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Copyright 2006-2020 by Edward Lein;
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Three Lively Spirituals arranged by Howard Tappan
I Got a Home in-a That Rock
Way Over in the Promise' Land
Wake Up! Jacob
Howard Tappan (1924-2002) grew up and had his early musical training in Binghampton, New York. He received a Bachelor's Degree from the Eastman School of Music, a Master's Degree from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. Dr. Tappan taught in public schools and colleges for 30 years, principally in Rochester, New York, where he became director of choral activities for the public school, system with a staff of 30 music teachers. After retiring to Penny Farms with his wife Elinor, he directed two choirs, performed on piano and organ, and continued to compose and arrange music, including works for piano, duo-piano, orchestra, various chamber and vocal ensembles, and chorus. Howard was a long-time friend of The Orange Park Chorale and served on its board. Clay County's Concert on the Green named its first-place scholarship award after him, in honor of his contribution to that annual event as well as for his lifelong dedication to the arts.
About today's pieces Dr. Carole Clifford notes: "Three Lively Spirituals were [Dr. Tappan's] last published works (by Oxford University Press) and were perhaps inspired by a new Southern influence on his compositions and the sand in his shoes!"
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 19, 2006 (The Orange Park Chorale: Music of Local Composers)
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is an enduringly popular Russian composer whose melodic invention and orchestral brilliance remain unsurpassed. Among his best loved works are The 1812 Overture, Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture, Symphonies No. 4-6, and the ballets Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker; plus, his Violin Concerto and Piano Concerto No. 1 are cornerstones of the repertoire.
Given his gift for singing melodies, it is not surprising that Tchaikovsky created some memorable songs, and the best-known, at least in the English-speaking world, is None but One Who Knows Longing, frequently performed in English as None but the Lonely Heart, and recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. And among Russians, Amidst the Din of the Ball is said to be so well-known that just its first few notes are enough to instantly conjure thoughts of “love at first sight” throughout the populace.
Jax Symphony Notes
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, "Little Russian" (1872, revised 1879)
- Andante sostenuto / Allegro vivo (C minor) - Andantino marziale, quasi moderato (E-flat major)
- Scherzo. Allegro molto vivace (C minor) - Finale. Moderato assai / Allegro vivo (C major)
Tchaikovsky began work on his folksy Symphony No. 2 in the summer of 1872. On break from his post at the Moscow Conservatory, the 32-year-old harmony professor was vacationing at the estate of his beloved younger sister, Sasha, and her husband, Lev Davidoff. Now, the tendency to attribute autobiographical origins to Tchaikovsky's artistic impulses often seems overplayed. In this case, however, the composer himself spoiled any mystery regarding who or what kindled his inspiration: the butler did it.
The Davidoff's rural retreat was in "Little Russia," which is what imperialist Big Russians called Ukraine. Sasha's old steward had a habit of humming homegrown tunes as he puttered about, and one of his Ukrainian Top 40 made it into the symphony, along with some other folk-songs. Tchaikovsky had used folk music before, as did Mily Balakirev and his protégés, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky and Cui, the self-proclaimed leaders of Russian musical nationalism. This "Mighty Handful" mistrusted Germanic symphonic techniques, which failed to nurture the unique melodic flowering born of Russian soil, or worse, hacked it to bits. Tchaikovsky, a handful unto himself, revered Beethoven and adored Mozart, so he dismissed this view. Nevertheless, he also wanted a music that reflected the national identity, and recognized that his own talent manifested in memorable, sweeping melodies. With little precedent, Tchaikovsky cultivated a hybrid, retaining basic formal outlines codified by Papa Haydn, but letting melody, rather than motif, dominate the discourse. Many critics have lambasted this sacrilege as a shortcoming, but time has proven that Tchaikovsky's bending of "the rules" has not diminished his ability to stir the hearts and minds of listeners. On the contrary, along with his heroes Beethoven and Mozart, Tchaikovsky remains among the most-performed composers of symphonic music.
Added posthumously, the Ukrainian "Little Russian" nickname is certainly apt. The first movement begins with Down by Mother Volga, a Ukrainian folk-song intoned by unaccompanied horn. The strain is repeated, becoming increasingly agitated until the full orchestra drops out again, leaving only horns in octaves to herald the main body of the movement; the same tune reappears in the development and coda. The second movement is a charming wedding march resurrected from Tchaikovsky's discarded opera, Undine, and the lyrical middle section quotes another folk-song, Spin, O My Spinner. Some suggest that the Scherzo was inspired by the gossamer Queen Mab of Berlioz, or Borodin's First Symphony. But Tchaikovsky's relative earthiness seems as much a tribute to Beethoven, especially since the 4-notes that head the trio section transform Beethoven's Fifth Symphony "fate" motif into a jaunty folk-dance. As in Beethoven's Fifth, Tchaikovsky's lively Finale transports the symphony from C minor to a festive C major. The movement features variations on The Crane, the favorite folk-song of Sasha's butler, which also is a tune Mussorgsky would use later in Pictures at an Exhibition. Following the example of Glinka's Kamarinskaya, Tchaikovsky generally keeps the melody intact, providing variety through the ever-changing background and colorful harmonies. For contrast, he introduces a somewhat jazzy lyrical tune of his own devising.
