Program Notes | Mozart, Haydn & Fung
Overture to The Magic Flute, K.620
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)
As he often did, Mozart delayed writing the overture to The Magic Flute until almost the last minute: the premiere of took place in Vienna on September 30, 1791, and Mozart wrote the overture on the 28th. Curiously, though Mozart was pressed for time, he did not base the overture on themes from the opera–his frequent practice–but instead wrote one using entirely new material. The only part of the opera that appears in the overture are three solemn chords. Three was a number with mystical meaning in Masonic ritual (the overture is in E-flat major, a key with three flats), and in the opera those chords herald the beginning of Sarastro’s ritual initiation of Tamino in Act II. These three massive chords, solemnly intoned by the full orchestra (an orchestra that includes three trombones), open the overture’s brief introduction, setting the tone for the opera’s high moral message. But at the Allegro the music bursts forward suddenly, establishing the mood of sparkling fun that is also so much a part of The Magic Flute. The overture is in sonata form, and the exposition begins asa fugue, introduced by the second violins. Mozart will use this fugal opening as the first theme group; the second, the simplest of lyric figures, arrives in the solo woodwinds. And then a surprise: Mozart brings matters to a complete halt at the end of the exposition, and back come the three solemn chords from the overture’s beginning. Within that solemn context, the development begins in minor-key urgency, pressing ahead on the fugal material. The overture drives to a great climax and, riding along the splendid sound of timpani and the large brass section, comes to a ringing close, having established perfectly the mood for the action that will follow.-Program Notes by Eric Bromberger
Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto of 1796 is not just his finest concerto–two hundred years after its composition, it remains the greatest trumpet concerto ever composed. Trumpets before this time had been extremely limited instruments, able to produce only a few notes in a scale and depending even for this on players’ ability to change pitch by adjusting their lips. In the 1790s, however, the Viennese trumpeter Anton Weidinger invented a keyed trumpet that made the instrument much more flexible. Its four keys (like the keys on present woodwind instruments) gave his trumpet a much greater range and made possible a number of chromatic tones previously impossible. The keyed trumpet represented a great leap forward for the trumpet, though this instrument itself would be superseded by the invention of the modern valved trumpet in 1813.
Haydn immediately saw the possibilities of Weidinger’s new instrument and wrote for him a concerto designed to show off the new instrument–it employs a full range of notes, requires rapid leaps, and includes many chromatic passages that no previous trumpet could have played. Throughout, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto combines nobility, strength, and a relaxed and gracious manner. The opening Allegro is in sonata form; Haydn varies classical concerto formula by having the trumpet join the orchestra before the opening exposition is complete, and throughout he asks the soloist to make difficult leaps and to play long chromatic lines. The second movement, significantly marked Andante cantabile, shows that the new instrument can sing too. It is in ABA form: the gorgeous opening melody is in A-flat major, but in the middle section Haydn modulates–as a demonstration of the trumpet’s new flexibility–into the extremely unusual key of C-flat major. The famous last movement is a combination of sonata and rondo. Its main theme, heard quietly at first, will later ring out with strength as it leads to the conclusion on a series of blazing trumpet calls.
Instrumentation: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bb Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns in F, Timpani, Percussion (2 players): Marimba, Snare Drum, Bass Drum, Solo Trumpet in Eb (doubling Flugelhorn and Piccolo Trumpet in Bb), Harp, Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Violoncello, Contrabass
Premiere: Mary Elizabeth Bowden with Erie Philharmonic, March 7, 2020 at Warner Theatre in Erie, Pennsylvania
“Vivian Fung’s Trumpet Concerto is not just a world premiere, it’s very likely the first concerto written by a North American female composer for a female trumpet soloist.” – John Chacona for the Erie Times-News
Trumpet Concerto is a virtuosic, tour de force work displaying the capabilities of the Eb, Flugelhorn, and Piccolo Trumpets and stretches the imagination to what is possible for the instruments. Written for trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden, the concerto originally was inspired by a conversation about Mary’s journey in her solo career in general, and as a woman in a male-dominated field. Ideas of striving, overcoming challenges, frustration, passion, and ultimately joy and celebration are all explored in this piece. Rather than composing the work in movements, I have chosen to organize the piece as a continuous work with various episodes, including a toe-tapping march, a lamentful and stormy chant, a more contemplative section for flugelhorn leading to a hip-hop inspired dance. The materials ultimately culminate in a chaotic frenzy that recaps many of the materials and builds to a triumphant ending on the piccolo trumpet.