Friday, November 14, 2014, 7:30 PM  Blais Pavilion, Lazare Building, University of Massachusetts Medical School


  • {slide= Bach ~ Brandenburg Concerto No. 3}
    The composition dates for the six Brandenburg concertos cannot be precisely determined. The only thing that can be said with certainty about their chronology is that they were all finished by March 1721, the date on Bach’s autograph copy. The concertos’ instrumentation varies, with most featuring a wide variety of wind instruments as well as harpsichord. The third is scored the simplest: Bach called for just three violins, three violas and three cellos, with each separate instrument playing a slightly different part. With the addition of only the double bass, the Seven Hills Symphony follows the original instrumentation, but with a greater number of players on each instrument. Bach also nearly eliminated the concerto’s middle movement, writing only two chords. SHS skips this movement. Performances, however, sometimes feature a solo cadenza. And like performances of this work before more modern times, the orchestra is on its own, without a conductor to lead. Maestro Scott Chaurette, however, will play the double bass in the SHS performance.
  • {slide=Walden ~ Theme from West Wing}
    William Garrett Snuffy Walden has garnered many Emmy nominations for his television show scores. “The West Wing,” which aired from 1999 to 2006 on the NBC television network, earned him the Emmy award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music in 2000. Walden, who has no formal musical education, learned the guitar on his own and joined a rock-blues group in the 1970s. While performing in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s, he was noticed by TV producers and asked to write music for the TV show “Thirtysomething.” Since then Walden has scored dozens of television shows. He has also released an album on which he plays solo guitar as well as a number of compilations of his commercial work.{/slide}
  • {slide=Strauss ~ Tales from Vienna Woods}
    Like several of his other compositions, such as “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” “The Emperor Waltz,” “Wine, Women and Song,” and “Roses from the South,” “Tales,” composed in 1868, consists of a series of shorter, related waltzes, some of which are tied together with short instrumental solos. The shorter waltzes are often set in contrasting or complementary keys and in a variety of tempos. Originating in peasant dances as far back as the 16th century, the waltz caught on with upper-class Viennese in the late 18th century. As was the case with such later dance crazes as the Charleston and the Twist, to mention only a couple, it was initially branded as sexually suggestive and scandalous before it became widely accepted — and, then thought of as conservative and outdated. Over the centuries, the waltz has spread over the entire world, varying in style, tone and temperament in each region, country and culture that has adopted it.
  • {slide=Brahms ~ Symphony No. 4, Movement 4}
    SYMPHONY NO. 4, OP. 98 JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
    Brahms started his Symphony No. 1 in 1855, when he was only 22 years old, but did not finish it for 20 years. It was followed a mere year later, in 1877, by his second symphony. His third symphony came in 1883, again followed quickly in 1885 by the Symphony No. 4, in E-minor. The likely explanation of his very slow start was his complete awe of Beethoven of whom, Brahms reputedly said, “You don’t know how difficult it is for us who come after that giant.” His symphonic voice, nevertheless, was unmistakably his own. While his influences consisted mostly of the greats of the classical era — Mozart, Haydn and, of course, Beethoven — his works, especially his fourth symphony, also looked to a more distant past, the Baroque era of Bach and Handel. The movement featured in this performance, the fourth, marked allegro energico e passionato (quick, lively, bright with energy and passion), is a passacaglia, a Baroque form in triple meter, in which the harmonic pattern arising in the base is repeated throughout the piece. Although Brahms lived for a dozen years after the Symphony No. 4 was completed, he never wrote a fifth symphony. Perhaps he had changed his younger self’s view — that Beethoven had exhausted the form — to his mature view that he had said all that remained to be said in the symphonic form. Or, perhaps, still intimidated by Beethoven’s legacy, could not muster the confidence to attempt to match Beethoven’s matchless Symphony No. 5.
  • {slide= Holst ~ Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity, the Planets}
    Although the “The Planets” was completed in 1916 and its first section was titled “Mars, the Bringer of War,” Holst denied the work was a response to World War I, which was then raging. It is clear, However, that his adoption of the slower, pastoral section of “Jupiter” for an unabashedly patriotic hymn in 1921, “I vow to thee my country,” came in response to the carnage caused by that war, paying homage to Great Britain’s fallen soldiers. One wonders, then, why Holst placed that theme in a piece ostensibly about jollity. The piece opens in allegro giocoso (bright and playful), but the above-mentioned theme, appearing about one half of the way through the piece, in contrast, is marked andante maestoso (flowing, but not slow, and majestic or dignified) and is set in C minor as opposed to C major in the opening and closing sections. Even without the later added words, however, the theme is unmistakably English in character, as if to say, “Someday we’ll add Jupiter to the British Empire.” Given more recent events that prediction was extravagantly optimistic.

Concert notes: Mark Zarrow, edited by Carol Zarrow

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