Bancroft Family Concerts, 2016-2017

May 13, 2017

String Quartet No. 21 in D Major, K. 575 by W. A. Mozart

The first of three string quartets nicknamed the “Prussian Quartets,” Mozart’s String Quartet K. 575 showcases the cello as a prominent melodic voice almost from the very beginning. This new role for the cellist was unprecedented. Written in 1789 at a time when Mozart was struggling financially, these quartets were commissioned by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II. An accomplished cellist, the King must have had a huge influence on Mozart to write such elegant and virtuosic cello parts. The first movement begins with a long, sustained melody in the first violin accompanied by only the second violin and viola. It is not long before the cello joins in with a much more communicative role compared to Mozart’s earlier works. A contrasting outburst motif fills the movement often with the top three voices against the cello. The second movement continues to put the cello in a responsive role to the first violin with soaring cello lines. A fun and humorous Minuet follows with the cello seamlessly taking over the first violin melody in the Trio. In the fourth movement, the cello states the first theme, giving way completely to the cello as the primary voice in this cello-centric masterpiece.

Quartettsatz by Franz Schubert

A short work consisting of only a single movement, Schubert’s Quartettsatz represents the beginning of his most accomplished writing for strings. Originally intended to be his twelfth string quartet, it is uncertain why Schubert only completed this first movement and 41 bars of the second movement. However, it is quintessential Schubert: a foreboding opening motif passes through the quartet and then moves effortlessly into a serene, song-like theme in the first violin.

Musicologists have speculated why Schubert abandoned some of his most incredible ideas like the “Unfinished” Symphony, but it is certain that these pieces led to some of his most beloved works. Before Quartettsatz, it is thought that Schubert wrote for his family’s quartet who were not professional musicians but who loved to play chamber music together. Much of his writing in these early quartets reflects a need for music that was approachable for these musicians. Quartettsatz marks a huge turning point in that much of the writing is quite virtuosic, especially for the first violin. Music lovers will recall Schubert’s most well-loved String Quartet No. 14 (“Death and the Maiden”), which expands on this more mature writing style. Quartettsatz marks the beginning of Schubert’s late quartets for which he would become so famous.

 

String Quartet No. 6, Sz.114 by Béla Bartók

The Cézanne Quartet has had the frequent pleasure of working with many young music students. Time after time, we emphasize the importance of understanding the historical context of a given composition. By understanding these context clues, we can draw inspiration and creativity in a more thoughtful way. There is no better piece to draw historical insight from than Bartók’s String Quartet No. 6.

Just like visual art, music has an interesting way of drawing influences from historical events, especially war. Bartók’s last work for string quartet, the Quartet No. 6 was written just before World War II. His mother was in poor health and would soon pass. The piece begins with a lament played by solo viola that fills the work with despair, and eventually ends the piece as a pizzicato fragment in the cello. Rather than being an introduction to the first three movements, this “Mesto” (literally, “sadly”) theme holds the piece together as it is intertwined with sarcastic dances and almost false happiness. Bartók became so engrossed in this theme that it makes up the entire last movement despite early sketches suggesting that the piece originally was to end in a more upbeat way.

In the early part of the 20th century, composers were drawn to new techniques in string playing and Bartók is one of the best examples of showcasing these new skills. Snap pizzicato, ricochet bowing, and cadenzas that push each instrument to their limits fill the piece with heightened creativity despite its never-ending melancholy.

— Program Notes by Elizabeth White


April 15, 2017

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) was born in Naples, Italy, the same year as J. S. Bach and Handel. He spent the first half of his life living in the shadow of his composer father, Alessandro Scarlatti. After his father’s death, Domenico developed a style that rendered him one of the greatest keyboard composers of all time. Leaving Italy, he became the resident musician to the Portuguese court, where he taught the gifted Princess Maria Barbara. After the princess’ marriage to the heir of the Spanish throne, Scarlatti moved to Spain where he spent the rest of his life. In an amazing burst of creativity, Scarlatti wrote over 555 keyboard sonatas, each with its own personality. More than half of these sonatas were composed after Scarlatti turned 67!

