PSSS Fall Concert: Forever Young! cover

PSSS Fall Concert: Forever Young!

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Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings rings in its 26th season with works celebrating the artistic achievement and virtuosic energy of youth! In this concert, these talented young musicians perform prolific works by talented young composers who changed the world of music in their short lives. Enjoy an evening of youthful music masterfully performed by the youth of Santiago Strings! The concert opens with the Prelude Chamber Strings conducted by Helen Weed.
This is Part 1 of the Program Notes for the PSSS Fall Concert: Forever Young!. You'll be automatically linked to the next NoteStream at the end.
To meet Music Directors Irene Kroesen and Helen Weed, please click here.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.





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PSSS Fall Concert: Forever Young!

Forever Young!

Prelude Chamber Strings

Helen Weed • Conductor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791); Arr. J. Hoffman

Allegro from Symphony No. 25 featured in Amadeus

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847); Arr. R. S. Frost

Andante from Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90

Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828); Arr. B. Cerulli

March No. 1 from Marche Militaire, Op. 51, D. 733

Brian Balmages (b. 1975)

Forever Joyful!

I N T E R M I S S I O N

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Irene Kroesen • Conductor

Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695); Arr. H. Hoeckner

Music from Abdelazar*

Overture

Rondeau

Minuet

Air

Jig

Hornpipe

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Arr. R. D. McCashin

Allegro Moderato from Symphony No. 29 in A Major

Franz Schubert; Arr. C. Colnot

Four Songs for Strings*

The Hunter

Frozen Tears

Serenade

Farewell

Felix Mendelssohn; Arr. K. Moss

Sinfonia No. 2 in D Major, Movement 1

Frederic Chopin (1810 - 1849); Arr. R. Longfield

Polonaise Militaire

Modest Mussorgsky (1839 - 1881); Arr. E. Segnitz

Night on Bald Mountain

This afternoon's performance is generously sponsored by The Carlson-Solmssen Foundation, Janice and Ted Smith and Frances Fukuda.

Prelude Chamber Strings

Mozart c. 1780, detail from portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

Prelude Chamber Strings

Allegro from Symphony No. 25 featured in Amadeus

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Written in October 1773 by the 17-year-old Mozart, Symphony No. 25 is known as the “little” G-minor symphony (though today’s arrangement is in E minor) and is featured as the intense opening music to the movie Amadeus. Mozart vigorously studied Haydn’s music, whose G-minor symphonies had great influence on him. The fierce syncopation and dramatic bass lines are hints of the young composer’s creativity just beginning to blossom.

Prelude Chamber Strings

Andante from Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847)

Known as the “Italian Symphony,” Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 was the 20-year-old’s second symphony to compose; however, he continued to write revisions of it throughout his life, so it was the fourth of his symphonies to be published.

The Andante movement captures the feelings of a solemn religious processional that he witnessed in Naples, with a plaintive melody accompanied by a walking bass line. Previously he had written to his sister Fanny, “The Italian symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done, especially the last movement. I have not found anything for the slow movement yet, and I think that I will save that for Naples.”

Prelude Chamber Strings

Gustav Klimt's Schubert at the Piano.

Prelude Chamber Strings

March No. 1 from Marche Militaire, Op. 51, D. 733

Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)

One of Schubert’s most famous melodies, this piece was the first of three marches for piano duet that Schubert wrote while teaching Count Esterhazy’s daughters. It has been quoted in many other works, including Stravinsky’s “Circus Polka” and Walt Disney’s animated short called “Santa’s Workshop.”

Prelude Chamber Strings

Prelude Chamber Strings

Forever Joyful!

Brian Balmages (B. 1975)

Forever Joyful was written to evoke the emotion of joy—all the various aspects of the emotion, from the very lighthearted to the more “intense happiness and euphoria.” Specifically, it was inspired by the composer’s family decision to adopt a puppy, and all the fun that followed!

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Notes by Joshua Grayson

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Music from Abdelazar

Henry Purcell(1659 - 1695)

One of the most important English composers of the 17th century, Henry Purcell spent the early part of his career working for the royal court, serving as court composer for violins but composing mainly sacred vocal music. During the 1680s he worked as organist and music director for Westminster Abbey, one of the most prestigious appointments available to a British musician.

In 1689 came a swift change in the British monarchy. Termed the “Glorious Revolution,” this uprising saw King James II (the last of the Stuart dynasty) deposed and replaced by King William III and Queen Mary II (first of the House of Orange). Among the many changes the new dynasty brought was a decreased royal involvement in music.

Facing a threat to his livelihood, Purcell adapted by seeking other opportunities. Spurred on by the change in working conditions, he branched out into new areas and began writing musical dramas for the London stage. In fact, Dido and Aeneas, his most famous work, is often considered to be the first English opera.

