Haydn & Brahms – Program Notes

Ryan Haskins, Music Director & Conductor

Stephanie March, Cello

Program Pieces & Movements

Marianna Martines

  • Ouverture in C major, “Sinfonia”
    (1744-1812) (1770)


Joseph Haydn

  • Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, Hob. VIIb/2, Op. 101
    (1732-1809) (1783)
    I. Allegro moderato
    II. Adagio
    III. Rondo (Allegro)


  • Concert Romãnesc
    (1923-2006) (1956)
    I. Andantino
    II. Allegro vivace
    III. Adagio ma non troppo
    IV. Molto vivace; Presto


Johannes Brahms

  • Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Op. 56a
    (1833-1897) (1873)
    Theme. Chorale St. Antoni. Andante – Variation V. Vivace
    Variation I. Poco più animato – Variation VI. Vivace
    Variation II. Più vivace – Variation VII. Grazioso
    Variation III. Con moto – Variation VIII. Presto non troppo
    Variation IV. Andante con moto – Finale. Andante

Program Notes

Stephanie March

A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Stephanie March is Principal Cellist of the SCSO and Assistant Principal of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. She teaches cello and chamber music at Morningside University in addition to maintaining a private studio of young cellists. She entered the Eastman School of Music as one of five prestigious Rogers Scholars and graduated with Highest Distinction in 2011. While at Eastman, she studied cello with Steven Doane and Rosemary Elliott and performed as principal in orchestras under the baton of Maestro Neil Varon. Her master’s degree was earned at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) where she attended as a full tuition Eckstein Scholarship winner, studying with Hans Jørgen Jensen.

March’s love of orchestral music began early in life. She started cello studies at age three with Joseph Shufro, Principal Cellist of the SCSO. At age eleven she continued her pre-college studies with Peter Howard, Principal Cellist of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. By the time she was twelve, she was performing as a full section member in the SCSO. Since that time, she has performed with the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, the New World Symphony in Miami, the Omaha Symphony, and as Associate Principal with the South Dakota Symphony. Performances as featured soloist with the Sioux City Symphony have included the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Maestro Xian Zhang and more recently a performance of works by Rachmaninoff and Ginastera to celebrate the symphony’s centennial season with Maestro Ryan Haskins.

As soloist and chamber musician, March has been featured at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, the prestigious Meadowmount School of Music, where she also taught, the LeMoyne Music Journeys Series, the Piano Recital Series at Morningside University, and the Sioux City Chamber Music Association Series. In 2013, March was selected as the National Winner of the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist String Competition in Anaheim, CA.

March’s chamber music collaborations have included such distinguished artists as Grammynominated James Ehnes, Paavali Jumppanen and Andrew Russo. She has also worked with awardwinning composer George Tsontakis and Pulitzer Prize winner Aaron Jay Kernis. She has served as the cellist with the Dakota String Quartet and currently performs as a duo partner with SCSO Principal Bassist Chunyang Wang. Their duo was selected in 2021 to present “Low Strings Attached,” a recital for the convention of the International Society of Bassists. March also performs in a trio with clarinetist Parker Gaims from the President’s Own Marine Band and pianist Yi-Yang Chen, Professor of Music at the University of Kansas. In addition, she collaborates regularly with Shichao Zhang, faculty pianist from Northwestern University, for solo recital appearances.


This overture stands as the only surviving instrumental work without a keyboard by Marianna Martines. She was a singer, keyboardist, and composer of renown in late-eighteenth century Vienna where she was reportedly a “great favorite” of Mozart, a sometime duet partner.

Her life was lived in the shadow for better or worse of Pietro Metastasio, the court poet of the Holy Roman Empire ruled by Maria Theresa. His flowery words are set in hundreds of works (especially operas) both famous and obscure. Marianna’s father of Spanish heritage earned the devotion and gratitude of Metastasio for unknown reasons starting in the 1720s or ‘30s and thereafter lodged his large family in the writer’s spacious apartments. As many as nineteen rooms were occupied by the household on the entirety of the middle-class fourth floor. The poor lived higher, the nobility lower.