Sonata K. 443 in D Major, Allegro: Can you hear the influence of a Spanish street band of trumpet fanfares and castanets?

Sonata K. 208 in A Major. Adagio e cantabile: One of the slowest and most beautiful of the sonatas with a lyrical, introspective style.

Sonata K. 29 in D Major, Presto: With a constant rhythmic motion displayed by a spectacular technical display, listen for the punctuated melodic line that emerges in the fiendishly difficult hand crossing.

Sonata K. 435 in D Major, Allegro: An energetic keyboard imitation of a lively village orchestra.

While a student at the Yale School of Music, I was fortunate to study the Scarlatti Sonatas with legendary harpsichordist and Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick. Today we refer to Scarlatti sonatas by their “K” numbers as assigned by Kirkpatrick. – Rogene Russell

Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) began composing at the age of six. At the tender age of 13, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory and became one of Russia’s leading composers. After several trips to the United States, he permanently returned to Russia. Basing his work on William Shakespeare’s play, Prokofiev composed his Romeo and Juliet score in 1935 for the Leningrad Theatre of Opera and Ballet. To ensure more performances of this ballet music, Prokofiev selected music from the ballet, arranged it for piano and premiered it himself in 1937.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) is lauded as one of the “Three Bs” of classical music: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Born in Hamburg, Germany, Brahms was born into a musical but financially perilous household led by a 24-year-old unemployed father who played the bass and a 41-year-old mother who was a seamstress. Although Brahms showed musical promise in his youth, his talents as a composer emerged after his friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim resulted in a meeting with Robert and Clara Schumann in Düsseldorf, an event that had considerable impact on the course of Brahms’s life.

Dedicated to Clara Schumann on her birthday, The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, op. 24, is a work for solo piano written in 1861. It consists of a set of 25 variations and a concluding fugue, all based on a theme from George Frederic Handel’s Harpsichord Suite No. 1 in B-flat Major, HWV 434.

In keeping with the baroque model, Brahms avoids tempo headings throughout the score, although there are many markings of expression and character. Brahms’s 25 variations confine themselves to the key of B-flat, with occasional changes from major to minor mode. This does not constrain Brahms, but provides a powerful structural framework on which to present a variety of moods and characters. All variations are in a 4/4 “common” time signature except No. 19, 23, and 24 which are in 12/8 time, the “compound” version of 4/4.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was an Academy Award-winning 20th century film and romantic music composer. Born in Brno, Austria-Hungary, Erich was the son of the Jewish music critic Julius Korngold. Both Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss were greatly impressed with Korngold’s prodigious musical abilities. In 1938, Korngold was conducting opera in Austria when Warner Bros. invited him to Hollywood to compose a score for their new film The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. Shortly after he arrived in California, Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany and the safety of Jews in Austria became very perilous. Korngold later would say the film score of The Adventures of Robin Hood saved his life.

Korngold met pianist Paul Wittgenstein early in his career in Vienna. The Viennese Wittgenstein family of artistically inclined intellectuals included the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the violinist Joseph Joachim for whom Brahms wrote his Violin Concerto. In 1914, as a soldier in during WWI, Paul Wittgenstein was shot in the elbow and captured by the Russians during the assault on Ukraine. Tragically, his right arm had to be amputated. During his recovery in a prisoner of war camp, Wittgenstein resolved to continue his musical career. Because of the family’s position and wealth, Paul Wittgenstein was able to commission important composers, such as Korngold, Britten, Strauss, and Ravel, to write left-hand only compositions for him. In 1930, the first performance of the Korngold Suite was presented in Vienna by Wittgenstein with members of the Rosé Quartet.

