“Myths & Legends” concert

Short description


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Waltz from Sleeping Beauty

Jean Sibelius
Pelleas and Melisande

Henrik Wieniawski
Nguyen My Huong, violin solo

Johann Strauss II
The Blue Danube

Edvard Grieg
Peer Gynt selections

Jules Massenet
Suite from Bacchus

Gioachino Rossini
Fanfare from William Tell Overture

Ticket: 500.000đ | 300.000đ | 150.000đ
Contact: 0965 765 946 – 0913 489 858

Tonight’s programme is comprised of some of the most captivating music that was inspired by some of the most legendary tales as well as characters from Greek mythology.

Starting us this evening is one of the most recognized and loved waltzes; the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet. The waltz is undoubtedly the most well-known number from this iconic ballet, and its melodies are enchanting and delightful. What a nice way to get the evening going! Tchaikovsky wrote his ballet “Sleeping Beauty”, a ballet lasting around 3 hours, in around 40 days! In the story, the Princess Aurora is cursed by the Wicked Fairy Carabosse, and at the age of 16, she pricks her finger on a spindle and falls asleep for a hundred years, to then be reawakened by the kiss of the Prince Désiré. The waltz is danced by townspeople bearing flowers to celebrate Princess Aurora’s 16 birthday (before the spell begins its action).

The Sun Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Olivier strongly believe in introducing less-known (but very good) music to our audiences, mixed in with the more recognizable. So following the Waltz, we introduce to you one of the most sublime musical works of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Known for his violin concerto and symphonies, Sibelius has plenty of orchestral works that deserve just as much spotlight. One of those is the “Pelleas and Melisande”, which the composer wrote in 1905 for the same-name play by Maurice Maeterlinck. He created a 9-movement suite from this piece, which the SSO performs for you this evening.

The story opens in the vicinity of King Arkel’s castle where Mélisande is found in a nearby forest by the grandson of the king, Golaud. They marry, however Mélisande’s life in the castle is not a happy one and she eventually becomes friends with Golaud’s younger brother Pelléas. Pelléas, realizing he can no longer bear his life in the castle with his true love married to his brother, announces to Mélisande that he must leave. At this meeting, she declares her love for him and upon embracing, Golaud, who had been watching them, appears and kills his brother in a fit of jealousy. Mélisande runs away, but is found and returned to the castle where she dies shortly thereafter, presumably over the heartbreak of losing her love.

1. At the Castle Gate – In the opening movement, we immediately hear the Sibelius sound. The color is dark, yet very lyrical. Primarily constructed by beautiful, dense harmonies, this opening scene lays the grounds for the mood of the suite; cold, like the atmosphere in Finland, featuring a very interesting instrumentation of one flute/piccolo, one oboe/English Horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, timpani and some percussion, then strings. This combination is perfect for the feel of the suite, which has some of the most desolate of musical landscapes in all of Sibelius’ repertoire.
2. Mélisande – The English Horn is front and center here, and describes how Golaud finds the crying Mélisande in the woods beside a spring.
3. At the Seashore – Pelleas and Melisande first meet, watch from the seashore as a boat sails away. The juxtaposition of low, dark strings with the shrill sound of the piccolo/clarinet is jarring here and a bit unlike anything in orchestral repertoire. This movement is extremely atmospheric and truly takes advantage of the various sound techniques that are available in the orchestral instruments.
4. A Spring in the Park – This is a gorgeous waltz; this waltz melody opens the scene, in which the principal characters go to a spring in the park. Mélisande drops the ring that Golaud (Pelleas’s brother) has given her. It’s slightly more upbeat than the first meeting of Pelleas and Melisande, but a ominous undercurrent remains.
5. The Three Blind Sisters – The English horn and clarinets reign supreme in this yet-again dark movement. Here, Melisande expresses her dwindling hope.
6. Pastorale – here, the frolicking of pizzicato as background to the thirds in the winds indicates a serene with birds fluttering above Melisande and Golaud as they emerge from the castle into the open air.
7. Melisande at the Spinning Wheel – this movement shows the amazing ability again of Sibelius to conjure images of the subject he is describing. We can hear with the swoops in the strings and the winds the spinning wheel.
8. Entr’acte – This movement is at times described as the embodiment of the growing love between Pélleas and Mélisande. It is indeed the happiest movement, which creates such a sharp contrast to the following one.
9. The Death of Mélisande – Sibelius creates for us one of the most moving bits of music with the death of Mélisande, using his sheer expertise in orchestration to depict the sad death of the principal character, who resigns to sadness and death at losing her true love. Harriet Bosse, wife of the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, who once played the role of Mélisande commented on the effects of the music from this last scene: “…lying on my deathbed in the last act, the orchestra played ‘The Death of Mélisande’. I was so moved that I cried at every performance.

