Westlake - Flying Dream
Beethoven - Violin Concerto
Mozart - Symphony No.40
Too long, strange, complicated, were words that once were not uncommon when it came to describing some of Beethoven’s music. His (one and only) violin concerto proved so difficult at its premiere that the soloist gave up with the piece altogether, choosing instead to improvise. People left the concert feeling confused at best, ‘exhausted’ at worst. The Violin Concerto didn’t sink into utter obscurity, but it was rarely performed in the four decades following its lukewarm debut. When it was performed, reviewers usually talked about how talented the soloist was to pull off such an attempt, rather than praising the concerto itself. Such was our experience as we watched a performance of the concerto so scintillating as to seemingly confine to obscurity the orchestral suite by Australian composer Nigel Westlake and the Mozart symphony that made up the rest of our one and only session for the month (and our final programme for this year). The links to the session notes and links and to the video recordings used are posted below.
Westlake - Flying Dream
Beethoven - Violin Concerto
Mozart - Symphony No.40
What do you do if someone goes to sleep during your performance of your latest work? That’s what happened to Brahms while Liszt was introducing his brand-new Sonata in B minor. Clearly he wasn’t impressed, Nor was Clara Schumann to whose husband, Robert, the work was dedicated. “Blind noise”. “Just awful”, were two of her comments. Yet it became in some other’s eyes, a masterpiece - an essential part of any aspiring concert pianist’s repertoire.
I didn’t notice if any of our group “did a Brahms” as it was played during one of our October sessions, but if it wasn’t to everyone’s musical taste, the rendition we saw at the hands of an upcoming Russian pianist in a winning performance at this year’s Tchaikovsky competition was something else indeed.
Brahms also featured earlier in the month in a chamber version of his Serenade for Orchestra – a work that helped bring the composer to the attention of the musical world and served also as an introduction for him to the art of symphonic writing.
But it was Steven Isserlis’ performance of Haydn’s 1st cello concerto that had our group talking the most.
Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro composed for the purpose of a harp manufacturer to show off their latest instrument (and stave off competition from a rival manufacturer) introduced the month’s music programme, while Mozart’s 39th (but not his last) symphony brought down the curtain on the second of our gatherings.
Click on the relevant link below to access notes and recordings.
Ravel - Introduction and Allegro
Brahms - Serenade for Orchestra
Haydn - Cello Concerto No.1
Ramaeu - Pieces de Clavacin No.5
Liszt - Sonata in B minor
Mozart - Symphony No. 39
“It simply wrote itself”, commented Sergei Rachmaninoff on the melody that comprised the major theme of his 3rd Piano Concerto. Perhaps that could be the wish of many of us as we get older and brain fade tendencies seem to increase! That melody, however, was to grow into one of the towering masterpieces composed for the keyboard and formed the centrepiece of the first of our September sessions.
Unlike Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky could relate to some degree of brain fade. Struggling to compose his 5th Symphony, he frequently complained of ‘writer’s block’ and began to wonder whether he has simply run out of ideas. History demonstrates, of course, that nothing was further from the truth. This symphony with its theme of “ultimate victory through sacrifice”, was ordered to be played during the World War II Siege of Leningrad in an endeavour to keep up the spirits of the city’s population, thus ensuring its popularity. One performance was broadcast live to London and listeners could hear the sounds of bombs exploding as the musicians played on. This symphony was the central item for the second of our sessions this month - but without any added sound effects of bombs.
A Spring Festival Overture by Chinese composer Li Huanzhi and Schumann’s Spring Symphony helped put spring into our step as we celebrated the arrival of the new season, while Smetena’s romantic “The Moldau” and Bruch’s 1st Violin Concerto with its dreamy adagio movement, proved a perfect foil to the drama of Tchaikovsky Symphony.
Click on the links below to access session notes and recordings.
8th September - Session Notes
Li Huanzhi - Spring Festival Overture
Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No.3
Schumann - Symphony No.1
29th September - Session Notes
Smetena - The Moldau
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.5
Bruch - Violin Concerto No.1
Self-portraits come in a variety of forms. Some are with a paintbrush, some with a camera, others with a pen. It would seem only right - and natural, even - that a musician would choose music. Which is what Camille Saint-Saens is said to have done in his 3rd Symphony. Within in its walls are aspects of the composer – his talents, his doubts, his belief, his fears and his hopes. All his instruments are there – a pipe organ (has was a church organist at one time), the piano (which he had played since childhood), his passion for sacred music, the love of logic and balance (there are two movements each with two sections), the forces of darkness (the Deus Irae haunts the work) and finally there is the element of hope as the symphony gradually progresses from darkness to light. Some say it is expressive of his hope of resurrection, although it is well documented that Saint-Saens was not at all religious. Perhaps his aim was to demonstrate the spiritual power of music. Whatever, it was the standout work we looked at in our August sessions.
Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto which we also heard deserves more acclaim than it gets – tending to be overlooked - coming as it does between the monumental 3rd and 5th concertos - so two totally different recordings were viewed. Love is often in the air when music is being composed and Brahms’ love for Clara Schumann may have inspired his 1st violin sonata, while Mahler’s Adagietto from his 5th symphony definitely was instrumental in the wooing of Anna, his wife to be. These and the ubiquitous overture - every good music programme should start with one – made for happy watching and listening. The video recordings together with the explanatory notes for each performance can be accessed via the links below.
Finally, a reminder that our class on Friday 22nd September has been rescheduled to the Friday 29th September.
Session Notes - 11th August
Weber - Euryanthe Overture
Saint-Saens - Symphony No.3
Mahler - Adagietto from Symphony No. 5
Mozart - Piano Trio K 502
Session Notes - 25th August
Rossini - Thieving Magpie Overture
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.4 - Soloist Nelson Freire
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.4 - Soloist Eric Lu
Brahms - Violin Sonata No. 1
A reminder that Music Appreciation will be conducted by Neville and Alan on Friday 28 July at 10am as Bill is taking some time out during July. Hopefully you will all have received an email about this!
“Listening to the music while stretching her body close to its limit, she was able to attain a mysterious calm. She was simultaneously the torturer and the tortured, the forcer and the forced”. That quote by Japanese writer and translator Haruki Murakami, kind of describes some of the class reactions to the first of our June sessions as we endeavoured to get our musical minds around Karl Jenkins’ composition The Armed Man, commissioned by the British Royal Armourers to mark the transition from the 20th to the 21st century and their move to a new Museum in Leeds. Dedicated by the composer to the victims of the Kosovo conflict, the work is a 13 movement Mass for peace loosely set within the Christian Mass, with additional texts from Muslim and Hindu sources and secular writers. A mind and body exercise occupying us for the whole of the session.
No such concerns with our second session as we watched a scintillating performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 given in the final round of the 18th Chopin Competition in 2021. The work was bookended in our programme by Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni and Schumann’s Symphony No.4 leaving us in a buoyant mood as the curtain came down on Semester 1. Semester 2 for us kicks off on Friday 14th July.
Meanwhile you can check out recordings and notes for our June programmes below. Enjoy!
Session Notes 9th June
Karl Jenkins - The Armed Man
Session Notes 23rd June
Mozart - Don Giovanni Overture
Chopin - Piano Concerto No 1
Schumann - Symphony No.4
It has been said that “the most glorious works of art, the ones that bring the purest joy – perhaps they need not be touched or known, but seen only with the heart”.
Both of the major musical compositions for the month of May can be understood a “masterpieces in their own way.
Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ – an impression of the sea as seen from the heart - is regarded today as a masterpiece of musical impressionism, although that wasn’t always the case. The premiere of the work in 1905 was met with a mixture of boos, whistles and restrained applause. There were no boos and whistles as our group listened to it, and neither was there an enthusiastic reception overall. Masterpiece or not, impressionism is clearly not to everyone’s taste.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 was regarded by Brahms as a “masterpiece of art, full of inspiration and ideas. Beethoven remarked to a pianist friend “we’ll never be able to write anything like that”, while some scholars and musicologists claim it to be one of the greatest piano concertos ever composed. Yet this concerto is written in the minor key - unlike most of Mozart compositions – and so for other listeners a work not easily recognisable as belonging to Mozart. Such was the case with our group’s listening experience.
For those reading this, then, perhaps you can listen to each and form your own opinion. It’s all available (recordings and notes) via the links below. While you are at it, why not check out the rest of the month’s music selections: - something a little more recognisable as Mozart, some Mendelssohn and Haydn, Tchaikovsky and, of course, given the other big event of the month, some Coronation music.
