Saturday, November 01, 2014

Humboldt Symphony November 1 Concert: Director's Notes

Excerpted from an interview with Paul Cummings

"We are we are collaborating with the Eureka High School String Orchestra. The high school students will perform the first part of the concert, we’ll do the second with Humboldt Symphony strings only, then some music combined with both groups.

 Featuring just the string section only is very unusual for us. In our portion of the concert we’ll perform excerpts from three pieces for string orchestra. Then in December we’ll play the complete works."

 Archangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso #8

"Corelli is one of the great mid-Baroque period composers at the end of the 17th century. He was mainly active in Rome. This piece is probably his best- known work for strings. It might sound familiar from parts of it heard during the holiday season.

 Corelli wrote quite a few pieces in this form of the concerto grosso, which features two main groups: the concertino group, which is a group of soloists, and the ripeno, which is everybody else. In most cases the concertino group is two violins and one cello.

 The concerto grosso is an historical form that was very important in the Baroque period. Most composers of the time wrote music in this form. It was the earliest form of what later became known simply as the concerto, with one soloist accompanied by the orchestra.

 In this piece the concertino group plays for awhile, then the ripeno comes in. Sometimes they play together, sometimes separately. We’ll be playing this piece with harpsichord and strings. It’s a chance to feature the stronger players as part of the concertino group. We’re going to feature three different soloists in each concert in November and December, so more of our students get the opportunity to experience the solo role without the music being really long, as in a nineteenth century concerto, or really really difficult."

 Karel Husa: Four Little Pieces (Vier kleine Stucke) 1955 

" From mid-Baroque we jump over 250 years to a contemporary piece. Karel Husa was born in 1921 in Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to the United States and began teaching at Cornell University in 1954. He published this work the next year.

This work is about as far removed from Archangelo Corelli as one can imagine. Husa uses modern harmonic language including atonal passages. There are two movements in this work that are atonal, meaning that there is no key center to the music.

 In this concert we’ll be playing the first movement, which is a set of variations. They are highly contrasted—some are very tonal, very singable, and others are harsh and abstract, so you find yourself surprised that the same composer could have written all of them. It’s really good music by a good composer."

 Edvard Grieg: From Holberg’s Time, Suite for Strings op. 40 #168 

 "This is a very famous work. In typical Grieg style, there is always something melodic happening. In the same vein as Franz Schubert, melody really drives his music. That’s very apparent in this piece, where there’s always melodic material that’s the basis of the development of the music.

 Grieg is considered Norway’s greatest composer. He wrote this in 1884 to honor Ludvig Holberg, a writer of the early 18th century who is considered the founder of modern Norwegian and Danish literature. He was called “the Moliere of Scandanavia.” So Grieg is capturing the spirit embodied in his literature and that earlier time. We’ll do two or three of the five movements this time, and the complete suite in December."

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