A MAGIC FIREBIRD AND OTHER ENCHANTMENTS!
Friday, November 7, 2014, 9:15 a.m. &
10:30 a.m. Lakeview High School Auditorium By
Susan Davenny Wyner, Music
Welcome to our special Warren Philharmonic Orchestra School Concert! Each piece on our program tells a story, creates a mood and portrays an adventure. Our orchestra has over 50 professional musicians who play over 60 different musical instruments.
At the concert you will meet all the instruments of the orchestra and hear the stories behind the music. Our star players will take turns showing you how each instrument looks and sounds. You will meet the string instruments, which go from being small enough to fit under your chin (the violin) to so monstrously large (the double bass) that four small children could fit inside its "belly," and the player has to stand up to play it. You will meet the woodwinds, from the tiniest piccolo (the size of a fat straw) to the tall, skinny bassoon. You will meet the brass family -- from the trumpets and slide trombone, to the 20-foot-long French Horns, which are all curled up so they can fit into the players' arms. And you will hear the percussion family -- cymbals, xylophone, triangle, snare drum, kettledrums and bass drum -- which can make the loudest sounds of all.
Now let me tell you about the music...
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787) Dance of the Furies from Don Juan and the Stone Guest(1761) [Demo CD no.2]
Our curtain raiser is a piece by Christoph Gluck that audiences found very scary over 250 years ago -- it depicts a kind of ghost story. The setting is Madrid, Spain, and the story is about a character named Don Juan. Don Juan is rich and handsome and seems very charming, but we soon learn that he is cruel, selfish, doesn't care about others, only wants to do what he wants, and scorns all the rules. Worst of all, he kills the father of his fiancée in a duel without being the least bit sorry.
As punishment, the stone statue of the man he killed suddenly appears and invites Don Juan to dinner. The statue begs Don Juan to repent and change his ways before it is too late. But Don Juan refuses, and in the last scene, which we play here, he is dragged down by demons into the fiery abyss of hell. Here is how the original 1761 choreographer describes the scene: "The center of the Earth opens up, belching flames. From this volcano emerge many specters and furies that torment Don Juan. He is chained up by them, and in his dreadful despair is swallowed up along with all the monsters; and an earthquake covers the spot with a pile of rubble."
Gluck chose to tell this story using only dancers and musical instruments -- no words, which was very unusual for his time. You will hear how he starts this scene softly and mysteriously with the instruments seeming to swirl and shiver with very fast notes played by the upper strings. Those fast string notes never stop -- even as all the other instruments join in and "attack," louder and louder. The music ends with a surprise -- suddenly getting very soft and sweet. Could it be because the Earth has covered everything up and calm and peace are restored?
Interesting fact: This piece has two names because Gluck used this same music many years later (in 1774) to describe a scene in his opera about the myth of Orpheus. There he called it Dance of the Furies, and it portrays the terrifying mythological Furies as they try to prevent Orpheus from entering the Underworld to search for his beloved Eurydice.
Question: What do you think? Can this music you hear work for both Don Juan demons and Orpheus Furies?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Presto from Sinfonia Concertante for violin & viola K.364 (1799) [Demo CD no.1]
At the age of 5, Mozart was already writing music and playing the violin and piano so well that his father paraded him (along with his talented older sister Nanerl) around Europe to perform for kings and queens. Of all the wonderful music he wrote, the piece we are going to play for you next is one of the most special. It is the last movement of a concerto written for not just one soloist, but for TWO! And our soloists get to play two related instruments -- one of which is usually so shy that it hides, sitting quietly nestled in the middle of the orchestra. Right! The two instruments are the violin and the viola. They could almost be twins -- each tucks under the chin and is played with a bow -- except that the viola is larger and has a deeper, lower, richer sound. Mozart could play both but we know from his letters that he especially loved to play the viola because of its warm, middle-of-things tones.
This Presto (which means "very fast" in Italian) is also a contre danse, which is an English country-dance that was all the rage in Mozart's day. A contre danse is in a quick 2/4 time, the phrases are patterns of eight, and it was danced in pairs or couples, but each dancer would also do show-off solo figures. Mozart LOVED to dance, and he was evidently very good -- his very first performance was actually as a dancer when he was just 5!
