(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
no person with doug-lawrence
no person with doug-lawrence
Marcia von Huene
Symphony No. 7 for Chamber Orchestra
Born in 1824, Anton Bruckner wandered into this nasty war and had the misfortune of displeasing both camps. He was a pious country bumpkin who moved into sophisticated Vienna – the Brahms stronghold – but he was an ardent admirer of Wagner, the musical enemy. The haughty Viennese regarded him as a poorly dressed naive yokel. He frequently found himself on the compost heap of unflattering gossip. His first two symphonies were rejected by all local orchestras, and the premiere of his Third, which he dedicated to Wagner, was a disaster. The audience laughed, jeered, and walked out before it was over, leaving only a handful of people in their seats. Bruckner, tears streaming down his face, stood by himself on the podium while the musicians headed for the exits.
Supported by his deep religious beliefs, Bruckner soldiered on. He wrote his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies but was unable to get them performed. While he was working on this Sixth, however, the Wagnerian conductor Hans Richter discovered his Fourth, the Romantic, and premiered it to unexpected acclaim. At the age of 53, the dam had finally broken. Overnight Bruckner became a celebrity.
In 1891, Emperor Franz Joseph awarded him the coveted Imperial Seal and offered to grant him any reasonable request. Bruckner could have asked for a house or a state pension, but no, he asked the Emperor to prevail on the critic Edward Hanslick to treat his music less harshly in his reviews!
Bruckner reported that the opening theme of this symphony came to him in a dream. In it, an old friend came to him, whistled the tune, and told him it would make him a fortune. Bruckner jumped up, lit a candle, and put it on paper.
Bruckner wrote the second movement as a lament for his ailing idol Wagner:
One day I came home and felt very sad. It is impossible, I thought, that the Master should live much longer. And then, the C-sharp minor Adagio came to me.
He started the Adagio three weeks before Wagner’s death and finished it nine weeks later.
But how did this enormous symphony become reconfigured for a chamber orchestra? In 1918, still in the shadows of a Europe devastated by WWI, Arnold Schoenberg organized a series of 117 private concerts over 3 years featuring the works of the great contemporary composers. His team of assistants reduced their works in size to fit into limited budgets and compact venues. Schoenberg chose Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony for this treatment. Schoenberg’s series closed when hyperinflation began to destroy the Austrian economy, foreshadowing WWII.
So how did his assistants do? Were they faithful to the original? Decide for yourself!
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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