Daryl’s notes for 11/24/19
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
Englishman known for his great orchestral suite The Planets. Born into a family of professional musicians, he intended to become a concert pianist but was afflicted with neuritis. He took up trombone to help with his asthma, eventually obtaining a professional orchestra position. However, composition and teaching were his passion. He overcame a life of illness to compose a wealth of opera, orchestra and vocal music. His Terzetto, composed for flute, oboe and viola, is unique in the chamber music repertoire. Each instrument plays in their own distinctive harmonic structure, yet the music remains lyrical throughout.
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1867-1944)
American composer and piano virtuoso. Her compositional excellence paved the way for acceptance in a male dominated field. She taught herself composition technique, as formal studies as a woman were considered inappropriate in the 19th century. The Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered her"Gaelic" Symphony, the first symphony composed and published by an American woman (Wikipedia). The romantic Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet is based on “An Indian Lullaby”, originally written for women’s chorus, one of the many melodious songs she wrote. This piece evokes a Native Indian flavor with unexpected intervals played by the flute. Beach skillfully blends the flute with the string instruments as the theme is woven thru the piece.
Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)
Czech composer famously known for his musical tribute to Czech history in his orchestra piece Má vlast (my homeland). He played violin and piano and composed arrangements of military band music for his string quartet. After losing his hearing at age 52, he composed one of his best works, the string quartet Z mého života (From My Life). Smetana said “My intention was to paint a tone picture of my life.The first movement depicts my youthful leanings toward art, the Romantic atmosphere, the inexpressible yearning for something I could neither express nor define, and also a kind of warning of my future misfortune . . . The long insistent note in the finale owes its origin to this. It is the fateful ringing in my ears of the high-pitched tones which in1874 announced the beginning of my deafness. I permitted myself this little joke, because it was so disastrous to me. The second movement, a quasi- polka, brings to mind the joyful days of youth when I composed dance tunes and was known everywhere as a passionate lover of dancing. The third movement . . . reminds me of the
happiness of my first love, the girl who later became my wife. The fourth movement describes the discovery that I could treat national elements in music and my joy in following this path until it was checked by the catastrophe of the onset of my deafness, the outlook into the sad future, the tiny rays of hope of recovery, but remembering all the promise of my early career, a feeling of painful regret.”
Antonin Dvorák supported his colleague by playing the prominant viola part for the first performance.