Truffaldino – a Ballet for Chamber Orchestra
Simon Wills born 1957
Truffaldino is named after the Harlequin character in Goldoni’s 1743 farce Il Servitore
di Due Padroni. I wrote the piece in the gap between the completion of an opera and
the start of work on another. Not surprisingly, I approached it as though writing for the
stage: it is episodic but like all my theatre pieces is held together by a loose symphonic
structure. No attempt is made to tell Goldoni’s complicated story but I hope some of his
subversive spirit has found its way into the music.
It was written at my Ferrara hideout – more precisely at a corner table in the bar round
the corner – in the Summer of 2011; the fanfare that opens and closes the piece is
an obscene mocking song that has been sung to newly qualified doctors at the city’s
university for centuries and I think the piece has a Ferrarese swagger to it.
Happy birthday HSO!
Horn Concerto No 1 in Eb, Opus 11
Richard Strauss 1864 – 1949
The fact that Strauss enjoyed a remarkably long creative life is probably best illustrated
by reference to his two horn concertos, composed in 1883 and 1942, practically 60
years apart. His father, Franz, was one of the finest horn players of his day and held
the position of principal in the Munich Opera Orchestra for many years. The young
Richard must therefore have grown up with an increasing awareness of the instrument’s
capabilities. His Horn Concerto No 1 displays a brilliant understanding of both the
technical and the poetic aspects of the horn, of its fanfare-like hunting calls and its soft
ringing tone. Furthermore, it is perhaps the first masterpiece Strauss composed.
The work adopts the usual three movement structure, though they are performed
without a break …
Symphony No 3 in Eb, Opus 55, Eroica
Ludwig van Beethoven 1770 – 1827
Although in his Second Symphony Beethoven had begun to move beyond the
traditional concept of the classical symphony, his Eroica remains a staggering
achievement, taking the genre into hitherto uncharted regions. Here, in 1803, we have
a symphony which in performance lasts almost 50 minutes, a symphony whose first
movement alone is as long as many symphonies in their entirety. Yet nothing about the
Eroica is inflated or grandiose; on the contrary, the work is a model of economy and
precision. The orchestra is only enlarged by the addition of an extra horn; it is therefore
the size and scale of the symphonic concept which are expanded, but in purely musical
terms. The logical and emotional power of the music carries the listener along, and
to achieve his aim Beethoven employs numerous characteristic devices. There are
often off-beat accents to reinforce dissonant harmonies and to produce, in the first
movement especially, the most tremendous symphonic tension; and it is from this great
sense of emotional strength that the sheer scale of the composition derives.
Such a composition could have been created only by a truly great figure …