Session Notes 12th May
Session Notes 26th May
Debussy - La Mer
Mozart - Piano Concerto No.24
Mozart Symphony No.35
Handel - Zadok the Priest
Handel - The King Shall Rejoice
Handel - Let Thy Hand be Strengthened
Elgar - Pomp and Circumstance March No.1
Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture
Haydn - Symphony No. 83
Tchaikovsky - Capriccio Italien
When is a symphony not a symphony? When it’s an overture! Maksym Berezovsky (the Ukrainian Mozart) composed a Symphony in C lasting all of nine minutes, which also doubled as the overture to his one and only opera “Il Demonfonte”, and also as the ‘overture’ to our first session for April.
Friedrich Nietzsche, a highly poetic philosopher was all the rage in Germany when Richard Strauss was a young man. Strauss set to music a wildly rhapsodic book of his called Thus Spake Zarathustra, which was the major focus for our group this session. The work isn't really about Zarathustra at all. Nietzsche simply used Zarathustra as a spokesman, a sort of prophet—hero, into whose mouth he put his own philosophy. Strauss’ "Zarathustra" is a music picture of man's greatest problem—his mortality, the grim fact that he must die. This painful problem is shown in terms of a conflict—the struggle between Man's tremendous need for immortality, and his equally strong need to accept the fact that he is mortal. It's a struggle we all share.
A little bit of Russian fairytale by way of contrast - Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite - completed the morning. As an encore the Pas de Deux from the Firebird ballet was danced courtesy of the Mariinsky Ballet Company.
The ‘Overture to get session two underway came from the pen of Robert Schumann in the form of his “Overture, Scherzo and Finale”. Written in the wake of his marriage to Clara Wieck (after a long and tortuous courtship made difficult by Clara’s father), it is essentially a symphony without a slow movement. Schumann initially named it “Symphony No.2” before settling for the title “Sinfonietta”.
When war broke out in August 1914, Edward Elgar was not among the enthusiastic. He had serious forebodings, and after the cataclysm that effectively eliminated an entire generation of English youth, he plunged into despair. His Cello Concerto (the major work for this session) is completely the reflection of a heartfelt response to the national tragedy. It’s an unconventional concerto, but it is a masterpiece. It is not only a reflection of the forever altered world of Britain in 1919, but also the deep and apt expression of great composer facing his own old age, and for that matter, an audience that soon saw him as an anachronism.
When Rachmaninoff, wizard of the piano, meets Paganini, wizard of the violin, the result is the notoriously difficult Rhapsody — 24 variations on the 24th of Paganini’s Caprices — encompassing everything from knuckle-busting runs to the terrifying Day of Wrath medieval chant and the swoon-worthy 18th variation. Said to be Rachmaninoff’s finest work for piano and orchestra, it brought down the curtain on our April music excursions. Full notes and links to the recordings used can be found on Music Appreciation page of our U3A website.
Session Notes for 14th April
Berezovsky - Symphony in C
R Strauss - Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Stravinsky - Firebird Suite
Stravinsky - Firebird Pas de Deux
Session Note for 28th April
Schumann - Overture, Scherzo & Finale
Elgar - Cello Concerto
Rachmaninoff - Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini
Start times - Rachmaninoff Variations
War, love, family, tragedy: you name it and music has it. Add in a dash of artistic influence and a bit of a ‘walk in the park’ and you have a quick guide to our March programmes.
Session one started out with Wagner’s overture to Lohengrin – an opera about fairy-tale love that ends in tragedy. Beethoven loved nothing more to relieve the frustrations of his encroaching deafness than to go for a nature walk – the sounds he would hear leading him to compose his sixth (pastoral) symphony. Maurice Ravel wrote a concerto which literally can be played with one hand behind your back. His Concerto for the Left Hand being commissioned by a pianist/soldier who lost an arm fighting in the first world war.
First up in session two was Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture written for a play about a fifth century Roman general whose ‘turncoat’ decisions led to his death at the hands of his soldiers – or perhaps he died at his own hand? Brahms, who was never a violinist, struck up a close friendship with one who was the premier violinist of the day. This led to a violin concerto that is one of the most recorded in the violin repertoire. Its premiere saw Brahms as the conductor of the orchestra and his friend as the soloist. A Brahms encore was composed in honour of another of his friends - an artist who died tragically at a young age. “Nänie” is sometimes referred to as Brahms’ “Litte Requiem” (as distinct from his much longer and grander “German Requiem”.
