You Gotta Have Art (Subscription #1 2018-2019 Season)

PROGRAM NOTES FOR “YOU GOTTA HAVE ART” by Wojciech Milewski

 

Overture to The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini

Our first venture into the world of music and entertainment/art fusion is perhaps the most iconic and memorable opera in the modern age. You may not recognize the title(s), but Rossini’s Barber of Seville has certainly made its way to your ears before – either in the concert venue, or any of a number of iconic TV shows, cartoons, movies, or theater productions. Arguably the most famous adaptation of the this opera is the 1949 Looney Tunes cartoon entitled “The Rabbit of Seville.” The 1816 opera is based on Pierre Augustin Beaumarchais’ play trilogy of the same title. The second story in this trilogy served as the inspiration and basis for Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, written 30 years prior to Rossini’s Barber of Seville.  In fact, the opera contains many of the same main characters, and the two are certainly linked in terms of plot points. Coincidentally, both operas are arguably the two most famous and well-crafted comic operas ever to take the stage, even though they may not have started off that way. The premiere of Rossini’s Barber was a disaster – people hissed, booed, and even shouted over the cast and orchestra of musicians who were (truthfully) underprepared for such an undertaking. What didn’t help matters is the fact that in the audience were supporters of Giovanni Paisiello, who wrote a Barber of Seville just months prior to Rossini’s version. They were largely responsible for the upheaval at Rossini’s premiere, which caused the composer not to attend any of the other performances. What a shame, since following the premiere the piece enjoyed immense popularity almost overnight, and was performed, arranged, and used around the world. Not surprisingly, the music from this opera has been featured in countless different shows/movies that you may have seen, including: “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Space Jam,” the Animaniacs, Tiny Toon adventures, countless commercials including Honey Nut Cheerios (2000), the Ren & Stimpy show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, and many others.

Fun Fact: Originally, the role of young Rosina was written for contralto, the lowest female voice type, which was highly unusual for a leading character that was so young. However, given how rare that voice type is, usually the role is sung by mezzo-sopranos, and occasionally even true sopranos, giving it a much different sound and quality.

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:

– The son of a French horn player himself, Rossini always gave special melodies and phrases to the French horns. Do you hear that horn fanfare in the introduction shortly after the oboe melody? How about the prominent horn melody in the fast allegro – this agile writing was rare and unique, but we owe Rossini a lot with how much he influenced horn writing in his music.

– The orchestration we are using tonight is larger and bigger than the original. Tonight’s version was created by German editing houses and featured bigger orchestras to feature in their bigger venues, with bigger pits, and bigger capacities. They needed more sound and more colors to carry in their opera houses, so this is why you hear trombones, thicker textures in the woodwinds, and different articulations throughout the piece. Can you imagine what other instruments would play the trombone lines in the original?

 

“To Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X by Nobuo Uematsu

Video game soundtracks today feature some of the most unique and gorgeous music in the classical tradition. Furthermore, they are a leading source of music from Asian composers, featuring Japanese and Korean musical traditions. The Final Fantasy series is a perfect example of exactly this type of music. Composer Nobuo Uematsu is often referred to as “the Beethoven of video game music,” has appeared five times in the Classic FM Hall of Fame for his work on the Final Fantasy series, and has innovated classical music traditions through collaborations with the video game industry. His music is said to convey the true emotion of a scene, and his wide array of influences helps him shape each emotion accordingly. This is an incredibly Romantic-era idea, and often the reason he is referred to as the Beethoven and John Williams of the video game world. The music from Final Fantasy X received glowing reviews in different music circles around the world when it premiered in 2001, and featured influences ranging from Jean Sibelius, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and John Williams to the Beatles, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, and others. However, don’t be fooled – Uematasu himself has revealed that “rather than getting inspiration from listening to other music, I get inspiration while walking my dog.” What a Sibelius-like thing to say, and we certainly believe him as his music regarding nature and the outdoors carries an incredible fresh and honest quality. The piece “To Zanarkand” was originally written by Uematsu before the development of Final Fantasy X for the recital of a flautist friend, but was retracted by the composer who felt it was too gloomy. He held on to it for later use, and it became one of the musical centerpieces of Final Fantasy X. The opening credits feature the piece as we are shown a calm and gloomy setting, while the game itself features a rather ambient, melancholic message. Can you hear how Uematsu would have written this for solo flute prior to its existence as a video game piece? How about the melancholic nature of the music?

 

Künstlerleben (Artist’s Life) Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr.

What better way to go from melancholy to happy than with the music of Johann Strauss, Jr.

