ALIAS May 2005

May 19, 2005, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Corrente and Sarabande o pur Ciaccona for violin and continuo Niccolo Matteis (d. 1707)
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Matt Walker, guitar
Suite for harp, op. 83 Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
  1. Overture
  2. Toccata
  3. Nocturne
  4. Fugue
  5. Hymn
  • Licia Jaskunas, harp
String Quartet no. 14 in F-sharp major Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
  1. Allegretto
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegretto
  • Zeneba Bowers, Jeremy Williams, violins
  • Christopher Farell, viola, Christopher Stenstrom , cello
– Intermission –
Pampeana no. 2 for cello and piano Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
  • Michael Samis, cello
  • Melissa Rose, piano
Scherzo (Sonatensatz) for violin and piano Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Audrey Causilla, piano
Quartet for clarinet, cello, bass, and marimba Matthew Walker (b. 1968)
  • Lee Levine, clarinet, Matt Walker, cello
  • Joel Reist, bass, Christopher Norton, marimba

Proceeds from this concert benefited the Maternal Infant Outreach Worker program.

Program Notes

Niccolo Matteis: Corrente and Sarabande o pur Ciaccona
A virtuoso violinist and guitarist of the 17th century, Matteis is now regarded as having been ahead of his time, evidenced by the extraordinary technical demands of his music and by his sometimes complex and advanced compositional style. (Also, unlike most other musicians of his day, he generally refused to perform for the social elite, paradoxically making him a celebrity of sorts.) Between 1676 and 1685 composed “Ayres for the Violin,” a huge collection of short pieces for violin and continuo. These are two of them, the second being a set of continuous variations over a single bass line. ALIAS performs these works with cello and guitar accompanying the violin solo.

Benjamin Britten: Suite for Harp, op. 83
Britten was a prominent figure among the generation of English composers who came to the fore during the World War II era. Written in 1969, this suite is the composer’s only work for solo harp. Its five short movements serve to demonstrate the technical capabilities of both the instrumentalist and the instrument. Following are Britten’s own notes on the piece: 1. A classical “Overture” with dotted rhythms and trumpet chords. 2. “Toccata”, a busy rondo, with quavers and semiquavers, with much crossing of parts. 3. “Nocturne”, a clear tune with increasing ornamentation over a low, chordal ground. 4. “Fugue”, a brief scherzo, in three voices. 5. “Hymn” (St. Denio), a Welsh tune, a compliment to the dedicatee, with five variants.

Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet no.14 in F-sharp major, op. 142 (1973)
Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets are often considered his most personal works and the ones least subject to political influence. Almost all were premiered by the Beethoven Quartet, and he dedicated a quartet to each of the musicians in the group. The 14th quartet, completed in 1973, was the last of these, written for the cellist Sergey Shirinsky.

Shostakovich’s late quartets are known for their dark, brooding nature, often reflecting a preoccupation with death. Shostakovich was quite ill late in life, suffering a degenerative muscular disorder as well as a heart attack in 1966 from which he never fully recovered. The Thirteenth quartet consists entirely of one long movement marked Adagio, while his last quartet is in six movements, four marked Adagio and two Adagio molto. The 14th quartet is unusual, then, in that while the typical lamenting and angry Shostakovich styles are never far away, there are frequent moments of peace and striking beauty.

The quartet starts off with a wandering motive in the cello, and the instrument remains prominent throughout the work. There are also numerous solo passages for all of the players, an unusual and somewhat disorienting feature in a string quartet. The middle movement is lush and romantic, quoting Mahler’s Symphony no. 9, a work often considered to be a “farewell” from that composer. The last movement begins with a typical Shostakovich three-note motive and includes an unusual passage that seems to be almost an argument between the four players. This angry passage is never really resolved, and after the material of the first two movements is quoted one last time the quartet finally fades away peacefully.

Alberto Ginastera: Pampeana no. 2 for cello and piano, opus 21
Pampeana no. 2, composed in 1950, is a rhapsodic take on the essence of the Pampas plains region of Ginastera’s homeland, Argentina. Ginastera borrows the dance rhythms of the cowboys known as the Gauchos. Particularly, though not quoting directly, the piece contains an estillo, which moves in a slow 4/4 followed by a fast 6/8, and a malambo, a fast foot-stomping dance. On the three Pampeanas for various scoring, the composer explains, “Whenever I have crossed the pampa, my spirit felt itself inundated by changing impressions, now joyful, now melancholy, produced by its limitless immensity and by the transformation that the countryside undergoes in the course of the day…”

Johannes Brahms: Sonatensatz, for violin and piano
In 1853, fairly early in his career, Brahms collaborated with fellow composers Robert Schumann and Albert Dietrich to write a violin sonata for their friend, the great violinist Joseph Joachim. Each composer was to write one movement; Brahms’ task was the scherzo, and this Sonatensatz (simply, “sonata movement”) was the result.

Matt Walker: Quartet for clarinet, marimba, cello, and bass (2004)
Composed in 2004 specifically for ALIAS, this short quartet is perhaps Walke’s oddest composition to date. The piece demands a great deal of virtuosity and creativity from its musicians, as well as improvisation and some unconventional playing styles; for instance, the cello often serves as a drum set, while the bassist provides a “high-hat” cymbal sound. It opens with a lyrical bass solo in a sort of blues recitative. It then breaks into a rhythmically complex, frequently shifting groove; listeners will be reminded of (and perhaps think the composer has stolen ideas from) such diverse influences as Big Band leader Benny Goodman, jazz great Dave Brubeck, bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, and perhaps any number of blues artists from past decades.