PROGRAM NOTES: Q & R Composers


PROGRAM NOTES Q - R

| QUILTER | RACHMANINOFF | RAVEL | REGER | REICH | ROBERTS | RODGERS | ROLLINS | ROMIG | ROSSINI | ROTA | RUTTER |


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

Copyright 2006-2020 by Edward Lein;
please notify & credit if reprinting.


Roger Quilter: Five Shakespeare Songs, Op. 21
Although some of the lighter orchestral pieces by Roger Quilter (1877-1953) are still performed, outside his native Great Britain Quilter's reputation is sustained primarily through his art songs, which number more than a hundred. Quilter began his studies at Eton College, and in the 1890s he continued his musical education in Germany. In addition to Quilter, there were several other English-speaking composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt (although not all at the exact same time), including Percy Grainger and Cyril Scott, and together they became known as the "Frankfurt Group." In 1900, Quilter published his first songs, and following performances the next year he quickly became established as a composer with a special gift for creating melodies that enhanced the natural rhythm of the words, while also providing fully-realized accompaniments that nonetheless allowed the singer to make expressive use of rubato. As an interpreter of his own songs, Quilter sometimes provided the piano accompaniment for public performances, and he even recorded several of them.

In 1905, Quilter's Three Shakespeare Songs, Op. 6, provided an early success, but he waited until 1919 to return to The Bard for inspiration, composing a song (Under the Greenwood Tree) and a duet (It was a Lover and His Lass) on lighthearted texts from As You Like It. In 1921, Quilter included these as the second and third selections in his Five Shakespeare Songs, Op. 21, recasting the duet as a solo. The text for the elegiac first song of Op. 21, Fear No More the Heat o' the Sun, is from Cymbeline. The beautiful and concise 4th song, Take, O Take Those Lips Away, which is from Measure for Measure, was later adapted for piano quartet by the composer. The cycle ends with Hey, Ho, the Wind and the Rain, the song which likewise provides the conclusion for its source, Twelfth Night.


Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
...was a Russian composer and conductor, and one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Although of the 20th Century, Rachmaninoff's music remained firmly rooted in 19th-Century Russian Romanticism. For a time some post-War critics foolishly dismissed him as old-fashioned, but the lush harmonies and sweeping melodies that characterize his music assure it a continuing place in the world’s concert halls. Astonishingly, Rachmaninoff had what might be called a "phonographic" memory in that upon hearing virtually any piece he could play it back at the piano, even years later—and if he liked the piece it would sound like a polished performance!


Russian Rhapsody
In his Russian Rhapsody (op. posth.), written when he was an 18 year old conservatory student, Rachmaninoff presents variations on a Russian folk-song that a classmate foolishly challenged could never be used to create an extended composition. Needless to say, the classmate lost the bet!

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, September 2006 (Sandra Stewart and Vera Watson, duo pianists)


Trio élégiaque
Rachmaninoff wrote his first Trio élégiaque when he was only 19 years old, and through the course of its single, sonata-form movement he transforms the opening theme (Lento lugubre) into various passionate guises, concluding with its appearance as a funeral march.

-- Music @ Main, March 3, 2009 (Trio Florida)


Song Selections
Although not nearly as well known as his solo piano music and concertos, Rachmaninoff composed songs throughout his career and his choral music has a devoted following among aficionados. His melodic talent was perfectly suited to vocal music, and although the six songs of Rachmaninoff’s Opus 4 are student works dating from 1890-93, this is nonetheless around the same time as the famous Prelude in C# minor, Op. 3, so elements of his mature style are already in play.


Jax Symphony Notes SERGEI RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940)
      1. Non allegro
      2. Andante con moto (Tempo di valse)
      3. Lento assai - Allegro vivace - Lento assai. Come prima - Allegro vivace
Besides these Symphonic Dances, after leaving Russia Rachmaninoff only wrote four other extended works: Piano Concerto No. 4, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and the Third Symphony. Of these, only the Rhapsody was a success during his lifetime, partly due to its adaptation as a ballet by Michel Fokine, the choreographer who had staged Stravinsky's Firebird and Petrushka. Fokine likewise agreed to choreograph the Symphonic Dances, but died before that happened.

