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Wednesday Evening, May 18

DRAMATIC OVERTURE-"Husitská," Opus 67


Antonin Dvorák was born September 5, 1841, at Mühlhausen; died May 1, 1904, at Prague.

Our present interest in the fortunes of Czecho-Slovakia makes this selection of particular significance. It portrays the conflict of the Hussites with the imperialists in the fifteenth century, a struggle resulting from the persistent growth in the influence of the teachings of John Huss (1373-1415), which had so thoroughly roused the spirit of the people that their little army under Johann Ziska (1360?-1424) totally defeated the greater forces of Sigismund, Emperor of Germany (1368-1437). The record of first performances of the overture runs as follows: Prague, November 18, 1883: London, March 20, 1884; Berlin, November 21, 1884, and in New York early in November of the same year. At the London and New York performances the composer conducted.

The work begins with the Hussite hymn-C major, Lento ma non troppo, 3-4 time-which serves as the introduction to the main movement-C minor, Allegro con brio, 2-2 time and gives added dignity to the climacteric coda. It also appears as a part of the second theme-E flat major-where it appears in genial contrast to the grandioso section which precedes and follows it.

In previous programs the leading facts in the composer's career have been set forth, and the great influence exerted on American composers through his activities as artistic director of the National Conservatory, New York, from 1892 to 1895, dwelt upon, but, in spite of our somewhat intimate acquaintance with his works, those who have not heard his operas based on national folk-subjects as given at the Bohemian Opera House, Prague, do not know his great power as a dramatic composer. His consuming national bias is shown no less in the Husitská overture on our program, and the thoughts of the early struggle and triumph called up as the work unfolds are full of promise for the future of his people.

RECITATIVE AND ARIA—“Oh, furtez, douce image," from "Manon," MASSENET MR. ORVILLE Harrold

Jules Emil Frédéric Massenet was born at Montreaux, France, May 12, 1842; died at Paris, August 13, 1912.

No modern composer has displayed greater productive activity than Massenet. It is possibly due to this that it cannot be said that all of his operas maintain the high level attained by him when at his best. His style is sensuous, pictorial, at times really dramatic, but occasionally lapsing into mannerisms that give but surface indications of the possession of the last named quality. He was a master of orchestration, and few understood better than he the management of voices, both in solo and ensemble.

It is difficult to make a proper evaluation of a composer's work while he is still with us, unless he be so distinctly great as to preclude any element of doubt being interjected into the equation. Although the few years which have elapsed since his death would seem to be a short time in which to form a final judgment, one would not be far afield in stating that Massenet displayed great talent and extraordinary cleverness rather than any approach to genius or exalted inspiration.

Among his operas which still hold the attention of the opera-going public, "Manon" (1884) is not the least, but, in the judgment of many, his greatest. The aria on our program is one of the most important in the whole work and will serve to display the mastery of the orchestra and voice to which reference has been made. It occurs in Scene 3, Act III, in which Count de Grieux, the father of the hero of the story-if he can be called such-pleads with him to renounce his determination to lead a religious life and return to the world. In spite of this entreaty and memories of his former relations with Manon, when she throws herself at his feet and begs his love, he remains firm and spurns her, as is shown by the subjoined text. Those who are conversant with Abbé Prévost's "Manon Lescaut," on which the plot of the opera is based, will remember that he is finally won over and returns to her, but "that is another story," as Kipling says.

The text:

DE GRIEUX-I'm alone; quite alone; it is the fateful moment;

No more does passion claim me, and now I seek repose thro' religion and faith;
Yes, I've resolved that God shall aid me to put the world away!

Oh, depart, image fair, from the soul thou wert snaring;
Have regard for the peace which I've so hardly gained.
I have drunk to the dregs this bitter draught despairing,

Tho' my heart pour'd its blood into the cup I drain'd.

Oh, depart, depart; from my soul, oh, depart!

What to me now is life with its shadow pomp and glory?

I desire but to banish ever from my mem'ry

A name accursed, that name which torments me, ah, wherefore?

O God, with fire refining make pure my soul within me,

And with thy clear and heav'nly light

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Quickly dispel the gloom from the depths of my heart;
Ah! depart, image fair, from the soul thou wert snaring;
Ah! depart! depart! from my soul.

-English translation by CHARLES FORLEYn Manney.

SYMPHONY No. 2, C minor, Op. 17


Andante sostenuto-Allegro vivo; Andantino marziale; Scherzo; Finale.

Peter Ilitsch Tchaikowsky (Chaikowskii) was born November, 1840, at Wotkinsk; died November 6, 1893, at Petrograd.

It is indeed fortunate for reviewers that in his letters to various friends, and especially to his brother Modeste, and his patroness, Nadeshda von Meck,* the_composer gave so many details regarding the composition of his greater works, specifically his symphonies. From these letters it is possible to reconstruct, or at least to gain some insight into, his creative processes, his relation to his environment, and to get his own criticisms of his work as well as his reaction to the judgment of his colleagues. He quotes with singular impartiality and quite objectively both favorable and unfavorable criticisms, and appears to have been neither unduly elated by the one nor moved to resentment by the other.

The year of the composition of the symphony on our program is defined by the following letter to Modeste, dated November 2, 1872: "Modi, my conscience pricks me. This is my punishment for not having written to you for so long. What can I do with my symphony which is now nearing completion (it was begun in June)? It seems to be my best work, at least as regards correctness of form, a quality for which I have so far not distinguished myself."

At its first performance at Moscow, January 18, 1873, “it met with great success," the master stated in a letter written on the following day, but Cesar Cui, who was persistently inimical to Tchaikowsky's art, in his criticism characterized the four movements as "very weak"; "rough and commonplace"; "neither good nor bad"; "as pompously trivial as the introduction to a pas de deux,” enforcing these quoted condensations by exceedingly harsh and seemingly grossly unjust observations. However, there must have been some truth in Cui's judgments, or the master would not have undertaken such a fundamental revision of the work as indicated in a letter to Nadeshda von Meck (Paris, December 3, 1879): “I shall take in hand the revision of my second symphony, and of this only the final movement can be left intact. If I succeed in working steadily in Rome, I shall make a good work of my immature, mediccre symphony." In its revised form the symphony was produced in Petrograd, February 2, 1881. It again won the unstinted approval of those who had received it with favor on the occasion of its initial performance, and-none of them knew that it had been recast! Oh! the omniscience of critics! The New York Symphony Society produced it at one of their home concerts in 1883.

· For full information regarding the composer, and especially with reference to his relations with Nadejda (Nadeshda) Filaretova von Meck, consult the "Life and Letters of Peter Ilitch Tchaikowsky," by Modeste Tchaikowsky, translated by Rosa Newmarch, and published by John Lane, London.

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