleties of Italian and penned music that corresponds in a way that would suggest much more than a simplistic tourist vocabulary. He also had mastery of French and Latin, all likely self‐taught as there is no record of him taking language classes at Salzburg Community College or indulging in early editions of Rosetta Stone. Sum total, Mozart’s operatic creations envelop the listener in a rich musical and linguistic experience that few others equal even when writing in their own vernacular. Don Giovanni was premiered in 1787, featuring a scandalous libretto by Lonrenzo Da Ponte based on the legends of the fictional philanderer, Don Juan. Although sometimes classified as a comic opera (Mozart himself catalogued it a an “opera buffa”), it blends humor with melodrama and the supernatural. For those not familiar with the Don Juan legend, the title character is an arrogant, promiscuous nobleman who has a penchant for seducing women throughout Europe—and not just a few, mind you. During the course of the opera Da Ponte and Mozart introduce us to three women who have been duped by the Don: Donna Anna, Zerlina and Donna Elvira. They have loosely bonded together for the purposes of revenge. The plot twists such that the father of Donna Anna, known as the Commendatore, is killed by Don Giovanni when Don is caught trying to seduce his daughter. Don Giovanni and his servant, Leporello, later approach a stone monument of the Commendatore whereupon the statue awakens and rebukes the Don for his despicable behavior. Leporello is terrified, but Giovanni, in a fit of disbelieving good humor, tells Leporello to ask the statue to dinner. The statue accepts. When the statue arrives for dinner, the Don politely asks him to join him for the meal but the statue declines. Instead, he orders the Don to repent for his sins. Defiant to the end, Giovanni refuses to atone for his wrongs and is dragged down into hell along with the statue. The aria “Batti, batti” is sung by Zerlina to her fiancé, Masetto, after an attempted seduction by the Don. She is trying to placate Masetto who is clearly angered by what has transpired. Beat me, dear Masetto, beat your poor Zerlina. I’ll stand here as meek as a lamb and bear the blows you lay on me. You can tear out my hair, you can put out my eyes.

And yet gladly I’ll kiss your dear hands. Ah! I see you have not the heart to do so. Let us make peace, my dearest love! In happiness and joy let us pass our days and nights. Symphonie Espagnole Edouard Lalo (1823‐1892) Scored for: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle, snare drum, harp, and strings. Edouard Lalo was born into a military family in Northern France. His father fought for Napoleon and assumed that young Edouard would pursue the military as a career as well. Although his parents initially encouraged his musical talents, when he began to consider music as a career possibility, he received stern opposition from his father. Frustrated, Lalo left home at age 16 to pursue musical studies at the Paris Conservatory. For a time, things went well for him as a student, but gradually the rigid structure of the institution and lack of flexibility in the instructors and their methods forced Lalo to reconsider his career options. He decided not to give in, perhaps out of fear of returning home in disgrace, and worked for years in relative obscurity as a violinist and music teacher. It was not until the 1870s, when Lalo was past his 50th birthday, that he finally got a break as a composer. The Franco‐Prussian war of 1870 and its aftermath created temporary havoc in France’s social conditions; the practice of music had nearly come to a standstill in the country. However, the rapid reconstruction that followed the conclusion of the war gave rise to the creation of the Société nationale de musique. The Société, in turn, created a concert series to rally the musical arts, which demanded the creation of new works. French composers, including Lalo, were inspired and encouraged to compose large‐scale orchestral works for these performances, despite the fact that such works had fallen out of fashion in France many decades earlier. Lalo’s name as a composer became widely known beyond the boarders of France through a series of works he composed for the Spanish violinist Pablo Sarasate. One of the most spectacular violin virtuosos of the late nineteenth century, Sarasate was known for his beautiful tone, perfect intonation, tremendous ego, and his flair on the stage. Many composers dedicated works to him, including Max Bruch, Camille Saint‐Saëns, Joseph Joachim, Henri Wieniawski, and Antonín Dvorak. The first work Lalo and Sarasate collaborated on was the Concerto in F Major, which was premiered in 1874. Lalo was so taken by Sarasate’s abilities that he soon set to work on another, more ambitious work,

which he tailored specifically to suit Sarasate. This second work, Symphonie Espagnole, Lalo’s most famous and enduring composition, was first performed in 1875 with Sarasate as soloist. Parisian audiences were hungry for the exotic Spanish sounding music and their response to the Symphonie Espagnole was one of immediate enthusiasm. Don’t let the title deceive; Symphonie Espagnole is not a symphony, nor a traditional concerto. It is more like a five‐movement Baroque suite, especially when the incorporation of dance rhythms is considered. Although the five movements are not specifically named, they all correspond to Spanish dances and folk rhythms, while the structure of the movements corresponds to classical symphonic and concerto models. Lalo has the following commentary on the unusual title of the Symphonie Espagnole: Artistically, a title means nothing and the work itself is everything; this is an absolute principle. But commercially, a tainted, discredited title is never a good thing. I kept the title Symphonie espagnole contrary to and in spite of everybody, first, because it conveyed my thoughts—that is to say, a violin solo soaring above the rigid form of an old symphony—and then because the title was less banal than those that were proposed to me. The cries and criticisms have died or will die down; the title will remain, and in a letter of congratulation Bülow wrote to me that this happy title placed the piece beyond all others. The first movement is a habanera, with the three main themes of this sonata form presented in the same rhythm – although not the same mood. The first two themes run together, and although the first is little more than a motive, it serves as the glue that holds the movement together as both refrain, as well as the most developed musical idea. Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76 Antonín Dvořák (1841‐1904) Scored for: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle and strings Dvořák was born on September 8, 1841 in Mühlhausen, Bohemia (today Nelahozeves, Czech Republic) about 20 miles north of Prague. His father was a butcher, innkeeper, and professional player of the zither. Dvořák's parents recognized and nurtured his musical talent from an early age. He studied organ, violin and viola, becoming accomplished on all three instruments. As a young adult he played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra, and fell under the spell of its director, Czech nationalist composer Bedrich Smetana. Bitten by the compositional bug, Dvořák turned his attention away from performing in 1871 and began to receive modest regional acclaim for his work. Within a few years his reputation as a composer had spread, attracting the attention of such musical

