BOCA RATON PHILHARMONIC SYMPHONIA
November 27, 2005
FAU University Theater
MARTIN FISCHER-DIESKAU, Conductor
Overture to “Medea”
American Serenade for String Orchestra*
I. Spiritual. Lento, rubato – Un poco piu mosso (Andantino)
II. Dance. Allegro con brio
Stuart Glazer - World Premiere
Concertino for Chamber Orchestra: Nightscapes
I. Shadow Images
II. Midnight Embrace
III. Dance of the Phantoms
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No.3 in E-flat Major, Op.55 (“Eroica”)
I. Allegro con brio
II. Adagio assai (Marcia funebre)
III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
*First local performance
By Lawrence Budmen
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)
Overture to “Medea”
Luigi Cherubini was one of the most admired creative artists of his day. A pupil of Antonio Salieri, Cherubini won the adoration of the father of German opera Carl Maria von Weber. Beethoven considered Cherubini his greatest contemporary. Cherubini was at once the high priest of classicism and a path breaking romantic. Having studied Palestrina’s counterpoint in Florence, Cherubini went on to absorb the instrumental innovations of Haydn and Mozart. (Like Cherubini they divided their compositional time between the theater and the concert platform.) During his long residency in Paris he carried Gluck’s operatic reforms to a new level.
Cherubini composed forty operas. Most of these scores are long forgotten. The exception is “Medee.” That score received its premiere in Paris on March 13, 1797. The Italian version - “Medea” - has been performed with some frequency over the last six decades. (The title role was a showcase for the remarkable talents of Maria Callas at La Scala with Leonard Bernstein conducting.) Brahms considered Cherubini’s score to be “the highest peak of dramatic music.” Beethoven and Goethe admired the libretto by F.B. Hoffman – a theatrical version of the Greek legend of Medea’s murderous revenge on her husband’s faithlessness.
Cherubini’s operatic overtures were a major inspiration for Berlioz, Weber, and the young Richard Wagner. They take the form of Italian Sinfonias replete with expressive harmonies, dramatic atmosphere, and imaginative orchestral gestures.
The Overture to “Medea” dispenses with the traditional slow introduction. The Allegro in F minor is boldly dramatic and grandly classical. The young Felix Mendelssohn noted that the overture’s melodic content was a great influence on his concert overtures.
Antal Dorati (1906-1988)
American Serenade for String Orchestra
Antal Dorati was widely acclaimed as one of the great conductors of the 20th century. The youngest conductor in the history of the Budapest Opera, Dorati joined the conducting staff of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and eventually became Principal Conductor of that legendary company. After emigrating to the United States he assumed the musical direction of American Ballet Theater during its initial performance seasons. It was as an orchestral builder that Dorati would make his greatest impact. From 1945 to 1949 Dorati was Music Director of the Dallas Symphony. In 1949 he began a12 year tenure as Music Director of the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra) Other ensembles Dorati directed include the National Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, and the BBC Symphony. His discography includes more than 600 recordings including the complete symphonies (104+) of Franz Joseph Haydn and the complete orchestral works of Zoltan Kodaly – both with the Philharmonia Hungarica which Dorati co- founded.
Dorati studied composition at the Budapest Conservatory with Leo Weiner and Zoltan Kodaly. After some early compositional efforts Dorati abandoned writing music until the mid 1950’s when he was overcoming a severe illness (during his tenure in Minneapolis). He found his creative spirit reenergized. Dorati would pen two symphonies, a piano concerto, a string quartet, several choral works, and an opera – The Chosen, based on a story by Martin Buber. Dorati’s Cello Concerto (composed for Janos Starker) is a particularly striking work in a Hungarian idiom. This important score awaits the advocacy of a major contemporary cello virtuoso.
