Carl Orff (1895-1982)
Composed between 1935 & 1936
Cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris cantandæ comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis is a scenic cantata based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana. Literally translated, Carmina Burana means Songs of Beuren (a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria). The work is part of the musical triptych (a trio of works) composed by Carl Orff called Trionfi. In 1934 Orff discovered the 1847 edition of Carmina Burana by Johann Schmeller, with original text dating from 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. Orff’s friend Michel Hofmann, a Latin and Greek enthusiast, helped him select and format the 24 poems into a libretto or text intended for an extended musical work like an opera, musical, or cantata. Although sounding sacred and extremely biblical, the work is in secular Latin verse covering a wide range of topics including the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the nature of life, the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling, and lust to name a few.
Written in five major “chunks” (including the reprisal of the opening) most of the structure of the piece is based on the turning of the Fortuna Wheel. (The wheel encapsulates the phrases: I shall reign, I reign, I have reigned, and I am without a realm). With each new section the wheel “turns” taking grief to hope or joy to despair. Alongside the display of emotions, Orff insisted that his music be inseparable to movement and speech. Although many modern-day presentations of the work are in concert halls as a cantata, Orff had intended the work to be set to dance.
In maintaining his sense of methodical programming, Orff ensured that his work contains little or no musical development in form and polyphony (two or more lines of independent melody running together) is absent. For Orff, the actual sound of the words sung by the soloists and choristers was extremely important. Throughout the piece, note the percussion section’s ability to highlight and enhance the singing of the text. The texts in the piece are fairly simple melodies, evoking a sense of folk song or plainchant.
Rhythm for Mr. Orff was the primary musical force in his compositions. All together it sounds rhythmically simple, but the meter (duple or triple) changes freely from one measure bar until the next. The constant rhythmic changes give Carmina Burana a “very conversational feel” allowing the listener to perhaps not notice the wild changes in the overall pace of the piece.
Alongside the wild changes in rhythm, Orff created very challenging solo arias. The only tenor aria is generally sung completely in falsetto (head voice) to mimic the fate of his character. Likewise, the baritone arias require high notes that are not part of the normal baritone range. This also causes the baritone soloist to sing long passages in falsetto. Not to be left out, the soprano aria has exceedingly high notes, making it possible for only very skilled lyric sopranos and not for coloratura or mezzo-sopranos. At the same time, Carmina offers one of the fullest orchestras written for the modern day, including many lower sounding instruments like the English horn, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, and the not to be forgotten, six percussionists.
After composing Carmina Burana Orff said “Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin.”
Music & Magic
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
El Amor Brujo
Composed in 1916
In 1914 El Amor Brujo was commissioned as a gypsy dance piece by famous flamenco gypsy dancer, Pastora Imperio. The work, featuring a chamber orchestra, cantaora voice (flamenco singing) and actors, premiered in Madrid, Spain the following year. After an unsuccessful run, de Falla rewrote the work by cutting the length, enlarging the orchestra, and reducing the vocal aspects to a solo mezzo-soprano in 1916. Later in 1924 and 1925, he again rewrote the piece as a ballet and piano suite respectively.
Focusing on the enlarged orchestration, El Amour Brujo is the story of a gypsy woman named Candela. As a young lady, she is expected to take part in an arranged marriage, but her heart belongs to another man Carmelo. Years go by and Candela’s husband is murdered. To her surprise, her deceased husband comes back to haunt her. Although most in her village know about the haunting, she is still branded as crazy because she dances with her husband’s ghost every night. Now free to pursue her true love, she tries a ritual dance with Carmelo to cast off the ghost, but to no avail. Eventually, she finds out that she was betrayed by her former husband and tricks his lover into coming over one evening, only to cast the ghost onto this deceitful woman.
The orchestrated work features three songs, Dance of Terror, Song of Wildfire, and Dance of the Game of Love. The work was turned into a movie in 1967 and 1986, winning the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar. Likewise, famous jazz musician Miles Davis recorded an arrangement of the Song of Wildfire, for his collaborative album Sketches of Spain.
