In our concert tomorrow night we feature Beethoven's powerful Egmont Overture. With a stately orchestral opening and a dramatic and powerful finale so typical of Beethoven, it is no wonder the Egmont Overture is so well-known and loved by audiences around the world, but not everyone is quite as familiar with the story behind the music.
The piece is derived from incidental music he wrote for Goethe’s play of the same name, which tells the story of Count Egmont, a statesman and general in the Spanish Netherlands in the 1500s. Count Egmont was arrested and executed for his part leading the resistance to the Inquisition; the uprising that followed eventually led to the independence of the Netherlands. John Suchet beautifully describes the way Beethoven’s music so exquisitely depicts the story in his article on the Classic FM website:
“Triple piano, slowly building to a massive fortissimo, an exhilarating passage in the major key which tells us that Count Egmont’s spirit, and all he fought for, lives on; that the people of the Netherlands ultimately threw out the rapacious invader. That – as in so much of Beethoven’s work – darkness has given way to light, freedom has triumphed over oppression.”
The Egmont Overture is one of several compositions which illustrate Beethoven's enduring passion for the concepts of freedom and social justice. There is of course the famous story of Beethoven withdrawing his dedication of his Eroica symphony to Napoleon on learning that Napolean had declared himself Emperor.
Both Schubert and Beethoven were based in Vienna, although had very different lives and little contact with each other. Unlike Schubert, Beethoven was celebrated in Vienna and across Germany and held concerts for aristocratic patrons and the public alike. His piano concertos and symphonies were held in high regard during his lifetime. Around death there was some connection between the two composers; Schubert, 27 years the junior, is said to have visited Beethoven on his deathbed, when Beethoven saw some of Schubert’s songs he said “He has a divine spark”. Schubert was a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral, attended by an estimated 20,000 people, and it was only a year later that he himself died aged just 31, and was buried next to Beethoven.
The New Forest Orchestra will be performing Beethoven's Egmont Overture in their concert at 7.30pm on Saturday 30 March at All Saints' Church in Milford on Sea.
As our next concert falls on the weekend of Mother’s day, it got us thinking… about mothers and music! For many of us in the orchestra our mothers played a huge role in our musical education, in fact as I grew up my own mother spent many an evening and weekend driving me to rehearsals and concerts.
Of course mothers were also important in the lives of the composers that we will feature in our concert on the 30th of March.
Felix Mendelssohn’s mother, Lea Mendelssohn Batholdy, was a brilliant pianist herself and taught by one of J S Bach’s students. She played a huge role in the development of her children’s musical talent, teaching Felix and his sister Fanny to play the piano. Fanny Mendelssohn was also a great composer, writing over 460 pieces of music, some of which were published under her brother’s name.
Beethoven’s mother, Maria Magdalena Keverich Beethoven, had a hard life, with only three of her eight children surviving into adulthood. She described her marriage to Ludwig’s father, who suffered from alcoholism, as a ‘chain of sorrows’. Despite the difficulties she had to bear she was a good mother - as Ludwig wrote;
"She was such a kind, loving mother to me, and my best friend".
We extend a warm welcome to all the mothers joining us in Milford on Sea on the 30th of March! Some of us in the orchestra are lucky enough to be expecting our own mothers to be in the audience, still sharing our enjoyment of music today. Thank you, Mum!
Tone, or Symphonic, poems are single movement works that attempt to depict a scene, landscape, theme or the content of a written piece such as a novel or poem. Although the idea was not new (thinking of Vivaldi’s The Fours Seasons for example) it particularly developed in the nineteenth century and there is an argument for considering Mendelssohn’s “The Hebrides” an early example.
Mendelssohn, from a well-off Berlin family, could afford to have his European travels and travelled to Scotland. A boat trip to the island of Staffa inspired his depiction of Fingal’s cave, and only hours later he had written the opening theme and sent them in a letter to his sister, with the comment “How extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me”. He originally named the piece ‘To the Lonely Island’ before deciding upon ‘The Hebrides’ - though some confusion was caused when a publisher produced an edition named ‘Fingal’s Cave’ a little later, a title which stuck.
For those of us that haven’t had the pleasure of a visit to Fingal’s Cave, the cave itself is over 60 metres deep and stormy tides cause the sounds of the rumbling waves inside it to reverberate for miles. Mendelssohn’s music beautifully captures the drama of the sea with intense and mysterious rolling melodies full of crescendos and crashes, and calmer passages conveying stiller waters.
New Forest Orchestra will be performing this beautiful piece at their upcoming concert in Milford on Sea on Saturday 30 March.
As we approach our next concert we were remembering fondly some of the appreciative, generous, and sometimes amusing comments we’ve had from audiences in the past. It always means so much to hear that the audience have had (almost?) as much fun as we have, and have perhaps discovered pieces or composers they’ve not listened to before. After all, music is for sharing.
We had a ‘fly on the wall reporter’ at a previous concert just over a year ago, who noted down some of the fabulous comments heard at that event…
‘It’s nice to hear different music’
‘Lot of work there, I wonder how long they take to rehearse it’
‘They’ve got a lot of musicians haven’t they?’
'That was fast and very intricate, lovely’
‘Pity you can’t see the man at the back playing’
‘Aren’t we lucky to have an orchestra like this coming here’
‘Some of them aren’t that young to be playing all this time!'
Thank you to all of our wonderful audience members, past and present – we’d be nothing without you. We hope to meet more of you at our next concert on the 30 March!
Rehearsals are well underway for our upcoming concert, Mainly Schubert, and excitement is building at the NFO as we prepare to perform music from this great composer. An Austrian composer from the late classical/early romantic period, Schubert was only 31 years of age at the time of his death. Despite his short lifetime he left behind a huge number of extremely highly-rated musical works — art songs, piano works, chamber music and symphonies in addition to sacred choral works, operas and incidental music for the stage, however, he was predominately known as a composer of song in his own lifetime. In a way it is strange that we are left with little in the way of remnants of Schubert’s considerable efforts in the Theatre. He composed quite a few Singspiel Operas (musical numbers separated by passages of dialogue) and sacred Oratorios which are rarely, if ever, performed. Maybe he was unlucky or poor at choosing collaborators? Contrast this with the fact that his other vocal works (i.e. Lieder and late Song Cycles such as Die Schoene Mullerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) and Winterreise (Winter Journey)) are widely considered to be absolute masterpieces.
It is interesting that much of Schubert’s music was performed solely in intimate gatherings of friends and adherents, and in fact only one public concert took place in his lifetime. None of his orchestral works had been published or performed. After his death, various musicians (Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and even Arthur Sullivan) did much to bring his music to the attention of the public and music publishers and raise it to the ranking it now has today. On Saturday 30 March we feature his Unfinished Symphony, plus some reminders of his musical interest in the stage and their possible links.