Written by Ronald Comber

Czech Suite in D major, Op. 39      
Antonín Dvorák  (1841-1904)

As a composer who aspired to greatness, the young Dvorák was hampered by basically having to learn his art by discovering things for himself while making a living playing the viola. It wasn’t until the mid-1870s that he began to make some headway, when several successful premieres and the public enthusiasm of Brahms propelled him towards international recognition. Brahms induced his own publisher, Simrock, to print Dvorák’s Moravian Duets in 1878. These proved to be so popular that Simrock persuaded Dvorák to write the Slavonic Dances that brought him worldwide renown. Simrock was so pleased that he bought the rights of first refusal for all of Dvorák’s new works, also strongly advised him to write mostly easy piano music, leavened with only an occasional serious work. Dvorák complied with their wishes to a certain extent, but looked for a way of getting his more important works published readily. In the end, he put early opus numbers on his new works, selling them easily to rival publishers as old compositions. The Czech Suite, composed in 1879, was published by Schlessinger in 1881 as opus 39, though it should have been listed as opus 55, more or less. Schlessinger was thrilled and Simrock gave the matter no thought.

The Czech Suite is in five movements. Written in Dvorák’s mature nationalistic style, the work reflects a somewhat less extroverted character than is found in the Slavonic Dances of 1878, though the richly melodic, faintly melancholy quality of the writing is immediately familiar. Three of the movements are named after folk dances… these are connected and in some ways gi9ven extra meaning by the other evocative movements. The opening Praeludium immediately suggests a rural scene through distant bagpipe effects, leading naturally to a rather sad and wistful Polka which brightens and quickens in the Trio section, The third movement, a Sousedska, is related to the minuet, though the strongly accented second beat is strongly reminiscent of Slavonic Dance No. 4 from op. 46 The glowing Romanza that follows is another powerful evocation of time and place, leading to the Finale, a stylish Furiant.

Trumpet Concerto 2018 ‘World Premiere’
Marcus Goddard (1973-    )

The Victoria Symphony is delighted to have commissioned a major new work by Vancouver-based Marcus Goddard.

Marcus Goddard is an award-winning composer and internationally respected trumpet player whose music has touched the hearts of audiences around the world. His catalog of over fifty works includes ten pieces for large orchestra, many frequently performed chamber works, and a large body of innovative work for solo instruments and electronics. Goddard is the Composer in Association and Associate Principal Trumpet with the Grammy and Juno Award-winning Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in British Columbia, Canada.

He writes:

“My Trumpet Concerto is my first large-scale work for a solo brass instrument, which is interesting because I have been the Associate Principal Trumpet with the Vancouver Symphony for almost twenty years. After many large orchestral works and a recent Violin Concerto written for Rachel Barton Pine and the VSO, it is exciting to “come home” to my own instrument.”

“In writing the Trumpet Concerto, I was inspired by both the trumpet’s incisive strength in fanfare figures as well as by its cosy lyrical side. Elements of jazz can be heard throughout the concerto in both the solo part and the orchestra. The first movement opens with fanfare figures laced with jazzy plunger effects in the trumpet. The second movement, titled “Vocalise”, features lyrical fluegelhorn melodies and soloistic orchestral colours. The final movement, “Propel” is and intense seat-gripping ride to the Work’s conclusion.”

“While working on the concerto, I had frequent collaborative discussions with soloist Ryan Cole. Ryan’s observations and suggestions during these talks were a great way for me to stay connected to the integration of the entire piece and to create a work that truly leaps out of the instrument.”

“I’m very grateful for the forward thinking vision of the Victoria Symphony and its dedication to fostering new and exciting work and greatly look forward to the premiere of my Trumpet Concerto in November”

Symphony No. 1 in B flat major “Spring”
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

There is something rather touching about the early Romantic composers.  They had such enthusiasm for their artistic dreams and adventures…in spite of the consistent ill-health and early demise that marked so many of their careers.  And they wrote constantly!  They argued in the press, they communicated with each other regularly, they all maintained the most astonishing desire to communicate with the world at large.  They treated music as a religion of which the Romantic ideal was the godhead.

That period didn’t last very long.  The young Romantic musicians, having been influenced by the example of Beethoven in the 1820’s, were to achieve their early evolution through the new influence of German Romantic poetry.  Composers like Mendelssohn and Berlioz struggled with considerable success to develop a descriptive style of composition.  Literary in provenance, their ideal was best conveyed, not in the poems of Schiller, but the paintings of Kaspar David Friedrich.

Today’s work, Schumann’s “Spring” Symphony is a clear and quite beautiful representation of the enthusiastic beginnings of German Romanticism.  It is literary, in that it was inspired by a lyric poem by Adolph Bottger; it is painterly, in that each movement expresses a mood and depicts a scene, and it is spiritually Romantic, in that Schumann wrote the draft of the work in four feverish days, using the steel pen he found lying on the grave of Schubert!

Schumann sketched the “Spring” Symphony from the 23rd to 26th of January, 1841, finishing the full score on February 20th.  He worked often this way, driven by his inspiration.  (He also wrote pieces in groups.  In 1840 he wrote something like 150 songs in a row.)  The “Spring” Symphony was first performed in March of the same year in Leipzig, under Mendelssohn’s capable baton.  It was an immediate hit.

Though the First Symphony is often called “Spring”, which was what Schumann himself called it in correspondence, and each of the movements is entitled by him descriptively (1. Spring’s Coming 2. Evening 3. Merry Playmates 4. Full Spring), the original printed parts and programmes were published without titles at the composer’s request to allow the audience the chance to search for their own interpretation.

The first movement begins with the “call to awaken” in the trumpets, leading to a slow foreshadowing presentation of the Principal theme, which comes in with a rush in the strings and woodwinds.  The contrasting second subject is clearly worked out, leaving the Development section free for the main theme’s transformation.

The Larghetto second movement, with its lovely song-like theme is richly figured, yet throughout there is a sense of overall stillness, until, with the faintest thematic foreshadowings, the music passes directly to the Scherzo.

The third movement is made up of an aggressive Scherzo, with two contrasting Trios.  The Finale begins with a powerfully rhythmic scale figure, suggesting the arrival of big things.  Yet, after two beats rest, comes a delicate little melody of almost unnatural grace.  The second subject is more rhythmic, leaving Schumann free to develop the interrelationship among the three ideas (big introduction, two subjects) to quite startling heights.  The movement ends vigorously, in testament to Schumann’s musical vision.