PROGRAM NOTES - F & G Composers



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Manuel de Falla : Danse espagnole ("Spanish Dance," from La vida breve, arr. for violin & piano by Fritz Kreisler)

During the early decades of the 20th Century, Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) gained an international reputation as the leading Spanish composer of his generation. Infused with the rhythms and harmonies of the folk songs and dances of his native Andalusia, Falla’s music has been described as representing “the spirit of Spain at its purest” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Among his best-known works are the ballets El amor brujo ("Love, the Magician," 1915) and El sombrero de tres picos ("The Three-cornered Hat," 1917), and the beautiful Noches en los jardines de España ("Nights in the Gardens of Spain," 1916), for piano and orchestra.

But his first major work was the prize-winning verismo opera, La vida breve ("The Brief Life," 1905/revised 1913), unusual in that its instrumental music is as significant as the singing, including a sometimes wordless chorus treated like a part of the orchestra. Although the complete opera is seldom staged, there are frequent performances of the orchestral Interlude and Dance, and also Danse espagnole, not only in this bravura adaptation for violin and piano by the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), but in other arrangements as well, including for two guitars.

Ferenc Farkas : Ancient Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century
      I. Intrada - II. Lassu - III. Lapockas Tanc - IV. Ugros

Ferenc Farkas (1905-2000) was a leading Hungarian composer and teacher of the generation between Bartók and Ligeti, and the latter was one of his students. Farkas's studies included a stint with Respighi in Rome, and at the beginning of his career he wrote music for Scandinavian films before returning to Hungary to teach. He was a prolific composer with a catalog of over 700 compositions in a wide variety of styles and genres, including operas and many songs and choral works on texts in at least 15 different languages. His melodic writing typically is diatonic and often influenced by Hungarian folk music, but on occasion he also experimented with twelve-tone technique.

Farkas's Ancient Hungarian Dances remain faithful to the tonal characteristics of the original 17th-century sources, and in addition to these arrangements for clarinets they are also frequently performed by wind quintet.

--Music @ Main, April 8, 2009 (UNF Clarinet Choir)

John Farmer : Fair Phyllis

John Farmer (ca.1570-1601) is a lesser-known English Renaissance madrigalist who nonetheless wrote one of the best-known part-songs of the age, offering in Fair Phyllis (published in 1599) an amusing study in word painting and wordplay.

----Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 10, 2008 (UNF Chorale & UNF Chamber Singers)

Larry Farrow : Doodlin'
The versatile performer, arranger, conductor and composer Larry Farrow, an Associate Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Media at Florida State University, has worked in radio, film, television and the recording studio, and has collaborated with with such diverse musicians as Ann Margaret, Gladys Night, The Jacksons, Harry Belafonte, Aretha Franklin, and Peter Nero. Well known for his choral pieces, Farrow's Doodlin' dates from 1982, and its playful interplay draws on the composer's jazz background. --Music @ Main October 5, 2009 (Jacksonville Masterworks Chorale)

Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) was a composer, organist, pianist and teacher, and he is widely regarded as the foremost French composer of his generation. Although Fauré greatly admired Wagner he remained relatively free of Wagner’s highly-colored influence, and instead led his own harmonic revolution by treating chords with added 7ths and 9ths as consonant and by introducing modal inflections into an essentially diatonic framework; in the process he successfully bridged the styles of Saint-Saëns (his teacher) and Ravel (his student). Fauré’s compositions are distinguished by perfectly crafted melodies floating over rich and radiant backgrounds. Among his best-known works is the hauntingly beautiful choral Requiem, and his songs and chamber music have as a devoted and well-deserved following.

Après un rêve | Au bord de l'eau | Rencontre
Fauré is widely regarded as the greatest master of the French art-song, and the heart-wrenching Après un rêve (“After a Dream”) is perhaps his greatest song. Au bord de l'eau (“On the Bank of the River,” 1875) demonstrates Fauré’s uncanny ability to marry music to words, as the flowing melody and accompaniment conjure the image of the flowing water, and the subtle shifts between major and minor echo doubts about the permanence of love while watching passing clouds and distant smoke dissolve and observing how a flower’s fragrance dissipates--but the belief in love is ultimately affirmed in the optimism of a major chord. Rencontre ("Encounter") is the first of the three songs that comprise Fauré’s Poème d'un jour ("Poem of a Day"), Op. 21 (1880).

