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Thieving Magpie Overture Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)
Italian composer Rossini was a prolific and popular composer of operas, producing 39 in total. The Thieving Magpie was first performed in 1817 at La Scala, Milan. The plot revolves around the considerable trouble caused by a magpie which steals a silver spoon. The character Ninetta is condemned to death for theft of the spoon, but is reprieved at the last moment when the missing item is found in the magpie’s nest. Rossini was well known for writing quickly, and in the case of The Thieving Magpie the story goes that the overture was not completed until the day before the first performance. The conductor is said to have locked Rossini in a room in La Scala until he finished the overture, with each page being thrown out of the window as it was completed, so orchestral parts could be copied out in time for the performance. The overture begins with a drumroll which introduces a stately military march. In the next section, the main melody is shared between woodwind and strings, leading to two of Rossini’s trademark crescendo climaxes.
A Walk in the Park (Wind section) Trevor Lax
“A Walk in the Park” started life as a piano composition then formed the basis of a composition for Brass Quintet. The most successful version of this composition is for the Wind section of the Orchestra plus String Bass to give it a “Jazzy” feel.
It has been suggested that the tempo suggests more of a romp through the park, but the phrase “A Walk in the Park” can also mean something easy compared with other similar works. This is by no means easy, but great fun to play, featuring different solo instruments within the section.
Hopefully in our next concert we will be hearing another work by Trevor called “Underground World”. This is written for full orchestra and is a journey through Caves and Caverns.
Sarabande from Holberg Suite, Opus 40 Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Norwegian composer Grieg came from a musical family in Bergen, and studied at the Leipzig Conservatory where he trained as a concert pianist. As a composer, he was a strong musical nationalist, using Norwegian folk tunes extensively in his works. However, the five-movement Holberg Suite looks back to the musical style of the eighteenth century: the suite was written in 1884 for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian playwright Ludwig Holberg. Grieg originally composed the suite for piano, but later arranged it for string orchestra. Tonight, the strings of the Loughborough Orchestra will play the Sarabande, a movement in stately 3/4 time.
Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
In common with most composers of his time, Mozart wrote the majority of his compositions on commission, or at least for a specific audience. During the 1770’s he was employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg, but in 1777 he managed to resign from his post and undertook travels around Europe. In Mannheim, Mozart met the Dutch amateur flautist Ferdinand Dejean, who commissioned various works from the composer. These included flute quartets and the 2 completed concertos for flute and orchestra. However, Mozart seems to have lacked complete commitment to this project, only completing part of what was promised and receiving only half of the fee. In fact, he decided to arrange and re-use a previous oboe concerto as the second flute concerto. This had been written the previous year for the Salzburg court oboist Giuseppe Ferlendis, though Mozart added material to make the concerto more agile and flute-like in character. Today, both of Mozart’s flute concertos are amongst the most popular works for solo flute.
1. Allegro aperto
The orchestra opens with an expansive theme, joined by the flute who enters with a rising scale, setting the scene for a sunny, elegant dialogue between flute and orchestra.
2. Adagio non troppo
The slow movement begins with an orchestral introduction, leading to a long, lyrical melody on the flute.
3. Rondo: Allegretto
The fast and virtuosic finale uses a theme which Mozart later re-used in the opera “The Abduction from the Seraglio”.
Soloist - Ruth Neiland
Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Czech composer Dvořák was launched into international success on winning the Austrian State Prize for music several times in the 1870’s. His music, infused with the melodies and style of his native Bohemia, soon became popular across Europe. In 1892 he began a 3-year tenure as Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. The Conservatory (forerunner of the Juilliard School) had been founded by wealthy philanthropist Jeannette Thurber, who ensured that students were racially diverse and included women. Dvořák was keen to engage with American music, including African-American spirituals and native American music. He wrote that “these beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”
Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, who gave the first performance in December 1893. Dvořák claimed that the symphony reproduced the “spirit” of melodies from native American and African-American music, rather than using any specifically American melodies. It has been said that Dvořák was influenced by the “wide open spaces” of the prairies of Iowa which he visited earlier in 1893 to spend the summer with the Czech community there.
In 1956, the American composer Leonard Bernstein analysed all the themes in the symphony and traced them to roots in French, Scottish, German, Chinese and, of course, Czech sources; he said the work should be considered as multi-national rather than specifically American. What is beyond doubt is that the symphony is awash with beautiful melodies and has been popular since its first performance, when Dvorak was obliged to take a bow between each movement.
After Dvořák’s death, four previously unknown symphonies were discovered, which led to the New World Symphony being re-numbered as 9 rather than 5. The symphony falls firmly into the classical sonata form tradition, with thematic references between the movements making a sense of a cyclical whole. The two main melodies of the first movement, the upward surging horn theme and the spiritual-like melody on solo flute, recur in the later movements.
1. Adagio – Allegro Molto
A slow introduction leads to the tuneful main section with lively folk-style melodies.
Sombre, low pitched chords open the movement before the famous cor anglais theme leads into a more agitated central section.
3. Molto Vivace
The Scherzo movement, in fast triple time, opens with an agile, spiky melody, leading into a more pastoral middle section.
4. Allegro con Fuoco
The fast and furious finale opens with a bold, declamatory theme; towards the end, the Largo’s cor anglais theme is recalled on clarinets, before the symphony ends with a triumphant climax.