Concert Notes

Halloween Spooktacular

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March of the Goblins

“March of the Little Goblins" depicts a little-known secret about Halloween. Every year at the stroke of midnight, after all the little trick-or-treaters have gone to sleep, a gigantic gaggle of grizzly ghosts and ghoulish goblins emerge for a little Halloween parade of their own. One by one they gather together very quietly…until finally the drum major orders a cadence, and the whole motley crew quickly falls in line. Thus begins a rather fiendish march through the empty moonlit streets. At first, they’re hushed, because these goblins don’t want to cause a raucous and wake up the town…or do they?!…


In the Hall of the Mountain King (From Peer Gynt Suite No. 1)

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" (Norwegian: I Dovregubbens hall) is a piece of orchestral music composed as incidental music for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play Peer Gynt. The piece is played as the title character Peer Gynt, in a dream-like fantasy, enters "Dovregubbens (the troll Mountain King's) hall". The scene's introduction continues: "There is a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins. Dovregubben sits on his throne, with crown and sceptre, surrounded by his children and relatives. Peer Gynt stands before him. There is a tremendous uproar in the hall." The lines sung are the first lines in the scene.

 Troll courtiers song:

Slay him! The Christian man's son has seduced
the fairest maid of the Mountain King!
Slay him! Slay him!

May I hack him on the fingers?
May I tug him by the hair?
Hu, hey, let me bite him in the haunches!
Shall he be boiled into broth and bree to me

Shall he roast on a spit or be browned in a stewpan?
Ice to your blood, friends! 


Hungarian Dance No. 5 and 6 (arr. Parlow, A)

Hungarian Dances is a set of 21 dances arranged by Johannes Brahms from Hungarian folk sources and originally scored for piano four hands (two pianists, one piano) and later orchestrated by Brahms and a few friends, including Antonin Dvorak. No opus number is assigned to the work because Brahms considered himself the arranger rather than the composer, and thus would take no credit for the pieces.

The Dances were published in four sets, two in 1869 and two in 1880. They were an immediate success and were widely performed in public recitals and home entertainment. Immediate also was the demand for orchestral versions of the individual pieces, which were dutifully forthcoming from Brahms and his composer friends.

Interestingly, one of the better-known Hungarian Dances includes No. 5, based on the Csárdás Bártfai emlék” (Memories of Bártfa) by Hungarian composer Béla Kéler, which Brahms mistakenly thought was a traditional folksong.


Danse Macabre

By the time he reached his 20th birthday, Camille Saint-Saëns was already known internationally as a composer and pianist to be reckoned with. Not only was he a precocious talent, but during the first half of his 84-year life he was also a champion of new musical forms. A friend and disciple of Franz Liszt — whose first piano concerto we will hear later on this program — Saint-Saëns adapted many of the Hungarian trailblazer’s new ideas to his own compositional voice. One such innovation was the symphonic poem — a form in which musical ideas followed a narrative, emotional structure rather than traditional patterned musical constructs.

Between his mid-30s and mid-40s, Saint-Saëns penned four symphonic poems. The third of these, written in 1874, would become the most famous: the short, lively “Danse Macabre.” In this case, the composer was working from an actual poem, by Henri Cazalis.

Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) by Henri Cazalis.

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.

The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.

Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.


Night on Bald Mountain

The witches' sabbath of St. John's Eve (June 23/24) is a popular legend in many European countries. The location is usually on the heights of an isolated mountain: the Brocken in Germany, Blokula in Sweden or Mt. Triglav ("Bald Mountain") near Kiev. There, witches, sorcerers, demons and hideous imps gather for a night of revelry and orgiastic abandon. Here is Musorgsky's description of the piece, as related to Rimsky-Korsakov:

"The introduction is in two series (assembly of witches); then a theme in D minor with a little development (gossiping) is connected to the procession of Satan in B-flat major. ... The procession theme without development but with an answer in E-flat minor (the debauched character in E-flat minor is quite amusing) concludes with a chromatic scale in D major. Then B minor (glorification) in Russian style with a working out in variations and a half-ecclesiastic quasi-trio, a transition to the Sabbath and finally the Sabbath also in Russian style and in variations. At the close of the Sabbath the chromatic scale and figures from the introduction in two series burst out, which produces a pretty good impression."  


Marche funèbre d'une marionette

The Funeral March of a Marionette was originally written for solo piano in 1872 and orchestrated in 1879. It is perhaps best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The following storyline underlies the "Funeral March of a Marionette":

  • The Marionette has died in a duel.

  • The funeral procession commences (D minor).

  • A central section (D major) depicts the mourners taking refreshments before returning to the funeral march (D minor).

Additionally, inscriptions are found throughout the score as follows:

  • La Marionnette est cassée!!! (The marionette is broken!!!)

  • Murmure de regrets de la troupe (Murmurs of regret from the troupe)

  • Le Cortège (The procession)

  • Ici plusieurs des principaux personnages de la troupe s'arrêtent pour se rafraîchir (Here many of the principal personages stop for refreshments)

  • Retour à la maison (Return to the house)


Hungarian March- Damnation of Faust

In his 1846 concert-theater piece The Damnation of Faust (based on the dramatic poem by the German Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who takes us farther from Hungary still), Berlioz wanted to introduce his brilliant orchestration of the Rákóczy March (aka the Hungarian March). This was named for Ferenc Rákóczy II, leader of an uprising at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the Hungarians’ endless struggle for independence from Austria. The march was originally composed by János Bihari, a Gypsy fiddler, but found a wide audience thanks to Franz Liszt, who transmuted it into one of his Hungarian Rhapsodies. Berlioz treated the march as a little drama all in itself, and at the outset he presents the music as an unassuming (though a commanding) march tune. All that changes over the course of the piece, which builds to a tremendous climax. Berlioz described the initial Hungarian audience’s excitement as “a volcano in eruption,” against which “the thunders of the orchestra were powerless…We had to repeat the piece, of course. The second time, the audience could scarcely contain itself… It was a good thing that I had placed [it] at the end of the program, for anything we had tried to play after it would have been lost.” Incidentally, Goethe’s Faust does not travel to Hungary. Berlioz invented a scene that takes him there – purely as an excuse to introduce his march.


Russian Sailor's Dance

Characteristic of Gliere’s romantic harmonies and Russian-flavored melodies is his most popular work, a ballet entitled The Red Poppy. Composed in 1927, the ballet utilizes a regulation Soviet plot involving a Russian ship captain and his love for a Chinese girl. She is killed while trying to escape to Russia aboard her lover’s ship. As she dies, she urges the Chinese people to fight for freedom, pointing to a red poppy as the symbol of their quest. Perhaps the best-known excerpt from the ballet is this whirling Russian Sailor’s Dance. Building upon a rustic folk tune in the low strings, the work progresses to an exciting climax through several variations.