Program Notes for July 18th, 2012

2Program Notes By Ed Rutschman

 

Symphon y #6 in D Major , “Le matin ” / “Mornin g” (1761)
Joseph Haydn (b. Rohrau, Lower Austria, 1732; d. Vienna, 1809)

Haydn composed more than 100 symphonies. Indeed, the New Grove Dictionary of Music asserts that “there is no other genre in Western music for which the output of a single composer is at once so vast in extent, so historically important and of such high artistic quality.” Perhaps it is surprising, then, to learn that Haydn did not compose his first symphony until his later twenties; he himself suggested that his early career might not have been a good predictor of his eventual success. It took the composer a while to hit his stride.

Born into a family of tradesmen who were gifted amateur musicians in the small village of Rohrau, Haydn demonstrated his musical precocity and alertness early by earning a spot in the choirboy school at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Later, he eked out a living in Vienna by teaching, freelancing and composing until, in his late twenties, he received an offer of employment that would change his life.

Haydn entered the service of the noble Hungarian Esterházy family in 1760, and he spent the rest of his career either directly or indirectly in the service of four successive Esterházy princes. Haydn’s initial contract included stipulations that he must compose music on demand for the Prince, that he could not allow his compositions to be copied or to be sent elsewhere, and that he should not accept any outside commissions without the consent of his employer.

Even though he presided over a substantial musical establishment, he felt isolated because of the family’s geographical distance from Vienna. He was “forced to become original,” as he put it. Despite his isolation, he did become familiar with new musical trends and styles by conducting concerts and producing operas of other composers as part of his job, and he groomed his orchestra to become one of the best musical establishments in Europe.

Soon after he arrived at the Esterházy estate he put the virtuoso players of the orchestra to the test by including concerto-like solo passages for principal players in his symphonies. In Symphony #6 the violin, cello, flute and bassoon get particular attention. The symphony was the first one Haydn composed for his new employer and the first in a trilogy with nicknames that date from the composer’s own day: Le matin, Le midi and Le soir (“Morning,” “Noon” and “Evening”). The title Le matin comes from a musical passage near the beginning of the first movement that suggests a sunrise, where the entire orchestra moves from its softest volume to its loudest. At the time, this was a new orchestral technique, and a test of the prowess of an orchestra. Despite the slow tempo of the music, the sun comes up quickly, and the main business of the movement soon follows. In his manuscript score for the second movement, Haydn labeled the elaborate parts for solo violin and cello concertante (“concertizing/ concerto-like”); the elegant middle part of the movement is framed by a stately beginning that returns at the end. A courtly Minuet and a rambunctious Finale conclude the symphony.


Concierto serenata for Harp and Orchestra (1952)
Fantasia para un Genti lhombre (1954)
Joaquin Rodrigo (b. Sagunto, 1901; d. Madrid, 1999)

In a career spanning nearly the entire twentieth century, Joaquin Rodrigo was an indefatigable champion of the music of his native Spain. His wide range of compositional genres included music for the stage (opera, ballet and film), piano music, chamber music and pieces for solo voice. Exploring connections with the traditions of his national past, he sometimes explicitly honored earlier composers, as in his orchestral work Soleriana, based on work of the eighteenth- century Catalan composer Antonio Soler. Blind from the age of three, he composed until his mid-eighties, using Braille to notate his compositions. Shortly after his ninetieth birthday, Rodrigo received a hereditary title of nobility from King Juan Carlos I and became the Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez (Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez).

Rodrigo composed fourteen works for soloists with orchestra. Most of these are concertos, and he enriched the repertoire of the violin, cello, piano, flute, guitar and harp in this way. In 1952 he composed his Concierto serenata for the Basque harp virtuoso Nicanor Zabaleta (1907-1993), who gave the first performance four years later in Madrid. The three-movement concerto begins with Estudiantina, a title that might conjure up a picture of student musicians in a light-hearted atmosphere, with occasional good-natured hijinks. Though the mood of this first movement is consistent throughout, Rodrigo did keep the traditional shape of the opening movement of a concerto, complete with a cadenza for the solo instrument. At the end, the revelry becomes quiet and then suddenly stops. Throughout much of the second movement, Intermezzo con aria, melodies chase after themselves, in the form of a canon: no sooner does the tune get going than another version of itself impetuously enters, making the process almost a competitive sport. Composing such passages requires specialized musical techniques, and perhaps the student musicians are heard practicing their own craft here. Sarao, the title of the final movement, means “an evening party with music or dancing.” Enough said!

Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (“Fantasia for a Gentleman”) was Rodrigo’s second work for guitar and orchestra, following the Concierto de Aranjuez by fifteen years. These two compositions remain his most frequently performed and recorded compositions. It was the great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia (1893-1987), who requested a work from Rodrigo and who premiered, recorded and popularized the Fantasia. For his musical source material, Rodrigo went back to a guitar treatise, Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española, by the Spanish Baroque guitarist-composer Gaspar Sanz, who flourished in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In the four movements of the Fantasia, Rodrigo used six of Sanz’s melodies. Villon, a sung dance, introduces the guitar to the orchestra, and Ricercar, a type of predecessor of the fugue, concludes the first movement. Another dance, Españoleta, begins and ends the second movement, and there is a Fanfare de la Cabellería de Nápoles (“Fanfare for the Cavalry of Naples”) in the middle. The last two movements are two more dances, Danza de las Hachas (“Dance of the Axes”) and Canario, a genre that originated in the Canary Islands.


Gli uccelli–The Birds —1928)
Ottorino Respighi (Bologna, 1879; d. Rome, 1936)

Respighi is particularly remembered for his brilliance in treating the instrumental colors of the orchestra, and he holds the place in the genre of orchestral music that Verdi and Puccini share in Italian opera. Early in his career, Respighi worked as a violinist and violist onstage and in the opera pit. A compositional turning point came in his early twenties, when he went to St. Petersburg to play in the Imperial Theater orchestra and was able to study with Rimsky- Korsakov, the great Russian authority on the subject of orchestration.

After Respighi moved to Rome in 1913, he began a series of compositions that would make him, in effect, Italy’s orchestral ambassador-at-large to the musical world. He composed orchestral impressions of Italian landscapes, cityscapes, and parties; he celebrated his adopted city in works such as The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals. He evoked the long ago, the far away and the picturesque in works such as Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions and Three Botticelli Pictures. He made elegant orchestral arrangements and “recompositions” of Renaissance and Baroque music originally composed for lute or harpsichord in three sets of Ancient Airs and Dances and in Gli uccelli (“The Birds”).

Respighi drew his material for his orchestral suite Gli uccelli from several earlier composers’ pictorial works about individual birds. Bird calls were not a new subject in the composer’s work: he famously called for the recorded sound of a nightingale, the first use of such a technique in a musical composition, in The Pines of Rome (1924). The various movements of Gli uccelli depict a dove, a hen, a nightingale and a cuckoo through the lens of French, Italian and (as Respighi thought) English Baroque composers.

The Prelude includes a catalog for the coming ornithological exhibition, giving a tantalizing preview of the individual species that will appear in the following movements. The main theme of the prelude, however, is derived from Bernardo Pasquini, (1637-1710), a Romanbased organist and influential composer of keyboard music. La colomba (“The Dove”) uses music by Jacques de Gallot (d. ca. 1690), a lute player active in Paris who specialized in musical portraits and was an early practitioner of a type of memorial piece known as the tombeau. For La gallina (“The Hen”), Respighi took a pictorial piece, La poule (“The Hen”), from Nouvelle suites de pièces de clavecin, a collection of keyboard pieces by France’s greatest eighteenth-century composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). L’usignuolo (“The Nightingale”) quotes a Dutch folksong, Engels Nachtegaeltje (“English Nightingale”), that had been transcribed and arranged by Jacob van Eyck (1589-1657) in his Der Fluyten Lust-hof (“The Flute’s Pleasure Garden”); Respighi thought it was the work of an anonymous Englishman. Il cucù (“The Cuckoo”) quotes from Pasquini’s Toccata con lo scherzo del cucco and then rounds out the suite with a return of the main theme of the Prelude.

With the help of Respighi’s orchestra, this collection of birds displays an astonishing variety of color and habitat. Soon after the composition was finished, Respighi conducted the first performance of Gli uccelli in Sao Paolo while on tour in Brazil.


Ed Rutschman’s musicological articles have been published in the U.S. and Europe, and his compositions have been performed on three continents. A member of the Music Department faculty at Western Washington University, he is a recipient of the Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award and Western Washington University’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He holds academic degrees in musicology, composition and piano performance.