Music for Families: the Bold and the Brave

Music for Families: the Bold and the Brave 

What happens when composers think outside the box to create music with completely new and surprising sounds? The history of classical music is full of adventurous artists who did exactly that, from Haydn to Stravinsky to Ives. This concert explores how these brave thinkers paved the way for future musical innovators, and even invites the audience to help the orchestra (with the help of guest artist Chris Kallmyer) create a brand-new musical spectacle together!

Biber: Battalia à 9
Haydn: Andante from Symphony No. 94 in G major,Surprise
Beethoven: Thunderstorm (Allegro) from Symphony No. 6 in F major, Opus 68 Pastoral
Brahms: Allegro giocoso from Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Opus 98
Wagner: Overture toThe Flying Dutchman
Stravinsky: Circus Polka
Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Ives: Yale-Princeton Football Game(ed. Sinclair)
Kallmyer: Duets
 

Biber: Battalia à 9

Heinrich Biber (1644-1704), a Bohemian composer, wrote the “battle piece” Battalia à 9 in 1673 (à 9—in nine parts). Thought to have been composed for a carnival pantomime, Battalia combines elements of fantasy and entertainment. Much of Biber’s fantasy is woven into the music itself. He calls for a number of unusual instrumental techniques, including col legno, in which the players use the wood of their bows to beat the strings of their instruments; a percussive pizzicato in Die Schlacht (“The Battle”) to imitate cannon shots; dueling bass players; and even instructing the bass player to use a piece of paper to buzz on the strings in Der Mars (The March, or possibly referring to Mars, the god of war) to imitate a snare drum, while the solo violin imitates a military fife. In the second movement, translated to “The dissolute company of all types of humor,” Biber mixes different German, Slovak, and Czech folk songs. He notes that there is dissonance all around, evoking those "accustomed to bellow with different songs.”

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Haydn: Andante from Symphony No. 94 in G major, Surprise

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was music director in the household of Prince Nicholas Esterházy, for whose orchestra he wrote most of his 104 symphonies. When the prince died in 1790 the musical household was disbanded, and Haydn found himself free to write what and when he chose. The London concert promoter Johann Peter Salomon lost no time in recruiting his services, and he engaged Haydn to write the works that have come to be called the London symphonies—twelve of them, in two sets of six. The Symphony No. 94 was among these. Haydn’s music is always full of surprises, but the title of the Surprise Symphony of 1791 refers specifically to the outburst that intrudes after the calm opening of the second movement, which we hear this afternoon. This movement is a set of variations on a tune that sounds as though it might always have existed. Haydn’s variations are exquisitely simple and breathtakingly inventive.


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Beethoven: Thunderstorm (Allegro) from Symphony No. 6 in F major, Opus 68, Pastoral

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote his Pastoral Symphony—the sixth of his symphonies—at the same time he was working on his now-famous Fifth Symphony. Beethoven introduced both symphonies in December 1808, in a marathon concert that also included the premiere of several other important works. He was a great lover of nature, and he spent many spring days trudging the paths around Vienna. The Pastoral Symphony is a masterpiece of landscape painting, although Beethoven claimed he was attempting no literal description of the countryside itself. Instead, he said, the music was meant to capture the emotions that nature can evoke. In the thunderstorm movement, Beethoven unleashes his orchestral arsenal—the shrilling piccolo, a pair of trombones, and the kettledrums. The storm is composed precisely and economically, and as a result it is immensely powerful.


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Brahms: Allegro giocoso from Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Opus 98

Johannes Brahms (1833-97) is today regarded as one of the greatest composers of symphonies. It's a wonder then that he hesitated a long time before taking the big step of writing one. But once he had overcome his inhibitions and completed his First Symphony in 1876 he was so elated both by his hard-won spiritual victory and by the success of the new work that he began another as soon as he could. His Symphony No. 2 came along quickly in 1877. The Third, begun in 1882, was finished in the summer of 1883, and the Fourth was started the following summer. That year Brahms chose Mürzzuschlag in Styria for his annual holiday. "The cherries don't ever get to be sweet and edible in this part of the world," he wrote to several of his friends, adding that he feared his new music had taken on something of their flavor. The conductor Hans von Bülow remarked after rehearsals began that "No. 4 [is] gigantic, altogether a law unto itself, quite new, steely individuality. Exudes unparalleled energy from first note to last." The massively rambunctious third movement is full of stark contrasts.

