Feb. 11th, 2017

drplacebo: (Neuro notes)
It's Forgotten Masterpiece Friday!

While obscure today, the Danish composer Asger Hamerik (1843-1923) was highly influential in the development of American music. For most of his career, he was director of the Peabody Institute (he was Peabody's second-ever director), and virtually all of his orchestral music was composed for the Peabody Institute orchestra during his time in Baltimore, including all seven of his symphonies. Before leaving Europe for America, he was the protégé of Hector Berlioz, and Berlioz's influence shows in Hamerik's use of Berlioz's idée fixe technique and the descriptive French subtitles of his symphonies.

This week's piece is Hamerik's second symphony, composed in 1882-83. Subtitled Symphonie Tragique, it loosely follows the structure of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, arcing from a mournful C minor into a triumphant C major coda. Unlike Beethoven, though, Hamerik builds the symphony around a single recurring theme or idée fixe, first heard as an oboe solo in the slow introduction to the first movement (2:11 of video). It returns most dramatically in the transition into the C major coda (40:50 of video), heard first in the low brass and passed around the orchestra in a slightly modified form.

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Andrew

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