RACHMANINOFF’S 2ND SYMPHONY

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Raffaele Ponti, conductor

PAUL CRESTON | Dance Overture, op.62 | 12’
ROBERT SMITH | Rites of Tamburo | 4’ | side-by-side performance with the PSYO
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF | Symphony No. 2 | 60’

crestonDance Overture – Paul Creston

Born Giuseppe Guttoveggio in 1906, Italian American composer Paul Creston began his music career early, taking piano lessons at the age of 8 and went on to train with G.A. Randegger and Gaston Diethier, and to become Pietro Yon’s organ apprentice.  Creston was a completely self-taught in compositional techniques and harmony.  Creston was an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity.  His compositional style was fairly conservative with a sturdy rhythmic component.  Creston was one of the most performed American composers of the 40s and 50s. Many of his works have become staples of the wind band repertoire.

His Dance Overture was completed in December 1954.  It was commissioned to be performed in Miami at the 1955 convention of the National Federation of Music Clubs.  He uses one basic theme out of which he develops romanticisms of recognizable dance forms from the nations whose flags fly in the Florida sands. An original piece, composed for a purpose, this piece still has the Creston style to it. This piece morphs from a basic musical idea into a Spanish bolero then to an English country-dance followed by a French loure and finally ending in a climactic American square-dance.

smithRites of Tamburo – Robert W. Smith

Robert W. Smith (b. 1958) has over 600 publications in print.  As a conductor and clinician, Mr. Smith has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Europe, South America and Australia. He has recently completed the production of Symphony No. 3 (Don Quixote), the fourth in a series of compact disc recordings of his best-known works for concert band. In addition, he is co-creator of the Expressions Music Curriculum. This comprehensive Pre-K through 12 music program includes Band Expressions, an innovative new approach to teaching music through the band.

Rites of Tamburo, composed in 1999, is an exciting programmatic piece for a younger aged concert ensemble.  The “mysterious” introduction features, bells, and chimes playing a repetitive flowing rhythm while the horn and flute play half and quarter note chant-like lines that weave in and out of each other.  The band adds to the mystery by making hissing and breathing effects while this is all happening. After this introduction, Smith asks for “overwhelming energy” as the woodwinds establish the new tempo with a repetitive syncopated rhythm.  Brass builds bell-tone chords, leading to a cluster-chord where Smith writes “pick-a-note” and then finally pushes into a “comfortable groove”.

 

rachmaninoffSymphony No. 2 – Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff is known as one of the last connections between 19th century romanticism and the modern era. He was born in Semyonovo, Russia to aristocratic parents.  His mother gave him his first piano lessons and realized early that her son had extraordinary musical talent.  So, Rachmaninoff’s parents hired Anna Ornatskaya, St. Petersburg musician to be his personal instructor. Rachmaninoff received a scholarship to the St. Petersburg conservatory when his family moved there after their wealth collapsed. However, he failed all of his exams and was moved to the conservatory in Moscow where Nikolai Zverev’s strict work ethic helped Rachmaninoff stabilize his career.

Rachmaninoff began composing actively until March 1897 when his Symphony No. 1 received horrible reviews.  This caused him to sink into a depression that left him unable to compose for three years.  After hypnotic treatments, he recovered and composed actively again for 10 years.  In 1917 his estate was taken by the Leninist regime and he moved with his wife and two children to New York.  There he openly criticized the Soviet government to the New York Times and was banned from all concert halls and conservatories throughout the USSR.

Written between 1906 and 1907, Symphony No. 2 was premiered in St. Petersburg on February 8, 1908 and was conducted by the composer himself.  The score is dedicated to Sergei Taneyev, a Russian composer, theorist, teacher, author and student of Tchaikovsky.  When this piece was composed, Rachmaninoff had just had two seasons as the conductor of the Imperial Opera at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.  Although he was successful in the field, Rachmaninoff felt that he was a composer first and foremost and that the conducting schedule was taking away from the time he needed to spend composing.  He moved his wife and daughter to Dresden, Germany to spend the majority of his time composing and because the political unrest in Russia.  He stayed there for three years with his family and spent summers at his in-law’s estate of Ivanovka.  During this time he wrote his Second Symphony.

Due to the ill welcome that his First Symphony received, Rachmaninoff was unconvinced of his writing ability, especially when it came to symphonies.  It took him months of revisions before he finally premiered his Second Symphony which was accepted with thunderous applause.  He received a Glinka award for this piece ten months later. This success returned Rachmaninoff’s sense of worth as a symphonist.

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