Arvo Part Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten -Proms 2010Mozart – Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter”Hilary Hahn – Korngold – Violin Concerto in D major, Op 35
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SAMPLE CONCERT REPORT
Name: Peggy Skipitaris
Course: Introduction to Music
Date: December 9, 1991
Concert: New York Philharmonic (December 3, 1991)
Type of concert: Symphony orchestra
General reaction: I was impressed with the construction of the concert hall—Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln
Center—and with its wonderful acoustics. The visual grandeur of the orchestra and the attentiveness of
the audience heightened my sense of excitement.
Composition I liked best: The piece I enjoyed most was Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28, by
Richard Strauss, a one-movement work in rondo form, with various tempos. This symphonic poem was
written in 1895—during the romantic era, when program music was prominent—and is based on a
German folk tale about a famous prankster. Strauss uses the rondo form as a framework for the episodes
of Till’s adventures: after each prank, Till laughs at his pursuers and saunters off. When he is finally
caught and hanged, his last gesture is to thumb his nose at his executioners. Although the piece deals
with death, and such unhappy programs are usually in minor, I hear this composition start in minor but
end in major. The meter varies, as does the tempo—which is basically very lively but at times becomes
moderate, slower, or even faster.
This work can be compared with another one-movement symphonic poem that deals with the death of
its protagonists: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Tchaikovsky chose sonata (rather than rondo) form; his
composition is in minor, the meter is duple, and—as in Till Eulenspiegel—the tempo varies. The basic
mood of the two works differs significantly: in Romeo and Juliet, it is love—rather than mischief—that
triumphs over death.
Strauss introduces his hero with a lyrical opening theme (the horn). But the second theme reflects
agility, deviltry, energy, and unpredictability. Both themes return often as we hear Till get into and out of
“hide and seek” and “catch me if you can” situations. The ending is a grander, more exciting version of
Till’s first theme. Throughout, Strauss conveys the story and mood by contrasting solo and orchestral
passages. The funeral after Till’s hanging is interrupted several times by Till’s horn theme, suggesting his
refusal to die.
In Romeo and Juliet, the slow introduction is a hymn-like melody (Friar Lawrence’s theme) which leads
to a violent, fast theme that identifies the warring families; Romeo and Juliet themselves are identified by
a lovers’ theme.
In both works, funeral music indicates death. Tchaikovsky used Romeo’s theme as a dirge but follows it
by the gentle lovers’ theme which implies that these lovers will be reunited in death. Strauss, on the other
hand, concludes Till Eulenspiegel with Till’s nose-thumbing theme. Till’s spirit—like Romeo’s and
Juliet’s—lives on, but it is obviously a very different kind of spirit.
Listening to Romeo and Juliet brought me close to tears, while Till Eulenspiegel brought a smile to my
Performance of this work: Wonderful! I was glad that Till Eulenspiegel was the final work on the program,
as it left me in a very uplifted mood. I marveled at the fact that, through his music, Strauss enabled me to
see the actions described in the program.
Overall performance: Totally professional in every respect.
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