In late 17th-century England, the distinction between music and drama was far less pronounced than today. Music was highly important to prose drama, and the division between “musical” and “straight” play we take for granted today would have made little sense to Purcell’s audience. Music was almost always used in prose drama to mark critical junctions between acts, and the London stage would have been a natural place for Purcell to take his talents.

Other than Dido and Aeneas, most of Purcell’s dramatic music was intended as accompaniment for spoken plays (called “incidental music”). In addition to background music, Purcell’s stage music also includes songs for the characters at appropriate points in the story. Unlike operas, the words are mainly spoken and include only a few passages of sung music.

Composed in 1695, Purcell’s Music for Abdelazar premiered in March of that year at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. The play itself had been written in 1676 by Aphra Behn, one of the leading female British playwrights, and was based on Lust’s Dominion, written in 1600 by Thomas Dekker.

Subtitled “The Moor’s Revenge,” the play is the story of the Prince of Fez, who is being held prisoner in Spain. The play depicts his machinations and struggle to take over the crown from the Spanish queen who had fallen in love with him; he is defeated in the end. The play was criticized for its lewdness, quite common to British theater at the time.

Purcell’s music for the play consists of a French overture, a set of eight dances, and a song (“Lucinda is Bewitching Fair”).

The French overture, based on overtures by the French court composer Jean- Baptiste Lully, far surpasses its model on both musical and emotional grounds. The first dance, a rondeau, was arranged by Benjamin Britten and set as the theme for his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in 1945.

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Allegro Moderato from Symphony No. 29 in A Major

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(1756 - 1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his Symphony No. 29 in A Major in 1774, one year after a brief visit to Vienna (six years before he would become a permanent resident of the imperial capital). Composed at the age of 18, it has much in common with his other symphonies—indeed, together with Haydn, Mozart invented and perfected the genre. Yet it offers much uniqueness as well.

Unlike many of his purely orchestral symphonies, this one contrasts orchestral writing with more intimate chamber musical styles.

It also features a high degree of imitative counterpoint, especially in the first movement’s coda. In fact, Mozart had learned this musical technique during his recent trip to Vienna, and so the piece represents one of the earliest examples of his synthesis of Salzburg and Viennese musical cultures.

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Oil painting of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder (1875), made from his own 1825 watercolor portrait.

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Four Songs for Strings

Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)

Of the famous four great Viennese composers, Franz Schubert was the only one actually born in Vienna. Although he wrote piano sonatas, chamber music, symphonies, religious music and operas—all before his untimely death at the age of 31—Schubert was most famous for his nearly 600 songs for voice and piano (called “Lieder” in German), comprising almost two-thirds of his compositional output.

In addition to songs published individually, he also composed song cycles, sets of several songs published collectively and intended to be performed together as a group. Contemplative and intimate yet highly emotional, Schubert’s songs are perhaps more musically daring and innovative than any of his other compositions.

Schubert’s fascination with the art song comes as no surprise. Many of his close personal friends were highly interested in German literature; Schubert frequently attended poetry readings. Such gatherings among friends were quite common to Viennese and German society at the time.

Schubert used his musical abilities as a way of commenting on and interpreting the poetic texts. The combination of music with text adds emotional intensity, can indicate irony, or can serve to illustrate the composer’s interpretation of the poet’s intent.

Although arranged for string orchestra, the works comprising Four Songs for Strings were originally songs, taken from three separate song cycles. Die Schöne Müllerin, the first, was taken from a set of 23 poems, a prologue and an epilogue by the German poet Wilhelm Müller—Schubert set 20 of these in his song cycle (the work’s title is a play on words, meaning both “The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter” and “The Beautiful Müller”). Part of a large book of poems by Müller published in 1820, they tell a tragic story of unrequited love finding fulfillment through death, a common theme in German Romantic poetry. “The Hunter” was taken from this collection.

“Frozen Tears” comes from a later song cycle, Die Winterreise (“Winter Journey”). A set of 24 poems, also by Müller, it forms a sequel to Die Schöne Müllerin in which a lonely traveler, alienated by love, confronts a frozen landscape that mirrors the desolation of his own heart.

The work perhaps reflects the composer, who in his youth had pined over a young female acquaintance yet remained a lifelong bachelor. “Serenade” and “Farewell” are both taken from Ludwig Rellstab’s Schwanengesang (“Swan Song.”)

In “The Hunter,” a young man, scorned in love, wanders through the countryside and comes upon a hunter. The poem offers an ironic depiction of the hunter out of his element; the narrator berates him in his mind for disturbing the peace of the place, and entreats him to hunt something useful (the boars that disturb his beloved) instead.

“Frozen Tears” depicts a young man crying, scornfully rebuking his own tears for not being hot enough to withstand the winter ice. In “Serenade,” a lover sings to his beloved, hoping to cheer her up, while in “Farewell,” a young man must leave his hometown in spite of having been happy there.