The Künstler-Leben (Artist’s Life) waltz was dedicated to the organizing committee of the ‘Hesperus’ ball at the Vienna Carnival of 1867, and paid homage to all those sculptors, painters, poets, authors, performers and musicians who had helped Vienna on its rise to global prominence. Tonight, we wish to carry on that dedication and present this waltz with the same intention! The Vienna Artists’ Association, ‘Hesperus,’ to which belonged numerous renowned actors, singers, members of the great Viennese orchestras and choral associations as well as the leading writers of the age and, not least, all three Strauss brothers, only existed for a short time. Founded in 1859, this strictly apolitical group soon secured its place in Austria’s musical life simply because Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss showered its annual ball festivities with plenty of delightful dance music. The Künstler-Leben occupies a central position in this group of compositions – it was sketched out in the late autumn of 1866, at about the same time as An der schönen blauen Donau, and even contemporaries regarded Künstler-Leben as the “distinguished” twin of the popular Donauwalzer (Danube Waltz). In fact, the Künstler-Leben  was premiered, with Strauss himself conducting, only three days after the Donauwalzer! At the time of the 1867 ‘Hesperus’ Ball, it had already become a tradition that dance compositions written especially for such events by the Strauss brothers would first be played in a concert performance, usually during the break, allowing the guests to listen attentively to the new work. Such pieces would be repeated later during the course of the ball, and only then would they be played for dancing. This held true for the Künstler-Leben as well, whose ingenious introduction belongs to the very best inspirations of its composer. What do you think Strauss is trying to convey in the melodies of the introduction?

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:

Similar in form to many of Strauss’ waltzes, including the “Blue Danube,” this is actually written in several parts. The slow Introduction is followed by a set of 5 mini-dances and sections, all different in key, character and orchestration. Each of these 5 are then presented in short form in the final coda, which presents the main themes of all the dances before a rousing finale. Can you hear all of the different sections and their own qualities? In particular, can you hear and feel the Ländler in number 3? The Ländler is a lively folk dance made popular in Austria and other central European countries around the end of the 18th century. It is often associated with yodeling, lively dancing and rustic instrumentation (clarinets, violins, horns, etc.).

 

Music from “Frozen” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, arr. Bob Krogstad

Our next venture into music and visual media takes us to the wonderful world of Disney, a company known for its iconic movies and music. Classical music and Disney really evolved from the operatic tradition, fusing beautiful imagery and storylines with first-class music. Over time, we have been graced with such features as its first global venture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), been introduced to the beautiful world of art and music in Fantasia (1940), and grown up with some of the most iconic titles ever to grace the big screen: Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Lion King, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Mulan, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo. Although Frozen is not its most recent mega-blockbuster, we have chosen to present 2013’s Frozen as our tribute to the arts collaborations put forth by Disney because of how much the soundtrack itself played an equally vital role in telling the story, in addition to the storyline, visual graphics, and dialogue itself. The movie is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.  It tells the story of a fearless princess who sets off on a journey alongside a rugged iceman, his loyal reindeer, and a naïve snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in eternal winter. With a star-studded cast in hand and a universal message of hope, the movie became the highest-grossing animated film of all time, the thirteenth highest-grossing film of all time, and won several Academy Awards, including Best Original Song for “Let it Go.” Tonight’s medley features some of the most memorable music from the movie, including: “Frozen Heart,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” “In Summer,” “Let It Go,” and “For the First Time in Forever.”

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:

In the movie, composer Christophe Beck pays homage to the Norway- and Sápmi-inspired setting by employing regional instruments, such as the bukkehorn, and also traditional vocal techniques, such as kulning. Although these will not (sadly) be on display tonight, one thing to listen for is the medley’s opening number “Frozen Heart,” which begins with anvil hits. Not coincidentally, this song of the icemen is also the first thing we hear and see in the movie, and immediately establishes the setting, winter season, and rustic roots of these tradesmen. Composer Christophe Beck uses several different modes and irregular accents to highlight the use of language in these traditional-style, Scandinavian work songs. The use of the anvil establishes this idea, and pays homage to Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” with its famous Anvil Chorus. Can you hear how modal and barren this all sounds?

