C. Thomas Wyche (1926-2015)
“Moonbeams” (world premiere arrangement by Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel)
January 23 & 24, 2016
Program Notes by Paul Hyde and Edvard Tchivzhel
“Moonbeams” is a short lyrical work by the late Greenville civic leader C. Thomas “Tommy” Wyche, to whom this weekend’s Greenville Symphony Orchestra program is dedicated. Wyche was well-known for his passion for conservation. Not many Greenvillians may know, however, that Wyche, who died last year at the age of 88, was also a pianist and occasional composer.
Wyche’s song-without-words is written in the style of a romantic nocturne, his daughter, Sally Coenen, said in a recent interview. Originally composed for piano, the piece has been arranged for full orchestra by the Greenville Symphony’s music director and conductor Edvard Tchivzhel.
Coenen said “Moonbeams,” about five minutes long in its orchestrated version, was composed many years ago. “We grew up listening to it,” she said. “It goes way back.”
Wyche, who led the Greenville law firm that bears his name for more than 60 years, was the chief architect of the conservation of more than 100,000 acres of the South Carolina mountains. Wyche also was a principal leader in the City of Greenville’s dramatic transformation into one of the nation’s most livable cities.
Music was tremendously important to Wyche, though he composed original pieces infrequently.
“He just really loved classical music and played piano every single day,” Coenen said. “He’d practice before he’d go to work. Music was a big part of his life.”
Wyche and his wife Harriet were loyal supporters of the Greenville Symphony, from its first concert in 1948 until their deaths. The Jan. 23 performance marks the one-year anniversary of Wyche’s death in 2015.
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt, Op. 23 (Incidental Music for drama of Ibsen)
The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg created tremendously appealing incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play Peer Gynt. The individual movements are vivid, almost cinematic. A few have become classical hits, such as the lyrical “Morning Mood” and the fiery “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”
Other pieces that are equally well-known, or at least deserve to be, include: “Ase’s Death,” “Solveig’s Song” and “Anitra’s Dance.”
Following is an introduction and synopsis provided by the Greenville Symphony Orchestra’s music director Edvard Tchivzhel:
Peer Gynt was a real person who lived in Gudbrandsdal, probably around the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. His name is still famous among the people in this area. A man with no ruling passion, no calling, no commitment. The eternal optimist, he was charming, gifted, strong, but a very self-centered child. Was Peer Gynt a hero or a villain, insane or a sane searcher after his own destiny?
In this performance, the following sections, representing the best of Grieg’s music and a short version of Peer Gynt’s amazing adventures, will be performed.
1. It opens in the middle of the festivities with a rousing band rhythm. Peer Gynt, who has left his mother Ase in a lurch when she most needed him to help with the harvest, has come to dance with the village girls. It is also at this wedding that he meets the beautiful Solveig. They fall in love with each other, though Peer will resist Solveig until near the end of his life
2. After Peer abducts his former girlfriend Ingrid in the midst of her wedding festivities and then abandons her, she sings a lament bemoaning her loss.
3. On mountain pasture Peer encounters three herd girls. Their boyfriends have abandoned them and they are clamoring for troll lovers.
4. The next episode leads Peer Gynt to The Hall of the Mountain King. A wild dance of trolls — Norway’s national bogeymen — the Mountain King demands that Peer marry the troll princess and when Peer refuses, the King commands his children to bash him to bits on the rocks.
5. Peer has been banished from his homeland since his abduction and seduction of Ingrid. At great risk, he visits his mother Ase and finds her in the last moments of her life.
6. Peer’s path leads him through many lands and lives, and eventually he finds himself in Africa. Beautiful music of a Morning Mood depicts a sunrise in the rocky North Africa desert.
