Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 52 – Program Notes

The Clinton Symphony Orchestra will present their “Youthful Visions” winter concert on Saturday, February 9, 7:30 pm, Morrison IL High School Auditorium. Please enjoy the following program notes about Jean Sibelius and his work Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 52 .

Critic Karl Flodin wrote in 1907 after hearing the Symphony No 3 in C major, Op 52 of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957):

The symphony meets all the requirements of a symphonic work of art in the modern sense, but at the same time it is internally new and revolutionary – thoroughly Sibelian.

In early spring 1906, Sibelius informed his friend Axel Carpelan that his Third Symphony in C major was near completion. It was Carpelan who had suggested to Sibelius some years prior that he and his family vacation in Italy as inspiration for his monumental Second Symphony; consequently, Sibelius kept in close contact with Carpelan about his musical affairs. He proposed to conduct the first performance at the Philharmonic Society in London in the next spring. However, Sibelius failed to meet his proposed deadline, and, after some concentrated effort he penned the finale notes in time for its premiere at the Great Hall of Helsinki University with himself conducting. The London concert had to be postponed, however, and he eventually put the finishing touches to the work in time to conduct it at the Great Hall of Helsinki University on September 25, 1907. Interestingly, the orchestral parts for the finale did not arrive until the last rehearsal.

The material for the Symphony No 3 had been with Sibelius for some time. Parts of the score show the influences carried over from the First and Second Symphonies, particularly in the finale. He also drew motifs from works he never completed, such as a piano suite, a tone poem, and an oratorio.

The Symphony No 3 may well be Sibelius’s farewell to the opulent romanticism of his earlier works. While the symphony echoes elements of the magisterial eloquence and galactic monumentalism of the first two symphonies, it is much more cheerful and free-wheeling- and shorter – in its presentation. He seems to purposefully avoid the “excesses” of the symphonists of the time – Richard Strauss, Alexander Scriabin, and Gustav Mahler. One might even call this work Sibelius’s “Classical” symphony in that he focuses on the development of his material in terms of “absolute music” in the mode of Bach, Mozart, and Haydn. There is nothing “programmatic” in this symphony. To Sibelius, in fact, Mozart was the most genuine of composers:

To my mind a Mozart allegro is the most perfect model for a symphonic movement. Think of its wonderful unity and homogeneity! It is like an uninterrupted flowing, where nothing stands out and nothing encroaches upon the rest.

Symphony No 3 in C major, Op 52, is in three movements with the finale combining a scherzo and finale into a single movement. Sibelius said this movement is “the crystallization of thought from chaos”. The scherzo portionplays with several short motifs, blending and juxtaposing them in a seemingly endless variety of combinations”. As the finale approaches, the cellos introduce a march motif that begins hesitantly, then grows in intensity until it becomes the dominant theme to the end of the symphony.

One might suppose that the symphony lacks the typical Sibelian fire and nobility of its predecessors. One would be mistaken. A conductor who had witnessed Sibelius himself conducting the Third Symphony had this to say:

[It] was played in a vigorous manner, with markedly emphatic accentuation, so that it gave an impression of the heroic rather than pastoral.

~Program notes by William Driver

Vocalise, Op.34, No.14 – Program Notes

The Clinton Symphony Orchestra will present their “Youthful Visions” winter concert on Saturday, February 9, 7:30 pm, Morrison IL High School Auditorium. Please enjoy the following program notes about Sergei Rachmaninoff  and his work Vocalise, Op.34, No.14.

Vocalise is the fourteenth song in a series of fourteen published by composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) in 1915. Originally composed in 1912, Rachmaninoff revised the piece in 1914 (at age 41) before its publication in 14 Songs, Op 34. Unlike the other thirteen songs in the collection, Vocalise has no text, but utilizes a wordless vocalization from the soloist, and of the vocalist’s choosing. As Rachmaninoff explained to soprano Antonina Nezhdanova, “What need is there of words, when you will be able to convey everything better and more expressively than anyone could with words by your voice and interpretation?” Some critics have questioned Rachmaninoff’s decision to cast the song without words, as Nezhdanova herself did, but others have proposed that

Like Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff felt that not all music required text to convey intense emotion; rather, the absence of … is one of the contributing factors to its immense emotional intensity and sorrow.

