web analytics
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The program of the first 2015 concert was chosen in part to take advantage of existing notes by Craig Leman. Besides those he had written for this festival, there are hundreds more written for Friends of Chamber Music and its current incarnation, Chamber Music Corvallis. Through their generosity and the work of Angela Carlson and the Leman family, we were able to use several more sets in this season.

In Fall 2014, an excellent arts journalist moved to Corvallis. We are delighted that he agreed to do program notes for the festival. Tom Strini, for many years music and dance critic for the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel, now teaches critical writing and an innovative approach to music composition at Oregon State University. He mentors a new student publication and is immersing himself in the Corvallis music scene.

Opening Concert: Friday June 19 • Congregational Church
. dedicated to the memory of Craig B. Leman

Beethoven • String Quartet Op. 18, No. 6
Clarke • Lullaby and Grotesque
Tchaikovsky • Souvenir de Florence

Concert #2: Tuesday June 23 • Whiteside Theatre

Paul Robb • Bandóneon
Schulhoff • Concertino Trio for flute, viola, bass
Bartók • Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion

Salem Concert: Thursday June 25, 7:00 pm

Haydn • Piano Trio in G Major (Gypsy Rondo)
Schulhoff • Concertino Trio for flute, viola, bass
Schubert • Quintet in A Major, D. 667 (the “Trout”)

Concert #3: Friday June 26 • Congregational Church

Mozart • Quartet K. 387
Vivaldi • Chamber Concerto in g minor
Mel Bonis • Fantasy Septet
Prokofiev • Quintet Op. 39

Concert #4: Sunday June 28 • Congregational Church

Beethoven • Cello Sonata #3, Op. 69 in A major
Kenji Bunch • Shout Chorus
Lalliet • Carnival of Venice for oboe and piano
Dohnányi • Sextet

Finale: Wednesday July 1 • Whiteside Theatre
CHAMBER ORCHESTRA CONCERT

Bloch • Concertino for flute and viola
Copland • Appalachian Spring
Saint-Saëns • Carnival of the Animals

—————————————————————————————————————– ———————

Opening Concert: Friday June 19 • Congregational Church
.      dedicated to the memory of Craig B. Leman

.
• Quartet in B-Flat Major, Opus 18, No. 6   Ludwig von Beethoven   1770-1827

Allegro con brio
Adagio, ma non troppo
Scherzo: Allegro
La Malinconia: Adagio; Allegretto quasi allegro

Jessica Lambert, violin     Erik Peterson, violin     Phillip Stevens, viola     Anne Ridlington, cello

Beethoven’s surviving notebooks and manuscripts reveal his compositional process for four of the six quartets of Opus 18, but not the one we hear tonight.  It took him three years to finish the project.

For Beethoven as a human being, these were critical years as he faced the onset of the hearing problem that radically changed his life.  His letters and private papers reveal his raging struggle, despair, renunciation of love and marriage, his efforts to seek a cure, and finally his acceptance of his fate.  His resignation and determination to survive until he had expressed himself fully in his compositions came later; in 1800 he was still determined, in his own words, to “take fate by the throat.”  In 1801, three years after he first noted his hearing problems, Beethoven made his first known reference to it in a letter to a close friend:

“Your Beethoven is most unhappy and at strife with nature and Creator. I have often cursed the latter for exposing creatures to the merest accident so that often the most beautiful buds are broken or destroyed thereby.  Only think that my noblest faculty, my hearing, has greatly deteriorated.”

The final movement of the quartet we hear tonight marks the transition between the relatively happy, gregarious early years and the dark, isolated years of his maturity. 

        Craig B. Leman, written for the Jan. 15, 1998 performance by the Ying Quartet; courtesy of Chamber Music Corvallis. The festival is indebted to Angela Carlson and the Leman family for transcribing all of Dr. Leman’s notes used in this book.

.
• Lullaby and Grotesque   Rebecca Clarke   1886-1979

     Adam Matthes, viola    Noah Seitz, cello

Rebecca Clarke was born in England; her mother was German and her father American.  She studied viola and then composition with C. Villiers Stanford in London. In 1912 Sir Henry Wood appointed her violist in the previously all-male Queens Hall Orchestra—the first woman to hold such a position. She earned her living as a traveling soloist and as a teacher, composing when she had time, and moved to the United States just before World War I.

[One of her many viola manuscripts] bears this inscription from Alfred de Musset’s poem Night in May:
“Poet, take up your lute.  The wine of youth is heady tonight in God’s veins.”