7. Next we see Peer in Eastern dress, pretending to be and thus accepted as a prophet. He is reclining on soft cushions, drinking coffee and smoking a hookah in an Arab captain’s tent. A group of beautiful young oriental women, led by Anitra, sing for him. We now hear Anitra’s dance of seduction. Peer Gynt, playing an Arab lute, is drawn to the voluptuous Anitra. Finally, enslaved to Anitra’s charms, Peer ends up being duped by her as she gallops off on his horse and with most of his possessions.
8. Now we return to the North for a moment to the hut that Peer built for Solveig and where he abandoned her. Solveig, herself in her middle years and still lovely, bemoans her loneliness but is sure Peer will eventually come back to her and swears to remain faithful to him.
9. After many voyages and adventures, Peer, now old, returns to Norway on a ship in the stormy seas with howling wind, thunder and lightning. Now Solveig is an old woman but still faithful and certain that Peer will return to her, in this life or the next. Peer, just returning, hears her song in the hut from a distance. For the first time since his youth, Peer encounters his beloved again. He is stricken with remorse and despair, but still is not ready to free her. A church chorale, praising God and his forgiveness, sounds from a distance. From despair grows new hope. Peer finally comes upon the hut where he had abandoned the young Solveig. She is old and blind now, but still beautiful. Solveig refuses to pronounce Peer a sinner. When asked where he has been since they last met, Peer hears Solveig’s answer: “In my faith, in my hope, and in my love.” Solveig cradles Peer Gynt in her lap and he dies as she sings her sweet lullaby.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 2, Op. 43, D major
Sibelius, Finland’s best-known composer, is considered a late romantic rather than an iconoclastic modernist. Yet he spoke in a highly individual language that seemed often to reflect the landscape and nationalistic concerns of his country.
Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 is the most frequently played of the composer’s seven symphonies. Many see in the work an image of the Finnish people struggling valiantly under the Russian yoke and looking with hope toward independence. The work was written in 1901, two years after Sibelius’ conspicuously nationalistic “Finlandia.”
Sibelius’ close friend Georg Schneevoigt detected a definite nationalistic program in the four movements. The first movement depicts the Finns undisturbed by thoughts of oppression. The second movement is charged with patriotic feeling, but the thought of brutal rule over the people brings with it timidity of the soul. The third portrays the awakening of national feeling, the desire to organize in defense of their rights while in the finale hope enters their hearts and there is comfort in anticipated triumph.
Music historian Ted Libby also finds in the work “the volatile Finnish spirit, capable of moving so quickly between optimism and pessimism.”
1. The work begins in pastoral serenity with string chords answered by a chirping folk tune in the woodwinds. But a palpable tension soon complicates this scene of tranquility. Much of the material in the movement develops from these initial ideas and a brooding brass theme. Instead of the longlined melodies so beloved of 19th century composers, Sibelius favors short themes, tied together in repetition and variation.
2. Plucked strings create an air of mystery in the early measures of the second movement. Bassoons enter with a dirge-like melody. Sibelius appears to have equated this theme with death. The music grows increasingly passionate and tension-filled. A sudden stop ushers in a second major theme played by the ethereal strings. Sibelius had originally labeled this motif “Christ.” Is the composer setting up a struggle between good and evil? Perhaps. But there’s little consolation in this movement, with its turbulent phrases and snarling brass. Death holds sway – but it doesn’t have the final word.
3. The third movement is the very picture of restlessness, with machine-gun figures in the strings. A sharply contrasting middle section offers a beautiful melody introduced by a solo oboe and taken up by the strings. After a repetition of both themes, the music leads directly into the fourth movement via a surging transition.
4. The unabashedly heroic finale, defusing the preceding tension, is dominated by two ideas: a soaring romantic theme played by violins and a more ambiguous motif piped by the woodwinds. The latter melody eventually develops into a powerful march, at first suggesting minor-key struggle then major-key triumph. The work concludes with a blazing brass-supported coda.
Paul Hyde is the Arts Writer for The Greenville News and a founding editor of the website Classical Voice North America. For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.