There, across from the imperial court theater where the populace heard Metastasio’s lyrics sung, Marianna’s musical education was supervised and dictated by the influential man who could obtain the service of any teachers he desired. At one point that included the young and impoverished Joseph Haydn living in the attic, though several other names have been floated with varying degrees of certainty as tutoring the young Martines. She admired many Italian and Germanic composers of the past and present. (The Hapsburg empire’s domains, based in Vienna, encompassed part of Italy.) Most of what we know of her early life comes from letters of Metastasio to his distinguished musical correspondents including Padre G.B. Martini who helped confer professional recognition on Martines.

Not surprisingly most of her surviving works are vocal, both secular and sacred, heavily favoring texts by Metastasio. The greatest repository of them lies in the archive of Vienna’s Society for the Friends of Music, later directed by Brahms appearing on this same concert. While he, Mozart, Haydn, and many other great composers lived in the city, only Martines was born within the walls themselves. Nor as far as we know did she ever leave, contributing to her relative unfamiliarity today. While she obtained performances by contemporaries, her two meager lifetime publications were augmented only starting in 1990.

Martines’s proximity to the court and talented family outside of music led to ennoblement by the empress. After Metastasio’s death at age eightyfour— complete with a hefty financial bequest—she seems to have all but stopped composing, instead hosting a Saturday night salon in her forties and fifties where she shone through knowledge of four languages. The economic trials of the Napoleonic wars left their mark and she died of tuberculosis in reduced circumstances in 1812, only days after the sister who was her closest friend.

As in some works by Mozart, the overture of 1770 expects the flutes and oboes will be played by the same musicians, no longer a common practice. It contains echoes of C.P.E. Bach and occupies the transitional space between multi-part Baroque opera overtures and the more familiar symphony to come.


With all his fame as a symphonist and composer of string quartets, Haydn is less remembered as composer of concertos. Partly this is because he wasn’t a virtuoso himself and relied on others to promote them. However, he wrote solos for keyboard, string, wind, and brass instruments; those for cello and trumpet have become cornerstones of those players’ literature.

Haydn’s longtime employment at the court of Esterházy as Kapellmeister (a combination of conductor, composer, and performer) brought him in contact with fine instrumentalists leading their sections of the orchestra. By the 1780s Haydn was known throughout Europe and was able to seat around 24 musicians in his ensemble at its peak.

Principal cellist Anton Kraft (from an aptly named brewing family) was the recipient of this concerto in 1783, about five years after joining the ensemble. He went on to a distinguished solo and chamber career in Vienna premiering Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. As a composition student of Haydn as well, Kraft was long posited as the author of this concerto until the manuscript resurfaced in 1951. During that time the piece was often played in a reorchestrated, romanticized arrangement. Considering Haydn’s much earlier C major concerto wasn’t itself rediscovered until 1961, our history of understanding his cello works accurately is relatively short. Tonight’s concerto is technically demanding for its time with octaves and high passagework and may have been used by Kraft on one of his tours in the 1780s when he met Mozart.


One of the most respected composers of the twentieth century, György Ligeti witnessed as a young man the horrors of WWII, losing family members to the Holocaust and then living under Stalinist repression in eastern Europe. He barely escaped death numerous times, evading both Russians and Germans sometimes through luck. Ligeti’s hope of studying with Béla Bartók at the Budapest Academy was dashed by the latter’s death in 1945.

Postponed by the war and now twenty-two, he was able to study at the Academy anyway. Formally a Romanian citizen though of Hungarian heritage, he found it increasingly difficult to communicate with the West and exercise cultural freedom. Friends were falsely accused of crimes and imprisoned or executed. When Ligeti was instructed in 1949 to compose a cantata in praise of the Hungarian dictator, he used the directive to leverage a scholarship to study folk music in Bucharest, Romania.

