The Importance of Music

The Importance of Music

CSO B&W

There is so much written – these days – about the importance of music. Music in our everyday lives, music education in schools, how learning an instrument improves one’s cognitive function.

Music is math. Music improves verbal IQ. Great music can transform the mundane into magic. Music lifts your spirits, improves your mood. Singing brings us together. Music reduces stress and anxiety.

The list of the positive impact that music has on humanity is voluminous. Shelves of books on the subject abide.

For some of us who have been fortunate to be introduced to music at an early age, none of this is news. Maybe your family played instruments, sang in the church choir, sang around the piano at holidays, gathered around the radio listening to Benny Goodman, or boasted a collection of Fifth Dimension LPs. Whatever music was going on in your life, an impression was made that will last a lifetime. Every child remembers the nursery rhymes learned in kindergarten, the lullabies sung. Every teenager claims “his” music as the soundtrack of his formative years. And it will be “his” music for life.

Music is one of the most fundamental expressions of human life. And, often, the more exposure we have, the more eclectic our musical tastes become. We may live for decades, thinking that all we like is Country music, then a friend invites us to a jazz concert and we are thrown into a frenzy over this exciting ‘new’ sound. We may play guitar in a rock and roll band, be in love with gospel music, think there never will be anyone like Frank Sinatra. Then, one day, you find yourself sitting in symphony hall and the orchestra is playing Barber’s Adagio for Strings and you are reduced to a puddle of tears, your life changed forever.

This is the glory of music. It is for everyone, everywhere. It is the universal language that expresses the unexpressible. It is the destroyer of walls between us. It is the ultimate human experience.

To discuss the importance of music is fun and interesting, and science has shown how beneficial music can be in treating all sorts of neurological and emotional issues. But, it is rather like discussing the importance of the sun. Lots of interesting facts, of course, but to really grasp its importance – just imagine where we would be without it.

Written for Regina Buckley, TEMPO, The Magazine of The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Fall 2016

An Old Story – Prologue

Clouds

~ Our Little Wishes

Think about the hundreds of people you see and meet, have brief conversations with, maybe work or play with. Every day. Every week. Some become friends, even lovers. But, in time, you or they move on, leaving impressions and memories of all textures.

Each one contributes a sentence, a page, a chapter to the story of you.

The business of everyday life casts you playing out scenes with your fellow actors, changing – ever changing – with entrances and exits. Until suddenly, without intent or warning, you take a seat on a bus, or walk into a room, or stand in line at the grocery. You look up and there is a pair of eyes you instantly recognize as those you’ve been waiting for.

The missing piece of a puzzle you didn’t realize was missing.

Even if you decide to let the moment pass, get off that bus, pick up your groceries and head for the car without looking back, that moment will change you. You will wonder what might have happened if you had spoken, if you had begun to walk down the long road of discovery. You will never be quite the same, because every other pair of eyes will always pale in comparison. You’ve seen a new light, one that shines from within only one person, and its warmth will haunt you all your days.

We are romantic by nature. In our culture, we are raised with tales of falling in love, getting married, living happily ever after. At least, in my generation, this was true. We bought the whole package – that we were destined to find the ultimate joy in life with that special someone – that once you have found him/her, we were to ‘never let him/her go’.

By the time we reach a mature adulthood (in years, even if not developmentally) we may suspect this tale of romance has been misrepresented. The eyes of romantic ecstasy never appeared. Or perhaps we found that special someone, reached for the brass ring and came up empty, or worse. We protect our hearts. We become jaded.

Yet. And yet. For most of us, in the quietest of times, if we are not too afraid of honesty, we secretly harbor a little wish for the love of a lifetime.

 

~ from AN OLD STORY, by Sherry Campbell

My Best Friend

I was 18 and very pregnant when I moved into the tiny house on East Street in Suffield CT.  My next door neighbors were a young couple – about 10 years older than I was – with three young children.  Truth is, I remember very little about that time in my life, other than the circumstances that got me where I was!  And, I remember the pink sundress I wore almost constantly because I had very few maternity clothes.  The only other person in my life who remembers that dress is my oldest and best friend in all the world, Josie, who was the young mother living next door.

When I finally delivered my baby, it was obvious I knew close to nothing – no, absolutely nothing – about babies.  This became clear to Josie when I confided that I was worried my baby cried a lot and had lost a little weight.  She asked me what I was feeding him and I said “Similac”, which is what the pediatrician recommended since I had stopped nursing.  My new friend said, without hesitation, “He’s hungry.  He needs some real food.”  She went to the store and bought baby cereal, which he devoured.  To this day, my son swears that he has food issues because I was starving him as an infant.

This was not the first time Josie saved me from myself.  Later, when I was working as a waitress (which I almost always was in those days) and we had spent the afternoon drinking Bolla Valpolicella and I wasn’t in any condition to go anywhere, she got me into a shower, dressed me and delivered me to work.  She was my big sister, the mother I missed, my playmate.  When her fourth child arrived, I was the one who held her, wrapped in a towel with her head hanging over the sink so Jo could wash her hair.  She hated it when her hair was washed.

Neither of us had any money.  Dinner for us was often pancakes with syrup made from sugar water and maple flavoring.  More than one Christmas found us at the Goodwill to get toys for the kids.  What did they know or care that they were used?  We had a ball finding those treasures.  One year, when at the store buying Easter baskets, I wanted her to buy her baby a bonnet.  It was a dollar.  She refused to buy it. “She’s a baby.  She doesn’t need a bonnet.”  We still laugh about that and, over the years, I have bought her several hats – every time saying YOU NEED A BONNET.

I don’t remember feeling deprived.  At all.  There were parties.  Christmas brought cookie making with everyone there.  And, there were always kids at her house, cub scouts, neighbors, cousins’ children.  Josie and her husband Wes had bought this little house when they were first married.  It had 2 bedrooms, which the kids used.   Jo and Wes slept on a pull-out couch in the living room.  He worked hard to support his family, she budgeted every penny like Scrooge himself.  They didn’t have money.  They did have each other.

