Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 50

Program Notes
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MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA SHOWCASE
Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
Born:
January 27, 1756, Salzburg
Died:
December 5, 1791, Vienna
Symphony No. 38 in D major, K. 504,
Prague
n Mozart’s day, Prague was at its peak, and few
appreciated him as much as its citizens. Literally
from the moment of his arrival in January 1787,
he was feted by the public and lauded by the press.
What prompted such adulation was
The Marriage of
Figaro
, which had created a sensation at its first Prague
performance a month earlier—and it was a theme from
this opera that Mozart had incorporated into the finale of
a new symphony he carried with him from Vienna, No. 38
in D major. Now known as the
Prague
, this work is fiery in
impulse and invested with his most progressive ideas.
the music in brief
Always composing as if with one foot in the opera house,
Mozart does not shy from theatricality in his
Prague
Symphony. Here the solemn introduction functions like
an instrumental drama in miniature, mysterious, growing
in intensity, and unleashing conflict as it probes various
keys. The initial
Allegro
idea may take you by surprise,
but its vigor reminds us that Mozart was cutting a
path for Beethoven, whose early symphonies seem less
startling after hearing this.
Someone has remarked that the
Andante
is as serene
and poised as a woman so pretty that she is confident all
will listen no matter how slowly she speaks. The string
i
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born:
December 16, 1770, Bonn
Died:
March 26, 1827, Vienna
Overture to
Coriolan
, Opus 62
aius Marcius was a Roman general who was
given the cognomen Coriolanus after he showed
extraordinary courage in capturing the Volscian
city of Corioli. A haughty man of anti-democratic
sympathies, he used his political power to restrict the
rights of the working class, even to the point of reducing
access to grain. He fell from favor and was expelled
from the city. Infuriated, he joined forces with the rival
Volscians and helped lead their attack on Rome. When
emissaries approached to dissuade him from his revenge,
he angrily turned aside the official representatives. But his
fury melted when he was approached by a delegation that
included his mother, wife and son.
Shakespeare based his
Coriolanus
on an account in
Plutarch’s
Lives
, but Beethoven’s overture was inspired by
and written for a play by his friend, the Austrian Heinrich
von Collin (1771-1811). In Collin’s play, first staged in
Vienna in 1804, Coriolanus commits suicide rather than
attack Rome. Beethoven composed his
Coriolan
Overture
early in 1807, and it was first performed at Prince
Lobkowitz’s palace in March 1807.
the music
While this music doesn’t try to tell the full story of
Coriolanus in sound, its searing beginning, with incisive
attacks and huge chords, is clearly our introduction to the
dark hero of Collin’s play. Many have been ready to make
out the entreaties of Coriolanus’ wife and mother in the
flowing second subject.
The
Coriolan
Overture is a compressed sonata-form
movement, but it has an unusual structure, one that
intensifies its explosive atmosphere. The violent chords
and attacks at the beginning not only rivet attention but
instantly establish the music’s fierce mood. The violins’
surging, rising first subject, with its nervous thrusts and
tenutos
, ratchets up the tension that underlies the entire
overture, though the more lyric second subject relaxes
them momentarily. Beethoven blurs the line between
exposition and development: we have barely heard this
second theme when the first theme begins to develop,
and in fact the gentle second theme vanishes completely
from the development. The overture reaches its climax at
the beginning of the coda: the opening chords return, but
instead of concluding heroically, the music now collapses
on fragments of the opening theme. Things seem choked,
shattered, and after all its furious energy the overture
vanishes on barely audible pizzicato strokes.
Instrumentation:
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings
Program note by
Eric Bromberger
.
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