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The Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra
Raul Munguia - Artistic Director & Conductor

2007-08 Season

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
~ 7:30 p.m. ~
McCray Recital Hall

Concert program (PDF)
Concert poster
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Concert Graphic

"Beethoven's Eight"
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Program Notes

Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Allegro con brio

Completed: January 1807
Also Known As: Overture to Coriolanus

Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was a Roman general who lived in the 5th century BC. His story comes to us in the writings of Plutarch. He tells us of the enemies of Rome, the Volscians, and the triumph general Coriolanus achieved over them. This victory won the support of the Roman Senate, but he was not popular with the Plebeians, the general citizenry, who managed to get Coriolanus banished from Rome, so he turned to his vanquished enemies and then led them back to Rome for a chance of revenge. When threatening the city, his mother is sent out to plead with him to withdraw, which he does, angering the Volscians and...

This is beginning to sound like a Shakespearean tragedy, and it is. Beethoven however was a friend of another writer, Heinrich Joseph von Collin, and he composed the music not in a narrative operatic sense, but as a sonata form composition inspired by Collin's play. The play was quite popular in Vienna in the years around 1802 to 1805 and after writing the overture in only a few weeks in January 1807, it quietly premiered along with his Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto. Only one time in Beethoven's lifetime would Collin's play be performed with the overture - on April 24th of that year.

Coriolan opens in C minor, a favorite power key for Beethoven, and he uses it to present the power and force wielded by the Roman general. The second theme, more lyrical and imploring, represents his mother Volumnia pleading with her son, who finally yields, sealing his own fate.

Scored for: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. [2222-2200-tmp-str]

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

I. Maestoso
II. Larghetto
III. Allegro vivace

First Performance: March 17, 1830, Warsaw. Chopin as soloist

This concerto was composed before Chopin's twentieth birthday, and was premiered publicly in Warsaw on March 17, 1830, to an audience of nine hundred people. Even though it is designated as the second of Chopin's concertos, it was actually completed and performed before the E minor concerto that bears the number one. During this part of his early composing career, Chopin was influenced by the classical forms and styles of Hummel, Beethoven, Mozart, and Clementi.

It has been said that Chopin reinvented Bach's ornamental melody, figuration and counterpoint in terms entirely idiomatic for piano. Exposure to Italian opera and Polish folk music also influenced Chopin's creative evolution. He expressed the vocal bel canto in the lyricism of his melodic lines for piano, and his often-used melodic thirds and sixths speak of operatic duet textures. Vocal ornamentation used in operatic portamentos and cadenzas also found their way into Chopin's pianistic style.

The first movement, Maestoso, in sonata form begins with the typically Classical dual expositions. The first theme in dotted-eight-sixteenth pattern is majestic and punctuated by large chords. The second theme is quieter and in the relative major of A-flat. Both themes are examples of Chopin's love of the Mazurka and the Polonaise.

Although the Concerto in F was dedicated to Countess Delfina Potocka, the inspiration behind the Concerto, especially its second movement, was Chopin's youthful love for Konstancja Gladkowska, a singer of his own age making her stage debut at the Warsaw Opera. It is this movement - "Larghetto" - that contemporary witnesses proclaimed "original" and the product of an "exceptional musical genius".

The main theme of the Allegro vivace, the final movement, as introduced by the piano, has about it the vigor of a Polish mazurka. The themes of the rondo are playful and bright, punctuated by continual triplet figures. The final section of the movement is heralded by a signal horn, followed by music of increasing fervor as the concerto comes to an end.

The positive reception of the concerto as a whole is aptly captured by Robert Schumann's comment: "... [a concerto] which all of us put together would not be able to reach, and whose hem we can merely kiss".

- D. Snodgrass

Scored for: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 1 bass trombone, timpani, and strings. [2222-221[btbn]0-tmp-str]

Debra Snodgrass, piano

Debra Snodgrass, guest soloist

A graduate of Pittsburg State University, Debra Snodgrass' performances include two concertos with the PSU orchestra and, most recently, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", with the Carthage Symphonic Band. As a former Miss America, she has performed in 41 states and 3 foreign countries, on network television, numerous cable stations, and still maintains an active performance schedule. Mrs. Snodgrass is also a recent winner of the Wadill Chamber Music Competition held at Pittsburg State University in March of 2007. She currently holds the position of Instructor of Music for Elementary Schools at Missouri Southern State University.

Source: Debra Snodgrass MSSU Music faculty page

Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 (the "Little")

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I. Allegro vivace e con brio
II. Allegretto scherzando
III. Tempo di menuetto
IV. Allegro vivace

Completed In: 1812
First Performance: February 27, 1814, Vienna

Existing between the powerful Seventh and Ninth Symphonies, the Eighth does seem like a "little" symphony, it's one of the Master's shortest. It is, however, no less challenging than any of his other works. There is no slow movement or ponderous themes - the listener is always taken by the hand and pulled forward into the piece.

It was written in 1812, and Beethoven conducted the premiere in February of 1814, sandwiched in between a repeat of the Seventh Symphony and Wellington's Victory, both premiered a few months earlier. It was met with polite applause. Later asked why the symphony was so unpopular compared to the Seventh, Beethoven was reported to say "because it's so much better".

Oddly enough, this joyous little symphony, with all of its optimism and playfulness, was written during a particular time of turmoil for the composer. Ludwig's younger brother Johann was involved with his housekeeper, which did not set at all well with him, being a bit 'proper' in those matters. Ludwig even traveled to Johann's home town of Linz, in the hope of getting a police order to have the girl thrown out.

The first movement, Allegro vivace e con brio, begins in a fast F major theme. There is no setup, no introduction, no preparation - off we go. The movement is in sonata form, but unusual in that the climax is not attained within the exposition, but rather in the recapitulation, which is marked "fff" (fortississimo), ironically an unusual marking for this powermeister. The movement ends with a quiet, partial re-statement of the melody.

The second movement, Allegretto scherzando, was written as a parody to the metronome, or chronometer. Johann Maelzel, who had created various hearing aids for the composer had given one to Beethoven, and he held it in particular fascination; one of those things you couldn't embrace at the time because it was so new, but also could not put down. Persistent chords throughout the movement mimic the steady tic, tic, tic, of the novelty. The movement is only 81 measures long. Perhaps the composer wasn't too impressed with the restrictive manner of this new invention?

The third movement, Tempo de Menuetto, is a return to the more 17th century minuet, reminiscent of Haydn, who died a few years before the piece was written. Beethoven replaced it with a scherzo in many of his other symphonies. The feel can be a bit too stately, and he may have snickered as he imagined anyone dancing to the piece.

The last movement, Allegro vivace, is in a rondo-sonata form and opens with a hurried theme begun with the strings, then taken up by everyone. The second theme is briefly stated, then left behind to make way for the development, a fugue that is never fully completed. Ludwig must have been in a hurry to work on the overly long coda section. The piece ends with a prolonged "this is the end... really... I'm done..." statement in the masterful attempt to exaggerate what was becoming so exaggerated at the time. He did quite a fine job.

Scored for: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. [2222-2200-tmp-str]

Related Links

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)