A few translations of some Fauré song texts: Adieu | Ici-bas | Lydia | Rencontre

Élégie, Op. 24 | Sicilienne, Op.78
Composed in 1880 for cello and piano, Fauré's Élégie, Op. 24, was first performed publicly in 1883 by cellist Jules Loëb (1852-1933), to whom the piece is dedicated. The piece remained so popular that Fauré was asked to create an orchestral version which was published in 1901, and first performed that same year with the legendary Pablo Casals (1876-1973) as soloist.

The cello and piano version of Fauré’s Sicilienne, Op.78, was completed by the composer in 1898, salvaged from the incidental music begun in 1893 for an unproduced play, and, ironically, it became one of its composers best-known works after being orchestrated and inserted into the incidental music for an 1898 production of a different play, Pelléas and Mélisande.

Fantaisie, Op. 79
Fauré composed his Fantaisie, Op. 79, in 1898, for French flutist Paul Taffanel (1844-1908), Fauré's teaching colleague at the Paris Conservatory. Taffanel is credited with founding the "French School" of flute playing, with its emphasis on a lighter tone and incorporating vibrato, as opposed to a "strong and steady" tone that had characterized earlier playing. This far-reaching approach has had a tremendous effect on flute performance ever since, and was made possible in part by the development of the metal flute, which by now mostly has supplanted the older wooden instruments everywhere, except in Celtic music ensembles.

Michael Fiday : Dharma Pops (duo) | Lament (from Aphorisms)

Michael Fiday (b.1961) is Assistant Professor of Composition at the College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, grants and residencies from BMI, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. His music has been commissioned and played extensively throughout the United States and Europe by performers as diverse as the Atlanta Symphony, the Percussion Ensemble of The Hague, pianist James Tocco, and electric guitarist Seth Josel.

--Music @ Main, April 10, 2008 (Violin Futura: Trio Duo Solo)

Gerald Finzi : Let Us Garlands Bring

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): British composer in the tradition of Elgar, via Vaughan Williams. Although its lack of modernity made Finzi’s music respected but unfashionable during his lifetime, his works have enjoyed a surge of popularity in the last couple of decades. Finzi was particularly gifted in setting poetry, and his Let Us Garlands Bring (1929-1942), on poems from various plays by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), is one of his most popular works.

--September 16, 2007 (Biernacki/Smart: Love Songs and Cycles)

Alfred Fissinger : Suite for Marimba (1950)
      I. Mist -- II. Rendezvous In Black

When Chicago composer Alfred Fissinger (b. 1925) wrote his Suite for Marimba in 1950, four-mallet technique was still in its infancy, so for three of the work's original four movements he basically composed independent, polyphonic lines as one might write for a string quartet. Each movement is inspired by the composer's experiences during World War II, and the following recounts Fissinger's own description of the work's first two movements:

"To some people, the quiet of an early morning Mist is a dreary thing; but perhaps others will think of it as I do: a period of complete solitude which affords one many peaceful moments of contemplation.

"Rendezvous in Black depicts a motorized patrol at midnight through the heavily wooded mountains of Luxembourg. It was pitch black and bitter cold, but the men on the patrol were in good spirits. As the patrol progressed, however, the seriousness and the danger was realized. The rather fast passage work at the end of the movement indicates the speed in which the patrol returned to its base upon completing the mission."

--Music @ Main, March, 2009 (Tony Steve, marimba)

Carlisle Floyd : The Trees on the Mountain (from Susannah)

Carlisle Floyd (b. 1926) began his undergraduate studies in piano performance at Converse College in his home state of South Carolina in 1943, but he finished them in New York in 1946, following his principle teacher, Ernst Bacon, to Syracuse University when Pulitzer-prize winning composer and pianist accepted a position there. Floyd joined the piano faculty at Florida State University in 1947, while pursuing his master’s degree at Syracuse University, completed in 1949. At FSU he began composing distinctly American operas on his own librettos, regarding them as music dramas rather than as operas in a more traditional sense. At the 1955 world premiere in Tallahassee of his second opera, Susannah, Floyd received an honorary doctorate from FSU, and in 1983 he was awarded another doctorate from Dickinson College. Floyd’s many other honors include awards from the National Opera Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he also received a Medal of Arts from the White House in 2004. Following its New York premiere, Susannah won the 1956 New York Music Critics Circle Award for Best New Opera, and it was selected to represent American music and culture at the 1958 World’s Fair, in Brussels. The two-act work is often cited as the second-most frequently staged American opera, after Porgy and Bess (--but it seems unlikely that these counts include Menotti’s perennial, one-act Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, which receives numerous productions each December).

