7:30 p.m. — Saturday, November 4, 2023
Centennial Auditorium – Sterling High School
Three solid compositions for orchestra from three of the solid orchestra composers are featured on this November concert. First is Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Serenade for Strings, which he composed as a respect to Mozart, then Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, the two marvelous movements which stand majestically alone. And finally the overture of Mozart’s final opera The Magic Flute.
Tickets are available online, or at the door. Students are always admitted free, and the Symphony would also like to extend a half price ticket to one adult the student brings with them. Ask at the ticket table for this offer.
In partnership with Community State Bank, we offer a bus from Clinton, through Fulton and Morrison to the concert in Sterling. Reservations: 563-219-8084
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. 1840-1893
The first Russian romantic composer to enjoy widespread international acclaim, Piotr
Tchaikovsky was celebrated for his highly individual style, his own unhappy life reflected in his
brooding music. He wrote many symphonies, operas and concerti, but only 3 ballets composed
in the last years of his life; Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake. He remains the
19th century’s master of dance music with “ballet” synonymous with his name.
Born in a small town in the Russian interior, he displayed musical genius early, composing
his first song at age 4. High-strung and sensitive, his parents tried to prepare him for a career in
civil service, but he eventually became one of the first students in the St. Petersburg
Conservatory. After graduating, he moved to Moscow to teach at the Moscow Conservatory
where he produced his first symphony and his first opera.Between 1871 and 1876 he produced
a series of great works, including Swan Lake and the First Piano Concerto, establishing him as
Russia’s leading composer. By 1887 he was conducting his own music to great acclaim and
producing such works as the Sixth Symphony, Pathetique, and Sleeping Beauty. He toured the
United States at the inauguration of Carnegie Hall and conducted before enthusiastic
audiences. His private life, however, was beset with deep depression and a tragic, short-lived
marriage. His music conveys the joys and sorrows of the human experience with poignant
Serenade for Strings
The word “serenade” has meant many things over time: music sung to a lover on a moonlit
night, and later, it came to refer to a tuneful concert work. Tschaikovsky’s Serenade fits into both
categories, a work with easy, joyful moments as well as a passionate love letter to a distant
beloved. Tschaikovsky poured all of himself into his Serenade for Strings. “I am passionately in
love with this work,” he wrote. “This is a piece from the heart.” It was performed for the first time
in November 1880 at a private concert at the Moscow Conservatory as a surprise for the
composer after a long absence.
The first of the four movements, Pezzo in forma de sonatina, is a conscious reflection of his
homage to Mozart. The powerful introduction begins with a big, lush string sound, the simple
motif then repeated several times with his trademark heart-rending harmonies. A charming
Viennese waltz characterizes the second movement, making use of the dance’s frequent little
hesitations and stops, followed by a prayerful Elegie as the third movement. The final
movement’s hushed mood and subsequent rollicking allegro are based on traditional Russian
folk tunes, capped off in a scintillating rush to the conclusion.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791
Likely the best-known of all composers, Mozart created music in nearly every major genre,
leaving behind compositions that serve as archetypes of the Classical period. A true child
prodigy, he wrote his first piece of music at the age of five, published his first composition by the
age of seven, and had written his first opera by his twelfth birthday. One of the most prolific and
influential composers of all time, he composed over 600 works in his short lifetime and almost
single-handedly developed the piano concerto.
Born in Salzburg, Austria, Wolfgang was the youngest of seven and one of only two siblings
to survive to adulthood. His father Leopold, one of Europe’s leading music teachers, conductors
and composers, gave up his own career to become his son’s only teacher when Wolfgang’s
musical genius was discovered by his third birthday. An older sister, Maria Anna, was also
musically talented and their father traveled the two all over Europe to show off their precocious
ability, allowing them to meet many musicians.
When the touring ended, Wolfgang was hired as a court musician, performing and composing
for Salzburg’s Prince. Popular and beloved in Salzburg, he composed in many genres;
symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, serenades and operas. Eventually growing discontented
with his low salary and few opportunities to work on his favorite form, the opera, he searched for
jobs, settling in Paris only to fail to find success. He grudgingly returned to Salzburg where he
continued to feel unappreciated and was finally fired by the Prince.
