Leroy Anderson was born in Massachusetts in 1908 to Swedish parents. Leroy's mother Anna gave Leroy his first piano lessons at age five, "as soon as his feet could reach the pedals." He began his studies at the New England Conservatory of Music when he was 11, and then continued at Harvard University, where he studied not only music but also earned a Ph.D. in German. While at Harvard, his father Brewer Anderson bought him a trombone so that he could play in the front row of the Harvard University Band where everyone would see him at football games.
Anderson led the Harvard University Band, directed church choirs and conducted Boston area jazz dance bands. He began composing and continued with great success even after joining the army and working at the Pentagon after WWII.
In many of his songs, such as Sleigh Ride, Sandpaper Ballet and the Syncopated Clock, Anderson incorporated sounds not usually made by musical instruments. Arthur Fiedler, the long-time director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted the premiere of Sleigh Ride with the Boston Pops in May of 1948. By December of 1948 New York City department stores were playing Sleigh Ride. The popularity of Anderson's music rapidly spread around the world. By 1952 Anderson had established himself as the pre-eminent American composer of light concert music.
Leroy Anderson continued writing music for the Boston Pops until his death on May 18, 1975 in Woodbury, Connecticut. Now, his music has taken on a timeless quality. "It's hard to imagine that someone actually wrote Sleigh Ride," remarked one listener. "It's as though it came from the ether. Sleigh Ride is one of those pieces of music that seems as though it has always been around; just another wonderful part of everyday life."
Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne, a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, Ludwig van Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age and was taught by his father Johann van Beethoven and then Christian Gottlob Neefe, the Court organist, who taught him composition. Beethoven’s first three piano sonatas, named "Kurfürst" ("Elector" or voting German pince) for their dedication to the Elector Maximilian Frederick (1708–1784), were published in 1783 when Beethoven was 13 years old.
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist who is acknowledged as one of the three giants of classical music, along with Bach and Brahms. He was a pivotal figure in the transition from the 18th century musical classicism to 19th century romanticism, and his influence on subsequent generations of composers was profound.
He composed a wide range of music, but his best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. Some of his compositions were included twice on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of the images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth, sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes launched in 1977.
During his first 22 years in Bonn, Beethoven had intended to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. However, he moved to Vienna in 1792, a year after the death of Mozart, and instead began studying with Franz Joseph Haydn. He quickly gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist who was especially adept at improvisation. In Vienna, Beethoven dedicated himself wholeheartedly to musical study with the most eminent musicians of the time: piano with Haydn; vocal composition with Antonio Salieri; and counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger.
Around 1800, Beethoven’s hearing began to deteriorate. He gave up conducting and performing in public but continued to compose. In fact, during the period between 1803 and 1812, Beethoven produced an astonishing output of superlatively complex, original, and beautiful music, that remains unrivaled by any of the other composers in history. This period is known as his “middle” or “heroic” period.
The most famous among these works were his symphonies No. 3-8. Symphony No. 8, written in 1812 at the end of Beethoven’s heroic period, is lighthearted, but not lightweight. The second movement is featured in this concert. There is a widespread belief that this movement is an affectionate parody of the metronome, which had only recently been invented.
Eric Coates was an English composer of light music and a viola player. His music was featured regularly on the BBC and he sold hundreds of thousands of records. He also wrote music for movies, including The Chronicles of Narnia.
After studying at home with a governess, Coates enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in London at the age of 20 to study viola. He was principal violist with the Queen’s Hall Orchestra for seven years. Although a very modest man, he enjoyed telling the story about members of the orchestra having a competition to see who would be the first to play an entire score from memory - and how he won.
In 1919, he left the orchestra to focus his time on composition and conducting. He had an early success with the overture The Merrymakers (1922), and London Suite (1933). Our featured piece, Covent Garden, was the first of three movements in the London Suite. This lively piece depicts Covent Garden, an area of London famous for its opera house and fruit and vegetable market.
Coates’ music was often used in ballet, although he wrote only one himself, “The Seven Dwarfs,” in 1930. An avid dancer, he studied jazz and wrote syncopated music under the pseudonym “Jack Arnold.” Amongst his early champions was Sir Edward Elgar. While many British composers sought inspiration in the countryside, it was the reverse for Coates. He was most happy working amongst the sounds and excitement of London. Coates enjoyed conducting his own music and liked his music to be taken at a brisk and lively tempo.
When Eric Coates died in 1957, it was rightly commented that perhaps no other composer had ever provided music to suit the public taste so unerringly for so many years. He was recognized as the “uncrowned king of light music.”
Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz, Spain in 1876. He learned to play the piano from his mother and his grandfather. As he grew up, he attended special music schools. He began writing music for the piano and sometimes piano and cello. He liked to use tunes and rhythms of the famous flamenco folk dances from his native Andalusia region of southern Spain.
At age 20, he moved to Madrid and then to Paris. To earn money and help support his family, he began writing Spanish musical comedies (zarzuelas) and operas. Regarded as the greatest Spanish composer of the twentieth century, Manuel de Falla developed an interest in native Spanish music - in particular Andalusian flamenco - while studying with Felipe Pedrell in Madrid in the late 1890s. From 1907 to 1914 while he lived in Paris, he met, and was influenced by composers Ravel, Debussy and Dukas. In 1914 when WWI started, he returned to Madrid.
De Falla kept writing chamber music and music for both opera and ballet stage productions. His ballet, El Amor Brujo (Love the Magician) is a ghostly story of gypsy jealousy. The Ritual Dance of Fire from this stage production, which our orchestra is playing, can also be played as a piano solo.
In 1939 after Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War, Manuel de Falla moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina where he lived until his death in 1946.
As a Romantic period composer, Jean Sibelius was known best for his symphonies. Sibelius was born in Finland. His birth name was Johan Julius Christia Sibelius, and he was known as “Janne” to his family. While he was a student, he felt inspired to adopt the same French spelling as his uncle Jean, calling it his “music name.”
His music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia. The Finnish 100 mark note featured his image until 2002, when the euro was adopted. Since 2011, Finland has celebrated a Flag Day on December 8, the composer's birthday, also known as the "Day of Finnish Music."
After graduating from high school in 1885, Sibelius first studied law. However, he favored music, which he studied first at the Helsinki music school (now named the Sibelius Academy), then in Berlin and Vienna. His mastery of the orchestra has been described as “prodigious” (exceptional or stupendous). He wrote seven symphonies and used each one to further develop his own personal compositional style.
Sibelius loved nature, and the Finnish landscape often served as material for his music. He showed an exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons and released his personal feelings in the symphonies.
The Karelia Suite is one of Sibelius’ earliest and most popular works. The pieces are drawn from several independent works he wrote in 1893 for a patriotic historical pageant to be presented by students of the University of Helsinki in Viipuri, Karelia, in the southeasterly corner of Finland. The exhilarating March was used to depict a castle siege.