Counterpoint

bachBach: Orchestral Suite No. 1

German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - a master of counterpoint and harmony - is viewed as one of the greatest composers of all time. He wrote his delightful Orchestral Suite No. 1 between 1717 and 1723. "Suite" is a modern term for a composition consisting of a series of dances. Bach called this work an overture, based on its first and longest component, the grand French style overture. The dances in Orchestral Suite No. 1 show a strong French influence, although one, the forlane, is Venetian. Other movements include gavottes, minuets, bourrees, and passepieds.

doveDove: Figures in the Garden Serenade

British composer Jonathan Dove (born 1959, photo by Hugo Glendinning) wrote this about his 1991 octet for oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns:

"For their 1991 Mozart bicentenary celebrations, Glyndebourne [opera house in England] commissioned five composers to write wind serenades. Each serenade was to be musically connected in some way with one of Mozart's operas, and to be played outdoors before the performance of the opera.

I was asked to compose a piece to precede The Marriage of Figaro. Although Mozart's comic masterpiece needs no introduction, musically or otherwise, I was attracted by the aptness of playing a serenade in the garden before performances of an opera whose last act is set in a garden, and which itself includes a number of serenades ...

I had the idea that with all the performances of The Marriage of Figaro that had taken place at Glyndebourne, sounds from the opera had in some way impregnated the garden: snatches of recitative, musical figures, instrumental colors. Each movement of Figures in the Garden is developed from a musical idea in the opera. Here and there an alternative scenario emerges: Suzanna sings her aria in the rain (because it's an English garden), and Figaro and Suzanna finally enjoy a moment of shared tranquility that is denied them in the opera."

haydn

Haydn: Symphony No. 59

Austrian Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period: he wrote 106 symphonies. He was a close friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and taught Ludwig van Beethoven. Haydn's Symphony No. 59, a witty and energetic work from 1766-67, sets the strings and the winds in sharp contrast, with musical surprises throughout. This music was later used as entra'acte music for a 1774 play called Die Feuersbrunst (The Conflagration), and is sometimes called the "Fire Symphony" as a result.