In 2013, the Dallas Museum of Art acquired a one-of-a-kind vitrine, or cabinet, for its permanent collection. Commissioned in 1908 by Paul Wittgenstein’s father and designed by Carl Otto Czeschka in Vienna, this highly ornate vitrine is made of solid silver decorated with enamel, pearls, opals, moonstones, and other semiprecious stones. The 5-foot tall Wittgenstein Vitrine is currently on display until August 27, 2017 in the Conservation Gallery of the Dallas Museum of Art. The Conservation Gallery is located on the top floor of the Museum’s South Concourse and is open and free to the public.

— Program Notes by Rogene Russell


March 25, 2017

György Ligeti (1923-2006) Pianist Anthony di Bonaventura once commented that
“Ligeti heard things that no one else had heard before….His music was highly organized, but it gave the impression of a near-chaotic assemblage of sounds, and nothing was too wild for him.” Ligeti’s life was profoundly transformed by mid-century political upheavals in his native Hungary. Unlike his father and brother, Ligeti survived the concentration camps of World War II and went to Budapest in 1945 to study composition. When Soviet tanks entered Budapest, Ligeti made a dramatic escape into Austria on foot in winter, forever defining his character and career. Soon after in Cologne, he was creating clusters of independent but overlapping musical lines that Ligeti famously called “micropolyphony.” Ligeti used these concepts in Lux Aeterna – a work made famous by its appearance in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Horn Trio of 1982 represents the culmination of Ligeti’s interest in revisiting aspects of the western classical tradition. Although the trio was a commission in celebration of a Brahms’ anniversary, the first movement begins
with a distortion of the famous horn-call that opens Beethoven’s “Lebewohl” (Farewell) Piano Sonata and which Johannes Brahms also used in his own Horn Trio of 1865. In addition to using natural horn harmonics, Ligeti chose more conventional forms for the Trio’s four movements. It is interesting to note that Ligeti’s mother died during the composition of the horn trio prompting many scholars to speculate why he included the Beethoven “Farewell” Sonata in the trio.

Listen for these techniques: 

In the first movement, the tone of the horn changes from open to stopped horn notes. Handstopping is a technique in which a natural horn can be made to produce notes outside of its normal harmonic series. By inserting the right hand into the bell, the player can change the pitch and tone while producing quiet dynamics.

Harmonics: When a musical instrument plays a note, we are actually hearing a fundamental pitch accompanied by a series of higher overtones. This is the principle of a dog whistle that produces high pitches or overtones only a dog can hear. These high pitches are called harmonics. When a musician causes one of these harmonics to sound, without sounding its fundamental pitch, it is called playing a harmonic.

Violin Harmonics: Natural harmonics are produced on open strings and artificial or stopped harmonics are produced on stopped strings. Artificial harmonics create a breathy tone.

Horn Harmonics: Modern horns are capable of producing 12 different harmonic overtone series. By using different sets of harmonics between violin and horn at the same time, Ligeti creates clashing harmonic pitches that sound out of tune.

Adapted from Program Notes by Beth E. Levy

for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, used with permission

“Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)

Estonia, an independent Baltic state in north eastern Europe, is bordered by Latvia and Russia, and lies south of Finland on the Baltic Sea. Born there in 1935, composer Arvo Pärt writes spare, haunting music that has attracted listeners for decades. As a composer of religious choral music, his instrumental works evoke a gentle and sincere spirituality though their sheer beauty of tone and simplicity. After studying and composing neo-classic and serial music, Pärt reached a creative impasse. He turned to chant and simple two-part counterpoint, the historical origins of classical music. Pärt refined a new style and technique he calls tintinnabuli referring to the bell-like tones of the notes in a basic three note chord. The music often contains a slow melody moving in small steps accompanied by tintinnabuli sounding chords, usually one note at a time in an arpeggio.

Written in 1978 just before he left Estonia, Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror) is perhaps Pärt’s most famous composition. The violin slowly chants the melody while the piano decorates and supports the melodic line with a slightly faster chain of single notes, each one creating harmony one note at a time. The music is sweet, calm, clear, and powerfully moving.

