Thalia Symphony: French Cooking
We open our 60th season with French cooking and some Lamb. The fanfare, Our Time Is Now, was composed for the opening of Mahlerfest XIX in Boulder, Colorado to announce the ceremony in which the festival was awarded a gold medal from the IGMG.
Paul Dukas (1865-1935) excelled in many areas, including composition, teaching, orchestration, and music criticism. Sadly, Dukas only allowed 12 of his works to be published. He would have a much larger corpus of music, so prodigious was his talent, except for his impossibly high, self-imposed standards. His Sorcerers Apprentice: a Symphonic Scherzo after a Ballad of Goethe, composed in 1897, features some remarkable devices, such as extensive use of diminished sevenths, augmented triads resolving to more augmented triads and the piling of fourths on to each other. The work became wildly popular when Leopold Stokowski and Walt Disney included it in the groundbreaking film, Fantasia (1940). The work is now inextricably tied to Mickey Mouse! The work opens with the Sorcerers theme, then the theme of the broom appears in the bassoons. Themes of the apprentice, incantation and water also interplay. So skillfully does Dukas tell the story that no animation is necessary.
Albric Magnard (1865-1914) could have been one of the giants among composers save for his untimely death. Like many French composers he was quite taken with Wagner, particularly, his Tristan und Isolde. But this infatuation never dimmed his commitment to classical elegance and counterpoint. His strongest influences include Franck, DIndy, and Mahler and he is often referred to as the French Sibelius. His work features cyclical devices (as in Beethovens Fifth) where the same material reappears in some guise in each movement. His Third Symphony opens with a slow, mysterious introduction. It acts like a narrator, popping up every once in a while to assert its presence. This launches into a spirited sonata form, the development of which features fugue-like textures. The first movement ends quietly with the return of the narrator. The second movement is a dance. The third is a Pastorale in theme and variation. The bittersweet theme and calm of the movement is threatened by menacing low strings and bassoons, like the Furies to Orpheus. Finally, Orpheus tames them, they fade, and calm is restored. A lively Finale ensues in B flat major. The narrator appears over and over, seeking to assert itself, but is driven back. Finally, transfigured, it triumphs in chorale style and the music drives to a thrilling conclusion. The story of Magnards death is loaded with pathos. Possessed of a patrician, aristocratic nature, he thought that when the Germans invaded his homeland at the outset of World War I, he had a gentlemans agreement with the German general that his estate would not be disturbed. Nevertheless, German troops came on to his property. This was just bad form so he fired on them. Taking umbrage, the Germans returned fire and set his house alight, burning him to death and, in the process, destroying much of his music. The loss of this great talent is inestimable!
First Free Methodist Church
3200 3rd Avenue W.
Seattle, WA 98119-1998
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