(1890 – 1959)
in A Minor, H. 217
I. Allegro moderato
(1743 – 1805)
I. Andante lento
II. Allegro vivo – Tempo di Minuetto
III. Rondeau. Allegro ma non tanto
(1732 – 1809)
I. Allegro moderato
III. Minuet. Allegretto – Trio
IV. Finale. Vivace
Marcia von Huene
The Carnival of the Animals
And what is Saint-Saëns best remembered for today? The Carnival of the Animals, a piece written just for close friends in two days in 1886 which he would not allow to be published until after his death in 1921. Why? Because he feared that its lighthearted and humorous character would detract from his image as a serious composer. During his lifetime, he permitted it to be performed only in a private setting.
In 1950, the conductor Andre Kostelanetz came up with the inspired idea of adding verses to Saint-Saëns’s score, and the great American humorist Ogden Nash was his choice to be the poet. Each of Nash’s fourteen verses were designed to be read before Saint-Saëns’s corresponding movement.
In this concert, new verses by Jack Prelutsky will be used to supplement Saint-Saëns’ amusing music.
WRITTEN BY THE HONORABLE STEPHEN S. TROTT
String Quintet No. 1 in B-Flat Major
Now here’s one for Ripley and Believe It or Not. Boccherini would be surprised to learn that one of his galante quintets (not this one) would end up with a prominent role in 1955 in one of the best British movies ever filmed, The Ladykillers, featuring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. The plot is pure comedic genius. A group of dodgy robbers planning a daring heist from an armored car needs a place from which to launch their audacious caper. Guinness (the sinister Professor Marcus) finds rooms for his crew in the home of the sweet, elderly, and unsuspecting widow Mrs. Wilberforce. Behind her back they call her “Mrs. Lopsided”. As cover, they masquerade as a string quintet needing a place to practice. And what piece are they practicing behind closed doors as part of their zany hoax? The celebrated minuet from Boccherini’s String Quintet in E Major. Actually, once they close the door, they put a record on a record player to complete the deception. (Anyone under 50 probably won’t know what a record player is.) Surrounded by her raucous parrots, Mrs. Wilberforce listens with rapt attention from another room. That’s the setup. The plot from there is wild. I won’t tell you who ends up with the loot, but it’s not Professor Marcus and his louts. It’s on Amazon Prime should you care to watch it, and if you wonder where the Coen brothers got the idea for Fargo, look no further.
Who knew that music written in 1770 in a milieu occupied by powdered wigs and perfumed handkerchiefs would enjoy a revival in the 20th century in a dark British comedy.
Here is her description of Source Code: “The first sketches of Source Code began as transcriptions of various sources from African American artists prominent during the peak of the Civil Rights era in the United States. I experimented by re-interpreting gestures, sentences, and musical syntax (the bare bones of rhythm and inflection) by choreographer Alvin Ailey, poets Langston Hughes and Rita Dove, and the great jazz songstress Ella Fitzgerald into musical sentences and tone paintings. Ultimately, this exercise of listening, re-imagining, and transcribing led me back to the black spiritual as a common musical source across all three genres. The spiritual is a significant part of the DNA of black folk music, and subsequently most (arguably all) American pop music forms that have developed to the present day. This one-movement work is a kind of dirge, which centers on a melody based on syntax derived from black spirituals. The melody is continuous and cycles through like a gene strand with which all other textures play.”
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 64, No. 5, The Lark
Haydn did not attach The Lark to this quartet. No one knows who did, but we know why. The violin melody that opens and dominates the first movement soars and sings like a bird on the wing. Why a lark? Because unlike most birds who sing only when perched, larks sing while in flight, and their cheerful song is extraordinarily melodious. Think of the second movement as a meditation with a momentary twinge of sadness. The third is a witty minuet, a dance full of unexpected rhythmic and harmonic tricks and turns. One observer called the finale a “hectic hubbub, a romp that races through the countryside at breakneck speed.” Hang on, he wasn’t kidding.
If you want to know where Beethoven came from, study Haydn, Beethoven’s teacher until teacher caught student cheating on his homework. Some call Beethoven “Haydn on steroids”, and with good reason. Others say that Beethoven is “Haydn gone mad”. I think they’re all right. Haydn is subtle, Ludwig in your face.
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