PROGRAM NOTES: S
| SCRIABIN | SHAIMAN | SHOSTAKOVICH | SIBELIUS | SMADBACK | SMART | SMETANA | G.SMITH | L.SMITH | SOMOS |
| SONDHEIM | STEVE | STOUT | R.STRAUSS | STRAVINSKY | STROOPE | | SWIFT | SZEWCZYK | SZYMANOWSKI |
Copyright 2006-2020 by Edward Lein;
please notify & credit if reprinting.
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)
By the age of three, the French composer and keyboard virtuoso Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) could read and write, and had penned his first piano piece; by seven he had mastered Latin; and by ten he could perform from memory all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas upon request. An expert mathematician and a successful playwright, he published poetry, scholarly works in acoustics and philosophy, and popular travelogues. He was a confidant of Berlioz, Liszt, and Fauré (his most famous student), and a notorious enemy of Franck, Massenet, and especially of Debussy.
Havanaise, Op. 83 Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise, Op. 83, remains one of the most frequently performed and recorded pieces from among the more than 300 works the composer wrote. “Havanaise” (the French equivalent of the Spanish "habanera") is derived from the name of the Cuban city of Havana (“La Habana” in Spanish), and it identifies the origins of the dance rhythms that infuse Saint-Saëns’ virtuoso showpiece. Originally for violin and piano but soon provided with an orchestral accompaniment, Saint-Saëns composed the piece in 1887 for Raphael Diaz Albertini (1857-1928), a Cuban violinist whom he had accompanied on a concert tour a couple of years before.
Le cygne (from The Carnival of the Animals) Although first performed in 1886, Saint-Saëns withheld from publication all but Le cygne (“The Swan”) from The Carnival of the Animals until after his death because he felt that the overall comic tone of the suite would diminish his standing as a “serious” composer. Ironically, the imagination and wit on display in The Carnival have kept it at the top of the dozen or so of his works that are still performed with any regularity, and The Swan, an obvious favorite of cellists, is performed even more frequently on its own.
--Music @ Main, February 10, 2009 (Mu Phi Epsilon Student Recita
I canti della sera (“The Songs of the Evening”)
Italian composer Francesco Santoliquido (1883-1971) completed the music and lyrics of his earliest surviving songs, I canti della sera (“The Songs of the Evening”) in 1908. They were published by Ricordi in 1912, and the journal Musical America recommended them “as the finest of modern concert songs” in 1922. But, in addition to composing, Santoliquido published books of verse and short stories, and in 1937 and 1938 he penned several fascist, anti-Semitic articles, and also decried musical modernism. As a result he was effectively ostracized from the progressive arts community. Ironically, his third wife, pianist Ornella Pulti Santoliquido, had been a student of Alfredo Casella (a prominent Jewish-Italian composer and a particular target of Francesco's), and she became known as an advocate of modern music.
As these four evocative "evening songs" demonstrate, Santoliquido’s early style blends characteristics of Debussy and Richard Strauss (by way of Puccini!), but they do not yet show the influence of the Arabic music that colored his later works, the result of a nine-year sojourn to North Africa which began in 1912.
The first song, L’assiola canta (“The Horned Owl Sings”), is an invitation to share an intimate walk through the woods on a still, starry evening, interrupted only by the mournful sigh of an owl.
Alba di luna sul bosco (“Moonrise over the Woods”) artfully depicts the appearance of a red moon over the forest and its shimmering reflection caught on the surface of a pond; this in turn leads the poet to reflect on the surrounding vast stillness and peace, and how such a perfect sense of communion mirrors, or perhaps even inspires newly found love.
As its title suggests, the mood of Tristezze crepuscolare (“Twilight Gloom”) changes from peaceful contemplation to sorrowful angst and agitation as the incessant pealing of evening church bells unearths painful memories of a lost love.
The final song, L’incontro (“The Encounter”), ends the cycle on a more hopeful note as it relates the happy reunion of a couple who years before had enjoyed a similar twilight flirtation, with evening bells and sqwaking seabirds now heard in the distance, just the same as before. The accompaniment includes rhythmic patterns similar to those used in the preceding songs, perhaps suggestive of the imperfectly-recalled memories mentioned in the lyrics.
--Music @ Main, May 26, 2009 (Anne Elise Richie)
Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano
- 1. Moderato, flowing
- 2. Fast, driving
- 3. Slow, elegiac
- 4. Quite fast, dancing
Composer Peter Schickele (b. 1935) is best known as the Grammy® Award-winning satirist responsible for the hilarious fictional composer, P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742?), which he created during the mid-1960s, at about the same time he left his teaching position at the Juilliard School. In addition to his humorous parodies, Schickele has a varied catalog of original orchestral works and chamber music, and he has composed for stage, television and film, including the soundtrack for the 1972 science fiction film, Silent Running.
The Quartet (composed 1979-1982, published 1984) has become a concert favorite, and its intricate, playful, and sometimes jazzy style showcases the performers technical mastery while never failing to delight audiences.
--Music @ Main, April 28, 2009 (enhakē)
William Louis Schirmer: Lyric for solo violin (World Premiere)
William Louis Schirmer (b.1941) is professor of music theory and composition at Jacksonville University, and he must be ranked as one of history’s most prolific composers—his ever-growing catalog now numbers over 4,000 works in all genres, and includes at least 258 symphonies, 403 piano sonatas and 217 string quartets! He received his training at the Cleveland Institute of Music (B.M.), the Eastman School of Music (M.M.), and Ohio State University (Ph.D.).
Bring Him Home (from Les Miserables)
Set in the early 19th Century leading into the Paris Uprising of 1832, Les Miserables, won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, it started out as a concept album in 1980, with music by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg (b.1944), and French lyrics by Alain Boublil (b.1941) and Jean-Marc Natel (b.1942). It was later adapted for the British stage with an English libretto by Herbert Kretzmer (b.1925), but the 1985 London production was not a great success, running for only three months. That all changed following its 1987 Broadway premiere, and it became the third-longest running production in Broadway history (after The Phantom of the Opera and Cats). Bring Him Home is sung by the central character, Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who had been jailed for 19 years, originally for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. Revolution is in the air, and the song is a prayer for safe passage through the impending violence, offered on behalf of Marius, a student in love with Cossette, the young peasant woman Valjean has sworn to protect.
Now That I’ve Seen Her (from Miss Saigon)
Following the stunning success of their musical version of Les misérables (1985), composer Claude-Michel Schönberg (b.1944) and lyricist Alain Boublil (b.1941) scored another huge success with Miss Saigon (1989), in which they transform the story of Puccini's Madama Butterfly into a Vietnam War-era tragedy. Now That I’ve Seen Her is sung by "Ellen," the betrayed, but nonetheless determined, American wife of "Chris," the G.I. who fathered a child with the innocent Vietnamese girl, "Kim."
In addition to numerous symphonies, chamber works, masses, and solo piano music, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) composed over 600 songs in his short life, and he has remained unsurpassed in the ability to marry poetry with music. Even Beethoven, who apparently never met the younger composer, touted Schubert's genius when he was given some of Schubert's songs shortly before his death. Although Schubert was virtually unknown to the general public, his music was regularly performed in private concerts for Vienna’s musical elite, and by 1825 he was in negotiations with four different publishers. But the bulk of Schubert's masterworks remained unpublished at the time of his death, so he generally had had to depend on his devoted circle of friends to help maintain his finances. After Schubert died, probably from medicinal mercury poisoning, his wish to be buried next to Beethoven, who had died just the previous year, was honored.
Schubert's father was a dedicated amateur musician who wasted little time in drafting his young'uns into the family consort. From the age of 5, Franz's routine began to include lessons in singing, violin, viola, piano and organ. In 1804, It was his dulcet singing tones that brought him to the attention of Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), then the most influential musician in Vienna. By 1808, Schubert had entered the imperial seminary on a choir scholarship, and it wasn't too long after that that Salieri was giving him private composition lessons.
An early champion and Schubert's very first publisher was Anton Diabelli (1781-1858), who issued Schubert's famous song, Der Erlkönig (literally "The Alder-King," but often translated as "The Elf King"), in 1821. Their association ended in 1823 when Schubert had a falling-out with Diabelli's business partner, Pietro Cappi. But after Schubert died, Diabelli (who had himself split with Cappi in 1824) bought a large portion of Schubert's manuscripts from Schubert's brother, and for about 30 years after the composer's death, Diabelli was still publishing "new" works by Schubert.