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Wagner: Overture to The Flying Dutchman

Richard Wagner (1813-83) usually counted his major works beginning with opera number four, The Flying Dutchman, which seemed different in every way from opera up to January 2, 1843, when Dutchman was first performed. It is not only Wagner’s vivid depiction of the storm at sea in the Overture to The Flying Dutchman that makes this opera a forerunner of Wagner’s future work. The score abounds with numerous “first” instances of characteristics that would become his hallmarks. The desire to convey the emotion as vividly as possible, to draw the audience into the world of the drama completely, led Wagner to create “music drama” as opposed to “opera.” In the Overture we hear the storm-tossed sea and catch a hint of the rousing Sailor’s Chorus. Along with the tumult and high spirits comes the quiet interlude of the lovely ballad sung by Senta, the woman whose devotion will set the Dutchman free from the curse that has compelled him to wander the earth for eternity. ”

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Stravinsky: Circus Polka

In 1942, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, eager to add class to their performances, asked the great choreographer George Balanchine for a ballet for elephants. Balanchine asked Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) to write the music. “What kind of music?” Stravinsky is reported to have asked. “A polka.” “For whom?” “Elephants.” “How old?” “Young.” “If they are very young, I’ll do it.” At the premiere at Madison Square Garden the solo role was danced by Modoc, who was seconded by fifty of her colleagues. Only near the end of the dance does a heavy polka rhythm begin to emerge, at the same time that another tune in the horns quotes a melody by Schubert. The elephants stomped through 425 performances. After one of the shows, Stravinsky was introduced to the dancer Bessie. He was delighted by her work, and to thank her, he shook her hoof. ”

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Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

Aaron Copland (1900-90) was trained as a composer in Paris, but much of his work has a distinctive sound that has come to be identified with this country’s wide-open spaces, and he created music that will always be identified with this country. Copland took the title of his Fanfare for the Common Man from Henry Wallace, Vice President of the United States during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third term, when Wallace dubbed the twentieth century “the century of the common man.” The Cincinnati Symphony commissioned this work, one of eighteen such requests put forward to American composers for a fanfare suited to the times. The Fanfare for the Common Man is made of the simplest imaginable materials, but Copland’s sense of timing in their deployment is masterful—evident immediately in the majestic but not in the least obvious progression of the percussion’s introductory call to attention. ”

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Ives: Yale-Princeton Football Game (ed. Sinclair)

Charles Ives (1874-1954) was inspired and original. As a child and an adolescent, the great presence in his life was his father, George Edward Ives, bandmaster of Danbury, CT. George Ives was an unconventional musician who loved experimentation. He accompanied his family in one key while they sang "Old Folks at Home" in another, he played his cornet across the water to study the echo, and he rigged up musical machines of his own invention. George nurtured his son's fantasy. Ives's music is full of references to hymns, marches, and dance music, and their blending and colliding determined the sound of his compositions. Ives attended Yale University where he would have experienced the glorious cacophony of an Ivy League football game. ”

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Chris Kallmyer: Duets 

The composer offers these comments: Duets is a workshop for audience and orchestra. The piece is an open-ended dialogue about sound, power, and the nature of music. In this form, the orchestra’s responses are placed within a traditional score that allows the orchestra to do what it does best: act as a collective unit to make music and sonify emotions. The pace of the work is moved along by the artist who sits at a table in front of the orchestra with a closed circuit video stream to the screen above the orchestra. The camera captures two sets of text scores: one for the orchestra and one for the audience. The note-card-sized scores are changed throughout the piece to indicate the music that the orchestra is making, or the sounds and actions that should be taken by the audience as a collective group choir. ”

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