Friday, December 12, 2008

Additional Notes

“Idomeneo Overture” is the most familiar part of Mozart’s seldom performed opera, “Idomeneo.” The opera is in Italian but the music is considered to be in the French style. It is based on Greek myth and set on the island of Crete after the Trojan war. Among the dramatic events in Mozart’s opera are a storm at sea and an attack of the island by a sea monster.

Alexander Borodin was a 19th century Russian composer, part of a group dedicated to developing Russian art music. The musical “Kismet” borrowed some of his musical themes from his opera “Prince Igor.” “In the Steppes of Central Asia” is a symphonic poem written to celebrate the silver anniversary of the reign of Alexander II. It was first performed in 1880, and remains a popular concert piece.

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was among the most famous modern American composers. “Hoedown” is the finale of his 1942 ballet, “Rodeo,” written for choreographer Agnes de Mille, who herself danced a major role at the Metropolitan Opera premiere. Like many of Copland’s famous pieces, this was based on an American folk tune—in this case, Appalachian fiddler W.M. Stepp’s version of a square dance tune, “Bonypart.” Copland’s “Hoedown” borrowed specifically from Ruth Crawford Seeger’s piano transcription, which she made for the Alan Lomax and Seeger collection, “Our Singing Country,” for the Library of Congress. It has become a familiar American tune.

Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) was a modernist composer based in Paris. In addition to symphonic and chamber works, he wrote for ballet, opera and film, including the score for the groundbreaking Abel Gance epic, “Napoleon.” His choral works include "Le Roi David" ("King David") and the Christmas Cantata to be performed by the Humboldt Symphony and three choral groups, “Une Cantale De Noel.” Written in 1953, it was Honegger’s final composition.

Francesco Durante (1684-1755) was an Italian composer of sacred music as well as a famous teacher. He is known for his harmonies in the Baroque style. The Magnificat is a canticle in various Christian church services, with words taken from the Gospel of Luke expressing the Virgin Mary’s profession of faith. Many composers have written Magnificats (Durante alone wrote several) including Bach and Monteverde.

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