Because Clarke had to work hard teaching and playing to support herself, she had little time and energy for composition.  Like most composers of either gender, she was unable to get many works published.  After her death, her advocates organized a Rebecca Clarke Society, which has collected her manuscripts and is gradually getting them published.  You may reach their website by googling “Rebecca Clarke.”

      Craig B. Leman, excerpted from his notes for the opening concert, June 13, of the 2006 Chintimini Festival.

.

• Sextet, Opus 70 “Souvenir de Florence”    Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky    1840-1893

Allegro con spirito
Adagio cantabile e con moto
Allegretto moderato
Allegro vivace

Erik Peterson, Violin            Jessica Lambert, Violin
Phillip Stevens, Viola          Adam Matthes, Viola
Anne Ridlington, Cello         Noah Seitz, Cello

This is Tchaikovsky’s last chamber composition, written in 1890 and then revised thoroughly in 1892.  Tchaikovsky wrote it after a long winter sojourn in Florence where he was finishing his opera The Queen of Spades.  Like Mozart whom he had idolized from childhood, Tchaikovsky was drawn to Italy and to Italian music; he had visited Rome ten years earlier and composed his popular Capriccio Italien.

The music reflects his happiness during this visit and through the months that followed.  The next year was harder for him — a grueling trip to America where he was warmly received — and then health problems and depression.  Writing chamber music had never come easily to Tchaikovsky.  He had not heard it till quite late in his student years, and then he did not like it.  He began to compose chamber music reluctantly, but learned to enjoy it in spite of his initial antipathy.  He apparently found it difficult to score the work for six instruments, and it took him two years of intermittent work to revise it for publication.

He was pleased enough with the first performance to write his brother:
“What a sextet!  And what a fugue at the end!  It’s a pleasure.  Awful, how pleased I am with myself!”

      Craig B. Leman, written for the opening concert, June 12, of the first Chintimini Festival, in 2001.

Concert #2: Tuesday June 23 • Whiteside Theatre

.

Bandoneon               Paul Robb                  b. 1963

            Composed on commission from Chintimini Chamber Music

Erik Peterson, violin                 Phillip Stevens, viola
Noah Seitz, cello                      Brian Johnson, double bass

In the composer’s words:

“A bandoneon is a small accordian used in the folk and dance music of South America.  It is an essential instrument in most tango ensembles from the traditional orquestra tipica of the 1910’s to today. As the name implies, the short piece (~6:00) attempts to capture the passionate drive and rhythmic essence of the classic tango and milonga forms, while not necessarily adhering to their typical forms and structures.  Central to the style (and perhaps to all dance music) is the rhythmic pulse underpinning and driving the melodies. As a composer of mostly electronic works aimed at the popular audience, it has long been an ambition of mine to bring some of the energy and liveliness of popular dance music forms into the sometimes arid world of “classical” and art music. I’ve chosen to use a bass viol in the ensemble, rather than the typical two-violin configuration, for similar reasons: I feel that most younger listeners crave more “low end” than a typical chamber ensemble delivers.”
______________________________________________________________________

 From this point on, the majority of 2015 notes were contributed by a newcomer to the Northwest. Tom Strini, for many years music and dance critic for the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel, now teaches critical writing and an innovative approach to music composition at Oregon State University. He mentors a new student publication and is immersing himself in the Corvallis music scene.

_____________________________________________________________________

.
Concertino for Flute, Viola and Bass    Erwin Schulhoff             1894-1942

Catherine Peterson, flute    Phillip Stevens, viola   Brian Johnson, double bass

Schulhoff, born in Prague to German and Jewish parents in 1894, perished in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942, where he was interned for both his Jewish parentage and his leftist politics. He showed talent from an early age and entered the Prague Conservatory at age 10 and later studied in Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne. Schulhoff was well-known in Europe in the 1920s, as a virtuoso pianist first but also as a widely published and performed composer with an interest in new trends, including jazz and microtonal music. He was a friend of Expressionist artist George Grosz and a student of Reger and Debussy, whose harmonies influenced him greatly. Upon returning to Prague after a stay in Germany, he became a fixture in the Czech avant-garde.

