Sherwood Legend Program Notes
Elizabeth Raum, Sherwood Legend
1. Swashbuckling Hero
2. Pensive Romantic
3. Unabashed Scoundrel
Notes by Elizabeth Raum
Sherwood Legend was written for Kurt Kellan, a personal friend of mine whose father used to play horn in one of the orchestras that recorded the background music for movies. This is actually Kurt’s favourite type of music. He especially loved the work of Erich Korngold who wrote the music to the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood. This served as the inspiration for Sherwood Legend since I decided to write, in effect, movie music without the movie, or programmatic music, or a tone poem, all of which describes Sherwood Legend.
As I wrote the piece, I included a great many “scenes” as is typical in programmatic music. It begins with the “legend” being summoned, the music depicting a mysterious mist rising from the forest early in the morning. Snatches of heroic themes are heard, the excitement building, until suddenly, the horn makes his first solo entrance with the “Sherwood Legend” motif. There’s a bit of Irish blood in our hero which can be recognized in a horn melody over an orchestral drone, and he gets into a few sword fights, but just like Errol Flynn, he always triumphs.
The second movement, The Pensive Romantic, has our protagonist in love, and although his romance begins calmly enough, it’s obvious that there is a good deal of angst in this relationship. However, there are happy moments as well, and in one of these moments, he imagines himself and the object of his affection dancing a waltz, the theme of which comes from his leitmotif of the first movement.
The last movement, The Unabashed Scoundrel, is a typical scherzo, which means “joke.” The first theme is full of fun with a bit of a drinking song in it. But in the more romantic second theme, the Scoundrel is perhaps seducing a young lady. He can’t stay serious for long, however, and his scoundrel side keeps slipping in until it takes over again. The two themes vie for dominance back and forth until it all comes together in a fugue in which is also heard the fight motifs from the first movement.
All things must come to an end, and the Sherwood Legend is again summoned back to the forest by the mists of the first movement. But the Legend doesn’t want to go back. The mist theme is transformed into the seduction theme, and then, almost with a wink, we’re back to the scoundrel.
There’s also a bit of a joke in the last few measures because Kurt’s favourite football team is the Chicago Bears, so I worked a few measures of their theme song into the last few measures of Sherwood Legend.
Franz Schubert Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished”
1. Allegro Moderato
2. Andante con moto
Notes by Rick Bond
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797 and died there in 1828, almost entirely within the lifespan of Beethoven. Franz began his musical studies with his father, a violinist and school master, and an older brother. Although his musical talent was celebrated at a young age, Schubert initially led a rather constraining life as a teacher in his father’s school. Pressure mounted when he was forbidden from marrying his first love because of his financial insecurity. It seems Schubert’s unhappiness may have contributed to his reputation as a “party animal” and perhaps an alcoholic. Through all of this turmoil Schubert’s love for music endured, and so his works continue to be performed and enjoyed, and he is regarded as one of the greatest composers of Western music.
Although not a celebrated composer in his time, Schubert was very prolific. He is perhaps best known for his 600 lieder or songs, only about 200 of which were published during his lifetime. Among his chamber music, the string quartet Death and the Maiden is perhaps the favourite. He completed ten symphonies and sketched out several more.
Symphony No. 8 in B minor was started in 1822, six years before Schubert’s death at age 31, perhaps from typhoid, but more likely from syphilis. It was to have been dedicated to the Graz Music Society who had honoured Schubert with an honorary diploma. He only completed two movements instead of the usual three or four. While Schubert did make sketches of a third movement, the symphony remained incomplete, and it was not performed in his lifetime.
Why was it Unfinished? There is much speculation. Perhaps Schubert abandoned it in favour of a more lucrative commission. Perhaps the coincidence of this composition and his first outbreak of syphilis soured him on the work. Perhaps he felt stuck in a rut; the first two movements and the third movement sketch are all in triple metre (¾ in first movement, ⅜ in the 2nd and ¾ again in the sketch of the third). We’ll never know, but our guest conductor, Andrew Chung, has a theory of his own.
“It is in the key of B minor, which is very rare. It is a very dark mode, and the first theme feels like we are falling into an abyss. The second movement is in the sub-dominant key of E major, ‘the key of love’. It’s like a flower blossoming. There are many theories as to why Schubert did not complete the symphony with a third movement. Perhaps the symphony remained unfinished because Schubert didn’t know how to get back to B minor.” (Music Times, January/February 2023)
Schubert composed in a time of musical transition, from the Classical compositions of Haydn and Mozart, to the Romantic compositions of Brahms, Schumann and Tchaikovsky. There is more emphasis on lyricism, less on structure; more use of the timbre achieved by certain combinations of instruments.
The first movement opens in B minor, the key of patience, calmly waiting for fate, destiny, and the submission to providence and karma. Listen for the oboe and clarinet entrance above the murmuring strings, a distinctly “Schubertian” treatment, reminiscent of his lieder.
The opening of the second movement is purely Romantic. Listen for the ascending melody in the horns and bassoons above a descending pizzicato line in the double basses.
Although unfinished, Symphony No.8 is among Schubert’s most loved works and is a staple of the orchestral repertoire.
Georges Bizet l’Arlesienne Suite No. 1
Notes by Rick Bond
Georges Bizet was born in 1838 (ten years after Schubert’s death) to a musical Parisian family; his mother was a pianist and his father a singing teacher. At the age of ten, he entered the prestigious Paris Conservatory. There he studied piano and composition.
Bizet was strongly influenced by composer Charles Gounod, so much so that, at age seventeen he wrote a symphony that mimicked a symphony by Gounod. Later influences were Rossini and Wagner.
Bizet won the prestigious Prix de Rome given by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1857. While this allowed him to pursue years of study in Rome, Germany and Paris, ultimately he found it difficult to earn a living as a composer. To make ends meet, Bizet taught piano and composition, worked as an accompanist, and arranged works by other composers.
Bizet completed several operas, including The Pearl Fishers, and several works for orchestra alone, including the Petite Suite and the Symphony in C. In 1872 he was commissioned to write the incidental music for a stage play, l’Arlesienne (The Girl from Arles). Bizet later arranged some of what he considered the best selections from the incidental music as a suite for full orchestra, l’Arlesienne Suite No. 1. After Schubert’s premature death at the age of 36, his friend Ernest Guiraud made an additional orchestral arrangement from the incidental music, l’Arlesienne Suite No.2.