Masterworks VI: This Midnight Hour

Masterworks VI: This Midnight Hour

May 10 – 7:30 pm, Maryland Hall

May 11 – 7:30 pm, Maryland Hall

Click here to view the digital program for this concert!

We wrap up our season by reminding you of our tagline this season:  “Expect the Unexpected”.  In Masterworks VI we revisit themes presented in Masterworks I: identity, freedom, community, and connection to our homeland. Music is an emotional experience that takes us on a journey: each piece is an expression of who we are, where we are, who we want to be, and where we want to go.

Franz Joseph Haydn spent most of his life in a rural area on the Austria-Hungary border, making music for nobility but hoping for recognition as an important composer. He found this respect in England, a land that deeply appreciated his music and where he composed twelve symphonies, all successful.

Anna Clyne, writing nearly 250 years after Haydn, is a composer from the United Kingdom who’s worked as composer-in-residence across Europe and America and now lives in New York, brings forth the terroir of a moment and place in her This Midnight Hour.

Sibelius composed music that spoke to freedom, independence and cultural preservation, unintentionally becoming widely regarded as his country’s greatest composer. His music is often credited with helping Finland develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia. Join us for the last of our Masterworks performances, one that is sure to surprise, delight, and move you! 

Masterworks VI Program

J. Haydn Symphony No. 104 in D Major “London”

Anna Clyne This Midnight Hour

Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in D major op. 43


Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 104 in D major, “London”

2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings

As played by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Haitink

Anna Clyne, This Midnight Hour

2 flutes, 1 piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, bass drum, vibraphone, crotales, tam-tam, suspended cymbal, and strings

As played by the BBC Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo

Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 2 in D major

2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, and strings

As played by Frankfurt Radio Symphony, conducted by Susanna Mälkki

Music Notes

J. Haydn, Austrian, (March 31, 1732 – May 31, 1809)

Symphony No. 104 in D Major “London

Franz Joseph Haydn has a lasting musical legacy as an exponent of the classical style, a composer of 104 symphonies, and a leader in the development of chamber music. He was a friend and mentor of Mozart, Beethoven’s tutor, and was elder brother to composer Michael Haydn. His successful career and many contributions to classical music resulted in his moniker “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet”.

Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family at their Eszterháza Castle. Until the later part of his life, this isolated him from other composers and trends in music so that he was, as he put it, “forced to become original.” Renegotiation of his employment contract for Prince Niklaus I allowed the publication of his compositions, which circulated widely across Europe. He became the most celebrated composer in Europe.

By 1790, Haydn was no longer in service to the Esterházy family and accepted a commission for six symphonies ordered by Johann Peter Salamon in London. Haydn was treated with the respect and admiration due his position as Europe’s most significant composer upon his arrival in England, where he wrote the first of twelve “London Symphonies”. He wrote the remaining six compositions, including Symphony No. 104, in Vienna, returning to London in 1794 for their première. 

While there is no evidence that Haydn intended Symphony No. 104 to be his last, it is a fitting capstone to the symphonic tradition he helped to build. “London”, as it has come to be known, opens with a bold statement accentuating the dramatic dynamic contrast between fortissimo and pianissimo. The beginning of the Allegro is deceptively simple, with a singing melody of violins. The Andante second movement is elegant and gracious, with a sound typical of Haydn’s previous work. The clever combination of a series of variations characterizes the balance between clarity and complexity, expected and unexpected: features that make Haydn’s music so appealing to musicians and audiences. The finale sets an ambitious standard for modern composers and codifies Haydn’s musical legacy. It features a mix of Slavonic folk tunes Haydn heard during his years on the Esterházy estates. The opening theme had long been thought of as a London tribute, quoting from the street-song “Hot Cross Buns,” but in recent years has been identified as “Oj Jelena,” a ballad sung by the Croatians living in Eisenstadt when Haydn made his home there.

Anna Clyne, British, (March 9, 1980 – )

This Midnight Hour

Anna Clyne began her musical career as a child, completing her first composition at age 7. Her composition to receive a public performance was at the Oxford Youth Prom when she was 11. She formally studied music at the University of Edinburgh, and later studied at the Manhattan School of Music, earning a Master of Arts (MA) degree in music. Clyne was director of the New York Youth Symphony’s “Making Score” program for young composers, Co-composers in residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Orchestre national d’Île-de-France, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. Clyne was appointed Associate Composer with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and for the 2023-2024 season will be Composer-in-Residence with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra.

Music –
a naked woman
running mad through the pure night.

“La Música”, Juan Ramón Jiménez, (translated by Robert Bly)

This Midnight Hour was co-commissioned by the Orchestre national d’Île-de-France and the Seattle Symphony. First performed by the Orchestre national d’Île-de-France, conducted by Enrique Mazzola at the Théâtre Espace Coluche, the piece débuted in 2015.

Inspired by two poems: “La Musica” by Juan Ramón Jiménez and “Harmonie du soir” by Charles Baudelaire, This Midnight Hour is cast in a single movement. In her program notes, Clyne says, “Whilst it is not intended to depict a specific narrative, my intention is that it will evoke a visual journey for the listener.”

The concise nature of Jiménez’s poem struck Clyne as a powerful image that she chose to portray musically with outbursts of energy: “Dividing the strings into sub-groups that play fortissimo staggered descending cascade figures from left to right in stereo effect. This stems from my early explorations of electroacoustic music”. 

The season is at hand when swaying on its stem

Every flower exhales perfume like a censer;

Sounds and perfumes turn in the evening air;

Melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!

(translated by William Aggeler)

The first stanza of Baudelaire’s Harmonie du Soir also inspired Clyne, who says she “riffed on the idea of the melancholic waltz.” The viola section is split in two, with one half playing at the written pitch and the other half playing 1/4 tone sharp to emulate the sonority of an accordion playing a Parisian waltz. Edinburgh Music Review says Midnight Hour is “an exciting, compelling, filmic work in the style of a symphonic poem … This is a great piece … not to mention a great showpiece for orchestral virtuosity.”

Jean Sibelius, Finland, (December 8, 1865 – September 20, 1957)

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op, 43

Jean Sibelius began his epic Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 in the winter of 1901 while living in  Rapallo, Italy, shortly after the successful premiere of his popular Finlandia. He returned to his homeland of Finland to compose the masterpiece, finishing in 1902. The première, with Sibelius conducting, sold out, as did three subsequent performances. Of the music Sibelius said, “My second symphony is a confession of the soul.”

Born in Finland to Swedish parents, Sibelius preferred for his work to not be interpreted as nationalistic in nature. Nonetheless, Sibelius fraternized with artists, writers, and musicians who supported a Finland free of Russian domination and wrote several patriotic and propagandistic compositions. A few of his successes from this nationalist period—the tone poems The Swan of Tuonela, Lemminkäinen’s Return, and Finlandia among them—began to earn him a reputation beyond Finnish borders. The conductor Robert Kajanus, who would become a distinguished Sibelius interpreter, insisted that the Helsinki audiences had understood the new symphony to be an overt expression of the political conflict then reigning over Finland.

“The Andante trikes one as the most broken-hearted protest against all the injustice that threatens at the present time to deprive the sun of its light and our flowers of their scent. . . . The Finale develops toward a triumphant conclusion intended to rouse in the listener a picture of lighter and confident prospects for the future.” Robert Kajanus

The composer Sulho Ranta (1901-60) spoke on behalf of his fellow Finns when he declared, “There is something about this music—at least for us—that leads us to ecstasy; almost like a shaman with his magic drum.”