Program Notes


PROGRAM NOTES – VIVACE

Masquerade

Anna Clyne

  1. London, England / March 9, 1980

Anna Clyne is a Grammy-nominated composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music. Described as a “composer ofuncommon gifts and unusual methods” in a New York Times profile, and as “dazzlingly inventive” by Time Out New York, her work often includes collaborations with cutting-edge choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, and musicians worldwide. Masquerade premiered in London at the last night of the 2013 BBC Proms concerts. Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The composer has provided the following note.

Masquerade draws inspiration from the original mid-eighteenth century promenade concerts held in London’s pleasure gardens. As is true today, these concerts were a place where people from all walks of life mingled to enjoy a wide array of music. Other forms of entertainment ranged from the sedate to the salacious with acrobatics, exotic street entertainers, dancers, fireworks and masquerades. I am fascinated by the historic and sociological courtship between music and dance. Combined with costumes, masked guises and elaborate settings, masquerades created an exciting, yet controlled, sense of occasion and celebration. It is this that I wish to evoke in Masquerade.

The work derives its material from two melodies. For the main theme, I imagined a chorus welcoming the audience and inviting them into their imaginary world. The second theme, Juice of Barley, is an old English country dance melody and drinking song, which first appeared in John Playford’s 1695 edition of The English Dancing Master.

This piece is scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and strings.

 

Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33

Camille Saint-Saëns

  1. Paris, France / October 9, 1835; d. Algiers, Algeria / December 16, 1921

Cellists are grateful for Saint-Saëns’ superb contributions to their limited repertoire: two concertos, two sonatas with piano, a suite and a number of shorter works. He composed Concerto No. 1 in 1872. He dedicated it to the soloist who played the premiere: Auguste Tolbecque, Principal Cellist in the Orchestra of the Paris Conservatoire. Its attractions are not confined to appealing themes and an effortless response to the problem of ensuring that the low-voiced cello is never obscured by the orchestra. Another plus is an ingenious structure. Borrowing procedures originated by his friend and contemporary, Franz Liszt, Saint-Saëns telescoped the traditional three movements of a concerto into a continuous whole. He also based the first and last of them on the same thematic material. The urgent, dramatic book-ends are separated by a minuet‑like section that displays a refined, very French elegance and a playful sense of fantasy.

This piece is scored for solo cello, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.

 

Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Sergei Prokofiev

  1. Sontsovka, Ukraine / April 27, 1891; d. Moscow, Russia / March 5, 1953

In June 1944, Prokofiev took up residence at a vacation estate that the Union of Composers operated near Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow. Between summer and autumn, he created one of the most mature and serious works he had composed up to that time: Symphony No. 5.

“I attach great importance (to the symphony),” he wrote. “I thought of it as a work glorifying the human spirit. I wanted to sing of man free and happy, his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul. I cannot say that I chose this theme; it was innate in me and had to be expressed.”

He conducted the first performance himself, in Moscow on January 13, 1945. The symphony’s immediate popularity sprang from its representing precisely what Soviet audiences wanted: a hopeful vision of better times after six years of horrific conflict. It has maintained its reputation through its masterful balance of grandeur, powerful emotions and sparkling humor. In it Prokofiev may be heard to achieve the language – direct and approachable yet still individual – that would satisfy both himself and the conservative bureaucrats who regularly criticized his and other Soviet composers’ music.

The four movements alternate slow and fast tempos. The first generates an impression of optimism, rising to a climax of overwhelming heft and forcefulness. A bustling movement laced with typically biting Prokofiev light-heartedness follows. The dark, questioning third movement mirrors the matching section of Shostakovich’s Fifth, which since its debut in 1937 had been the model for Soviet symphonic tragedies. The finale opens in a mood of gentle musing, only to shift to an impudent, carnival-like atmosphere that sweeps the music along joyfully to the celebratory conclusion.

This piece is scored for 2 flutes, Piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, piano and strings.

 

Program Notes by Don Anderson © 2019