The Breckenridge Music Festival will present a BMF Festival Orchestra Series concert Thursday titled “Pastorale.” The evening’s performance will highlight works by Beethoven, Strauss and Dvorak.
Featuring two German composers, one working from the musical center of the universe in the 19th century — Vienna — and one based in Bavaria, and a third composer whose musical language proudly reflects his Czech heritage, the night promises to be filled with an enjoyable variety of music.
This program features the Sixth Symphony of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, known as the “Pastorale.” One of Beethoven’s most endearing traits was his love of nature. A visit to the country afforded him a peace and contentment he rarely enjoyed anywhere else. In nature, he found much of the solace he vainly sought in human companionship. Fortunately, this type of environment was close by. The Viennese countryside began not far from the ramparts of the Old City, around which the composer took almost daily constitutionals.
By 1807, the year he began work on his “Pastorale” symphony, Beethoven had resigned himself reasonably well to his growing deafness. Perhaps knowing that his world soon would be silent, he sought to preserve in music some of the sounds he loved best. The “Pastorale” symphony, however, is substantially more than a mere collection of musical equivalents of the sounds of nature. In it, Beethoven endeavored to evoke a mood, to express a feeling, to suggest an impression. As he himself said, it is a work “in which some emotions of country life are described” and “an expression of feelings rather than a painting in sound.”
Concerto for Horn
Also to be performed in this concert is the “Concerto for Horn No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 1,” by fellow German composer Richard Strauss. Strauss composed two horn concertos, both of which were dedicated to his father. The first Concerto for Horn was completed in 1883, while Strauss was a student at the University of Munich (the second concerto emerged near the end of his life in 1942).
Young Strauss enjoyed the advantage of special motivation — his father, Franz Strauss, was the principal horn player at Munich and Bayreuth under maestro Richard Wagner. It is amusing to note that Wagner and the elder Strauss rarely got along. Wagner was often required to give in to his unruly first horn. Wagner once remarked: “Strauss is an unbearable fellow, but when he plays the horn, it is impossible to be angry with him.”
Closing with Dvorak
The program will conclude with Dvorak’s Czech Suite in D Major, Op. 39. Composed in April 1879, the “Czech Suite” offers an early example of Dvorak’s devoted national spirit. The premiere of the work was heard a month later in Prague. The concert also featured the first performances of several of Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances.”
Ever picturesque in manner, Dvorak begins the piece with a delightful Pastorale, conjuring spring-like joy, with sounds of rustic bagpipes emulated in the winds and a shepherd’s tune in the oboes. Marked Allegretto grazioso, the second movement offers a gentle polonaise as an introduction to a light-footed polka, with variations for partners to change on the floor.
The Breckenridge Music Festival also celebrates 30 years of the “Bach, Beethoven & Breckenridge” series of art posters. Many of the posters have commemorated the bucolic mountains and meadows surrounding Breckenridge and scenes set in the town itself. Joining the celebration will be Gary and Janet Freese, of Breckenridge Gallery, the originators of the art poster project three decades ago, as well as current and former winning artists whose work has been featured on posters through the years. Artists in attendance to sign their historic posters for sale will include 2013 winning artist Joanne Hanson, as well as Steve Sutter, Robert Hoppin, Jim Aiken and Leon Loughridge.