PROGRAM NOTES - "A" Composers


PROGRAM NOTES: A

| C. ADAMS | J. ADAMS | ALARD | ALBENIZ | ALTHOUSE | ANTHEIL | ARBUCKLE | ARENSKY | ARLEN |


[BA-BI] | [BL-BU] | [C] | [D-E] | [F-G] | [H] | [I-J-K-L] | [M] | [N-O-P] | [Q-R] | [S] | [T] | [V-W-Y]

Copyright 2006-2020 by Edward Lein;
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Carolyn Adams
Since 1985, Carolyn Adams has played an active role in the musical life of the First Coast, including singing with the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus and accompanying dance classes at Jacksonville University and Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Ms. Adams is a member of the St. John's Cathedral Choir in Jacksonville, and accompanist for the Cathedral's youth choristers group. This is her first season as accompanist with The Orange Park Chorale, and, as today's concert illustrates, she can play virtually anything put before her. Formerly an elementary school teacher, Ms. Adam's compositions include a number of songs for children.

God's Morning: Piano Solo
Several years ago Carolyn wrote an untitled piece for her husband. Upon hearing it for the first time he named it God's Morning because he felt it reflected the creation of a new day.
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 19, 2006 (The Orange Park Chorale: Music of Local Composers)


on YouTube JOHN ADAMS (b.1947)
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986)

"You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn't?"

That's how John Adams famously described his Short Ride in a Fast Machine, the most-performed work by one of America's most popular composers. Originally titled Fanfare for Great Woods, Adams wrote the piece to open a new music festival held near Boston in the summer of 1986. The work's self-styled "post-minimalism" derives from the repetitive rhythmic figures and essentially tonal harmonies of his minimalist forebears (Reich, Riley, Glass, etc.), whose bare-bones esthetic demonstrated what Adams called "the most important stylistic development in Western art music since the Fifties." But where they might mesmerize with slowly evolving subtleties, Adams jolts with the occasional cataclysm. His rushing vehicle may not crash, but you won't nod off, either. More likely you'll feel exhilarated, and maybe even hope for a do-over.

Listen Up: The music's driving force (as it were) is its rhythmic complexity. The woodblock starts like a relentless metronome. Over this steadfast foundation, layers of repeated notes in contradictory polyrhythms vie for prominence, while swirling whirlwinds rise from the piccolos. Halfway home the sputtering gives way to the polyphonic strains of a more traditional-sounding brass fanfare. As the tension builds, the woodblock stops while echoes of the opening reverberate. We coast downhill and slam on the brakes without ever slowing down. A Word to the Wise: Better fasten your seat-belts.


Jean-Delphin Alard: Bolero (from 24 Études-caprices, op. 41)

Both as a performer and as a teacher, Jean-Delphin Alard (1815-1888) achieved fame as the foremost representative of the modern French school of violin playing of his generation. Born in the French Basque town of Bayonne, very near the Spanish border, a 10-year-old Delphin so impressed his neighbors with a prodigious public performance of a violin concerto by Viotti that the whole town chipped in to send the poor lad to Paris, where, at age 12, he entered the Paris Conservatory. By 1831, Alard had begun accumulating prizes for his playing, earning the reputation as a great performer; in 1840 he was appointed solo violinist in King Louis Philippe's Royal Band; and from 1843 until his retirement in 1875, he returned to the Conservatory as a leading professor whose students included the brilliant Spanish violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908). Alard was made a Chevalier of France's Légion d'honneur in 1850, and was 1st violinist in the Imperial Chapel from 1853 until the fall of Napoleon III, in 1873.

Alard's compositions are now mostly forgotten, but they were very popular in France during his lifetime. Not surprisingly, they mostly showcase the violin, and include bravura concertos and concert pieces, duos for two violins, and exercises and studies for violin students. His pedagogical treatise, Ecole du violon ("School of the Violin") was adopted by the Paris Conservatory, and was translated into several languages, becoming a standard guide for aspiring virtuosi throughout Europe.