To top off the month’s musical journey Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ – the inspiration for the name coming from Whistler’s painting “Nocturne in Blue and Green”. Written in a hurry (most of it on a train journey) and premiered even before the solo part had been put to paper (Gershwin himself being the pianist), the work went on to become an all-time American classic. You can read the detail and find the links to the music recordings below.
Wagner - Prelude to Act 1 Lohengrin
Beethoven - Symphony No.6
Why Ravel wrote a concerto for only one hand
Ravel - Concerto for the Left Hand
Beethoven - Coriolan Overture
Brahms - Violin Concerto (Substitute recording for the one played)
Brahms - Nanie
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
There is nothing like “starting with a bang”, as they say. And so our programme for 2023 got under way with “Workers Union” - a modern composition by Louis Andriessen, a highly innovative contemporary composer known for his individualism, political activism, and creativity. He is considered the most important living composer from the Netherlands.
The piece was written for any combination of loud sounding instruments which was in keeping with the composer’s desire to avoid standard instrumental combinations. Andriessen states that “This piece is a combination of individual freedom and severe discipline: its rhythm is exactly fixed; the pitch, on the other hand, is indicated only approximately, on a single-lined stave. It is difficult to play in an ensemble and to remain in step, sort of like organizing and carrying on political action. No two recordings of the work, it is claimed, are the same.
Mozart’s Concert for Two Pianos – one of the most artful and ambitious works of all his piano concertos - served to quickly bring us back in time to the golden age of Viennese music. For what occasion Mozart wrote this piece is not known for certain, but it is claimed that he wrote it for himself to play with his sister. As youngsters the Mozart siblings often performed together. Fitting it was then that the performance our group watched was by two pianist brothers who had grown up from an early age performing together.
A trumpet concerto by Czech composer Johann Baptiste Neruda and a rendition of Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, the latter performed by Australia’s very own Gondwana Voices, closed out the session in complete contrast to its beginning.
Our second session was on the day of the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Serendipitously the major work selected was Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony originally conceived to honour Napoleon’s victory over the combined forces of Russian and Austria. The dedication to Napoleon, however, was short lived. When Napoleon declared himself as Emperor of France, Beethoven, in fury that Napoleon showed himself as no better than any despot who had previously ruled in Europe, scratched his name from the title page and changed the dedication to “an heroic person”. Hence today the symphony carries the title “Eroica”, a title that many would want to ascribe to those involved in the defence of Ukraine today. The rest of the programme was given over to a series of short works by Ukrainian composers culminating in a presentation of lively and colourful dance routines by a Ukrainian national dance ensemble.
Here are the links to the notes and recordings:
Andriessen - Workers Union
Mozart - Concerto for Two Pianos
Neruda - Concerto for Trumpet and Strings
Faure - Cantique de Jean Racine
Beethoven Symphony No 3
Choir - Prayer for Ukraine & 'Oak'
Melodia on a Ukranian Theme
Impromptu 66 No.2
Orchestra - Prayer for Ukraine
Ukrainian National Dance Ensemble
“Every task, goal, race and year comes to an end…therefore, make it a habit to FINISH STRONG” (Motivational guru Gary Ryan Blair) which is exactly how our year of music has wound up. You may say that November has been full of “endings”.
Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastique a saw a strong and happy end of his pursuit of the hand of Harriet Smithson; Schumman’s 3rd Symphony marked the end of his compositional life (although not a happy ending); Gustav Holst gave up on astrology after composing “the Planets”; while Beethoven’s 5th Symphony came about when his deafness saw him give up on being a concert pianist and turn to composing full time.
These are some of the works that saw us finish this year “STRONG”.
And, of course, no music year is ever complete without some reference to Handel’s “Messiah” which is exactly how our year ended up.
Programme - 11 November
Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique - 5th movement
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 22
Schumann - Symphony No. 3
Programme - 24 November
Holst - The Planets
('Jupiter - Starts 22 minutes 30 seconds in)
Beethoven - Symphony No.5
The Messiah Deconstructed
Meanwhile, as TS Eliot observed: “to make an end is to make a beginning”. 2023 will see Music Appreciation widen its source of recordings and music selections with a little bit of innovation. A fascinating year awaits.
As the year draws to a close, did you know that the original meaning (in English) for “merry” is “strong”? Have a “strong” Christmas.
