GIOVANNI GABRIELI 1557 - 1612
Canzon Noni Toni a Duodecim Vocum
Giovanni Gabrieli of Venice, Italy began his studies with his uncle, well-known composer Andrea Gabrieli, and he continued his music studies in Munich under renowned composer Orlando de Lassus. By age 30, Gabrieli had returned to Venice to become principal organist at Saint Mark’s Basilica, followed by a similar position at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the most prestigious Venetian confraternity.
Renowned singers and instrumentalists in Italy performed under Gabrieli and he became one of the most noted European composers. His work contributed to the production of German Baroque and to the era of J.S. Bach.
Gabrieli preferred sacred vocal and instrumental music, to the exclusion of lighter, more popular forms of music. Among his innovations was a subtle employment of dynamics. He often used an arrangement of two choir lofts facing each other; the effect made a striking sound across the lofts.
The Canzon Noni Toni a Duodecim Vocum was composed for an ensemble of brass instruments. It is an early example of the first orchestration of instrumental music using a polychordal style, with dynamic contrasts between high and low sounding music.
The 55-year-old Gabrieli died in Venice of complications from a kidney stone.
JOSEPH HAYDN 1732 – 1809
Symphony No. 96 in D Major 1791
In the 1790’s renowned composer Haydn exchanged his aristocratic setting on the Esterhazy estates for cosmopolitan London. The 60-year-old had been the director of music for the royal Esterhazy family for 29 years. During his stay in London, Haydn wrote 12 London Symphonies, the crown of symphonic achievement. He was helped along by his newfound freedom to do, go, and feel life for the first time away from the musical dictates of the aristocracy. Although symphonic form existed before Haydn’s contributions, he structured its erratic parts into a 4-movement symphonic style that has been used since the 18th century.
Returning to Vienna, Haydn exchanged symphonic composing for vocal works, including his famous oratorio, The Creation. The dying 77-year-old’s last act was to play his composition, the Austrian National Anthem, while a Napoleonic honor guard stood at his doorstep during Austro-French battles.
Symphony No. 96 premiered at Haydn’s first London concert in March, 1791. The composer’s purpose was to appeal to a wide “bourgeois” audience that would replace the courtly crowd in Austria. Violinist and impresario Salomon took over the podium, while the audience was electrified at the sight of Haydn at the keyboard.
The First Movement starts with a slow, deliberate introduction, followed by an upbeat allegro that includes elaborate solo parts for two violins in complex interplays. The Second Movement features light-footed, rococo-type pastoral music. The music then plunges into minor key passages in a contrapuntal style. After a return to serenity, a long cadenza coda ends the movement. The Third Movement repeatedly alternates a brawny statement for full orchestra with delicate responses by strings and woodwinds. The second section highlights an oboe solo playing a delicate, waltz-swinging Austrian folk dance tune. The Fourth Movement presents an energetic, loud-soft/major-minor rondo on one theme, and includes a prominent wind-band passage.
RICHARD WAGNER 1813 – 1883
“Siegfried’s Rhine Journey”
From Gotterdammerung 1869 – 1876
Richard Wagner revealed no early interest or aptitude for the arts, despite a family involved in activities in the arts. His interests changed at age 15 after attending performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the opera Fidelio. After these experiences, he decided to become a composer. With only a smattering of training in music, he dropped out of the University of Leipzig, and embarked on an intense study of music scores, where he learned counterpoint from Beethoven, orchestration from Mozart, and harmony by “instinct”, e.g., what sounded right to him. His limited music education enabled him to earn music and choir directorships at small church ensembles.
Finally, upon the success of his opera Rienzi, at age 29 the die was cast. He, as both librettist and composer, was now involved in the process of combining music, poetry, literature, painting, sculpture, and architecture into one theatrical drama to replace the traditional way of presenting opera.
The four operas of Wagner’s RING cycle (das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung) constitute a fusion of all the arts in a 15-hour mythological music drama depicting the rise and collapse of civilization.
The RING, with its superheroes, deranged gods, and shape-shifting monstrosities, was the beginning of theatrical sagas. More than 100 years later, we are witnessing the descendants of his dramatic scheme: Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and others.
Wagner’s production encompassed 4 connected operas spread out over 4 days. He derived thematic material from medieval German epics, which displayed deep feelings for nature, the supernatural as dramatic element, and the glorification of the German lands and people. It had as its theme the full acquisition of power and ultimate destruction of the world. Moreover, the RING cycle centers around the location of gold and a ring that lay guarded on the bottom of the Rhine River; the ring confers unlimited power and a curse on whoever possesses it.
Siegfried’s Rhine Journey is music connecting with the prologue of the fourth RING opera, Gotterdammerung. The first music simulates darkness and is depicted by the lower, grumbling voices of the brass section. Then Fate casts the long shadow that follows the curse of the ring. Lighter, brighter music depicts the coming daybreak, along with the sounds of gurgling river waves. The music swells in increasing power, and leads to the reunion and love of Siegfried and Brunnhilde. Full daylight enlivens the scene, as Siegfried rises, sounds his horn and departs on her magic horse. The music increases in intensity and surges towards a towering climax. The orchestral motifs of Brunnhilde, Siegfried, and Magic Fire blast forth in a torment of sound. The music calms, while the motifs of the Rhine River and Lust for Gold are sounded. Siegfried rides toward the doom of death, as he continues his search for the Ring.
BENJAMIN BRITTEN 1913 - 1976
Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra 1946
(Variations & Fugue on a Theme By Henry Purcell)
For the Guide, British composer Benjamin Britten uses a Henry Purcell dance tune (from Purcell’s play Abdelazer) to serve as the unifying theme for this orchestral composition. He presents the theme for full orchestra, and then uses the theme and variations to musically illustrate the differing capabilities of each instrumental group. The work closes with a grand fugue based on the Purcell theme.
ARTURO MARQUEZ 1950 -
Danzon No. 2 1994
Arturo Marquez was born in Sonora, Mexico in 1950. His grandfather and father were mariachi musicians in Mexico, thus exposing the boy to music. Young Arturo was provided with formal lessons on the trombone, violin and piano. To study composition, he attended the Mexican Music Conservatory for 5 years. After this education, Marquez earned a MFA, a scholarship to study in Paris, a Fulbright Scholarship and collected other honors.
His music reached the international stage with a series of Danzones in the early 1990s. Based on the music of Cuba and Mexico, Danzon No. 2 became popular and is now a signature piece of orchestral repertoire.
Danzon No. 2 features solos for clarinet, oboe, piano, violin, trumpet, and piccolo. The rhythmic interest in the piece is maintained through varying accents and tempi attached to the folklore of the Mexican state of Veracruz.
NOTES RESEARCHED and WRITTEN BY JOAN OLSSON
Steven Errante, conductor
Unless indicated, all program notes are researched and written by Dr. Steven Errante.