Musical Director's notes and sound files for the Summer Term


Haydn: Symphony No. 104


1. Adagio - Allegro 2. Andante 3. Menuetto: Allegro 4. Finale:Spiritoso

The Symphony No. 104 in D major is Haydn's final symphony. It is the last of the twelve London symphonies, and is known (somewhat arbitrarily, given the existence of eleven others) as the London Symphony. In Germany it is commonly known as the Salomon Symphony after Johann Peter Salomon, who arranged Haydn's two tours of London, even though it is one of three of the last twelve symphonies written for Viotti's Opera Concerts, rather than for Salomon. The work was composed in 1795 while Haydn was living in London, and premiered there at the King's Theatre on 4 May 1795, in a concert featuring exclusively Haydn's own compositions and directed by the composer. The premiere was a success; Haydn wrote in his diary "The whole company was thoroughly pleased and so was I. I made 4000 gulden on this evening: such a thing is possible only in England."
The solemn unison proclamations in the keys of D and F of the short Adagio announce the two harmonic roots of the symphony. The beginning of the Allegro is deceptively simple, with its singing melody in the violins. Nearly all of the material in the rest of the exposition of this sonata form movement is derived from some aspect of the first theme - a degree of motivic integration that would not be heard again until Beethoven’s later symphonies. The moderate tempo Andante second movement has a gracious, choreographic sensibility. The clever combination of a series of variations with the two-part binary form typical of dance forms shows the balance of clarity and complexity that makes Haydn’s music appealing to so many. The third movement employs the long established form of minuet and trio. Normally graceful, the minuet in this case is rumbustious, and seems flat-footed in places and a little rough around the edges for a courtly dance. On the other hand, the trio is an uncommonly sophisticated version of the Ländler, a rustic dance. The spirited finale hinges on a radically simple theme - just a four-square melody over a tonic drone, better suited to bagpipes than to London’s prestigious orchestras. The second theme recalls Haydn’s own Symphony no. 100, the Military, which shared the program with the premiere of the London. The virtuosic development of this unusual sonata form finale, with its even more unusual double development, depends on Haydn’s cheeky bagpipes - the intricate fugato of the first development and the detour into darker minor mode harmonies in the second development both focus on the first theme. An appropriately lively and energetic coda concludes the work.

Delibes: Le roi s'amuse

I. Gaillarde II. Pavane 'Belle qui tiens ma vie' III. Scène du bouquet IV. Lesquercarde V. Madrigal VI. Passepied VII. Final. Reprise de la gaillarde

Léo Delibes composed the seven movements of Le roi s'amuse as incidental dances for a production of the Victor Hugo play. The work is subtitled "six airs de danse dans le style ancien" (the seventh movement is a reworking of the first). The pieces are written in an attractive pastiche style, superficially in the manner of centuries-old European courtly dances but not in fact veering too far from Delibes' own nineteenth-century musical world. The first movement is a substantial Gaillarde in D minor (Moderato ben marcato) that begins with a lively fanfare and then turns into a many-sectioned dance with a recurring dotted-rhythm refrain. This is followed by a quiet, homophonic G minor Pavane in two nearly identical halves and a Scène du bouquet (Andante) whose très espressif viola and cello tune in F sharp minor is provided with a charming little melodic tail from the clarinet. No. 4 is called Lesquercarde and is a lively little two-step Allegro dance in G major with tambourine accompaniment and oboe melody. It is followed by the beautiful A major Madrigal, with its lilting violin melody and parallel third-filled central portion. No. 6 is a Passepied whose steady quaver arpeggiation and open-fifth tune remind one of the passepied finale of Debussy's Suite bergamasque. The final movement is a truncated reprise of the Gaillarde.

Ludvig van Beethoven: Overture to Coriolan Op. 62

Ludwig van Beethoven: Overture to Coriolan Op.62

One of Shakespeare's most powerful tragedies is Coriolanus, the story of a patrician Roman general destroyed by his overweening pride. After a decisive victory over the Volscians, Coriolanus refuses the consulship of Rome because it requires him to humble himself before the plebians or commoners; enraged at his arrogance, the people drive him into exile. But the willful general seeks revenge: he defects to his former enemies, the Volscians, and leads them against Rome. He battles his way to the very gates of Rome, where his compatriots send delegations asking him to spare his own city. When the stiff-necked warrior remains obdurate, his wife, mother, and son go out to plead with him, and he finally relents. Furious at his betrayal, the Volscians put him to death.
A taut sonata form, the Coriolan Overture musically describes the full tragedy in just eight minutes. It is cast in a significant key for Beethoven: C minor, which Michael Steinberg calls his “clenched-fist” key; it also coloured other heroic works, notably his Fifth Symphony. Three massive C's exploding into violent chords open the piece; they are separated by dramatic pauses, which will be an important element throughout. Here is a titanic yet concise portrait of a hero ruled by will and rage. Coriolanus' restless temperament is further delineated by the fitful, ever-modulating principal theme that follows. In utter contrast is the lovely, flowing second theme, representing the feminine pleas of the warrior's wife and mother. When the massive C's return for the third and final time, Beethoven foretells the hero's fate. Coriolanus' music disintegrates into the silence of death, ending with three almost inaudible plucked C's.






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