PROGRAM NOTES - "B" Composers (Bloch-Busoni)



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Copyright 2006-2020 by Edward Lein;
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Ernest Bloch
Swiss-born composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was educated and began his teaching career in Europe, but he moved to America in 1916 and became a U.S. citizen in 1924. His teaching posts included directorships at the Cleveland Institute of Music (which he helped found in 1920), and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and his students included Roger Sessions, George Antheil, Douglas Moore, Quincy Porter, Randall Thompson, and Leon Kirchner. Although Bloch's diverse (but essentially Romantic) output includes some works which adapt atonality and serialism into his own style, his most widely-known works are those which draw inspiration from his Jewish heritage, such as Schelomo, for cello and orchestra (1916)), or from "olden times," such as his two Concerti Grossi (1925 and 1952).

Concerto Grosso no. 1 for strings with piano obbligato: I. Prelude & IV. Fugue
While Neoclassicism was still a relatively new trend, Bloch wrote the Prelude to his four-movement Concerto Grosso No. 1 (1924-1925) to settle an argument with his students by demonstrating that it was indeed possible to create exciting new works using "olden" techniques and performance ensembles - when they performed it the students readily conceded that Bloch was right! The concluding Fugue likewise breathes new life into an antique formal procedure, and the Concerto Grosso No. 1 remains a favorite of student ensembles and is one of Bloch's most frequently performed works.

--Music @ Main, April 15, 2009 (UNF String Ensemble)

Suite No. 2, for Solo Cello (1956)
Bloch wrote the first two of his three Suites for Cello in 1956, finding inspiration in the cello suites of J.S. Bach.
-- [on YouTube]

Luigi Boccherini : Minuet from String Quintet, op. 13, no. 5 (arr. for flute quartet by Frank J. Halferty)
Italian-born composer and virtuoso cellist Luigi Boccherini (1745-1805) settled in Spain in 1761, and for a brief time he was nearly as famous as his most important musical influence, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The Minuet, a movement from Boccherini’s String Quintet, op. 13, no. 5, remains his best-known piece.

In addition to his 27 years as a music teacher, arranger Frank J. Halferty (b.1954) has published over 80 original works and arrangements, and has won seven ASCAP awards.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, March 9, 2008 (Arioso Flute Quartet

Jerry Bock: If I Were a Rich Man (from Fiddler on the Roof)
One of Broadway’s most successful pairings has been composer Jerry Bock (b. 1928) with lyricist Sheldon Harnick (b.1924), who had their first big hit together with Fiorello! (1959), for which they won both a Tony Award (Best Musical) and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. But without a doubt their best known musical is Fiddler on the Roof (1964), which won nine Tony’s and broke box office records. Loosely based on Tevye the Milkman, by Ukrainian author Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916), the story centers on a peasant trying to keep his headstrong daughters true to the old Jewish traditions, while simultaneously trying to ignore the social upheaval he faces in the tsarist Russia of 1905. As he drags his dairy wagon around after his horse has gone lame, “Tevye” daydreams of how things might be... If I Were a Rich Man. Really, who would it hurt?

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

William Bolcom: Afternoon Cakewalk (1979) (Selections)
- Easy Winner (Scott Joplin)
- Heliotrope Bouquet (Louis Chauvin & Scott Joplin)
- Graceful Ghost (William Bolcom)
- Finale: Incineratorag (William Bolcom)
Seattle-born composer and pianist William Bolcom (b.1938), who entered into private composition studies at the University of Washington when he was just 11 years old, has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts and four Grammy awards, among many other honors. His works range from solo piano pieces to symphonies and opera, and in 2007 he was named “Composer of the Year” by Musical America magazine.

