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PROGRAM NOTES 2014-2015

Series 1: Oct 15 – Oct 19

Conductor:

Avner Dorman

Soloist:

Timothy McAllister
(soprano, saxophone)

Program:


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No.35 in D major, K385 (Haffner)

Allegro con spirito

Andante

Menuetto – Trio

Finale (Presto)

Avner Dorman

Saxophone Concerto

INTERMISSION:


Antonín Dvořák

Wind Serenade in D minor, B.77 (Op.44)

Moderato quasi Marcia

Menuetto (Tempo di minuetto – Presto)

Andante con moto

Finale (Allegro molto)

Joseph Haydn

Symphony No.45 in F sharp minor (Farewell)

Allegro assai

Adagio

Menuetto (Allegretto)

Presto – Adagio

…it must certainly be very effective!

MOZART’S HAFFNER SYMPHONY

In 1781 Mozart left the irksome environment of Salzburg for Vienna, where he planned to make his name as a piano virtuoso and composer and find a prestigious post for himself. At first all went well and he was as busy as he could wish. He wrote an opera (The Abduction from the Seraglio, which enjoyed a successful premiere in 1782), the publisher Artaria made an agreement to publish his music, he performed in concerts and he fell in love!

In the middle of 1782, Mozart’s father asked him to write some festive music for the ennoblement of a family friend, Siegmund Haffner the Younger. For this Mozart composed a six-movement serenade (not the Haffner Serenade, K250, that was an earlier piece written for a wedding in the Haffner family) and sent it home to Salzburg.

Then, as happens when you’re busy, Mozart decided to recycle some old work. He was preparing for a set of subscription concerts in Vienna and wrote to his father asking for the return of the “Haffner music”. On receiving it, he responded with characteristic immodesty: “I was quite surprised by the new Haffner symphony, for I had forgotten every note of it; it must certainly be very effective.”

By 1783 Mozart had converted his festive serenade into a concert symphony. He did this by removing the opening march and one of the dancing minuets and adding flutes and clarinets to the remaining outer movements.

The beginning of the Haffner Symphony makes a grand effect with bold drum rolls and spectacular leaps from low notes to high. But almost immediately the violins present a more lyrical idea, laying the groundwork for music filled with dramatic contrasts. No wonder Mozart asked for it to be played with fire and spirit (con spiritoso). The second movement offers a complete shift of mood: it’s more relaxed and delicate, basking in the “serenade” atmosphere of its original context.

This is followed by a minuet that you could dance to if you wished, organized as it is in regular phrases. Perhaps at the Haffner celebrations the guests did step onto the dance floor at this point. The music heard at the beginning and end of the movement is stately, almost pompous, while the contrasting Trio section in the middle is cozier in feeling.

The finale is marked Presto (as fast as possible) and Mozart races to the conclusion with music that’s high-spirited, good-humored and brilliantly exciting. Very effective indeed!

Jazz versus the traditionalists

DORMAN’S SAXOPHONE CONCERTO

This concerto was inspired in part by the music of saxophonist John Coltrane and it incorporates jazz vocabulary through the use of short motifs. These ideas turn up very early on in the concerto and each one carries a particular set of musical characteristics. Much of the music of the concerto then derives from the manipulation of these motivic elements.

Since the 18th century, the solo concerto genre has traditionally reflected a spirit playing together – “in concert” – but also a spirit of competition: the instrumental soloist contrasting with the orchestral group. That’s the quality that can make a concerto so dramatic and exciting. In Dorman’s Saxophone Concerto the contrasts and the drama are stylistic. The saxophone soloist attempts to lead the group in aggressive, jazz-inspired music but the orchestra resists, steering the music away from the modern and towards more traditional styles. Ultimately, the orchestra refuses to follow the soloist’s lead, and the saxophonist retires, frustrated. In more ways that one, his “repeat-till-fade” gesture makes the perfect conclusion to the first half of the concert, just as Haydn’s Farewell Symphony concludes the second.

Avner Dorman’s Saxophone Concerto was commissioned by the Israel Camerata and premiered in 2010 by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and saxophonist Joshua Redman with conductor Justin Brown. The solo part is written for the high soprano saxophone and the small orchestra comprises flute, oboe, clarinet, two bassoons, two horns, a drum kit and strings.

A musical diversion…

DVOŘÁK’S WIND SERENADE

Most musicians refer to this music as a “wind serenade” but if you look at the stage you’ll see that the winds – oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns – have invited two friends from the string section to join them: a cello and a double bass. Dvořák wasn’t the first to write a “wind” serenade like this; Mozart’s famous Gran Partita also included a double bass to help support the bass line.

There’s more that Mozart would have recognized. As a serenade, it belongs to an 18th-century tradition of cheerful music written for casual settings, often outdoors, and intended as background for socializing. Composing in 1878, Dvořák intended his serenade for concert performance and he would have expected us to listen to it, not chat, but the music still reveals a genial spirit, a charming simplicity, and an appealing variety of moods over the course of its five movements. And it’s full of the “sunshine” that Dvořák heard in the music of his beloved Mozart. It’s a Classical serenade at heart.

