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Classical Blockbusters 2021

Conductor – Sarah-Grace Williams
Soloists – Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich (Violin),
Andrew Doyle (Clarinet)
Riverside Theatre, Parramatta

Our Program For Tonight:

Williams, John (8 February 1932 – )

Theme to Superman

A sombre brass fanfare begins as the sun crests the horizon, heralding the excitement of a new era for the Earth. A bass ostinato pattern fuels the excitement which then builds to include the whole orchestra, before trumpets herald the arrival or Earth’s greatest hero, Superman. Soaring lines in strings and winds accompanying Kal-El’s (the Kryptonian name given to Superman) ability to fly, while swirling woodwinds portray the turmoil that Superman is always able to overcome to save the day. Several interwoven themes of sensual beauty describe the sensitive Clark Kent, however the triumphant march theme marches steadily onwards and upwards through ascending key changes as the Earth celebrates its great champion and his triumph over evil.

The perfect musical metaphor to fully encapsulate TMO’s excitement and return to the concert hall stage after so much turmoil caused by COVID-19. The joy and triumph in the music is shared by every member of the orchestra, and there will be many happy tears in tonight’s performance.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Sarasate, Pablo de (1844-1908)
Soloist: Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich (Violin)
Zigeunerweisen ‘Gypsy Airs’, Op. 20

The Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo Martín Melitón de Sarasate y Navascuez (Pablo de Sarasate) is renowned as one of the greatest violinists of the 2nd half of the 19th century. In 1878, Sarsate appealed to the German and Austrian taste for Eastern European music, composing Zigeunerweisen – ‘Gypsy Airs’  for violin and piano. Ziegeunerweisen is composed in 2 contrasting sections. In the bold orchestral opening, the mood is introduced with a solemn theme, continued by an accompanied opening cadenza by the solo violin. The simplicity of the accompaniment in the opening section is lavishly ornamented by the violinist with a variety of trills, harmonics, glissandi and pizzicati. A GP announces the final section, with its lively tempo and Gypsy flair being fully displayed by the violinist in a brilliant dance full of virtuosic violin techniques.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Elgar, Edward (1857-1934)Enigma Variations, op. 36
Variation IX. “Nimrod”: Moderato

Elgar presents us with one of music’s greatest mysteries, the title ‘Enigma’. In his program notes for the first performance, he wrote:

‘The enigma I will not explain—its “dark saying” must be left unguessed… ; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme “goes,” but is not played…. So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some late dramas… the chief character is never on the stage.’

After a reportedly challenging day of teaching, Elgar was playing piano when his wife overheard a catchy melody that he was playing. He developed this melody further and improvised variations on it to reflect the character of each of his friends. Elgar went to great lengths to then name each of the variations in this work after the nicknames of his friends, and ensure each variation was infused with their character, reflected by the orchestra.
The most famous and evocative variation is the ninth variation, Nimrod. This variation portrays his close friend August Jaeger. Jaeger was the editor of the London publishing house Novello and supported Elgar’s compositions long before they became famous. The heart-wrenching Adagio in Nimrod reflects their close and emotional relationship.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Bizet, Georges (1838-1875)Carmen Suite No. 1

Another composer that had so much to give and left the world too soon, French composer Georges Bizet’s legacy included one of the most famous operas ever written, Carmen. This fame was not apparent at the opera’s premiere, as it was received poorly and considered a failure at its premiere. This can be attributed to the venue at which it was premiered, the Paris Opéra-Comique, which was usually the venue for more light-hearted entertainment. The audience was shocked by the intense subject matter, of a gypsy having several affairs being murdered on stage by one of these jealous lovers. Unfortunately Bizet died just three months after the unsuccessful premiere, and would never see the acclaim that his composition received.

