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.
25 July 2:30 pm
Ian Roach Hall, Scotch College, Hawthorn
Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990)
Appalachian Spring (original version for 13 instruments)
APPALACHIAN SPRING, ballet in one act, with scenario and
choreography by Martha Graham. First performance: Washington, D.C.,
October 30, 1944.
The composer has provided a history of this, one of his most successful works:
“The music of the ballet takes as its point of departure the personality of Martha Graham. … At long intervals, Miss Graham and I planned to collaborate on a stage work. Nothing might have come of our intention if it were not for the lucky chance that brought Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge to a Graham performance for the first time early in 1942. With typical energy, Mrs. Coolidge translated her enthusiasms into action. She invited Martha Graham to create three new ballets for the 1943 annual fall festival of the Coolidge Foundation in Washington, and commissioned three composers— Paul Hindemith, Darius Milhaud, and myself—to compose scores especially for the occasion. “After considerable delay, Miss Graham sent me an untitled script. suggested certain changes, to which she made no serious objections. I began work on the music of the ballet in Hollywood in June, 1943, but didn’t complete it until a year later, in June, 1944, in Cambridge, Mass. “The title, Appalachian Spring, was chosen by Miss Graham. She borrowed it from the heading of one of Hart Crane’s poems, though the ballet bears no relation to the text of the poem itself.”
The scenario is a simple presentation of a Pennsylvania housewarming party in the Appalachian mountains by a husbandman and his bride in pioneer times. Assisting in the ceremony are a pioneer woman, a revivalist and four of his followers. But as John Martin explained in his review in The New York Times, “the Spring that is being celebrated is not just any Spring but the Spring of America; and the celebrants are not just half a dozen individuals but ourselves in different phases.” Then Martin adds: “It is completely simple, homely, dedicated, and a lovelier work you would have to go far to find. . . . The work has a rare unity and an irresistible winsomeness.”
Appalachian Spring received the New York Music Critics Circle Award. In the spring of 1945, Copland arranged some of the best passages into an orchestral suite. After being introduced by the New York Philharmonic under Artur Rodzinski on October 4, 1945, this composition brought its composer the Pulitzer Prize in music. It has since become one of Copland’s most frequently heard symphonic works.
The following is a brief description of the eight sections, which are played without interruption:
I. Very Slowly—The Introduction of the Characters.
II. Sudden Burst of Unison Strings, marking the beginning of the action. The sentiment here expressed combines elation with religious feeling.
III. Moderate (Duo for the Bride and Her Intended), a tender and passionate scene.
IV. Quite Fast (The Revivalist and His Flock). The feeling is folk-like, with echoes of country fiddlers and suggestions of square dances.
V. Still Faster (Solo Dance of the Bride). The extremes of joy and fear are here voiced.
VI. Very Slowly (as at first). This is a transition scene in which the music brings up recollections of the introduction.
VII. Calm and Flowing (Scenes of Daily Activity for the Bride and her Farmer-Husband). A Shaker theme is heard, followed by five variations. The theme (solo clarinet) is derived from an actual Shaker melody entitled Simple Gifts.
VIII. Moderate (Coda). The married couple is left alone in their new home. Music that is almost reverent is intoned by muted strings. The final measures recall the opening pages.
Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
La Mer (The Sea)
I. De l’Aube a Midi sur la Mer
II. Jeux de Vagues
III. Dialogue du Vent et de la Mer
Debussy’s love of the sea is revealed in these effective tone pictures which present three facets of its personality. “I was intended for the fine career of a sailor,” he wrote to a friend in 1903. And in 1905, following the crossing of the Channel, he wrote to his publisher: “The sea has been very good to me. She has shown me all her moods.”
Debussy worked on La Mer from 1903 to 1905. On October 15, 1905, its first performance took place in Paris, with Camille Chevillard conducting the Concerts Lamoureux.
M. D. Calvocressi, writing in the Guide Musical felt that the work marked a new phase in Debussy’s development, with a “more robust inspiration, stronger colors, and more definite lines than his preceding works.” But there were antagonistic reviews as well. “I neither hear, nor see, nor feel the sea,” wrote Pierre Lalo with finality in Le Temps. It is not easy to append a definite program to this nebulous music. And while it is possible to say with Lalo that one cannot specifically hear, see or feel the sea in the music, it is impossible to deny that the personality of the sea is magically suggested. It is the poet’s conception of the sea that is invoked in this music—the reveries, moods and nostalgic longings which it inspires in a sensitive lover of Nature.
The mystery of the sea is suggested in the first sketch, with undulating figures bringing us a picture of the playing waves. Muted trumpet and English horn present the principal subject. As the music grows and swells, different images of the sea at different times of the day are projected. The section ends with a chorale for brass.
In the second part, melodic fragments are varied in rhythm and color to portray the play of the waves as they are caressed by gentle winds.
The music grows more dramatic in the closing section as the sea becomes more restive and engages the wind in a dialogue. The sea’s immensity is suggested by figures in the strings and in the use of the whole-tone scale. Some of the material from earlier movements is recalled with the chorale melody of the first part built into a formidable climax.
Then the work ends with undulating figures recalling the movements of the sea. Each of the three sections is a fully and completely realized tone poem, not just a sketch or an image. But so thoroughly integrated are the three parts that it is impossible to perform any one section by itself. A close bond among the three parts is maintained by having the proceeding movement take-over from where the earlier one has left off.