One Sunday morning, I was awakened by Josie shaking me. “You have to come over – something’s wrong with Wes!”  I remember calling for an ambulance. I don’t know what made me do that – reflex, I guess.  Then, running next door through a couple of feet of snow.  Wes was lying on the couch, barely breathing, Jo at his side, telling him she was ‘here’.  The ambulance came to my house first, I ran outside and flagged them down.  Then they were there, putting him on a stretcher, carrying him out to the ambulance.  Josie had her coat on and was going with them.  I remember saying, “Everything is going to be ok.  I’ll take care of the kids”.  And that was it.

No one should lose their husband at the age of 30.  Leaving her behind with 4 children under the age of 10.  Without a driver’s license, even.  What kind of hell is that, I ask.  What does one do?  Go on.  That’s what.  You have a family to take care of.  You do what you need to do.  And she did.

Again, this particular time is murky in my memory.  Images of being in Forbes and Wallace, handing her black dresses to try on for the funeral.  Her sobbing her heart out over his coffin.  Let her cry.

The months, years following. Both of us, struggling to make a life of our own – each of us with our personal challenges.  Hers always felt so much more weighty than mine.  Whatever she went through, I was there for her.  Even when I finally moved away.  Coming to see Josie was coming ‘home’.  She, a second mother for my boy.  Me, giving her anything I could.  Being her friend.

All this happened decades ago.  Both of us have been through each other’s marriages, divorces, dogs, cats, birds & ferrets, broken hearts, grandchildren, more bottles of red wine.  Eventually, trips to Mexico and California, a weekend in a haunted hotel in upstate New York. Our childrens’ and grandchildren’s crises.  More Christmas cookies.  Sickness. Loss.  Life.

Now.  it is my best friend’s 79th year.  She’s been dealing with health issues for a few years.  I always ask, “how are you doing?”.  “I’m fine.”  Always “I’m fine”.  A couple of weeks ago, she was taken to the hospital and I called.  “How are you doing?”  pause.  “I’ve been really sick.  Not too good.”  What happened to “I’m fine”?

I don’t want her to be sick.  I don’t want her to be anything but fine.  I want her to be with me forever.  I want to buy her another hat and drink wine.

 

Maestro and friends

The Peace River Wildlife Center

One of the most visited places in Punta Gorda – and certainly one of the most special – is Ponce de Leon Park and the Peace River Wildlife Center.  This year, the fine folks who run this wonderful organization have become partners with the Charlotte Symphony.  Here is an article I wrote for the January 2016 issue of symphony magazine, TEMPO, telling our patrons all about it!

The Peace River Wildlife Center ~

The Symphony’s new community partner!

 TEMPO visits the PRWC

Long before human beings lifted their voices in song, or played instruments, or composed the glorious music we enjoy at our Symphony concerts, there was the music of the natural world! Birds of all kinds filled the air with their tones. Whales sang their haunting calls from the depths of the ocean. Our human music is inspired by nature, inextricably connected with its rhythms and we, here in Southwest Florida, are blessed to be surrounded by both!

This season, our Charlotte Symphony Orchestra welcomes a new partner in the Peace River Wildlife Center.  The Center is familiar to everyone who lives here in Punta Gorda and one of the most popular attractions for our visitors.

“The most important work we do here is the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife”, says Callie Stahl the Center’s Operations Manager. Most animals that come to us are either injured or displaced because of human action. Our work is an attempt to restore to nature what humans have harmed.”

Callie is a native of Florida and was a music major at Florida State University, until she changed her career goals to working with animals and worked as a veterinary technician for several years. In 2009, she came to the Center as a re-hab specialist and then became Operations Manager in 2012.  “When I came here, I realized this is where I belong. There is something new happening every day and always something to learn,” she shared during my visit in October.

Our meeting was attended by a gorgeous Great Horned Owl named Bella.  Perched on the back of Callie’s chair, this huge bird occasionally seemed to doze off, only to become wide eyed when a passerby snapped her photo. “She seems to have a bit of attitude” I offered and then learned that she just had her nails clipped and was ‘put out’. Bella had been rescued by another facility as a nestling and released when grown. However, she was soon reported to be going around a neighborhood, house-to-house, ‘asking’ for food! Callie said, “She had imprinted with humans early in life and, even though she still has a hunter’s instinct, she has no idea it’s about survival.” So, to the Center she came and that is home.

The most famous of PRWC’s residents is Luna, the tiny white owl that is now the organization’s mascot and best spokesperson “on the road”.  He is adorable and has his own very attractive cage home in the office.  “Lu” as he is called by the staff, is often seen at meetings, luncheons, and parties around the county when everyone can snap a photo and coo over his cuteness.

While I was visiting, a local couple brought in a heron with a broken wing and another brought a soft-shelled turtle that had been hit by a car. Both couples were so happy to have rescued these creatures – it was obvious it meant a great deal to them. I could see how working in this lively place would become addictive!

Though the rescue and re-hab work is the Center’s primary intent, Callie quickly adds that the concurrent goal is education. The partnership with the Symphony will bring Callie and the Center’s resident veterinarian Dr. Robin Jenkins with some of the Center’s animals to school visits with Maestro this season. This will enrich the Symphony’s art/music school program based on the Carnival of the Animals, and will certainly add excitement and anticipation for the season’s Youth Concert, at which the work by Saint-Saens will be featured!

Callie commented that working with children is particularly important because they learn at an early age to respect animals and all of nature. They grow to be more aware and concerned adults regarding the environment and the connection of all life on our planet.

“Sometimes we can also affect adults who are not too set in their ways. Awareness is the key. So often, people just don’t know. I will get a fearful call saying there’s a bobcat in someone’s yard: “what should we do?”  I tell them to watch and enjoy – be thankful there are still bobcats in our midst. Generally they disappear as quickly as they appear.”  Callie went on to say that when visitors see animals at the Center, they get to know them –personally. Their stories, their personalities. They are no longer just some ‘critter’, they are up close and personal – and that often changes how people feel about them.

