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feb 18, 22

Home Away From Home

Minnesota Orchestra Courtney Lewis, conductor

Saturday, February 18, 2012, 8 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 7:30 pm

Richard Strauss Maurice Ravel

Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium

Don Juan, Opus 20

ca. 18’

Suite of Five Pieces from Mother Goose (Ma Mère l’Oye)

ca. 16’

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Samuel Barber Edward Elgar

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Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty Tom Thumb Laideronette, Empress of the Pagodas Conversations of Beauty and the Beast The Enchanted Garden

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Adagio for Strings

ca. 30’ ca. 7’

Enigma Variations, Opus 36 Enigma: Andante I. (C.A.E.): L’istesso tempo II. (H.D.S.-P.): Allegro III. (R.B.T.): Allegretto IV. (W.M.B.): Allegro di molto V. (R.P.A.): Moderato VI. (Ysobel): Andantino VII. (Troyte): Presto VIII. (W.N.): Allegretto IX. (Nimrod): Moderato X. (Dorabella): Intermezzo (Allegretto) XI. (G.R.S.): Allegro di molto XII. (B.G.N.): Andante XIII. (***): Romanza (Moderato) XIV. (E.D.U.): Finale (Allegro)

ca. 29’

Minnesota Orchestra Audience Services staff are available in the lobby this evening to assist with questions about the 2012-13 Classical season, series renewals and package purchases.

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SHOWCASE

All materials copyright © 2012 by the Minnesota Orchestra.

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feb 18, 22

Program Notes

Richard Strauss

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Born: June 11, 1864, Munich Died: September 8, 1949, Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Don Juan, Opus 20

he summer of 1888 found the 24-year-old Strauss at something of an impasse. Already he had composed some magnificent songs, and his First Symphony, completed when he was 20, had been premiered in New York City. But as a composer, he was still searching for an authentic voice. His career as a conductor was also stalled. He had succeeded Hans von Bülow as conductor of the superb Meiningen Orchestra just when that orchestra was being downsized, and he ended up as third conductor of the Munich Court Opera.

imagination catching fire

In these years Strauss found himself drawn toward descriptive music, particularly to the conception of the “symphonic poem” as that had been shaped by Franz Liszt. Strauss moved tentatively in the direction of representational music with Aus Italien, which was more travelogue than drama, and the symphonic poem Macbeth. But his imagination—and his art—caught fire when he took up the Don Juan story. He chose not the legendary figure of Molina, Molière, Gluck and Mozart, but one created by the German poet Nikolaus

at the same time... Strauss conducts the premiere of Don Juan in 1889, the year: • The Wall Street Journal begins publication • The world’s first jukebox is introduced in San Francisco • The Eiffel Tower opens in Paris, surpassing in height what had previously been the tallest structure in the world, the Washington Monument In 1899, when Elgar’s Enigma Variations is first performed: • War breaks out between the U.S. and the Philippines • New York’s newspaper sales boys—“newsies”—stage a strike for higher compensation

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Lenau (1802-1850). Lenau’s is a much darker character, a philosopher who seeks the Ideal Woman through his conquest of individual women, and his fate is to find not the ideal but disillusion, destruction and self-disgust. Finally confronted by Don Pedro, a relative of one of his conquests, this Don Juan recognizes the emptiness of his life, purposely lowers his sword during their duel and takes a fatal thrust through his heart. While Liszt’s symphonic poems had been loosely inspired by legends, paintings and plays, Strauss aimed for a much more exact musical representation (he once bragged that he could set a glass of beer to music). His Don Juan is striking in its instant creation of character, the sheer sweep of its writing and the detail of its incidents. He worked on the score across the summer of 1888 and took it with him that fall when he became the assistant conductor of the Weimar Opera. The management there insisted that he give the premiere with the local orchestra, which, however, was modestly talented and required many, many rehearsals. In a letter to his parents Strauss caught the spirit of those sessions, telling of a sweaty horn player who demanded: “Good God, in what way have we sinned that you have sent us this scourge!” Strauss went on: “We laughed till we cried! Certainly the horns blew without fear of death….I was really sorry for the wretched horns and trumpets. They were quite blue in the face, the whole affair was so strenuous.” But their work paid off. The premiere on November 11, 1889, was a sensation, Strauss’ name swept across Europe, and Don Juan may be said to have launched its young creator’s career. Strauss biographer Michael Kennedy has called this music “the appearance of the real Strauss,” and a succession of increasingly detailed and brilliant tone poems followed over the next decade.

the music: fiery and voluptuous

Don Juan has one of the most famous beginnings in music. That volcanic opening rush (Strauss insists that it must be Allegro molto con brio) begins off the beat, and it streaks upward across three octaves in the first moments. This fiery flourish leads immediately to Don Juan’s own music, which seems always to be in frantic motion, surging and striving ever higher. In fact, one of the most impressive things about Don Juan is its energy: this music boils over, presses forward, erupts—it seems to be in motion even when it is still.

SHOWCASE

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Program Notes

Quick figures from violins and solo oboe suggest an early flirtation, but soon a lush chord for full orchestra (marked tranquillo) introduces the sweeping violin solo that signals the Don’s first real passion. Strauss was particularly adept at writing voluptuous love music, and this interlude goes on for some time before the Don tries to escape. On the surging music from the very beginning he breaks free and sets off on new adventures. His second passion brings another notable love scene, this one built on a gorgeous cantilena for solo oboe, but, his conquest made, the Don rushes off on a mighty horn call. An animated scene follows, perhaps a depiction of Lenau’s carnival sequence, but suddenly matters plunge into gloomy near-silence. Fragmentary reminiscences of earlier love themes reappear as the Don confronts the meaning of his life, and the music rushes into the final confrontation with Don Pedro. Their sword fight is suitably violent, but its climax breaks off in silence as Don Juan abandons the struggle and lowers his sword. Out of the eerie chord that follows, dissonant trumpets mark the thrust of Don Pedro’s blade through Don Juan’s heart, and descending trills lead to the close on grim pizzicato strokes. Don Juan’s quest, once so full of fire, has ended in complete spiritual darkness. Instrumentation: 3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bells, suspended cymbal, triangle, harp and strings

Program note by Eric Bromberger.

Maurice Ravel Born: March 7, 1875, Ciboure, Basses-Pyrénées Died: December 28, 1937, Paris

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we know as the Mother Goose Suite, originated as a set of five children’s pieces for four-hand piano, a gift for the young Godebski children that Ravel composed between 1908 and 1910. In the following year he transcribed it for the orchestra, whose colors added magic to the imagery. The work was first performed on April 20, 1910, by two little girls, ages six and seven. One of them, Jeanne Leleu, later a Paris Conservatoire professor and composer in her own right, recalled that Ravel asked them to play very simply, without seeking expression in every note: “He wanted the first piece, the Pavane, to be very slow—for children that’s quite difficult! He wanted Tom Thumb to be very uniform in sonority…Laideronette had to be very clear, like little crystal bells, without hurrying the melodic phrase in the bass.” Drawing from Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma Mère l’Oye, originally published in 1697, Ravel also borrowed Perrault’s title. The author’s opening tale became the Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty, who is lulled by a gentle oscillating figure based on the ancient Aeolian mode; the music is so lightly scored that there is little risk of waking her. Tom Thumb, who discovers that the birds have eaten the crumbs he has strewn on his pathway, is evoked by constantly varying time signatures and the changing direction of the line, as he turns hither and thither in a frantic effort to retrace his steps. In Laideronette, Empress of the Pagodas (not exotic buildings but tiny, insect-like creatures), the royal one is glimpsed in her bath, where she is serenaded by an orchestra of viols and lutes made of nutshells. Beauty and the Beast encounter each other in a dramatic waltz that contrasts the lyric charm of her voice, sweet in the clarinet, with his gruff responses, rumbling from the contrabassoon. The Enchanted Garden, so crystalline in texture that it might have been spun of glass, is capped by sparkling glissandos. Instrumentation: 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons (1 doubling contrabassoon), 2 horns, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone, harp, celesta, keyboard glockenspiel and strings

