Symphony North of Houston is delighted to invite you to our fourth concert of the 2022-2023 season of our 47th year. We will perform on Sunday, April 2, 2023, at 4:00 PM, and our concert venue is Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas. Admission to our concerts is by donation. At the performance, we will be accepting donations, but you may also donate online.
This concert is the second of two concerts with our guest conductor, Dr. Karl Blench. Our repertoire includes Blench’s Northern Fortitude; Williams’ The Lark Ascending with violin soloist Timothy Peters; and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
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After learning that Dr. Blench would be guest conducting Symphony North of Houston, he immediately knew that he wanted to write a piece for them and to compose a work that would show off the orchestra as a whole, as well as the various sections of the orchestra. Thus, Northern Fortitude, does just that; it shows off the strength of this orchestra. Each of the four sections of the orchestra, strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, are highlighted in the work.
A fanfare-like figure played by the trumpets starts the work that reappears throughout. What follows is dream-like section of music in which the main theme appears, first in the tuba and then fragmented in various instruments in the orchestra. This builds to a boisterous statement of the theme in the trombones and is then taken up by the full orchestra. The opening dream-like material then reappears before the music builds to a final statement of the theme that leads the work to its dramatic close.
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed The Lark Ascending in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War One. With hindsight, the work has assumed a deeper significance in the UK’s national consciousness. A haunting ‘pastoral romance’ for solo violin and orchestra, it has become a symbol of the calm before the storm, perhaps of the summer countryside in the last days of peace before thousands of young men were sent away to their deaths (though suggestions that the piece was written while Vaughan Williams watched troops setting out for France are probably apocryphal).
The premiere of The Lark Ascending was delayed because of the outbreak of war and did not take place until 15 December 1920. The first version to be heard was for violin and piano; the orchestral premiere followed on 14 June 1921. On both occasions the violinist was Marie Hall, for whom Vaughan Williams composed it. A review in The Times noted that the piece “showed serene disregard of the fashions of to-day or of yesterday. It dreams its way along in ‘many links without a break’ … the music is that of the clean countryside, not of the sophisticated concert-room”.
The Lark Ascending will be performed by Symphony North and Timothy Peters will be performing as the violin soloist.
On 21 October 1898, Edward Elgar returned to his wife and their home in Malvern after a long day teaching, which he described as “like turning a grinding-stone with a dislocated shoulder.” His cantata Caractacus had just been premiered to great acclaim at the Leeds Festival, but he was feeling a little deflated on this particular evening.
He finished dinner, lit a cigar and sat down at the piano to doodle. Elgar later recalled what happened next.
“In a little while, soothed and feeling rested, I began to play, and suddenly my wife interrupted by saying: ‘Edward, that’s a good tune.’ I awoke from the dream. ‘Eh! Tune, what tune!’ And she said, ‘Play it again, I like that tune.’ I played and strummed, and played, then she exclaimed: ‘That’s the tune.’ The voice of my wife asked with a sound of approval, ‘What is that?’ I answered, ‘Nothing – but something might be made of it.’”
Were it not for Alice Elgar’s interruption, we might never have had one of the greatest of all English orchestral works. Elgar called the tune, which he had not recognized as anything worthwhile, “Enigma”, not in the sense of a riddle to be solved, but, he said, a “dark saying [that] must be left unguessed”, expressing the “nothingness” from which it came.