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Franz Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn

Symphony No. 78

In 1782, Franz Joseph Haydn wrote a set of three symphonies (numbers 76-78) that he intended to have performed in England. These were the first of the “father of the symphony’s” orchestral works to be conceived of as a set for publication, and they were also the first since 1761 to be written for an audience abroad. Haydn’s trip to London fell through, however, and he sent the symphonies to his Parisian music publisher the next year.

These three symphonies codified Haydn’s developing popular intellectual style, which combined catchy melodies with clever manipulations of form, harmony, and counterpoint. Haydn himself described them as “beautiful, magnificent and by no means over-lengthy…very easy, and without too much concertante.”

Only eleven of Haydn’s 108 symphonies are written in minor keys, including Symphony No. 78. This was the first symphony to be written in a minor key after his Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) period. However, much of Symphony No. 78 is in major tonal centers, thereby obscuring the profundity often associated with minor works at this time.

The stoic and jagged opening theme of the first movement suggests that this work will continue in Haydn’s Sturm und Drang style, a proto-Romantic movement in German literature in which extreme emotions are freely expressed. Artistic works in this style were conceived as a reaction to the perceived constraints of Enlightenment rationalism. Yet the somber opening theme of Symphony No. 78 quickly gives way to music that is much brighter, indicating that this symphony is going to portray a number of contrasting affekts or characters.

The slow second movement unfolds as a gentle drama, which creates a sense of reflection or nostalgia. This is immediately followed by a lively and humorous Minuet and Trio, which contains sudden shifts between loud and soft dynamics. Major and minor keys are alternated between sections of the lively variation-rondo finale. As the movement progresses, Haydn uses sudden silences, changes in key, and imitative counterpoint to heighten the angst. A festive coda concludes the work in the cheerful key of C major.

Paula Maust ©2022

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Viet Cuong

Viet Cuong

Doubling Back (World Premiere, SPCO Commission)

Christine Kim, oboe
Maureen Nelson, violin
Eunice Kim, violin
Sabina Thatcher, viola
Sarah Lewis, cello

Doubling Back is a reimagining and expansion of my duo Circling Back for Oboe and Cello, commissioned by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 2021. In some ways, it’s similar to its predecessor: the pieces share the same melodies, harmonies, and structure. However, the larger ensemble of Doubling Back allows for a broader range of textures and variation, and the piece is therefore a deeper exploration of material I enjoyed writing the first time around. Revision and adaptation have long been parts of my compositional process, and this quintet is an emblem of what can happen when you double back on your own musical material.

Viet Cuong ©2022

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sinfonia concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra

Eunae Koh, violin
Daniel Orsen, viola

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sinfonia concertantes blend the style of the Classical solo concerto with the instrumental configurations of earlier Baroque orchestral works, such as George Frideric Handel’s concerto grossi and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. Scored for two solo instruments — the violin and viola — and oboes, horns, and strings, this piece was inspired during Mozart’s visit to Paris. Concerto-like works for a group of two or more solo instruments and orchestra were quite popular in Mannheim and Paris, leading Mozart to compose several such works in the late 1770s and early 1780s.

The Sinfonia concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra was likely written in late 1779. Although we have surviving documentation detailing the premieres of many of Mozart’s other works, all information about who he wrote this particular piece for and who may have first performed it remains speculative. Contemporary scholars place it stylistically in the early part of Mozart’s middle period. While it is the culmination of his writing for solo strings, it demonstrates musical characteristics of his more youthful works.

This piece is divided into three movements that alternate between fast and slow tempos. The viola, an instrument which is often somewhat overlooked in music from this time period, plays an especially important role as both a soloist and a member of the orchestra. Mozart creates a rich harmonic texture and full orchestral timbre by dividing the orchestral violas into two separate parts. Additionally, the solo viola part is written in D major, while the remainder of the parts are in E-flat major. Thus, the viola is to be tuned one half step higher than usual, a technique called scordatura. This increases the brilliance of the solo viola’s sound.

The grand first movement begins with an opening tutti section made up of six contrasting melodic themes, and the solo passages add an additional five themes. The development section of the first movement is unusually based on a significant amount of new material, rather than being derived from the opening themes. The Andante second movement portrays a profound sense of tragic power. The work concludes with a brisk and triumphant Presto movement, which features horn calls and alternations of thematic material between the winds and strings.

Paula Maust ©2022

About This Program

Approximate length 2:00

The first premiere in our new Sandbox composer residency program, Viet Cuong’s Doubling Back, is an expanded version of his piece Circling Back for Oboe and Cello, commissioned by the SPCO in the digital 2020.21 season. The Sandbox program was partially influenced by Franz Joseph Haydn’s time embedded with the Esterházy court orchestra, and this program opens with Haydn’s Symphony No. 78, one of the pieces written during that period of great growth for the composer. Closing out the program is one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s most well-known virtuosic pieces, the Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola, featuring the debut of the SPCO’s new violist Daniel Orsen as soloist with violinist Eunae Koh.