Inspired by the Apocryphal story of Susannah and the Elders, Floyd’s McCarthy-era drama tells the tragic tale of a young girl whose life is ruined by the deceitful gossip spread by the women in her church, who are jealous of Susannah's beauty and the attention the menfolk pay her. Her problem is compounded by the guilt of the Church Elders, manifested as outrage, when they discover her bathing in a secluded stream. Encouraged by the false rumors of her loose morals, a travelling preacher, Olin Blitch, forces himself on Susannah. When he discovers that Susannah was indeed an innocent, Blitch is overcome with remorse and tries to convince the townspeople to “forgive” her. Of course they will not, as it would mean they must admit to their own sins of envy and lust. When Susannah’s brother discovers what has happened, he shoots and kills Blitch, and then disappears, never to return—and Susannah’s fate as an embittered outcast is sealed.

Floyd’s musical palate is heavily colored by the hymnody, folk music, and fiddle tunes indigenous to the opera’s rural Tennessee setting, and its backwoods feeling is reinforced by the use of regional dialect. In the soaring 2nd-Act aria, The Trees on the Mountain, Susannah sings a melancholy song her deceased mother taught her, that compares the bleak isolation of a young woman with the harshness of impending winter. The song obviously mirrors Susannah's own situation, and it becomes the musical focal point of the opera. Despite the wholly operatic technique the aria demands of the heroine, Floyd's original lyrics and music achieve the direct, emotional impact of an Appalachian folksong.

Mark Ford
Mark Ford is the coordinator of percussion activities at The University of North Texas in Denton, Texas and Immediate Past-President of the Percussive Arts Society. He is a marimba specialist and is the author of Marimba: Technique Through Music, a marimba method book. Ford has been a featured performer and clinician throughout the U.S., and also at international music festivals in South America, Asia, Australia and Europe. His solo marimba CDs, Motion Beyond and Polaris, have received outstanding reviews.

As a composer Mark Ford has written several popular works for solo marimba and percussion ensemble, and his compositions have been performed at universities and concert halls throughout the world and also featured on National Public Radio. Mark was the first percussionist composer to be invited by the prestigious Van Cliburn Foundation to present a performance/lecture on his compositions for the Modern at the Modern performance series in Ft. Worth, Texas.

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

David Foster (with Carol Bayer Sager): The Prayer
The Prayer was co-written by veteran songwriters Carol Bayer Sager (b.1947) and David Foster (b.1949) for the animated feature film, Quest for Camelot (1998), and although the film didn’t do too well with either critics or audiences this Oscar-nominated song fared much better, earning the 1999 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song used in a motion picture. The movie’s soundtrack included solo versions by both Céline Dion (in English) and Andrea Bocelli (in Italian—a surprising choice for a tale of medieval English knights), and the singers soon after collaborated on a Grammy-nominated bilingual duet that made it onto the Contemporary Adult music charts in the U.S. and Canada. After the birth of her daughter Céline re-recorded it as A Mother’s Prayer, and among other duet versions is a pairing of Charlotte Church and Josh Groban. In any language, The Prayer is a moving plea for guidance and safe passage, and for a nonviolent world of peace and brotherhood.

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

Arthur Frackenpohl: Clarinet Rag
New Jersey native Arthur Frackenpohl (b. 1924), whose composition teachers included Darius Milhaud and Nadia Boulanger, has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants. From 1949 until his retirement in 1985, he was a member of the faculty at Crane School of Music at the State University of New York in Potsdam, and in addition to publishing over 250 instrumental and choral compositions and arrangements he authored a popular college textbook on piano harmonization. His chamber music for wind instruments are among his best-selling works.

