Print this page

Notes on the Program
by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Stewart Copeland

Tyrant's Crush
Stewart Copeland
(b. Alexandria, Virginia, 1952)

Composed in 2012-2015.
Premiered on February 19, 2016 by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marcelo Lehninger with the composer as soloist.
Instrumentation: piccolo, two flutes, three oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, three percussionists, harp, celesta, piano and strings.
Duration: approximately 31 minutes.

Stewart Copeland is internationally known as one of rock's foremost drummers — he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and came in seventh in the 2010 poll of "Greatest Drummers of All Time" conducted by Rolling Stone magazine — but since the 1980s he has also established a reputation for his compositions for film, television, theater and the concert hall. His screen credits include the scores for Oliver Stone's Wall Street, Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe) and Bruno Barreto's Oscar-nominated Four Days in September; his television work includes Dead Like Me (for which he received an Emmy nomination), The Equalizer, Babylon V and Desperate Housewives. He was the recipient of the Hollywood Film Festival's inaugural Outstanding Music in Film Visionary Award. In 2009, Copeland composed an original evening-length score for a theatrical arena show based on MGM's silent classic Ben Hur (1925). He has also written three operas, five ballets and numerous orchestral and chamber works, most featuring percussion.

Tyrant's Crush began with an orchestral passacaglia titled Monster Just Needed Love that Copeland composed in 2012; the following year he wrote Poltroons in Paradise on a commission from the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall as a solo piece for himself and three other percussionists and orchestra. Tyrant's Crush reached its finished state in response to a 2015 commission from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Poltroons as the opening movement, a reworking of Monster as a concerted piece, and the newly composed Over the Wall (or up against it) as finale. Copeland provided the following discussion of the work, which speaks of the profound social awareness he finds inherent in music:
"Poltroons in Paradise is the cheerful part of the story, about those who ride in on the back of a revolution and then discover the temptation of things against which they had revolted. [A 'poltroon' is an utter coward.] A cadre of starving, hitherto excluded intellectuals swagger through the palace of the fallen regime. The chandeliers, the brocades, and the gilded furniture all inspire a grand buffoonery that hides a sneaking desire.
"Monster Just Needed Love (but ate the children anyway).
The Monster is at his desk,
with so much to discuss and few to trust.
Kill or cure? Eat or feed?
It's hard to tell who is who these days.
His comrades are at the bon-bons while the nation creaks.
His epaulettes are hanging on for dear life.
Why is he sitting here making decisions about … plumbing?
What is Gradenko doing right now?
Something beautiful, no doubt.
Surely there is someone in all of our prisons
who knows how to run this machine!
Did I eat them all?
"Over the Wall (or up against it).
Implacable forces converge.
The butler's hand is shaking as he pours the last beer.
Like me he's wondering how to get out of here.
The palace halls are empty and the scene outside is surly.
My transgressions are mounting up,
and I can hear them weaving through this catastrophe.
The counties don't respond and the generals are vague.
Escape is possible though maybe not.
Will she meet me there? How well do I know even her?
Over the wall or up against it."

Johann Strauss, Jr.

Overture to Die Fledermaus
Johann Strauss, Jr.
(b. October 25, 1825 in Vienna; d. there June 3, 18990
Composed in 1874.
Premiered on April 5, 1874 in Vienna.
Instrumentation: woodwinds in pairs plus piccolo, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, percussion, and strings.
Duration: approximately 8 minutes.

Johann Strauss II was famed throughout the world for his waltzes for many years before he decided to write his first operetta. After much cajoling from his wife, Jetty, an ex-opera singer whose fortune allowed him to give up the drudgery of conducting that had worn out his father, Strauss composed Indigo und die vierzig Räuber ("Indigo and the Forty Thieves") in 1871, a piece that appeared just as Offenbach's popularity in Vienna was starting to wane. Strauss' irresistible music made Indigo a success, as it did two years later with Der Karneval in Rom, but it was with Die Fledermaus ("The Bat") that he created his first theatrical masterpiece. So taken was he with the libretto, an adaptation of a French farce by Meilhac and Halévy, Offenbach's librettists (based in turn on a German comedy by Roderich Bendix), that he went into virtual seclusion to devote himself to the piece, often refusing food and going without sleep. Forty-three days after shutting himself into his room, he emerged with the finished score. Surprisingly, the Viennese public did not take kindly to Die Fledermaus when it was premiered on April 5, 1874. A stock market crash the preceding year had temporarily soured the local taste for stage representations of rich, world-weary aristocrats, and it took a rousing success in Berlin for Vienna to accept the operetta, just as it had taken Parisian acclaim for the Blue Danube Waltz to achieve its fame. The hilarious story of Die Fledermaus is filled with mistaken and concealed identities, glittering balls, assignations and an unquenchable joie de vivre, and the sparkling Overture perfectly reflects this heady world of champagne, Schlag and chambres séparées.

