Symphony Concert 1
“Dances from Distant Lands”

Evergreen Theatre, 5001 Joyce Ave, Powell River

Friday June 21 – 7:30 PM

About the Repertoire

Zoltán Kodály (1882 – 1967)

Dances of Galánta (Galántai táncok) (1933)

A recitative-like opening from the cellos (chased by scampering strings) is imitated by the horn, the oboe and flute and gradually taken up by other members of the orchestra until the first dance is announced with a decorative flourish by a solo clarinet. The second dance is a more animated, rhythmically arresting one and is initially played by a solo flute followed by a rich variety of instrumental colours and effects. Now the first dance reappears in the strings to provide a moment of intense passion before the third dance is announced by a light and nimble oboe. Some magical effects from high woodwinds and percussion follow and then the violins, followed by the full orchestra, take over this dance. The violins announce the energetic fourth dance and, as the momentum continues to increase, it seems the work is building to a climax. Suddenly, however, the music stops and the fifth dance, a melody shared between violins, violas and flute, breaks in. Some decidedly humorous writing follows and once again the momentum builds, this time carrying on even further until another abrupt break brings to mind the work’s opening with a long and richly expressive clarinet cadenza. The entire orchestra then returns and brings this most dazzling of orchestral showpieces to a rousing and boisterous conclusion.

Dr. Marc Rochester, Hong Kong Philharmonic

Ron Royer  (b. 1959)

Rhapsody Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (2023)

i. Serenade at Twilight 

ii. Early-Morning Scherzo

iii. Mid-Afternoon Rondo

The Rhapsody Concerto begins with Serenade at Twilight, representing a sunset moving into the night. The opening is calm, but then the music becomes more energetic, representing an evening on the town. The opening music returns, suggesting the time to return home. 

For the second movement, Early-Morning Scherzo, and the finale, Mid-Afternoon Rondo, there is no specific story in mind but rather a more generalized concept of a day of energetic activities along with a few periods of rest and reflection. The audience is invited to think of stories the music might be portraying.  

Inspired by rhapsodies of Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and others, the Rhapsody Concerto starts slow and moody, goes through a variety of episodes, and ends with upbeat and virtuosic music for the soloist. Three independent movements give the work its concerto structure. 

The Composer

Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)

Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960)

i. Prologue

ii. “Somewhere” 

iii. Scherzo

iv. Mambo

v. Cha cha

vi. Meeting scene

vii. “Cool”

viii. Rumble

ix. Finale

Prologue (Allegro moderato) – The growing rivalry between two teenage street gangs, the Jets and Sharks.

“Somewhere” (Adagio) – In a visionary dance sequence, the two gangs are united in friendship.

Scherzo (Vivace leggiero) – In the same dream, they break through the city walls and suddenly find themselves in a world of space, air, and sun.

Mambo (Presto) – Reality again; competitive dance between the gangs.

Cha-cha (Andantino con grazia) – The star-crossed lovers [Tony and Maria] see each other for the first time and dance together.

Meeting Scene (Meno mosso) – Music accompanies their first spoken words.

“Cool” Fugue (Allegretto) – An elaborate dance sequence in which the Jets practice controlling their hostility.

Rumble (Molto allegro) – Climactic gang battle during which the two gang leaders are killed.

Finale (Adagio) – Love music developing into a procession, which recalls, in tragic reality, the vision of “Somewhere.”

Descriptions from the printed score

Maurice Ravel (1975 – 1937)

Boléro (1928)

A “boléro” is a Spanish song form with a particular rhythm for which Cubans created a dance. In concert form Boléro has become one of Ravel’s most popular works. On the surface it is just the same melodies repeated over and over again in one long crescendo leading to a crashing finale. But Ravel used it to demonstrate his genius for extracting unlimited variety and color from the instruments of the orchestra.

The first sound you hear is the snare drum playing a two bar, eight beat, rhythmic pattern: the boléro rhythm. It will be repeated without change up to the penultimate bar, 169 times. The only two melodies in the entire work follow; the first melody repeated twice (a a) then the second melody repeated twice (b b). That block of music (a a b b) is then repeated four times, but we hear each melody nine times because in the closing fifth section the two melodies are played only once. In this coda the harmony and the key finally deviate from C major, although up to that point Ravel has squeezed almost everything possible within the key of C.

Ravel’s goal in Boléro was not the classic symphonic procedure of developing contrasting musical themes for dramatic effect. Boléro’s two themes never change, only the instruments playing them; solo flute, clarinet, bassoon, but also uncommon instruments: a high pitched saxophone and two Baroque era instruments, the oboe d’amore and the “Bach” trumpet. Various combinations of brass, woodwinds, and strings also take part, but at certain points you might wonder, “What is making that sound?” Ravel sets the themes with the various instruments playing in parallel thirds, fifths, and sixths. You do not hear it as “harmony,” however, you hear a unified acoustical effect different from the way the combination of instruments would sound in unison and octaves. With the barest of musical material Ravel produced a masterpiece of sound and timbre, an aural Michelangelo or Renoir.

David Gilbert, Tucson Symphony Orchestra