Program Notes

May 23, 2005
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Forum

The Riot seems to take "the dance" as its basic raison d'etre. From the title you might expect some chaotic din to be the principle mode of expression, but in fact, it's a much more controlled gathering of thematic characters. The main formal gist of the piece seems to be a series of clear sections (though with very smooth elisions between them), each based more upon a textural idea than a thematic one: irregular dance-like figures, upwards sequences (reminiscent, perhaps, of Shepard's tones), etc. The Riot,perhaps owing to its orchestration and its dancelike nature, owes a small debt to Stravinsky: the opening of the piece sounds somewhat like Symphonies for Wind Instruments. —Christopher Bailey (New York, New York, USA)

The Riot was commissioned by the University of Bristol with funds provided in part by South West Arts. It was first performed by the Het Trio at St. Georges, Brandon Hill, Bristol on March 28, 1994.

JONATHAN HARVEY (b.1939, England) was a major music scholar at St John's College, Cambridge. He gained doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and also studied privately (on the advice of Benjamin Britten) with Erwin Stein and Hans Keller. He was a Harkness Fellow at Princeton (1969-70). In the 1980’s he was invited to work at IRCAM in Paris and led to his interest in electronic music where he composed eight major works. Harvey has also composed for most other genres: orchestra, chamber, as well as works for solo instruments. He has produced a large output of choral works, including the large cantata with electronics Mothers shall not Cry (2000). His music has been extensively played and toured by Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, and Ictus Ensemble of Brussels. About 50 recordings are available on CD. He regularly performed at all the major international contemporary music festivals, and is one of the most skilled and imaginative composers working in electronic music.

The central metaphor in From the Beginning ( String Quartet No. 2) is the growth leading from germinal beginnings to fully elaborated organisms, but accelerated, like what we experience in time-lapse photography. The temporally imperceptible process is telescoped into a human scale. The piece is in two movements, slow followed by fast, with the second flowing out of the concluding harmony like a sudden intake of breath. The first movement is contemplative, or interior, the second is active, or extroverted. The two movements can be thought of as cathexis-catharsis. Paradoxically, the rate of development is rapid in the slow first movement and slower in the following presto. —Richard Festinger

RICHARD FESTINGER (b.1948) studied composition at the University of California in Berkeley with Andrew Imbrie. Before turning to composing, he led his own groups as a jazz performer. He is a founder and director of the Earplay Ensemble in San Francisco, and professor of composition at San Francisco State University. His music is published by C.F. Peters and Jobert-Cigart, and his works have been recorded for the Centaur, CRI and CRS labels. He has received awards from the Jerome Foundation, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Barlow Foundation, the Cary Trust, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, for commissions for the the New York New Music Ensemble, the Alexander String Quartet, City Winds, the Laurel Trio, the Left Coast Ensemble, the Miroglio-Aprudo Duo, Washington Square, the Redwood Symphony Orchestra, the Empyrean Ensemble, the Group for Contemporary Music, and New Millennium.

Wang Xi-lin’s music is described as profound and noble, particularly characterized by a sincerity of the soul. It is moving and shocking in its power to bring forward emotions and portrayals of humanity and in particular the feelings related to China’s recent history. His sense of tragedy and his uncompromising dramatic appeal is characteristic. Long years of suffering did not deprive Wang Xi-lin’s music of its vitality.

WANG XI-LIN (b.1936, China) spent his childhood and early youth in the poverty-stricken Pingliang County of Gansu province where he learned to play the organ and to read music in a local Catholic primary school. He learned to play various brass instruments and the basic theory of music after joining a small art troupe of the People’s Liberation Army that was passing through his town. His musical abilities were recognized and he was sent to study in the Army Band Music Conductors School in Beijing and Shanghai where he was introduced to European classic music. At the Shanghai Conservatory he learned formal composition techniques. He spent twenty-one years during the Cultural Revolution in exile in the Shanxi Province. During the last seven years of his exile he worked as a conductor of the Southeast Shanxi Singing and Dancing Troupe in Changzhi city. In 1978 he returned to Beijing as the resident composer of the Beijing Singing and Dancing Troupe.

FOR ANDY is a short piece is composed for and dedicated to Andy Imbrie, who has been a colleague, mentor, and close personal friend for the past thirty years. This brief work is inspired by the opening theme of the last movement of Imbrie's Piano Concerto No. 3and is a meditation on some of the musical values implied by that theme. Part of the Imbrie theme is quoted in the piece. —Olly Wilson

OLLY WILSON'S catalog includes works for chamber ensembles and electronic media, but he is primarily known as a composer of orchestral music. Widely acclaimed as one of the nation’s finest and most successful African American composers, his works have been performed by most major orchestras of the United States, as well as several European orchestras. His works have been commissioned by the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic orchestras. Wilson is Professor Emeritus at the University of California Berkeley, where he served for several years at the Chair of the Music Department. In 1995 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

VINTAGE RENAISSANCE AND BEYOND is a manifestation of my fondness for renaissance and medieval music. I say "beyond" because the music goes before and after renaissance music.“Beyond” in the title refers to going into the past beyond the renaissance into the Middle Ages and also moving forward into the 21st century for this setting. What has always attracted me to early music was the directness and clarity of expression as opposed to the dramatic and emotionally laden works in the 19th century repertory. Also, the combination of different instruments thus offering a multitude of colors, plus the use of small ensembles, spoke directly to the 20th century (and beyond!) Pierrot Lunaire of Schoenberg and Histoire du Soldat of Stravinsky. Three sections make up Vintage Renaissance and Beyondwith each section from a different composer:

    1. Danza Alta Francesco de la Torre, 1483 - 1504
    2. O Rubor Sanguinis Hildegard von Bingen, 1098 - 1179
    3. Bransle, Anonymous

—William Kraft

WILLIAM KRAFT (b.1923) has had a long and active career as composer, conductor, percussionist/timpanist, and teacher. Until June of 2002, he was Chairman of the Composition Department and holds the Corwin Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 1981- 85, Kraft was the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer-in-Residence for the first year under Philharmonic auspices, and the subsequent three years through the Meet The Composer program. During his residency, he was founder and director of the orchestra’s performing arm for contemporary music, the Philharmonic New Music Group. Kraft had previously been a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years; eight years as percussionist, and the last eighteen as principal timpanist. For three seasons, he was also assistant conductor of the orchestra, and, thereafter, frequent guest conductor. Recently completed compositions include Concerto Two for Timpani and Orchestra, commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, to be premiered on June 9, 2005.