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Spring 2023 • Concert 4
Monday, April 10, 2023
Rehearsals before concert week
– 2nd movement
– 3rd movement
– 1st movement
9:00 Helios: all
9:20 Price (L to end)
1). Below you can find an early peek at Roger Selya’s program notes for the May concert. Consider it the Author’s Cut; the final version that appears in the printed program will be trimmed a bit.
- Andantino: 8th = 104-116, up to the cadenza soloist
- Piu mosso at B: 8th = 142
- Allegro molto at D: quarter= 144
- Vivace after G: measure = 116-120
- Andantino: a languid, flexible 48-52 to the dotted quarter
- Pocchissimo piu mosso (rehearsal D) more like 63-70.
Allegro ma non troppo (m75): half = 100-104
Presto (m 212): half = 116-120 (
Great orchestra sounds:Ozawa and BSO (video, judging by the hair, guessing 1970s?)
Reiner and Chicago
Mark’s favorite performance
Blomstedt and Danish Radio Symphony:
CCO Program Notes for May 6, 2023 Concert
Many musicologists consider Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) to be one of, if not the, best of Danish composers. He was born on the island of Funen, the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson, into a large (he had eleven siblings), poor family. His father was a house painter, amateur musician who played violin and cornet, and lead the local band. In addition to caring for her children Carl’s mother taught them dozens of Danish folksongs. Carl’s musical gifts were discovered when he was six when townsfolks heard him playing melodies on pieces of firewood he had arranged on the ground. This led to his being given violin lessons and being drafted to play trombone in his father’s band. Since his family saw no future in music for Carl, when he was fourteen he was apprenticed to a shopkeeper in a nearby village. By midsummer the shopkeeper was bankrupt so Carl had to return home. In November, 1879, he joined the band of the Danish Army’s 16th battalion based on Odense as an alto trombonist and bugler. His salary covered left enough money for him to buy clothes so he could perform in local bands. During his time in the military band he began his first formal violin lessons with Carl Larsen, the sexton of the Odense Cathedral.
In 1884 he was introduced to Niels Gade, the director of the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. Gade was so impressed with Carl that he arranged for his admission to the Royal Academy tuition free. As a result Carl was able to receive a release from the military and was able to study violin with Lars Valdemar Tofte (1832-1907), a pupil of Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), theory with Orla Rosenhoff (1844-1905), piano with Gottfried Matthason-Hanson (1832-1909) and composition with Gade (1817-1890). In 1889 Carl joined the second violin section of the Danish Royal Theatre orchestra. A year later he received a government stipend to travel in order to immerse himself in the music of Germany, France, and Italy. When he returned to Copenhagen he resumed his position in the Danish Royal Theatre orchestra and was subsequently appointed assistant conductor. He would assume the conductorship in 1906 when the conductor Johan Svendsen retired. Just before his death he was appointed director of his alma mater, where he had been teaching music theory and composition.
Nielsen was a prolific composer, leaving 157 opus numbers of varied compositions including chamber music, choral and solo vocal works, and symphonies. Nielsen came to compose Helios Overture in 1903 as a result of his wife, Anne Marie Broaderson, a gifted sculptor, receiving a rarely-granted authorization to copy bas reliefs at the Acropolis in Athens. A local conservatory granted Nielsen a studio overlooking the Aegean Sea. As it turned out Nielsen had a lifelong interest in archeology and ancient architecture and surrounded and inspired by antiquity, Nielsen’s musical interests turned to the sea and sky, and the ancient myth of Helios. In Greek mythology Helios is said to be the God and personification of the sun. On a daily basis Helios, riding in a chariot pulled by four white horses, guides the sun from east to west. Nielsen was able to compose such a work since he had signed a contract with his publisher Wilhelm Hansen to compose a work while he was in Athens. He started composing Helios on March 10th, 1903, and completed it by April 23rd. The work received its premiere performance on October 8, 1903 performed by the Danish Royal Orchestra, conducted by Johan Svendsen. Nielsen was not the first composer to be inspired by the sun. Rather he joined an extensive list of composers, including Anton Bruckner, Edvard Grieg, Ferde Grofé, Franz Joseph Haydn, and Richard Straus, who also found inspiration from the sun.
Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price (1887-1953) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her family had relocated after the great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed her father’s dental practice. She received her first musical training from her mother, who had been an elementary school music teacher in Indianapolis. Florence gave her first recital at age four. While in elementary school she continued her piano studies with Charlotte Andrews Stephens, an Oberlin Conservatory trained musician. Price graduated from high school when she was 14 and went on to study composition and counterpoint with George Whitefield Chadwick and Frederick Converse at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Before she graduated with a double major in piano pedagogy and organ performance in 1906, she had completed her first composition.
Composed between 1932 and 1933, the Piano Concerto was her second major work. The première, with Price as soloist, took place on June 24, 1934 at the sixty-seventh commencement exercises of the Chicago Musical College where Price was taking graduate courses in composition and orchestration. She subsequently arranged a two piano arrangement of the work. Then, like so many of her works, the piano concerto literally disappeared. In 2011 the African- American composer Trevor Weston was able to reconstruct the work using a manuscript consisting of an arrangement of the concerto for solo piano and reduced orchestra, instrumental parts in the private collection of Eugenia Anderson, a Chicago piano teacher, and the manuscript of the two-piano version. An additional orchestral manuscript was subsequently found at auction in 2019.
