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Program Notes and Composer Biographies

A celebration of Andrew Imbrie's 80th birthday

April 16, 2001

The Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Mary Chun, conductor


Chumash Songs (2000) by John Thow

I. Tapakutu momini (Lullabies and Laments)
II. Tomol Journeys

Bay Area Premiere


Peter Josheff, clarinet
Carla Kihlstedt, violin
Karen Rosenak, piano
Tim Dent, percussion

NOTES:

When I was commissioned by the Ventura (California) Chamber Music Festival last year to write a piece as their composer in residence, I immediately thought of the Chumash (the coastal native Americans in California from Malibu to San Luis Obispo), whose culture I learned while growing up in Ventura. My family took me to the famous rock painting sites and to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where I was both intrigued with their culture and appalled at their dismal history after the arrival of their European conquerors. Through the Santa Barbara Museum I was able to obtain a small collection of recordings of Chumash vocal music, 14 short selections, made at the turn of the last century, when the memory of the traditional Chumash culture was still possible to document. From this small group of recordings, I transcribed and reworked music for the Chumash Songs. I added some music of my own, but only as a frame for the Chumash music. I grouped these adaptations into two movements:

I: Tapakutu momini (Lullabies and Laments)

A tranquil melody, possibly a lullaby, alternates with a searing lament and another melody perhaps derived from Anglo-American tradition. The Chumash seem to have had a different language when singing as opposed to speaking, so the meaning of the original words is not known.

II.: Tomol Journeys

The Santa Barbara Channel Islands were central to the spiritual life of the Chumash, whose famous tar-sealed plank canoes, Tomol, could navigate those difficult waters. The songs here are associated with Santa Cruz Island and the religious ceremonies performed there.

BIO:

John Thow (b. 1949), a native of Southern California, studied at both the University of Southern California and Harvard University. A Fulbright fellowship brought him to Italy, where he studied with Luciano Berio in Rome and Franco Donatoni at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. He returned to Italy under Harvard travel grants and the Rome Prize Fellowship in composition to continue study with Berio. In 1981 John Thow joined the music faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, after having taught at Harvard and Boston University. For several years he was music director of the Berkeley Contemporary Music Players. John Thow has received commissions and awards from many prominent performing groups and institutions in the United States and abroad. These include the Boston Musica Viva, Alea III (Boston), the Brooklyn Philharmonic, l'Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI (Rome), La Settimana Musicale Chigiana (Siena, Italy), Musical Elements (New York), the San Francisco Symphony, the Detroit Chamber Winds, North/South Consonance (New York), the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and the Berkeley Opera. John Thow has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, two from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Djerassi Foundation, the Yaddo Foundation and other organizations. Carl Fischer, G. Schirmer, Falls House Press and Theodore Presser publish his music. It is recorded on the Neuma, Music & Arts and Cantilena labels.

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Veil (2001) by Greg D'Alessio

World Premiere

Tod Brody, flute and alto flute
Carla Kihlstedt, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, 'cello

NOTES:

By a certain time in one's life it cannot be avoided that people dear to you will die, but by any estimation the past year has been a hard one for my family in that has lost four of its members. The piece on tonight's concert then, is a memorial to them and, while it is not really possible to speak with certainty on the content of something so subjective and individual as music, I think it is inevitable that the emotions and thoughts bound up with loss are the central expressive aspects of the work. Thanks to Earplay for requesting the piece. Veil is dedicated to memory of Esther Bowden, Bill D'Alessio, Paul Latowski, and Owen Marshall.

BIO:

Greg D'Alessio (b. 1963) is an Assistant professor of composition at Cleveland State University, where he is also the coordinator of the electronic music studios. He has been the recipient of many awards and fellowships including a Guggenheim fellowship, an Ohio Arts Council individual artist award, the Otto Ettenger fellowship in Composition at the Tanglewood Music festival, the Board of Director's Prize for significant achievement by the Society for Electro-acoustic Music US (SEAMUS), and fellowships to the Sandpoint, Aspen, June in Buffalo festivals, Composer's Conference at Wellesley, and residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center and Atlantic Center for the Arts. His music has been performed throughout the US and Europe by such groups as the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the New Millennium Ensemble, the Phantom Arts ensemble, the Riverside Symphony, and Speculum Musicae. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, and his Masters and Doctoral degrees in composition from Columbia University where he studied with Mario Davidovsky, Fred Lerdahl and George Edwards. Additional studies have included work with Louis Andriessen, Jacob Druckman, Andrew Imbrie, Bernard Rands, Gunther Schuller, and Chinary Ung. His work Smoke and Mirrors, for Chamber Orchestra and Tape was called "a compelling creation...a work that contains cataclysm and majesty in equal proportion" by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In addition to composing and teaching he is the co-founder and co-editor of New Modern Music, an on-line magazine dedicated to the world of contemporary music. Prior to joining the faculty of Cleveland State University he was on staff at Opcode Systems, a major producer of music software and technology.