Gretchen am Spinnrade ("Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel," Op.2, D. 118, 1814) was the first work that brought Schubert, not yet 17 years old, to the attention of Viennese music-lovers, and it is still regarded as among the finest of all German Lieder. The text, drawn from Goethe's Faust (Part 1), relays the obsessive confusion, bordering on despair, of the still innocent Gretchen after she has become infatuated with Faust, but then is seemingly deserted by him (oh, that she had been!). The motion of Schubert's piano part reflects not only the whirring of the spinning wheel, but also Gretchen's increasingly agitated emotional state.
Gretchen am Spinnrade ("Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel")
Following Schubert's Ave Maria, D. 839, his Ständchen (Serenade), D.957, no.4, must come in as a close second among his most-beloved songs, and, as with Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze, Schubert's popular "Swan Song" has been arranged for practically every performance ensemble imaginable. "Leise flehen meine Lieder," is the first line of the text by German poet Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860) that served as Schubert's inspiration..
Mirjams Siegesgesang ("Miriam's Song of Triumph"), op. 136
Among his friends was soprano and voice teacher Anna Fröhlich, for whom he wrote several of his partsongs, and it was principally with her and her three singing sisters in mind that Schubert wrote Mirjams Siegesgesang, D. 942. Although the cantata for soprano solo, mixed voices, and piano was not published until more than a decade after the composer's death, the piece was first performed on January 30, 1829, at a Schubert memorial concert organized by Anna Fröhlich. --Music@Main October 5, 2009 (Jacksonville Masterworks Chorale)
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen ("The Shepherd on the Rock")
Schubert composed Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D.965, during the last months of his life, probably at the request of Anna Milder-Hauptmann, a famous soprano of the Austrian operatic stage. The work, which may well have been Schubert’s last song, brilliantly combines elements of Lieder, operatic arias and chamber music, and although the original scoring is for soprano, piano, and obbligato clarinet, published versions substituting obbligato violin, flute or cello illustrate the works versatility and universal appeal. The text combines verses by two German poets, Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827) and Wilhelmina Christiane von Chézy (1783-1856).
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, October 21, 2007 (Cromley and Friends: Bach to Broadway)
Die schöne Müllerin
TEXTS & TRANSLATIONS Die schöne Müllerin
Although Beethoven's lovely An die ferne Geliebte ("To the Distant Beloved," 1816) is generally cited as being the first "song cycle," Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin ("The Miller's Lovely Daughter," 1823-24) is the first song cycle of its own type. Beethoven's cycle is one continuous movement with several contrasting sections, along the lines of a sung fantasia, in which music from the beginning returns at the end so as to form a kind of musical circle. In contrast, Schubert composed a set of related songs intended to be performed as a group in a specified order, but each of the 20 songs is nonetheless self-contained, and so may also stand alone as a separate piece. Thus, Schubert's concept of the song cycle is more in keeping with a Baroque-era solo cantata, with piano accompaniment. And it is Schubert's model more than Beethoven's which has provided inspiration for song cycles by later composers, from Schumann and Mahler to Britten and Barber, and beyond.
In truth, Schubert's groundbreaking work, first published in 1824, was really the concept of German poet Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827). In 1820, when Müller published his cycle of 25 poems about a young miller’s apprentice who finds but then loses love, he intended them as song lyrics, and later wrote a friend that he hoped "... a kindred spirit may some day be found, whose ear will catch the melodies from my words, and who will give me back my own" (Schubert Songs, by Maurice J.E. Brown). Although Schubert chose a number of Müller's poems as texts for other songs as well, including those of another great cycle, Winterreise ("Winter Journey," 1828), there is no evidence that Müller ever knew that his "kindred spirit" indeed had been found, and that Schubert used his words to create unsurpassed musical masterpieces.
Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano in A Minor, D. 821
Allegro moderato -- Adagio -- Allegretto
Schubert composed his Arpeggione Sonata in 1824, most likely at the request of the instrument’s inventor, the Viennese guitar maker Johann Georg Staufer (1778-1853), who had crafted the six-stringed, fretted instrument that was tuned like a guitar but bowed like a cello. The new-fangled, but rather delicate instrument had almost the range of a string quartet. But it never caught on, and by the time Schubert’s work was published posthumously in 1871, the arpeggione had long since fallen into obscurity. Schubert’s Sonata is the only significant work written specifically for the arpeggione, but his melodic masterpiece is best-known in transcriptions for cello or viola, although arrangements for other instruments are also heard.
Sonata for Piano No. 14 in A Minor, D. 784
Schubert wrote this Piano Sonata in A minor in 1823. That same year he learned that he was suffering from syphilis, then an incurable disease, so the bleak fury that pervades some of the writing is not altogether surprising.
"Duo" Sonata, Op. 162, D. 574
Austrian musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch (1883-1967) prepared a chronological thematic catalog of Schubert's total output, which now includes 998 pieces altogether. Considering the generous bulk of Schubert's oeuvre, it is surprising that only eight of the nearly 1,000 works are for a solo instrument with piano. Of the six duos from among these that are for violin and piano, four are sonatas, and, given Schubert's proficiency on the violin as well as piano, they are perfectly idiomatic to the forces at hand. In 1836, Diabelli issued the first three sonatas, all composed in March and April 1816, renaming them Sonatinas, Op. 137, probably to better whet the growing appetites of amateur players. In 1851, Diabelli finally issued the fourth sonata, composed in 1817, as "Duo" Sonata, Op. 162, adding the nickname that indicates the full partnership between the two instruments. Now often also called the "Grand Duo," this work of Schubert's early maturity withholds none of its composer's characteristically singing lyricism.
Marche militaire, Op. 51, No. 1
Originally for piano, 4-hands, Schubert’s three Marches militaires, Op. 51 (D.733), have been published in numerous arrangements ranging from organ solo to percussion ensemble. The first one (in D major) ranks among the composer’s most popular works, and it demonstrates that, in addition to his lyrical gifts, Schubert also had a sense of humor.
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, September, 2006 (Sandra Stewart & Vera Watson, Duo Pianists)
--Music @ Main, April 15, 2009 (UNF String Ensemble)
Fantasie in F Minor, D. 940
Schubert’s Fantasie in F Minor, D. 940, was written during the last year of his life, and it is widely regarded as among his finest works. Similar in structure to Schubert’s famous Wanderer Fantasy for piano solo, the four movements of the 4-handed work are connected, with no breaks between the movements. This formal device is said to have had particular influence on the compositions of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), and in the development of the tone poem as a “new” musical form.
Jax Symphony Notes
Symphony in B minor, D. 759, "Unfinished" (1822)
Schubert never said why he left his Symphony in B minor "unfinished," and this oversight has led to rampant speculation. One theory, first televised in 1959, posits that Schubert's work was interrupted when his piano was stolen by a night-watchman neighbor who wanted to nap undisturbed during the day. This "revelation" formed an episode of Peabody's Improbable History, a cartoon series in which "Mr. Peabody" (a talking beagle/genius) and his adopted boy "Sherman" used their WABAC machine to travel through time searching for missing pieces to historical puzzles. Pure silliness, but it illustrates the enduring place Schubert's best-loved orchestral work has held in the popular psyche since first performed on December 17, 1865.
Yes, 1865 -- it took nearly four decades after Schubert's death before his masterpiece resounded through any concert hall. But the score wasn't "lost" as one might suppose. Schubert had given the manuscript of his two movements, dated October 30, 1822, as a token of thanks to the Hüttenbrenner brothers for presenting him with an honorary diploma on behalf of the Styrian Music Society in Graz (the second largest Austrian city). The score collected dust until one of the brothers mentioned the holy relic to conductor Johann von Herbeck. Finally unveiled, the Nearly Forgotten Symphony has never left the repertoire.
LISTEN UP: Schubert's "Unfinished" is universally cited as THE FIRST ROMANTIC SYMPHONY, despite the Romantic era having been halfway spent by the time anyone heard it. It must have come as a revelation even in 1865, being so unlike other early 19th-century symphonies that had emerged still cloaked in Beethoven's shadow. The first movement (B minor) opens with a somber, unaccompanied motto from the low strings that introduces the restless principal section, and its ominous mood overshadows the entire movement. Where Beethoven would have stirred things further with a dramatic transitional passage, Schubert's secondary theme breaks in suddenly like sunshine through the gloom. After just a held note and three simple chords, a syncopated accompaniment massages the waltz-like tune. But the sunny warmth is fleeting. Cloudy dread descends again, with only a brief respite when the waltz is recapped.
