- Winter Concert
Theme: DMCO Tours Europe
Indra, Op. 13 (1903)
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
The son of a successful pianist and organist, young Gustav suffered from
asthma and neuritis and did not have the stamina to become a concert pianist
himself. So he studied composition at the Royal College of Music, writing pieces
first influenced by Grieg, Dvořák,
and most notably Wagner, whose works the young Holst never missed when performed
at Covent Garden. It was there that Holst made the acquaintance of fellow
student Ralph Vaughan Williams, with whom he forged a lifelong friendship. When
in 1903 Vaughan Williams began collecting English folk songs, Holst took them up
as well, finding a source of inspiration that transformed his music into a more
"English" style, and that led him to discover his own straightforward
idiom. At the beginning of the 20th century, English music had become somewhat
stilted, composers still requiring a "bridge passage" between one
musical idea and the next. Holst's goal was to speak as directly as possible
through his music. Composers such as Benjamin Britten acknowledged a lasting
debt to Holst's directness of expression.
Holst developed his interest in Indian philosophy at the turn of the
twentieth-century. Scholars suggest that this was perhaps through his father's
second wife who was a theosophist. This interest resulted in a number of
important works including the well-known songs from the Rig Veda, the operas
Savitri and Sita and the present work Indra, Symphonic Poem, Op. 13.
This impressive tone-poem was composed in 1903 and is based on the legend of
the Indian god of the heavens, of rain and storm (Indra) and his conflict with
the demon Vritra. Vritra had been brought to life by the Brahman Tvashtri to
avenge the death of his son. The legend relates how the demon was eventually
defeated by Indra with the help of Vishnu. The drought that had been caused by
Vritra is finally ended - and as the rain falls the people rejoice.
What is most remarkable about this work is the sheer brilliance of the
orchestration. Imogen Holst noted the contrasts between the quieter sections and
the more 'bombastic' music. It is a score that was certainly ahead of its time -
at least in British music. It can be listened to without reference to the myth
and can be seen as a contrast between cool, impressionistic music and aggressive
passages that are more Wagnerian or perhaps Straussian than the music that Holst
would come to write in later years. It is a stunning work that does not deserve
its obscurity. [Excerpts from Barbara Heninger and John France, edited and
adapted by TB]
Fantasía para un gentilhombre (1954)
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999
The music of Joaquin Rodrigo is steeped in the music and culture of his
native Spain, including Baroque music of the early Spanish church as well as
folk melodies and traditional Spanish folk instruments, especially the guitar.
Born in Sagunto, Valencia, in 1901, Rodrigo was blinded at the age of three by
diphtheria, which he said turned him early to a life of music. After winning
early honors at the Conservatoire in Valencia, he studied in Paris with Paul
Dukas at the École Normale de Musique, adding French influences to his style.
He spent the Spanish Civil War exiled in Paris, but returned to Spain in 1939
and became the leading composer of his country. He is best known for his
concerti, especially the haunting Concierto de Aranjuéz for guitar.
The Fantasia para un gentilhombre (Fantasia for a Gentleman) was written in
1954 for Andrés Segovia, the "gentleman" of the title. The thematic
elements are based on short works by a 17th-century Spanish baroque guitarist,
Gaspar Sanz, who wrote the first Instruction Book of Music for Spanish Guitar in
1674. The melodies compiled by Sanz were based on still older, traditional dance
tunes. Rodrigo expanded on these short melodies, in some cases completing themes
from the older composer's original sketches, and said he orchestrated the work
to produce a sound in the "manner of strong spices that were so popular in
the victuals of the period." Segovia premiered the work in 1958 with the
San Francisco Symphony.
The first movement, Villano y Ricercare, opens with the villano, a
17th-century dance with song popular in both Spain and Italy. The violins state
the main theme and the solo violin elaborates, then the soloist leads the fugue
of the ricercare, while various sections of the ensemble follow. Throughout the
interweaving of the fugal theme, the orchestration never overwhelms the guitar.