For the most part, the two books comprising Alard's 24 Études-caprices, op. 41, are perhaps better suited to the practice room than to the concert hall. But the concluding Boléro, the only study in the second book given a title, is an exception that recalls the composer's Basque heritage, with his home-region's ties to Spanish culture.


Isaac Albéniz
      El Puerto (The Port) & El Albaicín (from Iberia)
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) is among the best-known proponents of Music Nationalism of Spain. He was a piano prodigy who gave his first public concert when he was four, and at age six he was denied admittance to the Paris Conservatory only because he was too young. But shortly thereafter he enrolled in what is now the Royal Conservatory in Madrid, and young Isaac soon became known as the greatest prodigy in Spain. In 1875, he gave a series of concerts in Puerto Rico and Cuba, but this was not the result of the 15-year-old youth stowing away on a ship to the New World, as many reputable sources have previously repeated. Rather less romantically, it now appears that Isaac accompanied his father, a customs official, to Cuba when his father was transferred to work there. In 1876, back in the Old World, a 16-year-old Isaac was granted a Spanish royal stipend to study at the Brussels Conservatory. In 1879, he took First Prize in piano performance in Brussels, and embarked on a highly successful concert tour of Europe. At twenty, he traveled to Budapest hoping to study with Liszt. But when this dream went unrealized (Liszt had already departed Hungary for Italy), Albéniz returned to Spain and toured the country both as a pianist and, for a time, the conductor and manager of a musical theater company.

Following a South American tour he settled in Barcelona in 1883, and there he met Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922), a musicologist and composer who convinced Albéniz that it was important for Spanish composers to write music based on the characteristic folk songs and dances of their homeland. This turned out to be very good advice--although Albéniz also continued to compose music in a more-or-less cosmopolitan style, it is for his Spanish-flavored music that he is most remembered. He lived in London in the early 1890s, and moved to Paris in 1894, where he befriended many of the city's leading composers and began to absorb the influences of the recently-departed César Franck (1822-1890) and the still-going-strong Claude Debussy (1862-1918). As a virtuoso performer Albéniz was compared to Liszt and Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894), but soon after the turn of the century bad health impeded his performance career. When Albéniz died in 1909, he was virtually incapacitated from Bright's Disease, a chronic kidney disorder.

Composed between 1905 and 1909, Iberia is a collection of 12 pieces for solo piano, organized into four books of three pieces each. It is ranked universally among the finest works by any Spanish composer, and French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) extended his praise beyond geographic boundaries, calling Iberia "the wonder for the piano; it is perhaps on the highest place among the more brilliant pieces for the king of the instruments." Subtitled "Twelve New Impressions," Iberia was designed as a kind of musical travelogue, with each piece representing a particular locale, primarily in southern Spain, and drawing upon rhythmic and melodic gestures suggestive of each place. The harmonic soundscape also pays tribute to the Impressionism of Debussy, and, in something of a reversal, Debussy became a big fan of Iberia, such that the Spaniard's vibrant music provided inspiration for the Frenchman. But the virtuosic (sometimes bordering on sadistic) piano writing of Iberia is all Albéniz--and it is sometimes so difficult that it's said Albéniz considered destroying the pieces because, in his disease-weakened state, he was unable to play through them himself. In discussing the dozen pieces that comprise Iberia, the Portuguese virtuoso Artur Pizzaro observed: "The technical writing is totally original and at least as mind-numbingly difficult as Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit. ... The only reason I can think of as to why they are not more present in recital halls throughout the world is the sheer difficulty of their performance."

on YouTube El Puerto (The Port) is the second piece in Book 1, and the "puerto" in question is the fishing town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, near Cádiz on the southern Atlantic coast of Spain. The music itself is a zapateado, a kind of flamenco tap-dance that the conquistadores borrowed from the native Mexican Indians (along with their gold and corn). So it is perhaps especially fitting that a zapateado represents El Puerto de Santa Maria, since it is the very port where Columbus set sail on his second trip to the Americas.

on YouTube Book 3 of Iberia opens with El Albaicín, which depicts the Albayzín district of Granada overlooking the Alhambra. Along with the Alhambra, Albayzín has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage site, with its architectural reminders of the area's Medieval Moorish past. In his musical portrait of the district, Albéniz draws on the percussive rhythms introduced by the North Africans, and he conjures a fully-realized gypsy flamenco dance, by turns fiery, ethereal and gracefully sensual, and replete with aural images of stamping feet, clapping castanets and a flashing guitar.


on YouTube Jay Althouse: Song of Peace
Contemporary South Carolina composer, arranger, educator and music publisher Jay Althouse has over 500 original works and arrangements in print. They include music for both adult and children’s choirs, several musicals for children, plus collections for solo voice, and are frequently performed throughout the English-speaking world.