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King of the Sun (1988) by Stephen Hartke

I. Personages in the Night Guided by the Phosphorescent Tracks of Snails
II. Dutch Interior
III. Dancer Listening to the Organ in a Gothic Cathedral Interlude
IV. The Flames of the Sun Make the Desert Flower Hysterical
V. Personages and Birds Rejoicing at the Arrival of Night

Carla Kihlstedt, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, 'cello
Karen Rosenak, piano

NOTES:

Of the five and one half movements that comprise my piano quartet, The King of the Sun, it was the second (Dutch interior) that was composed last, and thus, because it was written with the benefit of hindsight regarding the rest of the work, it is in some ways the key to the whole. To begin, it bears the word "Phantasmagorically" as its tempo marking to suggest the constant shifting of musical images that drives the piece. The musical materials derive from a late medieval canon entitled Le ray au soleyl ("the Sun's ray") that was jotted down on some empty staves at the foot of a manuscript page otherwise devoted to a chanson by the Flemish composer Johannes Ciconia (c. 1370-1412), and hence has been generally misattributed to him even though clearly the work of a less accomplished musician (though no less delightful for that). The movement title itself, as is the case with all the other movements, is taken from a painting by Joan Miró. In Miró's Dutch interior, he based his composition on a picture postcard of a painting by the 17th century Dutch genre painter Jan Steen, but his treatment is so delightfully willful and whimsical that the original is barely recognizable. In my Dutch interior, I subject the canon (which might be considered Dutch in provenance by some) to similar distortion, most notably rendering it as a violin solo in which the original's contrapuntal character is negated by the verticals of the violin multiple-stops which must be used to account for all the notes in the canon's texture. The underpinning of this solo has nothing to do directly with the violin part, but evokes the spirit of medieval music in its form, an estampie, and in its isorhythmic structure. The canon also appears in the fourth movement, The flames of the sun make the desert flower hysterical, now compressed into the bright, violent chords that open the piece, and then returning at the end in a direct quotation that breaks off abruptly as soon as the first serious contrapuntal 'error' is heard. The remaining movements deal with other issues, among them the recurrent 'snail music' heard first at the very beginning of the work and in several other movements thereafter. But, most curiously for a piece entitled The King of the Sun, most of the movements take place indoors or at night, but for the fateful solar encounter of the hapless desert flower. I had no idea in starting out that this would be the outcome, but I welcomed it, for all its being somewhat convoluted and even arcane, because, quite simply, it was fun to do. Thus just as Miró's painting is both whimsical and serious, I have sought to accomplish the same thing in my music.

BIO:

Stephen Hartke was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1952, and grew up in Manhattan. Hailed by Paul Griffiths recently in the New York Times as one of America's "Young Lions," Hartke's music reflects the diversity of his musical background, from medieval and renaissance polyphony, of which he was once quite an active performer, to very personal syntheses of diverse elements from non-Western and popular music. Since settling in California in the 80s, his music, both chamber and orchestral, has come to circulate widely. He has enjoyed commissions from such groups as the National Symphony Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Fromm Music Foundation, Music from Angel Fire, Chamber Music America, the Hilliard Ensemble, and a recent grant from the Institute for American Music (based at the Eastman School of Music) to compose a percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie. Orchestral performances include those by the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Moscow State Philharmonic, the Canadian National Arts Centre Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Des Moines, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Memphis, New Jersey, Phoenix, St. Louis and Utah. Hartke has received awards from the American Academy in Rome, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the ASCAP Foundation, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Aaron Copland Fund, the Fulbright Senior Scholars Program, the Guggenheim Foundation, and Meet the Composer. Much of his music is available on CD on CRI, ECM New Series, EMI Classics, and New World Records. Stephen Hartke lives in Glendale, California, with his wife, Lisa Stidham, and young son, Sandy, and is Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California.

