Concert Notes: Romance

MCO’s Romance can be heard in Melbourne on Thursday 1 March at The Deakin Edge, Federation Square and Sunday 4 March at Melbourne Recital Centre

Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) is regarded by many as the greatest Italian composer of opera. He composed more than 25 operas, and other works operatic in character such as the Requiem (1874).

La Traviata (The Fallen Woman) is perhaps Verdi’s most popular and performed opera in the repertoire. Based on La Dame aux Carmélias, a play adapted from Alexander Dumas’ novel, this opera was written for La Fenice opera house in Venice and completed in 1853 after Rigoletto (1851) and Il trovatore (1853).

The opera is in three acts, each of which commences with an overture establishing and focusing the mood on the drama to follow. Following the action of the previous acts, the overture to Act III quietly and sumptuously prepares us for the climax and desolate conclusion of the opera.

Robert Schumann (1810–1856) was a renowned composer and music critic. He composed extensively for the piano and voice with the collections of solo piano works and lieder standing as formidable pillars in the repertoire. His chamber music, symphonies and concertos are regularly scheduled in concert programs.

The Piano Concerto in A minor Op 54 started as the Phantasie for piano and orchestra composed in 1841. With the encouragement of his wife Clara, in 1845 he developed the work by adding two movements to form the concerto. The work was first performed in Leipzig in 1846 with Clara Schumann as the soloist. She subsequently introduced and championed the work to music lovers not only in Europe, but also in England.
The score is marked in three movements with no break between the Intermezzo and Allegro vivace. The opening Allegro affettuoso is fiercely energetic and is an interplay between the piano and orchestra culminating in the breathtaking cadenza. The second movement, Intermezzo provides a quiet and graceful reprise from the opening movement, before the colourful and exciting Allegro vivace finale.

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) was a Czech composer of symphonies, operas, oratorios, songs and chamber music. The last of these was central to his compositional output and his legacy, particularly for string groupings and strings with piano, is one of the richest of the nineteenth century.

The Romance is based on the Andante con moto quasi allegretto movement of the composer’s fifth string quartet, written in 1873. The orchestral version was commissioned for a concert in Prague in 1877.

The Romance is in sonata form and is scored for two flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, strings and solo violin. This reflective and beautifully sonorous work is notable for its graceful and calm mood.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847), like Schumann, was not only an important composer but also an influential writer and commentator. His music draws on the past (particularly Bach and Mozart) and his immediate contemporaries, Beethoven and Weber. In his music he was pushing the boundaries of possibility in concept and realisation.

Prior to publishing his first Symphony in 1824, Mendelssohn had composed thirteen string symphonies between 1821 and 1823. In all, he composed five full symphonies.

The Italian Symphony Op 90 is so named as the materials for this work date from his travels in Italy in 1830. Completed in March 1833, the symphony was first performed in London two months later, before being revised in 1834, and published posthumously in 1851 as Symphony No 4.

The work is in four movements and is scored for two flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani and strings. The joyfully exuberant opening Allegro vivace is in sonata form and is in contrast to the religious connotations of the Andante con moto. The third movement is a minuet and trio. The Presto finale is a combination of two Italian folk dances – the saltarello with its characteristic jumps, and the whirling tarantella. It is notable that the symphony commences in A major and concludes in A minor.

David Forrest