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C
Composed between 1761-1765
Haydn was such a prolific composer and advocate for the arts that he is now commonly known as the “Father of the Symphony and String Quartet.” From an early age, Haydn knew of the influential potential of music and wanted it to be accessible for many, including those unable to attend live orchestral concerts. Therefore, he created many traditional forms of chamber music, meaning music written for performance in smaller, intimate venues such as a person’s house. Although considered to be a significant work in his catalogue, the music was lost until 1961 when it was discovered in Prague.
Originally written to ensure that the best players from the Esterhazy Orchestra in Austria stayed with the group, the piece was written for cellist Joseph Weigl. Upon exploring records from the day, no other cellist has been located from that time period, leading many to think that Weigl was the only cello player and a perfect fit for a solo concerto. This concerto was written for a very small chamber orchestra to highlight the virtuosity of the soloist. Opening the piece is a triumphant cello cord which develops into back and forth with the orchestral (backing) strings. Written in a manner to show off the lushness of the cello, this particular concerto did a lot to dispel the age-old notion that cellos were strictly for the bass-line.
Written in three movements, the third movement stands out for the fantastic development of the orchestra. The orchestra starts out with a pulsing bass-line and rushing violin lines that are simply striking, giving that the orchestra, not the soloist, carries the melody.
Then the cello enters, like a shooting star on a moonlit night, starting with long-held notes developing into large chords and runs. As a cellist, it is hard to not be exhausted after playing such an intensive piece of music.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 3
Composed in 1815
Although he lived a short life, Franz Schubert used his time to the fullest creating beautiful music and forging important relationships. As a composition student of Antonio Salieri (remember the movie, Amadeus, when he mused that he killed Mozart), Schubert learned how to master Classical era ideas and merge them into Romantic era music. He incorporated many of those ideas into his third symphony, premiering only after his death. Composed in 1815, arguably his most productive year of writing, he was a schoolmaster working full-time but still found time to write two piano sonatas, themes and variations, a string quartet, two mass parts and a lot of choral music. Let’s just say that he was an overachiever, Schubert did his best work at that fast pace, once jotting down a complete song on the back of
a café menu!
Written with many traces of classical greats Haydn and Mozart, Schubert keeps a cheerful spirit, replacing the normally slow second movement with a joyful Allegretto. Schubert wrote this symphony to sound characteristically German. Even his choice of format includes reminiscent parts of the Deutscher or German Dance, consisting of rustic melodies that can be heard from wine taverns in the Bavarian region of the country.
Starting off with a dramatic opening to the piece, two introductions are present leading up to an interplay between a solo clarinet and syncopated (off-beat) strings. Schubert employs prudent timpani accents to highlight that syncopation and to provide rolls to signal changes in the harmony. In the pleasant Allegretto and Minuet traditional scherzo (fast tempo) rules the day contrasted by a graceful Ländler-like trio. The finale includes the popular Italian tarnantella rhythm known for its bold progressions and contrast of sound. Schubert strove to write a balanced piece in his signature style.
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Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Romanian Folk Dances
Composed in 1915; Re-Arranged for Chamber Orchestra 1917
It’s hard sometimes to not want to tap your toes to a polka with its lively rhythm and melodies. Traditional folk music has a way of harkening back to a simpler time, a time of traditions and communal pride. Transylvania (in Romania) had a rich, rural agrarian culture that inspired many art forms, from music to literature, including their most notable fictional resident Dracula. Bartók honors the heritage of Transylvania by basing Romanian Folk Dances on seven folk tunes that would have originally been played on a fiddle or shepherd’s flute. Bartók composed this set of dances as six piano pieces, eventually leading to a Romanian Polka and Fast Dance.
The first movement came from the present day village of Voiniceni that is part of Ceuașu de Câmpie. He heard the tune after listening to two gypsy violinists. The second and third dances are darker in theme and melody recreating instruments from the Middle East, such as early flutes. The fourth, fifth, and six dances get progressively quicker in tempo and the mode is brighter. To facilitate the movement between the two, the dances are performed attacca, without a break between movements.