Graceful Ghost Rag is perhaps his most frequently performed piano piece, and in 1979 Bolcom arranged it for clarinet, violin and piano, along with his Incineratorag and four additional rags by the most famous composers of the genre. The resulting suite, Afternoon Cakewalk, was first performed as a ballet by the Murray Lewis Dance Company.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, May 4, 2008 (JU Faculty Trio)

Mars Bonfire: Born To Be Wild (1967); arranged by David Lang (b.1957)
The classic rock anthem Born To Be Wild is by Canadian songwriter Mars Bonfire (b. 1942 as Dennis McCrohan, aka Dennis Edmonton), and it was first recorded in 1967 by Steppenwolf, the band in which Bonfire’s brother was the drummer. The song is used under the opening credits of the 1969 film Easy Rider, and since then it has appeared in numerous other film and television productions, and has been covered by wildly diverse musicians, including in a duet between Ozzie Osbourne and Miss Piggy. Among its most ironic incarnations is the post-minimalist creation by American composer David Lang (b. 1957). who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for The Little Match Girl Passion. Lang definitely has the “motor running,” but one might venture that his version is about as far-removed from the Easy Rider “rebel biker” persona as you can get.
-- YouTube Performance | PDF of score (free download from the arranger's website)

Charles Boone (b. 1939)
... is among the resident faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute (, where he teaches studio and history courses that relate sound and music to other art forms. His musical works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others. He has received commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts and the San Francisco Symphony, and has been a composer-in-residence for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). His writings have appeared in the San Francisco Examiner, Oakland Tribune, Leonardo, Arts and Architecture, and Threepenny Review.

--Intermezzo Weekend Concerts, Saturday, June 24, 2006 (UNF Percussion Quintet)

Paul Bowles : Heavenly Grass | Cabin
Paul Bowles (1910-1999) was an American composer and author who is perhaps best known for his best-selling novel, The Sheltering Sky. He studied composition with Aaron Copland in Paris during the 1930s, and during the 1940s Bowles and his wife, playwright Jane Auer, became prominent members of the New York literary community before moving permanently to Tangier in 1947. The songs Heavenly Grass and Cabin (1979), on poems by Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), are included in Bowles’ Blue Mountain Ballads, and have an appropriate folklike quality.

--Summer Serenade, July 25, 2007 (Lindsey Tuller & Clinton Weinberg)

Jane Boxall : Mad Hatters
Jane Boxall hails from York, England, and is a doctoral candidate in percussion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the drummer of the Illinois-based rock duo Triple Whip, along with bassist Holly Rushakoff. Mad Hatters is scored for four players, each with a hi-hat and woodblock (graduated from highest to lowest in pitch), and the piece offers some unique interaction between the parts. Players utilize “open” and “closed” hi-hat as well as stick clicks and woodblocks to achieve some interesting visual and aural effects.

--Intermezzo Weekend Concerts, Saturday, June 24, 2006 (UNF Percussion Quintet)

Eugène Bozza : Pastorale and Ronde (from Jour d'Ete a la Montagne)
Although the catalog of French composer Eugène Bozza (1905-1991) includes five symphonies, an opera and a ballet, he is known primarily for his chamber music for wind instruments. Jour d'été à la Montagne (1953, “Summer’s Day in the Mountains”) is a four-movement tone poem for flute quartet, but the first movement, Pastorale, and the last, Ronde, are often played on their own.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, March 9, 2008 (Arioso Flute Quartet)

Johannes Brahms
At a time when it was fashionable to write programmatic music that illustrated specific scenes, poems, or stories, the great German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was recognized by his admirers as “Beethoven’s true heir” (Grove Concise Dictionary of Music) by demonstrating that established abstract formal procedures could be used to organize musical discourse without sacrificing the passion and deeply individualistic expression that defines 19th-Century Romantic music. Thus, Brahms joined Bach and Beethoven as one of the great “Three B’s” of classical music.

Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 1
The opening measures of Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 1 (1853), pay obvious homage to Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, and upon hearing Brahms the famous composer and influential music critic Robert Schumann (1810-1856) became the first to publicly hail the young and unknown composer as Beethoven’s heir apparent. Brahms was himself a virtuoso pianist, so it is not surprising that his earliest works are for his own instrument. But despite its being published as the composer’s “Opus 1,” the C-major Sonata was not Brahms’ actual “first work”—it was written after both the Scherzo, Op. 4 (1851), and the Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 2 (1853). Since it was Schumann who recommended Brahms to the music publisher Breitkopf und Härtel, it was perhaps also Schumann who first suggested that the “stronger” C-major Sonata be published first, to better introduce Brahms to the public with a work that would readily bring Beethoven to mind. Like Beethoven, Brahms was a master of the variation form which he demonstrates in his 2nd movement Andante, using as the theme the old German song, Verstohlen geht der Mond auf ("The Moon Steals Out"). And, also like Beethoven, Brahms inserts a Scherzo movement before the rondo Finale, which in turn uses a principal theme derived from the Sonata’s first movement.

Hungarian Dances
For the most part, Brahms arranged his 21 Hungarian Dances from existing tunes (only nos. 11, 14 and 16 are not adaptations), so he didn’t assign an opus number to them—but they still out-sold any of his other works!

Waltzes, Op. 39
Brahms originally wrote his 16 short Waltzes, Op. 39, in 1865 for piano 4-hands, and by the time they were published in 1867, he also had prepared two different solo piano versions (one easy, the other harder). Brahms wasn’t expecting much of a reaction from the public—after all, he was competing with the “Waltz King” Strausses—so he was pleasantly surprised by the successes he had with all three versions.

Intermezzi & Capriccios
      Intermezzo in A minor, Op. 118, no. 1 / Capriccio in F# minor, Op. 76, no. 1 / Intermezzo in E Major, Op. 116, no. 4
      Capriccio in C# minor, Op. 76, no. 5 / Intermezzo in B-flat Major, Op. 76, no. 4

As a youth, Brahms earned a living as a pianist, but after he became established as a composer he limited his public performances to playing only his own works. His last large-scale composition for solo piano was Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, composed in 1863. Following his 1865 arrangements for solo piano of his 16 Waltzes, Op. 36 (originally for Piano, 4-hands), there was a gap of thirteen years before Brahms resumed writing solo music for his own instrument.

In 1878, his 8 Klavierstücke (Piano Pieces), Op. 76, appeared, followed by 2 Rhapsodien, Op. 79, the following year. Then there was another 13-year gap before he produced his 7 Fantasien, Op. 116, and 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117, in 1892; followed by 6 Klavierstücke, Op. 118, and 4 Klavierstücke, Op. 119, in 1893. Among the thirty individual piano pieces from his Op. 76 forward, Brahms named eighteen of them “Intermezzo,” and seven “Capriccio.” Neither term has a precise, predictable meaning, but in comparing Brahms’s use of the titles various commentators have observed that his Intermezzi tend to be more “introspective,” while still running the emotional gamut from light-hearted to darkly impassioned; and the Capriccios tend to be “stormy” and more improvisatory in their formal structure. Although all of Brahms's later piano pieces are on a relatively intimate scale, in both his chamber music and solo works his piano writing is usually quite challenging, to say the least--so it is evident that in addition to being one of our most enduring composers, Brahms never lost his touch as a virtuoso performer.

Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1, Op. 78
Brahms wrote his first Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 78, during the summers of 1878 and 1879 while vacationing in Italy. Among his most ingratiating works, it has been nicknamed the "Rain" Sonata because Brahms used thematic material drawn from his song, Regenlied ("Rain Song").

Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 (1886)
     1. Allegro amabile — 2. Andante tranquillo. Vivace — 3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante)
For many of us, summer vacations might provide a good time to "vegetate," in the sense of "idly lulling about." But for Brahms sunny rural retreats instead sparked his musical inspiration to "bloom and grow" into some of his most ingratiating works, including his three violin sonatas. The first (Op. 78, 1878) was written in response to an Italian sojourn, and both the second (Op. 100, 1886) and third (Op. 108, 1886-88) to stays on Lake Thun in Switzerland, a locality which Brahms reported was "so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any." In August 1886, in addition to the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100, Brahms (mostly) completed his Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 99, and the Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 101. He also wrote several songs, including Komm bald ("Come soon"), Op. 97/5, and Wie Melodien zieht es mir leise durch den Sinn ("It passes through my mind like melodies"), Op. 107/1, both of which provided thematic inspiration for the opus 100 violin sonata. Considering its birthplace and sunny disposition, it is not surprising that Brahms’ second sonata is sometimes known as the "Thun" Sonata. But surprisingly, it also has appeared with the nickname "Meistersinger," owing to the intervallic similarity between the piano's first three notes with the first sung notes of "Walter's Prize Song" from the last scene in Wagner's 1868 opera, Die Meistersinger—only it is hard to imagine that Brahms would have intentionally paid tribute to his noted rival!

Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D minor, op. 108 (1888)
     1. Allegro — 2. Adagio — 3. Un poco presto e con sentimento — 4 Presto agitato
Contrasting with his lyrical first two violin sonatas, Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 (1886-88) has four movements rather than three and assumes an almost symphonic scale. The choice of D minor as the central key harkens back to the stormy world of Brahms’s youthful Piano Concerto no. 1, op. 15 (1859), especially in the tarantella-like final movement, and the demanding piano part often resembles a concerto—there is no question that both instruments are meant to share the spotlight. As was very often the case with his works including the piano, Brahms played the piano part himself for the premiere, so it is evident that in addition to being one of our most enduring composers he was also a virtuoso performer.

-- Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, June 1, 2008 (Huls Clark Duo: The Intermezzo Series Finale)

Benjamin Britten : Simple Symphony, Op. 4 (1934) Notes for Jax Symphony
Contrary to what you may think, little Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) didn't become a composer when he grew up. He already was one as a child, with more than 100 works penned by the time he was 15 years old and began private composition lessons with Frank Bridge. At 17, Britten won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, but didn't really learn much new there from the conservative composition faculty. He did credit his professors with providing moral support, which, however, didn't extend to post-graduate work. Britten completed his studies at the RCM in 1933, and the following year he heard a concert performance of Alban Berg's Wozzeck. Britten was determined to study in Vienna with the "radical" opera composer, only Sir Hugh Allen, the director of the Royal College, convinced Britten's parents not to waste money on the venture.

With the expedition into Berg's "future" quashed, Britten dug into the past hunting treasure in his trove of childhood compositions. The resulting gem was Simple Symphony for string orchestra, so named because the 20-year-old composer hoped to cash in on sales to school orchestras. In the preface to the published score Britten said the thematic material is drawn entirely from songs and piano tunes composed between ages 9-12, adding, "Although the development of these themes is in many places quite new, there are large stretches of the work which are taken bodily from the early pieces—save for the re-scoring for strings."

LISTEN UP: Britten uses sonata forms for his outer movements, but, as the alliterative titles allude, his enduringly popular makeover also recalls the Baroque dance suite – served with a Vaughan Williams chaser. Boisterous Bourrée, suggesting fancy footwork en pointe, is followed by Playful Pizzicato, a plucky scherzo with a strummed trio that supports a Celtic jig. Almost as long as the other movements combined, Sentimental Saraband progresses solemnly, finding solace as the midsection moves from minor to major. Sorrows forgotten, the Frolicsome Finale reverts to the high spirits of the first movements.

Timothy Brown
American composer Timothy Brown is a fine arts specialist for the Public Schools in Dallas, Texas, where he also serves on the advisory board of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He has published over a hundred compositions, and his works, which are performed throughout North America and Europe, have been featured at the Spoleto Music Festival and in the Library of Congress Concert Series in Washington D.C., as well as on National Public Radio. He has had numerous commissions, including from the Hattiesburg Composer Festival, and from the Dallas Ballet Foundation to write an orchestral score for The Happy Prince, a ballet based on Oscar Wilde's short story. His elegiac Soliloquy in F# minor (2009) was written “in memory of Anna Kronbauz.”
-- YouTube Performance of Soliloquy (beginning at 1:15)

Uzee Brown, Jr. : Zungo (Nigeria)
Operatic baritone, choral conductor and composer Uzee Brown, Jr. heads the Music Department at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, and he is a published authority on the contributions of African American composers of the twentieth century. His arrangement of the plaintive Nigerian folk song Zungo expresses the longing for one’s homeland.