For his Song of Peace, Mr. Althouse has adapted Piano Etude, Op. 10, no. 3, by the great Polish pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin (fray-day-REEK shoh-PA[N], 1810-1849), combining an original text with the traditional Latin prayer, Dona nobis pacem ("Grant us peace").

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, October 21, 2007 (Cromley and Friends: Voices & Violin, Bach to Broadway)


on YouTube George Antheil: Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano
American modernist composer, author and inventor George Antheil (1900-1959) was a precocious youngster from Trenton, New Jersey, who started studying music seriously at age six. Despite never finishing high school, by age 19 Antheil had convinced composer Ernest Bloch to teach him privately, and around the same time he began getting a monthly stipend from Mary Louis Curtis Bok to assist with his composing. Mrs. Bok, who later would found the Curtis Institute of Music, would continue to provide Antheil with at least limited financial support for two decades. In 1922, Antheil moved first to Berlin, then to Paris a year later where his circle of associates included fellow composers Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie, and Virgil Thomson; and also writers, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. Even before crossing the Atlantic, the self-styled Bad Boy of Music (as Antheil titled his 1945 autobiography) had written The Airplane, his second piano sonata and the first in a series of compositions inspired by the sounds of machinery that would bring him notoriety. Antheil returned to Germany in the late 1920s, but when Hitler began to gain ground in the mid-1930s Antheil returned to The States, eventually moving to Hollywood where he became much admired for his film scores. He also entered into an improbable wartime partnership with actress Heddy Lamar to develop a radio-controlled torpedo that used technology adapted from player pianos (you can't make this stuff up...).

While living in Paris, British poet Ezra Pound commissioned Antheil to write three violin sonatas for Olga Rudge, an American concert violinist (and Pound's mistress). In discussing Antheil's Second Sonata, violinist Mark Fewer observes:

The form of this sonata for violin and piano is extraordinarily “out of the box,” particularly for 1923! Everything — from the wild swings in musical content to ideas that never quite finish themselves to the completely over-the-top cadenza and the quiet tango with the pianist switching to drums at the end—is revolutionary. The best way I have found to describe it is to use the analogy of channel-surfing — it really is like sitting down with a remote control and changing the channel every few seconds.


CONEY ISLAND on YouTube Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in CONEY ISLAND (1917)
Silent Film – Directed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Score arranged by Tony Steve (b.1959) and Bob Moore (b.1962)

Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle (1887-1933) was one of Hollywood's greatest comedic filmmakers of the silent era, and he had an unheard-of, million-dollar-a-year contract at the height of his career. But in real life, in 1921 Arbuckle became a tragic Hollywood character, ostracized and demoralized after being falsely accused of raping and killing a "party-girl" acquaintance who died several days after attending a party that he also had attended. Despite courtroom testimony which clearly demonstrated that the woman had died from a ruptured bladder, and that there was neither any evidence nor death-bed accusation that she had ever been intimate with Arbuckle, or had been raped by anyone, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst published sensational "accounts" that portrayed Arbuckle as a lecherous monster who forced himself on innocent young women, against the backdrop of a town where debauchery was the norm. But among those who actually knew him, the shy Roscoe was called "the most chaste man in pictures," and even though he was acquitted in 1922, this didn't stop moral crusaders from demanding his execution. One of the very few celebrities who never faltered in publicly showing support for Arbuckle was his protégé and Coney Island co-star, Buster Keaton (1895-1966). Even though Arbuckle and his movies had been so wildly popular, it was perhaps unfortunate that Arbuckle's character in Coney Island is a philandering husband, because this type of on-screen persona may have made it easier for the fickle public to buy into the trumped-up scandal that still casts a shadow over his reputation.