--Music @ Main, April 8, 2009 (UNF Clarinet Choir)

Jean Françaix: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano (1986)
      I. [No designation] -- II. Scherzando -- III. Andante -- IV. Allegrissimo

Although the parents of French composer, orchestrator and concert pianist Jean Françaix (1912-1997) were professional musicians -- his father directed the Le Mans music conservatory and his mother was a singer and vocal coach -- the musical talents of such a precocious youngster likely would have been obvious to just about anyone. Young Jean began composing at age six, and by 10 he had become a published composer. At this point his exceptional talent was brought to the attention of Nadia Boulanger, the extraordinarily gifted teacher who mentored some of the greatest musical talents of the 20th Century, ranging from Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter and Ástor Piazzolla to Burt Bacharach and Quicy Jones; even among such luminaries Boulanger considered Françaix to be one of the most naturally gifted composers she had worked with. Françaix, who remained an unapologetic neoclassicist throughout his long career, never ceased adding to his catalog of over 200 compositions in virtually all forms (including operas and film scores), finishing his last completed work less than four months before his death.

Written when Françaix was in his 70s, his sparkling Piano Trio received its first performance at the 1987 Cheltenham Festival in England, and (as best we can tell) this (its latest performance!) is [i.e., would have been] the Jacksonville premiere. At times reminiscent of Poulenc and Shostakovich, the Trio demonstrates the composer's eclectic style, and shows that he never lost his youthful energy and playfulness.

--Music@Main 9/29/2009: Trio Solis (sadly, canceled)

César Franck
César Franck (1822-1890) was a Belgian-born composer, organist and teacher who became a central figure of late French Romanticism. But this was not exactly what had been expected early on.

As a lad, César-Auguste was quite the piano prodigy, and his father, Nicolas-Joseph, did his best to provide for the best music education in order to capitalize on his son's talent. Papa Franck got César-Auguste into leading conservatories, first in their hometown of Liège (until 1837), and later in Paris (until 1842). The elder Franck was determined that his son would become the next Mozart, and gain fame (while providing fortune) tracing the footsteps of Chopin and Franz Liszt (1811-1886) through Europe's fashionable salons. However, the big-footed Liszt had the opportunity to witness a teenaged César-Auguste perform and Liszt cautioned Franck Père that, although Franck Fils definitely had the talent, he didn't seem to have the flamboyant temperament needed to fill Liszt's enormous shoes, and trot off hobnobbing with countesses and such. Papa Franck was undeterred, but Liszt proved to have the keener insight. César-Auguste ultimately left the Paris Conservatory, and reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown, resulting, it seems, from the unrealistic demands dumped upon him by his overbearing father, who had required César-Auguste to concertize and teach, on top of trying to keep up with his studies.

Amid the angst Love blossomed. One day, ca. 1846, César-Auguste proposed to one of his piano students, Mme. Félicité Saillot (1824-1918). At the time French law required a Father's permission for a son not yet 25 to marry, and Nicolas-Joseph refused his consent. This, finally, was the straw that disabled a poor camel, and César (deliberately dropping the "-Auguste" as a sign of defiance) stormed out with only what he could carry, and moved in with his would-be in-laws. On December 10, 1847, César came of age, and, when he and Félicité got married on February 22, 1848, his by now resolute and reconciled parents did at least show up for the ceremony.

Having abandoned his previous career track, the reticent youth concentrated on the church organ, and kept to his teaching as well. He also continued composing, but contemporary Parisian taste hungered for opera, so Franck's penchant for "absolute" instrumental forms resulted in works that were never exactly eaten up by the public, including even most of his mature masterpieces. But his reputation as a virtuoso organist grew, and from 1858 until his death, Franck held the prestigious appointment as organist at the newly-built Basilica Sainte-Clothilde. His reputation throughout Europe as a virtuoso organist and the master of improvisation was apparently well-deserved, such that after hearing the grownup César improvise, Liszt commented that it was as though J.S. Bach had been reincarnated. In 1872, Franck became also the organ professor at the Paris Conservatory, where, additionally, he had a very devoted circle of student composers, including D'Indy, Duparc, Vierne, and Chausson.

In 1874, Franck finally got around to hearing the Prelude from Tristan und Isolde, the revolutionary opera by Richard Wagner (1813-1883) that had premiered nine years previous. Wagner's pervasive chromatic harmonies seemed to have provided the catalyst that finally brought Franck, then already in his fifth decade, to the top of the heap of late-Romantic composers. Franck's genius was to take Wagnerian chromaticism, combined with Bach's counterpoint and Liszt's cyclic thematic transformations, and shake them all together with Beethoven's sense of formal integrity, to create something uniquely his own in the process. Franck's crowning achievements in orchestral and chamber music include the Piano Quintet in F Minor (1879), Variations symphoniques, for piano and orchestra (1885), Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano (1886), Symphony in D Minor (1888), and String Quartet in D Major (1889).