Tiptoeing in like gentle dawn after a stormy night, the Andante con moto (E major) unfolds in sonatina form (basically a sonata without a development section). Where the first movement moves from its minor-key opening to a major-key secondary tune, here Schubert reverses that. He recalls the syncopated accompaniment from the first-movement waltz, and the turbulent closing section raises a sinister specter that's never quite shaken, even with the ultimate return to the E-major home key.
Schubert left a sketch for a scherzo movement, and he may have originally conceived the B-minor Entr'acte from Rosamunde as this symphony's finale. But he lived another six years, so not returning to the score must have been deliberate, whatever the motivation. Poor health, writer's block, or giving precedence to other projects are the usual suspects.
Another possibility: Maybe instead of conceiving a symphony, Schubert started out with an overture and interlude to some unrealized stage work. That might explain the abrupt changes of key and mood, and having three consecutive symphonic movements in triple time (counting the scherzo) would have been nearly unthinkable. Additionally, the use of trombones would have been more likely in a dramatic work than a symphony, as in Weber's Der Freischütz that had premiered the year before. Weber's opera overture also has the same sense of foreboding contrasted with cheery dance moves that Schubert uses. Was it perhaps an afterthought to convert his movements into a symphony, abandoned when the scherzo failed to reach the lofty standard of the existing movements?
Then again, what does it matter? It's so easy just to be thankful for what we have.
©2015, by Edward Lein, a finalist in Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's
2006 Fresh Ink composition contest, and producer of
Jacksonville Public Library's Intermezzo concerts.
The hopes of the great German Romantic composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) to become a concert pianist were dashed in his early twenties when he permanently damaged his hand, so he redirected his energies to both composing and music criticism. From childhood he was torn between literature and music, but he managed to combine these two loves even in some of his purely instrumental music by using poetry and dramatic narrative to color and direct the musical discourse.
Fantasiestücke, Op. 12
Schumann identified two separate (but complimentary) aspects of his personality that directed his composing, and went so far as to name them: “Eusebius” was the name for his lyrical, reflective self; and “Florestan” was his passionate side. In Schumann’s eight Fantasiestücke ("Fantasy Pieces"), Op. 12, he credits Eusebius with the 1st and 3rd pieces, Florestan with the 2nd and 4th, and with the remaining pieces bringing the two together (but with Eusebius having the final say). Composed in 1837, the Fantasiestücke were dedicated to Scottish pianist Anna Robena Laidlaw (1819–1901), but the real inspiration was the celebrated pianist Clara Wieck (1819-1896), who became Mrs. Robert Schumann in 1840. When Schumann wrote the Fantasiestücke the proposed union was by no means a certainty — Friedrich Wieck, the father of the teenaged Clara (and Robert’s former piano teacher), refused his consent, so the matter was tied up in the courts. Robert described the concluding End of the Song movement as combining wedding bells with funeral knells, which was, as he explained in a letter to Clara, the result of his anxiety over their as yet undetermined fate.
Von fremden Länder und Menschen (from Kinderszenen, Op.15)
Composed in 1838, the 13 pieces that comprise Schumann's Kinderszenen ("Childhood Scenes"), Op. 15, are not really intended specifically for children, as one might suppose at first glance. Rather, they are nostalgic remembrances of youth filtered through the experience of adulthood. Nothing demonstrates this better than the first piece, Von fremden Länder und Menschen ("Of Foreign Lands and Peoples"). The simple, wistful tune perhaps suggests that the imagined distance is not of place, but of time--a happy remembrance of a carefree existence foreign to the often troubled circumstances adults face, such as the embittered court battle with his former teacher, and future father-in-law, that Schumann was then waging, fighting for the right to marry his beloved Clara Wieck (1819-1896).
Frauenliebe und -Leben
Although his taste in song texts sometimes seems questionable by today’s standards, Schumann’s keen literary sensibilities nonetheless made him one of history’s greatest songwriters, and his finest Lieder rival those of Schubert. Following the examples of Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte (1816) and Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin (1823) and Winterreise (1827), Schumann composed four song cycles in 1840, including both Frauenliebe und -Leben ["Woman's Love and Life"], Op. 42, on verses by Adelbert von Chamisso, and Dichterliebe ["Poet's Love"], Op. 48, on verses by Heinrich Heine. Like Beethoven, Schumann recalls music from preceding songs at the end of these cycles, but rather than merely accompanying the singer, Schumann's piano writing is quite independent from the vocal part and forms a true partnership with the voice in expressing the moods and emotions of the texts.
--Summer Serenade, July 25, 2007 (Lindsey Tuller & Clinton Weinberg)
The poems of Frauenliebe und -Leben ("Woman's Love and Life") now seem a tad mawkish, but they must have held special significance to Schumann--he set them around the same time he was struggling to win the legal right to marry the virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck (1819-1896), despite the strenuous objections of his soon-to-be father-in-law . Although the verses ostensibly narrate the course of budding love through marriage and the death of a beloved spouse strictly from a woman's point of view (albeit as imagined by Adelbert von Chamissoa, a male poet), one can imagine that Schumann nonetheless used them to illustrate his own devotion to his beloved.
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February, 2007 (Hsiao-Ling Wang, Kristin Samuelson)
The four-part Zigeunerleben dates from 1840, Schumann's "Year of Song" which also saw the creation of Dichterliebe, Frauenliebe und -leben, and the his two other Liederkreis. It is composed on a text depicting a Romantic notion of Gypsy Life written especially for Schumann by the popular German poet Emanuel Geibel (1815-1884), and during the composer's lifetime the colorful work (which includes optional percussion parts) became one of his most popular pieces.
--Music@Main October 5, 2009 (Jacksonville Masterworks Chorale)
Adagio and Allegro, op. 70
The Adagio and Allegro, op. 70, is among the numerous and varied works Schumann composed in 1849, and it takes advantage of the then “new” valve horn’s ability to play chromatic half-steps. Although the technical demands place the work well beyond the capabilities of the amateur players Schumann had hoped to reach with it, the success of the piece among professional horn players inspired the composer to complete his Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra, op. 86, later that same year.
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, January 13, 2008 (Aaron Brask, horn)
Fantasiestücke, Op. 73
A work which has no apparent connection with any verbiage is Schumann's three-movement Fantasiestücke (Fantasy Pieces), Op. 73, for clarinet and piano. If Mendelssohn had written these lyric miniatures they might well have been called "Songs without Words," but Schumann himself toyed with the idea of naming them Nachtstücke ("Night Pieces"). Schumann quickly wrote his would-be nocturnes over the course of two cold days in February, 1849, near the outset of what he would later refer to as "my most fruitful year," and he thought they would be equally effective with violin or cello. The composer instructed that the movements be played without a break, and, as his tempo markings indicate, the first movement is nostalgically dreamy, and the second one sprightly. The third movement becomes a jaunty ride, ever faster and faster in its Coda, so, with apologies to Bette Davis, "fasten your seatbelts ... ."
Meine Rose ("My Own Rose") is the second song included in i6 Gedichte von N. Lenau und Requiem, Op.90 (1850). Schumann added the Requiem to the six poems by Lenau because, while composing the songs, Schumann was under the impression that the poet was deceased. He happily learned that Lenau was still alive, but by a strange turn of events, on the very day that the songs were first performed Schumann received word that Lenau had, in fact, just died.
Nordisches Lied | Nachklänge aus dem Theater
Nordisches Lied (Nordic Song) and Nachklänge aus dem Theater (Echoes of the Theatre) are both from Schumann's Album für die Jugend (Album for the Young), Op. 68, a collection of 43 short works written as instructional pieces for his three daughters. The Nordic Song was written as a tribute to Danish composer Niels Gade, taking as its opening the four pitches that correspond to composer's name, G-A-D-E.
Alexander Scriabin: Fantaisie in B minor, Op. 28
Russian pianist, composer and mystic Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) was a classmate of Rachmaninoff at the Moscow Conservatory. But unlike his famous friend who retained the stylistic traits of Russian Romanticism throughout his career, Scriabin developed a unique musical language that progressed beyond early lyrical musings directly inspired by Chopin and Liszt into a tonally nebulous sound-world that has lead some to call him the “progenitor of Serialism.”
