Max Derrickson

Writing Music Program Notes for Over 20 Years

Overture “In the Italian Style” in D Major, D. 590

Even as a young lad, Schubert was working on writing an opera. At the beginning of the 19th Century, opera was usually what made a composer famous, and Schubert very much wished for that fame. Although he eventually wrote eight operas, none of them has endured as his best works, but in the meantime Schubert found that his greatest successes were to be found in other musical genres, with chamber music, art songs, symphonies and in several of his operatic Overtures.

Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Op. 20

Gypsy music was prominent in Spain during Sarasate’s life – in fact, the music and dance of flamenco is essentially Gypsy music. But for Zigeunerweisen, Sarasate was charmed by Western Europe’s current love affair with the Gypsy music from Hungary, thanks both to Brahms and Liszt. But the underlying tunes are really simply vehicles for virtuosic splendor.

Overture to Semiramide

Rossini’s Overture to his 1823 opera, Semiramide, is one of his great Overtures and often played as a concert piece. It is also the last opera he wrote in Italy. Thereafter, Rossini left Italy and within a year moved to Paris, where he wrote several more operas before beginning his lengthy retirement there. The Overture is filled with the kind of excitement and hummable tunes that prove Rossini’s genius. …

Overture to Tancredi

War and love is the theme of Tancredi, the story first expressed in Greek stories, then penned by Voltaire (1760). And war in Rossini’s Italy was as ever present as he claimed of Napoleon – Tancredi was a sure-fire message for Italian audiences, and it was in this opera that Rossini put all of his talents together that make us now regard him as a genius: flowing operatic narrative, exciting music, beautifully tuneful arias, powerful choruses….

Le coq d’or (The Golden Cockerel) – Suite from the Opera

Near the very end of his life, Rimsky-Korsakov had decided to hang up his pen after finishing his 14th opera, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronija (1905). But then Russia’s political world began to disintegrate all around him….

Tzigane, for Violin and Orchestra

Like so many composers before him, French composer Maurice Ravel succumbed to the charms of Hungarian gypsy folk music in 1924 when he heard a recital by the great Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aryáni

Rapsodie Espagnole

The Prelude to Rapsodie Espagnole is a perfect opening … – evocative of the sensuality and slight menace brought on by the fall of darkness. Ravel uses it as a color piece, with misty and suggestive orchestration, whispering of the dances and cavorting that will occur behind closed doors in Madrid that night. …

La Valse

Always in love with dance forms as structures for music, Ravel turned to both dance and Vienna for another inspiration in 1906. He focused on that most ubiquitous of dance forms, the “Viennese waltz,”…

Alborada del gracioso

“Alborada” typically means “morning music,” with its earliest use as signals to lovers at daybreak to warn them before being caught in their passions….