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 The Merry Widow (Selections for Wind Ensemble), by Franz Lehar, arr. Eiji Suzuki
Posted: Dec 30 2004, 12:44 PM


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Title of Piece:
The Merry Widow (Selections for Wind Ensemble)

Composer / Arranger:
Franz Lehar / Eiji Suzuki

Bravo Music, Inc.

Level of Difficulty:
Grade 4

Performance Time:
approx. 8 minutes 56 seconds

About the Composer:
Franz Lehar (1870-1948) - bandmaster; march, operetta and film composer, representative of the heartbeat of his capital city. Only 52 years gone, with contemporaries like Ravel and Bartok, Lehar nonetheless firmly rooted in the Romantic retrospect of Vienna. His music was populist and lyrical, such as this 'love comedy' about a bank widow's adventures. From it, melodies like the beautiful ballad "Song for Vilia", and "Merry Widow Waltz" have found their own fame.

(Adapted from the publisher / composer)

About the Arranger:
Eiji Suzuki - Born in Tokyo in 1965, Suzuki attended Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, completing graduate composition in 1991. He has actively written for winds since attending secondary school. His original works, arrangements and transcriptions are popular and frequently performed by school and community bands throughout Japan, for regular concert and for festival competition. He was also commissioned for the National Athletic Festivals in both Yamagata and Ishikawa.

(Adapted from the publisher / composer)

The Merry Widow is set in Paris in 1900

Act I: The Pontevedrian Embassy
In the Pontevedrian embassy, a ball is being held in honor of the Kingís birthday. Baron Zeta, the Ambassador, ponders the problem of how to save his country from impending bankruptcy. Meanwhile, right under his nose, the Parisian Camille de Rosillon is wooing Zetaís wife Valencienne. Camille has just written on her fan what she will not allow him to say: "I love you." They are interrupted by Zeta, and Valencienne drops the fan. Zeta is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Anna Glavari, the widow of a Pontevedrian banker who has left her 20 million. This news makes the Frenchmen Cascada and St. Brioche eager to meet her, which in turn makes Zeta and his councillors, Bogdanowitsch and Kromov, very worried: If the Widow marries a Frenchman, her millions will be lost to the Fatherland. Zeta is determined that Anna shall marry a Pontevedrian, and has selected Count Danilo as the ideal bridegroom, but Danilo has not yet appeared at the ball. He orders his assistant, Njegus, to locate Danilo, and goes off to be ready to greet the Widow. Meanwhile, Camille continues his pursuit of Valencienne. She loves him, but considers her marriage to be sacred. Camille is disappointed but persistent. They leave as Zeta arrives with Njegus, who has finally found Danilo Ė carousing at Maximís. Danilo has promised to come to the ball after one more bottle.

Anna sweeps into the ballroom and is surrounded by a group of hopeful French suitors. She reflects that she might be loved for her millions rather than for herself. Valencienne introduces Camille to her, whispering to Camille that he must end their affair and marry the Widow. Anna, meanwhile, invites everyone to Pontevedrian party at her house later on, and declares that she is ready to dance. Zeta pushes through the crowd of suitors, claims the first dance for himself, and escorts her into the ballroom.

Danilo arrives. He is full of champagne, so he decides to have a nap, which is briefly interrupted by the entrance of Valencienne and Camille. She is in a panic because she has lost the incriminating fan. Camille promises to try to find it. Anna appears and is surprised to see Danilo, to whom she was once engaged. Danilo had wanted to marry Anna, who was a farmerís daughter, but his uncle would have disinherited him. She bitterly tells him that her millions would now make up for her plebeian blood. Stung, Danilo tells her that she will never again hear him say, "I love you." She throws down her glove as a challenge and leaves. Zeta comes upon Danilo and urges him to marry Anna, but he refuses. He does, however, promise to keep off all foreign suitors. A "ladiesí choice" dance is announced, and Anna chooses Danilo. He refuses to dance, instead offering to "sell" the dance for 10,000 francs, thus discouraging the Frenchmen. Camille is about to offer the money, but the jealous Valencienne stops him. Meanwhile, Njegus finds the lost fan and hands it to Zeta. Danilo and Anna are left alone, and to the strains of the waltz, she is caught up in his arms.