Españoleta y Fanfare de la Caballería de Nápoles combines the slow,
lilting dance of the españoleta with a fanfare for, as the title states, the
cavalry of Naples, which was under Spanish rule in Sanz's time. The brisk
fanfare includes a col legno section for the strings, where the players use the
wooden side of the bow against the string.
The fast, rhythmic Danza de las Hachas is a "hatchet dance" meant
to be performed with torches. Soloist and orchestra trade roles, each
accompanying and then leading the dance.
The lively Canario is a folk dance from the Canary Islands in 6/8 time, in
which orchestra and soloist compete in brilliant figures that grow in intensity
until the soloist breaks free in a virtuosic cadenza. [Notes by Barbara Heninger,
edited and adapted by CJ]
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 (1867)
Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Although he was born five years after Johannes Brahms, Max Bruch hit his
stride much sooner. At eleven he was writing chamber music; in 1852, at the age
of fourteen, he tossed off his first symphony. (Brahms was forty-two when he
finished his, after nearly a quarter century of intermittent work.) Bruch's
first violin concerto was begun in 1864 and first performed, to considerable
acclaim, in 1868 - before A German Requiem put Brahms on the map (and
more than a decade before his own celebrated violin concerto). The irony of
Bruch's career - particularly in light of the current admiration for art that
is, above all, accessible-is that by writing music to please the audience of his
day, Bruch lost the interest of succeeding generations.
The G minor violin concerto, however, has withstood time, and it makes
a most persuasive case for the composer. Soloists keep concertos before the
public, and violinists have always loved to play this piece. Bruch studied
violin for several years, and he wrote for the instrument with enormous
affection and skill.
Bruch had difficulty writing this concerto, his first major work. There was
even a public performance of a preliminary version, but Bruch was dissatisfied.
The celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim offered important suggestions (he would
later play the same role in the creation of Brahms's concerto), and Bruch was
smart enough to take his advice. When the concerto was presented in its final
form in 1868, Joachim was the soloist (Bruch also dedicated the score to him).
Bruch planned to call the concerto a fantasy, which helps to explain the
disposition of the three movements. The first is a prelude in title and mood,
rather than the weightiest movement of the work. Even though the violinist works
as hard as in any of the great virtuoso concertos, and the dialogue between solo
and orchestra is heated and extensive, the tone is anticipatory. When, without a
pause, we reach the slow movement, we find the heart of the concerto: a rich,
wonderfully lyrical expanse of music that shows Bruch at his best and offers
melodies custom-made for the violin. The finale begins in quiet suspense, broken
by the entrance of the violin with a hearty dance tune and more fireworks.
[Excerpts from notes by Phillip Huscher]
Vittorio Monti (1869-1922)
Monti, an Italian born in Naples, composed ballets, operettas, pantomimes, as
well as instrumental, vocal and violin pieces. Today, Monti is best remembered
for writing Czardas. Monti studied violin at the conservatory in San Pietro at
Majella, and composition with Paolo Serrao. He went to Paris in 1886 and became
the concertmaster in the Lamoureux Orchestra. Later, he became a conductor in
The Czardas (Csárdás) is a representative Hungarian dance tune originating
from the popular music that was danced in the csárda, which is a tavern or inn
in farming villages. The present piece consists of two sections; a slow lassü
section and a fast friss (literally "fresh") section, creating
a piece rich in flavor with equal portions of lyricism and technical brilliance.
Hungarian folk music has made itself felt in the world of classical music.
Great composers such as Haydn, Beethoven, Liszt, Dvořák,
Brahms and Bartok have used the unusual rhythms, scales, and harmonies, in their
compositions, often in final movements. The distinctive soulfulness of the
music, a yearning quality, even a pathos, has intrigued and inspired great
musical minds for more than 200 years. It's interesting that most gypsy
orchestras know and play the Czardas of Monti, a Neapolitan composer. Moreover,
these dances are singularly the cause of Monti's fame. [Notes by Horace Work and
Jiro Kondo adapted and edited by CJ]