Bartók based his folk dances primarily off of phonograph cylinders he recorded during his ethnomusicological (study of ethnic music from a particular place) fieldwork in Transylvania in 1910 and 1912.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Composed in 1878
Vacations and holidays can help to invigorate the soul and give a needed break. Tchaikovsky was on a holiday at Lake Geneva in Switzerland after his divorce from wife Antonina Miliukova, when he received the inspiration for Violin Concerto. Accompanied by his pupil, violinist Iosif Kotek, the duo played together, brightening the mood for all. At the time Tchaikovsky was also working on a piano concerto that had been slow going. In these dark times following his failed marriage, it was noted that Tchaikovsky, “Might almost have been writing the prescription for the violin concerto he himself was about to compose,” said famed biographer, Dr. David Brown.
Composed over the course of a month, the violin concerto is written in three movements and is filled with lyric melody suggestive of Slavic and Russian folksongs, similar to his ballet compositions. The concerto focuses the solo violin on decorating the theme (melody) rather than on presenting it in technical form. As a whole, the work is one of the most creative and least pretentious works that Tchaikovsky penned. Making fast and steady progress, the work came together in a month. Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate the work to his pupil—the muse of the piece, but Tchaikovsky was afraid of how that might look to the public. He instead dedicated the work to Leopold Auer, a noted violinist, with continued controversy.
About Chee-Yun’s Violin:
Chee-Yun’s Francesco Ruggieri 1669 violin has an incredible history. It is believed that the violin was buried with its previous owner. This would explain the unusually pristine condition of the 300-year-old violin. While it seems to be a strange practice now, at the time burying a prized instrument with the deceased was not uncommon. Luckily for us, the resurrected violin has wowed audiences all over the world with its incredible sound. A story about the violin was published in the New York Post click here to read the article.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 4
Composed in 1806
Today, we think that multitasking was invented in the last decade. Beethoven wrote Symphony No. 4 in just a month while also writing Piano Concerto No. 4 and revising the opera Fidelio.
He was, to say the least, a very busy guy. Beethoven wrote the piece at the request of Count Franz von Oppersdorff, a relative of his patron Prince Lichnowsky. The piece premiered at a private concert for the Count to little press but was well received by contemporary composers.
Although usually overshadowed by both the preceding and following symphonies, Beethoven’s fourth is impressive in how the work is cheerful, relatable, and engaging. He employs a slow introduction that draws the listener in, yet there is not a clear path of movement with jabbing dissonances (i.e. jazz chords tend to be dissonant) finally reaching a rousing faster tempo with rich melodies. Renowned composer Leonard Bernstein described his opening, “As a mysterious introduction which hovers around minor modes, tip-toeing its tenuous weight through ambiguous unrelated keys and so reluctant to settle down into its final B-flat major.”
Many have noted that Beethoven made many direct references to his beloved teacher Joseph Haydn in the work. Beethoven was grateful to have received the direction and tutelage from Haydn that left a lasting mark on him. Much later musicologist Robert Greenberg, writing in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is quoted saying, “If any of Beethoven’s contemporaries had written this symphony [4th symphony], it would be considered that composer’s masterwork and that composer would be forever remembered for this symphony, and this symphony would be played [often] as an example of that composer’s great work. As it is, for Beethoven, it is a work in search of an audience. It’s the least known and least appreciated of the nine.”
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Composed in 1899
Occasionally in life, one can come across a secret so good that you want to hide it from the rest of the world for fear it may go away. Fearing censorship from the Russian Empire, Finlandia premiered in a hidden manner and continued to be played under alternative titles for many years after. Two of the most famous alternative titles were Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring and A Scandinavian Choral March. At the time the empire was in a state of decline and did not look favorably on music, literature, or art that honored or immortalized only one section of their vast empire.
The tone poem (or musical picture) was the last of seven pieces woven together to aurally depict tableaus of Finnish history. This piece, more than any of the others, portrays the national struggle of the Finnish people concluding with the beautiful Finlandia Hymn. The hymn is calm and singular in its purpose compared to the rest of the piece. It is not, however, a borrowed traditional melody, like a Shaker Melody/Simple Gifts, rather Sibelius penned it himself.
