The decorative sounds of Bach open today’s program by Prelude String Orchestra, directed in concert by their new conductor Wesley Hunter for the first time. Mr. Hunter picked a work full of character, play, and communication between instruments. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos feature opening themes played in unison, known as ritornellos, which return often throughout the piece’s run to bring the listener back to home base. These return sections are placed in between solo sections where smaller numbers of voices communicate lightly back and forth in conversation.
The dramatic energy of Wood Splitter Fanfare carries the middle of Prelude’s program. Right out of the gate, the feeling of Wood Splitter Fanfare is cinematic: accented, unison notes played across the orchestra set the stage for a heroic melody in the upper strings. Listen for a rhythmic motive in the middle voices—violas—that gets an interesting re-working when the piece reaches its slower, more contemplative middle section.
Francis Feese’s character-like Contrasts in E minor closes Prelude’s Spring program. As its name suggests, Contrasts features three distinct musical ideas. The orchestra will shift from a theatrical, cinematic idea, into a slower, more lyrical sound, then end in a fun, dance-like finale that lets the lower strings have their time to shine.
William White joined us for Term 3 studies to lead Junior Symphony Orchestra through a repertoire bursting with classic energy. Mr. White is letting Junior shine through works by Romantic-era titans Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), showcasing the emotional depth of the orchestra through two particularly dramatic works.
Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 5 is a beloved and massively famous work for orchestra. It is perhaps Brahms’s most well-known work, often being used in modern-day commercials, television shows, and other media formats as the soundtrack to something often chaotic in nature. Brahms, a piano player of worldwide renown, wrote 21 Hungarian dances for four hands on piano. The works were an immediate success, and demand for them in an orchestral setting quickly followed. Brahms tapped help from notable greats like Antonín Dvořák to arrange the works for orchestra. You’ll know the opening melody which opens Hungarian Dance No. 5 right when it exits the gate. The rhythmic motive underneath the main melody is punctuated by off-beat accents, giving the music its dance-like flare. Very quickly, the orchestra will hush itself for a contrasting lyrical section, only to burst back into the original musical idea with new flare. What makes these short Hungarian Dances so fun is their absolute upbeat nature—the middle section of the work is only contrasting in the sense that its different, not that it slows down at all. Out of nowhere, the opening musical idea will return, and the audience is swept into the dance through the work’s exciting conclusion.
Tchaikovsky had the burden of living during a time of nearly endless conflict in Russia and surrounding nations. Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write Marche Slave (Slavonic March) at a charity benefit performance to buy military equipment for Russian war volunteers and to cultivate aid for victims of war. Thus, the work is steeped in nationalist intent. Marche Slave uses Serbian folk songs at multiple points throughout its 10-minute run, challenging these melodies with complicated instrumentation and bombastic interjections from the instruments at the back of the orchestra. Tchaikovsky loved to use brass and percussion in his works which often depict or evoke scenes of war, and much like his nationalist anthem the 1812 Overture, Marche Slave brings in Alexander Fyodorovich Lvov’s hymn “God Save the Tsar.”