Mendelssohn included in his incidental music for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream a Wedding March, the most familiar of all such marches. The play, in German translation, was first performed with Mendelssohn’s music in 1843 at Potsdam for the King of Prussia, who had commissioned it. It celebrates, in the drama, the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, whose nuptial celebrations frame the plot. Almost equally familiar is the Wedding March from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, first staged a few years later in Weimar, through the good offices of Liszt, when Wagner, not the most dutiful of husbands, had fled Leipzig, after the suppression of the anti-monarchist rising of 1849, leaving his wife Minna behind. Set in medieval Germany, the opera centres on the mysterious knight Lohengrin, whose name must not be sought by his bride, although finally she is induced to break her word.
Schubert’s Ave Maria, Jungfrau mild, is a setting of one of Ellen’s songs, a hymn to the Virgin from the work of Sir Walter Scott. It provides a moment of gentle meditation before the brilliance of Widor’s Toccata. The grandson and son of organists and organ-builders, Widor moved from Lyon to Paris in 1870, when he became organist at St. Sulpice, a position he held for the next sixty years. The Toccata forms one of the movements in the fifth of Widor’s monumental organ symphonies. Equally impressive is the Toccata from the French organist Leon Boëllmann’s Suite Gothique.
Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary takes us back to Restoration England, while the nineteenth century French composer Charles Gounod’s Ave Maria provides a well known moment of romance, based as it is on a Prélude by Johann Sebastian Bach, who never dreamed of such a thing. Ideas of love return in Handel’s Largo, although his hero Serse, at this moment in the opera, is expressing his vegetable love for a plane-tree, to the amusement of those hidden to observe him. It is followed by a well known Trumpet Tune by Henry Purcell.
The name of Albinoni has enjoyed particularly wide fame in recent years through a composition written by a modern scholar and admirer of his work, the Italian Giazotto. The Adagio, alleged by its composer to be based on a fragment of Albinoni, may at least be a tribute to the early eighteenth century Venetian master. His prolific contemporary in Venice, Antonio Vivaldi, is here represented by a slow movement from a Trio Sonata.
Johann Sebastian Bach, the most distinguished member of a widespread musical dynasty in Saxony, based a chorale prelude on the Christmas In dulci jubilo, while two cantatas provide the movements Jesus bleibet meine Freude and Schafe konnen sicher weiden, known in English as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Sheep May Safely Graze.
Johann Strauss takes us into a very different mood, a party after the wedding ceremony, with two waltz sequences, the Emperor Waltz cleverly named to please either the German or Austrian Emperor, and the Blue Danube celebrating the river on which Vienna lies.