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Program Notes - Spring Concert

Theme: Women and Fairies

Fanfare from La Peri (1912)
Paul Dukas (1865-1935)

The last major work produced by Dukas, before retiring to teaching and musical criticism at age 47, was a one-act ballet based on a story about a man's search for immortality and his encounter with the Peri, a fairy from Persian mythology. At the last minute, in stark contrast to the gentle music to follow, Dukas wrote this brilliant fanfare. It is his second most popular work, outperformed only by his wonderful The Sorcerer's Apprentice. [CJ]


"Adagio" from Oboe Concerto in C minor (1717)
Alessandro Marcello (1669-1747)

"This piece has an interesting history, since little is actually known about it. The piece had been credited incorrectly in some places as being written by Alessandro's younger brother Benedetto. There are only three sources for the music. The first is a set of parts from 1716 set in the key of D minor. The second, and considered most reliable, source is a manuscript circa 1717 set in C minor. The third is a keyboard transcription by J.S. Bach, in D minor, but drawn from an unknown source. Regardless which version is performed, the second movement, marked Adagio, is one of the most beautiful slow movement melodies in Baroque literature. 

The version we play today is in C minor and features our principal oboe, Angela Sass, as soloist and our principal bassoon, Rich Gordley, conducting.[CJ]

Selections from Funny Girl (1963)
Jule Styne (1905-1994)
Arranged by Robert Russell Bennett (1896-1983)

Funny Girl, based on the life of Fanny Brice, had a tortured creation. Casting the lead proved to be daunting, since all of the original prospects were not Jewish and it was believed the role had to be true to Brice's ethnicity. After many comings and goings of possible leads, the producers were fortunate enough to come across a young Barbra Streisand, who made the role her own. The musical then struggled for quite a while before opening on Broadway. The show took so long to get on stage that, by the time it did, Streisand's recording of "People" was already so popular that audiences applauded when the song appeared in the overture! Robert Russell Bennett was one of the greatest arrangers and orchestrators to grace Broadway. Richard Rodgers used him often to orchestrate his shows with Oscar Hammerstein. Today's selections include: "People," "Don't Rain on My Parade," "Who Are You Now," "The Music That Makes Me Dance," "You Are Woman, I Am Man," and a reprise of "People." [CJ]

New Horizons [world premiere] (2015)
Elaine Erickson (dates)

Elaine Erickson is a composer, living in Urbandale, whose pieces we have often been fortunate enough to program. She provided the following notes: "I wrote my piece, New Horizons, for string orchestra and piano, especially for the Des Moines Community Orchestra. It is in two movements. The piano is a part of the orchestra, in concerto grosso style. There are shifting tonalities for the strings, with dissonant atonal passages resolving into expressive tonal parts. Extreme registers for the piano occur for added color. The work ends in a climax." [Elaine Erickson]

Overture to Barber of Seville (1813)
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

The overture to Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville was written three years before the opera was premiered. This is due to Rossini's incredibly demanding contract to produce operas; he oversaw as many as four or five a year! As a result, he would often recycle overtures as many as two or three times. The overture to The Barber of Seville was written for a previous opera and reused. Obviously, the music does not appear at any point in the opera itself, but the mood is perfect for the comic opera it precedes. As with most Rossini overtures, this one begins with a slow introduction giving way to a lively section using two themes with intervening passages for which he earned the nickname "Signor Crescendo." These moments do not simply involve playing louder, but add orchestral forces and rises in pitch using repetitive melodic material. This general excitement ends in an even faster ending with bravura flourishes from the orchestra. Conducting this piece will be Tyler Bainter, our Associate Conductor for this concert and for the 2017-18 season. [CJ]

Finale from Serenade in D minor, Op. 44 for Winds, Cello and Double Bass (1878)
Music by AntonŪn DvořŠk (1841-1904) 

Utilizing folk tunes and folk-like tunes from his native Czech sources, DvořŠk, in his typically charming way, produced a work of great depth using an unexpected combination of instruments. He does not include flutes, preferring a slightly darker sound, and adding a cello and bass to what is otherwise an augmented woodwind quartet. The four-movement work is in D minor, and the Finale begins in that key. The ending, however, switches to D Major, ending on a triumphant note. [CJ]  