Aside from the title “Légende”, the next musical work shares little in common with the rest of the programme, at least by way of the concert’s theme. We thought it would be a nice addition to the repertoire as it showcases such a beautiful violin solo. Wieniawski’s masterpiece was written, as is indeed not unheard of (think Beethoven, Brahms, Berlioz), as a result of the composer’s love for a woman whose reciprocated affection was not immediately a done deal. In this case, the composer needed to convince the woman’s parents, which he certainly did once they heard his Légende. We think you will understand why; the music is filled with charming melodies, and is marked by a middle section full of double, triple and quadruple stopping of the strings (playing multiple strings at the same time), which creates a truly lush and emotional character.

‘On the Beautiful Blue Danube’ of Johann Strauss II belongs on this programme of legends because this river is truly the kind of rivers. Once a frontier of the Roman Empire, the Danube River is the second longest river in Europe, after the Volga. The Danube played a vital role in the settlement and political evolution of central and southeastern Europe. Perhaps Johannn Strauss II’s most famous piece, the waltz features the typical set of five to six waltzes that Strauss is known for; the first waltz melody being the most recognizable. When Strauss’s stepdaughter, Alice von Meyszner-Strauss, asked the composer Johannes Brahms to sign her autograph-fan, he wrote down the first bars of “The Blue Danube”, but added “Leider nicht von Johannes Brahms” (“Unfortunately not by Johannes Brahms”).

Aside from his piano concerto, the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s most famous work is undoubtedly his incidental music to ‘Peer Gynt’, inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name. Much of the music finds itself made mainstream in movies, cartoons and other facets of popular culture. Like the primary composer of the first half of tonight’s concert (Sibelius), Grieg was one of the definitive composers of Scandinavian music. Grieg struggled to write the music for the play, calling it a “terribly unmanageable subject”.

However, as he continued to compose the work, Grieg realized he was best suited for this work and the story’s ‘witchery’. Ibsen’s Peer Gynt explores and satirizes Norwegian culture through the exploits of its charming, arrogant title character, a Norwegian peasant who impulsively abducts a bride from her wedding and then abandons her in order to travel the world on other adventures. The best-known movements include “Morning Mood,” in which a peaceful melody for flute and oboe depicts a calm sunrise; “Anitra’s Dance,” a nimble dance for strings; and “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” in which a short, mysterious theme accelerates and becomes louder and louder as it is repeated, building toward a chaotic climax.

As we did in our June 30 concert, we feature music next of the French composer Jules Massenet. It is a guarantee that virtually nobody in our audience will have heard this music, and we are thrilled to share it with you. Massenet was an astounding and prolific orchestral, ballet and opera composer, and yet his fate seemed to have it that his music would become much less known than some of his contemporaries. This was through no artistic fault of his, for his music is some of the most delightful and captivating that we have the pleasure of performing.

Bacchus is an opera in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Catulle Mendès after Greek mythology. It was first performed at the Palais Garnier in Paris on 5 May 1909. Massenet had only just finished Thérèse when his publisher Heugel proposed a sequel to Ariane with Catulle Mendès. Taken from the Ramayana–one of the two epics of Hindu mythology–the story begins when Ariane, abandoned by Thésée, sails to the Orient with Bacchus. In Nepal, Bacchus tries to turn the populace against Queen Amahelli. However, the queen falls in love with the demi-god and urges Ariane to sacrifice herself instead of Bacchus. Intended to form a seamless whole with Ariane, this new work has a strange storyline. Massenet complained about obscurities in the poem and his correspondence reveals quite a stormy collaboration with his librettist. “My work, this time, was relentless, persistent; I fought, I rejected, I started over.” (Mes souvenirs). The composer even went so far as to rewrite part of the libretto before he began composing in 1907 in Saint-Aubin. The orchestral score was completed in May 1908, as the work was intended for the Paris Opéra under the new directorship of Messager and Broussan. Unquestionably undermined by this difficult collaboration, Bacchus entered rehearsals around the same time as the death of Catulle Mendès. Massenet realised that the fate of the opera was sealed. Despite the lavish production and excellent cast, bringing together Lucien Muratore (Bacchus), Lucienne Bréval (Ariane) and Lucy Arbell (Amahelli), Bacchus was a resounding failure at its Paris Opéra premiere. This unfortunate fate remains unchanged and the work has never been revived in its entirety or recorded. Of Massenet’s 25 operas, this is most likely the least known, and yet we think you will greatly enjoy the orchestral music taken from the opera.

We end the concert with another legendary character – William Tell. The fanfare from Rossini’s William Tell Overture is instantly recognizable, having been immortalized through countless films, cartoons, television commercials, etc. We think it is a fun way to bring the concert to a close. Tell was a folk hero of Switzerland, and in short, seven hundred years ago, he shot an arrow through an apple on his son’s head and launched the struggle for Swiss independence. The famous trumpet fanfare at the beginning heralds the ensuing gallop of the orchestra, which we hope brings joy to your ears as we close out a concert celebrating myths and legends by way of some of the most beautiful music in the entire orchestra repertoire.

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