Program Notes May 21, 2017 Concert

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868)

The Barber of Seville (Overture)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings

Performance time: 2 minutes

Just before his 24th birthday, in 1816, Rossini presented his seventh opera to the world: The Barber of Seville (Italian: Il barbiere di Siviglia), now one of the most popular operas of all time. The overture, it turns out, has had a life of its own. It was borrowed from a relatively unsuccessful earlier opera, Aureliano in Palmira (1813). Rossini reused it two years later for Elizabeth, Queen of England (Italian: Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra); this opera likewise failed to gain traction. The composer recycled the overture yet once more for Il barbiere di Siviglia, and there it remains. He must have liked it—as have concert audiences through the years. Its enduring popularity is easily appreciated: melodious and witty, rhythmically spirited and vital, a brilliant sound. Note the use of the so-called “Rossini crescendo,” the repetition of a phrase, with added instruments, each time a little louder. Two hundred years on, we continue to enjoy this musical gem quite apart from the opera, for which it was never conceived anyway.

– Dr. N.W. (“Nick”) Miller

Melody del Real (b. 1993)

Submergence

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings

Performance time:
5 minutes

The composer, a senior music major at California State University, San Bernardino, wrote Submergence in 2016; it received its premiere performance at CSUSB last June and is presented this afternoon as one of the winners of the Redlands Community Orchestra’s 2016-2017 Composition Project contest.

From the Composer
“The primary motif of this piece is flaunted in the trumpets; flurries in the woodwinds and droning strings amplify this small melodic idea. The percussion and brass evoke a sort of military march, a ‘call to arms,’ as the harmonic progression ascends and descends. The sections of the orchestra then do battle: pulling each other down, performing a frenetic dance, fleeting onto and over one another for escape and survival. Light solo melodies symbolize heroism, a beacon of hope amidst the commotion. High strings shimmer at pensive moments and represent light while a bell chimes in the distance to remind us of the external world. These sounds are concealed as harmonies become isolated, then heavier—a feeling of being overwhelmed, hence submerged.”

What to Listen For
A music theorist would note that the piece bears a key signature of two sharps, and that indeed it begins and ends in the key designated: B minor, the same as that of Schubert’s symphony.

– Dr. N.W. (“Nick”) Miller

Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828)

Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D.759  (“Unfinished”)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings

Performance time: 28 minutes

Composed in 1822, when Schubert was 25, this symphony appeared about the same time as the first serious effects of the syphilis to which he would succumb six years later, and one writer describes it as reflecting “a world of darkness and pain.” Nikolaus Harnoncourt comments that it has “all the strangeness, surprise, and shock of a ‘stone from the moon’.” Opening with “a ghost” (cellos and basses), the first theme follows in oboe and clarinet as the very embodiment of melancholy.

In a less somber vein, British analyst D. F. Tovey has noted that this movement is one of “at least two of Schubert’s . . . [that] may be considered flawless.” Its development section, he states, stands “in superb dramatic contrast to the exposition,” noting further that “nothing can be more characteristic of the greatest composers than the subtlety . . . of alluding to the syncopated accompaniment of the ‘second subject’ without the theme itself.” The short coda, or tail end of the movement, begins like the development but, Tovey writes, “blazes up only to die of exhaustion.”

The structure of the second movement is looser, and Tovey draws attention to the “wonderful clarinet theme with its answers in oboe and flute,” particularly the “four long notes that lead to it.” These unharmonized notes (beginning with the leap of an octave upward) “are turned to such account in the coda that they produce as subtle a stroke of genius as can be found anywhere in music.”

As to the symphony’s being “unfinished” (German: Unvollendete), Tovey states simply that “the remainder did not drive Schubert to the labour of writing it down.” And even though it lacks the usual four-movement structure, it stands, says Tom Service of The Guardian, as “a complete, essential, and mysterious symphonic experience.” In the end, finished or not, Schubert’s “Unfinished” holds its place among the greatest symphonic works of western music.

– Dr. N.W. (“Nick”) Miller