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Masterworks Concert
March 3, 1995
Kodály: Budavári Te Deum | Mendelssohn: Reformation Symphony

Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967)
Budavári Te Deum
One of the earliest of Christian hymns Te Deum laudamus (We praise Thee, O God), has been an important part of liturgy for centuries. Composers have also used this text to set large-scale compositions for the commemoration of such occasions as coronations or celebrations of victory in battle. Kodaly's 1936 Budavari Te Deum was commissioned by civic authorities for the 250th anniversary of the liberation of Budapest from the Turks in 1686. It was first performed in the Matthias Church within the Buda Castle for the 1936 festivities. The work is a masterpiece of synthesis. Although quoting no folk songs directly, it exudes the spirit of Hungarian folk music through extensive use of the interval of the fourth and folk rhythms. Other elements that the composer uses include: Gregorian chant, choral polyphony, whole tone and modal writing and text illumination. By combining the great traditions of European choral music with those of Hungarian folk idioms, the Te Deum represents Kodaly's aim of a fusion of the spirit of Hungary with that of the rest of Europe. The piece is scored for a quartet of soloists, chorus, and full orchestra. From the opening trumpet fanfare to the soaring soprano solo at the end, listen for the tremendous drama of this work.
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Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Symphony No. 5 in D Major ("Reformation")

Andante -- Allegro con fuoco -- Andante como primo-- Meno Allegro come primo
Allegro vivace
Choral:  Ein' fest Burg ist unser Gott
Andante con moto -- Allegro vivace -- Allegro maestoso

There is no question that music played an important part in the he Protestant Reformation Germany. Today celebrations of the Reformation are frequently accompanied by Luther's hymn Ein' fest Burg ist unser Gott (often called battle hymn of the Reformation).

The idea to compose a symphony in honor of  the tercentenary celebration of the Augsburg Confession (1530), one of the most important documents of the Reformation, came to Mendelssohn while he was in England during the fall of 1829. The symphony was completed during that winter; its first performance, which the composer conducted was in Berlin, November 15, 1832. At its first performance it was entitled Symphony for the Celebration of a Religious Revolution; the title Reformation became associated with the work later. The work received few performances during the composer's lifetime and was evidently laid aside, as it wasn't published until 1868, posthumously.

Of the symphony's four movements, the first and last allude to Lutheran themes. The work opens with a slow solemn introduction closing with pianissimo strings intoning the Dresden Amen (taken from the 18th century Luthern liturgy used in Saxony). The ensuing allegro con fuoco is dominated by a bold powerful theme. Following the development section, the recapitulation is signalled by the reappearance of the Dresden Amen.

The second movement engages in turn the woodwinds, strings, then full orchestra in a tuneful, playful scherzo. The trio featuares a lilting oboe line.

The short contemplative andante, a song without words for strings, serves as a prelude for the finale -- fantasia on Luther's hymn Ein' feste Burg. Simply introduced by a single flute, then woodwind chorus, the chorale leads into new material in sonata form. Phrases of the chorale reappear in the development, growing in strength in the recapitulation, with the coda a majestic statement of the hymn for full orchestra.
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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 1995.
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Program notes home Alphabetical Index of Composers Chronological Index of Concerts