German native Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) wrote his Trio for HornViolin and Piano during the summer of 1865 at Lichtenthal, where Clara Schumann owned a cottage. The idea for the work came to Brahms during his morning walks in the wooded hillsides of the Black Forest above the town. When the score was completed in November, the composer performed as pianist in the work’s premiere.

The unusual first movement is a gentle contemplative and leisurely andante (perhaps the speed of Brahms’s hill-walking) with two alternating themes. The second movement, an energetic scherzo with a contrasting lyrical minor trio, makes use of the association of the horn with hunting. In the deeply-felt slow movement, its melancholy mood suggests sadness at the death of the composer’s mother in the preceding year. Possibly as a tribute to his mother and his childhood, Brahms weaves a childhood folksong Dort in den Weiden steht ein Haus (There is a House in the Willows) into the horn and violin lines. This becomes the principal theme of the finale, transforming the sad preceding music into a joyous and life-affirming statement.

—Program Notes by Rogene Russell


February 25, 2017

Preludes and Fugues—First to Last

Regarded by many as the greatest composer of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was known during his lifetime primarily as an outstanding organist and composer. Bach was born in the central German town of Eisenach, Thuringia into a large family of musicians who earned their livings as town musicians, organists, and cantors. Both of his parents died by the time Bach turned 9. He and his brother then traveled to the small town of Ohrdruf to live with their eldest brother who was a church organist. By the age of 18, Bach began his journey as a professional musician with an appointment as a church organist in nearby Arnstadt. Throughout his life, Bach achieved remarkable heights in the art of fugue. Today’s program opens with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Major from the first volume of the Well-Tempered Clavier. These preludes and fugues for keyboard are one of the landmarks of western classical music. Each volume contains a free-flowing prelude followed by a tightly constructed fugue written in all 12 of the major and minor keys of the scale, totaling 24 preludes and 24 fugues. Bach wrote two such sets making 48 in all. The significance of the title lies in Bach’s intent to support a new system of tuning keyboard instruments by artificially dividing the scale into 12 equally spaced notes thereby replacing the natural, unequal acoustic divisions which produced severe tuning problems.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was born and raised in St. Petersburg where he studied at its famous Conservatory following World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917. A politicized figure during his lifetime, Shostakovich attained a prominent career based on the immense emotive power of his music which was composed under the conditions of Communist dictatorship. By the time of his centennial in 2006, Shostakovich was commonly hailed by as one of the greatest 20th century composers. In 1950, Shostakovich went to Leipzig, Germany, to partake in a musical festival commemorating the bicentennial of J. S. Bach’s death. He was on the jury panel of the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition where a young Russian pianist offered to play any of the 48 Preludes and Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier on request. To the jury’s amazement, the young pianist fulfilled the requests and won the competition. Once Shostakovich returned to Moscow, he immediately started his own cycle of 24 Preludes and Fugues. Shostakovich stays close to Bach by presenting preludes and fugues in the major and parallel minor modes, yet he arranges them according to the circle of fifths.

Today’s program pairs Bach’s first prelude and fugue with Shostakovich’s final prelude and fugue.

Sonata for Bassoon and Cello in B-flat Major, K 292

Born in Salzburg, Austria, in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was considered a child prodigy pianist, violinist, and composer. During his short life span of 35 years, he composed over 600 works including operas, masses, symphonies, and chamber music. The genius in this outstanding canon of compositions established Mozart as one of the pillars of classical music. At the age of 19, he was commissioned by Baron Thaddäus von Dürnitz to write the duo we hear today. A wealthy patron and passionate music connoisseur, Dürnitz was also an active bassoonist, pianist, and composer. Due to the manner in which the cello part is written with figured bass, some Mozart scholars speculate that this work could have been a sonata for bassoon and keyboard or written for two bassoons. Because no autographed copy of the music has survived, we will never know Mozart’s true purpose for the piece.