At the end of our visit, Callie remarked about the Center’s working environment, “Everyone involved with PRW is here because of their commitment to the work we do, because of their love for wildlife. There are no egos, no agendas, none of the squabbling you see in so many groups. We have the most wonderful staff, volunteers and Board – all kindred spirits with the Center’s best interests at heart. Our goal is to expand the Center to include an education facility – where families can come and learn about the wildlife of the region and become better stewards of our ecosystem.”

The PRWC is a critical component to the culture and texture of life in Punta Gorda. Its mission is simpatico with the environmentally conscious nature of our residents and, thankfully, support for its continued growth is powerfully strong.

Visit Peace River Wildlife Center on Facebook and learn about their rescued animals and events and visit their website at peaceriverwildlifecenter.org.  The Center collects certain recycled items and in need of specific supplies on an ongoing basis.  A great way to make financial contributions is shopping on Amazon.  Go to Smile.Amazon.com and select Peace River Wildlife Center as your charity.

Maestro visits PRWCIMG_4166

Vittorioso – Combined Presenters’ Intros, Movie Names & Notes

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Vittorioso

March 29, 2015

Combined Presenters’ Introductions, Movie Names & Program Notes

1. (no introduction)

 OPENING:  William Tell Overture, Rossini

Movie:  THE LONE RANGER

Notes:

Rossini was the most popular opera composer in history until his retirement.  He was nicknamed “The Italian Mozart” for his song-like melodies and his music was often compared to ‘champagne’. William Tell premiered in 1829 and was the last of Rossini’s 39 operas, although he lived another 40 years and continued to compose other forms of music. Today the opera is remembered mostly for its Overture which is in four parts, each following without pause: Dawn, Storm, Call to the Cows (the calm after the storm), and the Finale – March of the Swiss Soldiers, the very familiar high energy gallop replete with horns and trumpets.

2.

Deep in the world of CIA covert operations in Soviet Russia, this was the movie version of Tom Clancy’s first novel, with some big hitters leading the cast:  Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin and James Earl Jones. A huge financial success, it also won the Oscar for Best Sound Editing and others from the British Academy Film Awards.

The film: The Hunt for Red October

The music: Finlandia, Sibelius

Notes:

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius composed Finlandia for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire. It was the last of seven pieces performed as accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history.  The work is mostly turbulent and rousing, evoking the political struggle of the time, but at the end, quiets into a hymn of reverence and national pride. Finlandia was performed, at that time in history, under different titles in order to avoid censorship. But for nationalists, its message remained clear.

3.

A fun romp with a fantastic soundtrack of popular music, this movie starred a pair of giant comedic TV actors who got to make music with James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and John Lee Hooker while they got the band back together, trying to do a good deed and stay out of jail.  OK, not exactly Academy Award material, but it has been named as one of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of all Time.

The film: The Blues Brothers

The music: Sabre Dance, Khachaturian

Notes:

Sabre Dance is a movement in the final act of Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane, when the dancers display their skills with sabres!  The composer’s best-known and recognizable work, it became an American jukebox hit in 1948.  Since then it has been the accompaniment for circuses, magicians, in TV shows, animated films, commercials, and even video games.  Its wild frenzy is the perfect ‘chase scene’ soundtrack!

4.

Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winner of 7, including Best Picture, Director, and Original Score. The film is deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress and was described as the director’s “gift to his mother, to his people, and in a sense to himself.”  The score was written by one of the great film composers of our time.

The film: Schindler’s List

The music:  Theme from Schindler’s List, John Williams

Notes:

One of America’s most prolific composers of film soundtracks, Williams is known for Star Wars, ET, Jaws, Indiana Jones and the list of instantly recognizable scores goes on and on!  A little known fact:  he also composed the theme song for the TV show Gilligan’s Island.  Tonight’s offering has a very different atmosphere and has won the composer many awards.  The violin solo is haunting, sad, hopeful and unforgettable.

5.

In 1957, the Academy awarded 7 Oscars for this highly praised film, including Best Picture.  The fictional story takes place in World War II, at a prison camp in Thailand.  British prisoners, regardless of their rank, are commanded into forced labor to build a bridge.  The music used for this theme is forever inextricably linked to the story.

The film: Bridge over the River Kwai

The music: Colonel Bogey March, Kenneth Alford

Notes:

The “Colonel Bogey March” was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts, a British Army bandmaster, who composed under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford, since professional lives outside the military were frowned upon at that time. Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer – Colonel Bogey – who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase instead of shouting “Fore!”  His name was adopted for the standard scoring system in golf – ‘Bogey’ is now a golfing term meaning “one over par”.  Composer Malcolm Arnold wrote a counter march for his film score and the two have been entwined ever since.

6.

This 1971 Italian-French drama, based on a novella written by German author Thomas Mann, tells a tale of forbidden love amidst a cholera epidemic. Mahler’s Adagietto opens and closes the film, beautifully framing the drama and romance of the movie that won the Cannes Film Festival in 1971 and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1972.

The film: Death in Venice

The music: Symphony No. 5, Adagietto, Gustav Mahler

Notes:

The fourth movement of Mahler’s 5th may be his most famous composition and is the most frequently performed of his works. It is said to represent Mahler’s love song to his wife, Alma, according to whom the composer had also written an accompanying small poem:

How much I love you, you my sun,

I cannot tell you that with words.

I can only lament to you my longing and love

7.

This 1979 masterpiece, dealing with the Vietnam War, was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Francis Ford Coppola and starred Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall.  The film is now deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and is preserved by the National Film Registry and Library of Congress.

 The film: Apocalypse Now

The music: Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure, Wagner

Notes:

Written between 1851 and 1854, this dramatic piece opens the third act of Die Walkure, an opera based on Norse mythology in which the Valkyrie sisters decide which soldiers in battle will die and which will live. They have gathered on a mountain peak in preparation to transport fallen soldiers to Valhalla.  Even without the glorious operatic voices of the women as they sing their battle song, one easily imagines terrible, flying mythical creatures on an epic mission.

8.

In 1985, this stunning film was nominated for 53 awards and won 40 of them, including 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, as well as Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay by Peter Shaffer, Art Direction, Makeup and Sound.  The soundtrack is a smorgasbord of Mozart’s music.

