program notes - Diane Wittry

program notes - Diane Wittry

Nov. 10-11, 2012, page 1 program notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda Overture to “Candide” (1956) Leonard Bernstein ■ 1918-1990 Lillian Hellman conceive...

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Nov. 10-11, 2012, page 1

program notes by

Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Overture to “Candide” (1956)

Leonard Bernstein ■ 1918-1990 Lillian Hellman conceived a theater piece based on Voltaire’s Candide as early as 1950, but it was not until 1956 that the project materialized. She originally intended the work to be a play with incidental music, which she asked Leonard Bernstein to compose, but his enthusiasm for the subject was so great after re-reading Voltaire’s novel that the venture swelled into a full-blown comic operetta; Tyrone Guthrie was enlisted as director and Richard Wilbur wrote most of the song lyrics. Candide was first seen in a pre-Broadway tryout at Boston’s Colonial Theatre on October 29, 1956 (just days after Bernstein’s appointment as co-music director of the New York Philharmonic had been announced for the following season), and the show opened at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York on December 1st. The Overture to Candide was taken almost immediately into the concert hall— Bernstein conducted it with the New York Philharmonic only six weeks after the musical opened on Broadway — and it has remained one of the most popular curtain-raisers in the orchestral repertory. Its music, largely drawn from the show, captures perfectly the wit, brilliance and slapstick tumult of Voltaire’s novel. The group of first themes (the work is disposed, like many of Rossini’s overtures, in sonatina form) compris-

es a boisterous fanfare, a quicksilver galop and a brass proclamation, used later in the show to accompany the destruction of Westphalia, the hero’s home. Lyrical contrast is provided by a broad melody from the duet of Candide and his beloved Cunegonde, Oh, Happy We. These musical events are recounted, and the Overture ends with a whirling strain from Cunegonde’s spectacular coloratura aria, Glitter and Be Gay.

Double Violin Concerto (2002)

Mark O’Connor ■ born in 1961 The composer wrote, “The Double Violin Concerto is my third symphonic concerto for violin. It follows the Fiddle Concerto from 1992-1993 and Fanfare for the Volunteer (Three Pieces for Violin and Orchestra) from 1995-1996. Other than the obvious difference of having two violins featured in this Concerto, I also made a stylistic departure with the Double Concerto from the first two pieces. Where I previously concentrated on bringing folk fiddling traditions of America and Ireland to the symphonic setting, here I utilized some of the most important musical inspirations I absorbed as a child — blues and jazz. “In this Concerto, I wanted to concentrate on swing rhythms in the outer movements. For this I employed canonic writing, both in the solo violin parts and in the orchestra, to emphasize the swing feel. The accents

Nov. 10-11, 2012, page 2 and melodic phrasing within the canon [i.e., a single melody in exact imitation] bring out the syncopation, an essential element in achieving the feel of jazz and swing. In some cases, the swing rhythms are the result of implication rather than performance: in the case of the two violins, how the parts fit together; in the case of the orchestra, how the layers of parts in fugue-like configurations all create rhythmic pulses in the music. Rather than using vertical writing as has been common in orchestral jazz, I use an almost completely linear writing technique in the first and third movements. “A refrain can be heard again and again throughout the three movements, melodically linking them, though the refrain is delivered contrarily in the three corresponding tempos and rhythmic feels. The ninenote motive stated once then immediately repeated an octave lower is the germ phrase of the first movement and then becomes an introduction, interlude and ending for the second movement. Lastly, the refrain is used as subordinate counterpoint in the last movement. “With the slow theme of the second movement, I wanted to conjure a nostalgic, big-band ambience ... the feeling of midnight on the dance floor. Alternately, the two violins speak to each other in Classical and bluesy melodic language. “The two-violin cadenza in the first movement is a duel, in jazz terms, a ‘cutting’ contest. The violins begin trading long passages that get incrementally shorter. Each attempts to ‘outdo’ the other until there is nothing more to do but join forces. Each plays over the top of the other

in a furious, jazzy barrage. In the third movement, each violinist takes a cadenza. The first soloist interprets the music in a more melodic, romantic and Classically modern voice. The second soloist musically ‘struts’ alongside a walking bass line in the truest of the jazz solo traditions — improvisation.”

An American in Paris (1928)

George Gershwin ■ 1898-1937 In 1928, George Gershwin was not only the toast of Broadway, but of all America, Britain and many spots in Europe, as well: he had produced a string of successful shows (Rosalie and Funny Face were both running on Broadway that spring), composed two of the most popular concert pieces in recent memory (Rhapsody in Blue and the Piano Concerto in F), and was leading a life that would have made the most glamorous socialite jealous. The pace-setting Rhapsody in Blue of 1924 had shown a way to bridge the worlds of jazz and serious music, a direction Gershwin followed further in the exuberant yet haunting Piano Concerto in F the following year. He was eager to move further into the concert world, and during a side trip in March 1926 to Paris from London, where he was preparing the English premiere of Lady Be Good, he hit upon an idea, a “walking theme” he called it, that seemed to capture the impression of an American visitor to the city “as he strolls about, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere.” He worried that “this melody is so complete in itself, I don’t know where to go next,” but the purchase of four Parisian taxi horns on the Avenue de la Grande

Nov. 10-11, 2012, page 3 Armée inspired a second theme for the piece. Late in 1927, a commission for a new orchestral composition from Walter Damrosch, music director of the New York Symphony and conductor of the sensational premiere of the Concerto in F, caused Gershwin to gather up his Parisian sketches, and by January 1928, he was at work on the score: An American in Paris. When he returned to New York in late June, he discovered that the New York Symphony had announced the premiere for the upcoming season, so he worked on the piece throughout the autumn and finished the orchestration only a month before the premiere, on December 13, 1928. An American in Paris was a great success with the public, and it quickly became clear that Gershwin had scored yet another hit.

Four Dance Episodes from “Rodeo” (1942)

Aaron Copland ■ 1900-1990 The success of Billy the Kid in the spring of 1938 prompted the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to commission Aaron Copland four years later to write a second ballet on a cowboy theme; Agnes de Mille was engaged to devise the scenario and the choreography. The story of Rodeo is a simple one: a cowgirl, tough of hide but tender of heart, searches for — and finds — a man from the prairie whom she can invite to the Saturday night dance. Copland’s music reflects the plot’s folksiness and unaffected characters in its lean, uncluttered style, its quotations of American folk melodies, and its ebullient spirit. ©2012 Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Allentown Symphony Orchestra NOVEMBER 10 AND 11, 2012 8:00 P.M., SYMPHONY HALL P

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DIANE M. WITTRY

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music director/conductor

Overture to Candide Double Violin Concerto Fast — Rhythmic and Lively Modern Slow Moderately fast

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LEONARD BERNSTEIN MARK O’CONNOR

Violin Soloists: Mark O’Connor and Kelly Hall-Tompkins i n t e r m i s s i o n

An American in Paris Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo Buckaroo Holiday Corral Nocturne Saturday Night Waltz Hoe-Down

GEORGE GERSHWIN AARON COPLAND