Act II: Mme. Glavari's Mansion
At Annaís party later that evening, she leads the guests in a Pontevedrian song about the forest nymph Vilia. She tells Zeta that she has arranged a surprise for Danilo: she has re-created Maximís in her ballroom. Zeta is thrilled at her apparent interest in Danilo. When Danilo arrives, Zeta warns him that Camille is in love with the widow, for Valencienne has told him so. When he tries to prove it by showing Danilo the fan with Camilleís handwriting on it, Danilo points out that it is not Annaís fan. Zeta is now anxious to discover who the lady in question may be, and wants Valencienne, who he believes has some influence over Camille, to persuade Camille to give up the Widow for the other lady. The jealous Cascada and St. Brioche now challenge Danilo to a duel. But he and Njegus convince them to withdraw the challenge (and flee to Albania) by claiming that their respective affairs with Bogdanowitschís and Kromovís wives have been discovered. The men all sing of the frustrations of loving women. Anna enters and notices that Danilo is holding a fan. She reads the inscription on it, but he denies that he wrote it and insists that he does not love her. She tells him that she is inclined to marry again; he becomes angry but declares that he will dance at her wedding. They waltz off.

Camille finds Valencienneís fan. She writes on it, "I am a virtuous wife." He begs her to go with him into the gazebo so they can make love. She finally agrees. Zeta arrives just in time to see Camille and a lady disappear into the gazebo. Determined to find out who the lady is, he looks through the keyhole and is shocked to see that it is his wife. Before he can denounce her, she escapes through another door, and Anna, in order to protect her, takes her place. Zeta and Danilo are amazed when Anna and Camille come out of the gazebo together and announce their engagement. Danilo, furious, runs off to find comfort with the grisettes at Maximís. Anna triumphantly realizes that he loves her.

Act III: Mme. Glavari's Ballroom
Anna has transformed her ballroom into Maximís, complete with grisettes. Njegus urges Zeta not to worry, because Danilo is bound to come when he finds the real Maximís empty. He does come, and the girls, led by Valencienne, do the can-can. Danilo is not in the mood for grisettes, however. He urges Anna not to marry Camille, for the sake of the Fatherland. He is delighted when she explains what really happened in the gazebo. He finally admits that he loves her. Danilo then tells Zeta that Anna will not marry Camille. Zeta is thrilled, and urges her to choose a Pontevedrian. But everyone gasps when she reveals that if she marries, she will forfeit her entire fortune. Danilo, now free from any suspicion that he is mercenary, ardently asks her to marry him. Zeta is enraged that Danilo will marry her only now that she is poor. But she explains that under the will, she forfeits the money on remarrying only because it will become her husbandís property. Zeta is relieved, but now realizes that it must have been Valencienne in the gazebo with Camille. They are reconciled when she shows him what she wrote on the other side of the fan, and everyone celebrates.

( Source: http://www.reginaopera.org/widow.htm )

Remark #1:
While the score does not offer metronome markings, proper (and lively) tempi are critical to effective performance. As well, transitions between songs need to be enticing and vital. At rehearsal #8, carefully balance woodwinds and euphonium; at #10, maintain the same lyrical quality as before. For the percussion tutti (#11-14) experiment with mallet types for the most appropriate sound - a beautiful "music box" effect is possible. The final march and presto can generate much enthusiasm if performed with clarity and speed.

(Adapted from the publisher / composer)

Remark #2:
What an interesting operetta, filled with interesting and catchy tunes that are favoured by most! In this arrangement by Eiji Suzuki, themes are effectively woven together for wind ensembles, displaying contrasting movements.

The "opening chorus", at the speed of prestissimo immediately catches the attention of the audience. The triplets performed by the woodwinds needs to be heard clearly as they're easily covered by the rest of the band. Accented notes need to be emphasised a little bit more to achieve the desired effect. At Box 1, allow the glissando by the horns to be heard by toning down the band a little although they're marked with the same dynamic - ff. Not forgetting the fz effect by the flutes with their grace notes as they need to be heard as well! At Box 2, diminuendo effect begins as the woodwinds climb down the chromatics till it reaches 3 notes before Box 3. These 3 notes are marked by accents and crescendo - it may be played with a slight ritardanto to achieve a more dramatic effect.