on YouTube Anton Arensky: Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, op. 32 (1894)
I. Allegro moderato -- II. Scherzo (Allegro molto) -- III. Elegia (Adagio) -- IV. Finale (Allegro non troppo)
Russian composer, pianist, conductor and teacher Anton Arensky (1861-1906) is of the generation between Rimsky-Korsakov (his teacher) and Rachmaninoff and Scriabin (his students). Nurtured by his parents who were both amateur musicians, by the time he was nine Arensky was already composing songs and piano pieces. He began studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1879, and upon being graduated with the Gold Medal in 1882 he immediately joined the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, a marked distinction for a 21 year old. In Moscow he received friendly encouragement from Piotr Tchaikovsky, whose own international musical style had the greatest impact on Arensky's development as a composer, and, incidentally, whose brother Modest provided the libretto for one of Arensky's three operas. Arensky resigned his professorship in 1895 to return to St. Petersburg as director of the Imperial Chapel until 1901. The last five years of his life were spent composing and touring as a successful concert pianist and conductor, but Arensky had the reputation as an overactive drinker and gambler, and these addictions greatly undermined his health. He died from tuberculosis in a Finnish sanitorium a few months before his 45th birthday.

Not long after Arensky's passing, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote in his memoirs that Arensky would be "soon forgotten" because he found the style of his former student to be too derivative of Rimsky himself and of Tchaikovsky (the latter influence is much greater than the former). Nonetheless, Arensky's works are now becoming more familiar as new recordings of his works are made available, and his Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 32, has retained its place in the repertoire and remains his most frequently performed extended composition. (According to allmusic.com, this Trio has been released on at least 33 recordings, compared with only four released of Rimsky-Korsakov's Piano Trio. Only, in fairness, it should be mentioned that Rimsky-Korsakov's Trio was completed after his death by his son-in-law, composer Maximilian Steinberg; but, even Rimsky's most popular chamber work, his 1876 Quintet for piano, flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon, has only 12 recordings listed.)

Arensky's Piano Trio No. 1 was written in memory of cellist Karl Davidov, who had been director of the St. Petersburg conservatory while Arensky was a student there. The cello is featured prominently, no doubt in honor of Davidov, but it has been suggested perhaps also as a tribute to Arensky's father who likewise played the cello. Apparently using Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, op. 49, as a model, Arensky's Trio demonstrates his lyrical gifts as well as his deftness in organizing convincing musical discourse.

PDF of the Trio's score and parts
--Music @ Main, September 29, 2009 (Trio Solis)


Harold Arlen
Over the Rainbow
| I Wonder What Became of Me
A preeminent composer of American popular song, Harold Arlen (1905-1986) began life as Hyman Arluk in Buffalo, New York, but changed his name in 1928, three years after he moved to The Big Apple to play piano for vaudeville acts. He scored his first big hit as a songwriter in 1929 with Get Happy, and didn’t stop until his catalog had over 400 entries and many standards, including Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic, The Man That Got Away, and, of course, Over the Rainbow.

on YouTube Despite such stiff competition, Over the Rainbow, from the beloved movie musical The Wizard of Oz (released in 1939), is far and away the best-known and best-loved of his many hit songs—in addition to winning an Oscar®, it tops the Recording Industry of America’s “Songs of the Century” list as well as the American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 Songs." With lyrics by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (1896-1981), a 16-year-old Judy Garland (1922-1969), starring as the resourceful “Dorothy Gale,” introduced what would become her signature song, and became a show biz legend in the process.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 18, 2007 (Bella Voce Cabaret)

on YouTube I Wonder What Became of Me is from the 1946 musical St. Louis Woman, which Arlen co-wrote with Johnny Mercer (1909-1976). The show, based an the novel God Sends Sunday, by noted Harlem Renaissance writer Arna Bontemps 1902-1973), was criticized for the stereotypical portrayal of its characters, but the songs are regarded as among the very finest that the songwriting pair produced.

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