Showcase January-February 2015 - page 39

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JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2015 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
feb
12, 13, 14
Program Notes
Felix Mendelssohn
Born:
February 3, 1809, Hamburg
Died:
November 4, 1847, Leipzig
Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Opus 21
elix Mendelssohn grew up in the most cultivated
household in Berlin, and it is a measure of the
Mendelssohn family’s sophistication that one of their
recreations was reading Shakespeare’s plays together
in the Schlegel-Tieck German translation. Fanny
Mendelssohn later remembered the impact of one
play in particular: “We were saying yesterday what an
important part the
Midsummer Night’s Dream
has always
played in our home ….We were really brought up on the
Midsummer Night’s Dream
, and Felix especially made it
his own…”
‘the finest music ever inspired by shakespeare’
Felix indeed “made it his own” during the summer of
1826, when the 17-year-old composer wrote an overture
to that play that remains today the finest music ever
inspired by Shakespeare. Years later, in 1843, King
Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia asked Mendelssohn to
write incidental music for a production of the same play
to be given in Potsdam that fall. Mendelssohn, now 34,
reached back across the span of 17 years to recapture the
magic he had created as a teenager and wrote a suite of
12 more numbers to accompany the play.
In the Overture, our focus for these concerts, young
Mendelssohn captured the spirit of Shakespeare’s play
perfectly. The instant this music begins, we feel ourselves
transported to the woods outside Athens, where Puck flits
mischievously through the forest, the “rude mechanicals”
rehearse their play and lovers are mysteriously
transformed.
The beginning is magic. Four soft chords lift us into
the land of make-believe, and a glistening rush in the
violins suggests the gossamer flickering of tiny wings.
All seems set when, over heavy stamping, the orchestra
shouts out a vigorous tune that ends with a great hee-
haw. This is the braying of Bottom, the rustic actor who
is transformed into an ass. A cascade of shining chords
leads to a surprise—a false ending—and after returning
to the flickering “fairyland” of the beginning, the Overture
vanishes on the same four chords with which it began.
Instrumentation:
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, tuba, timpani and strings
Program note by
Eric Bromberger
.
f
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Born:
May 29, 1897, Brünn, Moravia
(now Brno, Slovak Republic)
Died:
November 29, 1957, Hollywood
Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra,
Opus 35
rich Wolfgang Korngold was making formidable
waves as he entered his teens. Mahler, Strauss,
Puccini, Nikisch, Schnabel, Kreisler, Cortot, Mengelberg
and Bruno Walter were among those ready to salute him
as a Mozart-sized genius.The son of Julius Korngold,
Vienna’s most influential music critic after the death of
Eduard Hanslick, the boy played the piano well by the
time he was five and was composing large-scale works
at ten, performed by such greats as Artur Schnabel and
the Austraian Imperial Ballet. These early opuses are
imposing accomplishments, serious pieces still worth
hearing and, some of them, more impressive than what
Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer had to
offer at that age.
Korngold’s success continued into his 20s, and a 1932
poll by a Vienna newspaper determined that he was one
of the two greatest living composers—but he did not
turn out to be a second Mozart. Yet his music came to
be heard by uncounted millions. In 1934 the producer
and director Max Reinhardt invited him to Hollywood to
score his film version of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
. He
was immediately asked to stay on and write the music for
Captain Blood
, the film that made Erroll Flynn a star. In
1938, when Austria was annexed by the Nazi regime, he
moved his family, including his parents and brother,
to Hollywood.
from Hollywood to the concert hall
Korngold’s films won him two Oscars—for
Anthony
Adverse
and
The Adventures of Robin Hood
—as well as
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