 

Symphony No. 15 in A major, opus 141Arranged by Viktor Derevianko and Mark Pekarsky for violin, cello, piano, and percussion

Arrangements of familiar symphonic works for smaller groups of instruments fascinate because they promise new experience and revelation. In the age predating sound recordings, when Steinways rather than Sonys decorated the music lover’s home, Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies for piano trio and piano solo enjoyed popularity. One may still find recordings of Rite of Spring and Planets arranged for piano four hands. Today’s concert presents the first movement of a full symphony transcribed for six musicians. Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony arrangement for piano trio and percussion was completed by pianist Viktor Derevianko in 1972 with the benefit of the composer’s personal approval. Because the original Fifteenth Symphony employs a chamber-like instrumentation, Derevianko’s arrangement is able to capture the introspective character, vision, and expression of the work. The role of the 13 percussion instruments in this transcription is similar to the composer’s original score. The violin and cello assume the role of the strings while the piano usually represents the woodwinds and brass. The most conspicuously altered timbre is the assignment of the prominent trumpet parts to the cello, including the William Tell quotations. Rather than being relegated to the oddities compartment, this chamber approach to the score illuminates how wonderfully flexible Shostakovich’s music is in its ability to communicate in any number of forms.      (www.dschjournal.com)

—Program Notes by Rogene Russell


January 28, 2017

When considering the lives of classical music’s famous composers, most music lovers think of either stuffy, powdered wigs or starving artists scribbling onto scraps of manuscript paper. While both images are true for the composers on today’s program, the life of Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is a classic rags-to-riches narrative. Born in Austria where his father was a wheelwright and his mother was a cook, Haydn revealed unusual musical gifts early in his life. Haydn’s cousin who was a choirmaster in the nearby city of Hainburg offered to take him into his home and train him. Not yet 6 years old, Haydn left home rarely to return to his parental cottage. By the age of 8, Haydn moved to Vienna to serve as a chorister in St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Vienna’s most important church. Unfortunately, when his voice changed, Haydn was released from both the cathedral choir and the choir school. With no money and few possessions, 17-year-old Haydn was left to his own devices. He found refuge in the garret of a fellow musician and supported himself with odd jobs in the field of music. With persistence and energy, Haydn made progress in his compositional prowess and eventually was invited to enter the service of Prince Pál Antal Esterházy as court composer. The Esterházys, one of the wealthiest and most-influential families of the Austrian empire, boasted a distinguished record of supporting music. Haydn’s employment by the Esterházy family proved decisive for his career and he remained in their service until his death.

Little is known about Haydn’s Octet for Winds. Once he became famous, Haydn’s music was much in demand and publishers were more than willing to attribute any composition that even vaguely resembled his style to Haydn. With no autographed score, the Wind Octet falls into this category of undocumented compositions attributed to Haydn. While with the Esterházy family (1761-1790), Haydn had daily access to his own talented orchestra and the finest singers. This propelled his artistic growth, allowing him to experiment at will. Within the staggering musical output he created while serving the Esterházy family — this octet probably included — one can trace the evolution of style and technique that eventually shaped all of classical music.

While in Vienna, the young Mozart sought out the elderly Haydn as a teacher and mentor. Haydn’s opinion of Mozart is summed up in a letter first published in 1798 in which Haydn wrote, “. . . scarcely any man can brook comparison with the great Mozart. If I could only impress on the soul of every friend of music how inimitable are Mozart’s works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive — then the nations would vie with each other to possess such a jewel within their frontiers.” Mozart also regarded Haydn with great respect. A biography published shortly after Mozart’s death reports, “Mozart became a most sincere admirer of the great and incomparable Joseph Haydn. Mozart often called him his teacher.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Austria on January 27, 1756. Mozart grew up in Salzburg under the regulation of his strict father, Leopold, who was a renowned composer in his own right. Considered a child genius, Mozart was admired for his excellent piano playing and improvisations. Starting at the age of 6, his father took him and his sister on concert tours first to Vienna and Munich, and later to other cities in Germany, Paris, and London. As a composer, Mozart created over 600 works including the famous operas Die Zauberflöte (“The Magic Flute”) and Don Giovanni, as well as masses, symphonies, and chamber music. In 1769, Mozart became the unsalaried concertmaster of the Salzburg court ensemble and traveled throughout Europe to meet other composers. In 1781, he left Salzburg and went to Vienna, where he began his friendship with Franz Joseph Haydn.

