Symphony No. 44 in E minor
by Stefan de Haan
I Allegro con brio
II Menuetto: Allegretto
When Haydn composed his Symphony No. 44 he had been in the services of Prince Esterhazy for about ten years. The work probably dates from 1771 and reflects the excellence of the Esterhazy orchestra at that time. Up to the early 1770s Haydn had in his ensemble some of the best horn players in Europe, and in his symphonies of that period – including Symphony No. 44 – the horn parts are extremely difficult. His principal horn player was a Bohemian, Thaddaus Steinmuller, who specialised in playing very high notes; the other members of the horn team must also have been virtuosos, as when Steinmuller and his colleagues left the Esterhazy orchestra Haydn gave their successors much less adventurous parts to play.
It has been said that Symphony No. 44 is to be understood as a lament over the death of a hero, and it is known that Haydn requested that the Adagio should be played at his funeral. For one or both of these reasons the work is known as the Trauer Symphony (‘Trauer’ means mourning). It is indeed a dark and serious work, and the first and last movements have an unusually dramatic intensity to which only the gentle Adagio in E major provides a contrast.
Concerto in C minor for soprano saxophone
Marcello (1686-1739) arr. Harvey Pittel (b.1943)
by Sesha Wallace
I Allegro Moderato
Benedetto Marcello was an Italian composer and writer born in Venice in 1686. Marcello’s compositions include operas, oratorios, cantatas, madrigals, concerti and sonatas. He is best known for his work Estro poetico-armonico, a musical setting for voices and instruments of the first 50 Psalms in an Italian paraphrase by G. Giustiniani.
Marcello’s Concerto in C minor, originally composed for oboe, was transcribed for soprano saxophone by Harvey Pittel. The three movements of this work are characteristic of the Baroque style. Techniques employed by Marcello include the use of terraced dynamics, ornaments such as trills and grace notes and semiquaver passages that are passed between the saxophone and piano.
Concerto for Saxophone and Strings
by Stefan de Haan
The Belgian instrument maker, Adolphe Sax, invented and developed the saxophone after 1840. He had originally designed the instrument for military bands in order to restore the balance between the potentially aggressive brass and the gentle woodwind, hoping at the same time that it would also be useful in the concert orchestra.
In Paris, where he eventually moved from Belgium, he experienced strong reactions for and against the sound of the new instrument. Nothing like it had ever been heard before. Furthermore, a classification of the saxophone as belonging to either the brass or woodwind family was impossible because the body of the instrument was made of metal, while the mouthpiece with its single reed was clearly that of the clarinet. Berlioz declared with much enthusiasm that ‘the qualities of this new addition to the orchestra were rare and precious,’ and it has indeed been used with great effect in orchestral solo passages by, for instance, Bizet, Ravel and Kodàly.
These passages are impressive, but they do not allow the saxophone enough scope for displaying all its ‘rare and precious qualities.’ Only a solo concerto can provide such opportunities, in particular if the accompaniment is provided by a string orchestra without wind instruments – and that is precisely the form chosen by Glazunov for the work we are going to hear in this concert.
As a Russian, Glazunov was influenced, of course, by the folk music of his people but as a composer, he was not a nationalist. He refused to attach himself to any particular trend in composition, and his astonishing musical talent allowed him to be original without even trying. His independent spirit eventually puzzled audiences, and this is why his works are not performed, at least in western Europe, with the frequency they deserve.
Glazunov’s Concerto for Saxophone and Strings is a late work. It dates from 1934 and was written in Paris where the composer died two years later. The solo instrument chosen from the large saxophone family is the alto saxophone in E flat, and E flat is also the key of this work.
While the classical concerto usually has three separate movements, the Saxophone Concerto by Glazunov is continuous although it has distinct sections which are easily recognised as such. The opening of the work demonstrates that the strings are not merely accompanying the soloist but take an important part in developing the thematic material which recurs in various guises throughout the concerto. The basic tempo of the first section, Allegro Moderato leads to an Andante beginning in the remote key of C flat major. It is followed, after a solo cadenza, by the final Allegro, the most extended section of the work which ends, as it must, in the home key E flat major.
Symphony No.29 in A
I Allegro moderato
IV Allegro con spirito
Count Hieronymus Colloredo, whom Mozart served as the leader of his orchestra, was elected Archbishop of Salzburg in March 1773. The happy atmosphere that had distinguished the reign of his predecessor was a thing of the past. Colloredo lost no time in curtailing the comparative freedom of his musicians and the other members of his miniature court. Mozart’s father soon began looking for a more liberal employer, not so much for himself (he also played violin in the Salzburg orchestra) as for his son Wolfgang. During their concert tour in Italy in 1772 he had tried hard to secure a post for him, but without success. He had no better luck in Vienna where he went with his son in the summer holidays of 1773. Since none of the plans materialised, there was nothing left for them but to return to Salzburg.
However, Mozart was 17 years old at the time, and conditions of employment were not his main concern. While in Vienna, he was too busy listening to new music to worry about the future. He heard the latest compositions of Gluck and Dittersdorf, and the new instrumental works of Haydn left a profound and lasting impression on him.
Back in Salzburg Mozart produced a number of masterpieces in rapid succession. They included a group of four symphonies, among them Symphony No. 29. Most of his earlier symphonies had consisted of three movements in the tradition of the Italian overture. Now, in this symphony, he adopted the new Viennese form by adding a minuet and trio and by enlarging the proportions of the other three movements. Of these, the Andante is like an aria, played in long tender phrases by muted violins, while the final Allegro deserves the additional indication con spirito as much as any of Mozart’s symphonic movements. As a whole the work has such well-balanced proportions and is so full of the happiest inventions that it does not give the impression of being the result of an experiment. Indeed, it sounds as if Mozart had already spent a lifetime in perfecting the musical form of the Viennese symphony.