According to legend enshrined in a piece of English doggerel “if it rains on St Swithun's Day, it will rain for the next 40 days". While October is well past St Swithun’s day, it certainly has felt like it has been raining for that that length of time. Whatever, the volume of water that enveloped our town earlier in the month saw us having to cancel the first of our two sessions, inspiring one of our number to suggest a recording of Handel’s Water Music be sent out to all instead.
The music planned for that session was held over for the following session with fingers crossed that the curse of St Swithun wasn’t going to stick around. It didn’t! So we were able to appreciate a stunning recording of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto (Mischa Maisky with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra). Part of Debussy’s Bergamasque Suite and Shostakovich’s 3rd String Quartet made up the rest of the programme.
The session notes and recordings can be accessed via the links below.
For those curious about St Swithun, he was Bishop of Winchester from 852-862AD. Unlike other religious figures, he asked not to be buried in a prominent place within Winchester Cathedral, but outside in a simple tomb "where the sweet rain of heaven may fall upon my grave".
In 971 the Bishop at the time moved Swithun's remains to a new shrine, commissioned by the King, inside Winchester Cathedral. The legend says after his remains were moved inside there was a great storm and it rained for many weeks after. St. Swithin’s day falls on the 15th July, and it is reputed to be on this day that the great flood started (Noah etc), hence this day being associated with the weather forecast for the English summer.
September’s programme got off to a stunning start. We were fortunate enough to access a recording of Dvorak’s 9th (”New World”) Symphony by our very own Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Recorded at a concert just a few weeks previously it showed us what a world class orchestra we have right on our doorstep so to speak. Without wanting to take away from the performers of other works we looked at in the same session (an excerpt from Berlioz’ Harold in Italy and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto), the Dvorak symphony was a standout recording.
The second session for the month, although each work had its own individual claims to brilliance seemed to pale a little by way of comparison. There was Copland’s virtuosic Clarinet Concerto (it was commissioned and composed for Benny Goodman), Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (his last hurrah composition-wise), and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20 - written strangely in a minor key (most, of his works are in a major key). In this case the key was D minor – the central key for his Requiem, the Queen of the Night aria from his opera The Magic Flute, and the more haunting moments of the opera Don Giovanni.
Links to the notes and recordings for both sessions are:
Session Notes - 9th September
Berlioz - Harold in Italy, 1st Movement
Dvorak - Symphony No.9
Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in E minor
Session Notes - 23rd September
Copland Clarinet Concerto
Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances
Mozart Piano Concerto No.20
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue; a sixpence in your shoe” might be one way of describing the one and only August programme, except that it had nothing to do with good luck for brides or marriage.
Good luck did however enter the equation when the director the Ballet Russe called on Stravinsky to check on progress for a commissioned work “The Rite of Spring” only to find no progress at all! The composer had been tinkering instead with an orchestral piece about a puppet who comes to life. Stravinsky was instructed to forget “The Rite of Spring” for the time being and so the ballet “Petrushka” was born: and what better way to appreciate something that nearly wasn’t than to see it performed in an old recording by none other than the Bolshoi Ballet.
‘Borrowed and new’ was present day composer Max Richter’s “Recomposed” – a rejiggered version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”; while a chance meeting between Maurice Ravel and George Gershwin led to Ravel composing a piano concerto incorporating a “bluesy” main theme bearing an uncanny resemblance to Gershwin’s adaptations of the jazz idiom.
Put “a sixpence in your shoe” and enjoy this wonderful music for yourself by clicking on the respective links below.
How Stravinsky tells a Story
Petrushka - Ballet
Recomposed - Richter
Piano Concerto in G - Ravel
July started with a bit of a ‘buzz': Vaughan-Williams’ overture to the “The Wasps” - a fifth century BC satire on the Athenian judiciary system for which he (Vaughan-Willams) had been invited to compose incidental music. The tempo of the morning “upped” with a Liszt ‘Tarantella’ before settling back to the more sonorous and lyrical tones of a Rachmaninoff Sonata. An “imagined” concerto by JS Bach for violin and oboe - ‘imagined’ because no original manuscript exists for the concerto – invited us to imagine a conversation between the two solo instruments while a chamber orchestra ‘buzzed’ in the background. Mendelssohn, whose personal musical voice, it is said, reached maturity by the remarkable age of seventeen (a feat some say that even Mozart did not attain) rounded out the first session with one of the thirteen string symphonies he had composed by the age of fourteen.