American Serenade takes its title from the serenades (or night music entertainments) of Mozart (i.e. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik). The score marks an exception to Dorati’s period of abstention from composing. The work’s two movements were written in the 1940’s. While the composer conducted performances of the movements individually during the 1950’s, the premiere of the complete work did not take place until September, 1970 (with Dorati leading the National Symphony). Stylistically the score combines neo-classicism with the Americana idiom of Aaron Copland and Morton Gould. Indeed the score has an artistic kinship to Gould’s Spirituals for Orchestra – a popular work in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
The opening movement Spiritual begins with cello and viola solos – emphasizing the strings’ dark luster. The main thematic material evokes folk or indigenous music in the long tradition established by Dvorak. The concluding Dance introduces a vigorous theme which weaves through the movement in rondo form. The entire work is a deeply felt tribute to Dorati’s adopted country.
Concertino for Chamber Orchestra: Nightscapes
Stuart Glazer, a native of Detroit, Michigan, is a music professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. From 1991 until 2002 he served as Chair of the university’s Department of Music. He is the recipient of degrees from Eastern Michigan University and Texas Tech University. His major composition teachers were Dorothy James, Thomas Tyra, and Mary Jeanne van Appledorn. Glazer taught at Valley City (North Dakota) State University for 18 years. He served as Chairman of the Division of Fine Arts. Glazer has written more than 35 published works. He has composed in numerous genres including chamber music, works for concert band, and solo piano pieces. The composer describes his style as “neo-classical or neo-romantic.”
Concertino for Chamber Orchestra: Nightscapes was commissioned by the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia for the inaugural concert of its Connoisseur Concert series. The work is in three movements. The middle movement is a slow nocturne inspired by night thoughts and shadows.The final movement is rhythmic and bouncy. Glazer states that “the idea behind the piece is the relationship between the dark of night and the dark corners of our inner beings. The movements are as follows:
I. Shadow Images – As darkness descends the play of shadows becomes almost dance-like, yet ominous.
II. Midnight Embrace – In darkness no one wants to be alone.
III. Dance of the Phantoms – In the dark of night sometimes our phantoms emerge to have their own private orgy.”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No.3 in E-flat Major, Op.55 (Eroica)
Beethoven’s Third Symphony (“Eroica”) is one of those rare compositions that changed music forever. With two fierce chords Beethoven opens this symphonic essay in a manner never attempted before. He dispenses with a slow introduction. With its elongated form and level of musical profundity the Eroica charted new symphonic terrain. After two symphonies that paid homage to Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven had found his own voice.
Beethoven’s initial sketches date from 1803. The symphony was completed in 1804 with the first performance the following year. The work confounded the Vienesse public and music journalists. A critic for the Allgemeine Musikalasche Zeltung noted that the work “was not lacking in striking and beautiful parts” that clearly delineated Beethoven’s creative spirit but “very often it appeared to fall into complete disorder.”
Beethoven’s friend Ferdinand Ries wrote in 1803 that the composer originally intended to dedicate the symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte but he tore up the original title page when Napoleon had crowned himself emperor. Instead Beethoven inscribed on the score “Heroic Symphony composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.” Whatever the circumstances of its composition, the symphony is indeed heroic in its bold originality and uncompromising vision.
After the initial two abrupt staccato chords the opening subject of the Allegro con brio lasts only four bars and is followed by two more thematic threads. The development section is lengthy and the recapitulation is more than a mere restatement of the initial material. New themes weave their way through the musical discourse. The entire movement is characterized by incisive, relentless forward thrust.
The second movement is a funeral march. The initial theme is grave and powerful. A contrasting middle section leads to a fugato. A series of powerful climaxes are followed by an understated repetition of the initial thematic material.
An agitated, pensive motive of great rhythmic urgency sets the Scherzo in motion. The contrasting Trio calls forth hunting horns in joyous, almost march like celebration.
The symphony’s extraordinary finale is a set of variations on a theme from Beethoven’s 1801 ballet score The Creatures of Prometheus. (The Overture to the Prometheus score will open next month’s Connoisseur Concert by the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia.) Beethoven also used the same material in his Contradances and in the monumental Eroica Variations for solo piano. Episodes of fierce vigor and tenderness alternate until Beethoven resolves the musical conflict with a lyrical restatement of the Prometheus theme by the winds; which is then taken up by the strings. In one final masterful stroke the composer unleashes an extended, celebratory coda that transforms the material one final time. The concluding chords of this remarkable symphony indeed have the ring of finality.