Phoenix
The Orchestra Reborn

Dance - Program Notes

dance, january 26th, 7:30pm - the armory

Selections from Terpsichore
Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)

Born around February 15, 1571, Michael Praetorius was a prolific German composer, theorist, and organist.  After receiving his musical education he began his career as a church organist in Frankfurt, and later moved on to Wolfenbüttel (1592-3), where he became court Kapellmeister in 1604.  Although he devoted most of his life to church music—he published over twenty collections of mostly Lutheran chorales—he also made extensive plans for secular collections named after the Ancient Greek Muses.  Unfortunately only one of these collections was published, Terpsichore (1612).

In Greek mythology Terpsichore is the Muse of lyric poetry and dancing; her name literally translates to “delighting in dancing.”  It is therefore no surprise that Praetorius’ Terpsichore is a collection of 312 French-style dances in four, five, and six parts.  While many assume that Praetorius composed all the works himself, only some are his.  Others are his harmonizations of dance melodies supplied by the Royal Dancing Master Antoine Emeraud, original five-part pieces by the French court violinist Caroubel, and anonymous two voice settings to which Praetorius added inner parts.  The collection was most likely intended for a consort of violins; however, as you will see tonight it can be performed by any consort of instruments.

Tonight’s selections from Terpsichore include: Volte (no. 201), Ballet de Coqs (no. 254), and La Bouree (no. 32). All three of these dances are Praetorius’ harmonizations of original melodies supplied by Emeraud.  The first, “Volte,” is a beautiful example of a volta.  The volta is a triple-meter dance with Provençal origins that was popular at court from the mid 16th to the mid 17th Centuries.  In Italian “volta” translates to “turn.”  It is a unique court dance because it features a couple in a close embrace as well as its eponymous turn, where one dance partner lifts the other in the air as the couple turns.  The second, “Ballet de Coqs,” translates to “Ballet of the Roosters.”  If you close your eyes while listening to it (especially on historically accurate instruments) you can almost hear a rooster crowing to bring about the dawn of a new day, particularly in the triple meter section.  Our final selection, “La Bouree,” finds its origins in the French Basse danse, the principle court dance during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  By the early 17th Century the bourrée evolved into the stylized instrumental form that you will hear tonight.  Its characteristics include duple meter with an anacrusis, a moderate to fast tempo, simple phrasing, and a homophonic texture.  We hope you enjoy our modern interpretation of these playful Renaissance dances.

Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

One of the most renowned composers of classical music, W.A. Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria.  Mozart received his education, along with his siblings, from his father Leopold Mozart.  He began to show his musical gifts at a very young age and, according to his father, he composed his earliest compositions when he was five years old.  Throughout his childhood and teenage years Mozart spent an extensive amount of time traveling around Europe with his father playing at various courts.  In 1773 he received employment as a court musician in Salzburg, and although he was quite successful there, after some time he started to desire something more.  He began another period of travel in search of employment and in 1778 his search brought him to Paris, where he was undoubtedly exposed to various sinfonia concertantes.  Unable to find a suitable position elsewhere, Mozart returned to Salzburg in January 1779.  Still inspired by the sinfonia concertantes he heard Paris he began to write two of his own.  The first one he unfortunately abandoned; however, the second is the masterpiece that you will hear tonight.    

The genre of the sinfonia concertante found its origins in Paris toward the end of the 18th Century as a showpiece to feature multiple soloists.  Traditionally, in a sinfonia concertante the composer highlights a relationship between the two soloists.  It is quite unlike the Classical concerto since the composer typically uses the orchestra as merely an unobtrusive accompaniment, leaving all of the important melodies to the soloists.  Sinfonia concertantes are usually quite lighthearted and intended to emphasize the virtuosity of the soloists.  

Considered one of his early masterpieces, Mozart’s work features a solo Violin and Viola with an orchestra comprised of strings, two oboes and two horns.  While it contains more interaction between the soloists and the orchestra than the previous definition suggests, Mozart still manages to retain the integrity of the genre while putting his own spin on things.  He originally wrote the work for Violin and Viola scordatura. This means that the viola’s strings were intended to be tuned to pitches different from their normal ones; in this case Mozart wanted them tuned a semi-tone higher in order to create a brighter sound.  However, this practice was only intended for historical instruments and therefore modern violas do no accommodate this request.  

The first movement, Allegro maestoso begins with a masterful introduction that incorporates many compositional techniques of Mozart’s time, including the Mannheim Walze, or Mannheim roller, in which the orchestra builds with a dramatic crescendo from piano to fortissimo.  Once the introduction comes to a climax the crescendo dramatically reverses and from the texture of the orchestra the soloists emerge.  Throughout the movement they continue to toss the principal thematic material back and forth; this culminates in a dramatic cadenza.   The second movement, Andante, is one of Mozart’s early examples of a truly melancholy C-minor movement, a key that he would return to time and time again in his later works.  The last movement, Presto, is a rondo of sorts, featuring sections of alternating material.  The movement is undeniably charming with a stunning brilliance of virtuosity that is sure the keep the audience engaged until the very end.  Tonight’s performance will feature Phoenix musicians Zenas Hsu (violin), and Sam Kelder (viola).  