Ancient Greece was also the starting point for the month’s second session as Jordi Savalle and his “Concert de Nations” played the prologue to Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” as the story of Orpheus, son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope, is told. Even without any mythology attached to it, the so-called “Pathétique” Symphony of Tchaikovsky is a landmark in the history of the symphonic form. The idea of closing with a slow movement was bold and unprecedented. Tchaikovsky thought it his greatest work. Composed in Russia in 1917, Prokofiev’s 1st violin concerto had a long gestation, with numerous travels backwards and forwards across the Atlantic with the composer, before being premiered in Paris in 1923, only to be found too romantic and passé to chic Parisian audiences. With an enormous orchestra, deep bells, offstage brass and percussion, vocal soloists, and a large chorus, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony fashions a sound world all his own, exploring themes of afterlife and the resurrection of the dead. Being too long a work for our group to consider in its entirety, we were content with the rousing finale – a fitting climax to the session.
Click on the links below to access the notes and the recordings.
Session Notes 8th July
Vaughan-Williams - The Wasps Overture
Listz - Tarantella
Rachmaninoff - Piano Sonata No. 2
Bach - Concerto for Oboe and Violin
Mendelssohn - Sinfonia No. 7
Session Notes 22nd July
Monteverdi - Orfeo: Prologue
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.6
Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No.1
Mahler - Symphony No.2 : Finale
Hippocrates once said: “the art is long, but life is short”. What he meant is “It takes a long time to acquire the experience necessary to be a master”.
The lives and music of some composers would demonstrate how that is not always the case. Here, it could be said that life is short but the art lives for ever.
Of the eight composers whose works we heard in the month of June, four of them died early in life: Schubert (31), Mozart (35), Chopin (39) and Beethoven (57). All four lived in the one hundred year period from 1728 to 1828, yet their music seems to be immortal.
Of the other four, their ages and music output covered a wider time frame (Corelli was 60 when he died, Grieg 64, Rachmaninoff 70, and Haydn 75) - nearly 300 years from 1653 - 1943. The two youngest were the most prolific in terms of their compositional life – Schubert with some 1500 works to his name and Mozart perhaps about 1000, although only a little over 600 have been catalogued to date.
You can read about them, the works selected and listen to the recordings by clicking on the links below.
Corelli - Concerto Grosso Opus 6 No.4
Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2
Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
Beethoven - Sextet for Two Horns and String Quartet
Haydn - Sinfonia Concertante
Schubert - Symphony No.3
Chopin - Nocturne in D flat major
Mozart - Clarinet Quintet
An ancient Chinese philosopher once said: "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage”. This certainly seemed to be the case with Tchaikovsky and Brahms who were the main composers for our music appreciation this month.
Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony (played at this month’s 1st session) was an expression of his love for Nadezhda von Mech – a wealthy widow who provided him with a generous stipend annually on condition they never meet. He said in a letter to her: “how much I think of you in every bar”.
Brahms was deeply in love with the widow of Robert Schumann. He wrote to a friend: “I believe that I do not have more concern for and admiration for her than I love her and find love in her. I often have to restrain myself forcibly from just quietly putting my arms around her….” While he could never bring himself tell her as much, his first piano concerto (played at our 2nd session) was composed at the height of his admiration for Clara Schumann.
In addition to these major compositions, there were shorter works by Mozart, Kodaly, Rimsky-Korsakov, Offenbach and Richard Strauss. You can read all about it and listen to the music by clicking on the links below.
Session Notes (13th May)
Mozart - Overture to he Marriage of Figaro
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.4
Kodaly - Dances of Galanta
Rimsky-Korsakov - Capriccio Espagnole
Session Notes (27th May)
Offenbach - Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld
Brahms - Piano Concerto No.1
R. Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier Suite
Offenbach - Orpheus in the Underworld, Finale
April's varied program - old and new, 'ancient yet familiar', 'modern yet little known', with 'long and short' as well
“Something old, something new”, “ancient, yet familiar”, “modern, yet little known” is one way of summing up our April presentations. Perhaps we could add in “the long and the short” as well.
