May 2013 Concert
Caucasian Sketches by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
Caucasian Sketches is a pair of orchestral suites written in 1894 and 1896 by the Russian composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935). Inspired by the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia (then part of Russia; today an independent country), the first of these tone poems depicts a mountain pass, a village, a mosque (reflecting the large Muslim population in that region), and a military procession. The last movement is the most popular, representing the procession of a Sardar, or prince.
Like many composers of his generation, Ippolitov-Ivanov studied with Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg conservatory. His teacher’s use of colorful orchestration and folk melodies can be seen in this, his most popular work. After his studies, he moved to Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi and became conductor of its orchestra, during which time he collected Georgian folk tunes. He later became head of the St. Petersburg conservatory and counted among his pupils Reinhold Glière. His musical style remained fixed in what he had learned from Rimsky, and he took little part in the dawn of 20th century music.
“Sketches” is a somewhat unusual word to describe a mixed set of music pieces. “Suite” is much more common. Which of the following is not a real composition?
- MacDowell – Ten Woodland Sketches
- Copland – Latin American Sketches
- Ravel – Spanish Sketches
- Glinka – Russian Sketches
For the answer, see the Symphony program notes.
Janurary 2013 Concert
Soirées Musicales by Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was a rarity among 20th century composers in that he made his living primarily from composing. (Most composers have been teachers or conductors to earn their way, but Charles Ives sold insurance.) To accomplish that, especially as a young composer, Britten was very much a composer-for-hire, creating scores for a number of films with such fascinating titles as “Banking for the Millions.”
He composed Soirées Musicales in 1936 as the score for a documentary film called “Men of the Alps.” Five little piano pieces by opera composer Gioacchino Rossini served as the basis for his composition, which he later adapted for concert performance as a suite of “evening music.” A second suite of morning music (or Matinées Musicales) were composed a few years later. The two suites were subsequently used by George Balanchine for his ballet “Divertimento.”
Why would a composer use another composer’s music as the basis of his work? In this case, it probably helped him to complete the film score on schedule. It’s a lot easier to arrange existing music than to think up new tunes yourself!
Listen to a German high school orchestra perform this work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuI66yYhNgA
Britten celebrates his centennial in 2013. Which two of the composers below celebrate their bicentennials in 2013?
a) Giuseppe Verdi
b) Frederick Chopin
c) Richard Wagner
d) Pytor Tchaikovsky
See the Program Notes page for the Combined Orchestras for the answer.
Answer to Combined Orchestras Trivia Quiz: Scherzo