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WIND DANCES – Concert Program
May 8, 2011 at 2:30 P.M.
Members of the LSWO^
WIND DANCES – Program Notes
Fugue a la Gigue (1928)
Fugue a la Gigue was born out of an exercise by Gustav Holst in order to prepare himself to write a commission for the BBC Wireless Military Band. That commission turned out to be Hammersmith. Holst felt out of practice in orchestrating for the medium. For some years, he had the idea of arranging some Bach fugues for brass and military band. So, he set himself the task of scoring the Organ Fugue in G Major, BWV 577. He, rather than Bach, called it “Fugue a la Gigue”. The piece made an ideal exercise and Holst’s brilliant dovetailing of the counterpoint between different instruments shows his mastery. The piece is technically demanding and the characteristic unison clarinet writing suggests the orchestral conception of a large wind ensemble rather than a band. It was this conception that the composer carried forward into Hammersmith.
Polacca from “Clarinet Concerto No. 2” (1811)
Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 coincidentally fits in with our theme of dance music in that Mr. Stewart will be performing the third movement titled Polacca. A polacca, or polonaise, is a slow dance of Polish origin in 3/4. Also traditionally present is the polonaise rhythm of a certain arrangement of eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes.
Greek Folk Song Suite (2002)
Greek Folk Song Suite is a work in three movements, which have been elaborated from the most ancient Greek tradition. The first, “O Charalambis,” is in 7/8 time, which is typical of a popular folk dance called Kalamatianos. Originally, the song “O Charalambis” was sung to “tease” during weddings, since the text of the song refers to a young man who refuses to marry. The central part of the piece includes another folk song called “I Voskopula.” The second movement, “Stu Psiloriti,” refers to an ancient song from the Island of Crete. The Psiloritis is the highest peak of the Ida Mountains. The third movement of the suite is based on the song “Vasilikos tha jino,” which is a very old song of the Ipeiros region. Some characteristics of this movement are a reminder of the sirtake—the most popular Greek dance abroad.
Danse Bacchanale (1877)
Dance Bacchanale, from the opera Samson and Delilah, portrays the final dance before the fatal end of the opera. Samson receives a parting gift of strength and brings the temple down upon the Philistines. A “Bacchanale” is a dramatic musical composition associated with drunken revelry and the Roman holiday celebrating Bacchus. Saint-Saëns incorporated foreign scales and percussion into the fabric of this piece to truly capture what he imagined was an authentic biblical sound.
Four Scottish Dances (2006)
Included in Malcolm Arnold’s compositions are symphonies, concertos, chamber music for ensemble and solo instruments, and a variety of film scores including “1984”, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, and “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” On Four Scottish Dances, Arnold supplied his own program notes:
“These dances were composed early in 1957, and are dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival. They are all based on original melodies but one, the melody of which was composed by Robert Burns. The first dance is in the style of a slow strathspey – a slow Scottish dance in 4/4 meter – with many dotted notes, frequently in the inverted arrangement of the ‘scotch snap’. The name was derived from the strath valley of Spey. The second, a lively reel, begins in the key of E-flat and rises a semi-tone each time it is played until the bassoon plays it, at a greatly-reduced speed, in the key of G. The final statement of the dance is at the original speed in the home key of E-flat. The third dance is in the style of a Hebridean Song, and attempts to give an impression of the sea and mountain scenery on a calm summer’s day in the Hebrides. The last dance is a lively fling, which makes a great deal of use of the open-string pitches of the violin (saxophones in the band edition).”
Dance of the Jesters (1880/1997)
Dance of the Jesters was composed as incidental music for the ballet The Snow Maidens. The ballet is not based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, but on a contemporary Russian fantasy-play Snegourochka. The Snow Maiden, daughter of Father Frost, falls in love with a human, Misgir, and plans to marry him. However, Misgir is already betrothed to Coupava. The Snow Maiden follows him southward to interrupt his wedding, but she falls victim to the warmth of the sun and melts. The Dance is an incredibly lively affair that has stood out from the songs, dances, and choruses of the ballet. It captures the color and zest of Russian folk dance.