"Nimrod" from Enigma: Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (1899)
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

When Elgar informed his friend August Jaeger he had sketched some variations, neither could have guessed how they would be adopted into the orchestral repertoire. Elgar meant for each variation to represent one of his friends and gave cryptic (but decipherable) subheadings to each one. There was more to the larger work than this little game, however, for he presented two mysteries, the identity of the "friends pictured within" and something darker at which he hinted in his program note. The first of these was easy, since all but one of his friends has been identified by initials or a nickname. As for the other, Elgar wrote, "The enigma I will not explain-its 'dark saying' must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the apparent connection between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme 'goes,' but is not played-so the principal Theme never appears. . . ." This riddle has never been solved.

Variation IX (Nimrod) is the most loved of the variations. "Jaeger" is the German for "hunter," and Nimrod is the "mighty hunter" mentioned in Genesis 10. August Jaeger was a German-born musician of frail health and great soul who worked for the London music publishing house of Novello and who, more than anyone except Alice Elgar, sustained the composer through his frequent and severe periods of depression. "The Variation . . . is the record of a long summer evening talk, when my friend discoursed eloquently on the slow movements of Beethoven, and said that no one could approach Beethoven at his best in this field, a view with which I cordially concurred." Jaeger, still young, died in 1909, and nearly twenty years later Elgar wrote: "His place has been occupied but never filled." [CJ]

Women and Fairies, Op. 28 (2006)
Nimrod Borenstein (b. 1969)

Women and Fairies was premiered on March 2, 2008, by the Des Moines Community Orchestra under the baton of Carl Johnson. In 1998, Laurent Cavana, a dancer with the Rambert Dance Company, suggested that my music would work well with modern ballet. I came to see many dance productions and was excited by the idea of such a project and started writing Women and Fairies in the idea that the piece would be a first movement for a ballet in five parts. Unfortunately, I became too busy with other commissions at the time to be in a position to write such a long piece. The first two movements were half written and were left for many years to rest. It was during 2006, that I finally looked back and finished writing Women and Fairies as a single movement orchestral piece. Given its origins, it is no surprise that Women and Fairies conjure many images and is often magical and light. [© Nimrod Borenstein]

Inside the Fairy World, Op. 76 [world premiere] (2016)
Nimrod Borenstein (b. 1969)
Commissioned Work

Inside the Fairy World was written during 2016 and you are present at its world premiere today. I thought that, as the Des Moines Community Orchestra had premiered 10 years ago my Women and Fairies, it would be interesting to somehow stay in the realm of fairies for this especially commissioned piece. 

Many years have passed between the composition of the two pieces and my style and palette have evolved. Because it is still my strongest belief that contrast is one of the most important elements in music, I have during the last decade expanded my techniques to create these contrasts. I use elaborate counterpoint with complex rhythms as a way to create different atmospheres. In the same way that Women and Fairies is written for a small orchestra that should be able to sound massive, Inside the Fairy World is written for a very large orchestra that should sound delicate at times. I have always been attracted by Schubert and Mozart who can in a short time move from being tragic and highly emotional to serene and almost childlike happy and peaceful. The idea of fairies in my music is about this state of almost naive happiness that makes some moments of our lives beautiful. [© Nimrod Borenstein]

"Bacchanale" from Samson and Delilah (1877)
Camille Saint-SaŽns (1835-1921)

Saint-SaŽns wrote over 300 compositions and several were stage works. His opera Samson and Delilah was his most popular. Although it is less often performed today, it does get the occasional revival. The Bacchanale, however, has been immensely popular regardless. The music depicts an orgy to the god Bacchus, swirling around Samson and Delilah, who have a tender moment before the frenzied crowd brings the dance to its exciting conclusion. French operas were expected to have a ballet early on and this dance scene satisfied that convention. Its sensuous melodies, driving timpani, and emotion-laden moods have pleased audiences ever since its premiere. [CJ]