The piece opens with eerie calls from the brass section intermeshed with loud and fast timpani rolls. This gives way for a softer, renewed spirit section, ultimately depicting how Finnish culture and pride had to go “underground” during the empire’s rule. As the piece progresses it depicts ground swells of people fighting back from oppression to return to an autonomous state. According to the Finnish ministry of arts and culture, Finlandia is the definitive heartbeat of the country.
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto in A Minor
Composed in 1868
What is a concerto? Concerto writing can be more difficult than writing for the symphony. This is because the two “instruments” – the soloist and the orchestra “as one” – must create a dialogue that harmonically intertwines. Edvard Grieg completed one concerto and it has become one of his most popular works. If you remember from the 1970’s and 1980’s the game show, “Name that Tune,” Grieg’s piano concerto would be an easy selection to recognize within the first three measures of music. Those three measures of music have become some of the most recognized opening bars of a concerto.
Born in Norway into a musically inclined family, Grieg studied music at one of the noted conservatories in Leipzig, Germany. During his time there he gained a vast knowledge of musical styles. He was particularly influenced by those of Robert Schumann, famous for his lyrical piano music that was influenced by folk music and literature. Grieg’s style of composition was criticized for being simplistic. He is quoted as saying “Artists like Bach and Beethoven erected churches and temples on ethereal heights…I want to build homes for people in which they can be happy and contented.”
Despite this criticism, his love of a more unassuming style of music was key to Grieg’s writing style. He went on to write his biggest work Piano Concerto in A Minor in a grander style. Grieg creates an unforgettable opening for his concerto that has been used in many movies and cartoons. Following a calling timpani roll, the piano sets the mood for a succession of lyrical, reflective, and expressive themes throughout the piece. In the third movement, listeners will hear the color and movement of a Norwegian folk dance. Following Grieg’s death in 1907 his piano concerto found a place in the record books as the first piano concerto ever recorded.
Arvo Pärt (B. 1935)
Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten
Composed in 1977
Simplicity in style was a hallmark of Mr. Pärt. He describes his style as “tintinnabular,” meaning similar to the sound of ringing bells. His music includes simple harmonies with unadorned notes and simple three-note chords. As an avid student of plainsong and Gregorian chant, Pärt was fascinated with how simple, yet engaging musical lines could intertwine and create a musical experience that transcends into other areas of life.
Written as a short canon, i.e. Pachelbel’s, Pärt began composing this work as an elegy to the recently passed English composer Benjamin Britten in December 1976 and finished in 1977. Always holding Mr. Britten to high esteem, he recognized him as a kindred spirit, a man with “unusual purity.” He begins his work with a solemn chime ringing three times in memory of Mr. Britten. It progresses into a series of scales and chords all going up and down building to a very loud fotississimo (fff on the sheet music). This suddenly fades away with a pianississimo ringing of the chime, leaving nothing but grand overtones.
Reflecting on the work, Pärt stated,“Why did the date of Benjamin Britten’s Death-December 4th, 1976- touch such a chord in me? During this time, I was obviously at the point where I could recognize the magnitude of such a loss. Inexplicable feelings of guilt, more than that even, arose in me. I had just discovered Britten for myself. Just before his death, I began to appreciate the unusual purity of his music…for a long time I had wanted to meet Britten personally – and now it would not come to that.” (attributed 1988)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 7
Composed in 1924
Noted for being a one-movement symphony, Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7 is entirely original in form and audiences will delight in knowing exactly when to clap. Noted as the most remarkable compositional achievement during his lifetime, it showed great organic growth in his writing. Movements in a symphony had changed very little from the time of Joseph Haydn, usually consisting of a steady tempo with varying themes in different keys. Sibelius instead unified the work in the key of C, somewhat taboo for the day, and created intrigue through changing tempos, modes, and musical texture.