The film: Amadeus

The music: Symphony #25,

Movement #1, Mozart

Notes:

Mozart lived only 35 years, was competent on both keyboard and violin at 5.  At 17, he was a court musician in Vienna, when he composed his 25th symphony, supposedly only 2 days after he finished No. 24!  In his brief lifetime, he composed over 600 works, profoundly influencing music of the western world and remaining one of the most popular classical composers.  Haydn wrote, “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years”.

9.

The luscious Intermezzo from Mascagni’s one act opera Cavalleria Rusticana was featured in a 1980 film which received 8 Oscar nominations, with Robert de Niro winning Best Actor.  This film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director Martin Scorsese, but lost both categories to a family drama directed by Robert Redford.

The film: Raging Bull

The music: The Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, Mascagni

Notes:

Written in 1890, this classic melodramatic one act opera has been double-billed with the one-act Pagliacci so often, it is casually referred to as “Cav and Pag”.  Both are based on tales of deception, adultery, and murder.  In Cavalleria, a lot of this action takes place in front of a beautiful church in the village square.  The famous Intermezzo is a rare moment of tranquility while the villagers are worshipping.

10.

Mozart’s Music has been used in many, many films.  The Overture to The Marriage of Figaro alone has appeared on seven soundtracks.  Though none of these films were honored by the Oscars, in 1994, this movie starring Arnold Shwarzenegger received Best Picture, as well as several other nominations from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.

The film: The Last Action Hero

The music: The Overture from The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart

Notes:

Among the most frequently performed of Mozart’s operas is The Marriage of Figaro, which is a sequel to an earlier work The Barber of Seville.  It’s a story of a debauched Count, a rejected Countess, and two young lovers entangled in a web of manipulation and schemes – nothing to be taken seriously except the music, which is glorious!

11.

In 2010, this historical film received 12 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Actor and Original Screenplay. Despite the brilliant score by Alexandre Desplay, the director chose to use Beethoven second movement of Symphony #7 for the film’s climactic scene. The emotional effect of the music was so powerful, it almost stole the scene from Colin Firth.

The film: The Kings Speech

The music: Symphony No. 7, Movement #2, Beethoven

Notes:

Beethoven composed his 7th symphony between 1811 and 1812, and it has been noted that he believed it to be one of his best works. The second movement, Allegretto, was immediately the most popular and is frequently performed as a stand-alone piece.  For decades, the theme has haunted musicians and composers of all genres.  I cannot hear it without thinking of the 1994 romantic biographical film Immortal Beloved, which Roger Ebert remarked had clearly been made by “people who feel Beethoven directly in their hearts”.

12.

Although the Oscars eluded this film, it did receive recognition by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, BMI Film and TV Awards, Golden Screen and MTV Movie Awards.  This fast paced adventure featured Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons and Samuel L. Jackson in a New York City thriller.

The film: Die Hard with a Vengeance

The music: American Salute, Morton Gould

Notes:

A quintessential American composer, Gould played piano at movie theatres during the Depression, at Radio City Music Hall, conducted and arranged orchestral programs for radio, composed Broadway scores, music for television, the ballet, and received commissions for symphony orchestras throughout the U.S. including three for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration.  The list of his honors and awards is jaw dropping.  Gould composed American Salute, based on a folk melody, in 1942 (literally overnight) for a patriotic World War II radio broadcast.

Program Notes are the property of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are posted here by permission from the Orchestra and the author.

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Vittorioso!

Classical Music in Award Winning Films!

 

“Vittorioso” Program Notes

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, March 29, 2015

by Sherry Campbell Bechtold

Classical Music in Award Winning Films

Our concert on March 29 will reveal the Award Winning Films that featured these classical works.  I won’t spoil the surprise here, but will reveal the films online after the concert. 

“The marriage of the moving image and music is perhaps the most powerful visual communication we have. You can take almost any edited visual film sequence and change the emotion and feelings engendered by the use of music.” ~ Norman Jewison, Film Director

Gioacchino Rossini ~ Overture to William Tell

Rossini was the most popular opera composer in history until his retirement.  He was nicknamed “The Italian Mozart” for his song-like melodies and his music was often compared to ‘champagne’. William Tell premiered in 1829 and was the last of Rossini’s 39 operas, although he lived another 40 years and continued to compose other forms of music. Today the opera is remembered mostly for its Overture which is in four parts, each following without pause: Dawn, Storm, Call to the Cows (the calm after the storm), and the Finale – March of the Swiss Soldiers, the very familiar high energy gallop replete with horns and trumpets

Jean Sibelius ~ Finlandia, Opus 26

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius composed Finlandia for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire. It was the last of seven pieces performed as accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history. The work is mostly turbulent and rousing, evoking the political struggle of the time, but at the end, quiets into a hymn of reverence and national pride. Finlandia was performed, at that time in history, under different titles in order to avoid censorship. But for nationalists, its message remained clear.

Aram Khachaturian ~Sabre Dance

Sabre Dance is a movement in the final act of Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane, when the dancers display their skills with sabres!  The composer’s best-known and recognizable work, it became an American jukebox hit in 1948.  Since then it has been the accompaniment for circuses, magicians, in TV shows, animated films, commercials, and even video games.  Its wild frenzy is the perfect ‘chase scene’ soundtrack!

John Williams  ~ Theme from……………

One of America’s most prolific composers of film soundtracks, Williams is known for Star Wars, ET, Jaws, Indiana Jones and the list of instantly recognizable scores goes on and on!  A little known fact:  he also composed the theme song for the TV show Gilligan’s Island.  Tonight’s offering has a very different atmosphere and has won the composer many awards.  The violin solo is haunting, sad, hopeful and unforgettable.

Kenneth Alford  ~ Colonel Bogey March

The “Colonel Bogey March” was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. RIcketts, a British Army bandmaster, who composed under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford, since professional lives outside the military were frowned upon at that time. Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer – Colonel Bogey – who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase instead of shouting “Fore!”  His name was adopted for the standard scoring system in golf – ‘Bogey’ is now a golfing term meaning “one over par”.  Composer Malcolm Arnold wrote a counter march for his film score and the two have been entwined ever since. 

