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

Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto – Concert Notes

We look forward to performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto featuring pianist Marian Lee 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 –Piano Concerto No. 3 IN C minor, op. 37

     Beethoven’s early fame came not only from his compositions, but his brilliance as a pianist.  Arriving in Vienna at age 22, he displaced the reigning pianists of Vienna’s society, even engaging in piano duels. One of his defeated rivals exclaimed, “Ah, Beethoven is no man, he is the devil. He will play us all to death.” His five piano concerti were written not only as examples of his musical thought and innovation, but as vehicles for his own virtuosity. Due to his rapidly failing health, he was only able to perform the first four.

     Although Beethoven moved to Vienna to study with Haydn, his lessons were few and unproductive. Still venerating Haydn’s works, Beethoven essentially adhered to the classical structure, yet infused his own compositions with Mozart’s melodies, rhythms and phrasings. Professionally, things were going well at this time and his work on the third piano concerto was spread over 3 years and not transcribed for another year. At the concerto’s debut, Beethoven may have completed the solo part as he played, his score containing only some scribbled and unintelligible notes. 

     His first concerto in a minor key, the Third follows the standard 3-movement structure, but is notable as the first to sound like the mature Beethoven.  Deemed ‘intense, dramatic and inventive,” the concerto begins his departure from tradition. The concerto also marked an important technological advancement in the piano itself, adding keys to stretch the piano’s range which Beethoven used fully.

     An aggressive opening features the orchestra at length before the piano entrance. The initial military, march-like theme moves to a singing melody as the piano reworks its own version of the themes.

     The second atmospheric Largo begins with the piano alone in a hushed, romantic mood.  After a cadenza, the movement dies away until a surprise fortissimo chord. Beethoven innovates with a new kind of slow movement, adding harp-like arpeggios for the piano. 

     The final movement opens with a piano solo in a jaunty gypsy rondo.  The energetic, dancelike coda moves into a concluding Presto, ending in high spirits.

Program notes written by Karin Anderson-Sweet

Clinton Symphony Welcomes Pianist Marian Lee to our November 6 Concert

Join us on Saturday, November 6, 7:30pm at Sterling High School for our fall concert. A Belated Celebration will explore two of Beethoven’s works in this observance of his 250th birthday. Pianist Marian Lee will be soloist in the composer’s Third Piano Concerto with the orchestra. The orchestra will then perform Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the most spirited of his nine symphonies. Dr. Lee has performed worldwide, and teaches on faculty at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

In partnership with Community State Bank, we are offering a bus that will pick up in Clinton, Fulton, and Morrison, please call 563-219-8084 for bus reservations!

Advance tickets are available here, pick them up at the ticket table when you arrive.

Artist Biography

Marian Lee made her New York City debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as winner of the Artists International Award and has appeared as soloist and with orchestra internationally in Austria, Belgium, Italy, France, Norway, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Brazil, Byelorussia, Estonia, Hong Kong, Thailand, as well as in Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage, Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall and Rachmaninoff Hall, and the Hermitage Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. In liaison with the U.S. State Department, Lee also received numerous grants in support of performances of American contemporary music abroad and is a former Fulbright and International Research and Exchange (IREX) scholar.

Marian Lee is frequently invited to perform at international contemporary music festivals and has given numerous world and U.S. premieres by contemporary composers from Russia, France, the Baltic republics and the United States. Recent professional activities include performing as concerto soloist with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, violin and piano duos with Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim, Frank Almond, (former) concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony and Naha Greenholz, concertmaster of Madison and Quad City Symphony Orchestras. She has also held master classes in Hong Kong, Delaware, Louisiana, Alabama, Illinois and Iowa and has the distinct honor of being the first female solo pianist to perform on Iowa Public Radio’s Steinway Café, which is available to watch on YouTube.

Marian made her initial concert debut in high school performing with Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and Flint Symphony Orchestra in Michigan. She entered The Juilliard School as a scholarship student receiving a Bachelor of Music under the guidance of Gyorgy Sandor, whose own piano professor was Bela Bartok at the Liszt Academy in Hungary and is the author “On Piano Playing: Motion, Sound, and Expression,” a staple in the piano pedagogy literature. She went on to receive a Master of Music degree in piano performance with Seymour Lipkin, winner of the prestigious Rachmaninoff Competition and artistic director of Kneisel Hall Chamber Festival. Subsequently, she was awarded the coveted Fulbright Grant to study with Naum Shtarkman, a Tchaikovsky competition laureate, at the Moscow Conservatory in what was then the Soviet Union. During her three-year stay, Dr. Lee witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and toured extensively within the former USSR. Upon her return to the United States, Dr. Lee completed her doctoral degree at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at The Johns Hopkins University with Boris Slutsky, the youngest winner of the William Kapell Competition in College Park, Maryland.

Dr. Lee previously taught at the University of Delaware before moving to the Quad Cities. She also taught at the University of Iowa as a sabbatical replacement for Dr. Ksenia Nosikova. In 2012, Marian Lee moved to Davenport, Iowa and is currently the associate professor in piano and serves as head of the keyboard area at St. Ambrose University. As an active teacher and frequent adjudicator, Dr. Lee is a proud member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), National Federation of Music Teachers (FMTA), the Iowa Music Teachers Association (IMTA), Quad City Music Teachers Association (QCMTA), and was past president of the Delaware Music Teachers Association (DSMTA). Marian Lee is the founder and director of St. Ambrose University’s Summer Piano Camp for 9-12th grade pianists.

A Joyous Return!

Music Director and Conductor Brian Dollinger will take a solo role in the opening with a Sinfonia Concertante for Double Bass and Viola by DittersdorfDollinger plays double bass, and will be joined by Western Illinois University faculty violist Istvan Szabo. Szabo will then be the soloist in a Fantasie for Viola & Orchestra by Hummel. Completing the program will be Gluck’s “Dance of the Furies” from his opera Orpheus and Eurydice, and a Divertimento in D Major” written by Mozart in 1776, possibly in celebration of his sister Nannerl’s name day. Learn more about the composers, pieces, and our soloists on this page.

We hope you will join us for Saturday’s 7:30 pm concert that will take place in Clinton High School’s Vernon Cook Theater. Note that the parking lot has moved to the north side of 8th Ave South.

Pandemic Protocols – The auditorium for Saturday’s concert is quite spacious, and rows will be blocked off, encouraging a seating distance (Patrons select their own seats). Masks are encouraged, with complimentary masks available to concert-goers. In addition, there will be a hand-sanitizer station at the door. The program is not long, and there will be but a short intermission.