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Program Notes - Spring Concert

Theme: DMCO & Guests

"Nocturne" and "Wedding March" from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 (1842)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Mendelssohn wrote a concert overture (Op. 21) for Shakespeare's play in 1826. He composed incidental music (Op. 61) to go with the play and the overture he had already written. The Nocturne, used as an intermezzo at the end of the second act, is a beautiful evocation of the quiet evening and features a solo horn with two bassoons providing support.

The Wedding March is almost certainly Mendelssohn's most famous work and is quite possibly one of the most popular pieces ever written. It was placed between Acts IV and V. Countless couples have marched down the aisle (usually as a recessional) to this music after a wedding ceremony. Tyler Bainter, our Associate Conductor this season, will lead the orchestra. [C.J.]

 

Concerto after Mendelssohn for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra (2016-17)
David DeBoor Canfield (b. 1950)

The following dedication, by the composer, is to our guest performer, who now teaches at Troy University in Alabama, and it is printed on the first page of the score:

To Dave Camwell in Respect and Friendship

Concerto after Mendelssohn was written between December 10, 2016 and January 26, 2017, and orchestrated from February 20th to March 8th of 2017. Not many people know that Mendelssohn was actually intending to write a concerto for Carl Traugott Queisser, the principal trombonist in his Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Unfortunately for trombonists and music lovers, the project was never realized, and consequently David DeBoor Canfield thought that it might be worthwhile to attempt to write a trombone concerto that might have borne some similarity to the one that Mendelssohn never wrote. Shortly after he finished that version, he thought of making versions for bassoon and tenor saxophone, given the dearth of Romantic concerti for those instruments. These two versions are slightly longer than the trombone original, which the composer had to abridge for endurance factors.

Since Canfield likes to take a differing approach in the works he writes in his "After" series, for this work, he took the short bridge movement that links the second and third movements of Mendelssohn's E Minor Violin Concerto, and expanded it into an entire movement, more or less in the style of the German master. After a near-verbatim quote of this movement, Canfield expands and develops the thematic material along the lines of 19th-century German practice. Thus, the first movement is written in modified sonata allegro form, with divergence from that form coming as the development section flows immediately out of the elaboration of the second theme in the relative major. Another novelty occurs after a short cadenza, where there is no coda, but only a reiteration of Mendelssohn's bridge movement.

The second movement is in A-B-A song form, with an opening that features long lines in the solo instrument. A middle section shifts from D-flat Major to its parallel minor, C-sharp Minor, and picks up in activity and drama, with flourishes in the solo part undergirded by dramatic gestures in the accompaniment. The movement concludes with a modified and expanded reiteration of the opening statement.

The work ends with a driving finale in modified rondo form. The movement is fast with a lot of notes, so the composer kept it brief, thinking there was enough activity for the listener to absorb in its three-minute duration. As in other "After" works in Canfield's output, the composer didn't concern himself too much with the places in this work that sound more like Canfield writing in a 19th-century style than Mendelssohn, but he did make an effort to incorporate the melodic gestures and harmonic sequences normally associated with this great composer. The development section of the first movement also utilizes a good bit of counterpoint to pay homage to Mendelssohn's rediscovery of the music of Bach, as does the inclusion of phrases from one of the latter's Chorales, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme in the second movement. The listener will also note the not-so-subtle quote from Mendelssohn's ubiquitous Wedding March in the Finale, as well as the fact that the key relationships of the three movements in this work exactly mirror those of his E Minor Violin Concerto, albeit transposed up a semi-tone.

 

Divertimento Corsica (1952)
Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)

Henri Tomasi's music expresses itself using modern forms, but always with a depth of lyricism that has appeal for the audience and is also popular with performers. It was his desire to write heartfelt music. The Divertimento Corsica finds its inspiration in the fond memories of summers spent with his grandmother in Corsica. The Divertimento consists of four movements, drawn from Corsican folk melodies and dances, the happy times of his life on the Mediterranean island. The featured woodwind trio (oboe, clarinet, and bassoon) have many opportunities to explore the rich tonal colors available to this combination of instruments. Tomasi's use of extreme ranges provide virtuosic possibilities for the soloists. Today's guests are The Driftless Winds, a Missouri-based group we are delighted to have join us [C.J.]

 

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (1868)
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, was the only concerto Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and among the most popular of all piano concerti. Our soloist will be Shana Liu, from Urbandale, who was the Bill Riley Talent Search grand prize winner in 2016 and is now a student at Wartburg College.

The concerto is in three movements. The first movement is noted for the timpani roll in the first bar that leads to a dramatic piano flourish. The movement is in the Sonata form. It finishes with a virtuosic cadenza and a similar flourish as in the beginning.

The second movement is a lyrical movement in D-flat major, which leads directly into the third movement.

The third movement opens in A minor 4/4 time with an energetic theme (Theme 1), which is followed by a lyrical theme in F major (Theme 2). The movement returns to Theme 1. Following this recapitulation is the 3/4 A major Quasi presto section, which consists of a variation of Theme 1. The movement concludes with the Andante maestoso in A major, which consists of a dramatic rendition of Theme 2 (as opposed to the lyrical fashion with which Theme 2 is introduced).

The work is among Grieg's earliest important works, written by the 24-year-old composer in 1868 in Søllerød, Denmark, during one of his visits there to benefit from the climate, which was warmer than that of his native Norway.

Grieg's concerto is often compared to the Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann; it is in the same key, the opening descending flourish on the piano is similar, and the overall style is considered to be closer to Schumann than any other single composer. Incidentally, both wrote only one concerto for piano. Grieg had heard Schumann's concerto played by Clara Schumann in Leipzig in 1858 (1859 is given by alternative sources), and was greatly influenced by Schumann's style generally, having been taught the piano by Schumann's friend, Ernst Ferdinand Wenzel. Compact disc recordings often pair the two concertos.

Additionally, Grieg's work provides evidence of his interest in Norwegian folk music; the opening flourish is based around the motif of a falling minor second followed by a falling major third, which is typical of the folk music of Grieg's native country. This specific motif occurs in other works by Grieg, including the String Quartet No. 1. In the last movement of the concerto, similarities to the halling (a Norwegian folk dance) and imitations of the Hardanger fiddle (the Norwegian folk fiddle) have been detected. [adapted from Schenectady Symphony Orchestra by C.J.]

 

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