Prélude, Choral et Fugue
His last years also included two masterworks for solo piano, the Prélude, Choral et Fugue (1884), and Prélude, aria, et final 1887). The former (and present) piece obviously pays homage to Bach, by taking the prelude and fugue combo so identified with J.S. (and otherwise neglected since his death, except by Mendelssohn), and expanding it with the sandwiched chorale, another genre that conjures Bach just by its mention. Rival composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) complained that Franck's "chorale is not a chorale and the fugue is not a fugue," and Franck certainly breaks through the boundaries that Bach had defined. But Franck obviously knew what he was doing, and rather than merely imitating the earlier master, he instead manages a kind of grand Romantic apotheosis of the Baroque forms. In this regard, Franck's work shows an affinity with Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101, in which Beethoven's first and last movements demonstrate an expanded prelude-fugue relationship that likewise is interrupted, in Beethoven's case by a march rather than a chorale. Whether or not Franck drew inspiration from Beethoven, the three movements of the Prélude, Choral et Fugue demonstrate Franck's favored cyclic treatment of shared and recurring thematic material, as characteristic elements from the preceding movements join into the Fugue as it races toward its brilliant final gestures.

Sonata in A Major for Violin & Piano (1886)       Allegretto ben moderato — Allegro — Ben moderato — Allegretto poco mosso
Franck’s Sonata shows the influence of Wagner’s chromaticism and Liszt’s use of recurring and transformed thematic material, but Franck melded these into a style all his own. While it was composed as a wedding gift for the Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe, the Sonata is equally a virtuoso showpiece for the piano. It is considered by many critics to be not only the finest French violin sonata, but perhaps the finest violin sonata, period.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, June 24, 2007 (Huls Clark Duo)

Philippe Gaubert: Madrigal, for Flute & Piano

In 1919 at age forty, the French flutist, conductor and composer Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) became one of the most prominent musicians in France by earning three important appointments almost simultaneously: Professor of Flute at the Conservatoire de Paris, and Principal Conductor of both the Paris Opéra and the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Gaubert composed a wide variety of instrumental, orchestral and vocal music, plus two operas, and it is not surprising that many of his most effective compositions are for flute. Gaubert’s Madrigal for flute and piano (1908) demonstrates the composer’s affinity with Franck and Fauré.

--Music @ Main, February 10, 2009 (Mu Phi Epsilon Student Recital)

George Gershwin
George Gershwin (1898-1937) wrote his first song in 1916 and his first Broadway musical in 1919, and remained a fixture of the New York stage for 14 successive years. In 1924 he enjoyed success in applying jazz idioms to concert works with Rhapsody in Blue, and until the end of his life he produced larger-scale works alongside songs for musicals and films.

S’wonderful (from Funny Face)
With lyrics by his brother Ira, S’wonderful first appeared on Broadway in the 1927 musical Funny Face. Veteran choral arranger Dick Thompson provides the setting for today’s concert.

----Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 10, 2008 (UNF Chorale & UNF Chamber Singers)

I Got Rhythm! (from Girl Crazy)
I Got Rhythm was composed in 1930, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. It is a song number in their musical Girl Crazy, which also includes another of their hit songs, Embraceable You, and has been sung by many singers since. Ethel Merman sang the song in the original Broadway production and Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin, after seeing her opening reviews, warned her never to take a singing lesson.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 11, 2007 (Hsiao-Ling Wang & Kristin Samuelson)

Summertime (from Porgy and Bess)
Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess (1935), with lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin, remains the only opera by an American composer firmly established in the repertory. Gershwin began composing the show's most memorable song, Summertime, in December 1933, and he new a good thing when he heard it--the song appears twice in the opera's first act and reappears in the 2nd and 3rd acts as well. Indeed, Summertime is one of the most popular songs ever written: an international group of collectors of recordings of Summertime known as "The Summertime Connection" has tabulated over 47,000 public performances of which more than 38,000 have been recorded!

