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Concert Program Notes May 11

Spring in Old Town” (2019) is a short festive overture by Canadian composer Kevin Zi-Xiao He. Written in three parts, the piece resembles the call and response form of traditional Chinese wind and percussion ensembles at its beginning and end, and borrows a traditional tune in the middle section. Orchestrated into a lyrical and delicate passage, the slow melody, "Searching Qing-Shui River", is a folklore tune from the Beijing region, telling the moving love story between a young couple. Through the use of various traditional Chinese musical elements, the piece aims to portray the joyous scene of citizens in the “old town” celebrating the Spring Festival. This work represents yet another effort of the composer to explore a traditional Chinese musical ethos within the context of “Western art music”. Under the baton of Maestro François Koh, the Georgian Bay Symphony Orchestra will give the première of the newly expanded version of the piece for full orchestra

Symphony No 3 Jean Sibelius (1865-1957 Finland)

Symphony No. 3 was started in 1904 and finished in 1907. Coming between the romantic intensity of Sibelius' first two symphonies and the more austere complexity of his later symphonies, it is a good-natured, triumphal, and deceptively simple-sounding piece. The symphony's first performance was given by the Helsinki Philharmonic Society, conducted by the composer himself in September of 1907..

The first recording featured the Finnish conductor Robert Kajanus and the London Symphony Orchestra, for the HMV label in June 1932.

The Third Symphony represents a turning point in Sibelius' symphonic output. His First and Second symphonies are grandiose Romantic and patriotic works. The Third, however, shows a distinct, almost Classical desire to contain the largest amount of musical material in the fewest possible melodic figures, harmonies, and durations. This musical economy is most apparent in the first movement, almost reminiscent of Beethoven in its clear and cleanly developed sections. A typical performance of the whole symphony runs slightly under 30 minutes.

Violin Concerto in D minor

Work began on the Violin Concerto in 1902 and was premiered under the baton on the composer himself in 1904 in Helsinki Finland. The soloist, Victor Navacek was a violin teacher with no performance experinace. The premeire went badly. Sibelius withdrew the work for revision that received its premiere in October 1905 in Berlin under the baton of Richard Strauss, with well-known violinist Karl Halir.

The opening notes for the soloist are considered some of the most beautiful ever written. In 1902 Sibelius wrote to his wife, Aino, that he had “a marvelous opening idea. The piece had such a troubled start as Sibelius was drinking heavily at the time and avoiding composing.

The Concerto also has a sad history. Sibelius was a failed violinist. He started lessons at age 14 and tried out for several orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic. Following the audition it is said he returned to his rooms and wept. After that he gave up his dream to become a violin virtuoso. His Violin Concerto is imbued both with his feeling for the instrument and the pain of his farewell to his “dearest wish” and “overriding ambition.”

Duration 30 minutes.

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