The February 1873 premiere of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 was so successful that the work was repeated by popular demand twice that same season. It seems the only detractor was the composer: in 1879, he tweaked the orchestration throughout, and pruned the third and fourth movements. Tchaikovsky also completely gutted the first movement, but he retains both its original introduction and coda, and, as before, includes Down by Mother Volga prominently in the development section as well. For his new "first subject" he introduces a five-note motif taken from Let God Arise, a Russian liturgical chant, which, coincidentally, is similar to Beethoven's fate motif. For the chromatic start of his new "second subject," Tchaikovsky truncates his old first subject, and also reuses figures from the old second subject. The revision was a resounding success when first performed in 1881, and as the composer wished, it is the version of the Second Symphony almost always performed.
Fun fact: Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" was a particular favorite of Igor Stravinsky, who conducted a number of American orchestras in their first performances of the work.
Jax Symphony Notes "Cossak Dance" from Mazeppa
Dating from 1884, Mazeppa ("Мазе́па" in Russian) is the seventh of Tchaikovsky's eleven operas (ten if you discount Vakula the Smith from 1874, which Tchaikovsky reworked as The Slippers in 1885). Based on Aleksandr Pushkin's narrative poem Poltava (1829), the plot of Mazeppa draws from the real-life exploits of Ivan Mazepa (1639-1709), a controversial Ukrainian diplomat and military leader who became a Cossack Hetman (i.e., Chief Commander) during the reign of Peter the Great.
Early in Mazepa's career he served the King of Poland as an ambassador to Ukraine. Rumors of an alleged affair with a young noblewoman, the wife of a Polish count 30 years her senior, inspired Lord Byron's epic poem, Mazeppa (1819). As Byron tells the story, the cuckold count binds a naked Mazeppa to a merciless (and tireless) horse, which miraculously delivers the much-abused hero back to Ukraine and into the tender arms of a "Cossack Maid." Byron's portrayal of a romantic figure who triumphs over great suffering was adapted by Victor Hugo, and Hugo's 1829 French poem later would inspire piano and orchestral works by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt.
But it infuriated Pushkin, and not because of the extra "p."
To Russians, Mazepa was (and is) seen as a traitorous anti-hero. Hoping to secure Ukraine's independence, Mazepa had conspired with King Karl XII of Sweden against the Tsar, but was defeated in the 1709 Battle of Poltava. Pushkin meant to set the record straight, and Tchaikovsky's opera reflects Pushkin's pro-tsarist view. But Tchaikovsky also focuses on the doomed love between Mazepa and his much-younger goddaughter, Mariya.
Here's the opera's story in a nutshell:
Mariya's father refuses his consent to a marriage between his 20-year-old daughter and her 63-year-old godfather, so the lovers elope. Amid much political intrigue, a greedy Mazepa tortures and beheads his father-in-law, but soon is righteously defeated by the Tsar's army. Meanwhile Mariya, unable to cope with the death of her father, goes insane.
The Cossack Dance, or Hopak, comes from the opera's first scene, just before Mazepa asks for Mariya's hand. In keeping with tradition, the dance conjures images of acrobatic Cossacks squatting, kicking and leaping about as they celebrate the coming together of good friends. Only in this case the party doesn't last very long.
(c)2014 by Edward Lein, all rights reserved
Jax Symphony Notes Romeo and Juliet (1869-1870; rev.1880)
Among all the music inspired by Shakespeare's best-known play, none is more popular than Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. Conceived in the fall of 1869 and revised the following summer, the fantasy-overture is usually cited as the Russian composer's "first masterpiece," although it wasn't recognized as such until after Tchaikovsky undertook another revision a decade later.
Assigning biographical impetus to so passionate a work has proven irresistible. Modest Tchaikovsky, the composer's brother, thought the impulse arose from an unrequited love for Vladimir Gerard, a former schoolmate who delivered Pyotr's graveside eulogy; more recent speculation suggests an infatuation with a student, Eduard Zak. Another theory stars Belgian diva Désirée Artôt, whom Tchaikovsky had considered marrying until she sneaked off with some tenor shortly before the jilted fiancé began work on the score. Mily Balakirev, the paterfamilias of Russian nationalist composers, even wrote that while playing through the love theme he imagined Tchaikovsky taking a bath while the mezzo-soprano rubbed his tummy with perfumed soap!
