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Michiana Symphony Orchestra Concert
February 24, 1991
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun | Kreisler: Preludio e Allegro |
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 | Mozart: Symphony No. 35

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Prélude á l'après-midi d'un faune
Prélude á l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), one of only five works Debussy composed for orchestra, stands as a landmark of orchestral composition of the 20th century. Appealing to the senses, Debussy evokes a dreamlike feeling for the atmosphere and mood of Stéphane Mallarmé's pastoral eclogue, L'Après-midi d'un faune, through a palette of sonic colors and textures. Intended to be performed as incidental music to accompany the reading or dramatic presentation of the poem, the mood is set with a solo flute representing the dream of the faun. Debussy described the piece: "It is really a sequence of mood painting, throughout which the desires and dreams of the faun move in the heat of the afternoon."  Mallarmé, for his part, was delighted with the musical expression of his poem.

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Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Preludio e Allegro in the style of Pugnani
for violin and orchestra

Celebrated violinist Fritz Kreisler learned by hard experience that public and critics alike would be loathe to accept concert music composed by "just a violinist." Therefore, for many years he loosely credited a dozen of his most popular pieces to various 17th and 18th century composers. At times he made attempts to set the record straight, but with little success. He certainly must have thought that he had been caught by composer Vincent d'Indy when, during a 1923 recital, his friend shook an accusing finger at him during a performance of Preludio e Allegro, allegedly by Pugnani.  After the concert, however, d'Indy merely chastised the violinist for his fast tempo, asserting that "Pugnani would not have played the allegro in that tempo."

By 1934 the twelve "Classic Manuscripts" had become firmly established in the violin repertoire. Kreisler, feeling it high time to come clean, requested that his American publisher, Carl Fischer, Inc., list the pieces as his own in their new catalog. Co-incidentally, Olin Downes, chief music critic of the New York Times, discovered the truth (willingly confirmed by Kreisler). The 1935 announcement of the "hoax" to the world unleased one of the classic furors of the century between musician and critics. But to musicians, music lovers, and critics alike, the enduring popularity of Kreisler's "transcriptions" is the last laugh.

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Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Op. 22

Andante sostenuto

Piano Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Op. 22, the second and most popular of Camille Saint-Saëns' five piano concertos, was written in great haste -- 17 days. In fact, the premiere given with Saint-Saëns as soloist was less than a great success. By the composer's own admission, he hadn't had enough time to learn it. The work nonetheless remains the most frequently performed of his concertos.

Saint-Saëns, known more for his loyalty to the classic spirit than to innovation, introduces the concerto with a solo piano passage in the spirit of a Bach keyboard Fantasia. The first movement features virtuosic fireworks for the piano and concludes with a restatement of the opening orchestral theme.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 35 in D Major, KV 385 "Haffner"

Allegro con spirito

Mozart's festive Symphony No. 35 in D Major grew out of a request for a new Serenade for a gala occasion to be held at the mansion of Salzburg's Burgomaster Sigmund Haffner. Living in Vienna and extremely involved in other projects, Mozart didn't have time for a new undertaking. But, perhaps because a previously commissioned work for a Haffner family wedding had yielded good pay, he told his father Leopold (still living in Salzburg) that he would try to comply and send something by every post. The Serenade was written in a period of about two weeks and sent piece by piece as promised. When the score was returned to Mozart six months later he wrote Leopold, "The new Haffner symphony has quite astonished me, for I did not remember a note of it. It must have been very effective."

It was and is effective, especially after Mozart recast it as the four-movement symphony we know today.  The music has a charm and a simplicity that has made it a concert favorite. An unusual feature of the joyous first movement is Mozart's use of a single theme throughout -- but varied with such skill that one doesn't even miss a customary second theme. The pastorale flavor of the slow movement exhibits characteristics of the typical Mozart serenade. The Menuetto is thoroughly Austrian Rococo with a Ländler-like trio. Ending the piece with a flourish, Mozart directed that the final rondo movement should be played as fast as possible.

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 1991.
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Program notes home Alphabetical Index of Composers Chronological Index of Concerts