At Box 3, the catchy tune is performed by the woodwinds in particular. Marked with Marcia on the score, it may be played with a little joyful (Giocoso) mood. Crescendo marked on the 5th measure of Box 3 is especially important and needs to be clearly executed to achieve the desired effect. The band may want to soften down at the beginning of the crescendo. Transition to Box 4 from the Trumpet fanfare may be tricky due to the beat change (marked with dotted minim = 60) in one. It's not uncommon to have bands spending most of their rehearsal time for that section of the piece!

At Box 6, marked by a waltz feel should be light enough for a dance. The quaver notes by the flutes in particular may be played with a light staccato to help to achieve the dance-like feel. Tuba players may also wish to adopt the pizzicato (plucked) effect of the strings to help bring out the mood - but not too short!

Box 7 denotes "No. 7, Opening Chorus" of the operetta. A fanfare-effect from the trumpets and trombone is heard. Intonation here may be tricky as the high D performed by the trumpets may sound sharp if not careful (differ from player to player). The low D by the 3rd trumpets is also sharp by nature and the third valve trigger will assist to flatten it. Take careful note of the diminuendo marked on the 3rd measure as careless players may lose their air support when executing the direction, resulting in a relatively flat pitch. As the timpanist takes over from the fanfare, an obvious out-of-tune will result if the pedal is not adjusted properly! 5th measure of Box 7 denotes Allegretto moderato where alternate crescendos and decrescendos are written in. Breath between these two directions is discouraged as you do not want a broken phrase. 1st and 2nd horn players need to take note of this especially as the phrase is written seperately for the two part. Allow the phrase to flow continuously between the two chairs. Bands without an oboist will probably be at a disadvantaged unless a substitute (e.g., Sop Sax or muted trumpet) is considered at the 6th measure where the part is written solely for Oboe!

Box 8-10 is probably one of my favourites. Appropriate shaping will make the whole section sound good and effective! At Box 11, a music-box effect should be heard as imitated by the mallet percussion. Clarinettists tend to play their pp too loudly that it covers the main theme by the mallets. It will be ideal if the clarinets can achieve the supporting role instead. Box 11 is probably tricky for the piccoloist, as one may sound either too sharp or too flat when he/she takes over from the mallets!

Molto allargando after Box 13 is probably the climax. Triplets written for trumpets, euphonium and trombones may be difficult to coordinate as the phrase broadens. Much rehearsals on this section are expected.

Box 14 onwards marks the finale of the piece. It begins with the semi quavers by the snare as it pass on to the clarinet and saxophone sections where the melody begins. The slurred phrases indicated are especially important - do take note (tongue the first and slur the rest)! Box 18, marked by accelerando gives a head-start of what is expected at the last section as the flutes and oboes try to drive the theme forward with the help of the accel. indicated. Marked by Presto at Box 20 after the fermatas, the theme then continues to an exciting end!

(Remarked and interpreted by Benjamin Yeo)
The remarks will make more sense if you were to follow it with a copy of the score or by listening to the recording.

This remark only serves as a guide and are purely based on personal interpretation which should not be fully taken into account.
Posted: Jan 1 2005, 11:51 PM


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How many takers for this in SYF 2005!?
RIMB Barisax
Posted: Apr 14 2005, 08:57 PM

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Joined: 13-April 05

No, but we did do that in 03, for a gold. I didn't participate though...
Posted: Aug 21 2005, 11:49 AM

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anyone has the mp3 for the merry widow? you can send it to me through msn. wah_biangz7@hotmail.com
Posted: Sep 4 2005, 11:27 AM

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I think 5 schools or more than that chose this piece for syf2005.. ^_^
Posted: Sep 14 2005, 09:50 PM

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Yep. My school played this and achieved a GwH. Haha.
Posted: Sep 15 2006, 09:25 PM

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Haha my school is playing that next year. This or merry widow OVERTURE. Haha.

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