The Music of Friendships – Chamber Concert to be January 16.

Please make plans to join us for our annual Chamber Music concert on Sunday, January 16 at 2:00 p.m. The concert will take place at Zion Lutheran Church • 439 3rd Avenue South, Clinton.


Duet “With Two Eyeglasses Obligato” for Viola and Cello 

by Ludwig van Beethoven 

Paul Price-Brenner, viola <> Kevin Price-Brenner, cello 

– • – 

Terzetto, Op. 74 

for String Trio 

by Antonín Dvořak 

 Ann Duchow and Hana Velde, violins 

Natalie Delcorps, viola 

– • – 

Fantasy Pieces, Op. 88 

for Piano Trio 

by Robert Schumann 

Nadia Wirchnianski, piano 

Julie Marston, violin <> David Spaulding, violoncello

Program Notes:

Dvorak — Terzetto in C, Op. 74 for two violins and viola

     One of the best-known composers of all time, Antonin Dvorak contributed to the dissemination and appreciation of Czech music throughout the world. His portfolio includes around 200 works in all genres including 9 symphonies, 14 string quartets and 12 operas.

     Born September 8, 1841 in Bohemia, his early musical talent was recognized and nurtured; by the time he was 12, he moved in with an aunt and uncle and began his formal musical studies. As an adult, his fame spread quickly abroad, leading to successes in England, Russia and eventually the United States where he famously made his way to Iowa,  the inspiration for his New World Symphony.

     His Terzetto in C  is one of the best known works of this combination of instruments. Completed in only one week in January 1887, it was composed at the height of his creative career. Intended as Hausmusik to be performed informally by Dvorak himself and two friends, it proved too difficult for one of the violinists and he rewrote it in a simpler style for violin and piano, titled Romantic Pieces, as well as an easier work for the same instruments entitled Romantic Pieces. The first public performance of the Terzettl was in March 1887 in Prague by virtuoso violinists.

     The first of four movements, the Introduction begins with a sweetly lyrical theme, followed by a more energetic moment. The second movement, Larghetto, is slower and expressive with an agitated contrasting middle section.  The dance-like Scherzo is in his characteristically folk style. The concluding Tema con Variazioni in the darker key of C minor includes ten brief variations with numerous grand pauses and tempo changes.

     The fact that Dvorak spontaneously composed this small chamber piece at a time in his career when he was so incredibly busy touring and flooded with commissions speaks to a remarkable creative genius. 

Schumann – Fantasy Pieces for Piano, Violin, Cello, Op.88

     Robert Schumann, 1810-1856, known for his piano music, songs and orchestral pieces, was in many ways typical of the Romantic Age, his life filled with emotional extremes, passion, tragedy and creativity. 

     Encouraged in literary and musical interests as a child, Robert was allowed to study music under a famous piano teacher who was already intensely focused on training his own talented daughter, Clara. Although a distracted student with difficulty focusing, Schumann promptly fell in love with the much younger Clara, earning the disapproval of her father who was concerned about his instability. Legal battles ensued, but the pair were eventually married and Clara, a brilliant pianist, toured successfully as Robert found great difficulty in finding his own suitable career. Fortunately, this became one of his most fertile periods, and he wrote many of his piano pieces for his wife. He also returned to his neglected song compositions, producing nearly all the songs that solidified his reputation in only 11 months.

A number of unsuitable career opportunities left him to focus on his wife’s touring success, conscious of his own failures. Suffering from bad health and bouts of depression and suicide attempts, Schumann had himself committed to a mental asylum where he died a year later at only the age of 46.

     The Fantasy Pieces for Piano, Violin, Cello  represents Schumann well, expressive and intense. In 4 movements, the Fantasy begins with a Romanze centered on a=the simplicity of a melancholic folk melody. The Humoreske follows with a march theme continued from the first movement. A Duett for the two stringed instruments continues with a beautiful melody accompanied by the gentle, rippling piano. The piece concludes with the Finale which repeats the opening march, gradually dying away. A coda surprises with sudden energy.

Beethoven – With Two Eyeglasses Obligato, WoO 32

   Born in Bonn, Germany in 1770, Ludwig von Beethoven is widely regarded as one of the greatest masters of musical construction in the late classical/early romantic period. He innovated in almost every form of music he touched and composed in a great variety of genres including symphonies, concerti, piano and other instrument sonatas, string quartets, other chamber music, masses, lieder and one opera.