Rachmaninoff and Nezhdanova premiered Vocalise on January 24, 1916. After the premiere, the composer arranged the piece for orchestra and soprano and for orchestra alone. In the years since its composition, others have also arranged the work for a variety of combinations of instruments. ~Program notes by William Driver

Salut d’amour, Op 12 – Program Notes

The Clinton Symphony Orchestra will present their “Youthful Visions” winter concert on Saturday, February 9, 7:30 pm, Morrison IL High School Auditorium. Please enjoy the following program notes about Edward Elgar and his work Salut d’amour, Op 12.

Edward Elgar (1857-1934) composed Salut d’Amour as a love song to his future bride, Alice Roberts. In the summer of 1888 (age 31), Elgar decided to take a holiday with his dear friend Dr. Charles Buck. As Elgar departed Worcester for Dr. Buck’s Settle, Yorkshire estate, Alice gave him a poem she had written entitled Love’s Grace. While at Settle, Elgar, much taken with Alice’s poem, decided to reciprocate with a short piece of music especially for Alice. He titled the piece Liebesgruss (Love’s Greeting), dedicated “To Carice”, a mashup of Alice’s forenames Caroline Alice. Elgar presented the musical love poem to his future bride on his return from Settle. They were married the following year. At the birth of their daughter two years later, they named her Carice.

Elgar sold the piece outright to the music publisher Schott for two guineas (approx. $2.50). Under its original title Liebesgruss, the piece did not sell well, so slowly in fact that Schott changed the title to Salut d’Amour, trusting that a more exotic name would enhance the appeal of the work. The firm also shortened Elgar’s name to Ed. Elgar to give the composer a more exotic air. Apparently, the ploy worked for sales increased dramatically to the publisher’s delight, but with no financial gain for Elgar.

Towards the end of 1888, Edward submitted three arrangements of the work – for solo piano, for violin and piano, and an orchestral arrangement in order to increase the prospects of performances. Later, Elgar composed a follow up to Salon d’Amour, Mot d’Amour (Liebesahnung or Love’s Word). Which some consider superior to its predecessor. It, however, is rarely performed today. ~Program notes by William Driver

Overture to Der Freischutz, J.277 – Program Notes

The Clinton Symphony Orchestra will present their “Youthful Visions” winter concert on Saturday, February 9, 7:30 pm, Morrison IL High School Auditorium. Please enjoy the following program notes about Carl Maria von Weber and his work Der Freischütz .

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) is one of the great figures in German Romanticism. He embodied the ideal of the Romantic artist, inspired by poetry, history, folklore and myths to create a national opera that would reflect the uniqueness of German culture. Weber composed his opera Der Freischütz between 1817 and 1821, and the work received its premiere in Berlin on June 18, 1821 (he was 35). The overture to the opera, one of the most famous nineteenth century works in this form, breaks with the eighteenth century style of overtures that contained only suggestions of the themes that would follow in the opera proper. The overture is larger in scope and scored in broader, more romantic terms than the classical overtures of Mozart and Beethoven.

Utilizing dark orchestral colors, Weber sets the tone of the opera and allows the overture to have a more important function than usually occurred in opera. He further ties the overture to the rest of the work by introducing themes and motifs from various arias, rather than merely suggesting them, and using the overture to develop those ideas. Without giving away the essentials of the opera, Weber prepares the audience for what is to come. In fact, the overture to Der Freischütz is a model that served as the standard for generations of composers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ~Program Notes by William Driver

Holiday Pops 2018 Program Notes – Christmas Classics

The Clinton Symphony will be presenting their ‘Music of the Holidays’ concert on Saturday, December 8, 7:30 pm at Clinton High School.  As part of the concert, we’ll be enjoying our favorite classic music of the season: Sleigh Ride, the Christmas Song, and a rousing sing-along to A Christmas Festival.  Enjoy the following program notes about these pieces, and we’ll see you Saturday!

Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) got the idea for the theme of Sleigh Ride as he dug in his Woodbury, Connecticut, yard for water pipes during a heat wave in 1946. As he dug and the perspiration soaked his clothes, he thought of a tall glass of ice water to quench his thirst, a thought that turned to winter and snow and then to racing over the countryside in a horse-drawn sleigh with a sharp, wintry breeze whipping across his cheeks. With those thoughts in mind, the composer conjured up a melody.
Anderson’s new ‘holiday’ miniature premiered at a May 1948 concert of the Boston Pops. It was such an immediate hit with the public that several recorded versions appeared within a year, including one with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and one with the composer conducting.

A concert overture, A Christmas Festival was arranged in 1950 by Anderson as a showpiece for his own orchestra. The compilation of melodies illustrates both the secular and religious aspects of the season. It includes Joy to the World; Deck the Halls; God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen; Good King Wenceslas; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; The First Noel; Silent Night; Jingle Bells; O Come All Ye Faithful.

Mel Tormé (1925-1999), the ‘Velvet Fog,’ wrote over 300 songs during his career as ‘the epitome of the lounge singer,’ but only one remains today as a classic. And like much other music of the season, The Christmas Song came about by chance. Tormé stopped by the studio offices of his friend and lyricist Robert Wells on a sweltering hot summer day in 1944, and…

I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil. They started, `Chestnuts roasting … Jack Frost nipping … Yuletide carols … Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.

The first issued recorded version with the Nat King Cole Trio was recorded in August 1946 with string quartet, harp and drum. This record was released in November 1946 and immediately became a best seller for Cole, who recorded newer versions of the classic with each change in recording technology. The 1961 Cole version is considered by many to be the definitive version of the song.

Program notes by William Driver

Holiday Pops 2018 Program Notes – All That Brass

Opening our Clinton Symphony “Music of the Holidays” concert (7:30 pm, Saturday December 8 at Clinton High School) will be the delightful Canzon per Sonar Septimi Toni a 8 by Giovanni Gabrieli played by the brass section.  Later in the concert, we will hear an arrangement of traditional Christmas carols, A Canadian Brass Christmas.  Please enjoy these program notes, and plan to join us on Saturday evening.

Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612) was born in Venice, one of five children. While not much is known about Giovanni’s early life, he studied with his uncle, composer Andrea Gabrieli, who considered Giovanni “little less than a son.” As a protégé to Andrea, Giovanni visited several of the major music centers of western Europe. In Munich, with the blessing of his uncle, he stayed to study with Orlando de Lassus until 1579. Lassus had a significant influence on Gabrieli’s musical development.

Returning to Venice in 1584, Gabrieli took up the position as principal organist at St. Mark’s Basilica in 1585, then, in the following year, he assumed the post of principal composer on his uncle’s death. Gabrieli continued to prosper when he took the post of organist at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, another post he retained for life. Much of his music was written specifically for the two churches at which he was organist.

San Marco had a long tradition of musical excellence and Gabrieli’s work there made him one of the most noted composers in Europe. The vogue that began with his influential volume Sacrae symphoniae (1597) was such that composers from all over Europe, especially from Germany, came to Venice to study.
After 1600, Gabrieli began to show signs of ill health, so much so, that other musicians were hired to perform the duties he could no longer do. He died in 1612 in Venice, of complications from a kidney stone.

Canzon per Sonar Septimi Toni a 8 by Giovanni Gabrieli was designed for use in San Marco during mass and vespers for important liturgical commemorations and occasions. Brass is the setting for our concert, however this work has been arranged for and performed by numerous and widely various instrumental and vocal groups.

Although a composer of original material, Calvin Custer (d. 1998) is best known for his rousing arrangements of other composers’ works. A graduate of Carnegie-Mellon and Syracuse Universities, Custer served as an all-purpose performer with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (SSO) for twenty-four years.

Four years after joining the SSO as a keyboardist and horn and brass performer, in 1966 Custer was appointed Associate Conductor and Resident Conductor for the group. He was instrumental in the orchestra’s community outreach programs and performed regularly with the SSO Percussion Ensemble and the Syracuse Symphony Rock Ensemble.

A Canadian Brass Christmas Suite is a medley of six Christmas pieces based on arrangements for the popular Canadian Brass ensemble. The six carols referenced in the suite are Ding Dong! Merrily On High, I Saw Three Ships,The Huron Carol, and Here We Come A’Wassailing.

Program notes by William Driver