Symphony North of Houston is excited to invite you to our 2024 Christmas concert. We will perform on Sunday, February 11, 2024, at 4:00 PM. 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. You may also donate online.
This concert will be conducted by our principal conductor, Dr. Karl Blench. The repertoire features David Adickes’ Mary’s Waltz, selections from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with Symphony North soloist Lauren Martin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 25, and selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite.
This concert will spotlight four David Adickes famous 30″x36″ composer giclées. David donated his Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Sibelius giclées to Symphony North to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The auction will be a silent one. Attendees will have the chance to bid before the concert and during intermission. The winning bidders will then receive their painting at the end of the concert. All proceeds go to Symphony North, Inc, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization.
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Thousands of Houstonians are familiar with his works, but not many know his name. Local artist David Adickes created the 67-foot-tall Sam Houston statue on the way to Huntsville, downtown Houston’s 36-foot Virtuoso sculpture and the 20-foot Cornet sculpture in Galveston. But the 93-year-old artist is far more than a sculptor. Adickes is a painter, author, screenwriter, composer, musician and an astute real estate man with a degree in math and physics. He has traveled all over the world, including the White House. Adickes said he continues to live life with an abundance of creativity, focus and passion in his self-constructed River Oaks home studio.
I have too many ideas. I want to do too much stuff. I don’t meditate or do anything like that. I just make art.David Adickes
David has a long affinity for the waltz. For him, it is a dance that brings people together. Historically, he is correct in that the dancers danced in a closed position and were always in contact with each other. When David first described Mary’s Waltz to arranger Dr. Karl Blench, he immediately compared the structure and feel of the music to that of the king of the waltz himself, Johann Strauss II. Like in many of the Strauss waltzes, Adickes’ waltz contains distinct sections each with its own unique melody and mood. The first melody that is heard also returns at the end, again like in a Strauss waltz.
David is fortunate to have two Marys in his life. First, is his daughter, for whom Mary’s Waltz is written and dedicated to. Second is his granddaughter, a budding ballerina, who David hopes to have her dance to Mary’s Waltz in the future.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky’s work was first publicly performed in 1865, with Johann Strauss the Younger conducting Tchaikovsky’s Characteristic Dances at a Pavlovsk concert. In 1868, Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony was well-received when it was publicly performed in Moscow. The following year, his first opera, The Voyevoda, made its way to the stage—with little fanfare. After scrapping The Voyevoda, Tchaikovsky repurposed some of its material to compose his next opera, Oprichnik, which achieved some acclaim when it was performed at the Maryinsky in St. Petersburg in 1874. By this time, Tchaikovsky had also earned praise for his Second Symphony. Also in 1874, his opera, Vakula the Smith, received harsh critical reviews, yet Tchaikovsky still managed to establish himself as a talented composer of instrumental pieces with his Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor.
Acclaim came readily for Tchaikovsky in 1875, with his composition Symphony No. 3 in D Major. At the end of that year, the composer embarked on a tour of Europe. In 1876, he completed the ballet Swan Lake as well as the fantasy Francesca da Rimini. Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in 1878 to focus his efforts entirely on composing. As a result, he spent the remainder of his career composing more prolifically than ever. His collective body of work constitutes 169 pieces, including symphonies, operas, ballets, concertos, cantatas and songs. Among his most famed late works are the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892).
Swan Lake Suite
Tchaikovsky’s natural affinity for music that dances is apparent in virtually everything he wrote. Many 20th-century choreographers have found in the Russian composer’s music a source of inspiration, the musical peg on which to create ballet, and the number of dance pieces using various Tchaikovsky pieces is large indeed. One of the most interesting in light of this evening’s program is Ballet Imperial, choreographed by George Balanchine to the composer’s Second Piano Concerto, the opening work of the concert. Little could Tchaikovsky have known that, long after he had completed his third full-length ballet, some of his non-ballet music would do service for staged dance works. His first ballet was written as a matter of necessity.
When he was 35, before Nadezhda von Meck came into his struggling life as bountiful benefactor, the need for ready cash was the chief impulse for his accepting a commission to compose the music for the ballet Swan Lake. Wrote Tchaikovsky to composer Rimsky-Korsakov in 1875:
I accepted the work partly because I need the money, and because I long cherished a desire to try my hand at this type of music.Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
When the badly staged 1877 premiere production of Swan Lake at the Bolshoi Theatre was shrugged off and dismissed, the composer was not surprised. Shortly after the ballet’s failure, he wrote in his diary: “Lately I have heard the very clever music of [French composer Léo] Delibes. Swan Lake is poor stuff compared to it. Nothing during the last few years has charmed me so greatly as this ballet of Delibes.” (Was he referring to Coppelia of 1870, or Sylvia of 1876, one wonders?) Delibes notwithstanding, Tchaikovsky later had enough faith in his balletic abilities to compose Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. Unfortunately, he did not live to witness the success of Swan Lake in its revival in 1895, with new choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.
For many years now, this stage piece has stood as possibly the best loved of ballets, the ultimate romantic dance work that floats, shimmers, and whirls on Tchaikovsky’s wondrously inspired music. Any true balletomane is quite willing to suspend reality and believe in swans who are actually enchanted maidens free to resume human form only at night; in dashing Prince Siegfried, who loses his heart to Odette, the Queen of the Swans; in the evil magician Rothbart and his wicked daughter Odile, who trick the Prince and thereby victimize the Swan Queen (in most productions Odette and Odile is a dual role danced, one hopes, by a ballerina who is all lyricism and elegance and also a brilliant technician). And then one must be able to shed a tear at the poignant ending, in which the reunited lovers choose to die together (Some productions opt for a happy ending, but that’s an unnecessary bromide for a fairy tale that is the ultimate romantic tragedy.)