After Mozart settled in Vienna in 1781, he composed three wind serenades that transcend the modest ambitions of most serenades. The serenade was traditionally written for court wind bands called Harmoniemusik. Associated with outdoor entertainment, serenades generally provided background music during ceremonial or civic occasions. Virtually nothing is known about Mozart’s motivation to compose the C minor serenade. Perhaps Mozart was hoping to secure a court position by impressing Emperor Joseph II, who in 1782 had formed his own court Harmoniemusik consisting of eight performers drawn from the Imperial Opera. This wind serenade’s dark mood and technical sophistication raise the possibility that it was intended for a more discerning audience than the usual “Night Music Serenade.” Whatever the reason, this radical work — with its stormy, explosive opening Allegro and its contrapuntal complexity — was totally out of keeping with then-current expectations for the genre. Later realizing this serenade’s unusual and atypical character, Mozart transcribed the work for a two-viola string quintet (K. 406). Despite the phenomenal music Mozart left as his legacy, he died in poverty at the age of 36 and was buried in a communal grave.

— Program Notes by Rogene Russell


November 12, 2016

TWINGE is scored for soprano, piano and clarinet and was written for Kim Luevano, Lindsay Kesselman and Midori Koga of Haven Trio. The text for TWINGE was adapted with permission from Barry Bearak’s New York Times Magazine November 27, 2005 cover story, “The Day the Sea Came.” TWINGE was commissioned through the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund. The work is dedicated to the memories of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the December 26, 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

“For the earth, it was just a twinge. Last Dec. 26, at 7:59 a.m., one part of the planet’s undersea crust made an abrupt shift beneath another along a 750-mile seam near the island of Sumatra. The tectonic plates had been grating against each other for millenniums, and now the higher of the two was lifted perhaps 60 feet. For a planet where landmasses are in constant motion across geological time, the event was of no great moment. But for people — who mark the calendar in days and months rather than eons — a monumental catastrophe had begun, not only the largest earthquake in 40 years but also the displacement of billions of tons of water, unleashing a series of mammoth waves: a tsunami…”

– Barry Bearak, in “The Day the Sea Came,” The New York Times, November 27, 2005 © 2005 The New York Times. All rights reserved.

Acknowledgements

The composer gratefully acknowledges Barry Bearak, author of the New York Times Magazine cover story article, “The Day the Sea Came” (November 27, 2005), whose generous permission has allowed this adaptation and musical setting of his account of stories from six survivors of the 2004 tsunami.

And, sincere thanks to the members of Haven Trio for their collaborative and supportive spirit in bringing this music to life.

 

From Jon Magnussen, composer

On Sunday after Thanksgiving 2005, I read Barry Bearak’s cover story article in the New York Times Magazine, “The Day the Sea Came.” Once I had begun reading, I couldn’t stop. Finally, I had finished, and I just wanted to be quiet for a time. Bearak’s moving account of six survivors from the December 26, 2004 Indonesian tsunami was so beautiful – at once full of humanity, tragedy, and, ultimately, hope. The tsunami had wreaked havoc on a land so far away, and yet I felt an almost familial closeness with the survivors. Over the next decade, I shared the story with friends in the choral and vocal worlds in hopes of kindling interest in a musical collaboration inspired by the stories. Finally, Kim, Lindsay, and Midori of Haven Trio asked me in 2014 to write a new work for them. They were excited at my suggestion to base the work on Bearak’s article.

