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Louis Joseph Ferdinand HÉROLD
(1791 - 1833)

Overture to the Opera “Zampa


Louis Joseph Ferdinand Hérold came from a musical family. His father, a piano teacher by profession, had been a student of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and did not intend for his son to follow a musical career. After his father's death in 1802, Louis could finally pursue this avenue and enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire, where he became a virtuoso on piano and violin. While a student, he won the coveted Prix de Rome in spite of the fact that one of the judges remarked, "This piece is full of flaws, but I see great things ahead for him."
Following extended visits to Naples and Vienna, he returned to Paris, where he held a variety of positions of increasing importance in the leading musical institutions of that city. Though relatively short-lived (he died of tuberculosis less than two weeks before his forty-second birthday), he had spent more than twenty years writing a prodigious number of compositions that included symphonies, piano concertos, operas, ballets, chamber music, and some fifty-five opus numbers worth of piano sonatas and miscellaneous piano pieces. “I am going too soon,” he lamented on his deathbed. “I am just beginning to understand the stage!”

Zampa, an opera-comique in three acts was first performed on May 3, 1831 at the Opera-Comique in Paris. Since Zampa contained spoken dialogue, it had to be performed at that theater rather than the Paris Opera, which would accept only grand operas. Zampa has a colorful, if somewhat grisly plot: Zampa, a pirate of exceptionally bad principles, abducts Camilla from her betrothed and forces her to agree to marry him instead. While celebrating his forthcoming wedding, he becomes inebriated and impudently places a ring on the finger of the marble statue of Alice, who died of a broken heart after Zampa had jilted her. The statue comes to life and drags the pirate to his death beneath the sea.

Hérold maintained an especially high level of inspiration and originality throughout the score for Zampa. The overture, one of Hérold’s most enduring works, is nowhere near as grim as the plot would suggest, yet it reflects the dramatic impact and musical variety of the work.



Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major


The Austrian composer and pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) enjoyed a considerable reputation in his time, but few of his works are heard today. His name remains known primarily as the author of a still published piano teaching method, and for a few works that remain in the repertoire of contemporary performers. His first musical studies came on the violin at the behest of his father, a player of string instruments himself, and director of the local Imperial School of Military Music. By the age of five Hummel could play the violin with proficiency but would abandon it in favor of the piano, on which he developed an astonishing technique by age six. Frequent travels allowed the young Hummel to study with W.A. Mozart, Muzio Clementi, and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. At age 14, he largely turned away from the concert stage, in favor of teaching and composing. His first major appointment came in April 1804 when he accepted the post of Concertmaster to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy at his Eisenstadt court. In May 1811, Hummel was dismissed as Kapellmeister in a controversy and returned to Vienna to focus on composition. Two years later he married Elizabeth Röckel. Late the following year, at his wife's behest, he launched a concert tour in Vienna, scoring triumph after triumph. He subsequently toured Germany and Europe with great success, sometimes also assuming the role of conductor. Hummel accepted the Kapellmeister posts in Stuttgart (1816) and Weimar (1819). This was a particularly productive period for him. By 1832, his health was in decline and he frequently took leave of his Kapellmeister duties in Weimar because of sickness. He died on October 17, 1837. 


Hummel succeeded the famed composer Franz Josef Haydn as court composer for the Austro-Hungarian court of Esterhazy, and he may have been influenced by that composer’s earlier concerto for trumpet written in 1796 while Haydn still resided at Esterhazy. Both Haydn and Hummel had experimented with the new idea of a “keyed trumpet” (one that had holes drilled into the body of the instrument, capped by keys that could be mechanically lifted, as on the modern flute and clarinet). That method proved impractical, and the trumpet soon developed with the valve system that is known today. The Haydn and Hummel concertos were written for the noted trumpeter Anton Weidmeyer.


Hummel and his music represent the end of the purely Classical Era and style of composition exemplified by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Following strict classical models of construction, such as sonata and rondo forms, he develops extended melodic lines over rich harmonic foundations, but is never able to develop the smaller elements of his thematic inventions in the profound manner of a master such as his contemporary Beethoven. The Trumpet Concerto follows these formal patterns, with a modified sonata-allegro opening movement, a lyrical andante in the style of the slow movements of Mozart’s piano concertos, and a sprightly finale in rondo form. Considerable technical skill is required of the soloist, and the work remains a favorite piece for today’s trumpeters.



NOTE: Hummel had a reputation as an astute businessman, and he died having amassed considerable wealth. He maintained relationships with his publishers that were to his financial advantage and was active in early establishment of copyright laws that protected the artistic property of composers and other artists.



Symphony No. 8 in G Major, opus 88



Widely regarded as the most distinguished of Czech composers, Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904) is considered one of the major figures of Nationalism (making use of folk influences in works of other genres). The son of a butcher and amateur zither player, Dvořák studied the organ in Prague as a young man and worked as a café violist and church organist during the 1860s and 1870s while composing symphonies, chamber music, and a Czech-language opera. In the 1870s he won a three-year government grant (the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick was among the judges) designed to help the careers of struggling young creative artists. Johannes Brahms helped Dvořák obtain a contract with his own publisher, Simrock, in 1877. The association proved a profitable one despite an initial controversy that flared when Dvořák insisted on including Czech-language work titles on the printed covers rather than German titles. In the 1880s and 1890s, Dvořák's reputation became international in scope due to a series of masterpieces that included his three final symphonies. The 1890s represented for Dvořák a time of creative and personal renaissance. It was during this decade that he made his first forays into the New World, the direct result of which included the production of a wealth of American-influenced chamber music as well as the composer's best-known work, the Symphony No. 9 (1893). The latter proved to be Dvořák's final essay in that form, signaling his increasing interest in other genres. Dvořák became director of the Conservatory in Prague in November 1901 and remained in that post until his death, from heart failure, on May 1, 1904, following five weeks of illness. 


Dvořák began work on his eighth symphony on August 26, 1889. During the months that followed, he was inundated with commissions and complained to a friend that his head was “so full of ideas” that he couldn’t write them down fast enough. The Symphony No. 8 was completed on November 8, 1889 and premiered under Dvořák’s direction in Prague on February 2, 1890. Simrock, his publisher, offered him a mere 1,000 marks (roughly $850) for this symphony compared to 6,000 marks for his previous symphony. Enraged, Dvořák went to the English publisher Novello instead, and the work was published by Novello in 1892.

The Eighth Symphony is an example of Dvořák at his most spontaneous. He developed the general structure of the entire symphony in about ten days, and it took only seventeen days to sketch out all the music and one more month to finish all the details of orchestration. This short compositional time does not mean that the symphony is not full of interesting ideas. The last movement is a complex exploration of form involving several variations interspersed with other melodic twists and turns. Themes are often presented, then not developed as would be expected in a Germanic symphony. Dvořák stated that he wanted to create "a symphony different from my other symphonies with individual thought worked out in a new way." Although the new ideas are abundant, they are still contained within the Classical framework that was always a part of the composer's music.

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