Finally it was in Vienna where his career took off, and he established himself as the finest
pianist in the city while continuing to compose, including a hugely successful opera, Abduction
from the Seraglio. His reputation established, he married, fathered 6 children and began
studying the works of Bach, Handel and Haydn, all of whom influenced his work. Mozart put on
a very popular concert series as a piano soloist, writing three of four concertos each season.
Finally attaining some wealth, the Mozart’s lived lavishly, leading to financial problems later.
Shifting back to opera, he premiered The Marriage of Figaro to acclaim followed by Don
Giovanni. By 1787 he had obtained steady work under the patronage of Emperor Joseph II who
appointed him court composer. Unfortunately, Austria was at war a year later leading to a career
decline. Moving to cheaper lodgings, he still was forced to send notes to friends begging for
money. 1791 was his last year of great productivity, resulting in The Magic Flute, his final piano
concertos, a clarinet concerto, his last great string quintets, the revision of his Symphony No. 40
and his unfinished Requiem. His finances began to improve, but he fell ill in September and died
in December 1791.
The Magic Flute
Die Zauberflote was premiered in 1791 in Vienna, the last year of Mozart’s life. It was
immediately popular, with an entertaining cast of characters, including a comic, feathery pair of
bird/human lovers, an evil Moor, a high priest, an evil queen, wraith-like woman, various
enchanted animals as well as “magic” flutes and bells. What’s not to love! Despite the fun and
games, the opera is an allegory, exploring life’s deep and essential issues; courage,
transfiguration, wisdom, romantic love, illusion, freedom and brotherhood.
Three majestic chords open the overture, underscoring the symbolic importance of the
number three based on popular Masonic beliefs. These three chords will return three times each
at the beginning of the development section. Following the grave introduction, the orchestra
skips off in a vivacious Allegro, only to be interrupted by a repeat of the three solemn chords.
The remainder of the Overture is notable for Mozart’s brilliant use of counterpoint and dynamic
contrasts, building into a surprisingly complex piece.
Franz Peter Schubert
The Austrian composer Franz Schubert was born in 1797 near Vienna and died tragically
young in 1828. Schubert bridged the worlds of Classical and Romantic music, noted for the
melody and harmony in his songs and chamber music, as well as symphonies, masses and
Born into a musical family, Franz played viola in string quartets performed in his family home,
eventually earning a scholarship for further music education under composer Antonio Salieri
and the opportunity to sing in the imperial court chamber choir. Although reluctant to share his
early compositions, the numerous works he wrote by 1815 are remarkable for their style,
originality and imagination. Songs were his obsession, composing as astonishing 600 in his
short lifetime, single-handedly creating the German lied, or art song. When popular baritone
Johann Michael Vogl took up his songs, they became the rage of Viennese drawing rooms.
During these musical soirées known as Schubertiads, Schubert would often sing his own songs
while accompanying himself on the piano.
Living quietly within a circle of close friends with few means beyond teaching, he began to
produce a seemingly endless stream of masterpieces, most discovered after his short lifetime.
During this period he not only composed 145 lieder, the second and third symphonies, two
sonatas, a series of miniatures for piano, two mass settings, four stage works, and a string
quartet among projects. This period of intense creativity remains one of the most amazing feats
of productivity in musical history.
Schubert’s health declined rapidly, although he was able to serve as a torchbearer in 1827 at
Beethoven’s funeral. Just a year later, he was also laid to rest in the same cemetery. “The art of
music here entombed a rich possession, but even fairer hopes,” reads the prophetic inscription
on his tombstone.
Symphony No. 5, “Unfinished”
Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 has a complex history. Written in 1822, the work lay
undiscovered until the 1860s, containing fully scored movements plus sketches for a third. The
two complete movements were premiered in 1865, adding a final movement from another one
of Schubert’s works. In the ensuing decades, the practice of adding another movement stopped;
it became clear that the two movements stand very well alone. Although he lived another 6
years after the work was begun, no one knows why he never returned to it.
The opening of the first movement is dark, with a theme played by the oboe and clarinet. A
secondary, well-known melody by the cellos reflects Schubert’s talent for melody. Dramatic turns
throughout illustrate light and dark, gravity and playfulness. Schubert provides contrast in the
second movement with a slightly slower tempo and bright major tonality. A clarinet solo again
highlights his ability to write beautiful melodic lines, before the movement whips into emotional
turmoil. A quiet conclusion brings serenity, etched with resignation.