Scriabin’s Fantaisie in B minor, Op. 28, dating from 1900, is representative of his “middle period” in which he moves beyond his early models, retaining an opulent lyricism but within an ever-shifting chromatic harmonic framework, yet still with a sense of underlying tonality. Technically demanding, it remains a favorite of pianists, but apparently Scriabin himself didn’t find it too memorable, literally. The story goes that he once overheard a friend playing an interesting piece and asked what it was. The friend answered that it was Scriabin’s own Fantaisie, to which the perplexed composer responded: “What Fantaisie?”
Composer and arranger Marc Shaiman (b.1959) has won Tony, Grammy, and Emmy awards, has been nominated for the Oscar®, and has appeared in film, television, and theatrical productions as a performer. He is perhaps best known for the musical Hairspray (2002), which he co-wrote with lyricist, writer and director Scott Wittman (b.1959). Among numerous other collaborations, the partners have a new musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: the Musical, in the works for a 2013 production date. In 2009 they wrote the songs for Catch Me If You Can, a musical based on the 2002 Steven Spielberg film, which in turn was based on the 1980 autobiography of Frank Abagnale, Jr., an elusive con artist.Fly, Fly Away is sung by "Brenda," a nurse who has fallen in love with the rogue and swears she will never help the FBI catch him--only she is tricked into doing just that.
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Joining Prokofiev and Khachaturian, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is one of few composers of the former Soviet Union to sustain a large following in the West, but his career was far from “smooth sailing.” During his lifetime his music was periodically banned by Stalinist authorities, and he suffered two official denouncements, in 1936 and 1948. However, because of his worldwide popularity the Soviets liked to use Shostakovich as propaganda, so their censures always proved temporary—but he still withheld his more personal works until after Stalin’s death in 1953.
Shostakovich likewise has had detractors among many of the West’s avant-garde, centering around composer-turned-conductor Pierre Boulez. Although the influence of the self-styled “cutting edge” has since dulled, from the 1950s into the 1980s the group and its followers wielded their own brand of artistic totalitarianism, insisting that composers abandon familiar musical forms in favor of mathematical or electronic compositional procedures, and dismissing works by those who used tonal idioms to communicate directly with listeners.
Ignoring the ideological tyranny on both fronts, performers and listeners have always embraced Shostakovich’s music, and he remains among the most frequently performed and recorded of 20th-Century composers.
Jax Symphony Notes
Tahiti Trot, Op. 16 (Arranged from Vincent Youman's Tea for Two)
Dmitri Shostakovich is one of few Soviet composers who won a large following on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and along with Sergei Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian he is identified as a “titan” of Soviet music. Shostakovich was 19 when he completed his First Symphony as a graduation piece from the Petrograd Conservatory in 1925, and Nikolai Malko conducted the premiere the following year. While visiting Malko in 1927, Shostakovich heard Vincent Youman’s Tea for Two, known in Russia as “Tahiti Trot.” The conductor challenged the young composer to orchestrate the ditty from memory, wagering he couldn’t finish in an hour. Forty minutes later Shostakovich was 100 rubles richer. Malko premiered the arrangement in 1928, and Shostakovich incorporated the hit into his 1930 ballet, The Golden Age. While remaining faithful to Youman's song, the witty score displays Shostakovich's ironic sense of humor as it soft-shoe shuffles among muted trumpet fanfares, percussion and celesta tinkling like music boxes, slapstick swoons from trombones, jaunty woodwinds, and schmalzy strings.
Sonata in D Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 40
Shostakovich wrote is Sonata in D Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 40, in 1934, before the 28-year-old composer experienced government interference, or, for that matter, artistic browbeating.
Four Preludes (Arranged by Lazar Gosman from 24 Piano Preludes, Op. 34)
- [No. 10, C# minor] Moderato non troppo - [No. 15, D-flat Major] Allegretto -
- [No. 16, B-flat minor] Andantino - [No. 24, D minor] Allegretto
Originally for piano solo, four of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes, Op. 34 (1932-33), were arranged for strings by violinist and conductor Lazar Gosman (b.1926) for performance and recording by the Tchaikovsky Chamber Orchestra, a group originally called the Soviet Emigre Orchestra that Gosman founded. Previously a major figure in the musical life of Soviet Russia, Gosman immigrated to the United States in 1977, and the 1984 film, Musical Passage, documents the founding of his orchestra, and also his problems in exiting the USSR. Once here he became associate concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, served on the faculties of the St. Louis Conservatory and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and established and continues to conduct annual concerts by the Kammergild Chamber Orchestra of St. Louis.
Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
I. Andante. - II. Allegro non troppo. - III. Largo. - IV. Allegretto
Written in 1944 while the world was at war, Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67, definitely falls into the “personal” category. Not only does it encapsulate the tragedy of war, beginning with an other-worldly fugue and ending with a klezmer-like dance of death, but it also became reflective of the composer’s immediate grief: the Trio is dedicated to the memory of Ivan Sollertinsky (1902-1944), a musicologist and close friend of the composer who died of a heart attack during the time that Shostakovich was writing the work.
Jax Symphony Notes
Festive Overture, Op. 96 (1954)
Shostakovich was one of few Soviet composers with a sizeable following in the West, and his popularity fueled Stalinist propaganda. Yet he still suffered censure for alleged non-Commie proclivities, with official denouncements in 1936 and 1948. The first was for his sexually-charged opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, which the mass-murdering Stalin deemed immoral. The second was for Shostakovich’s light-hearted Ninth Symphony, which infuriated Stalin because it failed to glorify his World War II triumph over the Nazi scourge. Nonetheless, the composer’s worldwide popularity ensured that his falls from grace were relatively fleeting—but Shostakovich still withheld his more personal works until after Stalin’s death.
In the fall of 1954, Shostakovich received a desperate plea from the Bolshoi Theater. He was artistic advisor there, and they hoped he could supply a new overture to open an important concert—three days away! The composer set to work on his Festive Overture, witnessed by his colleague Lev Lebedinsky: ―The speed with which he wrote was truly astounding. Moreover, when he wrote light music he was able to talk, make jokes and compose simultaneously, like the legendary Mozart."
Listen Up: After a brassy fanfare (echoed later), the frothy piece bubbles like Glinka's overture to Ruslan and Ludmila. Shostakovich’s Presto explores two themes, singly and then combined for a rousing climax to his "effervescent work, with its vivacious energy spilling over like uncorked champagne" (Lebedinsky).
That first concert honored Russia’s October Revolution, but Shostakovich may have been privately celebrating something else when he wrote its opening piece. As noted by music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, Shostakovich uses a tune he "borrowed without acknowledgement from his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,― the very work that first got him into serious trouble. This may well have been a bit of musical nose thumbing—Festive Overture appeared the year after Stalin died.
(J-Sym program notes)
Finnish composer and conductor
Born: 1865, Tavestehus, Finland; died: 1957, Järvenpää, Finland
Concerto in D Minor, op. 47
- 1. Allegro moderato (D Minor)
- 2. Adagio di molto (B-flat Major)
- 3. Allegro ma non tanto (D Major)
Composed in 1902-03; revised 1905
Premiered on February 8, 1904, with soloist Viktor Novácèk and the Helsinki Philharmonic, conducted by the composer
Revision premiered on October 19, 1905, with soloist Karl Halír and Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Richard Strauss ca. 34 minutes (17', 10', 7')
Apart from saunas, Nokia phones and the Angry Birds video game, the music of Jean Sibelius is Finland's most celebrated export, and Sibelius's Violin Concerto is the most-frequently recorded of all 20th-Century works that share the title. But given its inauspicious debut, the concerto's current popularity was hardly a foregone conclusion.
Sibelius was not yet three when his father died of typhus, forcing his pregnant mother to uproot her two (soon to be three) small children and move in with her mother, grandmother, sister and two aunts. It was a musical household, and although the future composer of Finlandia displayed no prodigious talent, by age 5 he had begun to amuse himself by improvising on Granny's out-of-tune piano.
Aunt Julia was a piano teacher who gave young Janne his first music training, but he was loath to practice. The turning point came at age 14 when he got his hands on a violin. He was determined to master it and was well on his way, but his relatively late start, growing stage fright, and a shoulder injury during his 20s prevented Sibelius from realizing his adolescent dream of becoming a virtuoso violinist.
His youthful dedication did provide the inspiration and technical expertise to craft his only concerto into one of the most challenging works for violin and orchestra ever penned. Unfortunately, the technical demands proved too great for the concerto's first soloist, and the 1904 premiere was a failure. Sibelius withdrew the concerto to tighten the form, prune some gratuitously-virtuosic solo passages, and lighten some of the orchestral scoring. Despite the improvements, the reception of the revised version the following year was tepid. The concerto only really caught fire three decades later when Jascha Heifetz added it to his repertoire and recorded it for a 1935 release.
