Join us on December 11 at Clinton High for our annual Holiday concert. Some of the pieces we will be performing are the Rimsky-Korsakov – Polonaise from Christmas Eve Suite, the Yon/Baron – Gesu Bambino, and the Corelli – Christmas Concerto, op. 6, no. 8. The following are program notes on these pieces.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 1844-1908

Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer known for his concert works as well as 15 operas. A member of the group of composers known as The Five, he was a master of imaginative and colorful orchestration and believed in a nationalistic style of classical music employing Russian folk songs and legends.

Rimsky based his Christmas Eve Suite on a short story by Nikolai Gogol featuring a decidedly un-Christmasy devil, a witch and other elements of Ukrainian and Slavic folklore. Subtitled A Carol Come to Life, he created an opera in five sections. The most famous excerpt, the Polonaise, centers around a dance in a salon at the imperial palace in St. Petersburg on Christmas Eve, reflecting the opulence of the setting as courtiers sing the praises of their Tsarina.

Although his opera was not a success, Rimsky adapted the popular Polonaise for concert performance.

Pietro Yon 1886-1943

Italian organist and music director Pietro Yon was brought to the United States by the church of St. Francis Xavier and he quickly became a major force in New York’s musical life. As choir director he toured the U.S. extensively while also composing. Eventually becoming a media star, he served as organist for Enrico Caruso’s funeral and conducted his own music on the new CBS and NBC radio networks. He presided over the glory days at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as music director becoming famous enough that his musicians were featured headliners at the 1939 World’s Fair. Somehow finding time to compose, he wrote 70 Mass settings and major works.

Gesu Bambino is a peaceful Italian Christmas carol, the melody and chorus derived from the chorus of Adeste Fidelis, as well as a 17th century Irish carol I Saw Three Ships.

Arcangelo Corelli 1653-1713

Little is known about Corelli’s early life in Ravenna, but he became famous as a violinist and enjoyed his greatest success in Rome. A composer of the Baroque era, his music was key in the development of the sonata and concerto. He was a favorite among aristocratic circles and credited with the development of violin playing.

Of the 12 concertos he composed, the 8th is the most widely known, popular in his lifetime and performed at his own funeral.

Stay tuned for more program notes as we approach our concert date!

Holidays with the Symphony – Program Notes – Rimsky-Korsakov, Yon, Corelli