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Work in Progress

 

MIKHAIL GLINKA: Kamarinskaya

 

Kamarinskaya is a traditional Russian folk song and dance that was the basis of Mikhail Glinka's orchestral work "Kamarinskaya" (1848).

 

Tchaikovsky once wrote: "All of the Russian symphonic school is contained in Glinka's Kamarinskaya, just as all of an oak tree is in an acorn." Though this is obviously a wonderful compliment about the work that many consider to be Glinka's crowning orchestral achievement, it is also a commentary on Glinka's career, for he is revered by many as the "father of Russian music." Some have gone so far as to say that before Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857) there was no Russian music. 

 

Kamarinskaya was completed in 1848 and is subtitled Fantasy for Orchestra on Themes of Wedding Songs and Dances. For the two years leading up to 1847, Glinka had lived in Spain where his fascination with the music of that region resulted in several colorful works such as Jota Aragonesa and Summer Night in Madrid. He returned to Smolensk, happy to be back with his family and friends, but his pleasure was short-lived, for within a year he was in great demand to play piano at balls and parties. Unwilling to respond to these newfound social pressures, he retreated with a few companions to Warsaw. While in Poland, inspiration struck. He wrote: 

By chance I discovered a relationship with the wedding song, "From Behind the Mountains, the High Mountains," and the dance tune "Kamarinskaya," which everyone knows. And suddenly my fantasy ran high. Instead of a piano piece I wrote an orchestral piece called Wedding Tune and Dance Tune. 

 

The music opens with a brief introduction followed by the Wedding Tune, repeated three times with contrasting accompaniments. The Dance Tune, "Kamarinskaya," which is only four bars long, is then heard in a rapid-fire sequence of thirteen variations. After a repetition of the Wedding Tune, the music closes with twenty-one more repetitions of the Dance Tune. Glinka's facility at combining these two radically different melodies is nothing short af amazing as is his sense of instrumental color and the ingenuity he summoned to build such an entertaining composition from these relatively trivial sources.

 

(Source: New Millennium Records)

 

 

GORDON JACOB: Concerto for Horn and Strings

 

One of the best-known horn concertos, Gordon Jacob's piece has enjoyed steady performance since its premiere in 1951, with its delightful and undeniably English character.  

 

Gordon Jacob was the musician’s musician par excellence. He was noted for his complete professionalism as a composer and arranger of music both light and serious. Jacob was born in London in 1895 and died in 1984, shortly before his 89th birthday. After his initial schooling at Dulwich College, he became a student at the Royal College of Music in London, where his tutors included Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir Hubert Parry and Herbert Howells. He taught briefly at Birkbeck and Morley Colleges, also in London, before returning to the Royal College as a lecturer in 1926. He remained there until his retirement in 1966. His students there included Malcolm Arnold, Imogen Holst (composer daughter of Gustav), Elizabeth Maconchy and Bernard Stevens.

 

Far from the lush, overt Romanticism of his elders, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, and Arnold Bax, Jacob's writing is more simple and sparse, inspired partly by Baroque and Classical models (some of the works under his name are in fact arrangements of Baroque music), sometimes angular and dissonant but never inaccessible.

 

Jacob's Concerto for Horn and Strings was composed for and premiered by Dennis Brain, the British virtuoso credited for almost single-handedly, in just eighteen years, putting the French horn back on the map as a solo instrument for the first time since the death of Mozart. The Concerto is almost a string serenade in dialogue with the solo horn. Jacob concentrates on the upper reaches of the instrument, the first movement ending with an exultant top C. The slow movement is gentle, wistful nocturne, before the explosive brilliance of the finale: rapid tonguing, then a broad horn melody over scampering strings.  

 

 

FRANZ SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, "Unfinished"

 

Franz Schubert (1797–1828) composed what we have of the Unfinished Symphony in 1822, when he was just 25 years old. He was awarded an honorary diploma from the Graz Music Society in 1823. As a thank you, he dedicated the piece to the society and sent the two completed movements to Anselm Hüttenbrenner, a good friend and member of the society. For some reason, Schubert’s good friend held on to the pages and never told anyone about them until 42 years later in 1865. Hüttenbrenner gave the work to friend and conductor Johann von Herbeck. The first two movements, all that Schubert had given Hüttenbrenner, were premiered on December 7, 1865, in a concert given by the Society of Music Friends in Vienna. The two movements were first published in 1867. 

 

Why is the symphony unfinished? The short answer is that no one knows, but among the many theories are that Schubert was absent-minded and unorganized; he was busy with other compositions; he got stuck after two movements; or he simply forgot about it. 

 

A recent discovery may change everything we know about this work. A six-page fragment of a musical score, written in Schubert’s hand, was found in 2017 in the attic of house undergoing renovations. The house, in Vienna, is near the Schubert Museum, which is housed in Schubert’s final home. The fragment has been verified by Schubert scholars. It fills out the third movement orchestration, ending it in D major, the relative major of the work’s home key of B minor.

(Source: String Ovation)

JASON WHITNEY, Horn

Horn player Jason Whitney was born and raised in Sonoma County California. At the age of twelve, he began learning the French horn under the direction of Ruth Wilson. In 2016 Jason began the first two years of his education at Sonoma State University. In 2023 he returned to Sonoma State where he has held principal positions in the Sonoma State University Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra.

 

He has been a guest performer in many orchestras and regularly performs in local ensembles. Jason was the winner of the 2022 Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and the 2023 Sonoma State University Orchestra Concerto Competition. Jason is currently continuing his education at SSU under the direction of Alicia Mastromonaco.

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