Schulhoff’s considerable body of work splits into four style periods, starting with the early influence of German Romanticism. He experimented with Dadaist artists and dabbled in serialism, entered a polystylist period of blending jazz, what we today would call World Music, and Neoclassical ideas (“Art Jazz” was the term in the 1920s). Later he adopted Soviet-style Socialist Realism, excemplified by his  oratorio based on the Communist Manifesto.

The 17-minute Concertino premiered in 1925, with none other than Paul Hindemith playing the viola part, at the Donaueschingen Music Festival. It leans toward a spare, Neoclassical style, but with lots of tritones and Debussian parallel chords and whole-tone scales. Stravinskian “primitive” syncopated dance tunes abound in the substantial second movement. An open mind conceived this music.

Notes by Tom Strini. Source: Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942): An Analytical Study and Discussion of Concertino for Flute, Viola, Double Bass, WV 75, and Sonata for Flute and Pianoforte, WV 86, Maria D Alene’s 2011 dissertation written for her DMA from the University of North Texas.

.

Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion Béla Bartók   1881-1945

Jean-David Coën,piano               Rachelle McCabe, piano
Robert Brudvig, percussion         Justin Preece, percussion

 Bartók and his pianist wife, Ditta, joined two percussionists in the premiere of this groundbreaking work in Basel in 1938. The 32-minute Sonata still sounds daring today. Much of the music has a surreal, menacing cast. Monumental combinations of timpani and widely spaced low piano harmonies and nervous, twitchy rhythms suggest the house jazz band in the Hell Nightclub. But this music is as thrilling as it is scary, as Bartók serves up one sonic amazement after another. The slow movement builds tense and twisted mystery as the composer turns the screw. In the fast movements, Bartók builds tremendous momentum as brawny sounds tumble and lurch relentlessly forward in wild syncopation. Fasten your seat belts.
                                                                        Program notes by Tom Strini

Salem Concert: Thursday June 25, 7:00 pm
.

.
Piano Trio in G Major, Hob. XVL25 (“Gypsy Rondo”)     F.J. Haydn     1732-1809

Andante
Poco adagio
Finale: Rondo all’Ongarese. Presto

Katherine McLin, violin     Noah Seitz,cello      Andrew Campbell, piano

The first movement of this artifact of 1795 epitomizes the Classical ideas of poise, balance, charm, restraint and clarity. Haydn wants us to locate ourselves in the form and lights a clear path from first theme to second to closing theme, through the exhilarating development and to a neat recapitulation. Everything in its place.

The musicians must conceal the labor required to meet its virtuoso demands. The aesthetic requires them to make it look and sound easy. The graceful fleetness of the first movement gives way to studied exquisiteness of both sound and sentiment in the second. Haydn says enough civilization, already, goes slumming in the famous, concluding “gypsy” rondo – actually labelled “all’Ongarese,” or in the Hungarian style. He mimics gypsy fiddling in bits of chromatic alterations and in sudden shifts of mood and tempo in two episodes interspersed among a jaunty hornpipe of a main rondo theme. Forget politeness, burn the strings off that violin.

                                                                                    Notes by Tom Strini..

Schulhoff • Concertino Trio for flute, viola, bass – Tuesday June 23 & Salem June 25 – see above
.

Quintet in A Major, D. 667   Franz Schubert   1797-1828

Allegro vivace
Andante
Scherzo: Presto
Tema: Andantino
Finale: Allegro giusto

Katherine McLin, violin              PhillipStevens, viola             Noah Seitz, cello
Brian Johnson, double bass     Andrew Campbell, piano

The summer of 1819 was perhaps the happiest time of Schubert’s life.  After a dreary year of teaching, he enjoyed a vacation as a guest of wealthy friends in the picturesque town of Steyr.  At their request, he wrote this quintet to include a set of variations on the theme of Die Forelle.  He wrote out the parts and gave them to his friends, but did not score the whole piece till he returned to Vienna.  His friends gave its first performance that December, but it was not published till after his death.

A spirit of joy is present from the lyrical piano arpeggio that begins the quintet.  With the bass providing the low register of the harmony, the cello has freedom for soloistic passages that sing out the melody.  The piano plays mostly in the upper part of its range.  Schubert’s scoring produces a gorgeous tonal combination hard to match anywhereelse in the literature.  At least one music historian has inferred that, on a visit to Hungary a year earlier, Schubert had heard small bands of violins, a double-bass, and a cymbalon (a hammered dulcimer) to bridge the huge gap between their ranges, and that hearing this combination helped Schubert devise his sparkling, magical way of using the piano’s high register to enhance the melodies of the strings.