Listen Up: Rachmaninoff’s "Romantic" harmonies and rhythms aren't so very different from many mid-twentieth-century composers (at least among those still frequently performed), but there's no denying a conscious nostalgia because he quotes early works in the outer movements. Drawn from an unfinished ballet, the first Dance opens with quick flashes of a three-note motif that infuses most of the movement, and really kicks off after a brief, menacing outburst suggesting the funereal Dies irae plainchant (that’s actually quoted in the harmony). The opening motif also informs the characteristic "big tune" of the voluptuous middle section, introduced by Rachmaninoff's only use ever of saxophone. Under a glittering halo of harp, piano and glockenspiel, the coda quotes Rachmaninoff's First Symphony (with the first four notes matching the Dies irae). Initially hesitant, the centerpiece is an otherworldly waltz that whirls into oblivion. The finale again elicits the Dies irae, but ultimately Life triumphs over Death with the appearance of an Eastern Orthodox Resurrection chant from Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil.

-- Notes ©2015 by Edward Lein, who produces Jacksonville Public Library’s Music @ Main concerts,
and was a finalist in Jacksonville Symphony’s 2006 Fresh Ink composition competition.


Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
... was a great French composer and master orchestrator who maintains a place among the most performed and recorded composers of all time. He is often identified with Debussy as a chief proponent of musical Impressionism, but Ravel melded exotic harmonies with classical formal structures to create a personal, refined style that transcends a single label.


Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major
In 1897 Ravel composed a violin sonata in A minor, a student work which has been published and recorded posthumously; so his more famous Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major is sometimes referred to as “Sonata No. 2.”

Those familiar only with Ravel’s opulent pre-war works may be surprised by its sparse textures, and the composer said that he purposely did not try to hide the difference between the legato sound of the violin and the relatively brittle, percussive sound of the piano. Ravel began writing the G major Sonata in 1923, but due to declining health and "writer's block" he did didn't finish it until four years later. It is his last chamber music composition, and it summarizes the diverse elements that blend into his mature style: impressionistic modal and whole tone inflections, parallel triads and open fifths, bi-tonal passages and a peppering of sharp dissonances, sometimes glittering accompaniment figures, and, especially in the second “Blues” movement, a fascination with American jazz and blues and the music of George Gershwin. Ravel himself was the pianist for the 1927 world premiere in Paris, as well as for the American premiere the following year.


Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Ravel had hoped to enter his song cycle, Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1932–1933), in a competition for Georg Wilhelm Pabst's film Adventures of Don Quixote, but ill health and a car accident prevented him from completing the songs in time. Written on poems by novelist Paul Morand (1888-1976), the cycle ranges from tender to humorous, and, in addition to reflecting the world of Don Quixote it reflects Ravel’s own Spanish heritage. These songs form Ravel’s last completed composition, and he prepared versions with accompaniment for either orchestra or piano.

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


Pièce en forme de Habanera
Although today's selection is played by flute quartet, it was originally composed in 1907 as Vocalise-Étude en forme d’Habanera, a demanding vocal solo with piano accompaniment. But under the title “Pièce en forme de Habanera" it has been published in a number of versions for varying instrumental combinations.

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


Piano Trio
Ravel composed his magical Piano Trio in 1914 while working as a volunteer truck driver during World War I. At once elegant, exotic, subtle and brilliant, the Trio was first performed in Paris the following year, and it continues to enthrall both performers and listeners.

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


Ravel / Klingsor: Shéhérazade

(French text plus English translation)

--Notes and English version of the text, ©2009, by Edward Lein;
all rights reserved. Please notify & credit when reprinting

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) composed his magically evocative song cycle, Shéhérazade, in 1903 (the same year as his String Quartet and the first movement of his Sonatine for piano solo), setting for high voice and piano three poems by his friend, Tristan Klingsor (pseudonym of Léon Leclère, 1874-1966). The orchestral version soon followed, and it seems likely that the orchestrations were as much a part of Ravel's original conception as the vocal part and harmonies. The cycle was written for either soprano or tenor, and although it is seldom performed by a man, in 2004 baritone Konrad Jarnot released a recording with pianist Helmut Deutsch.