Like an 18th-century serenade, Dvořák’s Wind Serenade begins with a confident and energetic march (Moderato quasi Marcia) – the musicians you see might already be on the stage, but with music like this you can easily imagine them marching into a courtyard to play for party guests.

Dvořák calls his second movement a minuet but really it’s a Czech sousedská or “neighbours’ dance.” At first it lilts along, both grounded and graceful in character. In the middle Dvořák ups the tempo for another kind of dance, a furiant. The third movement evokes a night-time mood with the oboe and clarinet singing to each other, passing their tender, yearning melodies to and fro above gentle offbeat rhythms from the other instruments. Perhaps Dvořák is nodding to the beautiful Adagio in Mozart’s Gran Partita? The finale restores the festive mood before a return of the march music from the first movement signals that the musicians are departing for the night!

Thank God it’s Friday…

HAYDN’S FAREWELL SYMPHONY

Some scene setting… Every summer your boss takes all his employees out of town for several months. You all live and work together in a remote community. You’re not allowed to bring your spouse. Your boss loves it – he’s a hunter and there are ducks to shoot out on the swamp. The employees? Not so much.

This is the situation in which Haydn and his fellow musicians found themselves every year when Prince Nicolaus Esterházy left his urban home of Eisenstadt (just outside Vienna) and took his household to his rural summer palace of Eszterháza near the Hungarian border. Eszterháza rivaled Versailles in its elegant magnificence; it included opera theatres (two!), music rooms, a marionette theatre and an enormous library. Haydn claimed that its isolation “forced him to be original.” But it wasn’t home.

And so in 1772, when Prince Nicolaus advised his musicians that they would be required to spend a further two months at Eszterháza, Haydn decided to send him a message – one that the sophisticated, music-loving prince would surely understand.

Haydn grabs his prince’s attention from the outset, beginning in the startling key of F sharp minor. It’s believed this is the only symphony to have been composed in this key during the 18th century – that’s how extraordinary it would have been. Even for us with our 21st-century ears, it will sound startling at the end of a program dominated by music in bright D major and mild D minor.

There’s a sense of theatre in this symphony and Haydn makes a very literal theatrical gesture in his finale. It begins Presto (as fast as possible) before segueing into a wistful Adagio (slow) section. Then, gradually, musicians stop playing, snuff out their candles (or the modern equivalent) and leave the stage. First the oboes, bassoon and horns. Haydn writes above their parts “nichts mehr” (no more). Then the double basses, followed by the cellos, all the violins barring the two principals, and finally the violas depart, leaving just the concertmaster and principal second violin playing on stage in a muted duet.

Prince Nicolaus got the point, saying: “Well, if they all leave I suppose we had better leave too.” The household packed up the next day. But perhaps he was equally impressed and moved by the sheer boldness of the symphony as a whole. This is a profoundly emotional symphony, as daring in its musical gestures as it was in its pointed message about leaving Esterháza.

Yvonne Frindle © 2014

(Adapted in part from a program note by Avner Dorman)

Illustrations by Charles Krenner © 2014

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(1756–1791)

Austrian composer

Mozart’s childhood was spent touring Europe as a prodigy, entertaining and astonishing the courts of Europe with his amazing musical gifts. He began his career in Salzburg as a servant-musician in the court of the Prince-Archbishop before moving to Vienna. He died, all too young, at the age of 35, but not before he’d demonstrated mature genius. He composed symphonies throughout his life, from the tiny, ten-minute works he wrote as a boy to the great symphonies of 1788.

Avner Dorman

(born 1975)

Israeli-born composer

Avner Dorman grew up in a musical family (his father was principal bassoonist in the Israel Philharmonic). Unusually, he began composing music before he’d even learned to play an instrument; it was only later than he learned cello and piano. He studied first at Tel Aviv University; then he completed his doctorate at the Juilliard School in New York as a student of composer John Corigliano. His Saxophone Concerto was completed in 2003.

Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Dvořák
(1841–1904)

Czech composer

Dvořák was born near Prague and died in that city. This made him a Bohemian composer at a time when the region was under the thumb of the Austrian empire. He lived through an era when nationalistic feeling dominated, and folk traditions, previously dismissed, were nurtured as a source of identity. His big break came in 1878 with the publication of his Slavonic Dances. Yet some of his best-known music was stimulated not by the sounds of Bohemia but by his years in America: the New World Symphony and the Cello Concerto in B minor.

Joseph Haydn

(1732–1809)

Austrian composer

When he died in 1809, Haydn was Europe’s celebrity composer – more famous than Mozart or even Beethoven – and his reputation as a composer of symphonies spread far and wide. He spent much of his life working for the Esterházy princes and rarely traveled from their estates. (It wasn’t until 1791 that he made his first, lucrative visit to London.) It was on the remote country estate of Esterháza that he composed the Farewell Symphony.

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