Craig B. Leman, written for the opening concert, June 14, of the 2005 Chintimini Festival.

Concert #3: Friday June 26 • Congregational Church

.

Quartet in G Major, K. 387      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart      1756-1791

Allegro vivace assai
Menuetto; Allegro
Andante cantabile
Molto Allegro

Rachel Lee Priday, violin         Erik Peterson, violin
Kenji Bunch, viola                    Anne Ridlington, cello

 Mozart was in his mid-twenties when he began the first of the six quartets dedicated to and inspired by Haydn.  Although Mozart usually wrote for a specific purpose (on commission, in competition for a position, or for his own concerts), these quartets clearly stemmed from his own inner needs.  The manuscripts, now in the British Museum, show many revisions and far more rewriting than his other manuscripts.

Like his father Leopold, Wolfgang sought a permanent post as court composer and never really got it.  The closest he came was a position as organist and concertmaster for the Archbishop of Salzburg, but he left there in 1781 in anger and frustration.  He moved to Vienna, where he married and settled down for his remaining decade of life.

His biographer Marcia Davenport has described Mozart in his Vienna apartment; pale, thin and stooped from long hours of writing music at his desk.  (Unlike many other composers, he chose not to compose at the piano.) When his doctor prescribed fresh air, walks, and exercise, Mozart complied by buying a billiard table, taking up bowling, and getting up early to ride horseback.)  (One hopes that in addition to remaining pale, thin and stooped, the patient did not become bowlegged as well.)

This work is beautifully integrated.  The first violin introduces the main theme of the first movement in sonata form, providing the basis for all that follows.  The second subject appears first in the second violin part.  The minuet is closely related to both these subjects.  The andante has a continuous development of the same theme.  The finale is fugal in sonata form, ending with a simple, serene reinstatement of the original theme. He completed the score on New Year’s Eve, 1782.

On February 12, 1785, Mozart gave a small party to honor his father.  On that occasion, the quartet we hear tonight received its first performance, sight-read from manuscript by Haydn and Dittersdorf, violins; Mozart, viola; and Vauhal, cello.

        Craig B. Leman, written for the Oct. 29, 1976 performance by the Melos Quartet Stuttgart; courtesy of Chamber Music Corvallis.

.

Concerto in G Minor (Fano XXI/6)       Antonio Vivaldi       (ca. 1678-1741)

Allegro
Largo
Allegro

Abigail Sperling, flute         Lara Wickes, oboe        Carin Miller Packwood, bassoon
Shin-Young Kwon, violin    Sunghee Kim piano

As a young court organist at Weimar, Bach discovered Vivaldi’s concertos and promptly made their virtues his own.  Henceforth many of his works showed the electric interplay of solo and tutti that was the hallmark of the Italian style.  All the traits that so affected Bach are delightfully present in the vivacious “chamber concerto” [on] tonight’s program.

         Craig B. Leman, written for the Feb. 18, 1981, performance by the Aulos Ensemble; courtesy of Chamber Music Corvallis.

.

Fantasy Septet, Op. 72       Mel Bonis       1858-1937

Sunghee Kim, piano    Catherine Peterson, flute    Abigail Sperling, flute
Erik Peterson, violin     Shin-Young Kwon, violin
Adam Matthes, viola    Anne Ridlington, cello

Mel was not Melvin but Mélanie, a strong-willed daughter born in 1858 to Parisians of modest means. She taught herself piano despite the indifference of her family. Finally, a family friend convinced her parents to give Mélanie music lessons. The friend, Monsieur Maury, was professor of cornet at the Paris Conservatoire.  When Mélanie, now 16, began to compose music, Maury introduced her to his renowned conservatory colleague, César Franck, who took her on as a piano student and encouraged her to write further. At 17, she started attending harmony and composition classes at the Conservatoire with Debussy, among others. At this time, she started signing her works Mel, in an attempt to counter gender bias.

In class, she met a singer-poet-music critic, Amédée Landély Hettich. She set his poems to music and then began to collaborate. Her parents objected to their romantic attachment and pulled her from the Conservatoire, to the great dismay of Franck and other top teachers. An arranged marriage to a wealthy business man 25 years her senior appeared to crush her musical ambitions and passion for Hettich.

