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Andrews University Symphony Orchestra
Ravel Mother Goose
October 15, 2011

Corelli: Three Dances for Strings | Haydn: Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in C Major |
Mozart: Symphony No.29 in A Major | Ravel: Mother Goose Suite

Arcangelo Correlli (1653-1713)
Three Dances for Strings

I. Sarabanda
II. Giga
III Bandinerie

While Italian violinist and composer Archangelo Corelli’s published output of music was relatively small, (particularly for chamber orchestra), his works have been respected and loved by musicians and audiences alike, either in their original form, through transcriptions, or by inspiring other completely different works. Corelli’s Twelve Sonatas, Opus 5, were written for violin and basso continuo (bass instrument and keyboard or lute). This opus was presented in two sections: 1-6 Sonate da chiesa (church sonatas beginning with a slow movement) and 7-12 Sonate da camera (chamber sonatas made up primarily of stylized dances). The practice of arranging Corelli’s works for other performing mediums, particularly Opus 5, was begun by his own student, Geminiani. Having moved to England, violin virtuoso Francesco Geminiani found his master’s works all the rage, so he reworked all of Opus 5 as Concerti grossi (published in 1726-29). Others who have arranged portions of Opus 5 for string orchestra include 20th century conductors Sir John Barbirolli and Leopold Stokowski.

The suite, Three Dances, heard tonight appears to have been assembled and arranged for string orchestra by the Spanish composer Enrique Fernandez Arbos. All three movements are dance movements taken from Corelli’s Opus 5 Sonate da camera: the Sarabanda from No. 7 and the Giga from No. 9. The thematic material of the final movement was originally a Gavotta from No. 11, but the reworking, including such features as dramatic increase in tempo to vivace and use of most un-Corelli like pizzicatos required a name change–Badinerie–indicating the playful bantering mood to which the piece has been transformed.

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F.J. Haydn (1732-1809)
Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in C Major

I. Allegro spiritoso
II. Andante
III. Rondo

What we cannot discuss about the Oboe Concerto is its genesis or direct circumstances of composition as both remain mysterious, although we can pursue some clues. How did it come to be attributed to Haydn? Hoboken included it in his catalogue of Haydn’s works on the scant “evidence” that Haydn’s name was written over a faded inscription on a manuscript of the concerto–after Haydn’s death. For stylistic reasons (or wishful thinking) some maintain that this is an early Haydn work; others attribute it to being the lost Beethoven oboe concerto. Other clues of possible parentage can be drawn from the group of traveling oboe players of this era who wrote concerted works for themselves and took them on tour. One such virtuoso, Ignaz Malzat, may have been the composer of this work, but some enterprising person may have determined that the work would hold more importance if Haydn’s name was attached. Whoever the creator was, oboists and audiences alike are grateful for the existence of this delightful concerto of the classical era.

An extended orchestral introduction begins with flourishes in a grand festive spirit. The oboe’s entrance contributes a lyrical feel to the movement which proceeds in typical classical format. The second movement brings a peaceful air, giving great credence to the pastorale role that the oboe is often called upon to portray while restrained orchestral accompaniment provides the background. In the spirit of a rondo, the Finale, is carried through a series of variations, punctuated by numerous cadenzas and ornamentation for the soloist, and spirited commentary from the orchestra.

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W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 29 in A Major

