April 1st, 2006, 8:00pm
Gallery, St. George the Martyr Anglican Church
John St., Toronto
$20 (adults), $15 (students and seniors)
12 and under admitted free
information on purchasing tickets, click
phone (416) 833-0251
Eulenspiegel - einmal anders!
Richard Strauss/Franz Hasenöhrl
in Eb Op. 40 for violin, horn and piano
Finale. Allegro con brio
22 for wind octet
pathos, silliness and just plain satisfyingly well crafted music were all
aspects of music in the German Romantic tradition as the 20th century approached.
Within that catchall genre, the music itself covered a vast range of styles,
some looking ahead, some backwards; in this concert we touch all the bases.
The abiding ambition of Richard
Strauss (1864-1949) was always to be recognized as a composer of
opera; in his younger years, however, following the failure of his first
attempt in that field, he had to content himself with building a reputation
as a composer of orchestral tone poems, a form which he virtually made
his own in the 1890s. One of these was Till Eulenspiegels lustige
Streiche, completed in 1895, which depicts the antics of the fictional
Mediaeval German practical joker Till Eulenspiegel
(or Ulenspiegel), as immortalised in a hilarious and eye-poppingly
scatalogical 16th century German collection of stories (Eulenspiegel is
a literary creation, not actually a character of folklore as is often assumed).
Eulenspiegel - einmal anders! - "Till Eulenspiegel - differently,
for once!" - is an arrangement, premiered in 1954, of the tone poem that
masterfully distills a huge orchestra into five instruments - clarinet,
bassoon, horn, violin and bass - and compresses all the essential musical
material into about half the original length (a lesson that could have
been taken to heart by most German Romantic composers!), by the Viennese
composer, musicologist and teacher Franz Hasenöhrl
(1885-1970). The scarcity of information about Hasenöhrl and
the amusing sound of his name - it translates roughly as "little rabbit
ears" - have led some to speculate that it is a pseudonym, but sources
in Austria assure us that he was a real person. (The Vienna telephone
directory lists about 25 people with that name; another example was Fritz
Hasenöhrl, an early 20th century pioneer of modern physics, who, however,
did not invent the TV antenna!)
absent from the chamber arrangement is Eulenspiegel's execution, which
was a fabrication of Strauss's garish 1890's imagination; in the book,
the hero dies of illness at an advanced age. Whether this was from
Hasenöhrl's desire to be historically accurate, or just a musical
joke at the expense of the audience, we're not sure.
While waves of
new music crashed around him throughout his career, Johannes
Brahms (1833-1897) remained steadfast as a guardian of the Classical
musical tradition. Brahms was still a struggling young composer in
1865 when he wrote the Trio in Eb Op. 40 for
violin, Waldhorn and piano, the last work he composed before his
Requiem catapulted him to international recognition.
power contained in the Trio stems from its status as perhaps the
most personal of all Brahms's works, being a tribute to both of his
parents. Along with the Requiem, it was written in the midst
of mourning over his motherís death, which is reflected especially in the
intensely sorrowful Adagio mesto third movement. And, the
unusual inclusion of the horn - until the clarinet works of thirty years
later, the Trio was the only one of Brahms's small ensemble
pieces to use a wind instrument - reflects the fact that that it
was one of the instruments played professionally by his bandmaster father;
Johannes himself received instruction on the horn as a child.
as with all the horn parts written by Brahms throughout his career,
was intended for the natural horn or Waldhorn, the instrument
used through the Classical period. Though the natural horn
was Brahms's preference, he realized that even in the 1860s the technique
of the hand horn was a dying art, so he approved performances on the modern
valve horn, as we are presenting the work here.
father Franz, as principal hornist of the Munich court orchestra, was a
sharp thorn in the side of the orchestra's sometime conductor, Richard
Wagner (1813-1883), or, as Franz called him (among other things),
"that drunkard Wagner". Though a monster in the eyes of some,
due to unfortunate posthumous associations and his outrageous sociopolitical
views (which were by no means unique to him, being widespread in Germany
and elsewhere in the 19th century), Wagner could on occasion be a sentimental
softie, a fool for love. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in
the genesis of the
running affair with Cosima, the daughter of Franz Liszt and wife of Wagner's
steadfast supporter Hans von Bülow, finally became official when the
two were married in the summer of 1870. Originally known as the Triebchen
Idyll, after the villa where the couple were living at the time, the
Idyll was first performed as a serenade on the staircase of the the
villa on Christmas morning of that year, as a birthday present for Cosima.
Though it is nowadays most often programmed in its later version for full
orchestra, the Idyll was first intended for a chamber ensemble of
thirteen instruments, as we are presenting it here. The musical material
is mostly taken from the opera Siegfried, which Wagner was completing
at the time, but also incorporates a number of private references to Wagner
and his family, including the German folksong "Sleep, little child, sleep",
in honour of his infant son Siegfried. An intriguing aspect of the
is that it hints at two musical genres, the string quartet and the symphony,
in which Wagner dabbled tentatively and which he would probably have pursued
seriously, if he had found the time to do so.
If ever a composer deserved to be called
inexplicably neglected, it would have to be Hans Gál
(1890-1987). The composer of a large body of music in many genres
(around 120 published works, plus many unpublished), finely crafted, intellectually
satisfying and completely accessible to traditional ears, he is little
known to the listening public.
Born into a Hungarian-Jewish family
living in Vienna, Gál received his education there and became established
as a teacher and opera composer (his best known opera is entitled Die
heilige Ente, "The Holy Duck"), first in Vienna and later in Mainz.
The coming of the Nazis led to his dismissal, the banning of his music
and subsequently his exile. After a period in England which included
a stint in an alien internment camp, he eventually settled in Edinburgh
and lived there for the rest of his life, working as a lecturer, conductor
and composer; he was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival.
Gálís music is so firmly grounded
in the classical Germanic tradition that it might seem familiar even when
it is not; however, although affinities with other composers can be detected
in his work, it would not be correct to say that he imitated anyone.
He remained true to a musical language established in the 1920s, while
the musical world around him underwent several generations of upheaval.
This anachronistic attitude possibly accounts in part for the public neglect
of his work.
Any information that one might wish
for concerning the life and works of Hans Gál is available on a
maintained by his grandson Simon Fox.
The Divertimento Op.
22 for wind octet (flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns and trumpet)
was composed in 1924, for a commission by the 1925 Festival of Contemporary
Music in Kiel. In Gál's words, "It is a 'divertimento' in
the original sense of the term; open air music in the character of a serenade,
five movements of contrasting moods, lyrical and burlesque, concisely shaped
and with the closely knit texture of chamber music."
Our poster picture is adapted from the
woodcut on the title page of the original 1515 edition of "Till Eulenspiegel
- His Adventures". The exact significance of the owl and mirror in
Eulenspiegel's hands, after which he was named, was evidently obvious to
contemporary readers of the book, but is not totally clear to us now.
Besides the implications of the overt meaning - Till as a mirror of wisdom,
either ironically or literally - the tone of the book makes it likely that
the name is also a pun, reflecting the Mediaeval German expression
speghel, "Wipe your bottom". We just thought you might like to