But in the long run, she could not resist the literary man. They revived their collaboration and their romance, and she had a daughter by him – a “sin” that troubled this conflicted religious woman deeply. After the birth of this child, Bonis threw herself into music over all objections. She won notable prizes and became a fixture in the Parisian musical milieu – even as she kept up appearances with her husband. We could say more about this emotionally combustible situation, which flared up predictably as Mélanie eventually found out her true relation to her “godmother.” After a certain trauma, mother and daughter become not only reconciled, but close, before Mel Bonis died in 1937.

Bonis composed the present Fantasy, one of more than 300 extant works, in 1906.

Notes by Tom Strini. Source: Christine Géliot’s site devoted to Bonis, www.mel-bonis.com.

.

Quintet Opus 39     Sergei Prokofiev     1891-1953

The Ballerina:

1. Tema con variazioni
2. Andante energico

Dance of the Tumblers:

3. Allegro sostenuto, ma con brio
4. Adagio pesante
5. Allegro precipitato, ma non troppo presto

Mourning the Ballerina:

6. Andantino

Lara Wickes, oboe              Abby Raymond, clarinet
Rachel Lee Priday, violin     Kenji Bunch, viola             Brian Johnson, double bass

Prokofiev composed his six-movement, 23-minute work for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and double bass in 1924. The Soviet musical authorities had not yet lured him back to Russia; the composer-pianist was one of many Russian expats ensconced in Paris.

The Quintet began life as Trapèze, a ballet commissioned by the obscure Boris Romanov, a former Maryinsky Theatre character dancer, and his equally obscure Russian Romantic Theatre. The small traveling troupe carried a pit band of five players – once again, necessity mothered artistic invention. The ballet had five movements; the chamber Quintet has six. So the exact relation between the ballet music and the quintet remains a little hazy, despite dogged research by Prokofiev scholars. The names of the ballet episodes give some insight into the nature of this lively, piquant work: The Ballerina, Dance of the Boors, Dance of the Tumblers, Mourning the Ballerina.

Notes by Tom Strini. Sources: The Oxford Index online on Boris Romanov; Noelle Mann’s article on Trapèze at sprkfv.net; the Wikipedia entry about the Quintet; Chelsea Gayle Howell’s book, Multidisciplinary Performance Issues in Serge Prokofiev’s “Trapèze.”

Concert #4: Sunday June 28 • Congregational Church

.

Sonata in A major, Opus 69     Ludwig von Beethoven     1770-1827

Allegro ma non tanto
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Adagio cantabile — Allegro vivace

Mimi Yu, cello         Amy Wu, piano

Beethoven left us five sonatas for violoncello and piano – the first great works for cello after Bach.  He sketched this tender lyrical work – the third of the five – in 1807. He wrote it for and dedicated it to an intimate friend and gifted amateur cellist, Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein, who was secretary in Vienna’s Imperial War Department.  The opening is a reflective monologue; the scherzo is airy, whimsical, syncopated; the slow movement sings, and the close is a rousing allegro – a truly typical Beethoven sonata structure.

Ever the mixture of pragmatist and idealist, Beethoven put the sonata into an economic package to whipsaw Breitkopf and Härtel, his long-suffering publisher.  The package consisted of  “…2 symphonies, this sonata, 2 other sonatas or another symphony, and the Mass, all for 700 gulden … You must take the Mass, or else I can’t give you the other works­ – for I pay attention not only to what is profitable but also to what brings honor and glory.”  Much later, he wrote the publisher, “I should like to have a few more copies of the violoncello sonata … I never sell any, but here and there I come across poor musici, to whom I cannot refuse copies of my works.”

One wonders how Beethoven would have adjusted to instant photo-copying machines.                       

       Craig B. Leman, for the Jan. 15, 1973, performance by Gabor Rejto and Adolph Baller; courtesy of Chamber Music Corvallis. 

       And from the Feb. 24, 2003 performance by David Finckel and Wu Han, these additional bits.

Before Beethoven, the duo sonata was a piece for keyboard with an accompanying instrument. Although Beethoven, himself a piano virtuoso, designated his five cello sonatas as “Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violoncello,” in all of them he featured the cello prominently, with many soloistic passages.

With the Bach Suites for unaccompanied cello, Beethoven’s five sonatas are the heart of the cello concert repertoire.  They span his most productive years, from 1795 to 1815.  He began this work in 1807 …  It took him over a year to complete, as he was also working on his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Opus 70 trios.

