The Breckenridge Music Festival will present “Season Finale Concert: Brahms & Britten,” the final concert of the 2013 summer season, tonight. The performance will feature Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 and Concerto for Violin and Cello, Op. 102, in A Minor, Britten’s “Matinees Musicales, Op.24” and Rossini’s “Overture to William Tell.”
The Festival Finale concert begins with the orchestral arrangement of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1, which was originally written for piano duet. The first series of Hungarian Dances, which consisted of 10 dances, was published in 1869; the second series, in 1880. With but a few exceptions, the thematic materials for these dances came from Hungarian folk songs and the Hungarian popular music of that day. Mindful that these dances were more in the nature of arrangements rather than original works, Brahms refused to assign an opus number to the set.
Because of their immediate and immense popularity, the Hungarian Dances soon began to be heard in a variety of arrangements and transcriptions. Brahms himself orchestrated the first, third and 10th dances, and his friend and fellow composer Antonin Dvorak the last five. A host of others orchestrated the remaining ones.
The program will also feature Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Cello, Op. 102. Brahms composed the major portion of his Concerto in A Minor for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra, his so-called “Double Concerto,” during the summer of 1887, while he was vacationing at the resort town of Hofstetter on the shore of Lake Thun in Switzerland. There, he found greatly appealing to him the serenity and beauty of the surroundings and also, as he noted to his friend Max Kalbeck with his characteristic gruffness, the “numerous small beer gardens in which the visiting English do not feel at home and that is no small addition to my comfort.”
The “Double Concerto” proved to be the last of Brahms’s four works for solo instrument and orchestra and, for that matter, his last one for orchestra. Thereafter, he confined his output to piano pieces, songs, chamber music, and a few choral works.
Though Benjamin Britten is perhaps best known for his entertaining piece titled “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” a tuneful set of variations on a theme by Henry Purcell, his orchestral catalog also features a small trove of entertaining pieces of diverse titles, including his “Matinees Musicales,” a dance divertissement requested in 1941 by Lincoln Kirstein, the director of the American Ballet in New York
The Festival Finale closes the 2013 season with the classic “Overture to William Tell,” by Rossini. Gioacchino Rossini was no less a master of operatic coloratura than a magician of orchestral effects. His symphonic flair was at once subtle and flamboyant, ranging from quiescent tenderness to brazen pyrotechnics. No better example of his colorful legerdemain can be found than in the well-known Overture to his last opera, “Guillaume Tell,” of 1829.
Although the work was commissioned by the French government at the time the composer took up permanent residence in Paris, the libretto of the four-act grand opera is based on a Swiss-Germanic folk legend. For his model, Rossini selected the well-crafted setting by the German poet and playwright Johann Schiller (1759-1805), whose play “Wilhelm Tell” was completed in 1804.