     Although there remains no clear origin for the odd name of the Obligato, it was probably written for Beethoven’s good friend and accomplished cello player Baron Nikolaus von Domanovecz.  Beethoven himself played viola, so the piece was likely meant for the two to play together. A lifelong friend, it was von Domanovecz who provided accommodations and supplies for Beethoven, even helping proof his editions. The playful title likely refers to the fact that both men had bad eyesight and wore eyeglasses.

     Although possibly incomplete, the obligato is composed of 3 movements; an Allegro, Minuetto and Trio.  The viola begins with an energetic theme, immediately followed by the cello. The two take turns as either theme or accompaniment. The Minuetto is a gentle movement with phrases played in chords and in a canon between the two instruments. Clearly, this was intended to be fun to play as a comfortable interlude between friends.

                                                   Compiled by Karin Anderson-Sweet

Holidays with the Clinton Symphony – Tchaikovsky

No Holiday concert would be complete without selections from the Nutcracker Suite! Join us this Saturday, Dec 11, 7:30pm at Clinton High School to enjoy all the pieces and composers we have been highlighting this past week.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 1840-1893

Tchaikovsky in his last years earned his greatest successes matched only by his growing depression. He was to die less than a year after The Nutcracker ballet debuted. Arguably the best known Russian composer of all time, his works include 7 symphonies, 11 operas, 3 ballets, 3 piano concertos, a violin concerto, 4 cantatas, 20 choral works and over 100 songs and piano pieces. Although his operas had limited success, he was able to transform ballet into staged musical drama, revolutionizing the genre. He took ballet very seriously, seeing it as an art equal to all others when detractors were writing it off.

Nutcracker is based on the romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale of Clara and the nutcracker she gets for Christmas, which magically transforms into a handsome prince who sweeps her away to the Kingdom of Sweets. As a ballet, Tchaikovsky found the structure difficult and limiting and asked to be released from the project. Instead, he was given an extension and his brilliance was able to create a masterpiece, although he felt it never measured up to his Swan Lake. It has become a worldwide holiday favorite, written for children; appreciated by adults.

Marche. Full of fanfares and swirling strings, the joy of the holidays

Danse Chinoise. Steady bassoons and flute flourishes

Danse Arabe. Not actually Arabian, but a Georgian lullaby; slow, sinuous, exotic

Danse russe Trepak. The national Russian dance; begins fast, accelerates furiously

Program notes by Karin Anderson-Sweet

Holidays with the Symphony Program Notes – Chase and Humperdink

The next two highlights on our upcoming December 11th concert are arrangers Bruce Chase, and composer Engelbert Humperdinck. Please enjoy the following program notes, provided by Karen Anderson-Sweet.

Engelbert Humperdinck

Engelbert Humperdinck 1854-1921

Although some people of a certain age may recall the British pop singer who commandeered his name, the original Engelbert Humperdinck was a child prodigy and German composer known primarily for his opera Hansel and Gretel. Although he produced his first composition at the age of 7, his parents pushed him in the direction of architecture as a more lucrative profession. Instead, his talent earned him a scholarship to study music in Munich. Traveling through Italy, France and Spain, he collaborated with Richard Wagner and eventually became a music professor.

Hansel and Gretel began as a favor to his sister, who asked him for songs for her daughters’ puppet show. Using the Brothers Grimm gruesome fairy tale, he composed a singspiel of 16 songs, eventually working on a complete orchestration. His opera premiered as an instant success in 1893, the perfect amalgam of Wagnerian techniques and traditional German folk songs. He created dramatic, short melodies to represent the different characters. The Overture acts as a prelude based on the themes that will be heard later in the opera. The horns and bassoons introduce the peaceful spirit of his famous “Evening Prayer” in the Prelude, which will be sung later by the lost and hungry children in Act II.

Bruce Chase 1912-2001 (picture unavailable)

An American composer in our own backyard, Muscatine, Iowa, Chase was born into a family of well-known local musicians and by his early teens was also performing concerts. Making a living playing in dance bands, he discovered a real talent for making arrangements. He was eventually hired by NBC radio as a violinist and arranger, which led to a career as staff arranger and conductor for many popular radio shows. When live shows declined, he transitioned to making educational music albums, many still available today. After playing violin for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, he was recognized for his talent in music arrangement and frequently conducted the orchestra until well into his seventies.