In 1903, Klingsor published a collection of 100 poems inspired by reading the Middle Eastern folktales known collectively as One Thousand and One Nights (or, Arabian Nights) which lately had been published in a French translation. He titled his poetry collection Schéhérazade, chosen in homage to Rimsky-Korsakov's similarly inspired symphonic suite, of which both he and Ravel were fans--it is perhaps significant that at the mention of "Sinbad" toward the end of the first song the solo violin, featured so prominently in Rimsky Korsakov's suite, can be heard in Ravel's orchestral setting (albeit doubled an octave below by Ravel). Ravel and Klingsor were likewise big fans of Debussy's revolutionary opera Pelléas et Mélisande, and they reportedly attended all 14 performances of the opera's premiere run in 1902.[1] When Ravel decided to set three of Klingsor's poems he made the poet re-read the lines aloud repeatedly, hoping to capture the rhythms of French speech patterns as perfectly as had Debussy.

Often warm and glittering but suffused with a melancholy longing, Ravel's music transforms our understanding of the poetry, particularly in the first and final songs. When first performed in 1904, Asie was sung as the last rather than first song. But when it came time to publish the score the composer changed the order of the songs, instead concluding with L'indifférent, in which Ravel "once suggested that the key to his own personality lay hidden ..." [2]

  • On the surface, Asie appears to be little more than a catalog of exotic enticements available to travelers--but the music suggests that the narrator is someone who feels trapped in a mundane existence, with the only likely escape found in reading the adventures of others.
  • La flûte enchantée is a straightforward depiction of romantic yearning as it relates how lovers, separated by constraints of servitude, discover that they can still form an immediate connection through music.
  • At first reading, L'indifférent comes across merely as a libertine eyeing a would-be conquest; but through the music one is left instead with the impression of a traveler isolated in a foreign land hoping to make any sort of human contact to overcome deep loneliness, but who seems somehow emotionally powerless to interact. It becomes almost as though Klingsor, when heard through the amplification of Ravel's music, has captured in a few lines what Thomas Mann related in his 1912 novella, Death in Venice.
  • YouTube Performance
    FOOTNOTES
    1. Ravel and Klingsor, among other young Parisian musicians, painters and writers, formed a society called Les Apaches whose purpose was to promote ground-breaking artistic achievements, and mutually supporting Debussy's controversial opera was chief among their efforts.
    2. Quoting EMI producer Ronald Kinloch Anderson in his notes for the Janet Baker/Sir John Barbirolli recording re-released in 1975.

    Note on the translation:
    Ravel was exacting in his rhythmic setting of the French text, and the intent in my English version was to match the rhythm of the French original, syllable for syllable as closely as I could (but not with the intent that the English version might be substituted in performance!). Consequently a few words, mostly adjectives, not explicit in the French have been added to "fill-in-the-blanks" of the English -- these additions appear in gray font, and I would have no problem if they were omitted in reprinting. Less frequently a French word or two may have been omitted as long as the meaning isn't altered. A few other minor liberties have been taken in hope of making the English sound a little more linguistically idiomatic or "poetic," e.g., in the third line, "Où dort la fantaisie ..." which literally translates as "Where sleeps the fantasy ..." has been rendered: "Where sleeping fantasy lies ..."

    1. Asie (Asia)

    2. La flûte enchantée (The Enchanted Flute)

    3. L'indifférent (The Indifferent One)


    Jax Symphony Notes Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
    Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-1917 / 1919)
          I. Prélude
          II. Forlane
          III. Menuet
          IV. Rigaudon

    The dead are sad enough in their eternal silence. – Maurice Ravel

    In 1919, Ravel made an orchestral arrangement of four movements from his piano suite, Le Tombeau de Couperin. Begun soon after France entered World War I, he intended his original six-movement piano version as a tribute to French music from times past. For the orchestral suite, Ravel dropped the second-movement Fugue and the sixth-movement Toccata, and moved the middle-movement Rigaudon to the end as the new finale.

    The slightly built composer was thwarted in repeated attempts to enlist, but, at age 40 he finally became a driver with an artillery unit. In the meantime Ravel had written a friend about working on "something for the Pope," namely a transcription of Forlane-Rondeau by French-Baroque composer François Couperin as a study for his original work. Ravel's joke referred to a call from Pope Pius X for dance-halls to replace "immoral" tangos with the forlana, a Venetian dance from the 1500s. But Ravel's joking soon gave way to the harsh realities of war.