The sonata opens with a cello solo that leads directly into a response from the piano while the cellist holds a sustained note.  This is the only one of his five cello sonatas with a Scherzo.  It has a syncopated rhythmic pattern and a trio with lyrical harmonic passages, with double stops in the cello part.  A brief slow passage introduces the brilliant finale.

.

Woodwind Quintet Shout Chorus       Kenji Bunch       b. 1973

Catherine Peterson, flute                 Lara Wickes, oboe       Abby Raymond, clarinet
Carin Miller Packwood, bassoon     Alicia Waite, horn

 From the composer:

Unlike the familial consort of a string quartet or brass quintet, the instruments of a woodwind quintet are famously diverse, and an attempt to blend them can seem a daunting task to a composer.  After my initial struggles with this, I realized the beauty of the ensemble was exactly in its refusal to blend into a homogenous sound- rather, the richly layered textures of five distinct voices combining forces.  This brought to mind the tradition of the “shout chorus” in big band jazz: a climactic unison passage, usually featuring highly complex syncopated rhythms.  In this work, the instruments stubbornly stick to their individual tonalities and rhythms, layering jazz-inflected textures throughout the piece until the celebratory unison statement gathers momentum and presents itself in a final, joyful celebration of teamwork.

Shout Chorus was commissioned by the Bravo! Vail Music Festival and premiered by the Imani Winds in July, 2006.  It’s about ten minutes long.
.

Prelude and Variations on “Carnival of Venice,” for oboe and piano     Theophile Lalliet      1837-1892

Lara Wickes, oboe        Monica Ohuchi, piano

Theo Lalliet grew up in the French town of Evreaux and studied oboe and composition at the Paris Conservatoire. He played in several orchestras in Paris and in Germany, and became a renowned oboe teacher. Lalliet was an oboist first and a composer second. He wrote just a few wholly original pieces; he mostly transformed familiar works into virtuoso oboe showpieces. Such is the case with “Carnival of Venice” – it’s all about giving the oboist 12 minutes to shred it.

             Note by Tom Strini. Source: The Edition Silvertrust Music Publisher page on Lalliet.

.

Sextet in C, Opus 37       Ernö Dohnányi       1877-1960

Monica Ohuchi, piano      Abby Raymond, clarinet      Alicia Waite, horn
Erik Peterson, violin         Kenji Bunch, viola                Mimi Yu, cello

Pianist and composer Ernö Dohnányi was born in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia, in 1877 and died in 1960. Thus the ethnic Hungarian began life in the horse-drawn days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ended up teaching music at Florida State University until his death in 1960. He is buried in Tallahassee. In 1958, the Miami Herald called him the “last surviving representative of the Romantic age of Brahms, Schumann and Wagner.” The Miami Herald got it right. Dohnányi wrote in the old grand manner and let the musical world go by.

He was a great Hungarian nationalist; Dohnányi has often been accused of being a Nazi collaborator, but later scholarship showed that he resisted the Nazi influence during World War II and protected Jewish musicians at some risk to himself.

Dohnányi often employed Hungarian folk tunes in his concert works, but not in the way of Bartók or Kodaly, who left in the rough edges and raucous vigor. Dohnányi championed both those composers, but in his own work he rounded off and refined his folk sources, in the way of Brahms and Liszt. In his American years, he adopted local sources and treated them the same way; his 1953 American Rhapsody includes “Turkey in the Straw,” “On Top of Old Smokey” and “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”

Opus 37, for piano, horn, clarinet, violin, viola and cello, premiered in 1935, in the shadow of rising Nazi pressure from outside Hungary and from internal sympathizers. But you’d never guess that from this piece, which could as easily have been written in 1885. This is lush, grand, perhaps over-ripe Romantic music.

Notes by Tom Strini. Sources: The Florida State University Ernö Dohnányi web page; Wikipedia entry on Dohnányi.

Finale: Wednesday July 1 • Whiteside Theatre
CHAMBER ORCHESTRA CONCERT

.

Concertino for Flute, Viola and String Orchestra     Ernest Bloch     1880-1959

Catherine Peterson,flute     Phillip Stevens, viola

 Bloch composed the brief Concertino between 1948 and 1950, when it premiered on a festival program performed by students at The Juilliard School. At the time, the Swiss-born Bloch lived in Agate Beach, Oregon, where he had settled in 1941 after a peripatetic life that took him to Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris, New York, Cleveland and San Francisco.

