Much Ado

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Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.54.21 PM.png

Much Ado


for orchestra (2000)

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  • Premiere: 1 May 2000  / The Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  / Orchestra of the Curtis Institute / Robert Spano 
  • Instrumentation: 
  • Duration: 11'
  • Dedication: Commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music in Celebration of its 75th Anniversary
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A complete performance by the Curtis Orchestra / Spano

Program Note

Robert Spano

Robert Spano

Daron Hagen's musical response to the richness and bouyancy of spirit that characterizes Shakespeare's great comedy Much Ado About Nothing is a generous abundance of orchestrational color, virtually nonstop instrumental virtuosity, open-hearted brio, and a vivacious, merry brashness in keeping with the performing instruction that heads the score, 'Galloping Headlong.' 

In a program note Hagen wrote for the premiere on 1 May 2000 by the Orchestra of the Curtis Institute he notes that the rondo form of the overture reflects the 'delightful symmetry' of the play's drammaturgy. The overture is overtly theatrical in nature, and mirrors the action of the play, with each character assigned a theme. The witty, flirtatious, quarrelsome Beatrice and Benedick are portrayed together in the main theme which is tossed back and forth in a busy display of competitive virtuosity by the first and second violins. Hero's theme (first heard alone in the solo flute) and Claudio's theme (first heard alone in a long line for solo trumpet) are likewise intertwined, though in a gentle manner more suitable to the character of their relationship, and heard most clearly together when played by the solo flute and solo clarinet. Dogberry and his ridiculous crew of male revellers provide comic relief in periodic intentionally-over-the-top french horn calls, while the female revellers' calls of 'hey nonny nonny' echo in the peals of the recurring brilliant trumpet sennets and flourishes. 

Dedicated by the composer to Gary and Naomi Graffman, Much Ado was commissioned to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Curtis Institute of Music and first performed 1 May, 2000 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia by the Orchestra of the Curtis Institute conducted by Robert Spano.


What helped this sometimes dazzling piece to succeed was Hagen's clever way of introducing new ideas or textures every few bars.... Much Ado served as a nifty appetizer to a carefully designed evening of good vibrations. This was, after all, the season-opener. [Nashville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Schermerhorn.]

— Alan Bostick, The Tennessean, 9/5/03

An uncommonly audacious romp. ...Hagen's sound is mostly large and rich, marked by a steady pulse driving intricately lively textures that recall both the Renaissance lute and Charlie Parker's saxophone. Amid this lusty turbulence swim long, strong brass melodies that rise, and disappear, and rise again. Hagen quotes a line from Shakespeare's comedy that also fits his own work: 'What a merry, exhilarating play.' Much Ado was a beautifully chosen piece for this orchestra in this hall, filling the venue's space with vital energy. [Nashville Symphony; Schermerhorn.]

— Marcel Smith, Nashville Scene, September 11-17, 2003

Hagen's Much Ado lived up to its title in all the wrong ways. The composer kept the orchestra extremely busy, but with musical activities that seemed third hand; one soaring french horn passage (the sort you hear in inspirational moments of corny movies) was repeated three [sic] times, even though once was enough to kill the piece's credibility. [Curtis Symphony conducted by Robert Spano.]

— David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/3/00

The sweeping violins and noble horns of Mr. Hagen's Much Ado were reminiscent of John Williams' movie scores. Maybe Mr. Hagen should have a go at it. [Dallas Symphony, conducted by Andrew Litton.]

— Olin Chism, The Dallas Morning News, 6/27/03

My first thought, just as the piece ended, was that I ought to jump to my feet. My second was that it must have been incredibly difficult to create something that sounded so effortlessly ebullient.

— David Matthews, Fanfare Magazine