    Ravel did little more composing before his military discharge in June 1917. Despite failing health compounded by despair over his mother's death that January, he finished the piano suite by the end of the year. He resurrected the title, tombeau ("tomb" or "tombstone"), from 16th-century poets who'd used it for verses eulogizing dead nobles and such. For Ravel it had a double meaning. In addition to paying homage to earlier French composers, he dedicated each of the movements to friends who'd fallen in battle. Burying his personal grief, Ravel created music that joyously celebrates the lives of those remembered rather than dwelling on the loss felt by those left behind.

    LISTEN UP: Ravel's suite retains the grace and elegance of the pieces that inspired it, but with decidedly modern harmonies and melodic contours. The opening Prélude provides a whirlwind start, with perpetual 16th notes swirling throughout. Like Couperin's model, Ravel's courtly Forlane has a rondo-like structure, with spicy dissonances to keep things moving. The tender Menuet contains the only hint of tragedy, rising over the dronelike bass of the central Musette; it's the last music Ravel turned to before his own death. The brassy Rigaudon, patterned after a spry folk-dance from Provence, brings the orchestral suite to a spirited close.


    Max Reger
    -- Suite in D minor for Solo Cello, Op. 131c, No. 2
    -- "Prelude" from Suite No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 131c, no. 2 (1915)

    Although his music is now much neglected, while he was alive Bavarian composer, conductor, educator and keyboard virtuoso Max Reger (1873-1916) was as highly regarded as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, and his influence was at least as great: Paul Hindemith credited his own stylistic development chiefly to Reger, and it has been observed that Reger’s post-Wagnerian chromatic excursions paved the way for the atonal sound-world of Arnold Schoenberg, who, incidentally, considered Reger to be a genius.

    Following the examples of Beethoven and Brahms, Reger fashioned his works in the tradition of "absolute" music, and his complete mastery of the fugue and other contrapuntal techniques demonstrates his devotion to the music of J.S. Bach. In the span of only about 25 years, Reger produced over 1000 pieces encompassing virtually every genre, with the exception of opera.

    Reger wrote abundant chamber music featuring the cello, including four sonatas for cello and piano, and five string quartets. Along with Six Preludes and Fugues for solo violin (Op. 131a), three Duos in Olden Style for two violins (Op. 131b), and three Suites for solo viola (Op. 131d), Reger composed three Suites for Solo Cello, Op. 131c, which he completed in the fall of 1914, against the expanding horror that was World War I.

    --Music @ Main, September 9, 2008 (Alexei Romanenko, cello)


    Steve Reich
    Biographical note paraphrased from Reich's website:
    Steve Reich (b. 1936) as been called "America's greatest living composer" (The Village VOICE), "the most original musical thinker of our time" (The New Yorker), and "among the great composers of the century" (The New York Times), and The Guardian (London) observed that Reich is one of "just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history." From his early taped speech pieces, It's Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966), to his collaboration with video artist Beryl Korol for the video opera Three Tales (2002), Mr. Reich's path has embraced not only aspects of Western Classical music, but the structures, harmonies and rhythms of non-Western music traditions, as well as jazz and other American vernacular idioms.

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


    Jimmy Roberts: Shouldn’t I be less in Love (from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change)
    Although The Fantasticks maintains the number one spot, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts, is the second-longest running Off Broadway musical, amassing 5003 performances between 1996 and 2008. Described as "Seinfeld set to music," it is structured as a series of mostly independent vignettes with a multitude of different characters, but taken together the scenes depict a progression of romantic life from the first date through married life with children. In Shouldn’t I be less in Love an unnamed "Man" reflects on expectations one has after 30 years of married life.


    Richard Rodgers: My Funny Valentine (from Babes in Arms)
    Composer Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) wrote over 900 songs and his collaborative work with different lyricists, mainly Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960), pretty much defined the Broadway musical for four decades. The Rodgers & Hart showtune My Funny Valentine originated in the 1937 musical Babes in Arms, and it has since become a jazz and pop standard, reportedly appearing on more than 1300 albums recorded by over 600 artists.