The orchestral suite from Carmen consists of a range of instrumental excerpts from the opera, and also a selection of arias and other vocal selections transcribed for the orchestra. The suite is the perfect way for a full symphony orchestra to be able to perform Bizet’s masterpiece, and fully indulge in the music that is so often reserved for the operatic stage.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Illych (1840-1893)NUTCRACKER SUITE no 1 op. 71a Excerpts

Overture
March (Danses Caractéristiques)
Danse Arabe
Valse des Fleurs
Danse Russe Trepak

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. The music that Tchaikovsky wrote to accompany the ballet dancers is composed in such a way that no essence of the music is lost when the dancing is absent.

Delighting audiences (especially children) since the ballet’s premiere in 1892, the orchestral suite from The Nutcracker takes pride of place during the festive season, and has been performed to breathtaking animations in Disney’s Fantasia films.

The Overture skips delicately in a charming fantasy, which is then followed by the March, which contrasts with fanfares and lithe string lines. The Danse Arabe takes the form of a sinuous, serpentine dance with haunting themes from clarinets, oboes and cor anglais. The Chinese Dance features flute flourishes shining out above the orchestra, then the Valse des Fleurs ventures into the form of the French Valse and brims with grace and elegance. Danse Russe Trepak concludes the performance in a fast and furious Russian folk-dance, spinning to dizzying heights and a breathtaking finish.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Brahms, Johannes (1833-1897)Hungarian Dances No. 5 and No. 6

The lure of Hungarian Gypsy music was seemingly irresistible to the composers 19th century Europe. A concert tour early in his career, when Brahms was just 20 years old, saw Brahms accompanying the Hungarian violinist Eduard Remény in performance of several works in the Hungarian Gypsy style. Brahms wrote to his publisher (Simrock), “It is hard to write down what one has been improvising wildly for a long time”, however between 1869 and 1880, he managed just that, and had composed and published more than 20 dances in 4 sets. These were composed not primarily for the concert hall, but for social gatherings at home, with works for piano four hands. Orchestral arrangements have been made over subsequent years, not just by Brahms (who only orchestrated 3 himself), but by many prominent composers such as Antonin Dvořák.

Dance No. 5 is based on Czárdás Bartfai-Emlék (Reminiscences of Bartfai Czárdás), Op. 31 by Béla Kéler (1820-1882), who was a conductor and composer of dance music, and German-Hungarian Bandmaster. Dance No. 6 comes from the song Rózsa Bokor (Rosebush) by Adolph Nittinger, and encapsulates the improvisatory style of the Gypsy violinists.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)
Soloist: Andrew Doyle (Clarinet)
Clarinet Concerto in A Major – Adagio

‘Ah, if only we too had clarinets! You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets.’

W.A. Mozart

Mozart befriended the famous clarinet virtuoso and court musician, Anton Stadler. Mozart composed a concerto for Stadler and his new basset clarinet, capable of playing two tones lower than the ordinary clarinet, and the work was to be the last instrumental composition that Mozart would write.

Regularly voted number one in ABC Classic’s Top 100, the Adagio movement is the jewel in the crown of all clarinet literature. An incredibly beautiful melody answered by the orchestra every four bars paints a picture of beauty, and the emotions roil and build until the clarinetist provides release with a cadenza. The recapitulation is the ultimate experience for the performer, providing the perfect opportunity to show off the full extent of the clarinet’s ability to play softer than any other wind instrument.

© Andrew Doyle 2021

Williams, John (8 February 1932 – )March theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark

In typical John Williams fashion, a brass fanfare announces the arrival of our hero, famed archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones. Flourishing winds and strings accompany the grand brass gestures, as our hero traverses all parts of the globe in search of the Ark of the Covenant. As an esteemed academic and researcher of the highest intellect, Indy calls upon all his knowledge, experience and strength of will to overcome evil and ensure the Ark is kept safe and secure from all those that would cause harm to life on Earth. The final grand gesture by the orchestra leaves us in no doubt that evil has been thwarted and good has triumphed again.

© Andrew Doyle 2021