 Gustav Mahler  ~ Symphony No. 5, Movement #4- Adagietto

 The fourth movement of Mahler’s 5th may be his most famous composition and is the most frequently performed of his works. It is said to represent Mahler’s love song to his wife, Alma, according to whom the composer had also written an accompanying small poem:

How much I love you, you my sun,

I cannot tell you that with words.

I can only lament to you my longing and love

 Richard Wagner ~ Die Walkure, Ride of the Valkyries

Written between 1851 and 1854, this dramatic piece opens the third act of Die Walkure, an opera based on Norse mythology in which the Valkyrie sisters decide which soldiers in battle will die and which will live. They have gathered on a mountain peak in preparation to transport fallen soldiers to Valhalla.  Even without the glorious operatic voices of the women as they sing their battle song, one easily imagines terrible, flying mythical creatures on an epic mission.

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ~ Symphony No. 25, Movement #1

Mozart lived only 35 years, was competent on both keyboard and violin at 5.  At 17, he was a court musician in Vienna, when he composed his 25th symphony, supposedly only 2 days after he finished No. 24!  In his brief lifetime, he composed over 600 works, profoundly influencing music of the western world and remaining one of the most popular classical composers.  Haydn wrote, “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years”.

Petro Mascagni ~ Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo

Written in 1890, this classic melodramatic one act opera has been double-billed with the one-act Pagliacci so often, it is casually referred to as “Cav and Pag”.  Both are based on tales of deception, adultery, and murder.  In Cavalleria, a lot of this action takes place in front of a beautiful church in the village square.  The famous Intermezzo is a rare moment of tranquility while the villagers are worshipping.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ~ Marriage of Figaro Overture

Among the most frequently performed of Mozart’s operas is The Marriage of Figaro, which is a sequel to an earlier work The Barber of Seville.  It’s a story of a debauched Count, a rejected Countess, and two young lovers entangled in a web of manipulation and schemes – nothing to be taken seriously except the music, which is glorious!

Ludwig von Beethoven ~ Symphony No. 7, Movement #2 – Allegretto

Beethoven composed his 7th symphony between 1811 and 1812, and it has been noted that he believed it to be one of his best works. The second movement, Allegretto, was immediately the most popular and is frequently performed as a stand-alone piece.  For decades, the theme has haunted musicians and composers of all genres.  I cannot hear it without thinking of the 1994 romantic biographical film Immortal Beloved, which Roger Ebert remarked had clearly been made by “people who feel Beethoven directly in their hearts”.

Morton Gould ~ American Salute

 A quintessential American composer, Gould played piano at movie theatres during the Depression, at Radio City Music Hall, conducted and arranged orchestral programs for radio, composed Broadway scores, music for television, the ballet, and received commissions for symphony orchestras throughout the U.S. including three for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration.  The list of his honors and awards is jaw dropping.  Gould composed American Salute, based on a folk melody, in 1942 (literally overnight) for a patriotic World War II radio broadcast.

 

 

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“Nobilmente” Charlotte Symphony Orchestra

“Nobilmente” Program Notes

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, March 8, 2015

by Sherry Campbell Bechtold

 “Nobility of spirit has more to do with simplicity than ostentation, wisdom rather than wealth, commitment rather than ambition” ~ Riccardo Muti

 Johannes Brahms ~

Hungarian Dances No. 1, G minor

Symphony No. 4, op. 98, E minor

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a German composer whose prolific output included works for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, opera and song.  Considered both a traditionalist and an innovator, he is viewed as an inspiration for a generation of composers. Though known for the composition of large, complex musical structures, some of Brahms’ most popular works were small-scale, in which some critics felt he was “at his best.” Among the most cherished of these lighter compositions are the Hungarian Dances, the first of which is on our program tonight. Of his twenty-one Dances, the No. 1 in G minor is one of only four for which Brahms himself wrote the orchestral arrangements. It has been said these dances were influential in the development of Ragtime – see if you can hear the beginnings of Scott Joplin dancing around within the gorgeous folk melodies.

Symphony No. 4 in E minor premiered in 1885 with Brahms himself on the podium.  He was the first great composer who was also a musicologist and the depth of his scholarship is evident in this, his final symphony, clearly grounded in the classical past, with a soaring sound of something individualistic – new, but not pandering to trends of the time. Brahms is said to have resisted the pressure to either conform or rebel – he just ‘did his own thing’.  It seems that restriction of form liberated Brahms, allowing him to plunge deeply into his own imagination and expressiveness.

Opening with a two-note phrase, which then develops in the strings, then winds, the first movement blossoms with a modern lyric melody that carries us into the composer’s personal world – his story and how he intends to tell it.  He paints a picture of regret, of loss and longing, which soon accelerates and propels us on a ride we didn’t expect, to a hair-raising ending.  The second movement is a response to the first, offering us comfort ~ within the human heart lie all answers.  In the scherzo, we find a brief respite of humor, but it is short-lived.  The finale is stunning in Brahms’ personal statement of pessimism and apprehension. He offers us no trite happy ending; rather he reminds us that life itself is a work of art, a never-ending drama.

Claude Debussy ~

Prelude a “L’apres-midi d’un faune”

French composer Achille-Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) was one of the great composers of the Impressionist era, producing an impressive body of work including orchestral, piano, vocal, chamber, ballet and opera. He enjoyed a wide circle of artistic acquaintances that influenced his work including composers such as Liszt, Massenet, Satie, and Chausson. Perhaps surprisingly, Wagner also had a lasting impact on Debussy who admired the German composer’s sensuousness, mastery of form and striking harmonies.

Personally, Debussy was somewhat of an enigma to others, which he must have known.  In a moment of self-awareness, he once remarked: “I am too enamored of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas”.  His personal life was turbulent – illicit affairs, an unfortunate marriage, scandal, and then finally a beloved daughter who inspired him late in his life. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) is a symphonic poem for orchestra, inspired by the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé.  Opening with a flute solo that is one of the most famous passages in the orchestral repertoire, it tells the story of a faun, a mythical creature that is half-man, half-goat and his pursuit of two beautiful nymphs. Debussy’s sensuous composition is a perfect match for the imagery of Mallarmés poem.

