photo by Andrew Hurlbut
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Guest conductor Julian Kuerti pairs music by Henze and Mendelssohn inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream
Mendelssohn Incidental Music to
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Hans Werner Henze Symphony No. 8
Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture
Respighi Pines of Rome
If ever a composer found a literary inspiration that was tailor-made to his artistic sensibility, it was Mendelssohn and Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. The composer's musical evocation of fairyland and its inhabitants is unsurpassed for its moonstruck charm and evanescence.
Henze's Symphony No. 8 has been called "masterfully scored, brilliantly evocative, and astoundingly beautiful" by James Leonard on AllMusic.com.
The three-movement piece based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is composed of an Adagio, Fuge, and Mänadentanz. Each movement is inspired by a short section of the play: the first derives in part from Puck's line "I'll put a girdle round the earth/ In forty minutes". The second movement depicts Titania's attempted seduction of Bottom, while the Adagio final movement takes Puck's "If we shadows have offended speech" at the end of the play. Henze considered the work to be a “summer piece” – “not at all tragic or moody like the Seventh.” It was premiered just down the street from NEC by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which commissioned the piece (and to whom Henze dedicated it) under Seiji Ozawa on 1 October 1993.
If the first two works on the program reflect the composers' impressions of Shakespeare, so the second pair present the composers' responses to scenes from The Eternal City. Respighi’s Pines of Rome is one of his three popular symphonic postcards. It depicts the pine trees in four different locations and times of day: at the Villa Borghese, the Catacombs, the Janiculum, and the Appian Way. Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture recalls the composer's days as a Prix de Rome student and his recollection of the celebrations that precede Lent. The music is largely drawn from Berlioz' opera, Benvenuto Cellini, and is sumptuously scored. Be on the lookout for the famous English horn solo, which serves as the love music for Cellini and his inamorata.