Paradis – Der Skulkandidat Overture

Vitals: 2222 – 2200 – T – str; c. 6′
(clarinet parts double oboe, probably best omitted)

Available from the Fleisher Collection, U-6399 (may be re-cataloged soon). The score and parts are nicely typeset.

Paradis is in the news right now, so what better subject for a first blog post? (There was a beautiful performance of the Sicilienne, attributed to her, at the weekend’s royal wedding, by cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason with musicians from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Philharmonia, led by Christopher Warren-Green).

Program notes by Reuben (from a performance by the Riverside Orchestra, March 2018):

Overture to The School Candidate– Maria Theresa di Paradis (1759-1824)

Maria Theresa de Paradis is one of the few female composers from the Baroque or Classical era whose name is known by most musicians.  Unfortunately, the piece for which she’s best known, a delightful little Sicilienne, was actually composed by the 20thcentury violin recitalist (and dedicatee of some important Stravinsky repertoire), Samuel Dushkin.

Losing her sight as a young child, but growing up in Viennese aristocracy, de Paradis received instruction in the humanities, and in piano, where her great talent led to European tours as a young child prodigy, following the Mozart family footsteps. During these tours, she also began composing, an impressive feat considering her blindness.  Nonetheless, she had a fairly lengthy career, sharing a Vienna audience with Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Salieri, and the host of lesser composers whose works we seldom perform. Unfortunately for posterity, some of her works are lost – none were published in her lifetime. Aware of the professional jealousy of some of her male colleagues, she chose not to pursue publication.

She composed at least five operas, some piano concertos and sonatas, and various secular cantatas. Dr. Hidemi Matsushita (violinist, pianist, and currently chair of the Arapahoe Community College Music Department in Littleton, CO) has done some important recovery work of de Paradis’ music, including a performing edition of this overture to her second opera Der Skulkandidat. History has obscured the plot, but its fresh and optimistic tone suggest the kind of happy academic experiences Brahms would later refer to, musically, in his Academic Festival Overture.

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