His Around the World at Christmas Time includes the following traditional carols:

“O Tannenbaum” Germany

“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” Poland

“What Child is This” England

“O Sanctissima” Sicily

“Where Comes the Rush of Wings” France

“Go Tell it on the Mountain” American spiritual

“Hanukkah Song” Jewish

Holidays with the Symphony – Program Notes – Leroy Anderson

Make plans to join the Clinton Symphony Orchestra for their annual Holiday Pops concert this coming Saturday, December 11, at 7:30pm. The concert will take place in Vernon Cook Theater at Clinton High School. As part of the concert, we will be performing three works by Leroy Anderson: Song of the Bells, Sleigh Ride, and A Christmas Festival. Enjoy the following program notes about Mr. Anderson and these three pieces.

Leroy Anderson 1908-1975

Famously beloved as the “voice of the Boston Pops”, and a favorite composer of light concert music, Leroy Anderson displayed unusual early musical talent to his family of Swedish immigrants. His first composition at the age of 12 led him to study piano at the New England Conservatory of Music and later Harvard. Also adept at languages, he was fluent in at least 9, making the practical decision to become a language teacher with a regular salary. Conducting and composing for popular orchestras on the side spread his musical reputation, until he was discovered by Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops. When WWII intervened, his language skills were put to use by the military intelligence, yet he continued his “side job” the whole time composing for the Pops. Many of his inventive, clever compositions have been used as themes in radio and TV. Deemed an American original, he even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has been widely lauded as the “Norman Rockwell of American music for his ability to capture the familiar and turn it into art.”

Sleigh Ride remains the most popular of Christmas music. With its cheerful melody and the sounds of sleigh bells, horse whinnies and a whip, it has been recorded over 8000 times. Any orchestra musician will insist correctly that they can play it without a conductor; and the horse whinny has become what every fledgling trumpet player must learn.

Song of the Bells swirls like a Viennese waltz, the bells represented on chimes and the glockenspiel.

For A Christmas Festival, Anderson chose 8 popular Christmas carols and “Jingle Bells” to represent the spirit of the holidays. Composed for the Boston Pops, it has become a staple of holiday concerts, inviting the audience to hum along to familiar songs.

Program notes by Karin Anderson-Sweet

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

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!

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 – Program Notes

The Clinton Symphony will perform Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony this coming Saturday, November 6, 7:30pm, at Sterling High School. Please enjoy the following program notes about this piece. Reminder, we are offering a bus that will pick up in Clinton, Fulton, and Morrison, call 563-219-8084 for reservations.

BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 7 in A major, op.92

      Symphony no. 7 was composed during one of Beethoven’s most painful periods. His deafness was worsening, a deep love affair had collapsed due to class differences, and he was in need of money. Yet he managed to compose what he considered one of his best symphonies, writing “only art and science can raise people to the level of gods.”

     The Age of Beethoven was also the Age of Napoleon. Enthused at first by Napoleon’s expressed desire for a more humanitarian social order, Beethoven became disillusioned by 1804 when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor. The 7th symphony was completed in 1812, debuting at a benefit for troops wounded in the Battle of Hanau when Napoleon’s military exploits were beginning to fail.

   Anthony Hopkins describes the work as the “feeling of true spontaneity—the notes seem to fly off the page as we are borne along on a floodtide of inspired invention.”

Composed in a standard 4-movement form, the symphony begins with a slow, expanded introduction, one of the largest of any symphony foreshadowing every one of the work’s themes. The final moments of the introduction lead into the vivace of fierce energy and speed in a dance-like triple meter.  The second movement keeps the Allegretto closely bound to the more exuberant moves around it, building in intensity including a fugue near the end.  This movement’s beauty won the love of his audiences. The third Presto movement is almost like a Rondo with A-B themes repeated several times, bringing out the dance aspect even more.

The Finale Allegro con Brio is in a furiously energetic 2/4 meter showcasing Beethoven’s famous rhythmic ingenuity, a wild and swirling motion unimagined before Beethoven’s day, a distinctive sound coming from his use of the horns.

Program notes by Karin Anderson-Sweet