Although written in the 20th century, Sibelius scored his work for a chamber orchestra. It is hard to notice that key difference, considering the sheer force of sound and prominent trombone lines throughout the piece. Many regard the work a fantastical journey since it was initially entitled Fantasia Sinfonica, but Sibelius, in his trailblazing way, decided to simply title it as his seventh symphony. Reviews were very positive, but Sibelius thought the work demanded even higher praise. He is quoted saying, “How little they realize what I have put into my new work.”
April 28, 2018
Program Notes by Endicott Reindl
John Corigliano (b.1938)
Composed in 1966
Originally written off an incidental score for the off-Broadway production of Helen Corigliano’s Elegy focuses on a love scene between the two main characters. Dedicated to the memory of the composer, Samuel Barber, best known for his Adagio for Strings, Corigliano was fascinated by his style of writing and wanted to pay homage to the popular composer. Barber and Corigliano mastered writing complex, beautiful musical passages that do not need ornamentation to emote their meaning. According to his website, he has “…One of the richest, most unusual, and most widely celebrated bodies of work from any composer in the last 40 years.”
Corigliano wrote in the score program notes, “The brief work, set at a single slow tempo, begins quickly with a key passage for paired flutes, builds during its course to two double forte (rather loud) climaxes for the whole orchestra, subsiding into a quiet close for strings and woodwinds.” Although short, this piece demonstrates Corigliano’s writing ability, to not just musically describe the love of the two main characters, but why they loved each other.
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Symphony in C
Composed in 1855
Georges Bizet was one of those folks, for whom academics and theory came easy to in life. He wrote his Symphony in C at the age of 17 while studying at the Paris Conservatory under famous composer Charles Gounod. As the story has been told over the years, he had no interest in having it performed or published. It wasn’t until after his death that his widow realized the gem it was. Bizet, looking to impress his teacher and mentor, incorporated a lot of similarities between his and Gounod’s composition style. Bizet became so intimately acquainted with Gounod’s Symphony in D after transcribing it for piano, that he in turn influenced his mentor.
Sticking to a traditional form of composition, although devoid of trombones, Bizet followed the style of the day in four movements, capping the start and finish in similar chords and flourishes. Many questioned his choice of composing a symphony in France during a time when opera was king.
Recorded as the only completed symphony ever written by the composer, he was keen to move into theatrical and opera writing. He would go on to write classics like Carmen. Bizet never visited Spain before or during writing the opera instead he looked for inspiration in the Provence region of France. Above all his symphony is known as a respectful gesture to his mentor Gounod.
Gabriel Fauré (1838-1875)
John Rutter, Arr. (b. 1945)
Originally Composed in 1890
Arranged in 1989
Composed as a shortened Catholic mass for the departed in Latin, Fauré focused on themes of eternal rest and consolation. Many of his earlier counterparts, like Mozart, focused more on the fire and brimstone of death. Fauré chose to omit the Dies irae and replaced it with the Pie Jesu, also noting that the final movement In Paradisum is not based on the funeral mass liturgy, but the actual burial. The work was originally written in seven movements for a full orchestra, chorus, solo soprano, baritone and organ. We feature the more intimate John Rutter edition. John Rutter explains his reasoning for reshaping the work:
“Gabriel Fauré began work on his Requiem in 1887 purely, in his own words, ‘for the pleasure of it’. At the time he was the choirmaster at the fashionable church of the Madeleine in Paris, and the completed first version of the Requiem was first performed there under his direction on 16 January 1888 on the occasion of the funeral service of a certain M. Joseph Le Soufaché. The work continued to be performed in this first version until 1893 when Fauré made an expanded version introducing the Offertoire and Libera me and including parts for bassoons, horns and trumpets. A third version followed – the familiar published one with full orchestra – which received its première in July 1900 at the Trocadéro Palace during the Paris World Exhibition, but it is not clear how much of this score was prepared by Fauré and how much was delegated to one of his assistants. The aim of this edition is to present the Requiem in a form as close as possible to Fauré’s original more intimate concept of the work.” –johnrutter.com