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EARPLAY 24: American Tapestry

 

Monday, October 20, 7:30 PM
Herbst Theatre

The Earplay Ensemble
Mary Chun, conductor
Tod Brody, flutes  •  Peter Josheff, clarinets  •  Karen Rosenak, piano
Terrie Baune, violin  •  Ellen Ruth Rose, viola  •  Thalia Moore, cello

Guest Artists
Graeme Jennings , violin  • Rufus Olivier, bassoon  • Dan Reiter, cello  •  Michael Seth Orland, piano
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Program Notes

Jennifer Higdon

Dark Wood (2001) is a work that features the bassoon…a wonderful instrument that does not have a tremendous amount of chamber literature. I wanted to create a work that features the bassoon prominently, but also respects it within the framework of a true chamber dialogue (along with its partners, the violin, cello, and piano). Since much of the literature for this beautiful instrument is slow moving, I made the conscious decision to explore its virtuosic abilities. While there is slow music within the piece, there is an emphasis on real “bite” within the language, rhythm and tempi.

The title refers to the beauty of the bassoon’s wood.

Dark Wood was commissioned in 2001 by St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, with funds provided by The Jerome Foundation.

J.H.


Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962) is the most performed living American composer working today. She is the recipient of awards, including a Pew Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and two awards from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. The Telarc release of “Higdon: Concerto for Orchetra/City Scape” won a Grammy in 2005. Her work “blue cathedral” is one of the most-performed orchestral works by a living composer (150 orchestras have performed the work since its 2000 premiere). Some of her recent commissions include works for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, eighth blackbird, the Tokyo String Quartet, and the Ying Quartet. Upcoming projects include a new violin concerto for Hilary Hahn. A solo disc of her chamber music was recently released by Naxos. She is on the composition faculty at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

 

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Elliott Carter
Steep Steps (2001)

Steep Steps was written for the greatly admired clarinetist and friend, Virgil Blackwell, during the summer of 2001. Its title comes from the fact that, unlike the other woodwind instruments, the clarinet overblows at the twelfth, a large interval that forms the basis of much of this composition.
--Elliott Carter


Canon for Three Equal Instruments “In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky” (1971)

The Canon for 3--In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky (for three equal instrumental voices; at the augmented fourth by inversion and at the unison) was composed for one of the Stravinsky memorial issues of the English music magazine TEMPO, at the request of David Drew, its editor.

In proposing the canonic form to a group of European and American composers, he was following the lead of Stravinsky himself, who wrote a number of commemorative pieces in this form.

This canon my be performed by any three instruments having the range of the score written in C. --Elliot Carter



Au Quai (2002)
The title of this piece was suggested by Arnold Schoenberg's short story "To the Wharfs" in which he describes the mounting anxiety of the members of a French fishing village as the boats and the sea-bound fisherman failed to appear after a storm and several days' absence. When they were suddenly sighted all shouted "to the wharfs, aux quais, O.K!"
--Elliot Carter


Elliott Carter (b. 1908) began to be seriously interested in music in high school and was encouraged at that time by Charles Ives. He attended Harvard University where he studied with Walter Piston, and later went to Paris where for three years he studied with Nadia Boulanger. He then returned to New York to devote his time to composing and teaching.

With the explorations of tempo relationships and texture that characterize his music, Carter is recognized as one of the prime innovators of 20th-century music. The challenges of works such as the Variations for Orchestra, Symphony of Three Orchestras, and the concertos and string quartets are richly rewarding. In 1960, Carter was awarded his first Pulitzer Prize for his visionary contributions to the string quartet tradition. Stravinsky considered the orchestral works that soon followed, Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras (1961) and Piano Concerto (1967), to be "masterpieces". Carter continues to show his mastery in smaller forms as well. Along with a large number of brief solo and chamber works, his later years have brought major essays such as Triple Duo (1983), Quintet (piano and winds, 1991), and String Quartet No.5 (1995), composed for the Arditti Quartet.

Twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, first composer to receive the United States National Medal of Arts, one of the few composers ever awarded Germany's Ernst Von Siemens Music Prize, and in 1988 made "Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the Government of France, Elliott Carter is internationally recognized as one of the leading American voices of the classical music tradition. He recently received the Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award, bestowed by the Principality of Monaco, and was one of a handful of living composers elected to the Classical Music Hall of Fame.


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Eric Zivian
Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano (2008)

*(World Premiere/Earplay Commission)

My Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano adheres fairly closely to an 18th or 19th century structure. The three movements are fast-slow-fast; in addition, the first movement is in sonata form, the second is in a modified ABA form, and the third could loosely be described as a rondo.

The first movement begins with a fanfare for solo clarinet, quickly interrupted by a soaring melody in the cello. These two elements, as well as a chorale-like series of chords in the piano, are intricately combined, sometimes with high seriousness, more often with a light, jazzy insouciance.

