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Andrews University Symphony Orchestra
Spring Concert
April 25, 2009

Bizet: Prelude to Carmen | Sibelius: Finlandia, op. 26, No. 7 | Copland: Two Dance-Episodes from RodeoBach: Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut | Mozart: Come scoglio from Cosi fan tute, K.588
Verdi: Pace, pace, mio Dio from La forza del destino
Tchaikovsky: March Slave in B-flat minor, op. 31

Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Prelude to Carmen

After beginning his musical studies with his parents, Georges Bizet entered the Paris Conservatoire as a teenager. He excelled, winning many prizes including the premiere composition prize, the Prix de Rome, at age 19. Although Bizet completed many compositions, including over fifteen dramatic musical works, lack of recognition filled his short life of thirty-six with disappointment. In the end he was not even to know that his Carmen would become one of the most popular operas of all time, as he died three months following its disastrous premiere. The prelude to the tragic tale of the beautiful gypsy girl, Carmen and her jealous lover Don José, features two themes from the opera. Fiery rhythms of the music of the bullfight from Act IV are heard first, moving directly to the famous Toreador Song from Act II. The concert version concludes with a return to the opening theme.

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Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Finlandia, op. 26, No. 7

"I love the mysterious sounds of the fields and forests, water and mountains," wrote Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. "It pleases me greatly to be called a poet of nature, for nature has truly been the book of books for me." The composer's genius was in his gift of translating his love of country -- forests and lakes as well as heroic elements of traditional literature -- into music. Although he does not use actual folk songs, his musical language is so permeated with the idioms of his country that the spirit of Finland comes through naturally. The closing years of the 19th century saw Czarist Russia tightening its grip on Finland and the growing resistance to this oppression. Although Sibelius kept aloof from overt political activities, he subtly engaged in patriotic activities by nurturing nationalism through his art. For an 1899 festival organized to benefit the Press Pension fund, Sibelius composed music for a series of tableaux featuring themes of Finnish historical events. Finlandia accompanied the final tableaux which portrayed the devastation of the country during the 18th century Nordic war: Mother Finland in the snowdrifts surrounded by her starving children. The piece was an instant success, bringing international attention to the composer and the cause of Finnish independence. Sibelius arranged the work as a concert piece in 1900 and, during the winter war of 1939-40, he prepared a choral arrangement of the hymn portion for use by soldiers serving at the front. The power of Finlandia proved to evoke such fervor of nationalist feelings that during times of political unrest in the struggle for Finnish independence, Czarist authorities banned its performance. The struggle against oppression and earnestness of the Finnish people is illustrated through the defiant themes of the brass contrasted with organ-like woodwinds, solemn strings, and a restless allegro with stirring trumpet calls. The peaceful, then majestic hymn-like theme expresses the composer's vision of a triumphant, independent Finland. .

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Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Two Dance-Episodes from Rodeo

Saturday Night Waltz

It was wartime and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was exiled in New York . Looking for a new piece for their repertoire, the company invited choreographer Agnes de Mille to submit a proposal featuring a Western scenario. Aaron Copland, while initially reluctant to take on another Western-theme project, was persuaded to write the music. He composed Rodeo during June of 1942 and orchestrated it in September. It was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera on October 16. The sold-out audience gave the production twenty curtain calls, with some of the orchestra members joining in the standing ovation. Rodgers and Hammerstein, who were in attendance, immediately engaged de Mille to choreograph their musical, Oklahoma . Copland extracted a suite (Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo ) and arranged it for full orchestra. This suite remains immensely popular with audiences. Copland and de Mille exercised a truly collaborative relationship in the development of the ballet score, with the choreographer requesting specific types of music and Copland heeding all her suggestions. The ballet depicts weekend entertainment at a Western ranch–cowhands showing off their skills and the courtship ritual observed during a Saturday night barn dance. Copland utilized a number of traditional American folk tunes and employed various orchestral instruments to evoke folk instruments. Saturday Night Waltz begins with the orchestra tuning up for a square dance. The ensuing fetching tune features the song, I Ride an Old Paint; The Hoe-down (the final dance of the ballet and the suite) makes use of several square dance fiddle tunes. This short piece features a vital, brash main theme, alternating with vamps for tap dancing. As the head cowhand, Buck, approaches Cowgirl, the vamp slows, highlighted by the chromatic descent of the trombone, to the moment of the kiss. A return to the main theme concludes the piece.

