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An Orchestral Concert


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Relayed from the National Museum of Wales

National Orchestra of Wales

Not merely the founder of the modern French School of Music, but throughout his long and active career-he died in 1921 at the ripe old age of eighty-six - Saint-Saens was also its guide and leader, unchallenged in his position as the most illustrious French musician of his time.
His wonderful vitality, his genial, sunny temperament, his great, wholesome sanity, are reflected in all his work: in all of it, too, can be discerned the steadfast way in which he looked towards his own ideal of clear, unsullied beauty.
One of the most scholarly of composers, he turned more than once to the classical mythology for his subjects; in this symphonic poem he sets before us Ovid's story of Hercules' submission to Omphale, of his taking her place at the spinning wheel among her women, the while she donned his lion's skin and held his club, striking him with her sandals for his clumsiness. Saint-Saens meant his music to typify the constant triumph through the ages of woman's so-called weakness over the vaunted strength of mere man.
The poem begins with a prelude suggesting the spinning wheel-classic symbol of the eternal feminine-and then a dainty, tripping tune portrays Omphale. A big, robust tune, played first by bassoon and lower strings, is just as clearly Hercules. These are elaborated at some length, rising to a passionate fervour, and falling anon into a quieter mood, and then we hear, in a tune of short, crisp notes-an altered form of Hercules's tune - Omphale's use of her sandals in the time-hallowed fashion which the story tells.
All these tunes, as well as one more, closely akin to the Omphale melody, are heard again, and after the spinning-wheel music has returned, the piece comes to an end very softly.

This is the third of the five Suites by Tchaikovsky which have always been among the most popular of his orchestral works. The theme with variations is the last, and much the most important, of its movements. The theme, a simple melody, is played by the strings alone. In the first variation flutes and clarinets join forces with the strings, pizzicato. Variation two employs a fuller orchestra, and the third the woodwinds have to themselves, the flute beginning the theme and handing it to the clarinet. The fourth variation is in minor for the whole orchestra, and five has a Fugal treatment. Number six is a Tarantelle; seven, like a solemn Chorale, is again by the woodwinds alone. In number eight, an impressive slow movement, the English Horn has a solo. The ninth is a jolly rustic dance, and a violin solo is the feature of number ten. Variation eleven is a quiet, serene movement, and the twelfth is a brilliant Polacca, the longest and most important of the series.

(to 14.00)


Musicians: National Orchestra of Wales

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