The Clinton Symphony’s Holiday Pops concert is coming up this Saturday, December 8, 7:30 pm at Clinton High School. This week I’ll be posting the program notes in groups. Today we have some of our symphonic favorites: Concerto Grosso, Op.6 No. 8 – Corelli; A Mad Russian’s Christmas – Tchaikovsky, arr. Bob Phillips; and Trepak (from “Nutcracker Suite”) – Tchaikovsky.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653- 1713) was an imminent Italian violinist and composer known chiefly for his influence on the development of violin style and for his twelve Concerti Grossi, which set the concerto grosso as a standard of composition.
After studying in Bologna, Corelli went to Rome where his activities for the early 1670s are vague. In 1677 he made a trip to Germany, returning to Rome in 1680. On June 3, 1677, he sent his first composition, Sonata for Violin and Lute, to Count Fabrizio Laderchi of Faenza. In the years following, Corelli continued to rise in popularity and prestige within musical Rome, eventually in 1689 becoming music director for Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a position he held for the rest of his life.
Corelli did not live to see the publication of his Opus 6, consisting of 12 Concerto Grossi, which was published in Amsterdam the year following his death.
Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op 6, No 8 ‘Christmas’ was first performed on Christmas, 1690 and bears the inscription “Made for the night of Christmas.” The concerto is made up of six short movements which alternate in tempo between fast and slow. The final movement is a serene Pastorale which suggests the nativity scene.
Following the success of his opera Pique Dame, Peter Ily’ich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) accepted a commission from the director of the Russian Imperial Theaters for a ballet. The ballet was to be based on Alexandre Dumas père’s adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Tchaikovsky liked neither Dumas’ adaptation nor Hoffman’s original story but felt compelled, for financial reasons, to fulfill his obligation.
He began work on the score in early 1892 and finished the piece by late summer of the same year. To generate public enthusiasm for the ballet, the composer made a suite of eight of the numbers and presented The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 72a to the St. Petersburg branch of the Musical Society on March 19, 1892. The complete ballet debuted in December 1892 to generally poor reviews. While the suite was an immediate success, the complete ballet did not achieve great popularity until the 1950s. It has since become standard Christmas fare.
Trepak is one of the several consecutive ethnic dances in the ballet. It is based on the traditional Ukrainian folk dance known in Ukrainian as the Tropak or Tripak (Russian: Трепак) (Ukrainian: Трoпак, Трiпак) and is characteristically in 2/4 time.
A Mad Russian’s Christmas is an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Trepak arranged for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra by Bob Phillips.
Program notes by William Driver