The Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra is presenting Symphony in Bloom – a concert at the Avalon Theatre in Downtown Grand Junction, on May 1-2, 2021. This concert will feature the Colorado Mesa University Vocal Arts Ensemble for a few selections.
Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) and Remo Giazotto (1910-1998)
Adagio in G minor (ca 1708) 9 minutes
Oboes, bassoons, and strings
This is the first performances of this work by the GJSO.
Tomaso Albinoni was born in the Republic of Venice in 1671, the son of a wealthy paper merchant. As a young boy, Albinoni studied violin and voice and was a gifted performer, but he never considered himself a professional musician. Given his family’s status and his apparent talent, there is surprisingly little information about Albinoni’s life. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Albinoni never sought a permanent position at either a court or a church. Albinoni did not have to take a job and therefore was able to compose what he liked.
In 1694, Albinoni completed his first compositions, a set of trio sonatas dedicated to Carinal Pietro Ottoboni, the grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII, and a well-known patron of the arts. Albinoni presented his first opera that same year. He completed sets of trio sonatas in 1700 and 1703, each was dedicated to a prominent member of the nobility, Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, and Cosimo III de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Early in his career, Albinoni was best known as an opera composer; twenty-eight of his operas were staged in Venice between 1723 and 1740. Later, his operas were presented in Genoa, Bologna, Naples, and Munich. In his own records, Albinoni listed eighty-one completed operas; most of these works were not published during his lifetime and have since been lost.
Albinoni wrote a large amount of instrumental music. Nine collections of his instrumental works were successfully published during his career and were republished throughout Europe, raising his stature as an instrumental composer. His output included trio sonatas, violin concerti, and oboe sonatas and concerti. Bach wrote two fugues that used melodies by Albinoni. Although over 150 of Albinoni’s works survive today, part of his catalogue of works, including much of his music written after the mid-1720s, was destroyed when the Saxon State Library was razed in the firebombing of Dresden during World War II. Today, Albinoni is known for his instrumental output, especially his works for solo oboe, which were the first pieces featuring the oboe written by an Italian composer.
Remo Giazotto was an Italian composer, music critic, and musicologist. During his career, Giazotto studied and wrote about several Italian Baroque composers, most notably Albinoni, whose works he systematically catalogued. Giazotto was the music critic and later educator for Rivista musicale italiana and was co-editor of Nuova rivista musicale italiana. He also taught music history at the University of Florence. Giazotto was the director of chamber music programs for Italian state radio, RAI.
Adagio in G minor is short and hauntingly beautiful work for strings and organ attributed to Albinoni after the discovery of a fragment of manuscript in the remains of the Saxon State Library by Remo Giazotto. As the story goes, shortly after the end of the war, he found the opening six measures of a melody and the bass line of sonata by Albinoni. Further research led Giazotto to believe the work was part of a church sonata from Albinoni’s Opus 4 collection, written in approximately 1708. Giazotto took the melodic fragments and the bass line and then constructed a single-movement work that he copyrighted in 1958 with the title Adagio in G minor for strings and organ, on two thematic ideas and on a figured bass by Tomaso Albinoni. Throughout his career, Giazotto never produced the manuscript he found, nor was there any formal record of it in the Saxon State Library. For many years, Giazotto claimed that he only arranged the work and that it was based on the music of Albinoni. However, later on, he admitted that he had written the piece himself. Fairly or not, Giazotto has joined a dubious group of historians and performers who have found lost masterpieces, only to admit the discoveries were fraudulent.
