7:30 p.m. — Saturday, September 18, 2021
Music Director and Conductor Brian Dollinger will take a solo role in the opening with a Sinfonia Concertante for Double Bass and Viola by Dittersdorf. Dollinger 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.
About Istvan Szabo:
Violist István Szabó is a graduate of the University of Illinois (M.M; DMA) and of the George Dima Academy of Music in Cluj, Romania. He also participated in workshops with world renowned artists and teachers such as Karen Tuttle, Hatto Beyerle (founding member of the Alban Berg String Quartet), Sándor Devich (founding member of the Bartók String Quartet), the Amadeus String Quartet, the Schubert String Quartet, and Paul Szabo, cellist of the Végh String Quartet.
Szabó has been on the music faculty at Western Illinois University since 2005. Previously he served as viola/violin instructor at Eastern Illinois University, and Teaching Assistant at the University of Illinois. Szabó appeared as clinician for the American String Teachers Association, the American Viola Society and the Chicago Viola Festival. He is also in demand as an adjudicator, having served at Young Artist and Chamber Music Competitions in the Midwest. Szabó’s students participated successfully in national and international competitions, won orchestral positions and have been admitted in top graduate programs around the country.
Szabó served as artis/faculty in Summer Music Festivals in United States and Europe. He also appeared as a soloist with the Illinois Symphony, Quincy Symphony and Peoria Symphony. Currently Szabó is Assistant Principal Violist with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and Associate Principal Violist with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra.
As a chamber musician, Szabó concertized throughout Europe and the United States. He performs regularly as the violist for the Julstrom String Quartet and holds membership with the National Association for Music Education and the American Viola Society.
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf
A violin prodigy as a child, Dittersdorf became a prolific and popular composer in his native Austria as well as all over Europe. As an adult, he became famous for his light-hearted operas and gained popularity akin to his contemporaries Mozart, Gluck and Haydn. Most of his productive life was spent in various Czech hinterlands playing violin, staging operas and prolifically composing. His comic operas, or singspiele, works with spoken dialogue and folk elements, spread to opera houses all over Europe and were extremely influential for the next 50 years.
Dittersdorf composed over 120 symphonies and 45 operas as well as a variety of sacred and chamber works. His compositions have gained a reputation for humor and ingenuity. Interestingly, he wrote his own autobiography, completed just 2 days before his death.
His “Sinfonia Concertante” gives the double bass solo stature at a time when the instrument was largely relegated to accompaniment. Full of energy and high spirits, it has been described as more of a pastoral symphony with 2 solo parts than a true concerto. Dittersdorf appears to have deliberately put the spotlight on two unusually -paired instruments, the viola and the double bass, seldom given this chance to shine. Composing it sometime between 1764 and 1774, Dittersdorf himself played the viola at its premiere. Like a symphony, it has 4 movements; the first a lively and rhythmic sonata-allegro form with a brief fanfare-like theme; the second a lyrical and melodic andantino given to the two soloists; the third a rustic minuet and trio containing an unaccompanied duet between the two soloists; and the fourth a triumphant and lively rondo alternating between the orchestra’s refrain and the soloists.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Johann Hummel was an Austrian composer and virtuoso pianist whose music in the late Classical period helped transition to the Romantic era. Born in part of the Hapsburg Monarchy, he was also a child piano prodigy offered lessons by Mozart, and later impressing Haydn and fellow student Beethoven. Touring Europe as a young pianist, by the age of 14 he left the stage to concentrate on teaching and composing. Attaining the position of Kapellmeister left open by the death of Haydn, he later returned to extensive touring where he achieved success and was highly respected.
Hummel’s music challenged the classical structures with innovation and daring.
His main works were for the piano, including 8 concertos, 10 sonatas, trios, and quartets, but he also composed a myriad of other pieces including operas, masses, singspiels and much more.
Hummel’s “Potpourri for Viola and Orchestra” survives in several versions differing in length and often titled “Fantasy”. The potpourri, used in his original title, was designed for a virtuosic display of collections of ‘hit’ melodies from lighter operas and other popular sources. About 60 percent of the potpourri is borrowed music from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Figaro as well as tunes from Rossini. Far more than a simplistic borrowing, though, Hummel added a Grave introduction and an effective Rondo closing. In addition, the Hummel composed an original serious fugue in the middle with effective, virtuosic passages. Popular with soloists today, it is often performed in its shorter version using the introduction, the Don Giovanni section and concluding rondo.
Christoph Willibald Gluck
A Bohemian-Austrian composer of Italian and French opera, Gluck was a largely self-taught composer who began his musical rebellion by running away from home at 14 to pursue his career. Known as a radical reformer of Baroque opera, he developed a new style integrating the music and drama more effectively focusing on profound emotion rather than elaborate set pieces and vocal display. Working toward his idea of a ”noble simplicity”, he disliked long, showy arias and the overdone spectacle of grand opera. Gluck had a successful career travelling widely and profitably. Settling in Vienna, he continued his operatic work and enjoyed recognition from the Imperial Court.
His first ‘reform’ opera, “Orfeo and Euridice”, debuted in Vienna in 1762, based on the classical Greek myth of Orpheus in the underworld. Tragically losing his wife shortly after their wedding, Orpheus is given the chance to retrieve her from the underworld only to lose her again by not strictly following the condition that he not look at her. An opera in three acts, it contains his most famous ballet music as well as an improvised happy ending to placate his audiences. In Act II a chorus of Furies refuse to admit Orpheus to the underworld, warning him of Cereberus, the ferocious 3-headed dog who guards the gate. Eventually softened by the sweetness of his lute, he is allowed entry and the scene ends with the intensely frantic “Dance of the Furies”.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Undoubtedly the most famous of musical child prodigies, Mozart composed his first piece of music at age five, published his first piece by seven, and wrote his first opera at 12. Born to a musical family in Salzburg, Mozart composed over 600 works in his short lifetime and has remained one of the most prolific and influential composers of all time.,
Mozart’s father, Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concert master at the Salzburg court. Recognizing his son’s special talent, Leopold devoted his time to educating Wolfgang and his sister, instilling a strong work ethic and perfectionism. Leopold took both children to the court of Bavaria when his son was only 6, initiating the first of several European tours. Performing as child prodigies, they followed a grueling schedule but met many accomplished musicians and became familiar with their work.
Eventually settling in Vienna, he achieved fame but struggled with financial insecurity the rest of his life. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his most acclaimed symphonies, concertos and operas. Despite his early death, the phenomenal volume of his works are considered the pinnacles of the symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic and choral repertoire, and a profound influence on Western music.
The Divertimento No.11 was composed in 1772 at the height of his career, the first of 3 he wrote. A prominent form in the classical period, the divertimento was meant as pleasant background music and entertainment during social gatherings. Mozart’s Divertimento features an oboe, two horns, two violins, viola and double bass. and is comprised of 6 movements; Molto Allegro, Menuetto, Andantino, Menuetto, Rondeau and Marcia alla Francese. The opening movement is in sonata form while the trio of the first minuet is for string only. The Andantino is in rondo form. The fourth movement is an unusual mix of minuet and variation with three variations serving as the ‘trios’. The first variation features the solo oboe, the second features solo violin and in the third variation the second violin adds runs underneath the theme. The final movement is a rondo.
Compiled by Karin Anderson-Sweet