ALIAS December 2003

December 7, 2003, 7:30 PM
Boiler Room Theatre, The Factory

Brewhaha (1996) Matt Walker (b.1968)
  • Matt Walker, cello
Duet for viola and cello (1993) Matt Walker
  • Clare Yang, viola
  • Matt Walker, cello
Rhythm Suite for clarinet and marimba (2000) Jeffrey Agrell (b.1948)
  1. Sassy
  2. Resolute
  3. Quirky
  4. Spirited
  • Lee Levine, clarinet
  • Christopher Norton, marimba
Phantasy for oboe and strings (1934) Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, oboe
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Clare Yang, viola
  • Matt Walker, cello
– Intermission –
Sonata for horn and marimba (1986) Charles Taylor (b.1960)
  • Leslie Norton, horn
  • Christopher Norton, marimba
String Quartet in C minor, op. 18, no. 4 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
  1. Allegro ma non tanto
  2. Scherzo: Andante scherzoso quasi Allegretto
  3. Menuetto: Allegretto
  4. Allegro
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Michelle Lackey, viola
  • Sari Reist, cello

Proceeds from this performance benefited the Montessori School of Franklin.

Program Notes

Matt Walker: Brewhaha / Duet for viola and cello
The title Brewhaha stems more from a need to have a name to print in a program than from any inner meaning of the music, except perhaps for the fact that it was premiered in a bar. To say that the piece is a “composition” certainly gives it more credibility than it merits; it is more like the evolved product of years of improvising in an Irish fiddle style.

His Duet for viola and cello is in fact a composition, as Matt wrote full parts for the cello as well as for the viola. In fact, the piece was composed originally for violin and cello, with the opening figure played on the violin’s open G string. On a whim, Matt played once with a violist; the larger instrument’s darker and richer sound somehow seemed more suited to the music, and so it has remained a viola/cello duet.

Jeffrey Agrell: Rhythm Suite for clarinet and marimba
Jeffrey Agrell joined the University of Iowa School of Music faculty as horn professor in 2000 after a 25 year career as symphony musician with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony. The opportunity to write for clarinet and marimba came at a good time, on the heels of a commission for a concerto for marimba and marimba/percussion ensemble. His Rhythm Suite for clarinet and marimba won First Prize in the 2000 composition contest of the International Clarinet Association. Following are his words on the piece:

Each movement of Rhythm Suite features certain rhythmic challenges:
Movement 1, “Sassy,” opens with the unique specialty of these two instruments: a crescendo starting from absolutely nothing into fortissimo (or the reverse, which ends the movement). The hallmark of this movement is the dazzling and dangerous high-speed unison playing punctuated with irregular accents and phrases that are at odds with the simple 4/4 meter.

Movement 2, “Resolute,” revolves around a steady passacaglia-like repeating figure in the marimba, with the right hand in four against a six in the left hand. The clarinet soars over this ground in phrases that are often five beats long. Both instruments have brief cadenza passages before the recapitulation.
The harmonic basis of movement 3, “Quirky,” is drawn partly from the blues, but rhythmically the challenges are the odd meters (7/8, 7/4) plus written-out swing rhythms alternating with “straight” rhythms.

All stops are out for movement 4, “Spirited.” The clarinet grabs attention with a brazen octave glissando up (against a double downwards glissando in the marimba) that segues into a fast 3/4 ostinato in the marimba over which the clarinet alternates fast figures in 6/8 and 3/4, with sections in duple meter providing contrast and surprise. Clarinet and marimba take turns displaying wide-ranging virtuosity, culminating in a “chase” (i.e. a canon). The piece ends with rapid figures in the marimba racing the clarinet’s glissando to the dramatic unison at the end on a high concert B flat.

Benjamin Britten: Phantasy, op. 2 for oboe and strings
Britten remains the most prominent of the 20th century British composers. His music reflects a number of influences, with both tonal and atonal elements. He created a large and influential body of distinctly British works, including operas and vocal works as well as orchestral and small instrumental compositions. His Phantasy is one of his first compositions, written during his time as a student at the Royal College of Music.

Charles Taylor: Sonata for horn and marimba
This piece was written in 1986 on a commission by Chris and Leslie Norton. The Nortons and Taylor were classmates in the early eighties at the Eastman School of Music where the latter was a composition major. Taylor is a prolific composer whose works span the gamut of media and genres – from jazz to sacred to classical, from solo instrumental to chamber to concertos and full orchestral works with percussion, but this Sonata marks his first work employing advanced four-mallet marimba technique. Like most of his works, it is tonal and based on traditional formal structures.

Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet in C minor, op. 18, no. 4
In the annals of the history of Western music, Beethoven stands at a crucial point between two eras. On one hand, he was the “Arch-Classicist,” heir to the Viennese style of Mozart and Haydn; on the other, he was the first pioneer of the later 19th century Romantic period. Between 1798 and 1800, Beethoven wrote the six quartets in the op.18 set. These were his first quartets, in the traditional Classical mold, but they demonstrate that he had already mastered the form and made it his own.