Eine Kleine Kammermusik

Program Notes

Notes by Anita Brooks Kirkland

With this aptly-named concert, Waterloo Chamber Players returns to its roots, performing works suitable for unconducted ensembles, but with a twist. Although originally a string orchestra, WCP presents works for woodwind, brass, mixed winds, and strings.

Playing in a musical ensemble is a powerful experience in interpersonal relationships. The musicians must be sensitive to each other, listening to every nuance of intonation, articulation, and phrasing to create a cohesive sound. As WCP concertmaster Tina Giannopoulos remarks, “Working together with the leaders of each section, we strive to move and breathe together, maintain eye contact, and listen carefully to how our parts fit with one another. It’s a very intricate and intimate experience.” Typically the conductor guides this process as much as she directs the overall interpretation. Our program of smaller, unconducted ensembles challenges orchestra members to work even more intimately together, and offers fresh and exciting repertoire for the audience to enjoy.

Paul Dukas (1865 – 1935): Fanfare pour précéder La Péri

Paul Dukas lived his entire life in Paris, starting his musical career as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, where he eventually became a professor of composition. It was as a student at the conservatoire that Dukas met Claude Debussy, who became a lifelong friend and musical influence. Dukas is best-known for his symphonic poem, L’Apprenti sorcier (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), made famous to contemporary audiences by the Disney film Fantasia. The spectacular fanfare on our program was written as an opener for the ballet, La Péri (The Fairy). Realizing that the typically noisy audiences of early 20th century France might have some difficulty settling down for the contemplative opening scenes of the ballet, Dukas wrote the fanfare at the last minute, as a means of getting the audience to settle down and take their seats. The fanfare has enjoyed enduring success as a stand-alone piece for brass ensemble.

Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907): Holberg Suite (Praeludium, Sarabande, Gavotte)

Originally written for piano, Grieg adapted the Holberg Suite for string orchestra one year after composing the original. The suite was written to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the beloved Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg, and emulates dance forms of the early 18th century. By contrast to Grieg’s popular Peer Gynt Suite, the Holberg Suite evokes artistic sensibilities from Holberg’s time with its neo-classical style.

Both the Grieg and the Corelli later in this program are conducted from the concertmaster’s chair. Tina Giannopoulos explains what that means for her. “Without a conductor, the role requires a more comprehensive understanding of the score and how all the parts work together to create a compelling musical view. In any ensemble, the concertmaster takes on a leadership role, coordinating bowings for the string section, tuning the orchestra, and generally leading the group. As there are fewer players in a small ensemble, there is a greater responsibility for working together with the other sections and the conductor to achieve a uniform sound and vision.”

Franz Lachner (1803 – 1890): Wind Octet Op. 156 (Adagio, Scherzo)

Born into a large musical family, Franz Lachner was hugely influential in his time. As a young musician he rubbed shoulders with the greats, including Beethoven and Schubert. After stints in Berlin and Mannheim, Lachner became the general music director for the city of Munich, which he helped elevate into one of the leading musical centres of Europe at the time. A brilliant music administrator, Lachner opened doors for the young Richard Wagner, ensuring that his works were performed. A prolific composer, Lachner’s music enjoyed considerable popularity in his lifetime, but generally has not endured in today’s repertoire. Nevertheless he wrote with great skill, if the octet on this evening’s program is any indication. The octet is written in the long tradition of wind serenades, typically written to be performed outdoors. Lachner’s octet is quite unique in the repertoire, including a flute in the ensemble. Earlier wooden flutes had little chance of being heard outdoors, but innovations in instrument-building and the emergence of metal flutes meant that Lachner could add this beautiful voice to the ensemble.

Giovanni Gabrieli (1556 – 1612): Sonata XIII

The WCP brass section returns to the stage for this selection. The great Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli’s Sonata XIII offers another uniquely brass experience. As principal organist and composer at Venice’s great basilica, San Marco, Gabrieli explored the antiphonal possibilities of placing musicians in the church’s two opposing choir lofts with all of the musical opportunities this placement enabled, including contrasting group sizes and dynamics, and spatial effects.

Georg Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759): Music for the Royal Fireworks (Bourée, La Paix, La Réjuissance)

These three selections from Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks returns us to the figurative great outdoors, here arranged by WCP’s principal horn player, Judy Douglas. Handel’s original was commissioned by George II to celebrate the end of the wars of the Austrian Succession, and was scored for 24 oboes and 12 bassoons, along with trumpets and horns. No problem hearing that combination! Judy’s arrangement works well for the combined wind sections of the modern orchestra, having originally been commissioned for a “wind band”. Handel used standard wind instruments from his orchestras, albeit in grander numbers, corresponding somewhat to the core winds in a modern orchestra rather than the modern interpretation of a wind band, explains Judy Douglas. “This keeps the baroque sound intact, giving the sound experience as George II would have heard it.”

Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713): Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 9 (Preludio, Allemande, Corrente, Gavotta, Adagio, Minuetto)

This work by Corelli is written in the concerto grosso form popularized by the composer in the early 18th century, where a group of soloists, the concertino, is accompanied by the ripieno section of strings and continuo. In the Opus 6 group of twelve concerti grossi, the concertino part is written for two violins and one cello. Opus 6 was not published until one year after the composer’s death, and although Corelli himself had mostly abandoned the concerto grosso form in his later compositions, they had a significant influence on composers of the late Baroque era, including the great Antonio Vivaldi.

Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957): Finlandia

To finish this evening’s concert we bring the full orchestra back together to play the tone poem Finlandia, by Jean Sibelius, conducted by longtime WCP member, Kirby Julian. Finlandia was originally part of a suite of orchestral works written specifically for a protest in 1899 advocating for freedom of the Finnish press, which was largely under the control of Tsarist Russia. Finlandia quickly became the most popular of the suite, and was premiered in 1900 as an independent work to an international audience at the Paris World Exhibition. An intensely patriotic work, Finlandia, with its brooding opening and moving central melody, evokes the struggle of the Finnish people resisting the dominance of the Russian empire.