luminaries as Johannes Brahms. Brahms even recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who subsequently commissioned what would become the wildly popular Slavonic Dances, first published in 1878, and represented Dvořák’s breakthrough composition. However, before his international career took root in the late 1870s, Dvořák continued to compose in relative isolation. His Fifth Symphony was completed in the remarkably small window of five and a half weeks, with the finished manuscript bearing the date July 23,1875. This symphony, along with other works, was submitted as a part of his application for the 1876 Austrian State Prize, an annual stipend given by the Austrian government to “young, poor, and talented painters, sculptors and musicians.” (Brahms served as one of the judges on the committee.) Dvořák had won the prize on his first attempt in 1874, lost on his second, and now had won again. The Fifth Symphony was premiered in March 1879, but was not published until 1888. Though the true opus number of the symphony should rightfully have been in the mid twenties, Simrock chose Op. 76, a number that correlated with other works Dvořák was composing in 1888, in order to make the work appear as a ‘hot off the press’ item from the now world‐famous composer. For those who study the symphonic works of Dvořák, there is a marked change that occurs between the music of his first four symphonies and the fifth. The former, rarely performed works, are often classified as experimental. They certainly foreshadow the charming Czech melodies and rhythmic complexities that we associate with Dvořák’s mature works, but they are heavily influenced by the weighty orchestration and compositional techniques espoused by Richard Wagner. By contrast, Dvořák biographer John Clapham boldly proclaims: “It is as if a new world is revealed in the [Symphony No.5]. Dvořák's new‐found mastery is first noticed in the magical opening for clarinets and a background of horns and strings, and subsequently seen in the remainder of the work. But nowhere is it more apparent than in the powerful finale. This remarkable movement commences in A minor, and avoids the principal key of F major for well over fifty bars. This ploy was by no means new, but no composer had previously attempted it on so extended a scale. The finale's development section is the most dynamic that Dvorák had produced up to this time.” Program note annotator for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Janet E. Bedell, describes the four movements of the Symphony No. 5 thusly: The first movement is music of the Czech countryside: buoyant and optimistic, with bright, pastoral woodwind colors. Two clarinets, then two flutes introduce a birdlike reveille of a principal theme, with a serenely rising three‐note concluding motive that Dvorák will put to good use; Dvorak scholar Otakar Sourek describes this music as having "the dew‐fresh fragrance of a spring morning." It ripples into the second part of the principal theme: a boisterous, syncopated peasant dance delivered loudly by the full orchestra. Syncopated rhythms also animate the contrasting lyrical theme: a chromatically slithering idea proposed by the violins. These ideas are briefly and energetically developed before the entire exposition is repeated. The true development section initially emphasizes the opening theme and is yet more stormily energetic. The recapitulation returns quietly, with a pair of



horns reprising the birdsong reveille theme. The movement closes as gently as it began. Movement two, in A minor, is a pensive intermezzo revolving around a lovely, gently melancholy melody, first sung by the cellos. The middle section, cast in the contrasting A major and dominated by the woodwinds, brightens the mood; it has a tender sprightliness that recalls one of Dvorák's favorite composers: Franz Schubert. There is no pause between the end of the second movement and the opening of the third. The introduction briefly reprises the drooping melody of the second before accelerating into an enchanting scherzo dance, its sparkle accented by the triangle. The ensuing Trio section again emphasizes the woodwind section before the scherzo dance repeats. After the lightness of the two middle movements, the fierce entrance of the low strings singing an intensely passionate melody in A minor comes as quite a shock. This is the surprising launch of the Fifth's great finale, which begins as a battle to find the way back to the home tonality of F major. After a series of tempestuous passages, this dark minor theme is finally transformed into a boldly triumphant one in F major. This done, the storm can abate momentarily for a smoothly romantic second theme by cool woodwinds, topped by swooning violins. The music flows into one of Dvorák's most exciting development sections, full of fire and drama. As it dies out, the passionate theme, still stubbornly clinging to A minor, quietly recapitulates in the violins. In the closing coda, listen for the high woodwinds softly recalling the rising three‐note motif from the beginning of the symphony. With a last exuberant brass fanfare, Dvorák joyfully demonstrates how well the first‐movement reveille theme meshes with the finale's triumphant theme, thus bringing the work to a satisfying full‐circle close.