The Philharmonic Association Musician Interns have kindly written program notes to upcoming concerts. Take a look at their notes so you know what to get excited about and what to listen for during the performances!
Triangle Youth Philharmonic Program
Lieutenant Kije Suite by Sergei Prokofiev (Notes by Mary Kolbas)
Opening with a mournful trumpet fanfare, Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite musically narrates the life of an imaginary officer named Kijé. The suite is an adaptation of the music Prokofiev wrote to accompany the Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé in 1934. In this movie, court officials lie to Tsar Paul I and make up a fictitious “Lieutenant Kijé” who the Tsar quickly becomes interested in. To keep up the lie, the officials create the story of Kijé’s life including his birth, romantic life, wedding, glorious troika, and funeral, each a movement of this five-part suite. Prokofiev’s cheeky use of contrasting melodies, such as his combining of sentimental fanfares with energetic marches, reveals the comical and ironic aspects of the fabricated life story of Kijé.
Symphony in D Minor by César Franck (Notes by Joydeep Mukherjee)
Symphony in D Minor was one of César Franck’s final compositions and one of his most famous orchestral works. Previously he had written several smaller pieces, but nothing as large and complex as this symphony. It was rare to see a symphony composed in 19th century France as the symphony was considered a very Germanic form of music. Franck implemented a cyclic structure in this music using shifting harmonies that mirror the French cyclic and German romantic forms. The first theme of the “Symphony in D Minor” is actually a reference to the questioning theme “Muss es sein?” (“Must it be?”) from the final movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major. Due to the German influences in Franck’s “Symphony in D Minor,” it was initially received poorly and Franck struggled to find someone who would premiere the piece. As it aged, however, the piece has become a staple of orchestral repertoire. David Glover, conductor of TYP, says, “I chose the Franck Symphony for this concert because I love French music from the late 19th century. The music has an emotional directness, a heart-on-the-sleeve quality, that’s really thrilling to perform.”
Triangle Youth Symphony Program
Finale, Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak (Notes by Natalie Wiese)
The final movement of Symphony No. 8 composed by Antonin Dvorak is a bold piece. It opens up with a trumpet fanfare followed by a sweeping theme that the cellos introduce. The other instruments have a staggered entrance where they will each play a slightly different variation of the main theme in unison. The music speeds up as each section plays their version of the melody until the flute solo where the song becomes playful and carefree. The piece then quickly turns back to the brazen main theme. The Finale from Symphony No. 8 carefully uses dynamics and tempo to add tension such as in the middle section where the instruments get quieter and the song modulates between major and minor keys in an uneasy but mocking manner. The tension releases as the piece dramatically slows and the recapitulation of the cello solo follows in a more reminiscent tone with the rest of the orchestra quietly sneaking into the spotlight. The movement ends with the victorious main theme and a chromatic scale.
Procession of the Nobles by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Notes by Anita Murali)
Procession of the Nobles is excerpted from Mlada, one of 15 operas by the Russian master of orchestration, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), who is best known for his orchestral showpieces Scheherazade, Russian Easter Overture, and Capriccio Español. There is an opening fanfare for the brass, followed by the strings and winds thickening the texture and providing rhythmic emphasis, trading off antiphonally until the main tune enters later. The horns and the strings play the melody with the trombones reinforcing the harmony and the rhythm. The piece is also in a triple meter rather than the usual duple meter that is the hallmark of processions and marches. In addition, the timpani has some great solos throughout the piece. Conductor of TYS, Mr. Hardy, chose this piece because “It has a very catchy fanfare that features the brass, the tunes grab the ear, the orchestration is masterful, and the music is challenging, yet ultimately playable by an intermediate to advanced group.”
Carmen Suite by Georges Bizet (Notes by Abigail Oentung)
The Carmen Suites are two sets of orchestral music taken from the four-act opera Carmen, written in 1875 by Georges Bizet. These suites were compiled by Ernest Guiraud nearly a decade after Bizet’s death, and they maintain orchestration close to the original pieces with a few minor changes. Set in Spain, the music tells the story of Don Jose, a soldier who falls in love with the gypsy Carmen. He gives up everything he ever loved for her, but she loves another man. In anger, Don Jose kills Carmen, and the opera ends.