“Washington’s Birthday” from A Symphony: New England Holidays
Charles Ives (1874-1954)

Born in Danbury, Connecticut on October 20, 1874, Charles Ives is regarded as the leading American composer of art music of the early 20th Century.  He was born into one of Danbury’s leading families; his father made a career out of teaching, performing and conducting music.  Ives was exposed to a wide range of music early on in his life and studied both piano and organ.  He became quite an accomplished performer of American vernacular music, Protestant church music, and European classical music.  Although he studied piano and organ with a variety of different teachers, he studied theory and counterpoint with his father, who helped guide him through his first compositions.  

In 1894 Ives went on to study at Yale University; however, just six weeks after he matriculated his father died suddenly of a stroke, changing his life drastically.  While Ives studied music and composed actively throughout his time at Yale—finding a mentor in Horatio Parker—after graduating he found a job in insurance, where he would remain for 30 years.  He never gave up hope of a musical career and continued to play and compose while he worked in insurance.  Although there were periods of time when Ives had a tortured relationship with his music making, his compositional output continued to grow throughout the early 1900s.  It is in this period that he increased his integration of vernacular and church music into his orchestra compositions.  From 1908-1918 Ives entered a period of what has been called modernist nationalism, using modernist techniques to reflect on American music and culture.  Written between 1909-19, A Symphony: New England Holidays reflects on his childhood celebrations of intrinsically American holidays: Washington’s Birthday, Decoration Day, The Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day.  Ives was inspired by his childhood in Danbury and treated this work as a nostalgic amalgam of compositional techniques.

Tonight you will hear the first movement of Ives’ Holidays Symphony.  This movement was completed in 1909, and then rescored for strings, horn, flute, bells, and jaw harp in 1913.  It takes place on George Washington’s birthday in the midst of a snowy New England winter.  The piece opens quite introspectively as a mournful melody emerges to capture a cold and dreary February night.  The scene then moves inside to a barn filled to the brim with dancing people.  Ives captures the true nature of the American barn dance culture by infusing folk songs into the music including: Camptown Races,” “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” “Sailor’s Hornpipe” and the church song “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  Ives leaves all the true grit of the folk tunes intact so that even a trained classical musician would sound like an amateur folk musician in the performance.  In typical Ives fashion, the music becomes more and more raucous until it reaches a climactic crunch.  The barn atmosphere dissipates and the listener is once again brought outside into the wintry snow.  The piece ends with a solo violin playing echoes of the folk songs that slip away just as memories of childhood fade into the distance.  

Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon
Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961)

Percy Grainger was an accomplished composer, pianist, and arranger born in Australia.  A champion of the folksong, Grainger is best known for his settings of British folk music.  He spent the first thirteen years of his life in Melbourne, Australia before attending school at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt and then moving to London in 1901, where he remained until 1914.  During this time, he collected and arranged English folksongs.  Some of his most popular works during this period were Molly on the Shore (1907) and Shepherd’s Hey (1908-13).  

When World War I began, he moved to the United States, where he worked quite successfully as both a pianist and composer.  He served in the US Army from 1917-1919 as an oboist, soprano saxophonist, and later instructor of the army band. In 1918 he became an American citizen.  After his mother’s suicide in 1922, Grainger refocused his career on education.  During World War II, Grainger re-launched his career as a solo pianist; he gave his final concert tour in 1948.  He continued to lecture and perform in schools until about 1960, when illness plagued the final year of his life.   He gave his final concert on April 29, 1960 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  

Originally set by Grainger for chorus and whistlers in 1901, Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon is a Scottish folksong.  The song, originally called “The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight,” was texted by Robert Burns in 1791.  The text reads:

Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon
How ye can bloom so fresh and fair
How can ye chant ye little birds
And I sae weary fu' o' care

Ye'll break my heart ye warbling birds
That wantons thro' the flowering thorn
Ye mind me o' departed joys
Departed never to return

Oft hae I rov'd by bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine
And ilka bird sang o' its love
And fondly sae did I o' mine

 
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose
Fu' sweet upon its thorny tree
But my false lover stole my rose
But ah! She left the thorn wi’ me

Like many of Grainger’s settings it has been arranged for various groups of instruments and/or voices and was first published for winds by Schott & Co. in 1936.  The setting is quite simple, yet it is in this simplicity that one discovers the true beauty of the Scottish melody.  

Symphony in D major, Wq 183, 1
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)

Born in Germany in 1714, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the third son (second surviving) of Johann Sebastian Bach.  He was regarded as the most important composer in Protestant Germany during the second half of the 18th- Century.  He received his musical education from his father, and from the age of 15 he took part in his father’s musical performances in both the church and the collegium musicum.  After spending many of his early years with his family in Leipzig, he found employment in the Prussian court when Frederick II ascended the throne (May 31, 1740).  Although officially employed as a chamber musician, he still produced a rich compositional output during his twenty-eight years at court.  Although his music was quite popular, Bach soon grew tired of the conservative taste at court and in 1968 accepted the post of civic music director in Hamburg, following in the footsteps of his godfather, Georg Philipp Telemann.  He remained in Hamburg for the rest of his life, actively performing and composing both inside and outside of his official duties.  

Within his oeuvre C.P.E. Bach designated nineteen of his works as symphonies.  He began writing symphonies shortly after he accepted employment at the Prussian court.  His symphonies continued to develop throughout his time at court; however, they truly flourished once Bach settled in Hamburg.  He expanded his orchestration to include flutes, oboes, bassoons, and horns in addition to the string orchestra.  In a letter to his publisher he wrote, “I wrote four grand orchestral symphonies with twelve obbligato parts.  They are the most substantial works of the kind that I have written.  Modesty forbids me to say more.” 

- Christina Dioguardi