The concerto includes rhythms and tunes of antebellum black folk dances, variations of a dance rhythm, juba, involving slapping, stomping, and patting, imported from what is now Angola, Gabon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a common poetic structure in African-American folk music known as call-and-response.
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was fortunate that both his parents were musical, so they were quick to perceive that their son was unusually gifted. He demonstrated perfect pitch and an excellent sense of rhythm, so by the age of six he was taking music lessons. In 1856 he was sent to the Naval College in St. Petersburg. During his last year at the College he began studying piano with the French pianist Theodore Canille, who introduced him to a future mentor and friend, Mily Balakirev. By the time he completed his naval studies in 1860 he had begun making his own piano transcriptions of excerpts from a range of popular operas.
Upon graduation Rimsky-Korsakov went to sea for two and a half years, during that period he devoted his free time to composing. After completing his at sea obligations, Rimsky-Korsakov returned to St Petersburg to study music full time. Although considered by many of his fellow music student a mere “amateur,” in 1871 he was appointed professor of composition and instrumentation at the St. Petersburg Conservatory as well as the head of the conservatory’s orchestra. At that time he formally resigned his naval commission, although he would maintain his link to government service until 1884, as the inspector of naval bands and orchestras. Over the years, in addition to teaching, conducting, and composing, Rimsky-Korsakov also devoted considerable time completing and orchestrating works of other composers, including Ernest Mussorgsky and Aleksandr Borodin.
In 1887 while completing his opera Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov contemplated a work based on selected episodes from The Arabian Nights. The familiarity of the subject matter was a result, after the Russo-Turkish Wars (1696-1878), of Europe’s fascination with everything Oriental, including fine and folk arts and literature, social customs, and music (especially percussion instruments). Ironically, Western European audiences considered the works of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov “too oriental.” By the end of the summer of 1888, he had not only completed this work, titled Scheherazade, but also his Capriccio Espagnole and the Russian Easter Overture. In time he would view this trilogy as displaying the epitome of his skills at orchestration. In his memoirs he forcefully claimed that he had achieved in the three works a “considerable degree of virtuosity and bright sonority without Wagner’s influence.” Conductors and audiences agreed with him: the trilogy was an instant success where ever and whenever it was programmed, with one possible exception. That occurred in 1889 when the Russian Musical Society considered programming Scheherazade. Some members were opposed to doing so for two reasons. First, some frowned on the work out of fear that it might corrupt the taste of musically inclined youth. Second, others objected to paying the full 100 ruble honorarium usually awarded to composers of new symphonic works, since Scherazade was not as long as a symphony. Once Rimsky-Korsakov agreed to an honorarium of 50 rubles, all members agreed to permit the work to be played.
In composing Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov had a deliberate program in mind, one he freely shared with everyone. Over the course of four movements he weaved and juxtaposed unconnected episodes and events. In particular he focused on five key elements of the Arabian Tales: the sea and Sindbad’s ship; the ship dashing against the rocks; the fantastic narrative of Prince Kalendar; the relationship between the Prince and his Princess; and the Bagdad bazaar. He deliberately avoided writing separate movements for each of the elements since he saw all of them as influencing events after the actual time in which they occurred. Similarly, he named the work Scheherazade, to emphasize that he wanted to draw the listener’s attention to the narrator of the story and not to the story itself.
The story is taken from a collection, assembled during the Golden Age of Islam (8th through 13th century) of tales whose roots go back to Arabic, Persian, Mesopotamian, Indian, and Egyptian folklore and literature. The first English edition of the tales appeared in 1706, under the title of The Arabian Nights Entertainment. In addition to Scheherazade, the book contained tales dealing with Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, Ali Bab and the Forty Thieves, and The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.
The storyline of the character Scheherazade begins with a king, Shahryar, discovering that his wife had been unfaithful to him. To avoid a repetition of such behavior, he resolved to marry a new virgin each day as well as beheading the previous day’s wife. By the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, he had killed 1000 wives. Scheherazade was the daughter of the king’s minister of state. Before volunteering, against her father’s wishes, to be introduced to the king, Scherhazade had done her proverbial homework. After perusing books, annals, legends and stories relating to kings and faraway places. Scheherazade agreed to spend a night with the king. Once in his chambers, knowing she would be killed the next morning, she asked if she could bid farewell to her beloved sister, Dunyazade, who had been secretly prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell her a bedtime story. The king listened to the story but Scheherazade stopped in the middle. The king thereupon asked her to finish the story, but Scheherazade said there was no time as dawn was breaking. So the king spared her life so that she might finish the story the next night. The next night she finished the story and started another even more exciting tale, again stopping in the middle. So the kind spared her life for still one more day. In all he would spare her life for 1000 tales and nights, at which time she informed him she had no more stories. But by then he had fallen in love with Scheherazade and so he spared her life and made her his queen.
Rimsky-Korsakov as neither the first nor last to retell Scheherazade’s story. At least eighteen other composers, including Carl Maria von Weber and Carl Nielsen, have set it to music. At least five different movie versions have been produced, and mini television series, for both adults and children, have been produced in the United States, the United Kingdom, and India. The writings of Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges, and Joh Barth have been influenced as well. There are even video games with Arabian Nights themes.
We wish you an enjoyable and restful summer. Please join us for our first concert of our 2023-2024 season on October X.
Program notes by R.M. Selya