Schubert’s ninth symphony, perhaps not so ancient but certainly a familiar work and just about the longest orchestral work in the classical repertoire, was our opening composition for the month. This was balanced by a five-movement cello concerto by Anna Clyne - ‘DANCE’, so new as to have been composed less than 3 years ago and premiered to the world two years ago, yet the inspiration for it dates back to the 13th century.
Our second session included a viola concerto by Carl Stamitz, little known outside of the world of conservatorium students, yet close your eyes and you may think “Mozart” with whom he was contemporary. A couple of very short choral pieces by present day Estonian composer Arvo Pärt were followed by Richard Strauss’ oboe concerto where the story behind the work is as interesting as the music itself.
You can read all about it, and listen to the recordings, by clicking on the links below.
Friday 8th April
Schubert - Symphony No. 9
Anna Clyne - DANCE 1
Anna Clyne - DANCE 2
Anna Clyne - DANCE 3
Anna Clyne - DANCE 4
Anna Clyne - DANCE 5
Friday 22nd April
Overture - Der Freischutz
Stamitz - Viola Concerto
Arvo Part - Da Pacem Domine
Arvo Part - Nunc Dimittis
R. Strauss - Oboe Concerto
A short month (only the one session) saw us begin with the longest orchestral work in the classical repertoire – Brahms Piano Concerto No.2. Those of our number familiar with the film “Amadeus” would have recognised melodies in Mozart’s 25th Symphony while a trumpet concerto by Haydn written when the trumpet was still in its development rounded out the session. Recordings used and session notes can be accessed below.
Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2
Mozart Symphony No. 25
Haydn Trumpet Concerto
An exciting beginning to the new year featuring current concert offerings from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
After all the restrictions and limitations imposed over the past couple of years how exciting it is to get off to a new year with the hope of next to no breaks in our schedule. A record number of enrolments this year for our Music Appreciation presentations adds even more to the excitement.
With the Sydney Symphony Orchestra not giving concert performances until March, our February sessions were all selected from the current concert offerings of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Hence our first session saw us acknowledging Chinese New Year with musical compositions by Chinese composers and Chinese vocalists. The major work was a cello concerto by Zhao Jiping featuring Chinese musical instruments playing in combination with traditional western instruments. The session was rounded off with arias from Puccini operas – Boheme, Butterfly, Tosca and Turandot.
The second session picked up on most of the remainder of the MSO February concerts - Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Haydn’s 6th Symphony, a couple of excerpts from Mascagni’s opera.
Cavalleria Rusticana, Cesar Franck’s tone poem Le Chasseur Maudit (The Accursed Hunter), and rounding off with the second of the two Orchestral Suites from Ravel’s ballet Daphnis and Chloe. You can read the programme notes and find links to the music items below.
On a final note, there will not be a Music Appreciation session on Friday 11 March (I will be away taking a short holiday), however I will be home in time for the Friday 25 March session.
Wang Xilin - Torch Procession
Pamir, My Beautiful Home Town
Zhao Jiping - Cello Concerto
Jian-Fen Gu - That is Me
La Boheme - Act 1 Excerpts
Tosca - Vissi d'Arte
Madam Butterfly - Un bel di veldremo
Turandot - Nessun Dorma
Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture
Haydn - Symphony No. 6
Cavalleria Rusticana - Easter Hymn
Cavalleria Rusticana - Intermezzo
Franck - Le Chasseur Maudit - French National Orchestra
Franck - Le Chasseur Maudit - Salt Lake City Orchestra
Ravel - Daphnis and Chloe Suite No 2
“A love affair with New York’ - a “total embrace” - was how one commentator described Bernstein’s musical “On the Town” , three dances from which began the first of our November sessions. This was followed straightaway by Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto composed while on the run from an embrace of any sort following a disastrous marriage. Something more soothing being deemed necessary resulted in Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage making it on to the playlist before the energetic and uplifting passages of Borodin’s Polovstian Dances from Prince Igor sent us all home in a happy frame of mind.
Vivaldi, the “man of many concertos” (about 550 of them) introduced the second November session with one of his several concertos for four violins – in this instance the most popular of them (the B minor one). Mozart (a man of many symphonies - 41 of them) was our major focus with the very last of his 41, commonly known as the “Jupiter”, so named for no other reason than for publicity purposes. Joaquin Rodrigo known famously for just one concerto – “Concierto de Aranjuez” proved that genius is not necessarily determined by how many, but with the quality of what you produce, while Torvil and Dean showed genius of another sort in their interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero and a wonderful climax to our Music sessions for 2021.
