CANDIDE OVERTURE BERNSTEIN
In his brilliant music for the 1956 show Candide, Bernstein managed to capture perfectly the lightness of tone that is an essential element of successful satire. In this way he was somehow able to make an enduring popular classic from a work whose subject matter was, as he put it in a contemporaneous article in the New York Times, "Puritanical snobbery, phony moralism, inquisitorial attacks on the individual, brave-new-world optimism, essential superiority….the charges made by Voltaire against his own society." Unfortunately, the libretto by Lillian Hellman was more heavy handed, and the show has undergone an endless stream of revisions ever since.
The overture is an up-tempo romp though some of the show's greatest tunes, including two great spoofs: a love-duet Oh Happy We between principal characters Candide and Cunegonde, and the latter's hilarious coloratura aria Glitter and be Gay.
APPALACHIAN SPRING COPLAND
Following the success of his cowboy themed ballets Billy the Kid and Rodeo, Copland found inspiration in a quite different facet of American life for his collaboration with the great choreographer and dancer Martha Graham. A poignant depiction of a young couple starting their new lives in Pennsylvania pioneer country, the work seems imbued with the quiet optimism, neighborliness and religious searching of its scenario.
The composer's own description of the ballet's eight sections is as follows:
1. VERY SLOWLY. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.
2. FAST. Sudden burst of unison strings in A major arpeggios stars the action. A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.
3. MODERATE. Duo for the Bride and her Intended--scene of tenderness and passion.
4. QUITE FAST. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feelings--suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.
5. STILL FASTER. Solo dance of the Bride--presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.
6. VERY SLOWLY (as at first). Transition scenes reminiscent of the introduction.
7. CALM AND FLOWING. Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her farmer-husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme . . . sung by a solo clarinet . . .
8. MODERATE. CODA. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. At the end the
couple are left "quiet and strong in their new house." Muted strings intone a
hushed, prayerlike passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening music.
The music's disparate sections are linked together musically through a common thematic idea – an ascending second inversion triad – the shape of which is outlined at the start of the quoted Elder Brackett song Simple Gifts.
SYMPHONY NO.2 HANSON
Howard Hanson was a figure of the utmost significance in the course of American music in the C20th. He led the Eastman School of Music for over forty years, over the course of which he conducted innumerable performances of works by an astonishing range of fellow composers. He also recorded a wide swath of contemporary music commercially for the iconic Mercury label.
He was a prolific composer, producing seven symphonies, an opera Merry Mount and many works for band, chamber ensemble and piano.
The Second Symphony is now probably the best loved and most frequently performed of his oeuvre. The work unfolds over three movements (Adagio – Allegro moderato, Andante con tenerezza, Allegro con brio) with much thematic material (especially the first movement's second theme) being shared between them. The music shares an obvious kinship with that of Sibelius, both in mood and in the freely evolving nature of its compositional procedures. Whether this is due to shared Scandinavian heritage is obviously a matter of conjecture, but in any case it seems likely that Sibelius would have approved of Hanson's credo that "…..music is not primarily a matter of the intellect, but rather a manifestation of the emotions."