But the verifiable, non-biographical impetus is less romance novel, more academic prose: Tchaikovsky had complained to Balakirev about writer's block, and his mentor suggested he compose an overture based on Shakespeare's masterwork, also proposing the sonata-form structure and outlining what each thematic group should portray.
LISTEN UP: When Tchaikovsky sent Balakirev his sketches he summed up the basics: "the scheme is yours – an introduction depicting The Friar; The Feud (the Allegro); and Love (the second subject)." Love has two parts, the first, perhaps representing Romeo, is introduced by English horn. A harp arpeggio leads into a demure second part (Juliet?) played by muted violins. "Romeo" becomes increasingly ardent, underscored by throbbing horn, and the exposition ends with "Juliet" played by harp. No Love is lost in the development section, devoted to The Friar trying unsuccessfully to contain the family Feud, which continues unabated into the recap, swords crashing. Love returns, rising above the fray and reaching a big climax. The Feud resumes strong as ever, until halted by the fateful suicide signaled by a dying burst from the timpani. In the epilogue Love becomes a funeral procession, The Friar a funereal pipe organ. Love ascends in a transcendent apotheosis, but in the end the star-crossed tragedy is hammered home.
©2015, by Edward Lein, a finalist in the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's 2006 Fresh Ink
composition contest, and producer of Jacksonville Public Library's Intermezzo concerts.
Jeanine Tessori: The Girl in 14G
New York’s Jeanine Tessori (b.1961) is a versatile composer, arranger, record producer and conductor who is known for her musicals, Shrek: the Musical (2008), Violet (1997), which won an Obie Award, and Caroline, or Change, which won the 2004 Drama Desk Award (Outstanding Music), and for new music she composed for the 2002 Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The Girl in 14G (2000), with lyrics by Dick Scanlan (b.1960), was written especially for Kristen Chenowith, star of television (The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, GCB, Glee, etc.) and Broadway (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Wicked), to show off her versatility as it moves from musical comedy through operatic and jazz idioms.
--November 18, 2007 (Bella Voce Cabaret)
--November 7, 2012 (JU Voice Students)
Richard Pearson Thomas
The Spinster of Chelsea Embankment (from Cabaret Songs, Vol.3)
I Left You in Florence | The Queen Elizabeth Blues (from Ladies of Their Nights and Days)
The versatile New York pianist and composer Richard Pearson Thomas (b. 1957) is at home in both the musical theater and the concert hall. In addition to accompanying recitals with singers at major U.S. and international venues, he composes for films and the stage, including the Off-Off-Broadway shows Parallel Lines (2005) and Ladies in a Maze (1996). The Montana native is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Southern California, was on faculty at Yale, and currently is on the faculty at Teachers College/Columbia University. He has composed more than 80 operas with students in New York City public schools as composer-in-residence of the Gold Opera Project, Young Audiences/New York.
Writing the words as well as the music, Mr. Thomas began issuing collections of his Cabaret Songs in 1995. Published in 2006, The Spinster of Chelsea Embankment comes from Volume 3, and has been described as depicting “a figure apparently on intimate terms with more than a century-and-a-quarter's worth of literary luminaries, like Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870).”
Composed between 1980 and 1988 and also with texts by the composer, Ladies of Their Nights and Days is a cycle of 11 songs, subtitled “a musical tour for mezzo-soprano.” In the context of the whole cycle Windsor: The Queen Elizabeth Blues is the first song, and I Left You in Florence is the last, but each song is strong enough to be performed independently. About his cycle the composer says, “[it] is designed for a singing actress with great musical and dramatic skills. Each song is a different character in a different European setting,” and he adds, “The piano accompaniments are orchestral and challenging, but a lot of fun for an accomplished pianist."
--Music @ Main, May 26, 2009 (Anne Elise Richie)
Pier Adolfo Tirendelli: O Primavera
Pier Adolfo Tirindelli (1858-1937) was an Italian composer, violinist, conductor and teacher. In 1883 he accepted the post of professor of violin at the Conservatory of Venice, and assumed directorship of that institution from 1893 to 1895. He then moved to the United States until 1922, as a professor of violin and conducting at the Cincinnati Conservatory. Returning to his homeland, he devoted the last period of his life to composing, producing songs and instrumental works in addition to three operas. Tirindelli's Neapolitan song O Primavera ("O Springtime"), originally published in 1911 during his American sojourn, was dedicated to the famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921).