Like Mendelssohn, Sibelius dispenses with an orchestral introduction for his sonata-form first movement. Amid a murmur of muted violins, the soloist emerges as if suspended in a mist, intoning a folk -like melody tinged with a sadness distilled from times long past. A “mini-cadenza” precedes the first orchestral tutti, which in turn introduces a transitional theme that morphs into the yearning second subject, presented by the returning soloist in rapturous double-stopped sixths. The orchestral closing section is vigorous and march-like with a folksy finish. The soloist's “big cadenza” follows, forming the bulk of the development section. The orchestra takes the lead recapping the main themes while the soloist dazzles with bravura commentary, and further development is provided along the way.
The second movement overflows with an expansive, Romantic lyricism unusual in Sibelius's mature works. Despite the “very slow” tempo marking Sibelius manages to test the soloist's virtuosity, especially in the middle section where one bow must play two lines of counterpoint in 2-against-3 rhythms!
For his rollicking finale Sibelius pulls out all the double, triple and quadruple stops, alternating two main tunes in a virtuoso tour de force. The movement opens with a lively, tarantella-like dance (in 3/4 time rather than 6/8), followed by a heavy-footed polonaise. Although Sibelius referred to the movement as a danse macabre, it was Sir Donald Francis Tovey who provided the most-quoted characterization when he called it a “polonaise for polar bears.” Some mistake this as an insult, but in context Tovey simply provided a humorous, alliterative allusion to Sibelius's Nordic heritage while praising his handiwork. (Otherwise someone surely would have pointed out that polar bears are not indigenous to Finland!)
Etude No. 1 (1980)
Born and raised in Manhattan, Paul Smadbeck (b. 1955) earns his livelihood primarily as a fourth-generation realtor, and he is active in family services organizations. But with both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Music from Ithaca College he also has earned distinction as a performer and composer specializing in the marimba, and his minimalist Rhythm Song (1984) has become a standard repertoire piece recorded numerous times by different artists. With his mesmerizing Etude No. 1, Smadbeck tests the player's control of small interval rotation.
--Music @ Main, March, 2009 (Tony Steve, marimba)
The career of Gary Smart (b. 1943) has encompassed a wide range of activities as composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher. A true pluralist, Dr. Smart’s compositions reflect an abiding interest in Americana, jazz, and world music, as well as the Western classical tradition, and he has received support from the Ford and Guggenheim foundations, the Music Educator's National Conference, the Music Teachers National Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Dr. Smart’s works have been performed in major U.S. venues, including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as in Europe and Asia. His compositions are published by Margun Music (G. Schirmer) and his work has been recorded on the Mastersound, Capstone, and Albany labels. Forthcoming CD projects include Turtle Dreams of Flight, with solo piano performances by the composer, and Hot Sonatas, a collection of jazz-influenced chamber music with members of the UNF music faculty.
Dr. Smart spent residencies in Japan and taught in Indonesia as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Jazz, and was head of the music department at the University of Wyoming from 1978-1999. From 1999-2003 he served as Chairman of the University of North Florida Music Department, where he currently is the Terry Professor of Music.
The Harlequin Rag
“The Harlequin Rag is perhaps more a rag-inspired piece than a true rag; but then so are many stride piano pieces and novelty solos from the 1920’s and 30’s. My piece begins innocently enough in a Fats Waller vein, but soon veers left into a blend of Stravinsky, Italian opera overture and piquant folk song. Though it does follow the rag form of AABBACCDD, the sections are most often altered on repetition and become longer and more developmental as the piece progresses. A dreamy coda finishes the work off.
“Harlequin was, of course, a character in the popular medieval Italian improvisational theater, the Commedia dell’arte. He was a peasant, poor and illiterate, but clever, persistent and resourceful, and always colorful. He was said to carry a baton with which he bashed other characters on the head – in the style of “Punch and Judy” puppet shows. Supposedly this led to the modern term, “slapstick” comedy. Harlequin has remained a popular figure to the present day, a type of comedic character which generations recognize and admire....the little big man.
“I hope you will enjoy this overly dramatic, sometimes bombastic, heart-on-the-sleeve work of light-classical fluff, an American’s polite bow to Italian culture.”—Gary Smart
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, March 18, 2007 (Gary Smart, piano)
Fancy – in memoriam Joe Venuti
Gary wrote Fancy – in memoriam Joe Venuti (Margun Music, 1978) "in heartfelt homage" to Joe Venuti (1903-1978), the great jazz violinist. Beginning in the mid-1920s Venuti performed with many leading jazz artists, including such greats as Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman—and he also was a legendary cut-up and practical joker. The composer observes that his Fancy "features the violin playing abstracted Venuti-isms with the support of an abstract ‘stride piano’ accompaniment. The piece closes in serene meditation with the open strings of the violin (G-D-A-E) echoing on the piano."
Lil’ Hot Fancy and Bright Eyed Fancy
Both Lil’ Hot Fancy and Bright Eyed Fancy were performed in February 2009 at a concert at the University of North Florida. The following comments are taken from the composer’s notes for that occasion:
"My Lil’ Hot Fancy, written in 2007 for my friend and colleague Simon Shiao, is a companion piece to the first Fancy of thirty years earlier. This fancy is fast, brilliant and short, a sort of avant-garde encore piece. It is inspired by a cartoonish image I have of an angelic Joe standing on a cloud, happily playing hot licks for his fellow angels. Almost all of the piano part is written in the treble clef, giving it a surreal, toy-piano quality. The ‘three time ending’ is a kind of cliché-joke. The music ascends to the very highest notes of both instruments, keeping the solid beat intact as it slowly fades into another dimension." —Gary Smart
"On the first page of the score of this one movement trio for violin, cello, and piano I quote the English poet Thomas Gray: ‘Hark, his hands the lyre explore! Bright Eyed Fancy, hov’ring o’er.’ This quote is taken from Gray’s The Progress of Poesy (1754), which the celebrated Christian mystic and poet-artist William Blake (1757-1827) illustrated some thirty years later. My Bright Eyed Fancy was inspired both by Mr. Gray’s words and Mr. Blake’s watercolor. Blake’s picture depicts an angelic muse hovering over a working musician who strums his lyre, while the muse, sitting on a rainbow, pours forth a cornucopia of musical ideas. … My trio, then, is a portrait of angelic visitation, written in homage to Mr. Blake. It is often exuberant, even ecstatic, but is also at times profoundly solemn, sometimes quite simple and lyrical. I hope to have evoked here some of the strange truth that Blake proclaimed. My choice of musical materials is not unusual, though perhaps the way I mix materials is. Much of the harmonic language of this piece is modal and/or polytonal. I make some use of jazz gestures and style, but I also have made free use of folk music’s modal melody and other more abstract textures. As would seem appropriate, I let ‘form follow fancy’ in this work. The opening is bright and enthusiastic, full of light. A second section presents a solemn, timeless chorale. A florid ensemble section with shades of modal jazz improvisation closes the exposition. These three ideas are then developed. A cello solo, presenting the piece’s one real tune, is labeled Song of the Angel. After more free development the solo piano recapitulates the tune. The last section of the work opens with the solo cello playing a motive (A-B-D-C#) over which I have written the syllables Al-le-lu-ia. I have no succinct explanation for these extra-musical markings, except that they may inspire the players in some way—and it seemed important that they be included in the score. The program of the work is partly a mystery to me too. The climax of the work is simple, almost minimalistic in its ecstatic repetitions. The Angel’s Song rings out triumphantly above grandiose piano flourishes. The piece closes playfully, with no great show of emotion. Perhaps the angel simply disappears with no fanfare. The visitation is over. Make of it what you will." — Gary Smart
--Music @ Main, March 3, 2009 (Trio Florida)
Regarding the piece performed today, Dr. Smart notes, "Street Music was composed in April for my friends Piotr and Alexei to premiere on this concert. Imagine two stellar street musicians improvising a brilliant minor-blues toccata and you have the idea."
--Music @ Main, May 12, 2009 (VnC Duo)
Piano Trio in G minor, op. 15
Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884), recognized as the first composer to borrow characteristics from the folk music of his Czech homeland into original works, was a leading figure in the Czech Nationalist movement after Austria granted Bohemia political autonomy in 1860. Smetana was instrumental in founding the first theater where operas and plays were presented in the Czech language in 1862, and where his own enduringly popular comic opera, The Bartered Bride, was first produced in 1866. In 1874, over the course of just a few months the composer became completely deaf, but he continued to compose, and that same year he completed his best known work, The Moldau, one of six orchestral tone poems collectively called Má Vlast (“My Country”).