In the time-honored tradition of evening-long ballet, Swan Lake includes several divertissements that have nothing to do with the story, and this suite boasts three dashing national dances – Hungarian, Spanish, and Neapolitan. It’s not surprising, considering his artistic range, that Tchaikovsky is as triumphant in writing “foreign” music as he is in creating romantic Russian ballet music of both poignancy and brilliance.
Italian composer and violinist, Antonio Vivaldi, left a decisive mark on the form of the concerto and the style of late Baroque instrumental music. Vivaldi’s main teacher was probably his father, Giovanni Battista, who in 1685 was admitted as a violinist to the orchestra of the San Marco Basilica in Venice. Antonio, the eldest child, trained for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703. His distinctive reddish hair would later earn him the soubriquet Il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”).
Vivaldi made his first known public appearance playing alongside his father in the basilica as a “supernumerary” violinist in 1696. He became an excellent violinist, and in 1703 he was appointed violin master at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for foundlings. The Pietà specialized in the musical training of its female wards, and those with musical aptitude were assigned to its excellent choir and orchestra, whose much-praised performances assisted the institution’s quest for donations and legacies. Vivaldi had dealings with the Pietà for most of his career: as violin master, director of instrumental music, and paid external supplier of compositions.
Vivaldi’s earliest musical compositions date from his first years at the Pietà. Printed collections of his trio and violin sonatas respectively appeared in 1705 and 1709, and in 1711 his first and most influential set of concerti for violin and string orchestra was published by the Amsterdam music-publishing firm of Estienne Roger. In the years up to 1719, Roger published three more collections of his concerti and one collection of sonatas. Vivaldi made his debut as a composer of sacred vocal music in 1713, when the Pietà’s choirmaster left his post and the institution had to turn to Vivaldi and other composers for new compositions. He achieved great success with his sacred vocal music for which he later received commissions from other institutions.
The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons, group of four violin concerti by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, each of which gives a musical expression to a season of the year. They were written about 1720 and were published in 1725 (Amsterdam), together with eight additional violin concerti, as Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (“The Contest Between Harmony and Invention”). The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi’s works. Unusually for the time, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying poems (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) that elucidated what it was about those seasons that his music was intended to evoke. It provides one of the earliest and most-detailed examples of what was later called program music—music with a narrative element.
Vivaldi took great pains to relate his music to the texts of the poems, translating the poetic lines themselves directly into the music on the page. In the middle section of the Spring concerto, where the goatherd sleeps, his barking dog can be marked in the viola section. Other natural occurrences are similarly evoked. Vivaldi separated each concerto into three movements, fast-slow-fast, and likewise each linked sonnet into three sections.
Lauren Martin, Symphony North’s concertmaster, will perform selections from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with Symphony North at this concert.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Showing prodigious ability from his earliest childhood, he was competent on keyboard and violin, and he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Engaged at 17 as a court musician in Salzburg, he grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly.
While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.
Mozart composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound.
Symphony No. 25
When he was seventeen, Mozart wrote one of his two symphonies in G minor, K. 183. Fifteen years later he would again choose this key, one which often had been associated with lament or tragedy for his fortieth Symphony, K. 550. For this reason, the first has often been called “the little g minor.”
Teenagers are often attracted to experimental, antiestablishment ideas, and after Mozart was exposed to the options expressed by the popular Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) aesthetic, he was quite interested. Contrary to the calm, rational, and controlled values of the Enlightenment, the new viewpoints espoused individuality, turbulence, restlessness, doubt, ambiguity, sentimentality, and subjectivity, which were first manifested in German literature, starting in the 1860’s in the works of Johann Hamann and Johann von Herder. Prominent examples exist in the works of Schiller (The Robbers) and Goethe in his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. Elements of this style in music are represented by strong dynamic changes, pulsing rhythms, syncopation, tremolos, unsettling melodic lines, and harmonic experimentation. Haydn symphonies written in the late 1760’s and early 1770’s have often been called his “Sturm und Drang Symphonies,” (Nos 26,39, 44, 45, 46 and 49.)
It’s quite likely that the young Mozart was familiar with many of these works. A strong admirer of Haydn, Mozart once stated,
He alone has the secret of making me smile and touching me to the bottom of my soul.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
With his opera Lucio Silla and Symphony number 25, Mozart tried his hand in this new, beguiling freedom. The first movement Allegro con brio starts with fast nervous syncopations on a repeated note in violins and violas while an oboe holds steadily on four long held tones. The effect is pure sturm und drang with its immediate pace, nervousness, and intensity. Adding to the drama, there is a sudden stop before the strings resume their quick syncopations and the oboe sings a mournful tune, with added horn pairs interjecting a fanfare. A jagged first theme emerges from the strings with rough accompaniment. Order finally enters with a bouncing tune, introduced by the strings. The exposition per classical “rules” is repeated. The development keeps up the fast momentum and accelerates leading to a momentary reprieve with winds softly singing a beautiful contrasting subject. The recapitulation restores the intensity, boldly driving the movement to a brisk close.
Mozart’s Andante moves to E-flat, with muted violins relaxing into a gentle melody. Listen for the bassoons offering delicate commentary in short gestures, conversing with the strings. Overall the mood is relaxed, yet often questioning.
The third movement is a stately, firmly accented menuetto, which also references elements from the first movement. A genial second theme sung by the winds and horn is an elegant, lyrical touch, but the third section quotes the opening and concludes with two stern chords.
The fourth movement Allegro opens with an energetic theme presented by the strings. As the movement unfolds, notice the contrasting dynamics, often shifting back and forth without preparation—sudden emotional changes are given free rein. In the end, however, Mozart concludes Number 25 on a graceful, controlled platform, filled with classical restraint and poise, sealed with two firm chords.