As you will hear, the music is quick and bouncy, full of energy and fun, with lots of musical games of tag and follow the leader between the two solo players and the members of the orchestra. Sometimes it is the violin which starts things, sometimes it is the viola. What's fun is that he gives both players a chance to "shine," and though they imitate one another, each sparkles with its own personality. See if you can hear how Mozart loves to make skillful variations and decorations, to "develop" his musical themes and their characters.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) The Firebird Suite (1909, 1919 version) selections [Demo CD no.3-5] Dance of the Firebird [Demo CD no.3] Dance of the Princesses [Demo CD no.4] Infernal Dance of the Demon Magician[Demo CD no.5]
Now we go to Russia to meet Igor Stravinsky who used the orchestra's instruments to evoke an ancient Russian legend about a magic Firebird. Once again the music he wrote was meant for dancers -- this time a famous Russian Ballet troupe that was all the rage in Paris in 1909.
The story of The Firebird is about a young prince, a beautiful princess, and two supernatural characters. One is the magic Firebird who is a sort of good fairy. The other is an evil sorcerer named Kashchei, who is an ogre with horrible green talons. This ogre can only be killed by destroying his soul, which is hidden in an egg-shaped casket!
Here is the story: It begins in the ogre Kashchei's magical garden, where he keeps 13 captured princesses, who are allowed out only at night. The young prince Ivan Tsarevich accidentally discovers this garden while he is pursuing the fabulous Firebird. He captures the bird near a tree of magical golden apples. The Firebird begs to be set free and the prince agrees. To thank him, the bird gives the prince a magic feather from her beautiful tail. We will play you the Dance of the Firebird as she appears before the Prince -- listen to how Stravinsky uses the tiny piccolo and flute and all the high instruments of the orchestra in quick gestures to suggest the fluttering of the bird's fiery wings and her sparkling colors!
The story continues as the enchanted princesses shyly appear and shake the apple tree so they can use the fallen apples for a game of catch. Prince Ivan interrupts their game, for he has fallen in love with one of them. They all dance a slow beautiful slow Round Dance called a khorovod, an actual folk song. We will play this Dance of the Princesses for you. Listen to how warm the sound is that Stravinsky creates -- we feel the shyness and grace of their dance, the beauty of the garden, and perhaps the feelings of the prince and princess as they fall in love. He uses the strings and oboe and flute solo instruments so that the music is almost dreamlike, in slow motion -- a total contrast to the little bird's dance and the dance of the ogre which comes next!
The prince then follows the princesses into the palace, where he is captured by the monsters who are guarding Kashchei. Kashchei arrives and threatens to turn the prince into stone, but our prince holds up the Firebird's feather. Suddenly the magic Firebird appears and makes Kashchei's monsters dance a wild crazy Infernal Dance of the Demon Magician, which we will play for you. Listen to the crashing of percussion and the low brass instruments at the beginning and then how the rest of the orchestra comes in loud and fast. Stravinsky uses loud and soft dynamics and has instruments screeching and sliding to suggest terrifying creatures chasing around -- running and coming from everywhere -- savagely stamping and circling.
While the monsters are dancing, the prince finds the hidden egg that represents the ogre's soul and destroys it. The ogre and his monsters die instantly, and all the knights who had been turned to stone come back to life. In the end everything ends happily ever after, and of course the prince gets his princess.
If YOU were going to tell this story in music, what instruments would you use? Can you hear how Stravinsky uses different kinds of music to make his characters sound human as opposed to supernatural?
Robert Lopez (b.1975) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez [Demo CD no.6] Let It Go and other music from the movie Frozen (arr. by Larry Moore, 2014)
Frozen is a 2013 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy-comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Let It Go is a song from the film whose music and lyrics were composed by husband and wife songwriting team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The song presents the ostracized Queen Elsa, who abandons her kingdom when her magical ability to create and control ice or snow is discovered by the public. Up in the mountains, away from confused and suspicious onlookers, Elsa realizes that she no longer needs to hide her abilities and declares herself free from the restrictions she has had to endure since childhood. She rejoices in finally being able to use her power without fear, without limits, to let it go, and manipulate snow and icicles to create a living snowman and generate a magnificent ice castle for herself.
This arrangement of musical selections from the movie lets the instruments “tell the story” along with a piano accompaniment.