Regardless of the work’s provenance, Adagio in G minor is a lovely, emotional work. The piece is in the form of a chaconne, which features a repeated bass line with melodic variations in a slow triple meter. The piece opens with the statement of the main melody with pizzicato strings below. The main theme has a steady forward movement while also evoking a poignancy and longing. The middle of the work features a cadenza for solo violin over sustained chords before the rest of the violin section joins. The next section features a restatement of the main melody with countermelodies in various voices before another short solo for the violin. The work grows in intensity as all the parts play the main melody together before a dramatic silence which leads to a series of chords before the work ends with a closing cadenza for violin which gradually fades away. The work is short, but emotional and leaves us wondering what Albinoni’s original version might have been like and what other works Giazotto might have produced.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 25 in G minor K. 183/173dB (1773) 24 minutes
Oboes, bassoons, horns, and strings
This is the GJSO’s first performance of this symphony.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most widely known and influential classical musicians. Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756 and showed prodigious musical ability at an early age. A composer and performer from the age of five, Mozart, along with his father and sister, musicians in their own right, toured the royal courts of Europe. By the age of seventeen, Mozart had been given a position at court in Salzburg. However, interested in better opportunities, he travelled and eventually settled in Vienna. While in Vienna, he gained fame and wrote some of his best-known pieces for both the concert hall and the opera stage. Although famous, his works rarely transferred into fortune and money was a constant worry. In the last years of his life, Mozart composed many of his most notable pieces. In his short life, he composed over 600 works. He wrote symphonies, concertos, operas, and incidental music, an amazingly broad repertoire. Mozart is one of the most influential composers in western music. Beethoven began his compositional career in Mozart’s shadow. Haydn a friend and mentor of Mozart wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.”
Mozart spent the summer of 1773 in Vienna, composing some and attending concerts. He returned home to Salzburg in September where he began work on several symphonies, a string quartet, and a piano concerto. Symphony No. 25 was written by a seventeen-year-old Mozart in October 1773. Although there is no proof, supposedly the symphony was completed a mere two days after Mozart wrote Symphony No. 24. This symphony is one of only two Mozart wrote in minor keys, the other, Symphony No. 40, is also in G minor, therefore No. 25 is often referred to as the “little” G minor.
The symphony is in the traditional four movement structure and features reduced winds as well as strings. The first movement starts with an exciting rhythmic motive full of syncopation and repeated notes. Unlike many classical symphonies which are light and balanced, the opening melody of this one is far more dramatic, perhaps as Mozart’s foray into the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) style which featured a heightened emotional state. After the opening melody, there is a short oboe solo then the strings return with another rhythmic melody punctuated by the horns. The second theme is light and bouncy with a lot of forward momentum. After the repeat of the exposition, the development section begins with more quick, rhythmic music followed by a contrasting section featuring more lyrical melodies by the winds. The end of the movement features more rapidly repeated notes as the section comes to an exciting close. The second movement is slower and more lyrical, featuring a clever dialogue that starts with the muted violins and the bassoons. The whole movement seems like a conversation full of questions that are never quite answered and is a lovely contrast to the rhythmic first movement. A minuet opens the next section, but rather than being light and dancelike, it is heavily accented and begins with stark octaves in the orchestra. The contrasting trio features the winds alone and is lighter and more elegant. The section closes with a return of the minuet. The finale is rhythmically driven like the first movement and features many sudden dynamic contrasts. Unlike many other symphonies from the era, Mozart scores the work for four horns which adds an unexpected sonority to the orchestra. The rhythmic motion is sustained all the way to the end concluding with two final chords. Written at a young age, this symphony has many of the hallmarks we expect in Mozart’s works, forward movement, rhythmic interest, and memorable melodies in a well-thought out and cohesive work.
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Cantique de Jean Racine,Op. 11 (1865) 6 minutes
Oboes, bassoons, horns, harp, and strings
The GJSO last performed this piece in 1992 featuring the Western Colorado Chorale, Kirk Gustafson conducting.
Agnus Dei and In Paradisum from Requiem (1900) 6 minutes and 4 minutes
Bassoons, horns, harp, and strings
This is the GJSO’s first performance of these selections.
Gabriel Fauré was born in 1845 in Pamiers in southern France. His father was a schoolmaster and his mother came from a minor noble family. His father became director of a teacher’s training college and Fauré would often spend time in the school chapel, playing the small organ. As his talents grew, Fauré’s parents were encouraged to enroll the child in music school. At age nine, he enrolled at the École Niedermeyer in Paris. Over the next eleven years, Fauré received a thorough musical training which, unlike the curriculum at the Paris Conservatory, focused on preparing musicians for church jobs. In 1861 Camille Saint-Saëns became head of piano studies at the school and introduced more contemporary music. Saint-Saëns saw great talent in Fauré and encouraged and assisted him in every way possible, beginning a friendship that last until Saint-Saëns’s death sixty years later. Fauré graduated in 1865 with special honors in organ, piano, harmony, and composition.
