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8.553435 - IN MEMORIAM - MUSIC FOR SOLEMN OCCASIONS
Music when soft voices die
Vibrates in the memory
The present collection of solemn music offers works that give expression to deeper emotions, associated, in some cases, with death, and in others simply with moments of calm and serenity .The first of these is a March taken from Henry Purcell's Music on the Death of Queen Mary. This heartfelt music was intended to mark the death of the English Queen whose marriage had brought her husband William of Orange to share the throne of England, after the expulsion in 1689 of her father King James II. Her patronage was of value to musicians, but, ironically, Purcell's music for the death of the Queen in 1694 came shortly before his own death in 1695.
In London Handel was much influenced by Purcell, at least when it came to English church music. Bom in Halle in 1685, he had found employment at the opera in Hamburg before moving to Italy, where he continued in the Italian melodic style of writing before finding employment at court in Hanover and, almost at once, lucrative work in London as a composer of Italian opera. Of this the opera Serse is an example. Handel's Largo allows the king of the title, Xerxes, to contemplate the beauty of nature. Handel later turned his attention to English oratorio, of which he may be considered the creator. The Dead March from the biblical oratorio Saul marks the death of the King, the fall of the mighty in battle, slain with his son Jonathan, to be mourned by David, his successor.
Music of great serenity comes from Johann Sebastian Bach, notably in the famous Air from the Orchestral Suite in D major, popularly known as the Air on the G string from an arrangement by the violinist August Wilhelm. The calm and peace of Bach's organ music is heard in the Adagio from his Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major and the tranquil happiness of the blessed in a transcription of a cantata movement, known in English as Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.
Bach's near contemporaries include three distinguished composers from Venice, musicians whose work influenced Bach and which he even transcribed. His arrangements for harpsichord include aversion of Alessandro Marcello's splendid Oboe Concerto, the slow movement of which is heard here in its original version. Antonio Vivaldi, a great violinist and most prolific composer, is here represented by a pensive slow movement from a concerto for flautino, the smallest member of the recorder family, while Albinoni, with rather less justification, appears nominally at least in a moving Adagio that owes its origin rather to the twentieth century Albinoni scholar Renzo Giazotto.
The Baroque leads imperceptibly into the classical, by way of Christoph Willibald von Gluck, innovator in opera and an important figure in the theatres of Vienna and Paris. Gluck's opera on the subject of the legendary musician Orpheus, who tried to bring back his beloved Eurydice from the dead, includes the Dance of the Blessed Spirits, music for those who have died, yet suffer no more.
The nineteenth century brings changes in manners and outlook. At its start Ludwig van Beethoven dominates the music of Vienna, gigantic in his musical aspirations, and never more so in a symphony conceived in celebration of the republican Napoleon, its dedication discarded when Napoleon declared himself Emperor. The slow movement of the Eroica Symphony, in memory of a great man, although Napoleon was at the height of his career when it was written, is a funeral march. This movement may be heard as the apotheosis of the funeral march, music of infinite grandeur in its solemn purpose.
The Polish romantic composer and pianist Fryderyk Chopin followed Beethoven, at least, in the inclusion of a funeral march movement in his Piano Sonata No.2, here transcribed for orchestra. It remains among the most familiar of such works.
Later romantic music of sadness is heard in the Swedish composer Hugo A1fven. His Elegy is taken from incidental music for Nordström's play on the life of the great Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus ll. The Scandinavian elegaic mood recurs poignantly enough in Grieg's Last Spring, music of great emotional intensity.
A French contemporary, Leon Boellmann, in the course of his short life, won a reputation as a composer and organist. His most famous organ composition, the Suite Gothique, written in 1895, two years before his death at the age of thirty-five, contains the moving and heartfelt Priere (Prayer).
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