ALIAS May 2008

May 17, 2008, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Two Pieces for two cellos Ilja Zeljenka (1932-2007)
  1. Grazioso
  2. Con passione
  • Christopher Stenstrom and Michael Samis, cellos
Sonata no. 4 for violin and continuo, “La Castella”
Sonata no. 6 for violin and continuo, “La Sabbatina”
Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (active 1660-1669)
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Matthew Walker, cello
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, harpsichord
Selections from Dichterliebe, op. 48 Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
  1. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
  2. Ich will meine Seele tauchen
  3. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome
  4. Ich grolle nicht
  5. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen
  6. Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet
  • Michael Samis, cello
  • Leah Bowes, piano
  • Thomas Heine, narrator
– Intermission –
Fantasie for harp and violin, op. 124 Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
  • Licia Jaskunas, harp
  • Alison Gooding, violin
Sextet for clarinet, string quartet, and piano Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
  1. Allegro vivace
  2. Lento
  3. Finale: Precise and rhythmic
  • Lee Levine, clarinet
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Daniel Reinker, viola
  • Matthew Walker, cello
  • Melissa Rose, piano

Proceeds from this concert benefited the Oasis Center.

Program Notes

Ilja Zeljenka: Two pieces for two cellos
An important and prolific Slovak composer, Zeljenka was known in large part for his avant-garde compositions during the post-war period, a reaction in part to the heavy hand of socialist realism. In the early seventies, Zeljenka was expelled from the Slovak Composers’ Association for his involvement with the Prague Spring, a period of attempted reforms in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia. Following this repression, his music would take a different turn, and he became interested in counterpoint and the simultaneous use of different short rhythmic elements. It also marked a turn toward chamber music, and by his death last summer he had written many works on a smaller scale, including 15 string quartets and 22 piano sonatas. This short work for two cellos highlights his interest in conflicting rhythmic patterns, with twos and threes constantly switching between the two parts, but also shows a return to a more tonal and melodic style.

Pandolfi: Violin sonatas no. 4 and 6
Virtually nothing is known about Pandolfi, and very few of his works seem to have survived the centuries. He was a musician and composer in the Imperial Court in Innsbruck. His music was rooted in the Italian Baroque style but shows creativity and innovation that was decades, if not centuries, ahead of his time. Most of his work, like these two violin sonatas, are very demanding technically and musically, and they challenge the modern listener to hear outside of the formal rigidity of later Baroque music. Notable in a number of his violin sonatas, these included, is a sort of expressive “stuttering” technique which is just one of a number of unusual characteristics in his music.

Schumann: Dichterliebe, op. 48, transcribed for cello and piano (1840)
In 1840, after a long and difficult courtship with Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann composed his song cycle Dichterliebe. The songs illustrate Schumann’s emotional states as the courtship progressed through its various stages: falling in love, estrangement, bitterness, and finally a happy reunion in marriage. These poems of Heinrich Heine are filled with an almost acrid irony which mocks the fashionable romanticism of his times. These six particular songs were chosen for this transcription because they highlight the cello’s vocal qualities and its ability to hint at the meaning of the text through various tone colors.

Saint-Saëns: Fantasie for violin and harp, op. 124 (1907)
A prodigy as musician and scholar, Saint-Saëns’ background and experience was diverse: He was a keyboardist (he played piano and also organ, for which he wrote extensively); a soldier (in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870); as music critic (he was particularly critical of Schumann and Wagner), and a playwright, as well as being arguably the most successful French composer of the 1800s.

His music is often categorized as “late-Romantic, pre-Impressionst”; while his continuation of the conventions of late 19th century harmony and form is usually evident in his work, his occasional use of sound and rhythm as textural devices rather than formal ones foreshadows the work of his countrymen Ravel and Debussy. This short work was inspired by and written for two sisters, Marianne and Clara Eissler, who premiered the work in London in 1907.

Copland: Sextet for clarinet, string quartet, and piano (1937)
It is no accident that we think of Copland’s music as the quintessential American classical music sound. When Copland left New York in 1920 to study composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, he was already an accomplished music student. When he met notables such as Prokofiev, Milhaud, and Koussevitzky, he took note of their nationalistic style. At the time jazz was becoming popular in the United States, but Copland, struck by the distinctive music from other countries, sought to develop what he called “a naturally American strain of so-called serious music.”

Copland wrote an orchestral piece in 1932-1933 called “Short Symphony”, which was not performed due to its great difficulty; in fact, several of the great orchestras of the time scratched it from their concert programs because it was deemed practically unplayable. In 1937 he arranged it for chamber ensemble, in the hopes that it would get played more often. The piece became one of the great staples of the American chamber music repertoire, albeit still a very difficult one.

Copland had this to say about this piece: “The work is in three movements (fast, slow, fast) played without pause. The first movement is scherzo-like in character. Once, I toyed with the idea of naming the entire piece “The Bouncing Line” because of the nature of the first section. The second movement is in three brief sections–the first rises to a dissonant climax, is sharply contrasted with a song-like middle part, and returns to the beginning. The finale is once again bright in color and rhythmically intricate.”