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Michiana Symphony Orchestra
February 1, 1992

Albrechtsberger: Concerto for Alto Trombone and Strings | Schubert: Tragic Symphony

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809)
Concerto for Alto Trombone and Strings

Finale:  Allegro Moderato
Allegro Moderato

Vienna -- home of the giants of classicism:  Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven also fostered the last of the great classicists, Franz Schubert and others such as Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Vienna -- place of great opera performances, where private concerts sponsored by the wealthy were often opened to the general public, here the formation of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music) caused regular concerts to be organized. Vienna -- where artists, writers and musicians gathered in the coffee housed exchanging ideas, philosophy, life in general. Tonight's concert features two works of this epoch -- Viennese classicism.

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, born in 1736 in the village of Klosterneuburg near Vienna, spent his early years as a choir boy and organist in the various monasteries of this native town, Gyor in Hungary, Maria-Taferl in Lower Austria, and at the Abbey of Melk. It was at Melk that the Emperor Joseph II took notice of him and invited him to apply for the position of court organist in Vienna at the first vacancy.  He achieved this imperial appointment in 1772, with the additional position of assistant to the Kapellmeister of St. Stephen's Cathedral added in 1791 (a position arranged by his friend and predecessor, Mozart).  In 1793 he became Kapellmeister, a position considered the highest that a church musician could attain in the empire, retaining it until his death in 1809. During his tenure as Kapellmeister, Albrechtsberger earned the reputation of being "perhaps the greatest organist in the world,"  and was a much sought-after teacher. Mozart considered his playing "the standard by which other organists were to be measured." Haydn regarded him as "the best teacher of composition among all present-day Viennese master" and sent Beethoven to study with him.

Although primarily remembered today as Beethoven's teacher, and in his own time as a great organist, Albrechtsberger's more than 700 compositions including 284 church compositions, 278 keyboard works, and 193 pieces for other instruments must not be overlooked. Among his orchestral works are found concerti for harp, unspecified keyboard instrument, jew's harp, and trombone.

The Concerto for Trombone and Strings, (1759), gives an unusually virtuosic role to an instrument most frequently assigned to religious, supernatural, or royal roles in the classical orchestra. Albrechtsberger's concerto was written for alto with the slow movement in the subdominant key. The cadenzas heard in the first and second movements are found in the original manuscript.

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Franz Schubert
Symphony No. 4 in c minor, "Tragic"

Allegro Vivace
Adagio Molto:   Allegro Vivace

Of all the great classical Viennese musicians, Franz Schubert was the only one to have actually been born in Vienna -- in the district of Himmelpfortgrund (The Gates of Heaven) on January 31, 1797. His father, a schoolmaster, was also a musician. Encouraging performance of chamber music in the home, he gave the young Franz his first violin instruction, while the eldest son Ignaz taught him piano. Franz soon learned everything his father and brother could offer, so he was sent to the tutelage of the parish choirmaster -- organist Michael Holzer, who had been a student of Albrechtsberger. Holzer later said of his pupil's ability:  "If I wished to instruct him in anything fresh, he already knew it. Consequently I gave him no actual tuition, but merely conversed with him and watched him with silent astonishment."

When he was eleven, Schubert auditioned for and won a place in the imperial Kapelle as a chorister. In exchange for providing music for services of the royal chapel, members were given some of the finest education Vienna had to offer in general subjects as well as music. Students of the Stadtkonvikt boarding school enjoyed advantages such as visits to the opera and theater. During this period, Schubert used every spare moment for composition.

Today Schubert is perhaps best remembered for his vast output of masterful songs -- indeed much of what was published during his short life was lieder. His main concern, however, was for the symphony, in which he was determined to make his mark. He received invaluable exposure to the great symphonic literature while performing in the Stadtkonvikt student orchestra. Every evening following dinner, the orchestra read an overture and a symphony. The inspiration of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and others through this early regular exposure to the symphonic medium certainly caused him to feel at home with the genre much sooner in his career than was the case with other symphonists.

In 1816 at the age of 19, Schubert had completed his Symphony No. 4 in C Minor. The piece is set for the traditional Viennese classic orchestra, being scored for strings, pairs of winds, and timpani. The subtitle Tragic has elicited the speculation of many commentators as to the real meaning of this in connection to the work. The symphony is the composer's first to be set in a minor key, and it does have a  somber opening setting a serious mood, but it continually exhibits the unmistakable spirit of Schubert's gift for beauty and profusion of melody. His youthful exuberance and Viennese nature contribute to the personal musical landscape inspiring Dvorak to write of the symphonies "the more I study them, the more I marvel."

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 Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 1992.
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