Die Winterreise is one of Schubert's most famous compositions and was written in 1827, one year before his untimely death at age 31.

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Portrait of Mendelssohn by the English miniaturist James Warren Childe (1778 – 1862), 1839

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Sinfonia No. 2 in D Major

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847)

The grandson of the great Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, proponent of religious toleration and civic rights for all, Felix Mendelssohn grew up in a wealthy upper middle class household.

Baptized into Christianity at age 7, he led a remarkable musical career. As a conductor and music director, he almost single-handedly rediscovered Bach and helped restore him to his rightful place as a great composer, discovered much of the music of Schubert, raised musical performance standards in Germany to new heights and helped establish the music conservatory system—all while composing brilliant music.

An incredibly precocious child, Mendelssohn wrote 13 string sinfonias by the year 1823. The Sinfonia No. 2 was written in 1821 at the tender age of 12, and was published in the 1960s. It features strict fugues and counterpoint, inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach and by the sinfonias of Bach’s son CPE Bach.

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Polonaise Militaire

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)

One of the greatest pianists in the history of music, Frédéric Chopin grew up in Warsaw at a time of Russian domination of Poland. After spending several months in Vienna in 1830, he settled in cosmopolitan Paris, where many migrants from across Europe had settled.

While Chopin was residing in Vienna, an uprising against Russian rule broke out in Poland. Caring deeply about the Polish national cause, Chopin wanted to go back and fight, but was urged not to by friends who persuaded him that he could better contribute in other ways. While his friends and former teachers wanted him to write a grand opera devoted to Poland’s suffering, he instead turned to what he knew best—piano music. For the rest of his career, chief among Chopin’s output would be characteristic Polish- inspired piano works.

Polonaise

Polonaise

One of Chopin’s chief musical interests was the polonaise, a popular Polish aristocratic dance. In the early 19th century, the polonaise had been a popular show piece for salon culture; Chopin had written quite a few of these in his youth and played them for his aristocratic patrons at social gatherings.

After leaving Poland in 1830, he stopped writing these kinds of polonaises. Four years later he reinvented the musical form, recasting it as a vehicle for Polish nationalism. Composed in 1838, the so-called Military Polonaise, Op. 40 No. 1 was Chopin’s second installment of this new type of Polonaise.

Even more nationalistic than the first, it is dedicated to his friend Julian Fontana, a Polish pianist, composer, lawyer and academic. Like many later composers who were interested in the nationalist possibilities of folk music (Dvořák and Sibelius among many others), Chopin used his musical talents to transform humble folk genres, elevating them into the highest levels of art music.

Yet Chopin’s music is far more than nationalistic bluster. When composing the work in 1838, he had just begun the love affair of his life with the novelist George Sand (a woman, in spite of the male-sounding name).

He would live with Sand for years, spending summers with her in Majorca at her villa. At the time he wrote this polonaise, he was deeply enamored with her. The piece features elegant music and brilliant piano writing (transcribed here for string orchestra), and sparks deep, primal passions.

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings

Night on Bald Mountain

Modest Mussorgsky (1839 - 1881)

Modest Mussorgsky was long fascinated by the music and culture of his native Russia. After training in a military academy, he became a commissioned officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, the most elite part of the Russian Imperial Guard.

Although he resigned his commission after two years in order to devote himself to music, he remained enthralled by Russian history and culture. His visit to Moscow, Russia’s ancient capital, in the summer of 1859 only heightened this fascination, and in the 1860s he joined with a group of other Russian composers called the “moguchaya kuchka” (“mighty handful”). Led by Mussorgsky’s teacher Mily Balakirev, the group opposed Western-style music education and sought to develop national music based on indigenous Russian traditions.

Composed in 1867, the tone poem “St. John’s Night on Bald Mountain” marked the beginning of Mussorgsky’s musical independence from his teacher Balakirev.

Mussorgsky had contemplated the idea as early as 1858, when he expressed interest in writing a three-act opera based on “St. John’s Eve,” an 1830 short story by Nikolai Gogol. He began writing the work in 1860, originally intending it as incidental music to the play Ved’ma (“The Witch”) by Baron Georgy Mengden, one of his army friends. Some of its music was recycled from a never-completed opera based on a novel by Flaubert about ancient Carthage, which Mussorgsky began in 1864.

Although Mussorgsky expressed great pride in the work, his mentor Balakirev was far less encouraging and requested many changes. Mussorgsky withdrew the work from performance rather than making any of Balakirev’s changes, and from then on never submitted any other to him. However, he did revise this twice more.

The version now known, published in 1886, was heavily “corrected” after Mussorgsky’s death by his friend Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece is a depiction of a witch gathering on St. John’s Night, a Russian holiday in celebration of St. John the Baptist with admixture of an old Slavic pagan summer festival.

To meet Music Directors Irene Kroesen and Helen Weed, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.