A concert by the Oak Ridge Philharmonia on March 16 will include the performance of compositions by Felix Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, and Johannes Brahms.
The concert will include Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90”; Saint-Saen’s “Rapsodie, Op. 7”; and Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80.”
Here is more information from a press release:
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, German Akademische Festouvertüre, overture composed by Johannes Brahms on the occasion of his receiving an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Breslau (now the University of Wrocław in Wrocław, Poland). The work was composed in 1880 and first performed on January 4, 1881.
No doubt the premiere was intended to be a solemn occasion. As an unspoken reciprocation of their award, the University of Breslau had anticipated that Brahms, one of the greatest living composers (albeit one who had not attended college), would write a suitable new work to be played at the award ceremony. There is little doubt that what he provided confounded his hosts’ expectations. Rather than composing some ceremonial equivalent of Pomp and Circumstance—a more standard response—Brahms crafted what he described as a “rollicking potpourri of student songs,” in this case mostly drinking songs. It is easy to imagine the amusement of the assembled students, as well as the somewhat less-amused reaction of the school dignitaries, to Brahms’s lighthearted caprice.
The Academic Festival Overture showcases four beer-hall songs that were well known to German college students. The first, “Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus” (“We Have Built a Stately House”), was proclaimed in the trumpets. “Der Landesvater” (“Father of Our Country”) followed in the strings, and the bassoons took the lead for “Was kommt dort von der Höh’?” (“What Comes from Afar?”), a song that was associated with freshman initiation. Lastly, the entire orchestra joined together for a grand rendition of “Gaudeamus igitur” (“Let Us Rejoice, Therefore”), a song later beloved by operetta fans for its appearance in Sigmund Romberg’s The Student Prince (1924). It was the first melody, however, that was most notorious in the composer’s day. “Wir hatten gebauet” was the theme song of a student organization that advocated the unification of the dozens of independent German principalities. This cause was so objectionable to authorities that the song had been banned for decades. Although the proscription had been lifted in most regions by 1871, it was still in effect in Vienna when Brahms completed his overture. Because of this ban, police delayed the Viennese premiere of the Academic Festival Overture for two weeks, fearing the incitement of the students.
Italian Symphony, byname of Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90, orchestral work by German composer Felix Mendelssohn, so named because it was intended to evoke the sights and sounds of Italy. Its final movement, which is among the most strongly dramatic music the composer ever wrote, even uses the rhythms of Neapolitan dances. The symphony premiered in London on March 13, 1833.
Musicologists have offered many interpretations of the Italian Symphony. For example, the extroverted opening movement might call to mind a lively urban scene, perhaps of Venice. The reverent second movement likely represents Rome during Holy Week, for Mendelssohn’s letters reveal that he was impressed by the religious processions he witnessed. The third movement, a graceful minuet distantly reminiscent of Mozart, is suggestive of an elegant Florentine Renaissance palace. Neither these nor any other interpretations of the first three movements are definitive, however.
By contrast, the fourth, and final, movement needs no speculation. It depicts without a doubt a rural scene in southern Italy, for it blends two lively folk dance styles: the saltarello and the tarantella. The dances, different in rhythmic structure, are alike in general character. Both are wild and swirling, abundantly energetic (bordering on frenetic), and unquestionably Italian. In the symphony’s uninhibited finale, Mendelssohn, so deeply displeased with Italian concert music, showed his favourable reaction to the country’s folk music. He also demonstrated that Italian regional music styles could be used to great effect in an orchestral composition.
Rapsodie Bretonne, Op. 7 bis is an interesting work when one considers its creative origins. On a holiday to the Gulf of Morbihan, with some artist friends, Saint-Saëns heard local folk songs. He transcribed these melodies and used them as the bases for a new organ work in three movements, Trois Rhapsodies sur des Cantiques Bretons Op. 7 (1866), dedicated to his former student, Gabriel Fauré. The present work utilises this organ work as the basis for this orchestral setting. In particular Saint-Saëns re-composed, or rather orchestrated, the piece in 1891. What is taken from the original organ work? The first movement of Trois Rhapsodies sur des Cantiques Bretons is orchestrated as the first movement of Rapsodie Bretonne Op. 7 bis. The keys, structure, and melodies are retained, though the timbral variance shown in the organ setting are expanded in the orchestral setting. The third movement of Trois Rhapsodies sur des Cantiques Bretons is the orchestrated as the second movement of Rapsodie Bretonne Op. 7 bis. Neither movement alters the structure or content of the first work, only the orchestral forces. Notable is that the second movement of Trois Rhapsodies sur des Cantiques Bretons, a fugue which utilises the organ’s capacity to imitate itself across a vast register, is not used in the new orchestral work. Perhaps he saw it to be too innate to the organ’s capabilities.
Rapsodie Bretonne Op. 7 bis was published in 1892. Saint-Saëns uses a strong orchestral force to match that of the former organ work: a full string section is joined by 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 1 cor anglais, 2 clarinets in Bb and A, 4 horns (2 in Eb and 2 in F), 2 trumpets in C, and 3 trombones. Each of the two movements uses a folk tune which is repeated at regular intervals and is set in imitation.
To enjoy these compositions, join the orchestra on Saturday, March 16, at 2 pm in the Sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge (on the corner of the Oak Ridge Turnpike and LaFayette Drive). Admission is free, but the orchestra appreciates modest donations at the door to support routine operating expenses.
The Oak Ridge Philharmonia is a 501(c)3, nonprofit, volunteer organization, performing under the baton of Conductor and Music Director Marcelo Urias. Anyone wishing to regularly participate in the orchestra is encouraged to contact Personnel Manager Alex Wilson at [email protected] Usually, we can accommodate additional string players, and occasionally there are openings in the brass, woodwind, and percussion sections. The orchestra welcomes experienced musicians of all ages. The Oak Ridge Philharmonia is a rewarding venue for instrumentalists who enjoy playing for an appreciative audience, with music ranging from Baroque through Classical to Contemporary. For more information about the orchestra, visit www.OakRidgePhilharmonia.org.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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