This concert is funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Overture No. 2

Louise Farrenc

Born 1804 in Paris, France| Died 1875 in Paris, France

Composed in 1834 | 7 minutes
Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings

Wood Notes

William Grant Still

Born 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi| Died 1978 in Los Angeles, California

Composed in 1947| 18 minutes
In four movements: Singing River, Autumn Night, Moon Dusk, Whippoorwill's Shoes
Scored for flute and piccolo, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, harp, celesta, and strings

Symphony No. 2

Jean Sibelius

Born 1865 in Hämeenlinna, Finland| Died 1957 in Järvenpää, Finland

Composed between 1901 and 1902| 43 minutes
In four movements: Allegretto, Andante; ma rubato, Vivacissimo, Finale: Allegro moderato
Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings

Program Notes: National Pride

FARRENC: Overture No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 24

Louise Farrenc, a 19th-century French composer and pianist, remains a figure whose significant contributions to classical music are being increasingly recognized. Among her many compositions, the Overture No. 2 stands out as a shining example of her prowess in orchestration and mastery of form. Although Farrenc faced challenges in gaining recognition during her lifetime due to prevailing gender biases, her Overture No. 2 exemplifies her undeniable talent and originality.

Farrenc's Overture No. 2, composed in the mid-19th century, displays characteristics of both Classical and Romantic musical idioms. Written during a time of changing musical tastes and experimentation, the overture reveals Farrenc's commitment to the traditions of form and structure while embracing the expressive freedom associated with the Romantic era.

The opening section introduces the audience to the thematic material that will be developed throughout the overture. Farrenc's orchestration is characterized by clarity and balance, with each section of the orchestra contributing to the overall richness of the sound. The Allegro section showcases Farrenc's command of both melodic invention and rhythmic drive, setting the stage for the unfolding narrative.

The middle section, often marked by an Andante tempo, provides a contrasting lyrical and introspective episode. Farrenc's melodic gifts are prominently displayed in this section, offering a respite from the initial energy of the Allegro. The Andante allows the listener to explore a more emotive and nuanced side of Farrenc's musical language.

The final section, typically marked by a lively Finale, returns to the vigor and dynamism of the opening. Farrenc may employ thematic development and inventive orchestration to build excitement and bring the overture to a compelling conclusion. The Finale showcases the composer's ability to balance form and expression, leaving a lasting impression on the listener.

Louise Farrenc's Overture No. 2, though overshadowed by the works of her male counterparts during her time, now receives the recognition it deserves as a testament to her musical genius. As we explore this overture, we are invited to appreciate Farrenc's skillful craftsmanship, imaginative orchestration, and her ability to navigate the evolving musical landscape of the 19th century. In the Overture No. 2, Farrenc's voice emerges with clarity, contributing to the rich tapestry of orchestral literature and highlighting her place as a remarkable composer of her era.

STILL: Wood Notes

Wood Notes is a striking orchestral work by William Grant Still, known as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers” for his contributions to American classical music in the 20th century. Composed in 1947, Wood Notes reflects Still's innovative approach to orchestration, his fusion of diverse musical elements, and his dedication to exploring the rich cultural tapestry of the United States.

The title, Wood Notes, conjures images of nature and the vibrant sounds of the forest. Still's work unfolds in a single movement and is often characterized by its evocative use of orchestral colors and rhythms. The composer's ability to draw inspiration from both Western classical traditions and African American musical idioms is evident in this composition.

The piece begins with a bold and rhythmic introduction that introduces the listener to the primary thematic material. Still's orchestration is lush and vibrant, with the woodwind section playing a significant role in depicting the titular "wood notes." The use of diverse woodwind timbres, from the piercing clarity of the flute to the warm resonance of the bassoon, contributes to the work's rich sonic palette.

As Wood Notes progresses, Still weaves a tapestry of contrasting moods and textures. Moments of pastoral serenity, characterized by gentle melodies and transparent orchestration, give way to more dynamic and rhythmic sections that showcase Still's keen sense of orchestral color and rhythmic vitality. The work is marked by its seamless transitions between contrasting episodes, creating a sense of unity and cohesion.

Throughout the composition, listeners may discern elements of Still's unique musical voice, which seamlessly blends elements of jazz, blues, and spirituals with traditional Western classical forms. The influence of Still's African American heritage is palpable, offering a distinctive perspective within the American classical music landscape of the mid-20th century.

Wood Notes stands as a testament to William Grant Still's commitment to exploring the diverse musical traditions of America. In this work, he invites the audience on a sonic journey that captures the essence of the natural world, drawing inspiration from the woodlands and infusing the orchestral palette with a rich array of colors and textures. 

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43

Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 2, composed between 1901 and 1902 and revised in 1903 and 1911, stands as one of the Finnish composer's most significant and enduring contributions to the orchestral repertoire. A work of profound emotional depth and nationalist fervor, Symphony No. 2 is often regarded as a powerful embodiment of the spirit of Finland during a pivotal period of its history.

The symphony is often interpreted as a reflection of Finland's struggle for independence during a time of political turmoil. The work has been celebrated for its ability to convey a sense of national identity and pride while transcending geographical and cultural boundaries.

The symphony opens with an Allegretto that introduces a noble and expansive theme. Sibelius establishes a sense of grandeur, employing rich orchestration and evocative melodies. The movement unfolds with a sense of anticipation, setting the stage for the dramatic journey that will follow.

The second movement, marked Tempo andante, ma rubato, is characterized by its lyrical and introspective nature. Sibelius showcases his mastery of orchestral color, creating a melancholic atmosphere. The movement features a memorable oboe melody, which serves as the focal point of a heartfelt dialogue within the orchestra.

The third movement, Vivacissimo, bursts forth with rhythmic vitality and forward momentum. Sibelius employs syncopated rhythms and dynamic contrasts, creating a lively scherzo-like character. The central Presto section intensifies the energy, leading to a triumphant climax. The movement ends with a gradual deceleration, providing a moment of repose before the final movement.

The Finale, marked Allegro moderato, unfolds as a majestic and uplifting resolution. Sibelius skillfully weaves together motifs from previous movements, creating a sense of unity and thematic integration. The symphony builds to a powerful conclusion, with brass fanfares and soaring melodies that convey a triumphant sense of arrival.

The symphony's emotional depth, soaring melodies, and masterful orchestration contribute to its enduring popularity. Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 remains a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire, a testament to the composer's ability to evoke profound emotions and capture the essence of a nation's spirit through the language of music.

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