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The Trumpet Soars!


Fri. Oct 15 First Covenant Church 7pm
1280 Arcade Street, St. Paul, 55106

Sun. Oct 17 Basilica of St. Mary 1:45pm early start time
1600 Hennepin Ave Minneapolis, 55403

Regrettably, because of COVID concerns for his unvaccinated four year old daughter, our soloist Rodney Marsalis will not be performing with the Sinfonia for this set of performances. Accordingly, the program has been changed and it will not include an intermission.



Overture to The Italian in AlgiersGioachino Rossini

CelebrationGao Hong
   World premiere and recipient of the Minnesota Sinfonia Call for Scores with support from the McKnight Foundation

The Little BallerinaDmitry Shostakovich

CrisantemiGiacomo Puccini

Symphony No. 1 in c minorFelix Mendelssohn


Program Notes


Overture to The Italian in AlgiersGioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Gioachino Rossini is probably as well known on the concert stage as he is in the opera house. His overtures are some of the greatest and most popular in the genre. Every child (and adult) knows the music from William Tell (The Lone Ranger), The Barber of Seville, and countless other overtures because of their use in cartoons, movies and even advertisements. The Italian in Algiers is one of Rossini’s great operas, and the overture, like the others, often is the first work performed on many orchestral concerts. The story involves a typically convoluted plot that is sure to confuse, but at the end, all turns out well. Briefly, the Italian girl, Isabella, is searching for her lost sweetheart, Lindoro (also Italian), and ends up in Algiers. As it turns out, Lindoro was captured by Mustafa, and has become his slave. Mustafa, who is tired of his wife, wants a change. He meets and becomes interested in Isabella, and promises Lindoro his freedom if he takes Mustafa’s wife with him back to Italy. Isabella recognizes Lindoro as her lost love, and as you can imagine, the plot thickens and becomes quite entertaining. Eventually, Mustafa realizes that the Italians are too clever for him, reconciles with his wife, and Isabella and Lindoro are reunited. jf

CelebrationGao Hong (b. 1964)
   World premiere and recipient of the Minnesota Sinfonia Call for Scores with support from the McKnight Foundation

During the COVID-19 pandemic and recent incidents of racial injustice, I felt that the entire world was turning upside down. All of my performances and international tours were canceled. All I wanted to do was to get back to a normal daily life and live in a peaceful world. So in this composition “Celebration” has two meanings. The first meaning is when vaccines became available and there was hope that we’d be celebrating the end of the pandemic and a return to our normal lives. And secondly, I am hoping we can celebrate the world coming together as one big happy family.

In this piece I use drum solos interspersed with instrumental passages to create joyful rhythms and melodies that depict the festive atmosphere of families gathering together in a festival. The slow middle section expresses the peoples’ yearning for peace, prosperity and happiness. gh

The Little BallerinaDmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev were the two leading Russian composers of their generation, and to this day, Shostakovich is considered the most important composer of symphonies of the 20th century. His first symphony, which was written as a graduation exercise, was extremely successful, and foretold an outstanding musical career. He lived during the Marxist regime in Russia, and so he tried to combine the Marxist ideology with the newly emerging sense of contemporary harmonies. The government at first liked this approach to music making, even though Shostakovich later dismissed his efforts as failed experiments.

Another of Shostakovich’s earliest successes was his opera Lady MacBeth (which received over 140 performances). Initially, the government praised the work and the composer, but later and abruptly turned on the composer and attacked him and his work. The official press called the work filled with modernisms, screaming, etc. Shostakovich responded with the composing of his Fifth Symphony, which a commentator termed “the creative reply of a Soviet artist to justified criticism.” Although Shostakovich did not write this description, he did accept it. To this day, the Fifth Symphony is one of Shostakovich’s most popular works.

At the end of World War II, the Soviet government tightened artistic and ideological controls, which resulted in great repression. Shostakovich and Prokofiev were accused of representing “most strikingly the formalistic perversions and anti-democratic tendencies in music…namely the cult of atonality, dissonance and discord….” It was during this time that Shostakovich composed a set of piano pieces that he named A Children’s Notebook, opus 6. Later, he added a second series titled Dances of the Dolls. The Little Ballerina, heard on these performances, was included in this set. With these compositions, Shostakovich continued a long tradition of prominent Russian composers writing music for children. With the permission of the Shostakovich estate, I orchestrated two of the Dances for chamber orchestra. jf

CrisantemiGiacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

Giacomo Puccini is best known for some of the greatest Italian operas including La Boheme, Madame Butterfly and many others. Early in his career he composed a few short works for strings, including a couple of minuets and the Crisantemi, the latter which is heard on this set of performances. Crisantemi was composed as a memorial to a friend, Amadeo di Savoia, who was the Duke of Aosta and was chosen to become the King of Spain after the revolution of 1868. According to a letter that the composer wrote to his brother, the piece was composed in one night as a single movement elegy. Puccini thought so much of the themes that he used them again later in his opera Manon Lescaut, which was composed three years later in 1893. jf

Symphony No. 1 in c minorFelix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Mendelssohn was not only a great composer, but he was also a performer with few peers, an arranger, promoter, music historian and an all-around Renaissance man. He was one of the first and most important conductors of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, and he also organized concert series throughout Europe and England. He was one of the most respected and popular musicians of his day, and was sought out by artists, royalty and nearly every important person in Europe and England. He was a very well-educated man – during his childhood, the family home was always filled with music, books and educational challenges. His grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, the great Jewish philosopher.

Mendelssohn’s musical output was very large, and included works for piano, voice, chamber music ensembles, chorus and orchestra. One often thinks of his second violin concerto and the incidental music to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as his greatest orchestral creations, but his symphonies are not to be overlooked. Of the symphonies, numbers 3 (the Scottish), 4 (the Italian) and 5 (the Reformation) are the most popular, and I am also partial to his first (in c minor), which is performed on this set of concerts.

This work was Mendelssohn’s first “full” (including winds) symphony and was composed when he was only fifteen years old. It was numbered thirteenth, as the young composer had already written twelve string symphonies – pieces that he thought of as mere exercises. This symphony received its premiere in Leipzig in 1827, and two years later in London, where the critic for Harmonicon wrote:

This gentleman only about one- or two-and-twenty years of age…shews a genius for composition that is exceeded by only the three great writers…and he will in a few years be considered as the fourth of that line which has done such immortal honour to the most musical nation in Europe.

At age sixteen, Felix composed his Octet, (for strings) which was a landmark in his output, and to this day, is considered one of his finest works. The connection to the first symphony is the scherzo. Evidently, the composer was not satisfied with the third movement of the symphony, so he reworked and rescored the scherzo from the octet, and then used this new version in the symphony, replacing the original third movement. Interestingly, he replaced the new scherzo with the old movement when he readied the symphony for its 1834 publication. In our performance, we will use the original scherzo movement, and the listener can judge whether it should be performed (a hint – I absolutely think yes!).

The key c minor had special significance to the composers of the late 18th and early/middle 19th centuries. It was the key of drama, passion and energy. One only needs to think of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to realize the connections. Mendelssohn’s first symphony has all of that and then some. Although it is a very straightforward work – the first movement does not even have the usual slow introduction – it is so full of energy and passion that it is hard to believe it was composed by a fifteen-year old. jf