ALIAS May 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010 8:00 p.m.

Turner Hall, Blair School of Music

11 Caprices for two cellos, Philippe Hersant (b. 1948)

  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Michael Samis, cello

Danza de los Saqsampillos for two marimbas, Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972)

  • Christopher Norton, marimba
  • Todd Kemp, marimba

Introduction and Allegro For harp, flute, clarinet, and string quartet, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Licia Jaskunas, harp

Lee Levine, clarinet

  • Roger Martin, flute
  • Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Rebecca Willie, violin
  • Dan Reinker, viola
  • Chris Stenstrom, cello

~ Intermission ~

Three songs for soprano and piano, Reflets Le Retour Attente, Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)

  • Sharon Mabry, mezzo-soprano
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, piano

Quijotadas for string quartet, Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972)

  1. Alborada
  2. Seguidilla
  3. Moto Perpetuo: La Locura de Quijote
  4. Asturianada: La Cueva
  5. La Danza de los Arrieros
  • Zeneba Bowers, Alison Gooding, violins
  • Christopher Farrell, viola
  • Matt Walker, cello


Philippe Hersant: 11 Caprices for two cellos (1994)
Born in Rome, Italy, Hersant was educated at the famous Paris Conservatory, graduat- ing in 1968. In 1994 he wrote the 11 Caprices for two violins as part of a theatrical piece, “Fantasies Kafka”; in 2003 he wisely reworked them for cello duo, in some cases creating all new material. They are each very short, modeled after Bartok’s string duo works, and each is titled after a different short story by Franz Kafka, referring to the theatrical genesis of the music.

Gabriela Lena Frank: Danza de los Saqsampillos for two marimbas (2006)
Adapted from the final movement of a solo work for piano, Sonata Andina, this duo for two marimbas is inspired by the jungle-dwelling warrior devil of Amazonian Perú known as the Saqsampillo. The energy of the music is lively, sometimes even ferocious, and there appear musical motifs, rhythms, techniques, and instrumental allusions from both the central Andean mountains of Perú and the great jungles to the east. The fol- lowing, for instance, are evoked:

I. Golpe: A technique from the Spanish and South American guitar-playing traditions where the strings are struck with the flat of the hands. There results a very apparent moment of silence afterwards.

II. Zampoña: The zampoña is the bamboo panpipe of the Andes, the quintessential wind instrument of this culture. The melodies are often simple but nevertheless still rhythmically lively and inflected with grace notes.

III. Sesquiáltera: Literally, “changing sixes” or the juxtaposition of compound duple (6/8) and simple triple (3/4) meters. This rhythmic pattern is common to many styles of Latin American music. IV. Marimba: Although originally imported from Africa, the marimba instrument is popular all through Latin America and figures prominently in many kinds of folkloric and popular music. Frequent, percussively-played repeated notes are hallmarks of this style.

V. Vendaval: A particularly violent and gusty rainstorm of Latin America.

Maurice Ravel: Introduction and Allegro, for harp, flute, clarinet, and string quartet (1905)
There is scholarly disagreement as to whether Ravel’s much-loved harp work is a “miniature harp concerto” (i.e., a harp solo with a small ensemble as accompaniment) or a full-fledged chamber work. (Ravel did write a harp cadenza near the end of the piece, which may lend strength to the assertions that it is in fact a concerto.) There is no debate, though, that it is a fine example of the French impressionist’s great skill in orchestration. The range of moods, textures and colors that Ravel achieves with crea- tive use of the seven instruments is vast.

Lili Boulanger: Three songs for soprano and piano (1910-1912)
Though she died tragically young, Marie-Juliette Olga Lili Boulanger made indispensa- ble contributions to French art music. Her musical gifts were evident at the age of two, and her accomplishments as a performer and composer were many. At the age of 19 she was the first woman ever to receive the Premier Grand Prix de Rome, a feat never accomplished by her more famous sister, the composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger. Her music reflects the French impressionist character of the likes of Gabriel Fauré, who was a frequent visitor to the Boulanger household and who no doubt guided both sisters in their musical development.

Gabriela Lena Frank: Quijotadas for string quartet (2007)
Quijotadas for string quartet is inspired by El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Man- cha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616). Widely considered the first modern novel, this tale satirizes post-Conquest Spain by relating the tale of a middle-aged lesser nobleman who undertakes absurd adventures in pursuit of romantic — and seriously outdated — knightly ideals. Cervantes’ brilliant and colorful resulting social commen- tary still reverberates for us today in the arts and popular culture at large. Quijotadas, which is the Spanish word for extravagant delusions wrought in the Quixotic spirit, is in five movements.

I. Alborada: Traditionally a Spanish song of welcome or beginnings, this is in the style of music for the chifro, a small high-pitched wooden panpipe played with one hand. It is often employed by a traveling guild worker to announce his services as he walks through the streets of town.

II. Seguidilla: This free interpretation of the spirited dance rhythms of Don Quijote’s homeland of La Mancha also evokes two typical instruments — the six-stringed guitar, and its older cousin, the bandurria, which finds its origins in Renaissance Spain.

III. Moto Perpetuo: La Locura de Quijote: This movement is inspired by an early chapter in the novel that describes Don Quixote sequestering himself in his hacienda, reading nothing but novels of chivalry, the pulp fiction of his time. The teasing prom- ises of grandeur make him dizzy and he eventually goes mad.

IV. Asturianada: La Cueva: The style of this traditional mountain song (whereby a young male singer issues forth calls that rise and fall with great emotion and strength) is used to paint a portrait of the Cave of Montesinos. In an important episode of the novel, Don Quijote fantasizes about the legendary hero Montesinos trapped under enchantment in a highland cave.

V. La Danza de los Arrieros: Throughout the tale, Don Quijote is constantly rubbing up against arrieros (muleteers) who, for Cervantes, are the embodiment of reality in contrast to Don Quijote’s fantasy world. The encounters with these roughnecks are always abrupt and physical, usually resulting in a sound thrashing for Quijote. Each beating brings him closer to reality, and in the end, he must poignantly reconcile him- self to the fact that his noble ideals do not find a hospitable home in the contemporary world.

Program notes by Matt Walker and Gabriela Lena Frank