Many thanks to all who formed the “Class of 2021” for your input and encouragement in what may be described (due to Covid) as “Interrupted Melody”.
After a couple of years with “necessity being the mother of invention” at times to “keep the music going” we look forward with hopefulness to a less restrictive and inventive 2022.
On the Town
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Session Notes - 26th
Vivaldi - Concerto for 4 Violins
Mozart - Symphony No. 41
Rodrigo - Concierto de Aranjuez
Ravel - Bolero
Finally, a full month’s programme after all the stop-start imposed by the on again, off again restrictions because of the Pandemic.
The first of our two programmes featured Mahler’s 4th Symphony (or part of it because of its length) – a delightful, almost Schubertian work recalling Mahler’s childhood and finishing with melodies from another work “The Youth’s Magic Horn” in which Mahler imagines a child’s view of heaven. Other shorter woks were a selection of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, Copland’s Appalcahian Spring (which had absolutely nothing to do with Spring in the Appalachian Mountains) and “O Fortuna” which book-ended Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana - first as a ballet and ending as a concert piece for choir and orchestra. An added feature was that all works were recordings by youth orchestras and/or choirs.
Our second programme opened with an Overture by New Zealand composer Dougals Lilburn written to celebrate the centenary of The Waitangi Treaty – New Zealand’s founding document. The major work was Mozart’s Grand Sestetto Concertante – an arrangement for sextet of his earlier Grand Sinfonie Concertante, Schubert’s Offertorium written to accompany the procession of the gifts in the Christian celebration of the Mass, a short work by Bach – a musical offering for Prussian king Frederick the Great based on impromptus for a melody given him by the king, and finally a quartet for English Horn by contemporary French composer Jean Francaix.
All in all, a wonderful mixed bag spanning the centuries. Links to the music recordings and the session notes are available below.
Friday 8th October
Mahler Symphony No.4 (Movements 1 & 4)
Mahler Symphony No 4 (Complete)
Dvorak Slavonic Dances
Copland Appalachian Spring
Orff Carmina Burana O Fortuna Ballet
Orff Carmina Burana Choir
Friday 22nd October
Mozart Grande Sestetto Concertante
Bach Musical Offering - Ricercar 3
Francaix Horn Quartet
After an enforced absence of two months, it was a joy to be able to gather again in late September. Only one session, of course, this month, picking up where we left off in our programming. Major work under the spotlight was Brahms’ “romantic” 3rd Symphony. (Brahms was quite romantically inclined by nature but lacked the courage to commit himself in love and remained single all his days. It is a matter of conjecture where Brahms’ romantic inclinations were at the time of the composition, but it is thought there must have been someone in mind at the time). Other (smaller) works in our programme included Elena Kats-Chernin’s bouncy “Dance of the Paper Umbrellas”; Prokofiev’s light and tuneful 1st Symphony (a delightful foil to the mood in Russia at the time of its composition -1917); and Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, nick-named the “Miracle” symphony, although mistakenly so. For each of the four works the story behind their composition proved as interesting as the music. You can read about them and listen to a performance of each by following the links on the Music Appreciation page of the U3A website.
Paper Umbrellas (animation)
Dance of the Paper Umbrellas
Brahms Symphony No.3
Prokofiev Symphony No. 1
Haydn Symphony No.96 - Should you have difficulty opening the Haydn Symphony from this link, copy and paste the following link into your Google or other search engine. That should do the trick.
Once again Covid-19 restrictions have got in the way of our twice monthly gatherings. Group members are asked, nevertheless to keep their hopes up and hats and coats at the ready. Should the restrictions be eased sufficiently to allow us to resume, a programme is ready to go a short notice.
In the meantime, attached is a little snippet one of our number has sent in. Sit back (or stand up, even, if you feel so moved) and enjoy. With the hope it brightens your day as it did mine.
About Music Appreciation
Learning about and listening to classical music from across the ages to the present day is what we do.
Convenor and Contact Details
Bill Squire 5762 6334
2nd and 4th Friday
10 am to 12 noon.
U3A Meeting Room 1 Fawckner Drive
Developed and maintained by members, this website showcases U3A Benalla & District.
Photographs - U3A members; Benalla Art Gallery website; Weebly 'Free' images;Travel Victoria and State Library of Victoria