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


    Catherine Rollins: Moonlight Nocturne in C minor
    American composer and pianist Catherine Rollin is an active teacher and clinician, and has given workshops and masterclasses in Japan, Canada, and throughout the United States. She has published over 200 pedagogic compositions for the piano, including works commissioned by Music Teachers National Association and Clavier magazine. Her Romantically-inspired Moonlight Nocturne in C minor was published in 2007.


    James Romig
    JAMES ROMIG (b. 1971) A dedicated educator, James Romig (b. 1971) is a member of the faculty at Western Illinois University, and is a frequent guest lecturer at other music schools, including Northwestern University, Interlochen, the University of Illinois, and The Juilliard School of Music. He conducts and records with the Luna Nova New-music Ensemble, and is co-director of The Society for Chromatic Art, based in New York City. Professor Romig holds a Ph.D. in music theory and composition from Rutgers University, and undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Iowa, and his teachers included Charles Wuorinen and Milton Babbitt. Romig says his music “celebrates dramatic balance, exuberant instrumental virtuosity, and rigorous formal integrity.” More at www.jamesromig.com.

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


    Gioachino Rossini
    By 1829, when Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) retired after the premiere of his 39th opera, Guillaume Tell, he had become the most popular composer in the history of music for the stage, and his Il barbiere di Siviglia ("The Barber of Seville," 1816) retains its place as one of the most frequently staged Italian operas.


    Andante e Tema con variazioni
    In Introduction, Theme and Variations (or, Andante e Tema con variazioni, 1812), the second of his two early sets of variations featuring the clarinet, Rossini follows the introductory section with a lively melody and its five variations to showcase the coloratura capabilities of the clarinet in precisely the same manner he would showcase a singer— Rossini reused the tune in the cavatina for “Malcolm” in his 1819 opera, La donna del lago.

    -- Music@Main, 02/09/2010 @ 6:15 p.m.: Wonkak Kim, clarinet


    L'italiana in Algeri: Sinfonia (arr. for Clarinet Choir)
    Many of his opera overtures likewise remain concert favorites, including the Sinfonia to the comic opera, L'italiana in Algeri ("An Italian in Algiers," 1813), written when the composer was only 21. This arrangement for clarinet choir is by Harold G. Palmer, an American clarinetist, band director, and music educator who is often sited as a key figure in ushering in the "golden age" of the clarinet choir, beginning in the 1950s.

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


    Nino Rota : Speak Softly Love (Parla più piano)
    Italian composer Nino Rota (NEE-noh ROH-tah, 1911-1979) wrote plenty of music for the stage and concert hall, but he is best known for his numerous film scores, especially those composed for Federico Fellini (1920-1993), and for Francis Ford Coppola’s "Godfather" films. The “Love Theme” from the original The Godfather (1972) was purely instrumental in the movie—but it appears that in the early seventies there was an unwritten rule that movie tunes would become instant hits if Andy Williams sang them (apparently he was the Celine Dion of his generation), so lyrics by Larry Kusic were added to Rota’s music and the song was released the same year, as Speak Softly Love — and of course it became a big hit for Andy! In The Godfather Part III (1990) the sung version finally made its film debut, only in Italian (Parla più piano).

    --November 18, 2007 (Bella Voce Cabaret)


    John Rutter: Banquet Fugue (from The Reluctant Dragon)
    Identified by BBC Music Magazine as "the most successful and well-known composer of choral music in recent British history," London-born John Rutter (b. 1945) is co-editor (with Sir David Wilcox) of the highly popular Carols for Choirs anthologies, and now divides most of his time between composing, conducting and lecturing. Rutter's eclectic style combines the harmonic language of early 20th Century British and French liturgical music with the tunefulness of popular song, creating a winning blend that has made works such as his Gloria (1976), Requiem (1985) and Magnificat (1990) among the most frequently performed works of any composer of his generation. Based on an 1898 children's tale by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932), and with lyrics by David Grant, Rutter's musical fable The Reluctant Dragon was originally written for peformance by Britain's famous King's Singers and the City of London Sinfonia. Coming just before the fable's finale, the amusing Banquet Fugue is a lively show-stopper that might easily serve as a theme song for Top Chef!

    --Music @ Main October 5, 2009 (Jacksonville Masterworks Chorale)

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