During his ten weeks at the Folklore Institute that autumn, which he described as “an unbelievable paradise,” he could freely hear thousands of recordings collected and archived by one of Bartók’s colleagues. Turning down a request the next year from Zoltán Kodály to become a folksong transcriptionist, that eminent composer obtained Ligeti a position as teacher of theory at the Academy. Conveniently the propaganda cantata was forgotten.

After the academic year the benign secretary of the Composers’ Union arranged for Ligeti to spend periods of two to three weeks at the Renaissanceera buildings surrounding Rácoczy Castle in northeastern Hungary where he wrote his Concert Românesc until June 1951. The government allowed this space for artists, a welcome contrast from an unheated apartment. Ligeti’s experience as an orchestral composer was virtually nonexistent. It is a testament to his talent that he managed such a captivating, entertaining ensemble concerto with so little practice, even clearly influenced as it is by Bártok and the Romanian Georges Enescu. The first two movements are based on his Ballad and Dance from months earlier, intended for school orchestra and thus easier to perform than the rest of the concerto, which he conceived for army ensemble. The final violin solo ends on a very long, extremely high trill. It is not impossible Ligeti would have heard Paganini’s fourth violin concerto rediscovered near this time, containing the same trill marked “canario” (canary)!

Mindful of personal safety Ligeti tried to make his general style unobjectionable: a “last compromise, but quite surprising—good and bad at the same time!” He failed. Sight-read by the Hungarian Radio Orchestra, the censors scuttled the work. The score was lost until the 1960s when it was reconstructed from parts for a performance in Evanston, IL and not recorded until this century. In 1956 Ligeti left Hungary and embarked once and for all on his path as an avant-gardist, attracting lasting admiration from the music world.


In 1872 Brahms moved into the three-room Viennese apartment where he would remain the rest of his life. As director of the Society for Friends of Music, he raised the standards of orchestra and choir, programming music of the recent and distant Germanic past from Bach to Schumann as well as select contemporaries. His German Requiem had put him on the map as a composer but the symphonies that are cornerstones of his legacy were still to come.

In a pattern that would be repeated by Mahler (see November program notes), Brahms retreated to a bucolic setting in the summer to work without distractions at a semi-rural inn, swim and walk. In 1873 that meant Tutzing in the Bavarian foothills with a longtime soprano friend who had introduced his Liebeslieder Walzer. Along with songs and string quartets as fruits of labor came these variations— for two pianos.

In 1870 Brahms had found the theme in the collection of a Vienna music historian. Part of an outdoor work for wind instruments ascribed to Joseph Haydn, the second movement was labeled the “St. Anthony” chorale. Scholar H.C. Robbins Landon considered Haydn unlikely to be the author even of the harmonization, as many composers and publishers tried to pass off pieces as the work of that popular master. (Ironically the actual Haydn work on this concert was long attributed to someone else.) Small quirks in the theme’s phrasing combined with a clear melodic outline made the tune a suitable source for elaboration.

The variations themselves present the same kind of seamless music history retrospective as Brahms’s concert programming; there are Baroque, Classical, and Romantic elements sitting easily beside one another. Most notable is the ground bass finale hearkening majestically back to Bach. More of a “paper trail” exists for this music than anything else by Brahms, who usually destroyed sketches and did much preliminary planning in his head.

After completing the piano version Brahms orchestrated the variations likely with advice from conductor Hermann Levi. Thus far only one Serenade of the forty-year-old composer was scored solely for conventional orchestra and certain details needed refinement, such as to leave out the strings in the initial melodic statement. Brahms’s choices leave out heavy brass instruments as befits the music’s eighteenth-century origins.

The first concert of the 1873 Vienna Philharmonic season included the new piece to acclaim, and the following generation of German and English artists especially took it as a model of variations for orchestra. With characteristic understatement Brahms declared the project “passed off quite well.”