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Johann S. Bach (1685-1750)
Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (Cantata 199, Selections)

Aria - Andante
Aria - Allegro (Vivace)

Church music comprises the majority of Bach's compositional output. In addition to motets, masses, passions, and organ music, he is known to have composed around 300 multi-movement works for use in the church's liturgy known, since the 19 th century, as “cantatas.” While Bach rarely used this Italian term for these liturgical works, he actually did in the case of Cantata 199 Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My heart is bathed in blood). This cantata was first performed in the ducal chapel at Weimar August 12, 1714 for the 11 th Sunday after Trinity. At Weimar , Bach was originally employed as court organist and chamber musician; later the post was expanded with the obligation to compose music for the church services. Cantata 199 follows the most common organization of Bach's other works in the genre: pairs of recitatives and arias, with at least one movement devoted to a chorale setting–all featuring texts of the season for which it was composed. While most of his “cantatas” include movements for chorus and various solo voices, this one uses soprano solo alone accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble, oboe, violins, viola and basso continuo. The various combinations of the instruments aid in supporting the text of each movement. The text, by Georg Christian Lehms, court poet and librarian at Darmstadt , paints a picture of the sinner being convicted of sin, repenting and confessing, trusting God for forgiveness, and finally dancing with the confidence and joy that accepting forgiveness brings. Tonight we hear three of the movements:

4. Aria: “Deeply bowed and filled with remorse I lie before Thee, dearest God. I acknowledge my guilt; Forbear with me.”

7. Recitative: “I lay myself in these wounds as in the true firm rock: They shall be my place of rest. In these I shall ascend in faith, and then, content and joyful I shall sing.

8. Aria: “How joyful is my heart since God is appeased, and since remorse and suffering no longer bar me from bliss nor from his heart.”

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Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756-1791)
"Come scoglio" from Cosi fan tute, K.588

Così fan tutte (All Women do the Same, or The School for Lovers), opera buffa in 2 acts, was one of Mozart's last operas and was commissioned by Emperor Franz Josef II. In a coffee house Ferrando and Guglielmo proclaim the virtues of their betrothed, sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi. One Alfonso doesn't believe in female fidelity and challenges the ladies to a wager that their faithfulness will not withstand the absence of their lovers. Word is sent to the sisters that their men have been summoned to the army, and in their absence two “Albanians” come calling. In response to proclamations of love from the “Albanians” Fiordiligi sings “Come scoglio immoto resta” (Firm as a rock we stand against the storm). The three sections of this splendid aria grow in brilliance and versatility, displaying tremendous vocal leaps and bounds, steaming on to a show-stopping conclusion.

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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
"Pace, pace, mio Dio" from La forza del destino

Guiseppe Verdi, arguable the greatest Italian musical dramatist and one of the world's greatest composers of opera, had hit a lull in his composition. Following the completion of Un ballo in maschera (1858), Verdi declared that he had quit the operatic scene to return to his farm. It was also about this time that Italy had become an independent state and the composer briefly served in the Italian parliament. It was a commission from the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg that propelled Verdi back into the opera world with La Forza del destino (The Power of Destiny). Set in 18th century Spain and Italy , the story tells of the love of the noblewoman Leonora for Don Alvaro, a man of mixed race–Inca and Spanish. The plot involves the accidental killing of Leonora's father, the flight of the lovers, and their pursuit by Leonara's vengeful brother, Don Carlo. The aria Pace, pace mio Dio sums up the action of the opera. Leonora prays for peace in her heart, her love for Don Alvaro, and deliverance from her bitter destiny through death. She agonizes that the food that has been brought to her will only prolong her miserable life, and she calls down a curse on whoever might dare to disturb her.

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Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
March Slave in B-Flat minor, op. 31

In June, 1876, war broke out between Montenegro - Serbia and Turkey which prompted a rising tide of support among Russians for their Slavic compatriots. Not generally one to concern himself with politics, Tchaikovsky’s attention was drawn to this conflict through an incident that he witnessed at the home of a friend. The young man of the house appeared in the drawing room to announce to his mother that he was leaving for Serbia to fight. The mother’s reaction had a profound effect on Tchaikovsky, so when he was commissioned to contribute a symphonic piece for a benefit concert to raise money for soldiers and war victims, the composer worked feverishly on the Marche Slave, which he completed and scored in five days. From the first performance, in November of 1877, the piece, evoking passionate patriotic fervor, has been wildly popular. It falls in three main sections. The first, a funeral march utilizes a melding of Serbian and Russian folk tunes. Following a transition of brass fanfares and a section for woodwinds, the Russian national hymn is introduced. The final part is a song of triumph, combining various military march tunes and all the themes from the previous sections.

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2009.
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