From his story, I assembled the texts for 15 songs, choosing them for the variety of stories they told, and for the beauty and precision of their language. While the heaviness of human tragedy was a constant presence in Bearak’s story, his clear-eyed portrayals of the survivors’ experiences brought a wide range of human emotions to the reader including humor, joy, and yearning. My intention in setting these texts to music was to honor the memory of those who had passed in the tsunami, as well as honor the resilient spirits of those who had survived and carried on. The stories told in TWINGE, then, are those of Jaloe (Around Eight), Romi (The Rich), Haikal (I Look to the West; The Discovery Chanel), Faridah (The Water is Warm; This is Not the End; The Matchmaker), and Maisara (My Heaven; This is the House; There is a Homemade Sign). Some of the texts also took a narrator’s voice (Billions, Some Live, The Lighthouse, Vast).

I composed the 15 songs over a two-month period in summer 2016, and met with the musicians in early August for a short workshop period. In setting the words to music, I allowed a variety of influences to pervade the work. My own musical voice is an omnivorous one, inclusive of many concert music influences as well as other popular music genres and styles. In regard to the ordering of the songs, I composed the songs knowing that a subset of the songs may be needed at times, or perhaps a different ordering, to adapt to different performance circumstances. My wish, as I expressed it to the Haven Trio at the outset of the collaboration, is for them to try out different orderings and find their own preferred order.


October 15, 2016

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major         J. S. Bach (1685-1750) The Brandenburg concerti are a collection of six ensemble works, each one featuring a different combination of instruments and players. Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto was originally written for strings—three violins, three violas, and three cellos, with a harpsichord accompaniment. This version features a different set of strings — specifically 188 strings, as each harp has 47 strings.

Rhapsodie            Marcel Grandjany (1891-1975) French harpist, organist, and composer Marcel Grandjany wrote his Rhapsodie to be a recital opener on concert programs, as it gives the audience a full display of the harp’s sonority and color palette. The opening melody is based on the Gregorian chant Salve Festa Dies, which Grandjany expands and transforms into a lyrical display of virtuosity.

Jardin des Paons and Parvis         Bernard Andres (b. 1941) The two works of Bernard Andres on this program display a wide range of unusual articulations and rhythms that showcase the full range of the harp’s abilities. Jardin des Paons (“Peacock Garden”) is ethereal and dreamy, while Parvis is a sharp, driving force from beginning to end.

Scintillation       Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961) After a trip to Mexico, Carlos Salzedo wrote Scintillation as a brilliant combination of extended techniques and various dance rhythms. The signature point of the piece is the middle glissando section, where the harpist uses only the pedals to change the harmonies at a furious pace.

Ma Mere l’Oye     Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Maurice Ravel originally wrote Ma Mere l’Oye (“Mother Goose”) as a suite of five simple piano duets for children. He later orchestrated the suite, but the version on this concert is taken from the original piano duet. Each movement describes a different fairy tale, some more well-known than others. This two harp version includes the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, and the Empress of the Pagoda.

Fantaisie sur un Theme de l’Opera Eugene Onegin            E.W. Kune (1870-1930) Based on musical themes from Tchaikovsky’s tragic opera Eugene Onegin, Ekaterina Walter-Kune’s Fantaisie combines the lyricism of the operatic melodies with harpistic arpeggios and chords and a brilliant finish. The Dallas Opera opens its 2016-2017 season later this month with this opera.

Raga        Caroline Lizotte (b. 1969) This harp duet by Canadian composer Caroline Lizotte is a tour de force for two harps, combining driving rhythms, unusual harmonies and percussive effects (take note of the ankle bells!). Throughout the piece, the two harps exchange ideas and engage in seamless interactions, often trading lines and merging into one voice.

Le Rossignol           Franz Liszt (1811-1886) Le Rossignol (“The Nightingale”) is inspired by a Russian folk melody, transformed into a virtuoso piano piece by Franz Liszt. Harpist and composer Henriette Renié transcribed the work for harp. The haunting initial melody slowly transforms into a whirlwind middle section, before the nightingale’s song comes to a heart-wrenching end.

Gallo Ciego       Agustin Bardi (1884-1941) Literally translating as “the blind rooster,” Gallo Ciego is a snappy, fast-paced tango. This version is adapted from the original tango ensemble, consisting of a piano, bandoneon, guitar, and flute.

— Program Notes by Emily Levin

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