Musical Director's notes and sound files for the Spring Term


Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 5 Opus 76


Antonin Dvorak

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Symphony No. 5 Opus 76

1. Allegro ma non troppo 2. Andante con moto 3. Scherzo: Allegro Scherzando
4. Finale: Allegro molto

Dvorak’s fifth symphony, written within a mere six weeks, represents a milestone in the development of the composer’s individual style, and is the culmination of his early symphonies. In this work Dvorak became one of the first composers to succeed in re-establishing the structure of the classical symphony, and giving it a new, modern slant.
The first movement is characterised by a pastoral tone colour and thus anticipates the beginning of Dvorak’s so-called Slavic period. Its atmosphere is determined by the main theme, particularly memorable due to its catchy rhythm. During the course of the movement this theme is frequently given in the soft woodwind, underlining the natural, lyrical character of the whole movement. The second movement might be described as a nocturne which, in its mood – in spite of the absence of a contrasting lively section – comes close in style to Dvorak’s numerous dumky. At the end of this movement Dvorak noted in the score: “Very brief pause and go straight on”. The third movement thus follows on almost attacca, an effect which is moreover emphasised by a short introduction derived from the opening of the second movement. This is an unusual phenomenon for Dvorak, occurring in his major orchestral works only in the case of his violin concerto. The Scherzo in A-B-A form calls to mind the Slavonic Dances, with its joyful atmosphere and rousing vitality. It is characterised by a marked rhythmic energy which eases off for a moment only in the middle section. The fourth movement, in its striking, dramatic expression anticipating the sombre atmosphere of the seventh symphony, is one of the most powerful examples of Dvorak’s orchestral writing. Its unusual quality lies in its reluctance to anchor itself in the tonic key (F major), which is itself only established after more than fifty bars; its tussle with the key of A minor persists for practically the entire movement and is only won convincingly at the very close of the work.

Edvard Grieg: Three Pieces from Sigurd Jorsalfar Opus 56

Edvard Grieg

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Three Pieces from Sigurd Jorsalfar


Sigurd Jorsalfar is a work of incidental music composed by Edvard Grieg for a play by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson celebrating King Sigurd I of Norway. Published as Op. 22, it was first performed in Christiania on 10 April 1872. The orchestral suite, consisting of three pieces compiled by Grieg from the main work and published as Op. 56, was premiered in Oslo on 5 November 1892 and revised by the composer the same year.
The full work consists of nine parts: five are purely orchestral and four are scored for tenor or baritone, male chorus, and orchestra. Three of the instrumental pieces comprise the suite. The first of these, entitled In the King's Hall, is a prelude in ternary form which opens with a bassoon and clarinet theme played against plucked strings. The musical material of the first section comes from the trio of a gavotte for piano that Grieg composed in 1867 and left unpublished. The middle section is more lyrical and lightly scored for woodwind. The second piece, Borghild's Dream, is an intermezzo contrasting a sensitive string melody with an agitated section. The third, Homage March, opens with a trumpet fanfare before presenting its main subject, a martial theme, on four cellos. The middle part, again a trio, begins with a horn solo which is taken up by the first violins. The music builds towards a full-blooded Maestoso, and the work ends with a recapitulation of the movement's first section.

Camille Saint-Saëns: Overture La Princesse Jaune


Camille Saint-Saëns

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Overture La Princesse Jaune


La Princess Jaune was Saint-Saëns' first effort for the operatic stage, a one act piece written for the Opéra-comique in 1872. The subject of the operetta provided Saint-Saëns with another opportunity to develop his interest in exotic musical subjects, although in this case the exoticism is invented. The operetta concerns a young Dutchman, who has a faithful girlfriend but also a feeling of wanderlust. He takes a narcotic and has a vision about Japan. He believes he has been transported there, and pictures it as a fairy-tale kingdom. A lovely yellow figurine comes to life (the "yellow princess" of the title). After various incidents he comes back to reality in the arms of his girlfriend, and realizes his love for her is greater than his search for exotic adventures.
The colourful overture is a delightful exotic romp, beautifully scored with beguiling pseudo-oriental sounds. It opens with a gentle Andantino in which the plaintive sound of the cor anglais features prominently. The main part of the work is a bustling Allegro giocoso, much in the style of Offenbach.










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