The second movement opens with a quiet melody in harmonics in the cello, soon joined by a more impassioned theme in the piano. A brief cadenza for the bass clarinet ensues; then all three elements are combined. The middle section is at first dark and foreboding, with interlocking descending scales, then calmer (though at the same time a bit quicker). When the first part returns, it is combined with the darker material from the second part.

The last movement is an extended romp. The descending scales from the previous movement are now made to dance. Above them are jaunty tunes for all three instruments in turn. After a short cadenza for cello, the music almost peters out before coming to a triumphant conclusion.
-- Eric Zivian

Eric Zivian is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Juilliard School, and the Yale School of Music.  He studied composition with Ned Rorem, Jacob Druckman, and Martin Bresnick and piano with Gary Graffman and Peter Serkin.  He attended the Tanglewood Music Center both as a composer and as a performer, studying composition with Oliver Knussen and Alexander Goehr.  He has also attended summer programs in composition at the Scotia Music Festival, June in Buffalo and the Wellesley Composers’ Conference, participating in seminars with Mario Davidovsky, Ross Bauer, James Primosch, David Felder, and Donald Erb, among others.

Mr. Zivian’s compositions have been performed widely in the U. S. and Japan, and have earned him numerous prizes.  He was awarded an ASCAP Jacob Druckman Memorial Commission to compose Three Character Pieces, which was premiered by the Seattle Symphony in March 1998.  An earlier orchestral work, Quincunx, was commissioned by the Paul Jacobs Memorial Fund and performed by the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra in 1994.  His Double Fugue, for string quartet, was commissioned by the Brentano Quartet and performed in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and at many other venues in the United States during the 2002-2003 season. 

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Pablo Furman
Sureña: Memorias Australes (2005)
violin solo and computer processed sounds

The musical material and the titles of the movements refer to blurred or illusory images from South America.  The electronic part is made up in its entirety of events played by the violinist and treated through various processes, then synchronized to the score.  Completed in October of 2005, the composition is dedicated to violinist Pat Strange who commissioned it.

1.  Cadenza y danza in moto perpetuo introduces a fiery violin and electronic ostinati.  The latter are built from samples of corresponding violin phrases and processed through granulation with four resonators tuned to pitch material in the score.  Rhythmn and tempi are determined exclusively by grain length and rate across the sample.  Syncopations result from the random scanning of samples’ peaks and valleys.  Percussive events are pizzicatos and knocks on the violin transformed into gross exaggerations of such typical string techniques.

  1. El Colibrí mágico (magic hummingbird).  Electronic pizzicatos and tremolos perform a fluttering responsorial display with the violin.
  1. Companaraio de San Miguel, interlude for plucked bells and gongs. Processed pizzicatos and bowed harmonics improvise their meditative vision of a fictional carillon.
  1. Nubes de Magallanes – nocturno patagónicoNamed after the famous explorer who chronicled them in the early XVI century these galaxies are visible only from the Southern hemisphere.  The lonely vastness of the cold deswert of Patagonia sparkles under the nightly glitter of the ‘Clouds of Magellan’ transfixed here by the violin. 
  1. La milonga rota (broken milonga).  A reverie of dancers with their feet in the air attempting to perform the intricacies of a difficult and sensual dance.  The music is not what they expect.  The rhythmn is deconstructed and repeatedly interrupted by live and processed violin bursts.  Granulation and spectral filtering of the violin make up the electronic part.

P.E.F.


Pablo Furman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he began university studies at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Conservatorio Julian Aguirre. He emigrated to the United States in 1976 and continued his education at the University of California at Los Angeles where he received, in 1987, a Ph.D. in composition. Upon graduation he took a position at the University of California, Berkeley where he taught courses in harmony and Latin American music. In 1989 he took a position at San Jose State University, California. He currently teaches composition, music theory, electro-acoustic music, music of Latin America, and coordinates the music composition program. Furman's recent awards include a California Arts Council award in music composition (2000), a 1999 Koussevitzky Commission, and a 1996 Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation composition in the award competition from Latin America and the Caribbean. He is the recipient of two research fellowships from the California State University for 1993 and 1995, and a SJSU President's Special Recognition Award in 1996.

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William Kraft, Vintage Renaissance and Beyond (2005)

“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.

The music

Three sections make up Vintage Renaissance and Beyond

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

Nothing in the three pieces on which Vintage Renaissance and Beyond is based has been altered.  In “Danza Alta”, the piccolo plays the entire tune with comments by the viola, and, occasionally, with the other strings.  The rest of the ensemble joins in and gradually draws the music into the 21st century where fragments of the tune are exploited.

“Danza Alta” is the only instrumental piece of the 12 or so surviving works by Francesco, the rest being secular or sacred vocal music.

Hildegard von Bingen’s antiphon “O rubor sanguinis” is found in the large work “11,000 Virgins, chants for the Feast of St. Ursula.”  I felt it would be a violation to do anything but state the chant as it was written.  Therefore, it is set in a statement-response structure.  Phrases of the chant are stated in unison, followed by responses from the ensemble.

