- April 6, 2019
- 8:00 pm
- Marietta Performing Arts Center
Razzle dazzle and orchestral colors galore! The GSO celebrates Edward Eanes' twenty years as concertmaster in a grand fashion with a performance of orchestral showpieces. Rimsky-Korsakov's beloved Scherazade has not been performed by the GSO in decades and weaves a thrilling and memorable musical tale. Liszt's thrilling Les Preludes is one of the earliest symphonic poems, and full of brilliance and drama.
Guest conducting this first half of this performance will be Stephen Plate, Director of the KSU School of Music.
This performance will also include a pre-concert talk with Edward Eanes as he reflects on two decades with the GSO.
Saturday, April 6, 2019, 8:00 pm
Marietta Performing Arts Center
As a composer, music editor, influential critic and teacher, Paul Dukas (1865-1935) was a musician of remarkable breadth whose public career as a composer spanned only about 15 years. He published only three works and destroyed almost everything he wrote in the last 30 years of his life, leaving us with only a handful of his compositions: a ballet, an opera, a symphony, and the famous orchestral program piece, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
La Péri, or The Flower of Immortality, was written by Dukas in 1912 as a one-act ballet. The story of a man’s search for immortality and his search for the mythical Péri, its music is a blend of Romantic tonal harmony and orchestration tinged with impressionism. While the ballet’s opening brass fanfare has little to do with the opera that follows, its popularity, rivalling that of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is such that it is often performed separately.
With no formal training in classical music, French composer and pianist Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) was free to create his own musical language unencumbered by tradition. Influenced by an eclectic mix of composers, among them Debussy, Ravel, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Wagner, he also found inspiration in the writers and painters of his day. Chabrier collected Impressionistic paintings before they were fashionable and counted among his close friends the painter Édouard Manet.
Chabrier wrote operas, songs and piano music, but he is primarily known for two orchestral works, Joyeuse marche and España. España, premiered in 1883, was dismissed by its own composer as “a piece in F and nothing more” yet consistently won admirers, among them Poulenc, Stravinsky and Sir Thomas Beecham, founder of the London Philharmonic, who recorded it in 1939. Annotator Michael Quinn calls the work “An exuberant, sun-soaked, colour-saturated paean to Spain, a country French-born Chabrier adored….” Two of the three main melodies in this orchestral rhapsody are taken from Spanish dances, a jota and a malagueña; the third, a “bold posturing theme” for trombones, is original with Chabrier.
The life of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) – virtuoso performer, composer, rake and priest – was the stuff of legend: he was one of the most outstanding pianist-composers of his day; his personal life was stormy and scandalous, and; in 1865 he received minor orders (a lower priestly ranking) in the Roman Catholic Church. Living at a time when gifted performers were in demand, blessed with a genius for self-promotion and showmanship – he allowed audiences to see him only in profile – Liszt made an excellent living. But marketing aside, behind the drama and contrived theatrics was the mind of an intelligent and progressive artist.
Liszt invented what is called the symphonic tone poem, instrumental music with pictorial or extramusical associations, often based on a poem or other literary source. Such was the link between words and music that he gave his tone poems lengthy printed descriptions designed “to guard the listener against a wrong poetical interpretation.” The first of twelve symphonic poems written between 1848 and 1861, while Liszt was director of music to the Duke of Weimar, Les Préludes was originally written as an introduction to The Four Elements for male chorus and orchestra, later re-worked as a stand-alone concert piece. As its program, Liszt retroactively chose a “poetic meditation” by French writer Alphonse Lamartine (1760-1869), whose narrative begins as follows: “What else is life but a series of preludes to that unknown hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death? Love is the enchanted dawn of all existence; but what fate is there whose first delights of happiness are not interrupted by some storm, whose fine illusions are not dissipated by some mortal blast, consuming its altar as though by a stroke of lightning?”
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), a Russian Romantic Nationalist, was a masterful orchestrator whose Principles of Orchestration is still studied, and who frequently used Russian folklore as the basis of his music. Among his most popular works are Scheherazade, Capriccio Espagnole, the Russian Easter Overture, and an opera, Le Coq d’Or (The Golden Cockerel). As one of Russia’s “The Five,” a group which also included Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Alexander Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov’s goal was to produce art music that was truly Russian, as opposed to music that adhered to the European classical tradition or relied on formal conservatory training.
While orchestrating the “Polovetsian Dances” for Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov was inspired to write music based on The Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of stories by Middle Eastern authors, translators and scholars. The premise of the story-telling is that Sultan Schariar, convinced of the faithlessness of women vows to put his wives to death once they are no longer virgins. Scheherazade, who offers to become one of his brides stays his hand by telling him stories for one thousand and one nights, after which the Sultan abandons his plan. With Scheherazade (1887-88), Rimsky-Korsakov intended not to relay specific tales in music, but rather to give free reign to his “fancy” in “presenting a kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images.” The work’s movements are connected by two themes, one representing the threatening Sultan, the other evoking the voice of Scheherazade in the form of delicate sinuous melismas on solo violin.
Rimsky-Korsakov offers four musical images of tales from The Arabian Nights, beginning with “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship,” which opens with the commanding voice of the Sultan. “The Tale of the Kalender Prince” tells the tale of a nobleman in disguise. The Kalenders were fakirs, or roving monks, who appeared at Eastern courts and bazaars, offering story-telling, magic and comedy in exchange for money or lodging. “The Young Prince and the Young Princess” describes the love and adventures of Prince Kamar al-Zanna and Princess Budur. The Finale represents three tales - “The Festival at Baghdad,” “The Sea,” “Shipwreck” – followed by a conclusion. Annotator Richard Freed writes, “The character of the Sultan is utterly transformed at the end of the work, from the unyielding sternness with which the sequence began to a warm expansiveness born of the thousand and one nights with his incomparable story-teller,” Scheherazade.
Biographical sources: Nicolas Slonimsky, ed., The Concise Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Music, Schirmer Books, New York, New York, 1994; Dom Michael Randel, The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, 1996.
Nikk Pilato, “Fanfare pour précéder La Péri” by Nikk Pilato, http://www.nikkpilato.net/fanfare-from-la-peri.html.
Music of Chabrier, Elgar, JS Bach, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 75th Anniversary, Liner Notes by Michael Quinn, BBC Music CD MM285, 2007.
Grove Music Online, extract from “Programme music” by Roger Scruton, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000022394.
The Kennedy Center, Les Préludes, Program Notes by Richard E. Rodda, http://www.kennedy-center.org/artist/composition/3924.
The Kennedy Center, Scheherazade Op. 35, Program Notes by Richard Freed, http://www.kennedy-center.org/artist/composition/2145.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, My Musical Life, Eulenburg Books, London, 1974.