Johann Strauss, Jr. ~

Die Fledermaus: Overture

Born in 1825, the “Waltz King” composed over 500 dances, several operettas and ballets.  His composer father was adamant that his son avoid the life of a musician, but the boy’s mission was clear and as a young boy, he began studying violin in secret (for which he was severely punished). By his mid-twenties, he was on his way to becoming one of the most popular waltz composers of the era. He and his orchestra toured extensively through Austria-Hungary, Poland, Germany and, eventually Russia and the U.S.  Brahms was a personal friend who,  when asked by a fan for an autograph, rather than inscribing the paper with a few measures of his best-known music (which was customary), inscribed a few measures from the Blue Danube and wrote beneath it: “Unfortunately NOT by Johannes Brahms.”  Richard Strauss referred to him as “the laughing genius of Vienna”.  At the time of his death at the age of 73, he was working on a new ballet.

Tonight we experience Strauss in a celebration of beauty, art and laughter- the Overture for the opera Die Fledermaus, a farcical comedy evoking the gaiety and romance of a Viennese Ball.  It was first performed in New York in 1874 and has become one of the brightest stars in the operetta repertoire. It was a favorite of the great U.S. soprano Beverly Sills who performed the role of Adele in her farewell performance with the Boston Opera Company.

Gustav Mahler ~

Symphony No. 1: Blumine

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) was a late-Romantic German composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation.  Since composing was a part-time activity, Mahler’s body of work is relatively small, consisting of large symphonic orchestral and choral scores, which gained wide recognition only after long periods of neglect, including a ban on his music during the Nazi era.

Mahler expressed the belief that, “The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything”.  In keeping with the philosophy, his trademark scope of moods, accomplished by amazing orchestration, continually juxtapose absurdity with majesty, farce with tragedy – the vicissitudes of being alive!

Blumine (“flower”) is the title of a rejected second movement of Mahler’s first symphony. After being ‘lost’ for over 70 years, the piece was rediscovered in 1966 and reintroduced by Benjamin Britten a year later.  The composition is believed to have been written for the object of Mahler’s affection at the time.  A lyrical piece with a lovely trumpet solo, its style is consistent with the composer’s early works, while foretelling the distinctive style of his later compositions.

 

Program Notes are the property of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are posted here by permission from the Orchestra and the author.  Photograph credits: Steve Lineberry

 

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“Appassionato” Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Program Notes

 

“Appassionato ” Program Notes

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, February 22, 2015

by Sherry Campbell Bechtold

“I want to know what passion is. I want to feel something strongly.” – Aldous Huxley

 

Howard Hanson ~ Symphony No. 5, op. 43

 Howard Harold Hanson, born in 1896, was an American composerconductor, educator, and champion of American classical music.  As director for 40 years of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York, he was responsible for the development of the school’s quality and reputation, as well as myriad opportunities for commissioning and performing American music. Hanson estimated that more than 2000 works by over 500 American composers were premiered during his tenure at the Eastman School.

Also of particular interest is the school’s flourishing Community School, which is committed to the musical education and enrichment of regional residents of all ages, a vision and commitment shared by our own Maestro and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

Testimony to Hanson’s stature in the music community is the fact that a theme from this work is performed at the conclusion of all concerts at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts, conducted by a student concertmaster after the feature conductor has left the stage.  Traditionally, no applause follows its performance.

Hanson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony # 4, but is best known for Symphony #2, which was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He also composed what may be considered the first fully American opera, Merry Mount, written by an American composer and librettist, based on an American story, and premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1934. The Opera received fifty curtain calls at this performance, a record that still stands.

He proposed to his wife, Margaret Elizabeth Nelson, via the composition of Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings when he could not find spoken words for his feelings.  They married in 1946 and he left her a widow in 1981.

The audience may recall that Maestro Ponti brought us Hanson’s Symphony #2 at last season’s finale concert.  On tonight’s program is the composer’s Symphony #5, a single movement symphony. Composed in 1955, it is quite different from the lush romantic quality and themes of his earlier works.  Based on the Resurrection according to the Gospel of John, this work is passionate in its religious piety, perhaps, once again, expressing the composer’s depth of feeling through his music when there were no words.

 

Heitor Villa-Lobos ~ Concerto Guitar & Small Orchestra

 Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1887 and was exposed early to music and literature by his father, whose frequent musical gatherings at home provided a fertile environment for the boy.  When his father died suddenly, the young Villa-Lobos earned a living for his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras. As a youth, he continued his ‘street’ training by absorbing indigenous musical influences and playing with many local bands. In his mid-twenties, he embarked on his career as a composer, and soon his works also reflected the influence of his widely expanding circle of European artists and musicians.  The Parisian magazine Le Monde Musical remarked of the composer’s work: “…it is…an art to which we must now give a new name”.

His bask in European acceptance and approval was disrupted one year later due to political upheaval in Brazil.  Unable to travel abroad, he remained in his native country for several years navigating his musical career through tumultuous national and international times. With the culmination of WWII and the ability to travel freely, he found himself in demand throughout Europe and the U.S., receiving huge commissions, including his Symphony # 11 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  In the last decade of his life, he was characteristically prolific, despite declining health. He died in 1959 and his funeral was the final major civic event in Rio before the capital was transferred to Brasilia. If you would like to know more about the composer, the film Villa-Lobos: A Life of Passion was released in 2000 and is available to view via imbd.com.

This concert provides us a second visit with Villa-Lobos, who has been described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th century Brazilian art music”. Last season we were thrilled by the brilliance of his Harmonica Concerto, with the astonishing Robert Bonfiglio as guest soloist and tonight we welcome the classical guitar artistry of Gerardo Perez Capdevila as soloist in the Concerto for Classical Guitar and Small Orchestra, written in 1951 and dedicated it to Andres Segovia.