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 11, 2007 (Hsiao-Ling Wang & Kristin Samuelson)
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 12, 2012 (MacMillan / Poeltl /Wyke)

They All Laughed (from Shall We Dance?)
They All Laughed is included in Shall We Dance?, the 1937 movie musical starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Alberto Ginastera: Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15
Regarded as one of the most important composers from South America, Argentina’s Alberto Ginastera (1910-1981) was the son of immigrants from Catalonia (his father) and Italy (his mother), and the composer retained the Catalan pronunciation of the family name (i.e., with the “G” pronounced like an English “j,” as in “genius”). Ginastera himself grouped his music into three stylistic periods: “Objective Nationalism” (1934-48), “Subjective Nationalism” (1948-58), and “Neo-expressionism” (1958-81). But even in his later works, which use serialism and other avant-garde techniques, he retained the driving rhythms inspired by the folk music of his homeland.

Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15 (“Suite of Creole Dances,” 1946), dating from his first stylistic period, straightforwardly adapts Argentine folk tunes. Interestingly, progressive rocker Keith Emerson performed music from the suite during Emerson, Lake and Palmer rock concerts.

Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 3
Philip Glass (b.1937) is among the most influential American composers of the 20th and 21st Centuries. gaining prominence in the early 1970s as a chief representative on musical minimalism, characterized by highly repetitive figures and diatonic harmonic movement. Still active as a composer, performer and lecturer, his website summarizes his compositional achievements, with “more than twenty operas, large and small; eight symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ.”

Glass’s String Quartet No. 3 dates from 1985, and uses music from Paul Schrader's film Mishima, based on the life of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima (1925-1970).

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits
Bohemian by birth and cosmopolitan in life, the early Classic-period composer Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) spent his adulthood variously in Prague, Vienna, Milan, London, and Paris, and along the way he helped revolutionize the way operas were conceived, and thus laid the groundwork for the music dramas of Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

Gluck's mythological Orfeo ed Euridice ("Orpheus and Eurydice," 1762) is generally regarded as the first "modern" opera. With it the composer abandoned the conventions of the prevailing opera seria, a stylized genre that typically introduces secco recitatives (i.e., those "dry," almost spoken passages accompanied only by harpsichord and bass instrument) to explain a situation, followed by florid arias in which the singers offer motionless reflections on said situation while the full orchestra supports their vocal pyrotechnics. Instead, Gluck favored a less contrived, more "naturalistic" dramatic style--except, of course, that everybody still goes around singing. This landmark opera has never left the repertoire, but Gluck did revise it a couple of times, most significantly for the 1774 Paris production, for which it became Orphée et Eurydice. The Parisians had a particular fondness for ballet, so, in addition to adapting the music to a French libretto from the original Italian, Gluck expanded the dance numbers, including adding a D-minor section to the existing F-major Menuet to create the well-known Dance of the Blessed Spirits. This dance sequence heralds Orpheus's arrival in the Underworld, as he continues on his (ultimately unsuccessful) quest to lead his recently-deceased wife, Eurydice, back into the land of the apparently less-blessed living.

Georg Eduard Goltermann: Romance, op. 119, no. 1

German composer Georg Eduard Goltermann (1824-1898) began his career touring Europe as a cello soloist before settling in Frankfurt am Main in 1853 as deputy music director at the municipal theater, ultimately becoming its Kapellmeister in 1874. Goltermann (sometimes spelled without the final “n”) composed five cello concertos, and although public performances of any of them are now rare, his fourth concerto remains a popular teaching vehicle for cello students. There is not a great deal of original music composed for cello quartet, so the Romance and Serenade that comprise Goltermann’s Op. 119 have fared better than many of his works.

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

Warren Gooch: Fauxmanian Dance No. 3

The music of Warren Gooch has been performed widely throughout North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe, and he has been recognized through awards, grants, and commissions by numerous national and regional arts organizations. Dr. Gooch is Chair of the Theory Composition Area and Coordinator of the Master of Arts in Music program at Truman State University (Kirksville, Missouri), where he has been a finalist for both "Educator of the Year" and "Advisor of the Year" awards. A native of Duluth, Minnesota, he received his doctorate in composition from the University of Wisconsin, and his publishers include Kjos, Alliance, Flammer, Plymouth, and Southern. He is active in the field of sacred music, and his Clockwork for orchestra has been recorded on the MMC label.

