the_best_buy-300x112 All Concerts are on Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
at Valley Vista Performing Arts Center
15550 N. Parkview Place, Surprise, AZ 85374

WVS Administration: (623) 236-6781

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NOVEMBER 17, 2019
PROGRAM NOTES

In 1870, Stepan Gedeonov, the director of the Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, conceived the idea of a ballet, Mlada, with music to be written by Alexander Serov. Nothing came of it, and in 1872 he revised his idea: now it would be an opera-ballet in four acts, with a libretto furnished by Viktor Krilov. The composition of the operatic sections would be a group effort, dividing the work among four members of the Mighty Five: Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Alexander Borodin, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. The ballet music would be provided by Ludwig Minkus. This project, too, was never completed, although a great deal of music was written. In 1890, Rimsky-Korsakov decided to write his own opera using Krilov’s libretto and the music he had previously written. The completed supernatural themed opera was first performed in November 1, 1892. The composer extracted two works from the score: the eerie A Night on Mt. Triglav, and a five movement suite, from which the well-known Procession of the Nobles is taken. The brilliantly scored Procession is an unusual march – it’s in 3/4 time.

     Claude Debussy completed the three Nocturnes on December 15th, 1899. The composer provided a program for the suite:

     “The title ‘Nocturne’ is intended to have here a more general and, above all, a more decorative meaning. We, then, are not concerned with the form of the Nocturne, but with everything that this word includes in the way of diversified impressionism and special lights.

Clouds: the unchangeable appearance of the sky, with the slow and solemn march of the clouds dissolving in a gray agony tinted with white.”

Festivals: movement, rhythm dancing in the atmosphere, with bursts of brusque light. There is also the episode of a procession (dazzling and wholly idealistic vision) passing through the festival and blended with it; but the main idea and substance obstinately remain – always the Festival and its blended music – luminous dust participating in the universal rhythm of all things.

     “Sirens: the sea and its innumerable rhythms; then amid the billows silvered by the moon the mysterious song of the Sirens is heard; it laughs and passes.”

The first two Nocturnes were performed in Paris on December 9, 1900. The complete suite waited until October of 1901 to be heard.

     Born in Rome in 1879, Ottorino Respighi began his musical studies in 1892 at the Liceo Musicale, in Bologna, graduating with honors in both violin and composition. To polish up his composing, he then moved to St. Petersburg to study orchestration with Rimsky- Korsakov. The influence would be profound; Respighi’s scores would now burst with color and suavity. In 1913, he was appointed to teach composition at the Saint Cecilia Academy in Rome.  Although a highly prolific composer, most of his music today is ignored. But not the three symphonic poems The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals, which staples of the orchestral repertoire. The Fountains of Rome was written in 1916 and first performed by Arturo Toscanini in 1918. The composer prefixed to the score a general statement of the purpose of the music:

“…In this symphonic poem, the composer has endeavored to give expression to the sentiments and visions suggested to him by four of Rome’s fountains, contemplated at the hour in which their character is most in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or in which their beauty appears most impressive to the observer. The first part of the poem, inspired by the Fountain of Valle Giulia, depicts a pastoral landscape, droves of cattle pass and disappear in the fresh damp mists of a Roman dawn. A sudden loud and insistent blast of horns…introduces the second part, the Triton Fountain. It is like a joyous call, summoning groups of naiads and tritons, who come running up, pursuing each other and mingling in the frenzied dance between the jets of water. Next there appears a solemn theme…It is the Fountain of Trevi at midday. The solemn theme…assumes a triumphal character. Trumpets peal; across the radiant surface of the water there passes Neptune’s chariot, drawn by sea horses and followed by a train of sirens and tritons.

The procession then vanishes, while the faint trumpet blasts resound in the distance. The fourth part, the Villa Medici Fountain, is announced by a sad theme which rises above a subdued warbling. It is the nostalgic hour of sunset. The air is full of sound of tolling bells, birds twittering, leaves rusting. Then all dies peacefully into the quiet of the night.”Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks is merry, naughty, and diabolically ingenious music. Richard Strauss here indulges in sardonic, wry and macabre humor as nowhere else in his large oeuvre, in no small part due to the extraordinarily complex orchestration. Strauss was inclined to let the title alone stand as sufficient explanation of his intentions. Trying to pick through the score and analyze every episode to fit a story to the German peasant folk hero is pointless. But we should at least know this:

     “Till Eulenspiegel (Till Owlglass) is a wickedly mischievous fellow much given to practical jokes. He rides his horse through the crowded market place, scattering housewives, merchants, and goods in every direction; he disguises himself as a member of the clergy, or a dandy, or an ordinary respectable citizen, and while so disguised perpetrates his most annoying mischiefs – some of them too nasty for description; he makes love to village maidens, playing, so
to speak, ‘touch and go’ with them. But eventually he his caught, tried, and hanged. The last joke is on Till.”

Rather than worry about exactly what Strauss is portraying, just sit back, listen, and laugh (or sometimes not) and enjoy one of the most colorful scores ever written. Till was first performed in Cologne, Germany, on November 5th, 1895.

– Marty Haub

 

All Concerts are on Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
at Valley Vista Performing Arts Center
15550 N. Parkview Place, Surprise, AZ 85374

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