Each suite contains six movements, and the Carmen Suite being played by the Triangle Youth Symphony (TYS) draws movements from both suites. After the “Prelude”, which introduces the motif of fate, the movement “Les Toreadors” depicts the bravado of the bullfighter Escamillo. Throughout the upbeat “Aragonaise” movement, the string section mimics the plucking and strumming of a guitar while the castanets crackle. Painting a nighttime scene in the mountains, the “Intermezzo” hides the tension in Don Jose and Carmen’s relationship behind the calmness of the harp and woodwind solos. The bohemian lifestyle of Carmen and the gypsies is heard in the “Danse Boheme,” and it symbolizes the nature of these women.
The Carmen Suites are very well known pieces, and are by far Bizet’s most famous work. The original opera received international acclaim within a decade of its first showing, and it has become one of the most well known and frequently performed operas. The music has become acclaimed for its brilliance of harmony, melody, orchestration, and Bizet’s ability to convey the vivid emotions and suffering of the characters.
According to McCrae Hardy, conductor of TYS, “I chose the ‘Carmen Suite’ for several reasons. It’s fun to play, technically challenging, and the sections I chose are masterpieces of orchestral color and rhythmic verve. The exotic “Spanish” feel of the tunes is enticing to an audience. I also wanted to give the harps something meaty to play. There are also several chances for individual soloists — flute, oboe, clarinet and trumpet particularly — to shine. The pieces are also highly contrasting in character, from rhythmically dancelike and energetic to quite dramatic to lyrical and evocative. The huge range of orchestral techniques on display also made it very appealing. These are also the original orchestrations from the suites compiled after Bizet’s death, not a simplified arrangement.”
Triangle Youth Orchestra Program
Slavonic Dance No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak (Notes by Stephen Chang)
Slavonic Dance No. 8 is one of many Slavonic Dances composed by Antonin Dvorak, a Czech composer. Dvorak drew inspiration from traditional Slavonic folk dances for this work. He was also inspired by Brahms’ Hungarian Dance. Slavonic Dance No. 8 was originally written for piano, but later orchestrated at the request of Dvorak’s publisher. Notice how the dance contrasts quickly between a light, lively feel and more intense moments.
The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana (Notes by Hanna Won)
In the year of 1874, Bohemian composer Bedrich Smetana wrote the masterpiece The Moldau. The piece is actually a movement from a larger symphonic poem, Ma Vlast, which translates into “My Country.” Smetana’s composition tells a story by painting musical pictures in the minds of the listener. This section depicts the Moldau River, which is known to have begun from two small springs in the Bohemian woods that later joined to become one mighty river, flowing through the countryside of Bohemia. The ultimate masterpiece opens with the playing of the flute and clarinet, imitating the ripples of the two different springs. Following this beautiful melody is the entrance of the lower stringed instruments representing the combining of the rivers. Finally the violins present the main melody which serves to paint the picture of the great Moldau River. “The Moldau” is a well-known for its lovely tunes and the contrasts created by the instrumentation.
Music for the Royal Fireworks by George Frideric Handel (Notes by Esther Zhu)
In 1749, Handel was contracted by George II of Great Britain to write a piece to be played during the fireworks celebrating the end of the War of the Austrian Succession the previous year. Against Handel’s will, Music for the Royal Fireworks was originally written without strings per the request of the king. Handel would re-score the piece with strings for a later performance. The Overture is the first of six movements from Music for the Royal Fireworks. The piece begins with a grand dotted rhythm that provides a majestic introduction to the fireworks. The Overture alternates between slow and fast sections: Adagio—Allegro—Lentement—Allegro da capo. The repeating rhythmic motives are passed between different sections of the orchestra. From the very first public performance to present day performances, this piece has been well received. The Overture with its grand rhythmic motives is very accessible and Handel’s posh, aristocratic style is reflected by the regal themes.
Engines of Resistance by Larry Clark (Notes by Jonah Smith)
Engines of Resistance by Larry Clark is a composition filled with energy and excitement. The piece starts out with a very bombastic melody in the low brass, followed by light ostinatos in the woodwinds accompanied by sustained melodies, and then returns to the original theme. The contrast and clash between certain parts of the composition make the piece unique, hence the “resistance” that you will hear throughout the piece. One thing to listen for is the beautiful string soli in between brass entrances. Clark said that this piece can be performed with strings and percussion, or with a full orchestra to really fill the room—both are equally exciting!