The University Chamber Orchestra (directed by Sey Ahn) and Chamber Players (directed by Robert Koenig) will present their annual winter concert on Monday, March 13, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on the UCSB campus. The Chamber Orchestra program will include the overture to Gioachino Rossini's La gazza ladra, Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Winners of the quarterly UCSB Chamber Music Competition will perform as the UCSB Chamber Players and open the first half of the concert. The Winter 2017 Chamber Music Competition winners program will include "Poco allegretto" from Bohuslav Martinů's Trio for flute, cello, and piano; "Convegno" (the meeting) from Amilcare Ponchielli's Divertimento for two clarinets and piano; and Wayne Shorter's Deluge for jazz combo.
Chamber Orchestra Program Notes
written by Emma Levine (Ph.D. candidate, Musicology)
Gioachino Rossini: overture to La gazza ladra
It is never a good thing when someone reneges on their promise, unless of course your name is Gioachino Rossini, whose operatic career began in 1810 only after a German composer backed out of his contract. Rossini filled in to compose the music for Gaetano Rossi’s La cambiale id matrimonio, and within the next seven years became one of the most popular operatic composers in Italy. While Rossini’s music was very well received, it was not protected under copyright law, and Rossini was only able to make money when he actually participated in a performance (and he didn’t make nearly as much as the star singers). He therefore was incredibly busy, churning out a great deal of music in very little time. His melodrama La gazza ladra (The Theaving Magpie) premiered on May 31, 1817 in Milan at the Teatro alla Scalla. The title refers to a bird who steals a silver spoon and sets in motion a series of events that nearly leads to the heroine’s, Ninetta’s, death. Although she dies in the original French play, Ninetta’s life is spared in Rossini’s melodrama after the magpie’s stash of treasures is discovered. The music Rossini composed for the overture captures a variety of emotions, beginning notably with dramatic snare drum rolls that announce a jubilant march—both Ninetta’s father and fiancé are soldiers. After another drum roll, the music turns to a darker, minor key and rushes forward above the accompanying triplets, foreshadowing Ninetta’s dismal fate as she awaits trial. The woodwinds then enter with one of Rossini’s most recognizable melodies, a playful dance-like tune with a descending, staccato, chromatic melody. The music then builds to a climax with a dramatic crescendo, a trademark of Rossini’s overtures.
Edward Elgar: Variation IX (Adagio) “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations
Composed in 1899, Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations is probably his most well-known composition, aside from music he wrote that has inevitably accompanied every high school walking at his or her graduation. The piece consists of 14 variations on an original theme and was dedicated by Elgar “to my friends pictured within.” Each section presents a musical portrait of someone close to Elgar, marked only by initials or a pseudonym. While the identity of each friend has since been discovered, there is one mystery that still remains. Elgar wrote of the piece, “The enigma I will not explain—its ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the apparent connection between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes,’ but is not played.” Elgar implied that there was a second theme whose music does not sound in the piece, but a melody that could be played in counterpoint with his composition. Many have guessed what this famous tune might be, but the mystery has yet to be solved. The most popular variation, many times performed on its own, is Variation IX, which Elgar marked “Nimrod.” This variation was dedicated to his close friend August Jaeger, a German writer who became head of the Novello publishing office (Nimrod is a biblical hunter, and Jäger is the German word for “hunter”). Jaeger was a champion of Elgar’s music and provided emotional support during the composer’s bouts with depression. This particular variation recalls discussions between the two men about Beethoven’s slow movements, and Elgar himself points out the similarities between his music in this variation and the slow movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
Perhaps the most popular and well-known composer of all time, Ludwig van Beethoven has been portrayed in and has been the subject of countless movies. From Mr. Holland’s Opus to Immortal Beloved, many details about his life and works are widely known, including the fact that Beethoven eventually went deaf. Despite this fact, he continued to compose music, and some of his most beautiful and challenging works were composed after Beethoven had completely lost his hearing. His fifth symphony was composed after he penned what became known as the “Heiligenstadt Testament,” in which he admits to his hearing loss and his accompanying anguish. In the end, Beethoven resolves to persevere, and we cannot help but hear this heroic struggle in his fifth symphony. The symphony opens with what are perhaps the four most famous notes in all of Western classical music. This four-note motive, which has been long described as fate’s “knocking at the door,” does not just provide a dramatic opening. Beethoven uses this small musical idea and develops it throughout the entire symphony. After its forte introduction, it is passed around the ensemble throughout the first movement, becoming a gentle second theme, and reappearing aggressively as the music drives through the coda. In stark contrast to the first movement, the second movement elongates the short-short-short-long rhythm into a set of variations in a major key. The third movement begins with an eerie, low melody, returning to the minor tonality of the first movement. After the brief introduction, the four-note motive is loudly announced by the brass, pounding away in a fast triple meter. The middle of the movement contains a fugue, introduced by the basses, and then subsequently taken up by the rest of the orchestra before the beginning section returns. There is no break between the final two movements. Instead the timpani plays softly while the tonality slowly shifts back to C major and the music crescendos into the joyous opening of the fourth movement. For a brief moment, the ominous music from the third movement returns, but it is eventually overtaken and Beethoven’s symphony triumphantly marches towards its glorious conclusion.