20 March 5pm
Kew Court House
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
Janáček composed his great wind sextet, Mládí, in 1924 in the month of his 70th birthday. At this time, it seems that he was reflecting on memories from his youth. Greatly impressed by hearing the Ensemble de la Societe Moderne des Instruments a Vent in Paris, and again in Brno, playing works by Stravinsky and Roussel influenced his choice of instruments for this work.
The first movement opens abruptly with the oboe playing the main theme. This is built on a ‘speech-melody’ derived from the words “Mládí, zlaté Mládí,” or “Youth, golden youth.” There follows a slow movement whose song-like melody is juxtaposed with declamatory episodes in which the instruments seem about to break into impassioned speech. The third movement is based on the March of the Blue Boys, which is interrupted by a slow and lyrical section. The exuberance and optimism of youth are embodied in the winged theme of the finale. The initial measures hint at those of the first movement, and Janáček eventually makes the connection explicit by recalling the theme heard in the opening moments of the composition. In the meantime, he offers a variety of other developments, all of them fanciful and surprising.
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
Ligeti wrote this piece in 1953 during a period in Hungary where it was culturally isolated from the rest of the musical world. Between 1950 and 1954, radio stations in Budapest were censored and modern art was forbidden. Ligeti was inspired by the music of Bartók and Stravinsky, which can be clearly heard in the Six Bagatelles. It is based on his eleven piano pieces ‘Musica ricercata’. The Six Bagatelles have a rhythmic energy, especially in the first movement, which is limited to a range of just four notes. The fifth movement is dedicated to Bartok whose influence is clearly heard. Despite these influences the Six Bagatelles are extremely original in both construction and orchestration.
Júlio Medaglia (1938 -)
Suite ‘Belle Epoque En Sud America’
El Porsche Negro (Tango)
Traumreise nach Attersee (Vals Paulista – Säo Paulo Waltz)
Rekinta Maluca “Crazy baby-clarinet” (Chorinho)
Medaglia was born in São Paulo. He studied conducting in Freiburg im Breisgau and worked for ten years in Germany. In Brazil, in addition to his work as a conductor, Medaglia is in demand as a composer of music for film, stage and television. ‘La Belle Epoque’ translates as ‘The Beautiful Time’. The juxtaposition of the Argentinian tango form with the Waltz and Choro is exceptionally artful in this piece; originally commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) Wind Quintet. The Tango is dedicated to Henning Trog, bassoonist with the BPO; the Waltz to BPO flautist, Michael Hassel and the Choro to BPO clarinettist, Walter Seyfarth. The third movement requinta is scored for the small Eb Clarinet and is a tour de force.
30 May 2:30 pm
Ian Roach Hall, Scotch College, Hawthorn
Ottorino Respighi (1879 – 1936)
Trittico Botticelli (Three Botticelli Paintings)
Though he was born in Bologna, the composer Ottorino Respighi is inevitably and forever associated with Rome thanks to his so-called “Roman Trilogy” of orchestral tone poems: Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals. For his Trittico Botticelliano, however, we must travel north to Tuscany and the Renaissance capital of Florence. It was there at the Uffizi Gallery that Respighi encountered three paintings by Sandro Botticelli: La Primavera (“Spring”), L’Adorazione dei Magi (“The Adoration of the Magi”), and La Nascita di Venere (“The Birth of Venus”).
The opening movement provides an exuberant depiction of spring with the bassoon first introducing a dance tune that is subsequently echoed and ornamented by the full ensemble. In addition to his work as a composer, Respighi was also a scholar of Italian music history, so it is no accident that his dance tune closely resembles one that might have accompanied the Renaissance festivities of Botticelli’s day.
The second movement is really the centerpiece and is built around the ninth century Latin antiphon “Veni Emmanuel,” better known to us as the advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The mournful and mysterious opening gives way to more colorful musical textures as each of the three Magi arrive at the manger and present their gifts.
Finally, the last movement attempts to capture Botticelli’s most well-known painting in which the newly-born goddess Venus stands nude inside an oversized scallop shell. Respighi captures the birth through the slowly coalescing melodic materials that seem to drift from foreground to background as if carried on the waves. The piece ends with the gentle undulations of the waves slowly receding as the goddess departs.
Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
Ma Mère L’Oye (Mother Goose Suite)
Ma M’ère L’Oye was composed by Maurice Ravel for two young children, Mimi and Jean Godebski in 1908 as a four-hand work for piano. The piece was composed at the same time as his great piano masterpiece, the fiendishly difficult Gaspard de la nuit. The work is in 5 short sections:
Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty)
Petit poucet (Tom Thumb)
Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes (The Plain Little Girl, the Empress of the Pagodas)
Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête (The Conversations of the Beauty and the Beast)
Le Jardin Féerique
The opening section is only 20 bars long and serves as an introduction to the fairytales that follow transporting the listener into a world of pure fantasy and make-believe. A ‘Pavane’ is a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th-Century.
The second movement is about the tiny character of Tom Thumb. Tom, and his brothers, are abandoned in a forest by his parents who are so poor that they are unable to feed them at home anymore.
Tom leaves a trail of pebbles and the boys find their way home. As the family gets poorer, the boys are abandoned for a second time in the forest. This time Tom leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to help find their way home. But, unbeknownst to the boys and Tom, they discover the birds have eaten the trail of crumbs they have left. Lost in the woods the boys are taken in by the wife of an ogre who; on his return home, vows to eat them. Tom outwits the ogre, tricks him out of all his valuable possessions and returns with his brothers back home.
The Pagodas of the title of the third movement are not temples, but little porcelain figures with grotesque faces and nodding heads who, magically play to their Empress on instruments made from nutshells as she takes her bath. Ravel transports us to the mysterious East with its pentatonic scales and Balinese gamelan-orchestra effects. The composer was fortunate to have been present at the first great Exposition Universalle held in Paris in 1889 where, like Debussy, he was overwhelmed by the exoticism from Java.
The Conversations of the Beauty and the Beast is derived from one of the world’s best-lived fairytales written by Mme. Leprince de Beaumont. Walt Disney has made their version of the story even more well known over the years in multiple adaptatios for both cinema and the musical theatre stage.
Beast: “If I were witty enough I would pay compliments to you but I am only a beast.”………..“Beauty, will you marry me?”
Beauty: “No, my Beast.”
Beast: “I happily die because I had the pleasure to meet you once more.”
Beauty: No, my dear Beast, you shall not die: you shall not die: you shall live to become my husband!”
The final movement, Le Jardin Féerique, and the only one not specifically drawn from a fairy tale that can be immediately recognized as The Fairy Garden. The music conjures the slow procession of a Prince and Princess through the Fairy Godmother’s garden and their eventual wedding.