I’ve heard the Concertino’s three movements zip by in under eight minutes, though to my ear the piece sounds best at more relaxed tempos that stretch it to a little over nine. Modal scales and relaxed harmonies cast the first two movements a folkish, pastoral light. Pizzicato strings in much of the first movement suggest strumming on a guitar. Bloch maintains a texture of flowing melody and countermelody, with chords discreetly filled in among them, almost without exception. An ambitious, stern fugue kick-starts the finale. But that gives way to an antic polka from out of nowhere, and the Concertino ends with a dancy punchline.

Notes by Tom Strini. Source: www.ernestbloch.org

.

Appalachian Spring     Aaron Copland     1900-1990

Abigail Sperling, flute             Abby Raymond, clarinet
Evan Kuhlmann, bassoon      Andrew Campbell, piano

Copland started writing Appalachian Spring early in 1943, for the Martha Graham Dance Company. He had seen and admired Graham’s work, and Graham had used Copland’s pre-existing Piano Variations for her Dithyrambic in 1931. Graham had approached Copland about music for her Medea, but he thought the plot a little too knotted and overheated and declined. It took a $500 commission from D.C. arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Graham’s vague ideas about an Americana piece to get him to pitch in.

Coolidge also commissioned Carlos Chávez to provide music for another Graham dance. Chávez, however, procrastinated; Coolidge eventually replaced him with Paul Hindemith. The delay pushed the entire project back a year.

The long incubation gave Copland and Graham time to get to know one another and talk over the project at length. Graham eventually gave up her complicated plot and the Civil War readings of her original scenario and settled on the idea of a Pennsylvania pioneer farmer and his newlywed wife settling into their new home. Copland happened on an old Shaker tune, “‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple,” in a 1940 collection of folk songs and famously worked it into the score.

When Graham first heard the music, in August of 1944, she wrote to Copland, who was summering in Mexico: “The music is so well knit, and of a completeness that it takes you in very strong hands and leads you into its own world … I know that the gift to be simple will stay with the people and give them great joy.”

She was right. At the time, the song was unknown. Today, because of Appalachian Spring, it is ubiquitous.

Resources for the 1944 festival were limited and so was the musical ensemble. Copland scored the piece for 13 instruments. That score won the Pulitzer Prize and made Copland the dean of American composers. 

Notes by Tom Strini. Source: Aaron Copland: Since 1943, by Vivian Perlis, published in 1989 by St. Martin’s Press.

.

Carnival of the Animals       Camille Saint-Saëns       1835-1921

Amy Wu, piano                               Rachelle McCabe, piano
Catherine Peterson, flute                Abby Raymond, clarinet
Robert Brudvig and Jade Hails, percussion
Rachel Lee Priday, violin                Katherine McLin, violin
Phillip Stevens, viola                      Mimi Yu, cello
Carl Egbert, double bass
David Ogden Stiers*, narrator                        *schedule permitting

Saint-Saëns composed his musical menagerie in 1885 and 1886, to delight himself and a close circle of musical friends — and perhaps to console himself after a poorly-received tour of Germany. Some of the 14 movements, notably the gliding “Swan” and the sparkling, Impressionist “Aquarium,” revel in delicious beauty. But in the course of 23 or so minutes, we also encounter hee-hawing “personages with long ears” and tortoises engaged in the slowest, most lugubrious of Can-Cans.

Saint-Saëns scored the piece for two pianos, string quintet, flute, piccolo, clarinets in C and B-flat, glass harmonica and xylophone. The glass harmonica (often subbed out for the more available glockenspiel) lends ethereal high harmonics to the aquarium scene. The two pianos allowed Saint-Saëns to add pianists to his zoo; these inmates practice Czerny-style scales and arpeggios with spectacular incompetence, in the best-known joke of the suite. The xylophone gives bone-clanking vividness to the “fossils.”

The composer borrowed the tune for the fossils from his own Danse Macabre, and that’s not all he borrowed. We have noted his appropriation of Offenbach’s “Can-Can.” Saint-Saëns also quotes bits of Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Rossini and a number of nursery tunes. Part of the fun is spotting the quotations.

Saint-Saëns considered Carnival to be nothing but extra-curricular fun and had no intention of publishing it. Perhaps with the withering reviews of German critics on his mind, he thought that the piece would make him appear to be a lightweight. He allowed only “The Swan” to be published, as a stand-alone piece, in his lifetime.

Program notes by Tom Strini. Sources: Liner notes to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recording, the Carnival page of Classic FM, and the Wikipedia page for the piece.