 

Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, arr. Maurice Ravel

Our journey through the world of music and visual media tonight ends with Modest Mussorgsky’s grand Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussorgsky wrote the piece in honor of his close friend, artist Victor Hartmann, after he passed away at the young age of 39 due to an aneurysm. The two met thanks to influential Russian critic Vladimir Stasov, who followed both of their careers with interest, and the two bonded immediately over their devotion to the cause of growing Russian art. Following Hartmann’s death, an exhibition of more than 400 of his paintings/drawings/sketches was displayed in the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg in 1874. It was this very exhibition that led Mussorgsky to write a suite of 10 movements (originally for piano) to represent individual works he saw at Hartmann’s exhibition. Each of these has a very unique character that is represented in the music, which is why it instantly became a favorite piece for arrangers then to transform into music for different ensembles. Of the more than 100 arrangements to date of this suite, none is probably more famous than Maurice Ravel’s coloristic 1922 version. Commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky to re-work the piece, Ravel completely transformed each of the movements, particularly by changing dynamics in most of the movements, omitting some of the “Promenades” (walking music) between some of the movements, and giving unique timbres to different solo melodies in some of the movements. The result is by far the most famous arrangement of this piece, and it is the version we present tonight.

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:

The piece is arranged and written as if the listener were walking from painting to painting. To do so, Mussorgsky writes “Promenade” music, or “walking” music, in between many of the movements literally to show the listener walking to/from each painting. These are all different and often times have different orchestrations, colors and instruments based on the painting we just came from or the one we are going to next. Pay attention to each of these Promenades (the first one begins with the trumpet solo right at the start of the piece) to get an idea of the character of each piece.  Apart from these, here are some brief descriptions of each of the other movements as to how they relate to Hartmann’s own works:

  1. 1 – GNOMUS (The Gnome)

Stasov’s comment: “A sketch depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs.”

Hartmann’s sketch, now lost, is thought to represent a design for a nutcracker displaying large teeth. The lurching music, in contrasting tempos with frequent stops and starts, suggests the movements of the gnome.

  1. 2 – IL VECCHIO CASTELLO (The Old Castle)

This movement is thought to be based on a watercolor depiction of an Italian castle, and is portrayed in Ravel’s orchestration by an alto saxophone solo! Hartmann often placed appropriate human figures in his architectural renderings to suggest scale. It depicts a troubadour’s song in front of a medieval castle, and is in the form of an Italian dance known as the “Tarantella.”

  1. 3 – TUILERIES (Children’s Quarrel After Games)

Stasov’s comment: “An avenue in the garden of the Tuileries, with a swarm of children and nurses.”

Hartmann’s picture of the Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre in Paris (France) is now lost. Figures of children quarrelling and playing in the garden were likely added by the artist for scale (see note on No. 2 above).

  1. 4 – BYDŁO (Cattle)

Stasov’s comment: “A Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen.”

The movement is cast in through-composed ternary form (ABA) with coda. Mussorgsky’s original piano version of this movement begins fortissimo (ff), suggesting that the lumbering oxcart’s journey begins in the listener’s foreground. After reaching a climax (con tutta forza) the dynamic marking is abruptly piano (bar 47), followed by a diminuendo to a final pianississimo (ppp), suggesting the oxcart receding into the distance. Rimsky-Korsakov’s edition, and arrangements based on it, such as Ravel’s, begin quietly, build gradually (crescendo) to fortissimo, and then undergo a diminuendo, suggesting the oxcart approaching, passing the listener, and then receding. The solo here is played by a euphonium!

  1. 5 – BALLET OF UNHATCHED CHICKS

Stasov’s comment: “Hartmann’s design for the décor of a picturesque scene in the ballet Trilby.”

Gerald Abraham provides the following details: “Trilby or The Demon of the Heath, a ballet with choreography by Petipa, music by Julius Gerber, and décor by Hartmann, based on Charles Nodier‘s Trilby, or The Elf of Argyle, was produced at the Bolshoi TheatrePetersburg, in 1871. The fledglings were canary chicks.”

The Unhatched chicks

The Unhatched Chicks. The exhibition catalogue described the sketch: “Canary chicks, enclosed in eggs as in suits of armor. Instead of headdress, canary heads put on like helmets down to the neck.”

  1. 6 – SAMUEL GOLDENBERG AND SCHMUYLE

Stasov’s comment: “Two Jews: rich and poor” (Russian: Два еврея: богатый и бедный)

Stasov’s explanatory title elucidates the personal names used in Mussorgsky’s original manuscript. Published versions display various combinations, such as “Two Polish Jews, Rich and Poor (Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle)”. The movement is thought to be based on two separate extant portraits.