 

Sergei Rachmaninoff ~ Symphonic Dances, Op. 45

Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was considered one of the finest pianists of his day and was one of the last great Romantic composers in Russian Classical music, as well as among the last of old Russian aristocracy. Influenced by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, he developed his own personal style of melody, expressiveness and use of rich orchestral colors and a childhood infused with Russian Orthodox teaching permeated many of his compositions.

Young Sergei studied piano at the Moscow Conservatory, composed several small works and then, in his mid-twenties, premiered his First Symphony.  It was severely critiqued, sending the composer into a deep depression, slowly recovering his confidence sufficiently to write again a decade later.  In 1901 he premiered his Piano Concerto #2 in C minor, Op. 18, with himself as soloist.  It was enthusiastically received and Rachmaninoff was launched into a successful upturn, making his first tour of the U.S. for which he composed the Piano Concerto #3, Op. 30. During this period, he turned down many offers to remain in the U.S., but he was unwilling to leave his homeland. Then, in 1917, the Russian Revolution meant the end of Russia as he knew it, and he left home in an open sleigh with a few belongings and some music. A year later, he was back in the U.S., where he played 40 concerts within 4 months, signed a contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company and bought a house.  He made a living by touring and performing, but in the next 25 years, he completed only six compositions.  In leaving Russia, he also left his inspiration.  He was homesick. Eventually he built a summer home in Switzerland that reminded him of his old family estate.  It was here he composed the luscious Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3 and Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, his last completed work and the one that is on our program tonight.

It is said that this work ‘summarizes’ Rachmaninoff’s compositional output.  In it, his nostalgia for the Russia he had known and no longer existed is evident.  The opening motif is a nod to Rimsky-Korsakov, whose music was the only work by another composer that he had taken with him when he left Russia. In the first dance, he echoes the opening theme of his anguished First Symphony, which was derived from Russian Church Music. The second dance is often called “Dusk”, and the finale quotes the Dies Irae and chant “Blessed be the Lord” from his All-Night Vigil, which expresses the victory of Resurrection.  He wrote the word “Hallelujah” at this place in the score.

 

Program Notes are the property of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are posted here by permission from the Orchestra and the author.  Photograph credits: Steve Lineberry

 

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Sheet Music

Looking for a piece of music I sang a long time ago.  I can visualize it – a copy of a copy from a book of Operatic Duets I studied in New York back in the 70s.  I never – well, hardly ever – throw away sheet music.  It is here, somewhere.  And I need to put eyes on it to see the notes, the range, the possibility of singing it again, decades later, with a new friend who also studied the piece – perhaps that long ago, perhaps not.  It is a favorite of both of ours.  So, I search.

When I packed all my sheet music to bring to Florida, I just emptied the cabinet and put everything into boxes, without sorting at all – no catalogue, no categories, no labels.  Just a very large pile of sheet music.  And, when I emptied the boxes, I just stacked everything in a new cabinet – with similar abandon.  So, tonight, it is ‘needle in a haystack’ time.  It’s here.  Somewhere.

I begin. One drawer at a time.  The first is a real hodgepodge – popular tunes from the 60s.  Sheets of nothing but lyrics and chords from my guitar days. Playlists for gigs, small concerts.  Excel spreadsheets listing repertoire…..in order by type of music – uptempo, ballad, classic rock, standards, indications of voices needed to perform – SATB, SSA, solo alto, solo soprano, bass, tenor.

Church music – from my growing up church in Massachusetts, to St. Bartholomew’s on Park Avenue, to Don Hermance’s choir in Scituate in the relatively recent past.  Alice Blue Gown, one of my first solos in Junior High School – I wore a pretty blue dress Mother had made.  She’d sent me on my way with her standard wish “Sing pretty!” as she did for every concert, every show.

An entire drawer is my childhood.  Music my Gram played on her upright piano, while my musical family all stood around and sang.  By the time I was 10, I knew all the words to Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer, Over There, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.  From another world, they’re all still with me, along with Mother’s piano music, her name written across the top in her perfect artistic pen.  She has been gone over 40 years, but I can hear the sounds of Claire de Lune, punctuated by the click-click-click of her long manicured nails as clearly as if she were sitting at my piano here in this room.

There is something holy about these pieces of paper, a few with small tears, most completely intact.  One by one I finger them, put them in fresh folders and put them back, where they will stay – probably until I fly away somewhere to sing them again with Mother and my Gram.

Music books are elsewhere – on their own shelves because of their size. Opera and musical vocal scores, collections of The Eagles, The Beatles, Elvis, Streisand, and thematic collections like The Most Beautiful Songs Ever Written – given to me by Doug, who helped me start our singing group Mixed Company back in Massachusetts.  He was a fabulous bass with exquisite taste in music and a great work ethic. I loved singing with him. We once performed a duet arrangement combining My Funny Valentine and How Do You Keep the Music Playing – so touching, heartbreaking.  Years later – not too many, but enough for me to have grown very attached to him and to have sung together many, many times – Doug died and I was asked to speak of him at his memorial service.  I began by saying “How do you keep the music playing?”  – a question I asked myself in the face of such profound loss.

There’s a lot of Mixed Company music here.  All songs we personally chose, learned, tried to make our own, performed and loved.  There are one or two I’ve sung since, but never as a group, only alone and, when I do, I hear the rest of the parts, the other voices of my friends, singing with me. The group tried to survive after Doug left us, but in the end, it morphed into something entirely different, which was a good thing.  We couldn’t resurrect what was gone forever.

A new drawer. I don’t know why I’ve kept all this wonderful Opera and Art Song music – the work I did with my voice teachers in New York, Sam Sakarian and Cesare Longo.  Hours. Weeks. Years. Italian, French, German, dictionaries my constant companions, attempting to divine the true poetry the librettist had in mind.  Unending scales and vocal practices, all in the effort to even the tone throughout my range, to produce a sound pleasing to the ear, able to be heard at the back of the hall, to create an artistic environment, to give listeners an experience that might leave them in love with Shubert or Mozart.  I still have the music, even though I let go of the dream to sing in the opera. Still, even though I don’t sing like that any more and am most comfortable in a good ensemble or choir, I adore the rehearsal process – the work – even more than the performance itself.

