Symphony North of Houston is delighted to invite you to our third concert of the 2022-2023 season of our 47th year. We will perform on Sunday, February 19, 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 first of two concerts with our guest conductor, Dr. Karl Blench. Our repertoire includes Ferdinand Hérold’s Overture to Zampa; Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with piano soloist Andrew Staupe; and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (New World).
Our 2023 April concert will also be conducted by Dr. Blench. To stay updated on all our concerts, be sure and subscribe to our newsletter.
Louis Joseph Ferdinand Herold (1791-1833), better known as Ferdinand Herold, was a French Composer in the Rocco period. One of his best-known works was the overture to the opera Zampa. His musical training started at birth due to being born into a musical family. At the age of 16, his formal training was with the Paris Conservatoire where he was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1812 with a cantata composition. This led to his eventual elevating ballet score writing at the time to a higher level which essentially coordinated the actions of ballet dancing with orchestral music.
The opera Zampa was written in 1831 which was during the last three years of his life. Zampa is a comic opera in three acts. The Count of Monza, after spending his family’s fortune and deserting his girlfriend, Alice Manfredi, set off to sea as a pirate. He then took on the name of Zampa.
The Overture to Zampa has become a staple of orchestral literature since its inaugural performance in May 1831. By 1877 the opera had seen over 500 performances and because of this endurance, this overture is known as a warhorse. Its catchy tune characteristics are expressive with contrasting, dramatic phrases. The finale of the overture is at least exhilarating, if not intoxicating.
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) comes to us from the early twentieth century era of classical music. He was born in Sontosovka in the Ukraine. His father was an agricultural engineer, and his mother was a pianist. Sergie Prokofiev was indeed a gifted pianist, who wrote his first piano piece at five years of age and two operas by eleven.
Even though he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1904, Prokofiev received more inspiration from his composer friends Nikolai Myaskovsky and Boris Asafyev. He graduated from the conservatory in 1914 and traveled to London where he was impressed by Stravinsky’s ballets. Thereupon he wrote the Ala and Lolli and Chout ballets. He then spent time in Russia and the United States. It was in the US that he was commissioned by the Chicago Opera to write The Love for Three Oranges.
In 1933, Prokofiev returned to the Soviet Union where he was commissioned by the Kirov Theater in Leningrad to write the ballet Romeo and Juliet. In 1936, he was commissioned by the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow to write his most notable work, a musical symphony for children, Peter and the Wolf.
Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was written in 1911. Prokofiev was the soloist when it was first premiered in Moscow in 1912. Prokofiev went on to win the Anton Rubenstein Prize when he performed the work before the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. This concerto is a tightly constructed piece with three attacca movements and is a true representation of what is known as Prokofievian.
The Concerto No. 1 will be performed by Symphony North and Andrew Staupe will be performing as the piano soloist.
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) is a clear representative of the Romantic era of classical music. He was born about 45 miles north of Prague in a small village on the banks of the river Vltava, which is the longest river in the Czech Republic. At 11 he left school to become an apprentice butcher, but most of time he took music lessons, learning the organ, viola, piano, and music composition. In 1857, he enrolled in the Prague Organ School where he received the training as a church musician and frequented as many orchestral concerts as time would allow. His favorite contemporary composers were Wagner and Schumann.
Graduating in 1859, Dvořák was selected as the principal violinist for the Provisional Theater orchestra. By 1871 he gave up that position to compose full time, and within three years he presented at least 15 works for the Austrian National contest. One of the works he submitted was his Third Symphony for which he received a cash prize and the admiration of Brahms, who was one of the judges. This connection with Brahms then led to the commissioning of Slavonic Dances. From there Dvořák continued to pump out such major works as his Seventh and Eight Symphony.
In 1891, he then was offered the position as the Directorship of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, spending his summers in Spillville, Iowa. This was the setting from where he composed his most famous work Symphony No. 9, which bears the subtitle New World Symphony. After premiering in New York City in 1893, this work has become one of the most popular symphonies of all time. In fact it is the only symphony that has ever been played on the Moon. Neil Armstrong took a tape recording of it during the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969.
At one time, Dvořák mentioned that he intended the subtitle to mean “Impressions and greeting from the New World.” While many music historians proclaim this work as a panoramic view of American life, Dvořák stated that the symphony’s American provenance would be obvious to anyone who had a nose. Each movement embodied peculiarities of folk music of the time. For example, the flute solo in the first movement sounds like Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The second movement prominently displays the now iconic English horn solo, which was later titled Goin’ Home.