Tragically, between 1854-1856 three of Smetana’s four daughters died, and his beautiful and moving Piano Trio, op. 15 (1855, revised 1857), was written in memory of the 4 1/2-year-old Bedřiška who had died in 1854 of scarlet fever. Although Smetana uses a descending chromatic motive representative of death in all three movements, the second movement (Allegro ma non agitato) provides a playful and tender portrait full of dancing rhythms. The final movement (Presto) begins with the death motive and it returns near the end in a funeral march, but ultimately the composer presents a loving remembrance that transcends death.
--Music @ Main, April 15, 2009 (UNF String Ensemble)
Gregg Smith: Blow the Candles Out Since 1955, Gregg Smith (b.1931) has been best known as the leader of one of the country’s premier choral groups, The Gregg Smith Singers, but he has been composing since he was five years old and his catalog of mature compositions includes over 400 works. Smith has a special affinity for Americana, and the Colonial tune Blow the Candles Out was first printed in 1720 in a publication entitled Wit and Mirth: or, Pills to Purge Melancholy.
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, February 10, 2008 (UNF Chorale & UNF Chamber Singers)
Equally at home in pop and jazz, as well as classical styles, Lani Smith is a graduate of the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati, with Bachelor and Master degrees in composition. He has composed and arranged thousands of organ, choral and piano pieces, and has composed over 30 cantatas. A recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation grant, he has received numerous commissions and awards, including Columbia University's Bearns Prize in Composition. For his A Celebration of Carols, for brass quintet, Mr. Smith arranged 10 holiday favorites.
Passacaglia for flute ensemble
Versatile Hungarian flutist András Somos performs with classical groups such as the Hungarian Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and the Csepeli Bach Orchestra, but he is equally at home performing with jazz ensembles. His Passacaglia won honorable mention in the National Flute Association’s 2006 Newly Published Music Competition, and receives frequent international performances.
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, March 9, 2008 (Arioso Flute Quartet)
Described by The New York Times as the greatest artist working in musical theater, Stephen Sondheim (b.1930) certainly has won enough awards to help back up the statement, including eight Tony awards (more than any other individual), an Academy Award, multiple Grammys, and the Pulitzer Prize. His astounding output includes A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd, to name but a few.
After Company opened on Broadway in 1970, Sondheim's musical won six of the unprecedented 14 nominations for Tony Awards it received. Set amid a surprise 35th birthday party for Robert, a confirmed bachelor, the show unfolds as a string of flashbacks that examine the pros and cons of married life. In the show's final song, Being Alive, Robert realizes that, despite his commitment issues, his life will never be complete until he finds the right "someone" too share it with.
I Remember is one of four songs from the 1966 television musical Evening Primrose, and the hour-long production was written especially for a series called ABC Stage 67.
Another Moving Violation (2009) -- World Premiere Performance
In addition to his responsibilities at Jacksonville University's College of Fine Arts, Division of Music, percussionist and composer Tony Steve has performed as a percussionist with the Jacksonville Symphony (member 13 years), Israeli Festival Orchestra, Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, North Eastern Pennsylvania Symphony, Greenwich Symphony, and Bridgeport Symphony. He toured with A Chorus Line in Europe, appeared in Korea as marimba soloist with the Brooklyn Percussion Ensemble, and performed as percussionist at Madison Square Garden for A Christmas Carol. In addition, he has worked with Henry Mancini, Lou Rawls, Sheri Lewis and The Xavier Cugat Orchestra.
Tony Steve is a Mike Balter Mallet Artist and has appeared on numerous recordings. His latest project is The Guaraldi Sessions produced by horn soloist Aaron Brask. Tony also can be found performing the music of Robert Moore with Karen Adair on her solo release of Sonnets from Assisi, for marimba and soprano in three movements, as well as Release with Free Range and Midnight Clear with Bob Moore.
In October of 2005 Professor Steve's Concerto for Vibraphone was premiered at Jacksonville University. The Blue Jay Opuscule, his collaborative work with graphic artist Barry Wilson, combined the world of printmaking and music into a vehicle for live performance, and was part of a Community Foundation Grant in the Art Ventures program. Additional collaborations with choreographer Cari Martin-Coble have produced works for dance and chamber group. Tony's works are published by Media Press, Keyboard Publications and Percussion Arrangers, and he has won numerous ASCAP writers awards for his compositions, which are performed in America as well as in Europe and Asia. His degrees include a Bachelor of Music from Jacksonville University, and a Master of Music from Ithaca College.
--Music @ Main, March, 2009 (Tony Steve, marimba)
Three Etudes for Marimba (1975 – 1976)
-- Etude No. 1 -- Etude No. 6 -- Etude No. 14 “Basically Broke Blues”
Mexican Dance no. 1 (1977)
Since 1980, Gordon Stout (b.1952) has been Professor of Percussion at the School of Music, Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.). He studied composition with Joseph Schwantner, Samuel Adler and Warren Benson, and percussion with James Salmon and John Beck, and as a recitalist and recording artist he has premiered both his own compositions and works by other composers. Many of his compositions for marimba have entered the standard repertoire and receive frequent performances internationally, and his two Mexican Dances are among the most popular pieces ever written for the instrument.
--Music @ Main, March, 2009 (Tony Steve, marimba)
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was the most famous German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras, and was also one of the period's most famous conductors. Among his best-known works are his operas, including Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; and his tone poems, including Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, and Also sprach Zarathustra, the opening of which is immediately identified with Stanley Kubrick's revolutionary film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Strauss wrote songs throughout his career, including his very last work, the beautiful Vier letzte Lieder ("Four Last Songs", 1948), for soprano and orchestra. Published in 1923, Breit' über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar ("Upon My Head Let Fall Thy Black Hair") is the second song in Strauss's 6 Lieder aus 'Lotosblätter' ("6 Songs from 'Lotus Petals'"), Op. 19, on poems by Aldolf Friedrich Graf von Schack (1815-1894).
JSYO Major/Minor Notes Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 11: I. Allegro (1883)
Strauss's father, Franz, was much admired for his artistry and technique as the principal horn player of the Munich Court Orchestra, and a teen-aged Richard composed the Concerto in E-flat with his father in mind. But Papa Franz soon discovered that he couldn't comfortably negotiate the concerto's wide range, so for the premiere they found an alternate soloist better able to meet the challenges of one of the most difficult horn concertos in the repertoire. The first movement alternates between heroic agitation and warm lyricism. Taking the concertos of Mendelssohn as a model, the soloist enters immediately following a single introductory chord from the orchestra, and when the second movement is performed it flows seamlessly from the first movement.
Jax Symphony Notes
Serenade in E-flat major for 13 Winds, Op. 7 (1881)
In 1878, a 14-year-old Richard Strauss wrote a letter detailing how tedious he'd found Wagner's Siegfried, warning his pen-pal: "The last act is so boring you will die.” Of course, in 1881 the young critic's assessment of Wagner did a 180 after he'd studied the score of Tristan und Isolde, and Strauss would build upon Wagner's colorful style to become the most famous German composer of the late Romantic and early Modern eras. In the meantime, Richard deferred to his father, Franz, who first performed the principal horn parts in several of Wagner's operas. Papa Strauss detested Wagner as both man and composer, and encouraged his son to emulate earlier German masters instead. So even though the junior Strauss's one-movement Serenade, Op. 7 was composed the same year as his Tristan epiphany, don't be surprised that it sounds more like Mendelssohn than the forebear of Meistersinger.
LISTEN UP: This earliest of Strauss's four works for winds alone unfolds in a straightforward sonata form. Where a first-movement sonata-allegro typically has a lively principal theme followed by a more lyrical secondary one, Strauss starts his moderately-paced Andante with a gentle chorale and saves the more spirited bits for a little later.
Following the premiere of the Serenade in 1882, Strauss's publisher sent the score to Hans von Bülow, the influential conductor who championed the works of Brahms. Bülow was so impressed that he not only performed the Serenade several times, but also commissioned Strauss to write another work for winds. Bülow insisted that Strauss conduct the 1884 premiere of the new Suite, Op. 4 (published before Op. 7 though written after), which the inexperienced Strauss felt he performed "in a state of slight coma." But not Bülow, and in October 1885 he invited Strauss to be co-conductor of the elite Meiningen Court Orchestra. The next month Bülow uprooted to Berlin, leaving Strauss as the sole music director. Thus, at age 21, Strauss began his rise among the world's leading conductors.
