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Program Notes to
DSO's New World
from the pen of Maestro Amado
Friday, January 25, 2013 / 7:30 p.m. 
Sunday, January 27, 2013 / 2:00 p.m.
At The Grand Opera House
David Amado, conductor
Lura Johnson, piano
Ticket holders are invited to a pre-concert talk led by David Amado held in the Wesler Room at The Grand Opera House one hour prior to each performance.
Humperdinck (1854-1921) - Prelude to Hansel and Gretel
Engelbert Humperdinck.  The stupendousness of his name was surpassed only by his impressive moustache and his even more impressive musical gift.  Well-connected to the high-powered German music scene, Humperdinck was good friends with Anton Seidl, Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner.  Strauss conducted the premier of Humperdinck’s only huge success, the children’s opera Hansel and Gretel, calling it an authentic German masterpiece, and Wagner’s influence can be heard clearly in the beloved work.  But where Wagner tends toward the grandly Teutonic, Humperdinck leans more toward the gemütlich.

The prelude to Hansel and Gretel is filled with a mastery of formal control colored by a folksiness and directness of spirit that makes it a favorite of both audiences and musicians.  Additionally, it is always fun to say “Engelbert Humperdinck.” However, when the great English actor and impresario, Augustus Harris, came to America to produce Hansel and Gretel, he said to the audience that he hoped that “there was enough artistic spirit in America to appreciate the wonderful work of this great composer, Pumpernickel.”  Engelbert Pumpernickel!

Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) - Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, op. 1
Sergei Rachmaninoff did not have a moustache.  Clean-shaven, and with his head shorn closely, Rachmaninoff looked impassive and severe.  There are dozens of portraits of him unsmiling, stern and cold.  It is a surprise, then, to hear his music. Though rarely buoyant and light-hearted, his work, in the style of the great 19th century Russian composers, is always warm, generous, romantic, and unashamed of its own sentiment. His First Piano Concerto, modeled closely on a piano concerto of Edward Grieg, is filled with gorgeous tunes, sweeping romantic gestures and heart-rending harmonies, all delivered with Rachmaninoff’s trademark virtuosity.  The two outer movements bristle with pianistic pyrotechnics while the middle movement, though not devoid of high-density passages, is a lyrical, and relatively brief, nocturne in one of Rachmaninoff’s most luminescent keys: D major. Although programmed less frequently than its siblings, the First Piano Concerto remains a gorgeous testament to one of the late 19th and 20th Century’s most distinctive and important voices.

Dvořák (1841-1904) - Symphony No. 9, op. 95, E-minor "From the New World"
Years before Charles Ives and George Gershwin celebrated the rich musical landscape of their native land, a Bohemian came to New York and showed the world “American music.”  While at home, Antonin Dvořák explored the music of his native Bohemia, incorporating folk songs, and the style of folk song, into his concert music.  When he came to New York as the new director of a conservatory, he was eager to do the same with American music.  He was surprised that so many American composers of concert music so readily overlooked the rich lode of their own native music in favor of the style and language of European composers.  But Dvořák celebrated just what so many Americans forsook—the music and culture of Africa and of Native Americans.  With an ear for melodic poignancy and rhythmic finesse honed thousands of miles east through his Polkas, Furiants, and Dumkas, Dvořák set out to incorporate the language and rhetoric of the New World into the vessels of the Old.  The New World Symphony is perhaps the best known of Dvořák’s East-meets-West ventures.  It is a work filled with Americana—spirituals, Native American dance rhythms, syncopations, folk song—all cast into a traditional four-movement symphonic form.  But the New World’s appeal goes far beyond simply a heartfelt homage to America.  It is written with Dvořák’s characteristic compositional discipline—brilliantly squeezing every possible drop of inventiveness and utility from the most humble motives, spinning gorgeous tunes out of ordinary fragments, and unifying large-scale forms with a natural ease that escaped most other composers.

While in New York, Dvořák, affectionately known as “Old Borax,” presented a foreboding first impression, with “fierce Slavonic eyes” and a face that looked like “an angry bulldog with a beard.”  But all who met him soon discovered a sweet and mild-mannered man.  Though his music is often lit from within by those fierce Slavonic eyes, its deeply human, gentle nature is what keeps us coming back to listen to it again and again.

Spring 2013 Classical Series
DSO's New World
Link to DSO's New World
January 2013
Beethoven's World
Link to Beethoven's World
March 2013
Tchaikovsky's World

April 2013

Delaware Symphony Orchestra programs are made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.