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Newbold Summer Music Festival
July 1992
Haydn: La Passione Symphony | Ives: The Unanswered Question |
Martinu: Sinfonia concertante | Copland: Appalachian Spring

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 49 in f minor (La Passione)

Allegro di molto
Finale: Presto
Since their 18th century origins, symphonies have been performed for a wide variety of events, formal and informal, social and liturgical. Haydn's contribution to and development of the genre is seen through his 106 symphonies. Although some of these were written for formal concerts in major cities such as London and Paris, most of his symphonies were written for the rural setting of the Esterházy court, where he was employed for much of his life.

Composed in 1768, Symphony No. 49 in f minor "La Passione" was possibly composed for performance on Good Friday at the Esterháza residence, Eisenstadt Castle. In contrast to the elegant sonata-allegro form typical of Haydn's entertainment symphonies, this work is constructed in the old sonata da chiesa style--the Italian church sonata form which begins with a slow movement. The opening Adagio gives the effect of pilgrims in a procession before the cross. Except for the Minuet which is in F Major, the other movements keep to the sombre mood of f minor.

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Charles Ives (1874-1954)
The Unanswered Question

Charles Ives has been claimed both as the first distinctively American composer and as the first great composer to emerge from the United States.  However, it is difficult to separate the originality of his music from the effort that it has taken to bring it to a public.  He must have been one of the most isolated composers in the history of music--his music having received recognition only after he had reached the age of 70, nearly twenty years after he had stopped composing.  The composer's reputation had finally reached its height by the time of the Ives centennial in 1974 and the American bicentennial in 1976, and his concerns were being addressed by composers all over the world.

The Unanswered Question and Central Park In The Dark of 1906 were designed as a pair: (1) "A Contemplation of a Serious Matter" or "The Unanswered Perennial Question"; and (2) "A Contemplation of Nothing Serious" or "Central Park in the Dark in 'The Good Ole Summer Time.'"

The Unanswered Question is scored or solo winds and a "distant choir" of strings.  The composer describes the piece:

The strings play ppp throughout, with no change of tempo.  They are to represent "The Silences of the Druids" who speak, see, and hear nothing.  The oboe intones "The Perennial Question of Existence" and states it in the same tone of voice each time.  But the hunt for the "Invisible Answer" undertaken by the wind choir and other human beings becomes gradually more active, faster and louder through an animando to a con fuoco. The "Fighting Anwerers," as time goes on, seem to realize a futility, and begin to mock "The Question"--the strife is over for the moment.  After they disappear, "The Question"--the strife is over for the moment.  After they disappear, "The Question" is asked again for the last time, and the "Silences" are heard beyond in undisturbed solitude . . .
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Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)
Sinfonia concertante

Allegro (non troppo)
Andante moderato
Poco allegro

One of the most prolific composers of this century, Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu acknowledged Moravian folksong, Italian concerto grosso, Elizabethan madrigals, and French music, particularly Debussy, to be the primary influences on the development of his style.  Exuberance, driving rhythms, and tunefulness are some of the most noticeable characteristics of his music.

The Sinfonia concertante was inspired by Haydn's Sinfonia concertante of 1792 and written for the same combination of instruments--violin, oboe, bassoon, cello, and orchestra.  Martinu had heard Haydn's work in Paris in 1930 and spent the next several years looking for the score.  He began work on his own Sinfonia concertante early in 1948.  It was premièred in Basel, 8 December 1950.  The three movements of this engaging work display clarity, contrasts of instrumental textures, and sunny warmth.

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Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Appalachian Spring Suite

Appalachian Spring, subtitled "Ballet for Martha," was composed in 1943-44 for Martha Graham on a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation.  The first performance was given in 1944 by Graham and company with a 13-piece instrumental ensemble at the Coolidge Festival in the Library of Congress.  The success of the score encouraged Copland to create a suite for full orchestra, omitting only a few passages that he felt were of interest only when choreographed.  The version heard tonight is the suite, but scored for the original chamber ensemble of thirteen instruments (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, 9 strings--authorized by the composer to expand up to 26 strings at the conductor's discretion).

The action of the ballet and the music evoke the spirit of the American experience--optimism, courage, energy, vigor.  According to explanatory notes given in the score the ballet is "a pioneer celebration in spring around a newly-built farmhouse in the Pennsylvania hills in the early part of the last century.  The bride-to-be and the young farmer-husband enact the emotions, joyful and apprehensive, their new domestic partnership invites.  An older neighbor suggests now and then the rocky confidence of experience.  A revivalist and his followers remind the new householders of the strange and terrible aspects of human fate.  At the end, the couple are left quiet and strong in their new house."

Copland has described the various sections of the suite:

  1. Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.
  2. Fast.  Sudden burst of unison strings in A major arpeggios starts the action. A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to his scene.
  3. Moderate. Duo for the Bride and her Intended--scene of tenderness and passion.
  4. Quite fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feeling--suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.
  5. Still faster. Solo dance of the Bride--presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.
  6. Very slowly (as at first). Transition scene to music reminiscent of the introduction.
  7. Calm and flowing. Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme. The theme, sung by a solo clarinet, was taken from a collection of Shaker melodies compiles by Edward D. Andrews, and published under the title "The Gift to Be Simple." The melody I borrowed and used almost literally, is called "Simple Gifts."
  8. Moderate. Coda. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. At the end the couple are left "quiet and strong in their new house." Muted strings intone a hushed, prayerlike passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening music."

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    Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 1992.
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