Russian-born Igor Stravinsky (1182-1971) is included among the Time 100, Time magazine's list of the most influential people of the 20th Century. Stravinsky shot to international fame with his early ballets, The Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911), and his revolutionary The Rite of Spring (1913) ushered in Modernism and forever changed the way composers regarded rhythmic structures.
Jax Symphony Notes
The Firebird Suite (1919)
- Introduction—The Firebird and Its Dance—The Firebird's Variation
- The Princesses’ Khorovod (Round Dance)
- Infernal Dance of King Kashchei
- Berceuse (Lullaby)
When Igor Stravinsky wakened on June 25, 1910, he was virtually unknown, but by the following morning he had become one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. His overnight success came with the premiere of The Firebird, the first original score commissioned by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes.
The dance company had dazzled Paris the previous year, but none of its first-season productions featured newly-composed music. For the second season, choreographer Michel Fokine and production designer Alexandre Benois devised an original scenario combining two characters from Slavic folklore. One is Zhar-ptitsa, the shimmering Firebird whose magic can bring either good fortune or bad. The other is the ogre-demon Kashchei the Deathless, whose back-story hobbies include kidnapping princesses and turning would-be rescuer knights into stone.
Since no fairy-tale is complete without a prince in tights, the story begins with the Introduction of Ivan Tsarevich lurking through the shadows. We can tell he is a good guy because he gave his entourage the night off, but the spooky music suggests that that might not have been a good idea. He spies The Firebird and Its Dance (with The Firebird's Variation). The Firebird flutters about erratically, but nonetheless is very beautiful, and shiny. Being a prince, Ivan knows that shiny is good, so he sneaks up and captures her. But being a hero, he lets her go when she begs for mercy. Before disappearing the Firebird gives Ivan a magic feather that can summon her if needed. Into the orchard tiptoe thirteen princesses bandying golden apples. Though obviously not condemned to hard labor, they are prisoners of Kashchei. Ivan joins them in The Princesses’ Khorovod, a circle-dance on the Russian folk song, In the Garden (introduced by solo oboe). The romantic reverie is interrupted by Kashchei and his minions, who capture Ivan. Before Kashchei can add Ivan to his collection of stone guests, the prince whips out the magic feather and the Firebird reappears. She casts a spell over the inhospitable horde, compelling them to dance the Infernal Dance of King Kashchei to exhaustion; she then lulls them to sleep with a Berceuse. While Kashchei snoozes, the Firebird reveals a giant egg that contains the demon's soul. Ivan smashes the egg, and Kashchei and his rotten corps vanish. As a fitting Finale, the gloomy realm becomes a sunny tableau, perfect for a wedding between Ivan and his dance partner from the previous evening. The formerly stone-faced knights join the princess bridesmaids, accompanied by triumphant reiterations of another Russian folk song, By the Gateway There Swayed the Tall Pine Tree.
The happy ending provided a very happy beginning for a young composer whose name is nearly synonymous with 20th-Century music. The Firebird’s success led to future collaborations with the Ballets Russes, including Petrushka (1911), the (almost literally) ground-breaking The Rite of Spring (1913), and Pulcinella (1920), which introduced Stravinsky's neoclassical style. But the course of music history nearly took another path. The unknown Stravinsky was not Diaghilev's first choice for The Firebird---he settled on Stravinsky only because his usual go-to guys proved unable to complete the commission.
Stravinsky incorporated many of the period's musical trends into The Firebird, with nods to Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin, and especially to Stravinsky’s teacher, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Since Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila (1842), Russian composers used exotic chromatic harmonies to depict supernatural characters, contrasting with folk-like diatonic tunes for mere mortals. For the former, Rimsky-Korsakov favored an octatonic scale alternating whole-tones with semitones. Stravinsky uses the same octatonic scale, and the two folk songs he adapts were taken from a collection Rimsky-Korsakov had arranged. (Later in life Stravinsky reportedly would observe, "A good composer does not imitate; he steals.")
The Firebird is Stravinsky's most popular work, from which he arranged three concert suites, in 1911, 1919, and 1945; the 1919 version is the most-frequently performed. The composer complained he was invited too often to conduct music from his first ballet at the expense of his later works, but it must have held an enduring place in his heart. In his last orchestral piece, the brief Canon on a Russian Popular Tune (1965), Stravinsky returned to the folk song used at the end of The Firebird.
©2014 Edward Lein
Jax Symphony Notes
Petrushka (1911, revised 1947)
- 1st Tableau: The Shrovetide Fair
- 2nd Tableau: Petrushka's Cell
- 3rd Tableau: The Moor's Cell
- 4th Tableau: The Shrovetide Fair (Toward Evening)
In 1910, on the toe-shoed heels of The Firebird, Stravinsky pitched a dream-born vision to Serge Diaghilev for a new production: What if the Ballet Russes enacted a prehistoric pagan sacrifice? The canny impresario of course said "да," and at its 1913 premiere The Rite of Spring shook the floorboards, and music's foundation. But early on Diaghilev discovered Stravinsky working instead on a piano concertino. I'm not saying absinthe was Igor's beverage of choice, but the obtrusion was sparked by yet another vision: a puppet-come-to-life. Diaghilev convinced Stravinsky this new idea was infinitely stage-worthy. They would use the same production team that had made Firebird such a huge success, with set and costume designs by Alexandre Benois, and choreography by Michel Fokine. The star would be Petrushka (known to Brits as "Punch"), an enduringly popular character that would reappear in 1920 to welcome Stravinsky's Neoclassical period under its original Italian name, Pulcinella.
Listen Up: The setting is the 1830s, during The Shrovetide Fair—basically Mardi Gras without pancakes. An excited Introduction welcomes The Crowds, through which street performers vie for attention; these include competing dancers, one accompanied by an organ grinder, the other by a tinkling music box. Most of the ballet's tunes are Russian folk songs, often fragmented and juxtaposed as if shuffled about in a kaleidoscope, a colorful technique Stravinsky would retain for later works. A drum roll draws all eyes to The Charlatan's Booth, where a magical flute brings to life three puppets—Petrushka, the Moor, and the Ballerina—who thrill the onlookers with their Russian Dance.
Drum roll, scene change: Petrushka's Cell. The show over, our hero is kicked backstage. Stravinsky introduces his now famous "Petrushka chord" to suggest the frustrated puppet's despair, combining a C Major triad with its diabolical F# Major counterpart. The Ballerina tiptoes in. Knowing his dating options are limited, Petrushka is happy to see her. Only she prefers the swashbuckling Moor, with his enormous scimitar.
Drum roll, scene change: The Moor's Cell. The Moor is contemplating the existential qualities of a coconut (true story) when the Ballerina interrupts. Her brassy Dance of the Ballerina works its coquettish magic, and the Moor joins her in a clumsy Waltz. Petrushka rushes in to challenge the Moor, but he is outmatched and runs off.
Drum roll, scene change: The Shrovetide Fair (Toward Evening). Outside, the carnival continues with a parade of dancers: first Wet Nurses, followed by The Peasant and the Bear; then Gypsy Girls, and Coachmen and Grooms. Finally, the merriment of The Masqueraders is disrupted as the Moor races after his would-be rival, scimitar drawn. Horrified, the revelers witness Petrushka's Death, mollified only when the Charlatan reminds them the corpse is just a straw-stuffed doll. Suddenly dropping the puppet's dead weight, the Charlatan flees in terror. Overhead, Petrushka's ghost gets the last laugh.
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.
Three Pieces for Clarinet
Stravinsky moved his family to Switzerland soon after The Firebird premiered in Paris and he developed an artistic partnership with Swiss philanthropist Werner Reinhart (1884-1951), who provided Stravinsky with financial backing for another revolutionary work, The Soldier's Tale (1918). Reinhart was himself an amateur clarinetist, and in gratitude Stravinsky composed for him the Three Pieces for Clarinet (1918, published 1919). The first movement, "always soft and very tranquil," is contemplative and exploits the instruments low register; the 2nd is written without barlines and is improvisatory in character; and the 3rd movement rather recalls the dance styles (i.e., Ragtime and Tango) used in The Soldier's Tale.