About today's work the composer says:

"The Three Fauxmanian Dances were written for my sister on her fiftieth (um … 29th) birthday. A fine amateur violinist, she was looking for something new that she and a cellist friend could play. As my sister and I have always been fond of Slavic music, I took that as a point of departure. Consequently the 'flavor' (but not the substance) of these three dances is vaguely East European. These pieces were composed in June of 2006 and received their premiere at the Truman State University New Music Festival in fall of 2007."

--Music @ Main, May 12, 2009 (VnC Duo)

Henryk Górecki: Variazioni, op. 4 (1956)

Much like his better-known contemporary Penderecki, Henryk Górecki (b.1933) first achieved fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a darling of the European avant-garde spearheaded by Pierre Boulez, only to abandon their intellectual asceticism, and instead strive during the 1970s toward a more personal idiom that often seems to embrace deep sorrow as a catharsis for healing. Upon his abandonment of post-Webern serialism in favor of a simpler and more direct style, Górecki was dismissed by critics as suddenly unimportant. But Górecki went on to surprise even himself when the 1992 release of his then 15-year-old Symphony no. 3, op. 36 ("Symphony of Sorrowful Songs") sold over a million copies world-wide, an unmatched success for a modern symphony. His mature style, sometimes described as "sacred minimalism," is infused with religious mysticism and characterized by modal harmonies derived from early Polish church music melded with repetitive melodies and rhythms.

In contrast, Górecki's youthful Variations, op. 4, has been described as combining "the fluid lyricism of Szymanowksi, the rhythmic fervor of Bartók and the textural severity of Webern," but with his own voice "already recognizable, especially in the way small melodic or harmonic motifs suddenly explode with the energy of a split atom" (Mark Swed, LA Times, 10.3.1997).

--Music @ Main, December 8, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk, violin & Christine Clark, piano

Charles Gounod: Repentir (O Divine Redeemer)
French composer Charles-François Gounod (sharl frahn-SWA GOO-noh, 1818-1893) gained international fame as the composer of operas, including especially Faust (1859), based on Goethe’s play, and Roméo et Juliette (1867), based on Shakespeare’s, and many a baby-boomer will remember his instrumental Funeral March for a Marionette as the theme music to the 1955-1962 television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

But before he began composing for the stage Gounod was a church musician and in his youth he had considered entering the priesthood, so it is not surprising that his output includes a great many sacred works. In fact, Gounod is most widely known today for his Ave Maria (1852), which uses the first Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier (book 1) as the accompaniment to an original melody.

His second most famous sacred piece probably is Repentir (“Repentance”), or as it is better known in the English-speaking world, O Divine Redeemer. The semi-operatic “scene in the form of a prayer” was composed only six months before the composer’s death, and Gounod wrote the original French text himself. Originally with orchestral accompaniment, Gounod did not intend the scene for use in religious services, but its heartfelt and pious fervor makes it so irresistible to church soloists that it is safe to say that today it is performed more frequently for church congregations than for concert audiences.

--Hsiao-Ling Wang, Kristin Samuelson, February, 2007
--October 21, 2007 (Cromley and Friends: Voices & Violin, Bach to Broadway)

George Hamilton Green
Notes condensed from the Percussive Arts Society biography:

Considered one of history's greatest xylophone players, George Hamilton Green (1893-1970) started playing at age 11, and by 13 was performing solos with his father's band. At 19, he entered vaudeville and in one year was proclaimed "the fastest, most artistic, and most wonderful xylophonist and soloist in this country or abroad." Also a fine teacher, his pedagogical materials are still in use, and his solo xylophone compositions retain enormous popularity. In 1946 he retired from music and became a successful illustrator.

--Intermezzo Weekend Concerts, Sunday, October 8, 2006 (UNF Percussion Ensemble, featuring Matt Wardell)

Mark Grey: Left for the Dogs
Mark Grey (b. 1967) is a composer and sound designer who recently moved to Phoenix from the San Francisco area, and his works have been performed in numerous American, European and Australian venues. He was the sound designer and engineer for John Adams' Pulitzer Prize and Grammy winning On the Transmigration of Souls, and he is now the Composer-in-Residence for the Phoenix Symphony.

--Music @ Main, February 5, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk: Violin Futura)

Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was a nationalistic Norwegian composer and virtuoso pianist best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, and the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play, Peer Gynt. Among his most original works are the Lyriske stykker ("Lyric Pieces") for piano solo, for which he became touted as "The Chopin of the North."