Fauré’s first job was as an organist in a parish church in Brittany. He also taught piano lessons on the side to make ends meet. He continued to compose, at the urging of Saint-Saëns, although none of these early compositions survive. After four years, he was asked to resign since his behavior wasn’t always aboveboard. With the aid of Saint-Saëns, Fauré found a new position at a church north of Paris. Only a few months later, the Franco-Prussian war began and Fauré volunteered for military service. Following France’s defeat in 1871, there was unrest in Paris when the socialist Commune government took over. To avoid the conflict, Fauré made his way to Switzerland where the École Niedermeyer had relocated temporarily and began teaching at the school. He was able to return to Paris later that year and became the choirmaster at the Church of Saint-Sulpice, where he wrote motets and canticles. Fauré became a founding member of the Société Nationale de Musique, a group of composers who worked to promote new French music. Fauré took a new position at the Madeleine Church in 1874, filling in for Saint-Saëns when he was away.
In January 1877 Fauré’s first violin sonata premiered at a concert presented by the Société Nationale; the work was heralded as Fauré’s greatest piece so far. Upon Saint-Saën’s retirement at the Madeleine, Fauré became the new choirmaster for the church. The year was a great success professionally and personally as he became engaged to Marianne Viardot. However, the year ended poorly when Marianne broke off the engagement, leaving him despondent. To cheer him up, Saint-Saëns arranged a trip to Weimar, Germany where Fauré met Franz Liszt. Fauré married Marie Fremiet in 1883, the daughter of a sculptor. Although the couple were friends and valued each other, they never had a very fulfilling marriage, especially since Fauré had numerous long-term affairs. He had to work hard to make a good living for his family; he not only helped with daily services at the Madeleine, but also taught piano and theory lessons. His many jobs left him little time to compose and he destroyed most of the works he wrote in this period, retaining only tunes he could reuse later. He did write one large scale work, his Requiem. Begun in 1887, Fauré did not complete the final version of the work until 1900. Throughout this period, Fauré began to suffer from bouts of depression; he often felt that he was not successful enough as a composer and several personal setbacks exacerbated the mental anguish. Shortly after, Fauré began one of his longterm affairs, this relationship spurred a new flurry of creative activity.
In 1892 Fauré applied to become a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory, however many of the faculty thought he was too “dangerously modern” and blocked his appointment. Instead, he became the inspector for the provincial music conservatories. Fauré was not pleased with this position since he didn’t like the required travel, although the job did provide a steady income and allowed him to quit teaching some of his lessons. In 1896 the head of the conservatory died, his replacement was the chief organist of the Madeleine Church. Fauré became the new chief organist at the church and soon thereafter was also appointed as a professor of composition at the conservatory. He gave his students a good foundation in basic skills and then helped them use these skills in their own way, allowing each student to find their own voice, rather than simply copying his style. During his time at the conservatory he taught Maurice Ravel, George Enescu, and Nadia Boulanger, among others. Fauré continued composing as well, completing incidental music for Pelléas et Mélisande and Prométhée. He also regularly wrote for Le Figaro newspaper as a music critic, but he never really embraced the role as he always tried to find the good in every piece he reviewed.
Scandal engulfed the Paris Conservatory in 1905 when for the sixth time, Maurice Ravel was eliminated from contention from the prestigious Prix de Rome prize. Many outside observers faulted the conservative faculty who were not willing to award the prize to Ravel’s music because of his modern sensibilities. The director tendered his resignation and, with the backing of the government, Fauré was named as the new director. Quickly, he made changes including appointing external judges who would decide admissions and prizes. Many older faculty members, who made extra money by teaching students privately and then shepherding them through the admissions process were outraged by the changes and resigned in protest. Fauré also expanded the repertoire of the school with the curriculum now covering the Renaissance to Debussy. His stature grew, but once again he had very little time to compose due to the constraints of running the conservatory. In order to write, Fauré left Paris for Switzerland as soon as the school year ended in July and would spend until October focused on writing. Another personal setback was his hearing loss, not only was he losing his hearing, but what remained was distorted and horribly out of tune.