And here it is!  Lakme, the flower duet!  My memory served me – it is a copy of a copy of music from an old book.  Probably purchased at Patelson’s on the West Side, because that’s where everyone went for their music in New York in those days.  I will make a copy for my friend, perhaps enlarge it so we have a chance at the French!  I hope we are able to sing this together.  It would be wonderful. I’m glad I hadn’t thrown it away.  Any of it.  This music has been the best part of my life.  Through everything else that happened and didn’t happen.  The music has never stopped playing.

Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer

Read about historic Patelson’s music and its painful closing in 2009.   http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103728928

CSO

“Gustoso”

 

“Gustoso ” Program Notes

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, January 25, 2015

by Sherry Campbell Bechtold

“All that is important in this one moment is movement.  Make the moment important, vital, and worth living.  Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” – Martha Graham, Choreographer

Kenneth Fuchs, Discover the Wild

 Fuchs is a contemporary American composer, born in 1956, who received his B.A. in Music from the University of Miami, and went on to complete his masters and doctorate work at Juilliard. His compositions include works for orchestra, band, chorus, and various chamber ensembles. A cursory survey of his compositions is impressive, but my interest was piqued by those whose inspiration came from literature – including novels and poetry by John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Yeats.  A particularly notable work is his transcendent composition Falling Man, based on the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, evoking the very personal tragedies that unfolded in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster.

Tonight’s offering is Discover the Wild, a bright, engaging opening which expands to a beautiful, lyrical, almost cinemagraphic romantic second theme. The third section weaves the first themes with a fresh approach and ends with a light, optimistic finish. Notice the variety of percussion instruments and textures throughout.

Though this composer and his music may be new for many in our audience, there is a comfortable familiarity to our ears with influences of Copland, and other popular contemporary American composers. Don’t be surprised if you hear passages that bring to mind one of your favorites!

Manuel de Falla, El sombrero de tres picos Ste. No. 1 & 2

Born in Cadiz, Spain in 1876, Manuel de Falla is the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century. This reputation is largely attributed to two Iberian ballet scores: El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician), which includes the popular “Ritual Fire Dance”, and El Sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) which he wrote for the Ballet Russes.

With regional success in his early career in Madrid, particularly for Andalusian Flamenco, de Falla moved in 1907 to Paris, where he lived for seven years and discovered the world of French composers Debussy and Ravel. The profound influence of these years inspired his first piano pieces and songs, and gained him status among international Impressionist composers. His exposure to Stravinsky during this time also inspired the incorporation of neoclassic style in later compositions. De Falla is still considered ‘hard to classify’ as either Impressionist or Neo-Classic.

Formally retired in 1926, having produced a relatively small body of highly regarded work, de Falla was able to remain apolitical during the Spanish Civil War, living in Granada and continuing to work at a lesser pace. Following Franco’s victory in 1939, de Falla moved to Argentina, where he taught, worked on his pet project Atlantica, adamantly refused requests to return to Spain and died in 1946.

On tonight’s program, we are treated to two Suites from El sombrero de tres picos.  Based on a novella, which involves a powerful magistrate who has a lustful eye for a humble miller’s wife, the story is a humorous tale of flirtation, disguise, reconciliation and comeuppance. The Spanish–inflected music is filled with colorful folk tunes, sultry Latin attitudes, sharp Spanish rhythms, fanfares, birdcalls, soaring string melodies – all designed to tell the story in dance.

Aram Khachaturian, Spartacus, Ste. No.2

Born to poor Armenian parents in Tbillsi, Georgia, June 6, 1903, Khachaturian showed early musical prodigy that eventually opened the doors to the Moscow Conservatory, an introduction to Sergei Prokofiev and the beginning of a prolific career. Though his brightest talent was expressed in symphonic composition, he also made significant contributions to the ballet, dramatic plays and films. The composer was among those who walked the fine line of approval and critique from the Stalin regime. Ironically, his first ballet Happiness was reworked during World War II as the patriotic ballet Gayaneh, with its famous “Sabre Dance.”

In 1954, Khachaturian wrote the ballet music for Spartacus, loosely telling the story of the slave uprising against the Romans and its heroic leader. It was staged three times before the 1968 version secured its place as one of the composer’s greatest popular works and one of the best ballets of the 20th century. The sweeping, lush main theme is familiar and beloved.

Joseph-Maurice Ravel, Daphnis et Chloe, Suite #2

Ravel was born in 1875 in the Basque town of Ciborne, France, near the Spanish border, and his mother had grown up in Madrid. Though his family moved to France when he was an infant, the Spanish influence in his music is apparent. Ravel was among the most prominent French composers considered Impressionist, a style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term is also applied to the compositions of Debussy, DuParc, de Falla in Spain and John Ireland in England, and is linked to the art of Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne. True in both the art and music worlds, Impressionism is evocative of moods, atmospheres and feelings – one could say that the music ‘sounds like’ the art and the art ‘looks like the music”.

Ravel is known particularly for his melodies, masterful orchestration, rich harmonies and inventive instrumental effects.  Perhaps best known of his compositions is Bolero, originally composed for ballet, which the composer described as “a piece for orchestra without music” and is instantly recognizable by its incessant theme, which is repeated throughout the piece and intentionally is never ‘developed’.

The Greek tale of Daphnis and Chloe involves a boy and a girl who are abandoned by their parents and raised by shepherds. The two meet and gradually fall in love as they grow up. After various trials, the two are reunited with their families and married to each other. This popular story was the main source for Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and inspired many musical compositions.

Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe was commissioned in the early 1900s by the Ballet Russes and its wildly successful impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Igor Stravinsky called the work “one of the most beautiful products of all French Music”. Tonight we will hear Suite #2 from the ballet, which Ravel remarked was his ‘most important score’. This is a work of lush harmonies typical of the Impressionist style.  Listen for the familiar strains borrowed for the writing of  “You can see forever” from the musical On a Clear Day.

Program Notes are the property of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are posted here by permission from the Orchestra and the author.  Photograph credits: Steve Lineberry