Richard Strauss

Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Opus 59
Richard Strauss
(b. June 11, 1864 in Munich; d. September 8, 1949 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen)
Composed in 1909-1910.
Premiered on January 26, 1911 in Dresden, conducted by Ernst von Schuch.
Instrumentation: piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, three clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, celesta, two harps, celesta and strings.
Duration: approximately 22 minutes
.

Norman Del Mar titled the chapter on Der Rosenkavalier in his biography of Richard Strauss, "The Crowning Success." Notoriety was hardly new to Strauss when this opera appeared in 1911, but its success solidified a reputation that had elevated him, according to universal opinion, to the status of "World's Greatest Composer." The last dozen years of the 19th century saw the production of most of his tone poems, each one generating more popular interest than the one before. When Salome appeared in 1905 and Elektra followed four years later, Strauss was branded as the principal dispenser of musical modernity, stretching not only technical resources but also psychological probings in music far beyond anything previously known. It was therefore significant news when the Berlin Boersen-Courier learned before the premiere of Strauss' 1911 opera that the score was "absolutely un-Strausslike, inasmuch as none of the excessively modern subtleties predominates in the vocal parts or orchestration. On the contrary, the score is brimming over with exceedingly pleasant and catchy melodies, most of them in three-four time. Yes, melodies, incredible as this may sound in the case of Richard Strauss. One waltz, especially, which the tenor sings, is likely to become so popular that many people will believe it is the work, not of Richard, but of Johann Strauss…." (The two Strausses were unrelated.)

The Berlin correspondent knew what he was talking about. So popular did Strauss' bittersweet opera with the 18th-century Viennese setting prove to be that its music and fame spread through Europe like wildfire. Extra trains from Berlin and other cities had to be added to the rail schedule to handle the throngs journeying to Dresden to see this new artistic wonder. Productions were mounted within months in all the musical capitals of Europe. The 1917 catalog of the London publisher Chappell and Co. listed no fewer than 44 arrangements of music from Der Rosenkavalier for instrumental combinations ranging from brass band to salon orchestra, from solo mandolin to full symphony. The opera was made into a motion picture in 1924 — five years before sound movies were introduced! (A pit orchestra without singers played the much-truncated score.) The popularity of the haunting and infectious music from Der Rosenkavalier continues unabated today in both the opera house and the concert hall.

The libretto for Der Rosenkavalier, by the gifted Austrian man of letters Hugo von Hofmannsthal, is one of the masterworks of its type for the lyric stage. It gently probes the budding, young love of Octavian and Sophie, poignantly examines the fading youth of the Marschallin, and humorously exposes the blustering Baron Ochs. It is a superb evocation of sentiment, wit and vigor wedded to one of the most opulently glorious musical scores ever composed. Former New York Times critic Harold Schonberg wrote of the emotional milieu of the opera, "In Der Rosenkavalier, there are no Jungian archetypes, only the human condition. Instead of long narratives, there are Viennese waltzes. Instead of a monumental Liebestod, there is a sad, elegant lament from a beautiful, aristocratic woman who begins to see old age. Instead of death, we get a bittersweet and hauntingly beautiful trio that in effect tells us that life will go on as it has always gone on. People do not die for love in Hofmannsthal's world. They face the inevitable, surrender with what grace they can summon up, and then look around for life's next episode. As Strauss himself later said, 'The Marschallin had lovers before Octavian, and she will have lovers after him.'" Der Rosenkavalier is an opera wise and worldly, sophisticated and touching, sentimental and funny that contains some of the most memorable music to emerge from the opera house in the 20th century.

The Suite that Strauss extracted from Der Rosenkavalier includes the Prelude to Act I, the luminous Presentation of the Rose from Act II, the blustering Baron Ochs' Arrival and Waltz from Act II, the glorious trio and duet in the opera's closing scene, and a rousing selection of waltzes from the score.

Back to Top


©2015 Dr. Richard E. Rodda