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Andrews University Symphony Orchestra
May 5, 2001
From the New World

Bird: Suite in D Major for Ten Winds | Duruflé: Requiem, Op. 9 |
Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 in e minor, Op. 95 "From the New World"

Arthur Bird (1856-1923)
Suite in D Major for Ten Winds

Allegro con fuoco

Arthur Bird was born in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1856. After receiving his early musical training from his father and uncle, he was sent to study in Germany at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik in 1875. Returning to North America two years later, he took a church music position at St. Matthews Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia where he began to compose. He returned to Berlin in 1881 to study composition and orchestration.  Except for brief visits to his homeland, Bird spent the rest of his life abroad. Perhaps this, and the fact that most of his works were published in Europe with French and German titles, accounts for the fact that he has never been well-known here. Bird became a close friend and disciple of Franz Liszt. The master supported him by conducting his Carneval Szene, Op. 5 and giving him encouragement when the critics attacked the work’s unusual aspects. By 1886, Bird was well established as a pianist and a composer; his melodious, well-crafted compositions were being published and performed widely. Following his 1888 marriage to Wilhelmine Waldman (who happened to be a widow of means), the rapid pace of his compositional output slowed dramatically. The couple devoted most of their time to entertaining the musical circles of Berlin in their lavish homes (an opulent mansion and a downtown apartment). Taxes and inflation of post World War I Germany caused the Birds to have to give up their mansion, and take income producing positions. Mrs. Bird, noted for her culinary and needlework expertise, presided over the women’s page of a leading newspaper.  As a foreign correspondent, the composer contributed articles to various American musical publications, including: the Musical Leader, Etude, and The Musician. The Boston Herald critic wrote in 1907: “It is a pity that Mr. Bird has taken life so easily of late years. He was a composer of true promise and his critical articles published in sundry musical periodicals show him to be a man of much acumen and fastidious taste.”

The Suite in D, Op. 29 (1889) was commissioned by the French flutist Claude Paul Taffanel and his Paris woodwind ensemble, “La Société de Musique de Chambre pour Instruments a vent.” The piece is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, and 2 bassoons. Although all the instruments have their turn at beautiful melodies listen especially for the virtuosic demands made of the flute as the AUSO winds play the spritely final movement of this suite.

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Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)
Requiem, Op.9

Domine Jesu Christe
Pie Jesu
Agnus Dei
Lux aeterna
Libera me
In Paradisum

One of the most beautiful, expressive liturgies of the Roman rite, the Requiem (Rest eternal) draws from ancient Jewish prayers for the dead, as well as from burial services of the early Christian church. Scriptures associated with the Mass for the Dead include: “Behold I tell you a mystery: we shall indeed rise again, but we shall all be changed ... at the last trumpet... Death is swallowed up in victory... thanks be to God... (I Corinthians 15: 51-57).  “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth. Yea, says the Spirit, let them rest from their labors, for their works shall follow them.” (Revelation 14:13). The various texts that are included in the Requiem Mass and Burial Service were under development for centuries until the present arrangement was formalized by order of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). However, over the centuries composers have chosen various portions of the liturgy to set to music depending on their personal purposes musically, theologically, and philosophically.

Maurice Duruflé, a life-long church organist, chose to set his Requiem, Op. 9 as a liturgical piece rather than primarily for the concert hall as many others have done. The composer had been working on a set of organ pieces based on the plainsong themes of the Mass for the Dead when a commission came from his publisher, Durand, to publish a Requiem. He used these pieces as a basis for the work, which was dedicated to the memory of his father.  Completed in 1947, the piece avoids the flamboyance and extreme dramatics of the concert works of Berlioz and Verdi, instead focusing on rest, peace, and consolation both in the chosen texts, and musical style. The Gregorian chants are the fount from which the melodies flow, the harmonies colors coming from his French tradition and the influence of compatriots, Ravel, Debussy, and Dukas, provide the clothing.  Ever the practical church musician, Duruflé created three different versions of the accompaniment of the work for two soloists and chorus: one for full orchestra and organ, one for organ alone, and his preferred version for organ and strings with optional timpani, harp, and trumpets. (Tonight the option used is: organ, strings, and timpani). The composer considered the organ as adding a “touch of eternity” to the orchestral sound.  He wrote of the work:

My Requiem is composed throughout upon the Gregorian themes of the Mass for the Dead.  Sometimes the text is completely respected, the orchestral part intervening only to support or comment upon it; sometimes I am simply inspired by it, or completely removed from it, for example, in certain developments suggested by the Latin text, particularly in the Domine Jesu Christe, the Sanctus, and the Libera.  In general, I have sought above all to enter into the characteristic of the Gregorian themes; thus I have striven to reconcile, as far as possible, Gregorian rhythm as it has been established by the Benedictines of Solesmes with the exigencies of modern meter.  As for the musical form of each of these pieces, it is generally inspired by the same form presented in the liturgy.  The organ’s role is merely episodic: it intervenes, not to support the chorus, but solely to underline certain accents or to replace temporarily the too human sonorities of the orchestra. It represents the idea of peace, of faith and hope.

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Antonin Dvorák's (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in e minor, op. 95 "From the New World

Adagio-Allegro molto
Scherzo: Molto vivace
Allegro con fuoco

Czech composer Antonin Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor (first published as Symphony No. 5), remains one of the most popular symphonies in the concert repertoire.  Completed during the composer's 2 ½ year tenure as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, the piece was premiered by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, December 15, 1893.  After the second movement and again at the conclusion, the audience gave wildly enthusiastic ovations.  The work received a similar reception in subsequent performances in Boston and Vienna.

The meaning of the subtitle “From the New World” and the origin of the themes that Dvorák used in the symphony have been a matter of discussion from the beginning. The subtitle, added hastily at the last moment, seems to connote a letter from a homesick ex-patriot telling of his impressions and experiences in a new land, the bustle and excitement of New York (where he composed the piece), the broad expanse of the landscape, the generosity and openness of the people. An ardent nationalist himself, Dvorák often encouraged his American students to draw on indigenous American music and inspiration from American literature to cultivate a distinctive National music. He was an enthusiastic student of the spirituals and plantation songs of the African-Americans (one of the students in the conservatory, H. T. Burleigh, introduced many of these songs to him). He also was quite taken with the interweaving of the old Native American legends of Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.  Rather than quoting American folk melodies in the symphony, the composer said, “I merely tried to write in the spirit of those national melodies." (Although the composer denies quoting specific tunes, don’t be surprised if you hear something that sounds like Swing low, Sweet chariot or Three blind mice.) The two middle movements were particularly inspired by Longfellow's poem: the Largo by the funeral of Minnehaha, “deep in a snow-bound forest,” and the Scherzo by the dance of Pau-Puk-Keewis at the wedding feast. All in all, the piece remains a fusion of Dvorák’s American experience, and who he was, a homesick Czech composer.

This symphony abounds in thematic relationships between the movements. The first movement begins with a slow introduction anticipating the main theme. Following solemn chords on the winds, the English horn, accompanied by muted strings introduces the lovely largo theme of the second movement, later used for the text “Going Home” by a later writer. The first theme of the opening movement reappears dramatically in the middle section and two further appearances in the scherzo movement. The finale begins with an assertive march theme derived from the middle section of the largo. Listen for the reappearance of the largo theme—first on flutes and clarinets, then stated with various instrumentations, rhythms, and also in minor— as well as the main motive of the scherzo. The solemn chords of the largo’s introduction take a final bow in the coda of this popular fusion of musical themes and emotions.

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2001.
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