In July 1914 Fauré went to Germany to spend the summer composing. World War I began and he was stranded, but managed to make his way to Switzerland and then home to Paris, where he remained throughout the war. Fauré retired from the conservatory in 1920 due to his hearing loss and other health concerns. After his resignation, Fauré was given the Grand-Croix of the Légion d’honneur and a public concert was held in his honor, although by this time Fauré could not hear the music well. Although in failing health, Fauré continued to mentor young composers and finished his only string quartet, a genre he had long thought too difficult. He wrote to his wife, “This is a genre which Beethoven in particular made famous, and causes all those who are not Beethoven to be terrified of it.” He spent the last year of his life working on the quartet, finishing it only two months before his death. Although friends offered to arrange a performance of the completed work, Fauré refused, his hearing was so bad it would have been too distorted. He died in November 1924 and was given a state funeral at the Madeleine Church where he had served for so long.
Cantique de Jean Racine was written in Fauré’s last year at the École Niedermeyer and won first prize for compositions that year. The work features choir and piano or organ and is a setting of a Latin hymn for the religious service of matins, Consors paterni luminis (O Light of Light) paraphrased by the great French playwright Jean Racine. The piece premiered in August 1866 with Fauré playing the organ part. The work begins with a lovely melody in the strings with an accompaniment of undulating triplets. The melody is then introduced in the voices who enter in turn starting with the basses and moving upward until the whole choir is present to finish the first stanza. After a brief interlude, which uses the main melody, the entire choir enters together for the second stanza; toward the end the parts split and enter separately. The final stanza features the main melody again before ending quietly and peacefully. This short piece is filled with a lovely, forward movement and a transparent style. Although romantic and lush in places, there are hints of Fauré’s modernism with the occasional unexpected atonality within the harmony and foreshadowing of ideas that Fauré would further explore in his Requiem.
As noted above, Fauré worked on his Requiem for thirteen years. The resulting work features seven movements for solo soprano, solo baritone, mixed chorus, orchestra, and organ. Fauré’s Requiem differs from the normal setting because he omitted the Dies Irae, which is replaced with Pie Jesu, and the final movement is a setting of In Paradisum which comes from the burial rite, rather than the funeral mass. Fauré wrote “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”
Fauré completed the first section, Libera me, in 1877. By 1888 he had written five sections, which he called un petit Requiem which was performed at the Madeleine Church for the funeral of architect Joseph Lesoufaché. An expanded version of the Requiem was performed again the Madeleine in 1893, since the church would not allow female singers, Fauré arranged this version with boys choir in mind to sing the higher parts. When the work was performed in concert halls, Fauré used female voices and preferred that arrangement. The final orchestral version was performed in July 1900 with 250 performers on stage.
The Agnus Dei is the fifth section of Fauré’s Requiem and begins with a flowing orchestral melody in F Major. The tenors then add their tune with the orchestra continuing underneath. The music become more dramatic and darker, moving to a minor key, when the entire choir joins. The tenors then repeat the first melody, again over the flowing orchestral accompaniment. The sopranos start the next section, Lux aeterna luceat eis (Light eternal shine for them). The rest of the choir joins in a lovely chord progression which seems to shimmer on the word “light.” The orchestra rejoins the chorus as the chords move forward leading to an instrumental cadence. After a brief silence, the beginning of the entire mass, Requiem aeternam is reprised in the choir, then the opening melody of the Agnus Dei is brought back to close the movement.
In Paradisum is the final section of the work. It opens with a repeated pattern of broken chords which provides a light and ethereal accompaniment for the sopranos who introduce the main melody. The rest of the choir joins in, creating gorgeous harmony on the word “Jerusalem” all the while the shimmering accompaniment continues. After the cadence, the sopranos continue the main melody. The rest of the choir rejoins on the word “Requiem” as the piece reaches a quiet and peaceful conclusion. Fauré was a master of combining forward moving melodies with the perfect accompaniment to create a seemingly simple structure, that is really full of complexity and interesting harmony that captivates the listener in the moment.