The use of augmented second intervals approximates Jewish modes such as the Phrygian dominant scale. The movement is in ternary form A – B – A+B:

Andante, grave energico (Theme 1 “Samuel Goldenberg”)

Andantino (Theme 2 “Schmuÿle”)

Andante, grave energico (Themes 1 and 2 in counterpoint)

Coda

The Rich JewThe Poor Jew

The Rich Jew                                                                                        The Poor Jew

 

  1. 7 – LIMOGES

Stasov’s comment: “French women quarrelling violently in the market.”

Limoges is a city in central France. Mussorgsky originally provided two paragraphs in French that described a marketplace discussion (the ‘great news’), but subsequently crossed them out in the manuscript.

The movement is a scherzo in through-composed ternary form (ABA). A scurrying coda leads without a break into the next movement.

  1. 8 – CATACOMBES

Stasov’s comment: “Hartmann represented himself examining the Paris catacombs by the light of a lantern.”

The movement is in two distinct parts. Its two sections consist of a nearly static Largo consisting of a sequence of block chords, with elegiac lines adding a touch of melancholy, and a more flowing, gloomy Andante that introduces the Promenade theme into the scene.

The first section’s alternating loud and soft chords evoke the grandeur, stillness, and echo of the catacombs. The second section suggests a merging of observer and scene as the observer descends into the catacombs. Mussorgsky’s manuscript of “Catacombs” displays two penciled notes, in Russian: “NB – Latin text: With the dead in a dead language” and, along the right margin, “Well may it be in Latin! The creative spirit of the dead Hartmann leads me towards the skulls, invokes them; the skulls begin to glow softly.”

Victor Hartmann, Vasily Kennel and a guide holding the lantern in the catacombs

Victor Hartmann, Vasily Kennel and a guide holding the lantern in the catacombs

 

  1. 9 – BABA YAGA (The Hut on Hen’s Legs)

Stasov’s comment: “Hartmann’s drawing depicted a clock in the form of Baba Yaga‘s hut on fowl’s legs. Mussorgsky added the witch’s flight in a mortar.”

This movement is based on the story of the Baba Yaga, or witch. In Eastern European folklore, the Baba Yaga lived in the woods and served as a warning and caution to children when told to children at a young age to stay out of the woods if they wanted to go by themselves. Musically, it is a scherzo Feroce with a slower middle section. Motives in this movement evoke the bells of a large clock and the whirlwind sounds of a chase. Structurally the movement mirrors the grotesque qualities of “Gnomus” on a grand scale.

The movement is cast in ternary form (ABA):

Allegro con brio, feroce

Andante mosso

Allegro molto (a nearly literal repeat)

Coda

The coda leads without a break into the final movement of the suite.

The Hut on Hen's Legs

The Hut on Hen’s Legs

 

  1. 10 – THE BOGATYR GATES (The Great Gates of Kiev)

Stasov’s comment: “Hartmann’s sketch was his design for city gates at Kiev in the ancient Russian massive style with a cupola shaped like a slavonic helmet.”

Bogatyrs are heroes that appear in Russian epics called bylinas. The title of this movement is commonly translated as “The Great Gate of Kiev” and sometimes as “The Heroes’ Gate at Kiev”.

Hartmann designed a monumental gate for Tsar Alexander II to commemorate the monarch’s narrow escape from an assassination attempt on April 4, 1866. Hartmann regarded his design as the best work he had done. His design won the national competition but plans to build the structure were later cancelled.

The movement’s grand main theme exalts the opening Promenade much as “Baba Yaga” amplified “Gnomus;” also like that movement it evens out the meter of its earlier counterpart. The solemn secondary theme is based on a baptismal hymn from the repertory of Russian Orthodox chant.

The movement is cast as a broad rondo in two main sections: ABAB–CADA. The first half of the movement sets up the expectation of an ABABA pattern. The interruption of this pattern with new music just before its expected conclusion gives the rest of the movement the feeling of a vast extension. This extended leave-taking acts as a coda for the suite as a whole.

A Main Theme (forte, then fortissimo); tempo Maestoso

B Hymn Theme (piano) (A♭ minor); senza espressione – without expression

A Main Theme (forte); descending and ascending scale figures suggest carillons

B Hymn Theme (fortissimo) (E♭ minor); senza espressione

C Interlude/Transition (mezzo forte with crescendo to forte); Promenade theme recalled. Suggestions of clockwork, bells, ascent.

A Main Theme (fortissimo); tempo Meno mosso, sempre maestoso. Triplet figuration.

D Interlude/Transition (mezzo forte with crescendo). Triplets.

A Main Theme (fortissimo); tempo Grave, sempre allargando. The tempo slows to a standstill by the final cadence.