E. B.

Suite of Five Pieces from Mother Goose (Ma Mère l’Oye)

avel, a collector of miniatures, never lost his capacity for child-like wonder. Sometimes he masked his pleasure in toys and tales and the paraphernalia of the nursery behind young friends. Ma Mère l’Oye, which FEBRUARY / MARCH 2012

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Program Notes

Samuel Barber

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Born: March 9, 1910, West Chester, Pennsylvania Died: January 23, 1981, New York City

Adagio for Strings

ew 20th-century compositions can claim the popularity of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Barber wrote it in 1936 as the central movement of his String Quartet, Opus 11, while spending the summer in the picturesque little town of St. Wolfgang in the Austrian Tyrol. The premiere was given at the American Academy’s Villa Aurelia, performed by the Pro Arte String Quartet. Two years later, back in America, Barber was asked by Arturo Toscanini to arrange the Adagio movement for string orchestra. Barber added double basses and divided the second violins and cellos, making a total of seven parts. Toscanini then conducted the first performance in this form in an NBC broadcast on November 5, 1938. The conductor thought enough of the work to include it in a subsequent South American tour, the only American work to be so honored. An air of mysticism, the sense of vast spaces, and a kind of religious aura infuse the Adagio. For many listeners, it does indeed express the tranquility in grief inherent in its use as a threnody. Nicolas Slonimsky described it as “an essay in austere polyphony, slowly rising in dynamic intensity through a series of lingering chordal suspensions leading to languorous cadences.” Its single, sinuous theme moves in mostly step-wise motion in even notes, much in the manner of Gregorian chant. Adding to its faintly archaic air is the use of a medieval church mode (the Phrygian) in somewhat adapted form. Following the exalted glow of the climax, which occurs at just about the two-thirds point, the music returns to the grave tone in which it began, the melodic threads fragmenting into ever smaller segments as the sound recedes into darkness and silence. Instrumentation: strings alone

Program note by Robert Markow. 44

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Edward Elgar Born: June 2, 1857, Broadheath Died: February 23, 1934, Worcester

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Enigma Variations, Opus 36 ne evening in 1898, Edward Elgar was improvising for his wife at the piano and just for fun tried varying a theme to suggest the personality of a different friend in each variation. Suddenly a musical project occurred to him, and what had begun “in a spirit of humor…continued in deep seriousness.” The result was an orchestral theme and 14 variations, each a portrait of a friend or family member, noted in the score by their initials or some other clue to their identity. The score attracted the attention of conductor Hans Richter, who led the first performance in London on June 19, 1899, and the Enigma Variations quickly established Elgar’s reputation. Elgar dedicated the variations “To my friends pictured within”—and the subject of each musical portrait was soon identified. But mystery surrounded the theme itself, a six-bar melody full of rises and falls that make it an ideal candidate for variation. Elgar himself fed that mystery, naming the theme “Enigma” and saying: “the ‘Enigma’ I will not explain—its ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed…further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes,’ but it is not played.” Despite many attempts to identify this “larger” theme (including theories that it is Auld Lang Syne or God Save the Queen), the “enigma” remains as mysterious now as it did when the music was written a century ago.

portraits of friends—and of an era

What is not mysterious is the success of this music, with its promising theme, a wonderful idea for a set of variations, and a series of imaginative musical portraits. Part of the charm of this music is that—unlike the orchestral variations of Brahms or Schoenberg, which exist outside time and place—the Enigma Variations are very much in time and space, for they offer a nostalgic vision of a lost age. The music begins, and suddenly we

SHOWCASE

All materials copyright © 2012 by the Minnesota Orchestra.

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http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/images/jevents/4f2c18bf7754f8.87830418.pdf

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