Francesco Paolo Tosti: La Serenata
In the earliest days of his career as a singer-songwriter, Italian composer Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) had a difficult time making a living, reportedly living on oranges and stale bread for weeks at a time. But his talents eventually lead him into the highest reaches of fashionable society, and he became singing master first to the Queen of Italy, and then, in 1880, to the British Royal family. By the mid-1880s he had become the most popular songwriter in Britain, and he received a professorship at the Royal Academy of Music in 1894. Tosti became a British citizen in 1906, and was knighted by King Edward VII in 1908, but he returned to his homeland in 1913 and spent his remaining years in Rome. Although he never wrote an opera, his finely crafted melodies have been favorites of opera stars since the early years of the recorded era.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910): Great Russian author, best known for his monumental War and Peace (1863-69) and the tragic Anna Karenina (1873-77).
Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata (1890), written after he hosted a performance of the titular piece, centers on a man driven to murder his wife after a similar performance. Accused of preaching immorality through this story, Tolstoy was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church as a result.
--February 26, 2006 (Shiao/Smart: The Kreutzer Project)
Henri Tomasi: Triptyque
-- 1. Scherzo - 2. Largo - 3. Salterelle
Composer and conductor Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) was born in Marseille, France, and entered the conservatory in his hometown when he was 7 years old. As a youngster he was not very happy being a musician, complaining that his father forced him to perform "like a trained animal" for wealthy families. Despite dreams of running away and joining the navy--and skipping many of his classes--Tomasi won his school's 1916 prize in harmony. This set him up to study at the Conservatoire de Paris, but because of World War I, his entrance there was delayed until 1921. In the meantime he played piano in any place that would hire him, from fancy hotels to low-rent brothels, and, significantly, in movie houses where he began to hone his compositional skills while improvising background music to the onscreen antics of Charlie Chaplin, et al. In 1925, Tomasi won a prize for a wind quintet, apparently his first "official" composition, and he continued to demonstrate a special affinity for wind instruments throughout his career. In 1927, and by unanimous vote, he won both the Prix de Rome for composition and the first prize in conducting, and by the 1930s he had established a strong reputation throughout Europe as both composer and conductor. In 1936, he won the Grand Prix du Disque for his recorded performance of Gluck's opera, Orfeo, and, after World War II in 1946, he became the principal conductor for the Opera de Monte Carlo. He enjoyed success as a composer of operas and other works for the stage, and in 1952 he was awarded the Grand Prix de Musique Française, and in 1960, the Grand Prix musical de la ville de Paris. Tomasi's Triptyque dates from 1957, about the same time that he had to give up conducting due to failing health and failing hearing in his right ear.
Sulkhan Tsintsadze: Toccata (1976)
Just as Khachaturian’s oeuvre is infused with the folk music of Armenia, so the works of Soviet cellist, educator and composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze (1925-1991) echo the folklore of his Georgian homeland, and for this he was recognized as People's Artist of Georgia in 1961. Tsintsadze, whose many other awards include People's Artist of the USSR (1987) and the USSR Stalin Prize (1950), wrote prolifically in all genres including scores for numerous films, but he is most highly regarded for his works featuring strings, and especially for his 11 string quartets.
--Music @ Main, September 9, 2008 (Alexei Romanenko, cello)
Lee Turner: Amazing Grace
While at the University of Florida, LEE TURNER, a native of Jacksonville, was pianist for The Dream Weavers, who had a popular, twice-weekly radio show and performed at personal appearances. In 1955, the group recorded It's Almost Tomorrow, written by members Gene Adkinson and Wade Buff. On January 1, 1956, The Dream Weavers performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York City, and the song spent 22 weeks on the charts where it reached the top ten. Another song, Into the Night (music by Mr. Turner, words by Wade Buff), was recorded by the group that year and reached number 82 on the charts.
After graduation, Lee and his wife Dianne moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he graduated with a degree in music from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Lee was a full-time minister of music for nearly 30 years. Mr. and Mrs. Turner moved to Nashville for two years, where Lee played piano and sang on studio sessions, created piano reductions of orchestrated pieces, transcribed music from recordings, and wrote and arranged music.
Today the Turners have settled in Jacksonville where they have three grown sons and four grandchildren. When they aren't taking care of their publishing company, TurnerSong, or writing songs and arrangements, Lee is in constant demand as a pianist for all kinds of events in Jacksonville and surrounding areas. One such event was a special program at the old Main Library in October, 2003, when Lee Turner improvised a live "soundtrack" for the classic silent horror movie, The Phantom of the Opera.
Amazing Grace, arranged by Lee Turner; words by John Newton, 1779
"I've always loved this grand old song of God's love and grace. It is moving for me that so many have identified with this arrangement and have sung it through the years," said Mr. Turner upon learning that the Vienna Boys Choir, founded in 1498, chose to include his version in its repertoire. "I'm always proud to know when a choir of any kind from churches big and small sings my arrangement. But it is a special honor to have it sung by a choir that was started by royal decree. Some of the great composers wrote for the Vienna Boys Choir, including Mozart."
--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 19, 2006 (The Orange Park Chorale: Music of Local Composers)