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Piano Study 1 (1997) by Hyo-shin Na

Thomas Schultz, piano

NOTES:

Piano Study 1, completed in January, 1997 and premiered at Stanford University in February, 1997, initiates a projected series of five pieces (including Rain Study, 1999 and Piano Study 2, 2001) which are studies for both the pianist and the composer. Its focus is on the overlapping of two melodies and the sustained notes which result as well as the crossing and superimposition of the pianist's hands.

BIO:

As a recipient of the coveted Korean National Composers Prize (1994) and the Asian American Arts Foundation fellowship (2000), Hyo-shin Na has had her music performed world-wide; at festivals and concert series in her native country as well as throughout Europe, North America, Africa and the rest of Asia. Her works have been performed in California (where she currently resides) by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Earplay and the Stanford String Quartet, and have been broadcast on National Public Radio, the BBC, KBS, German Radio and Belgian Radio. Recently, her solo piano music has been performed in San Francisco, New York, Vienna, Berlin and Kyoto by Thomas Schultz, and by Yuji Takahashi in Tokyo and at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, and her music for two pianos by Yuji and Aki Takahashi in Tokyo. During the 1998-1999 season, the Kronos Quartet commissioned and performed Ms. Na's Song of the Beggars throughout Europe, Africa, Korea, and North America.

Ms. Na has recently been awarded commissions by the Fromm Foundation at Harvard to write a piece for the San Francisco Contemporary players (1997), by the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts (2000), New Music Works (1999), Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea (2000), Philharmonia Gaudi Vienna (2000), Life and Dream Singers (2001), Citywinds (1998), Korean kayageum virtuoso Eunah Kwak (1998), and the National Cultural Center of Korea (1994). She has received awards from ASCAP in 1998, 1999 and 2000. She was a Djerassi Resident Artist in October, 2000. Ms. Na has lectured on the relationship between her music and traditional Korean music at such varied institutions as Stanford University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, City College of San Francisco, Ewha University, Hanyang University, and Hansei University. She was a resident composer at the March, 2000 concerts of the Other Minds Festival (San Francisco). Her music has been recorded on the Fontec and Seoul labels and is published in Korea and Australia. Her musical studies were at Ewha University (Seoul, Korea), Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Colorado, Boulder where she received her doctorate.

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Earplay Fantasy by Andrew Imbrie

Earplay Commission, encore performance

I. Allegro Assai
II. Allegretto con Fuoco
III. Adagio
IV. Vivace

Mary Chun, conductor
Tod Brody, flute and piccolo
Peter Josheff, clarinet and bass clarinet
Carla Kihlstedt, violin
Thalia Moore, 'cello
Karen Rosenak, piano
Tim Dent, percussion

NOTES:

Earplay Fantasy is a four-movement piece dedicated to my old friend William B. Carlin and commissioned by Earplay. Scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion, it was written with that ensemble in mind. The first movement is introductory in nature: it begins with a brief violin melody, commented upon by other instruments. After a short interlude, the piano picks up the melody, followed by a flute and clarinet duet. The cello has the last word, and the movement ends with an unaccompanied solo for that instrument. The second movement features a complex meter (alternating measures of 5 and 6 beats) and is intended as kind of a fiery scherzo. It begins with a dialogue between the drums and the rest of the ensemble. The next passage is more lyrical, though the tempo and beat remain unchanged. After the climax of this section, a return of the dialogue with the percussion comes more as a fleeting memory than as a recapitulation. The slow movement sets the winds and the string groups in dialogue with the piano. The percussion is silent until the very end, at which time the vibraphone enters discretely into a final conversation with the piano. The last movement attempts, in its role as finale, to pull everything together: there are faint allusions to events from previous movements but mostly the intent is to depict a cheerful outcome.

BIO:

Unlike many of the post-war generation of composers, Andrew Imbrie (b. 1921) spent nearly his entire career at one institution, the University of California at Berkeley. Imbrie studied composition with Roger Sessions in Princeton and Berkeley, interrupted by service in the Army Signal Corps; he also worked with Nadia Boulenger in summer 1937. Imbrie began to receive recognition for his works, including the Second and Third String Quartets, shortly after assuming a post at Berkeley in 1949, on the heels of a two-year fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. He has had notable success both as a teacher and composer. Besides the four string quartets, his major works include three symphonies, two piano concertos, and an opera for the San Francisco Opera Company, Angle of Repose (1976), after the novel by Wallace Stegner. Imbrie was awarded a New York Music Critics' Award (1944), a Merit Award from the Boston Symphony (1955), and two Guggenheim Fellowships (1953Ų54 and 1959Ų60). He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980.

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