SYMPHONY SUNDAYS

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OCTOBER 6, 2013 | LONDON BRIDGES

Good afternoon and welcome to the first of our Symphony Sundays concerts for the new season. Today we want to relocate you to an English country manor in the period just after World War I made popular recently by the brilliant television series "Downton Abbey". Imagine you've just finished an elegant meal, impeccably served by Mr. Carson and his staff. The Earl and Countess of Grantham have asked you to join them in the conservatory as they listen to a concert broadcast all the way from London on the wireless. Two works are to be played at Queen's Hall that evening that inspire the patriotism of any level of British subject: Haydn's "Symphony No. 104 (London)"; and the recently composed "A London Symphony" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809) wrote his final twelve symphonies in two groups of six for visits to England in 1791 and 1794. He was finally free to travel and receive international accolades following his over thirty years of service to the Esterhazy family in Vienna. These last works showed the culmination of a lifetime of experience and knowledge of the past, and a foreshadowing of what was to come from Mozart and Beethoven. The dramatic beauty of his Symphony No. 104, premiered in London in 1795, is all the more dynamic for its freshness and youthfulness, despite his advanced age. Haydn either knew or suspected this would be his final symphony as he wrote on the manuscript cover with a ring of conclusiveness "the 12th I have composed in England."

The City of London also inspired a native composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) to write his "Symphony No. 2". Known as "A London Symphony" the work is better described (according to the composer ) as "A Symphony by a Londoner ".

Vaughan Williams always denied his piece was programmatic in any way, but allowed conductors and critics to write long descriptive narratives about it. One of these emphasizes the first movement use of the Westminster chimes, calls the second movement "Bloomsbury Square on a November afternoon", and the third "Westminster Embankment at night". The last movement has been epically called that … "in which the old order is altogether dwarfed and swallowed up… England and the kingdom, Britain and the Empire, the old prides and the old devotions … slide abeam, astern, sink down on the horizon".

Premiered in 1914, the score and parts were lost during shipment due to World War I. A reconstructed version was made for 1920 and Vaughan Williams revised the work extensively, lastly in 1933. We will play for you the 1920 version described by Ursula Vaughan Williams as "more meditative, dark-shaded and tragic".

So, please light your cigars and cigarettes, have Mr. Carson refresh your wine, and join the Crawleys in a splendid broadcast.

JANUARY 26, 2014 | A CELEBRATION OF SPIRIT

Welcome to the first concert for the new year by Festival City Symphony. Today’s performance features three works by composers of different nationalities, periods and styles, and each is special in its own way.

Gioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868) was the quintessential man of the theatre, writing thirty-five operas in twenty years. His last, William Tell, premiered in 1829 and, though he lived another almost forty years, he never wrote another, perhaps due simply to psychological exhaustion. His two-act opera La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) premiered in 1817 to good success but is little performed today, probably being overshadowed by others such as Barber of Seville, Cinderella, and An Italian Girl In Algiers. The rather thin plot revolves around a maid who is accused by her employer of stealing jewelry, only to be exonerated when it is shown that the objects were actually taken by a bird attracted to their glitter. The Overture has become one of Rossini’s most popular works.

The Konzertstuck (Concert Piece) for Four Horns and Orchestra is, quite simply, unique in the literature. Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote it in just two days in 1849 and it premiered in Leipzig in 1850. The horn was only at this time becoming the valved instrument we know today. Valves were invented in the early 19th Century, but few hornists were anxious to adopt the new-style instruments. By mid- century younger players had taken to and mastered the valved horn, allowing composers to write fully chromatic parts for the instrument. Schumann’s work calls for four virtuosi, with great technical challenges in the outer movements and a beautiful song-like second movement romance. We are extremely fortunate to have players of this caliber in our orchestra and are very proud to present the horn section of Festival City as our soloists.

Fifteen years passed between the composition of the Fourth Symphony and the Fifth Symphony of Sergei Prokofieff (1891 - 1953). After living in Paris for ten years, Prokofieff decided to return to live in Moscow in 1932, despite the increasingly hostile attitude of the Soviet government towards artists. He told reporters he had been writing down themes for a new symphony in a special notebook, and once he decided to complete his project it took him only one month to fully compose the Fifth and another month to orchestrate it. It is a work of pure music with no program. Prokofieff himself called it music “about the spirit of man…. celebrating freedom, happiness, and strength”. How much of that description was due to political necessity we will never know, but the terms seem very appropriate. The work’s premiere on January 13, 1945, in Moscow with the composer conducting was memorable as well. The Soviet army was gaining the upper hand on Nazi invaders and Prokofieff had to wait to start the performance until the sound of an artillery battle subsided.

We hope you enjoy these three very special and different pieces and will join us in March for an all - Mendelssohn program.

MARCH 16, 2014 | TIMELESS ROMANCE

Good afternoon and welcome to this concert featuring the music of Felix Mendelssohn.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) lived a remarkably short life; in ill health for most of it. The frustrations and conflicts felt by many other composers were not a part of his life. He was born to a family of position and culture. His grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), was dubbed “the modern Plato” in reference to his being one of the revered philosophers of his generation. Felix’s sister, Fanny (1805-1847), was raised as a coequal and was a gifted performer and composer.

Felix Mendelssohn was greatly taken by Shakespeare and wrote his Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1826, when he was only 17 years old. In 1842, he wrote a series of pieces intended to accompany the play, which included the famous Wedding March and reprised the overture. During our performance, listen for the famous “HeeHaw” in the orchestra emulating the character of Bottom while wearing a donkey’s head.

One of histories outstanding musical prodigies, Mendelssohn was an established musician and conductor. By 1836, he was appointed head of the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts. His concertmaster and lifelong friend, Ferdinand David, was a brilliant violinist and the dedicatee of the concerto we will play for you today. Written between 1838 and 1845, the Violin Concerto was Mendelssohn’s last orchestral work. David provided practical input and also wrote the cadenza that is usually performed. David was the soloist at the premiere of the piece in Leipzig on March 13, 1845. Mendelssohn was unable, due to his failing health, to conduct and was replaced by the Danish composer and conductor Neils Gade. Though almost 175 years old, the concerto has, as one critic calls it, “the charm of eternal youth.” As our soloist today, we are fortunate to once again feature the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Frank Almond.

As any well-to-do scion of a well-bred family in the 19th century, Mendelssohn embarked on a “grand tour” of Europe and Great Britain. His travels provided inspiration throughout his career. In 1829, he went to Scotland and met Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh. Holyrood Castle, home of Mary, Queen of Scots, had a profound impact on him. While there, he sketched his Scottish Symphony, though it was 13 years before he completed it. By the time he completed the work now known as the Symphony No. 3 (Scottish), it was the last symphony he composed.

Mendelssohn made a point of never providing stories to accompany his works. Any so-called “programs” were written subsequently by critics. Premiered on March 3, 1842, with Mendelssohn himself conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Symphony No. 3 is considered the ultimate statement of his symphonic vision.

We hope you appreciate this tour of Mendelssohn’s works from age 17 to his last symphony and last orchestral composition. I invite you to please join us again on May 4 for music by Robert Schumann.

MAY 4, 2014 | MAGNIFICENT MOODS

Good afternoon and welcome to the final Symphony Sundays concert for this season. We are devoting this concert to the music of only one composer, one of the fathers of Romantic music, Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856).

Schumann spent much of his troubled life confronting obstacles to matters that he considered of extreme importance: becoming a professional musician over the objections of his mother; marrying the love of his life , Clara Wieck (1819 - 1896), over the objections of her father; becoming a composer after a physical injury made his piano virtuoso career impossible; devoting as much time to writing articles and criticisms on music as he did to composing; and, most importantly, his fragile mental state that led to his early death at age 46.

Schumann overcame his mother's wish he become a lawyer, overcame his piano teacher Friedrich Wieck's refusal to allow his daughter to be married (though only through prolonged litigation), and quickly showed genius as a composer writing piano works he couldn't play himself. He founded and edited the outstanding music journal of his day in which he promoted the Romantic ethic and introduced concertgoers to then unknown musicians including Chopin and Brahms.

The only battle he lost was with the chronic mental illness to which he finally succumbed.

In 1846 Schumann read the epic poem Manfred by Lord Byron. It immediately enraptured him. In 1848 he completed an Overture and fourteen numbers intended for use as incidental music to a staging of the poem. Only the Manfred Overture has entered the repertoire, depicting the torment and struggle of Byron's hero, ending softly and pensively only with his death.

Schumann composed a Fantasy in A minor for Piano and Orchestra in 1841 which was premiered by his wife, Clara, one of the great pianists of her time. He used it as the first movement of his expanded Piano Concerto in A minor in 1845. Clara again premiered the work and popularized it throughout Europe. It has been adopted by generations of pianists and remains a mandatory part of the repertoire of touring virtuosi. We are extremely happy to have returning as our soloist well known Milwaukee-based pianist Jeannie Yu.

In September of 1850 the Schumanns moved to Dusseldorf, where Robert had been appointed music director of the orchestra. Dusseldorf , Cologne, indeed the entire Rhineland area had a dramatic effect on the always sensitive composer. Wanting to make a solid first impression, he began a symphony "of the Rhine" or "Rhenish". The Symphony No. 3 includes wonderful Romantic music, German folk dances and even a movement inspired by the installation of a new cardinal at the Cologne Cathedral. To fit so much into the symphonic form, he had to use five movements rather than the usual four. He wrote to his publisher that the symphony "...mirrors here and there something of Rhenish life."

On behalf of the musicians of Festival City Symphony I would like to thank you for attending this season's concerts and hope you will join us in the fall for a new season filled with musical old friends and several new acquaintances.


FREE PAJAMA JAMBOREES

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OCTOBER 23, 2013 | HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR

Dressed in costume, the orchestra will perform musical "treats" related to the season. Students from the Shorewood High School orchestra program will guest perform in Haydn's Toy Symphony. Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes.

DECEMBER 11, 2013 | HOLIDAY FROSTY & FRIENDS

FCS welcomes special guests, Vocal Arts Academy of Milwaukee's youth choirs, for a concert of holiday favorites and a sing-along. Those who wish may bring a nonperishable food donation for Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force.

MAY 21, 2014 | SPRING IS IN THE AIR

The orchestra will perform lively selections to celebrate spring with a special guest, folksinger and guitarist David HB Drake. The concert will include The American Frontier arranged by Calvin Custer and Americana by Arthur Harris. It will conclude with the popular Festival City Symphony tradition of young audience members having an opportunity to conduct the finale, On, Wisconsin.

Drake, a Wisconsin troubadour, has spent over thirty years presenting concerts at fine arts centers, festivals, schools, community centers, and concert stages throughout the Midwest. David's original songs can be heard on the Simply Folk programs on Wisconsin Public Radio, and he has been played on folk radio programs from Victoria BC to the Netherlands.