BEHIND THE MUSIC
Flowing creeks, a bountiful harvest, and a worry-free reverie: “Autumn”, from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, begins as a celebration. The songs and dances of peasants echo through the orchestra, but the icy cold and frigid wind of “Winter” is never too far out of sight. Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires departs from the serene Italian countryside and weaves through the back alleys of Buenos Aires in an edgy and seductive fashion. Piazzolla’s “New Tango” style straddles characteristics of jazz and the Stravinsky school of composition while extending a nod to Vivaldi’s fast-slow-fast form from his Four Seasons. 

We return to nature with the world premiere of Jessica Hunt’s The Eagle Tree. Tucked in the northwestern-most corner of the Pacific Northwest sits Guemes Island. Hunt conjures bittersweet memories of summers spent on this remote island with joyous fanfares and hymns of remembrance and yearning.

We stay in the remote countryside for Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. Using transcribed Transylvanian folk melodies, Romanian Folk Dances aims to lay a foundation for a renaissance in authentic Hungarian music.

In the continuing celebration of the Ann Arbor Symphony’s 90th season, Franz Josef Haydn’s playful Symphony No. 90 in C major will delight all with unexpected endings, dignified lyricism, and a sense of humor. 

History

Vivaldi - The Four Seasons
It is most likely that the inspiration for Vivaldi’s best known work came from the countryside near Mantua, Italy, where Vivaldi was living around 1721. The concerto stands as one of the earliest examples of “program music”, or music that aims to tell a story. This was a brand-new concept when The Four Seasons was first performed with the musical versions of singing birds, storms, hunters, and wintry landscapes. Vivaldi included poems to accompany each of the movements when the work was published that provided details about each season the composer tried to capture in his music.
Piazzolla - The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina to Italian parents and then moved to New York City at age 4. The Piazzolla family moved back to Argentina in 1937, and young Astor began playing bandoneón, a type of accordion, with many well-known ensembles. When he mastered the instrument, he founded his own tango orchestra in 1946. In 1950, he shifted his focus to composition and left for Paris to study with world-renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger, developing a tango-driven style of contemporary music. His music garnered great attention in the 1960s and ‘70s while he toured extensively with a quintet comprised of piano, bandoneón, violin, electric guitar, and bass. It was during this prolific period Piazzolla penned his ambitious work, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. While not as overtly pictorial in their composition as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Piazzolla’s Seasons aims to present general imagery of his native land of Argentina within the context of traditional tango and modern harmony.
Bartók - Romanian Folk Dances
Bartók is often considered the father of modern musicology. Using phonograph cylinders, Bartók traveled through remote regions of Hungary recording, transcribing, and saving thousands of folk tunes. These recordings provided the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic inspiration for his compositions. A driving force in this project was an effort to redefine the “Hungarian style.” The style stemmed very narrowly from the Roma people and was glamorized. Romanian Folk Dances uses seven Romanian tunes from Transylvania, formerly part of Hungary, as the foundation for the piece. Through this archival approach to composition, Bartók presents a Hungarian style more authentic than anything heard before.
Haydn - Symphony No. 90 in C Major
Haydn composed Symphony No. 90 in C major in 1788 as the first of a set of three symphonies commissioned by Count d’Ogny. The symphonies came just prior to Haydn’s travels to England where he composed the “London” Symphonies. These two sets of works are known to demonstrate a complete control of the orchestra and symphonic form.

What to listen for

Vivaldi

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In “Autumn,” a year of good harvest is celebrated with folk melodies and dances, Hunters chase an animal at daybreak, and the animal is caught before “Winter” approaches with shivering cold, blustery wind, and icy landscapes.

Piazzolla

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The “New Tango” style Piazzolla is an amalgamation of contemporary classical music and jazz mixed with the traditional tango style and culture that the composer was surrounded by in Buenos Aires.

Bartók

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Folk melodies representing the remote and primitive way of life in Transylvania combined with the rich and developed harmonic and rhythmic influence provided by Bartók.

Haydn

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Like other symphonies Haydn wrote in C major, No. 90 is festive and full of joy. This instance of C major, however, is balanced with a reserved and delicate sense of lyricism. Haydn’s wit is on full display at the end of the symphony. Listen for his “joke” as the final movement comes to a close.

Hunt

Further listening

VIVALDI

The Four Seasons

Year of Publication

Duration (minutes) of "Autumn" and "Winter" movements

PIAZZOLLA

The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

Year of First Performance

Duration (minutes) of "Spring" and "Summer" movements

BARTóK

Romanian Folk Dances

Year of First Performance (Orchestral)

Duration (minutes)

HAYDN

Symphony No. 90 in C major

Year of First Performance

Duration (minutes)

HUNT

The Eagle Tree

Year of First Performance

Duration (minutes)

SEE YOU AT THE SYMPHONY!

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