--Music @ Main, April 8, 2009 (UNF Clarinet Choir)
Jax Sumphony Notes
Symphony in Three Movements (1942-45)
- 1. Overture; Allegro
- 2. Andante; Interlude: L'istesso tempo
- 3. Con moto
In 1938, Stravinsky lost his daughter Ludmilla to tuberculosis, and by the following summer his first wife and mother likewise had passed. In the wake of these tragedies and the outbreak of World War II, Stravinsky sailed for America in 1940.
Stravinsky, The Legend, already had a thriving career here. He recently had lectured at Harvard, and earlier commissions included Symphony of Psalms and Symphony in C Major, from the Boston and Chicago symphony orchestras respectively. Settling in West Hollywood, Stravinsky wasn't the first composer-in-exile solicited to write film scores. But he probably was the least successful: he simply couldn't see the necessity of letting filmmakers edit his music to fit their footage. He must have been especially happy to get the commission from the New York Philharmonic for his Symphony in Three Movements. Even so, each movement is directly related to the cinema.
Listen Up: Stravinsky rebuked any notion that his instrumental music had extra-musical connotations— except for this "War Symphony." He said the first movement "was inspired by a war film...of scorched earth tactics in China," with his central portion representing "the Chinese people scratching and digging in their fields." Stravinsky includes a percussive piano part, and there are echoes of The Rite of Spring. The middle movement features harp, and includes music originally intended for The Song of Bernadette, one of the movie projects Stravinsky didn't get. Back to wartime newsreels, the final movement depicts goosestepping Nazi soldiers, and includes a fugue meant to suggest "the rise of the Allies" as the piano and harp join forces.
Z. Randall Stroope:
Amor de mi Alma
Z. Randall Stroope is the Director of Choral Studies at Rowan University in New Jersey, and his compositions typically sell over 200,000 copies a year. The text of Amor de mi Alma (“The Love of my Soul”) was written by Spanish soldier-poet Garcilaso de la Vega (ca.1501-1536).
--February 10, 2008 (UNF Chorale & UNF Chamber Singers
Johan Svendsen: Romance, Op. 26
Norwegian composer Johan Svendsen (1840-1911) was the most celebrated Scandinavian conductor during his lifetime, and his stature as a composer has not diminished among his countrymen. In addition to Norway, Svendsen lived variously in Germany, Italy, France, and England, but he spent the bulk of his professional life in Denmark as the music director of the Royal Opera in Copenhagen from 1883 until 1908, when failing health forced him into retirement.
Svendsen's father was a professional musician who taught his son both clarinet and violin, and Johan's talent afforded him the opportunity to study violin at the Leipzig Conservatory. But Svendsen developed problems with his hand soon after moving to Germany, so he switched his focus to composition. His primary teacher became Carl Reinecke (1824-1910), and the crowning achievement of Svendsen's final year of studies came when he was awarded the Conservatory's first prize in composition, in 1867. Demonstrating his special talent for orchestration, Svendsen's two symphonies and four Norwegian Rhapsodies were performed to great acclaim, and for a time he was even better known throughout Europe than was his friend Grieg.
Composed in 1881, Svendsen's most famous work is the Romance, Op. 26, for solo violin with either orchestra or piano accompaniment.
Robert Swift: Die Musici
Holding both Masters and Doctoral degrees from the Eastman School of Music, organist, conductor, composer and arranger Robert F. Swift has taught music to students ranging from 3rd graders to graduate students, with appointments at Ithaca College, Eastman, Memphis State University and Plymouth State University. Using parallel texts in the original German and in English, Swift's lively adaptation of the folk song Die Musici ("Music Shall Live") has remained a favorite of choristers of all ages since first introduced in 1981, and its 3/4 time and piano duet accompaniment perhaps bring to mind the Liebeslieder Waltzes of Brahms.
--Music @ Main October 5, 2009 (Jacksonville Masterworks Chorale)
Currently [Sept.2013] a doctoral candidate in Violin Performance at FSU, Polish-born violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk (b. 1977) studied composition and violin at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, earning BM and MM degrees and the Artist's Diploma. He then received a fellowship at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach where he served as rotating concertmaster under Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. The winner of the 2006 New World Symphony Concerto competition, Mr. Szewczyk has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and ensembles, and he has given solo and chamber recitals in the United States, Poland, Germany and Austria.
His own award-winning compositions have been performed by a wide variety of orchestral and chamber ensembles in the U.S. and Europe. Mr. Szewczyk’s string quintet, The Rebel, was performed live on the CBS Early Show by the Sybarite Chamber Players, and was also featured on NPR's Performance Today. Piotr joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in September 2007, and in 2008 he won a commission from the Symphony by placing first in its Fresh Ink composition competition. The resulting piece, First Coast Fanfare, was premiered by the Jacksonville Symphony during the 2009-2010 season.
Rebirth of Hope
The elegiac Rebirth of Hope was composed in 2005 in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which, on December 26, 2004, claimed the lives of over 230,000 people in 14 countries, making it among the worst natural disasters in recorded history.
Piotr Szewczyk frequently performs in solo and chamber recitals, often premiering works written for him for an ongoing project he initiated called Violin Futura. The violinist explains, "I created the project because I wanted to expand the contemporary violin repertoire with pieces that are fun to play and to listen to, and they bring something new and unique to the repertoire." It began with 15 solo pieces written especially for Mr. Szewczyk by composers from around the globe, and performed at various festivals and venues in the United States and Europe.
Violin Furura concerts at the Library have included a February 2008 Music @ Main concertof solo works, and an April 2008 concert featuring chamber music collaborations with fellow Jacksonville Symphony violinists Andy Bruck and Max Huls. These concerts included four of Szewczyk's own works:
- Cadenza I (solo)
- All-Wheel Drive (solo)
- First Coast Groove (World Premiere, solo)
- Conundrum II (trio)
--Music @ Main, February 5, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk: Violin Futura)
--Music @ Main, April 10, 2008 (Violin Futura: Trio Duo Solo)
Two Movements (1998)
Written during his sophomore year of college, Piotr Szewczyk's Two Movements was his first composition for violin and piano, and even though it is an early work, it, like the early works of Penderecki and Gorecki on this program, already demonstrates elements of the composer's later style. When commenting on the piece the composer observed, "It has a youthful eagerness, energy, virtuosity and sincerity. The First Movement starts with a slow introduction and gradually progresses through different tempos and moods to finally dissolve. The Second Movement is a crazy, fast, twisted rondo, full of energy, surprising twists and turns--never letting go to the very end.”
--Music @ Main, December 8, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk, violin & Christine Clark, piano)
The Moon Goddess
According to the composer, "The Moon Goddess is a short, rhapsodic piece that musically depicts an elation evoked by an encounter with a beautiful creature. It begins with a slow, gentle section which develops into a powerful and emotional climax in extremely high registers for both instruments and dissipates into a transformed opening theme."
--Music @ Main, May 12, 2009 (VnC Duo)
Szewczyk composed in 2010 especially for Alexei Romanenko, who is presenting the world-premiere performance of the piece during today's concert [Sept. 22, 2013].
Song of Roxanne (1926)
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), sometimes called the father of modern Polish music, is the most important Polish composer of the early 20th Century. He perhaps is best-known in this country for his solo piano music and his Stabat Mater for chorus and orchestra, although now his four symphonies, two violin concertos, chamber music, vocal music, and stage works are becoming better known as new recordings become available. Szymanowski's early works show the decided influences of Chopin, Wagner, Scriabin, Reger and Richard Strauss, but as he traveled extensively through Europe and Mediterranean Africa, the influences from the different cultures he encountered, along with exposure to works by Debussy and Ravel, as well as to Stravinsky's early ballets, began to color his work.
After losing his family estate in Timoshovka (now in the Ukraine) following the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), Szymanowski settled in Warsaw in late 1919 and became an increasingly important figure in that city’s musical life. In 1926 he was appointed director of the Warsaw Conservatory, and as he became enthralled with Polish folk music his later works grew more nationalistic, celebrating his Polish heritage. Suffering from tuberculosis, Szymanowski retired to a sanitorium in Switzerland in 1935, and died there in 1937.
A splendid example of the exoticism of Szymanowski's "middle period," the Song of Roxanne is an extract from his 1926 opera King Roger, arranged for violin and piano by violin virtuoso Paul Kochanski (1887-1934), an intimate friend of the composer who frequently offered Szymanowski advice and guidance in writing for the violin.
--Music @ Main, December 8, 2008 (Piotr Szewczyk, violin & Christine Clark, piano)