William Brown : He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
When William Brown (1938-2004) joined the faculty of the University of North Florida in 1972, he already had a national reputation as an operatic tenor, with credits including several world premieres, among them the televised production of John La Montaine’s The Sheparde’s Playe (1967), and Hugo Weisgall’s Nine Rivers from Jordan (1968) with the New York City Opera. The Mississippi native earned his bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University (1960), and his master’s at Indiana University (1962). After a stint as soloist with the United States Navy Band and Chorus (1962-1966), he began his operatic career in earnest, performing repertoire ranging from Monteverdi and Mozart to the aforementioned contemporary works. But he also taught at Florida Presbyterian College (1970-1972), and completed his doctorate at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory (1972). Dr. Brown remains one of very few African American men to have achieved national fame as an opera singer, and his career highlights include a concert with the New York Philharmonic featuring the works of African American composers (1977), and a 1982 recording of Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts, on a libretto by Gertrude Stein. In 1991, he received the North Carolina Award, the highest civilian award given by that state.

Regarding her choice of Dr. Brown’s arrangement of He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, Ms. Sarah Wilson MacMillan commented: "Dr. Brown was my teacher and mentor for many years, and I would like to dedicate this song to him. I sang this at his memorial service at UNF." /p>

-- Intermezzo Sunday Concert, 2/12/2012

Gregory A. Bueche: Fugue for Clarinet Trio
Only sparse information is available about Gregory A. Bueche (d.1977), but he was band director and became head of the Music Department at Colorado State University in the late 1930s, was elected to the American Bandmasters Association in 1949, and remained musically active at least into the 1960s. As one might expect, as a composer and arranger he apparently concentrated on works for band and band instruments, but his works also include Heritage for chorus with orchestra or organ, written for the 1964 Centennial Celebration in Fort Collins, Colorado. His Fugue was written to help fill the demand for chamber music for woodwind instruments, and may also be performed by 2 clarinets and bassoon. --Music @ Main, April 8, 2009 (UNF Clarinet Choir)

Owen Burdick: Armor of Light
Owen Burdick, the organist and Director of Music of Trinity Church in New York City, is well respected as a composer, and his 1988 oratorio, Paschal Triptych: A King Portrait, was nominated for an EMMY award. Rich harmonies and natural meters characterize Armor of Light and capture the sentiments of the text which warns listeners to cast away works of darkness. --Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 10, 2008 (UNF Chorale & UNF Chamber Singers)

Ferruccio Busoni
Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was a child prodigy who made his public debut as a pianist at age seven, and who, at twelve conducted a performance of a Stabat Mater he had composed. During his life he was best known as a virtuoso pianist of the highest order, but he also was respected internationally as a composition teacher--among his famous students are Kurt Weill, Edgard Varèse, Percy Grainger, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Stefan Wolpe. Busoni called J.S. Bach's keyboard works "the foundation of pianoforte playing," and he began adapting and editing Bach's music in 1888, continuing the practice throughout his career. Busoni's famous transcription of Bach's Chaconne (originally Ciaconna) was undertaken in 1892, during his brief professorship at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Busoni's is one of several adaptations for piano of the monumental piece, including one for the left hand alone by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Like the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, the Chaconne was written during Bach's Cöthen years, circa 1720, and it is the fifth and final movement of the Partita in D minor, for solo violin (BWV 1004). Its 3-part form is built over a repeated four-measure bass pattern, D | D-C# | D-B flat | G-A(-C#), with its middle section in D major. Brahms observed about the original violin composition:

On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.

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