November Symphony

November Symphony: Maestro in the Spotlight

Scott Seaton | Conductor

  • Saturday, November 14, 2015 @ 7:30PM Laxson Auditorium, Chico, CA
  • Sunday, November 15, 2015 @ 4PM Cascade Theatre, Redding, CA

Adams: Lollapalooza
Kabalevsky: Violin Concerto, Op. 48, Movement III
featuring Brianna Ruiz, 2015 Young Artist Audition Winner, Violin
Haydn:  Symphony No. 90 in C major
Johann Strauss Jr.:  On the Beautiful Blue Danube
BernsteinWest Side Story Symphonic Dances

Free pre-concert talk one hour before each performance

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John Adams wrote Lollapalooza in 1995 to honor the fortieth birthday of conductor Simon Rattle. In the lexicon of American slang, a "lollapalooza" connotes something outlandish or oversized; in a boxing match - a knockout punch. Adams wrote that he was attracted to the word “because of its internal rhythm: da-da-da-DAAH-da… the word is spelled out in the trombones and tubas, C-C-C-Eb-C (emphasis on the Eb) as a kind of ideé fixe.” The “lollapalooza” motive is only one of many layered over a wildly kinetic ostinato. A whirlwind of jazzy brass riffs and wispy strings spins slightly off-balance as Adams’ “dancing behemoth” finds its end with a blast from the brass and a smack-down “thwack” on the big drums.   The orchestration packs a lot of power for a six minute piece, calling for strings, piano, xylophone, vibraphone, 2 flutes (piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, and percussion (toms, cymbal, tam-tam, snare drum, bass drums, maracas, tambourine, claves, woodblock, and bongo).

Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 48 is a perfect vehicle for a young virtuoso. This wonderfully affable music of fetching melodies and soulful refrains belies its prerequisite technique. Kabalevsky waxed Romantic with simple lyricism and brilliant orchestration; he embraced a tuneful Soviet musical ideal that was distinctly different from his contemporary composers of the era, lacking the dissonance of their style and politic. The full Concerto, written in 1948, is in three short movements, but the third movement is often performed alone.   The finale has a youthful energy that is typical of his music, especially his ballets. Look for the soloist to be playful with the light melodic lines and to shine in a short cadenza.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 in C major, Hoboken 1/90, was written in 1788 as part of a three-symphony commission. Haydn’s music is a popular one, not only sophisticated in its construction, but an affective feel-good music too. Such is the case with this composition – joyful and energetic, yet elegant. His orchestra is classic with flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. The finale shows a playful side of Haydn as he leads us down the garden path with trumpets and drums marshalling us to an apparent C major conclusion. But alas, it is a trick - after four bars of silence, the main theme quietly resumes in the distant key of D-flat major.   This little joke has given audiences an opportunity for unwitting participation for centuries, and with a little theatrical help from the conductor some in the audience will inevitably add their own manual cadenzas between “endings.” If you have ever dreamt of performing with a great orchestra - here’s your chance.

By the Beautiful Blue Danube, Opus 314 (An der schönen, blauen Donau) was composed in 1887 by Johann Baptist Strauss, Jr., the eldest son of Johann Strauss and known today simply as the “Waltz King.” At 18 years old he was already “on the charts” in his hometown dance scene, and the allure of his art and fame moved him to become a music star instead of the banker his father wanted. His fame continued to spread, and to this day his beloved Blue Danube is accepted as an unofficial Austrian anthem and appreciated universally. The waltz is traditionally associated with New Year’s celebrations and has been quoted throughout years of popular culture; e.g., Stanley Kubrick used it in the graceful docking scene of his 2001: A Space Odyssey. The simple score calls for 2 flutes (piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, bass trombone, tuba, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, harp, and strings. The original version was written for a men’s chorus, but its enduring success came from this purely orchestral version written for the 1867 Paris World's Fair. The music is irresistible; the whole body covertly dances. Of the five pairs of waltzes in the piece, the iconic first and fourth are the most memorable, largely due to their treatment in the magnificent coda, a masterpiece within itself, rushing to a roll of the snare and a twinkle at the end.

Soon after the 1957 premier of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, a film version of the musical was underway, and from that music nine selections were formed into the Symphonic Dances. That premier was in 1961 with Lukas Foss conducting the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. Two of the most popular themes from the original musical were included, “Somewhere” and “Maria” (in the Cha-Cha section), and many orchestrators are known to have participated, although Bernstein dedicated the work to Sid Ramin who managed the project. The score is full of exotic colors from 3 flutes (piccolo), 2 oboes and English horn, 2 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bongos, cymbals, tenor drum, bass drum, drum set, xylophone, cowbell, timbales, conga drum, police whistle, vibraphone, chime, wood block, triangle, gong, orchestra bells, guiro, maracas, finger cymbals, tambourine, harp, piano, celesta, and strings. The result was Bernstein’s sensuous glimpse of the modern New York soundscape with his fabulous Tin Pan Alley, jazz, and Latin influences. The setting begat the music, and once the West Side Story theme was established, Bernstein wrote that “Suddenly it all springs to life. I heard rhythms and pulses and – most of all – I can sort of feel the form.”   That passion also shines through into the Symphonic Dances.

- Theodore Bell