Lyriske stykker: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen | Notturno
The 66 short works comprising Grieg's Lyriske stykker were composed between 1864 and 1901 and published in 10 separate volumes. Among them, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (1896) is one of the most famous. The titular “Troldaugen” (literally, “Troll’s Hill”) is the name of Grieg’s house in Bergen, and the piece is said to be a recollection of the composer’s 25th wedding anniversary celebration held there in 1892.

Another favorite Lyric Piece is the hauntingly beautiful and evocative Notturno, published in 1891, which, in addition to capturing the essence of a moonlit evening, provides an effective study in two-against-three cross rhythms.

--Music @ Main, February 10, 2009 (Mu Phi Epsilon Student Recital)

Sechs Lieder, Op. 48
Grieg’s 170 songs likewise demonstrate his originality, and Grieg wrote that he considered song writing central to his work as composer. His wife, Nina, was a talented singer, and Grieg credited her as the primary inspiration for his songs. The majority of them are in Norwegian, which perhaps explains why they are not better known here in the United State. Of Grieg's settings of German poetry, the 6 Lieder, Op.48 (1884-88, pub. 1889), are regarded as among the very finest. The were dedicated to the Swedish dramatic soprano Ellen Norgren, who became internationally famous under her married name, Ellen Gulbranson, and who also eventually became a Norwegian citizen.

Texts & Translations

1. Gruß (Greeting)
2. Dereinst, Gedanke mein (One Day, My Troubled Mind)
3. Lauf der Welt (The Way of the World)
4. Die verschwiegene Nachtigall (The Secretive Nightingale)
5. Zur Rosenzeit (To the Time of Roses)
6. Ein Traum (A Dream)

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, April 17, 2011 (Krzysztof Biernacki)

Holberg Suite, Op. 40
Grieg's Holberg Suite, Op. 40 (1884), or, Fra Holbergs tid ("From Holberg's Time"), was originally a "Suite in Olden Style" for piano solo, but it has become more popular in the composer's own version for string orchestra. The five movements were composed to commemorate the 200th birth anniversary of Danish-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754).

-- Music @ Main, November 16, 2009 (Jacksonville University Chamber Strings)

Friedrich W. Grutzmacher: Etude for Solo Cello in D major, Op.38, no.21
German cellist and composer Friedrich Wilhelm Grützmacher (1832-1903) was well-known both as a chamber musician and soloist, and he was the principal cellist in the Court Orchestra in Dresden. He concertized widely throughout Europe and Russia, and, in 1898, he was the soloist in the first performance of Don Quixote, by Richard Strauss. Grützmacher also appears to have been the first to perform the solo suites of J.S. Bach in a public concert setting, and he deserves credit for rekindling interest in other important works for the cello from the Baroque and Classic periods, including those by Handel, C.P.E. Bach, Tartini, Geminiani, Haydn, and Boccherini, and for preparing new editions of cello works by Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn. Not surprisingly, most of Grützmacher's compositions feature his own instrument, including three concertos, and his cadenzas to cello concertos by Haydn and Boccherini are still performed, as is his adaptation of Boccherini's Cello Concerto in B-flat, G.482.

A dedicated and gifted teacher, Grützmacher was a professor at both the Leipzig and Dresden conservatories, and he composed numerous technical exercises for his instrument. Among his 24 Etudes, Op. 38 (ca. 1894, also called "Technology of Violoncello Playing"), the second dozen (Nos. 13-24) are especially challenging, and "ascend to a difficulty level that puts them out of reach of all but the most highly-trained virtuosos" (Robert Battey, in Strings magazine, August/September 2007). Of these, Grützmacher's Etude No. 21 in D major has a higher concentration of continuous double stops, especially in the instrument's upper register, than you are likely to hear anywhere else.

Vince Guaraldi: Linus and Lucy
Even if you don’t immediately recognize his name, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) composed immediately recognizable music for the popular televised holiday cartoons based on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip characters. Although Linus and Lucy is his most famous piece, Guaraldi was a Grammy Award winning jazz pianist prior to beginning the Peanuts project. He died at age 47 from a sudden heart attack not long after completing the soundtrack for It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown.

--January 13, 2008 (Aaron Brask, horn)

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