On the other hand, the “Bransle” invites tinkering.  It is rather bawdy piece that one can readily imagine hearing it played by the shawm, the precursor to the oboe that arrived in Europe from the near east in the 12th century.  In France, where it originated, it was also called “branle”.  In Italy “brando”, but in England by any of 3 names: “brawl, brall, brangill”.

Bransle is harmonized primarily with the interval of the 5th, characteristic of the period.  When the tune is completely stated, it is joined by “Danza Alta”.  The two play together and then as if being played by two minstrels wandering off into the forest (or wherever), Vintage Renaissance and Beyond comes to a quiet conclusion.

 

Composer bios

Not much is known about Francesco de la Torre, the composer of “Danza Alta”.  We do know that he sang in the chapel of the Arogonese Court from around 1483 to 1500.  He later became curate at the cathedral of Seville.  It is assumed that he died in 1504 since nothing is known about him after that year.

Hildegard von Bingen is the renaissance woman of the middle ages.  As little as there is to know about Francesco de la Torre, much is known about Hildegard von Bingen.  This is because of her voluminous correspondence and her memoirs.

Hildegard’s life of 81 years, 1098 – 1179, unusually long for that time was not an easy one, laden with ill health and many challenges.  The genius of Hildegard von Bingen is hard to imagine.  Her accomplishments extended into science, medicine, poetry and music.  She spoke of experiencing visions since childhood and through these visions created voluminous works.  To mention just two may suggest the scope: 1.) A scientific encyclopedia in two parts: a book of herbal medicine, titled Physica, and a book of compound medicine, Causae et curae; 2.) Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations) a collection of poetical – musical works written between 1150 and 1160.

William Kraft (b. 1923) has had a long and active career as composer, conductor, percussionist, 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, Mr. 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. Mr. Kraft had previously been a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years; eight years as percussionist, and the last 18 as Principal Timpanist. For three seasons, he was also assistant conductor of the orchestra, and, thereafter, frequent guest conductor.

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Guest Artists

Rufus Olivier (bassoon) is the principal bassoonist with the San Francisco Opera, and the San Francisco Ballet. He was bassoonist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Olivier has been guest soloist with numerous orchestras throughout the country and Japan, premiered new works for the bassoon and was featured in live radio recitals in Los Angeles. As well as being a member of the opera and ballet, he is also a founding member of the Anchor Chamber Players, The Midsummer Mozart Orchestra, and the Stanford Wind Quintet and has recorded many movie, video, CD and TV soundtracks including Disney’s "Never Cry Wolf" and San Francisco Opera’s Grammy nominated CD Orphee et Euydice and won a Grammy for the soundtrack Elmo in Grouchland.

 

Graeme Jennings (violin) studied in the USA and Australia. Formerly a member of the legendary Arditti String Quartet (1994-2005), he has toured widely throughout the world, made more than 70 CDs, given over 200 premieres and received numerous accolades including the prestigious Siemens Prize (1999) and two Grammaphone awards. As a recitalist, Mr Jennings has a wide repertoire ranging from Bach to Boulez and beyond. HIs main focus these days is on chamber music, as well as being an enthusiastic proponent of new music. He has worked with and been complimented on his interpretations by many of the leading composers of our time. After hearing him give the Australian premiere of his "Partita" in 1987, Lutoslawski described Graeme as an "inspired performer".

In recent seasons, he has given performances of Berg's Violin Concerto, and in 2003, the first Australian premiere of Ferneyhough's "Terrain" with the Elision Ensemble. Graeme now lives in San Francisco CA.

Graeme will be guest concertmaster for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra's 2008 Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts concerts including Living Toys and Dharma at Big Sur with conductor Jonathan Stockhammer.

 

Dan Reiter (cello)is principal cellist with the Oakland East Bay Symphony (OEBS), Festival Opera Orchestra, Diablo Ballet Orchestra and Fremont Symphony.   His solo work has included Leonard Bernstein's Three Meditations (OEBS, 2000) and Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto (Fremont Symphony, 2002). Dan is also a former Earplay member (1989-90).

As a composer, Dan has written varied chamber works.  In 1999 he won an Izzy Award for is composition Raga Bach B Minor featuring dancer Robert Moses. He has had the privilege of working with India's master musician Ali Akbar Khan and has recorded two CDs (Garden of Dreams and Legacy) with Khansahib. In addition, Dan produced Cello and Harp, a CD of his own compositions for cello and harp with his wife, Natalie Cox.

Michael Seth Orland (piano) studied with Margaret Kohn and is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Music Department, where he studied harpsichord with Davitt Moroney and composition with Gérard Grisey. He later continued his study of composition with David Sheinfeld.
Orland has appeared extensively in the Bay Area as a chamber musician. Orland is on the music faculty at UC Berkeley and also teaches there in the Young Musicians Program

Eric Zivian (piano) See composer bio.

 

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