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Saturday, April 1st, 2006, 8:00pm

Music Gallery, St. George the Martyr Anglican Church
197 John St., Toronto

Admission:  $20 (adults), $15 (students and seniors)
children 12 and under admitted free

For information on purchasing tickets, click here
or phone (416) 833-0251


Till Eulenspiegel - einmal anders!                                   Richard Strauss/Franz Hasenöhrl

Trio in Eb Op. 40 for violin, horn and piano                                               Johannes Brahms
     Andante 
     Scherzo.  Allegro 
     Adagio mesto 
     Finale.  Allegro con brio

Intermission

Siegfried Idyll                                                                                               Richard Wagner

Divertimento Op. 22 for wind octet                                                                          Hans Gál
     Intrata
     Pagliazzo
     Cavatina
     Intermezzo grazioso
     Pifferari


Ellen Meyer, piano
Damian Rivers-Moore, horn
Joyce Lai, violin
Stephen Fox, clarinet
Stephen Tam, flute
Cris Sewerin, oboe
Allison Norman, clarinet
Larkin Hinder, bassoon
Ira Zingraff, trumpet
Elke Eble-Streisslberger, horn
Andrew Ogilvie, violin
Ian Clarke, viola
Helena Likwornik, cello
Tim FitzGerald, bass


Romance, deep 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).

Till 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!)

Conspicuously 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 Deutsches Requiem catapulted him to international recognition. 

The emotional 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. 

The Trio, 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.

~~

Richard Strauss's 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 Siegfried Idyll.

Wagner's long 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 Siegfried 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 Idyll 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 website 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 Ul'n speghel, "Wipe your bottom".  We just thought you might like to know that!


We thank the sponsors of this concert for their generous support:

.

Gary Armstrong Woodwinds Ltd.
 

Long & McQuade Musical Instruments
 


Aster's Music House


 

See here for information on opportunities to sponsor and otherwise assist the Riverdale Ensemble


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