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Andrews University Sinfonietta
Music from America
October 16, 2010

Chadwick: Euterpe Overture | Barber: Must the Winter Come so Soon? from "Vanessa" |
Barber: Knoxville "Summer of 1915, Op.24" | Copland: Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo"

George W. Chadwick(1854-1913)
Euterpe Overture

George Whitefield Chadwick might seem an unlikely candidate to become a dominant force in the development of 19th century American music, but it is the struggle against such odds from which many American dreams evolve. Young George lost his musical mother in the first week of his life, and with the exception of music lessons from an elder brother, he received no encouragement for musical development from his remaining family. Dropping out of high school, George joined his father's insurance firm. When the company opened a Boston office, George was put in charge, and he lost no time taking the opportunity to study music with the best teachers of this musical center. He also soon formed a close friendship with Theodore Presser (famous as a music publisher and founder of Etude magazine) who more than anyone helped the young man begin his musical career by recommending him for a one-year position to head the Music Department at Olivet College in Michigan. Presser also invited Chadwick to join him in establishing the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). The year of earning a regular salary at Olivet gave him the funds to travel to Germany to study music and leave the insurance business behind forever. His studies with Salomon Jadassohn, a student of Liszt, at the Leipzig Conservatory gave him a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of music. Contributing further to his musical formation was attendance at the Gewandhaus concerts, comaraderie of student life, and time for composition. By the end of his first semester he had produced a string quartet for the Gewandhaus exam concert that was received favorably by the critics, and in the following year he produced more well-received works. Before returning to Boston, Chadwick further expanded his experience by spending a summer in the company of itinerant painters in France, and a profitable term under the tutelage of the highly disciplined Rheinberger at the Conservatory in Munich. Critical success for his work in Germany paved the way for the composer to gradually build a solid career back in Boston. He was appointed to teach at the New England Conservatory, in due time becoming its head. He made his name transforming the school from its former role as a piano teacher training school to a full fledged conservatory patterned on the European model.

Although Chadwick wrote in many genres, he is known primarily for his orchestral compositions; many of them were premiered by the newly formed Boston Symphony Orchestra. After composing three symphonies in the traditional germanic mold, he turned to his own version of multi-movement orchestral works which are typically lighter in character and have programmatic elements, such as his Symphonic Sketches . Between 1883 and 1903 he composed three concert overtures named after three of the muses of Greek mythology, names that represented the general spirit of each musical essay. The third, which we hear tonight, Euterpe, refers to the muse of lyric poetry and music, the “giver of delight.” The piece was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on April 23, 1904, with the composer conducting. The spirit of the old world musical establishment is evoked with a serious, pensive opening, richly orchestrated, providing hints of the two main themes of the piece. Once the main theme is established the piece is propelled by episodic development of two main themes with an American spirit of optimism and jollity that, by the time the high-spirited coda is reached, the new world muse seems to be bidding the old a fond farewell.

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Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Must the Winter Come so Soon? from "Vanessa"

Of Samuel Barber's two operas, the first, Vanessa, has proven to be a most successful American opera. As early as 1934 Barber had considered writing an opera but finding a suitable libretto for the undertaking as well as the challenges of the war years delayed the project. After trying to interest a number of potential writers (including Thorton Wilder, James Agee, Dylan Thomas, and Stephen Spender) in the project, his life-long friend and collaborator, Gian-Carlo Menotti, took on the task and, in time (about five years) provided a fine libretto for the opera. The atmosphere of the piece was inspired by Isak Dineson's gothic short stories. Its original setting is in an aristocratic country house in northern Europe late in the fall of the early 20th century. Vanessa was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera on January 23, 1958 to great acclaim.

An early snow has fallen and while Vanessa and Erika (Vanessa's niece) await the arrival of a guest, Erika sings a short aria, Must the Winter Come so Soon? an atmospheric musing on the early arrival of the long northern winter, and perhaps a harbinger of the long winter that will come to her young life.

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Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op.24

One of America's most esteemed composers, Samuel Barber, had the good fortune of having his music accepted in the repertory soon after its composition. The music continues to be frequently performed today. Not surprisingly, his lyrical writing seems vocally inspired. First hand experience as a professional baritone certainly contributed to the composer's large output of songs which make up nearly two thirds of his compositions. A commission from soprano Eleanor Steber and difficulties in Barber's family (his father and aunt were terminally ill) contributed to the creation of the tone poem for soprano and orchestra based on William Agee's lyrical prose poem, Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The literary piece later appeared as the prologue to Agee's posthumously published autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family which was first published in Partisan Review in 1938. Barber was not only attracted to the lyrical prose style, but he felt an immediate affinity with Agee's impressionistic portrayal of childhood. He and Agee were both five in 1915, and it seemed that they had the same relatives in rocking chairs, the same hoses watering the lawns, and the same trolley cars had been clanging up the street in West Chester as they had in Knoxville. Barber's “lyrical rhapsody” was completed on April 4, 1947 and was premiered by Steber with Serge Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra on April 9, 1948. Unfortunately, neither the composer nor the poet was able to attend: Barber had commitments in Rome and Agee was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy.

"We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child." This single movement work falls into three main sections. The rocking motive heard throughout provides a unifying element, and the sounds of Agee's poetry–streetcars, locusts, water hoses–lend themselves readily to musical representation. Listen particularly for the calm created when the singer speaks of "my father who is good to me," which leads into the intensity of the prayer to "remember them (his people) kindly in their time of trouble; and the in the hour of their taking away." The full orchestra restates the opening theme before the reassuring rocking takes the child off to bed, who gets drowsier and drowsier, and doesn't know who he is.

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Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo"

I. Buckaroo Holiday
II. Corral Nocturne
III.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 themed project (he had recently done Billy the Kid) , was persuaded to write the music. He composed the music for Rodeo during June of 1942 and orchestrated it in September. The ballet 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 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, originally titled The Courting at Burnt Ranch, depicts weekend entertainment at a Western ranch–cowhands showing off their skills and courtship ritual observed throughout. Copland utilized a number of traditional American folk tunes and employed various orchestral instruments to evoke folk instruments–guitar-like use of the harp, winds are made to sound like a reed-organ, and in the dances, violins fiddle away enthusiastically. In 1943 the composer extracted a suite ( Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo ) and arranged it for full orchestra where it achieves almost a symphonic design of four movements with traditional functions (first movement well-developed structure, slow quiet second movement, third dance form and the final an energetic conclusion). This suite which we hear tonight, remains immensely popular with audiences.

The action begins on a Texas ranch during an intermission of the local rodeo. In Buckaroo Holiday, the folks are taking a break, but Cowgirl is dressed and acting like a man to try to stay close to Head Wrangler. Alas, he seems to be more interested in Ranch Owner's Daughter. Cowgirl attempts to ride a bronco, but gets in the way and is thrown out by the cowboys trying to finish their show. Copland uses the railroad tune Sis Joe and cowboy song If He'd Be a Buckaroo to good effect. As twilight comes, sweethearts appear in the Corral Nocturne, a quiet outdoor atmospheric piece that evokes clear western skies and depicts Cowgirl's loneliness and isolation. Saturday Night Waltz begins with the orchestra tuning up for a square dance. The oboe introduces the fetching tune, I Ride an Old Paint. 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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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2010.
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