I. Allegro moderato
II. Andante
III. Menuetto
IV. Allegro con Spirito

It is well known that the young Mozart children were paraded around the capitals of Europe as child prodigies by their father, Leopold. In fact during Wolfgang’s first sixteen years, the family spent seven of them away from home. During those extended travels to Vienna, Paris, Italy, Germany, England and other destinations, the prodigy astounded the musical world with his performances. These journeys served to give him unprecedented access to concerts, the world’s great composers, and the latest musical developments. These opportunities would not have been possible had he stayed in provincial Salzburg. We cannot know how Wolfgang’s extraordinary talent would have developed without this outside stimulus, but we do know that with it he had tools and inspiration to assimilate the various styles of the time. The young composer found his own voice by balancing lucidity and complexity in his music presenting it with elegance, sophistication and sheer beauty. He composed his first symphony in London at the age of eight. Ten years later, in 1763, back in Salzburg following his last of three trips to Italy and a visit to Vienna where he heard Haydn’s latest symphonies, the eighteen-year-old embarked on composing a group of nine symphonies. This group marked a turning point where Mozart, once and for all seems to have settled his ambivalence between Germanic and Italian forms and turned his attention to Viennese tradition while fusing it with Italian elements. Of this group of symphonies, the Symphony in A Major, K. 201 (1764) is the crowning glory of his last years in Salzburg, and indeed of the early part of his too-short life. The work remains a favorite with audiences and is the earliest of the composer’s symphonies to be regularly included in major orchestras’ standard repertoire.

Scored for a light orchestra, pairs of oboes and horns, and strings, the four-movement work is characterized by a fusion of symphonic and chamber styles. The charming first movement theme is carried by the upper string part, supported by the lower strings with occasional comments from the winds. The movement is extended with a coda–a practice that became common in Mozart’s works. The graceful Andante is presented with muted strings, full of imitative figures. In the coda the winds announce a brief procession, the mutes come off the strings, and the movement is brought to its conclusion. Dotted motives dominate the Menuetto with a cantabile trio section. The Finale, a fitting conclusion to this masterpiece, sports a spirited transformation of the first movement theme, along with exuberant string scale passages and horn fanfare near the end.

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Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Mother Goose Suite: Five Pieces for Children

I. Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty
II.Little Thumb
III. Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas
IV. Conversations of Beauty and the Beast
V. The Fairy Garden

Il était une fois. . . . (Once upon a time)–it is with this phrase that Maurice Ravel traveled with his friends' children Jean and Mimie Godebska to places long ago and far away, reading fairy tales and looking at the pictures in the books. He was also fond of bringing them new toys, particularly those from afar such as a small boat with small Japanese figures, or a miniature oriental garden. It was for Mimie and Jean that Ravel composed his suite Ma Mère l'Oye (Mother Goose) based on some of their favorite fairy tales: Sleeping Beauty & Little Thumb by Charles Perrault, The Green Serpent by Madame Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy, and Beauty and the Beast by Madame Leprince de Beaumont.

The composer wrote the suite in 1908 for piano duet with the hope that the Godebska children would enjoy it and give the first public presentation. The childrens' fear of performance prevented this, so the premiere was given by two other children, Jeanne Leleu, aged eleven, and Geneviève Durony, aged fourteen, at a concert in 1910. Ravel made two other versions of this suite–the orchestration that we hear tonight–and in 1911, a little ballet focusing on the Sleeping Beauty story. Each of the tableaux of the suite is a small miniature, exquisite in form, orchestral color, and tone painting. Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant (Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty) is given an antique feel through the use of the form of an ancient dance, the pavane in the aeolian mode. The influence of Erik Satie's Gymnopedies can be heard in the underlying repetitive structure. In Petit Poucent (Little Thumb), the desolation of the lost boy and his brothers is illustrated by the irregular rhythm of the opening string passages. Motives played by winds and strings depict night animals and the birds who eat the crumbs. Ravel's love of exotic sounds is exhibited in Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes (Laideronnette: Empress of the Pagodas) through the use of the pentatonic scale and a brilliant palate of colors–various winds, celesta, harp, xylophone, and gong. Satie's influence returns again as the Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête (Conversation of Beauty and the Beast) takes place against the background of a gentle waltz. Beauty is represented by a lovely clarinet solo, beast by the contrabassoon, and the moment of transformation is marked by a glissando on the harp and a solo violin recitative. No specific story is given for the epilogue, Le jardin féerique (The Fairy Garden), but the piece paints a delicate water color, evoking a growing sense of peace, and a beautiful place for happy ever-afters.

Script narration for Mother Goose Suite

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2011.
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