Sunday, April 03, 2016

Humboldt Symphony: Conductor's Notes

Notes edited from an interview with conductor Paul Cummings:

March Militaire Francaise by Camille Saint-Saëns

This is the military march from Saint-Saëns' Suite Algerian. As with most military marches of the 19th century, the trumpet is treated as an heroic fanfare instrument, proclaiming the battle is about to begin, or victory is won. So the trumpets have a very prominent role, especially at the end of the piece.

Courtly Dances from Gloriana by Benjamin Britten
This is from the opera that Britten wrote about England’s Queen Elizabeth I, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Because of its connection with the first Elizabeth, it uses musical structures from her time in the 17th century. So the music sounds like late Renaissance in style, and in keeping with that, Britten uses consorts of instruments. So you’ll hear a string sound, then a brass sound, then a woodwind sound, in the way Renaissance composers use recorders, then Sackbuts, then viols.

The Engulfed Cathedral by Claude Debussy. 

Debussy wrote this piece for piano, in a book of preludes. Though the piano piece is one of Debussy’s most popular and most played, the orchestral version is hardly ever done.

 It’s very slow, and as close to program music as Debussy ever gets. It follows the legend about a cathedral submerged in the sea that once a century emerges out of the water and comes to life when the church bells are heard again. So the music is calm and sort of mysterious at the beginning, then it depicts the cathedral slowly rising, building to the climax when we hear the bells, and then the cathedral sinks back into the water. So musically it has a classic arc shape, a rise to a climax and then a fall back to the beginning point—beginning and ending softly but with a huge climax in the middle.

Movements from Carmen Suite #2 by Georges Bizet

Bizet wrote two orchestral suites culled from his opera Carmen. This was a common practice of getting the music into the concert hall without the elaborate and expensive staging of an entire opera.  This suite has some of the opera's most familiar melodies, such as the Habanera and the Toreador Song.  We'll do some of this second suite for this concert, and the entire suite in our concert in May.

No comments: