ALIAS February 2008

February 16, 2008, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Three Madrigals for violin and viola Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)
  1. Poco allegro
  2. Poco andante
  3. Allegro
  • Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Daniel Reinker, viola
Telephone Book *Double Take* Michael Torke (b. 1961)
  1. The Yellow Pages
  2. The Blue Pages
  3. The White Pages
  • Lee Levine, clarinet
  • Norma Rogers, flute
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Matthew Walker, cello
  • Karen Krieger, piano
– Intermission –
String Quintet in C major Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  1. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Adagio
  3. Scherzo: Presto – Trio: Andante sostenuto
  4. Allegretto
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Chris Farrell, viola
  • Michael Samis, cello
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello

Proceeds from this concert benefited the Nashville Adult Literacy Council.

Program Notes

Bohuslav Martinu: Three Madrigals for violin and viola (1947)
Following in the footsteps of Antonin Dvorak, an earlier great Czech composer, the already successful Martinu came to America in 1941 and proceeded to win over the American concertgoing public with the distinctive Czechoslovakian sound of his symphonic and operatic works. He also wrote a great deal of chamber music; the Three Madrigals were written in 1947. The combination of merely two string instruments is a challenging compositional task, but Martinu creates a rich tapestry of sound, using the polyphony of the English madrigal style as a basis for his Eastern European folk style.

Michael Torke: Telephone Book (1995)
Sometimes described as a “pop-minimalist,” American composer Michael Torke studied composition at the Eastman School of Music and then Yale University. In 1985, while at Yale, he composed Yellow Pages. The popularity of early works like this one encouraged Torke to leave the graduate program and move to New York, where he promptly embarked upon his career as a professional composer. After some years of success, Torke revisited Yellow Pages and took the obvious step of adding two more movements, which he did in 1995.

The piece is based on the idea that the entries listed in a telephone book change gradually; for example, “K M Salon,” “KMA Records,” “Kmart,” “KMI,” “KMM Market,” and so on. Likewise, Telephone Book is built on repeating musical lines that are slightly altered with each repetition. Each movement uses this idea in slightly different ways. Yellow Pages is a light and playful jaunt with a slight pop funk feel; Blue Pages, naturally, is a slow, swinging blues-style interlude; White Pages showcases all the instruments in perpetual motion.

Franz Schubert: String Quintet in C major, D 956 (1828)
Schubert completed this quintet in Vienna only a couple months before his death. At the time his publisher was interested only in his songs, and as a result, Schubert would never hear what many consider one of the greatest works of chamber music ever written. The quintet sat, unplayed and unheard, until its premiere 22 years later.

The remarkable, rich sound of the work stems in part from the instrumentation. Schubert chose (wisely) to augment the quartet with a second cello rather than the more traditional addition of a viola. This fills out the lower register of the ensemble, and the wide range of the cello gives Schubert great flexibility.
This immense work is a remarkable balancing act on Schubert’s part – the vast range of emotions, melodies, and colors are integrated so seamlessly that every one feels natural and effortless. It provides a tantalizing hint of how Schubert’s musical language might have developed if not for his early death.
The opening captures the attention, showing at first only the vaguest sense of tempo. The range of emotions in this movement is startling, at times peaceful, playful, and downright raucous. The two cellos are prominent, particularly in the beautiful entry of the second theme. The movement ends by returning to a sense of peace with a final held chord.

This peaceful stillness continues with the second movement, which forms an arch, the opening material giving way to an agitated central section before it returns, accompanied by an unusual chromatic motive in the second cello, and once again dissolves into a final chord.

With the third movement a more lively pace is set up, but this dance is interrupted by the unusual trio, a march featuring writing that is alternately spare and lush. The music fades away without a clear sense of resolution before the return of the scherzo.

The final movement of the quintet starts with music that is almost gypsy-like, but as it evolves it gives way to a violin line and second theme that show the polish and elegance of Schubert. Just a few minutes into the movement, a new melody appears in the celli; Schubert integrates it brilliantly into the context of the movement, creating music that is completely unexpected, yet strangely familiar. Both times this music appears it sets up a return to the opening material, the second time in a madly accelerated rush to the end of the quintet.