ALIAS February 2005-2

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

Sonata for cello and piano in D major, op. 102, no. 2 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto –
  3. Allegro fugato
  • Michael Samis, cello
  • Leah Bowes, piano
John’s Book of Alleged Dances John Adams (b. 1947)
  1. Hammer & Chisel
  2. Dogjam
  3. Pavane: She’s So Fine
  4. Toot Nipple
  5. Alligator Escalator
  6. Rag the Bone
  7. Habanera
  8. Stubble Crotchet
  • Zeneba Bowers, Anna Lisa Hoepfinger, violins
  • Christopher Farrell, viola, Christopher Stenstrom, cello
– Intermission –
Canon in D major for two cellos Domenico Gabrielli (1651-1690)
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Michael Samis, cello
Sextet in C major for clarinet, horn, string trio, and piano Ernö Dohnányi (1877-1960)
  1. Allegro Appasionato
  2. Intermezzo – Adagio
  3. Allegro con sentimento
  4. Finale – Allegro vivace giocoso
  • Lee Levine, clarinet, Leslie Norton, horn
  • Alison Gooding, violin, Daniel Reinker, viola, Matt Walker, cello
  • Melissa Rose, piano

Proceeds from this concert benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.

Program Notes

Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata in D major for cello and piano, op. 102, no. 2 (1815)
Written in the summer of 1815, Beethoven’s fourth and fifth sonatas for cello and piano were his only significant works from that year. The energetic opening Allegro con brio of this fifth sonata is marked with very short phrases and filled with sharp, drastic mood changes. What follows is the only complete slow movement in the five sonatas for this combination. The Adagio, based on a brooding D minor chorale, gives way to a fugue with two distinct subjects, each introduced by the cello alone at the beginning and halfway through the movement. This fugue is a harbinger of Beethoven’s so-called final period of creativity, which was paradoxically forward-looking and reminiscent of Baroque masters such as George Frideric Händel, whom he revered even above Mozart.

John Adams: John’s Book of Alleged Dances (1994)
One of the most popular and influential American composers, John Adams is best known for his operatic works on contemporary themes, such as Nixon in China, and his widely-performed orchestral works, including On the Transmigration of Souls, written in memorial to the 9/11 attacks, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

While the pulsing rhythms of his music have their roots in the minimalist movement, Adams’ style quickly moved to embrace a soaring “hypermelodic” style, with syncopated melodies and a much more urgent sense of rhythmic and harmonic direction.

In John’s Book of Alleged Dances, rhythm remains the primary musical force, but the mood is lighter, and the inspiration comes from other genres, from popular music to the medieval. The result is music that is at once familiar and startlingly new.

The dances may be performed in any combination and order, and Adams offers these words as an introduction to this work:

These dances, dedicated to my friends in [the Kronos Quartet], are “alleged” because the steps for them have yet to be invented. They cuss, chaw, hock hooeys, scratch and talk too loud. They are also, so I’m told, hard to play. Six of the dances are accompanied by a giddy rhythm track made of prepared piano sounds. The prepared piano was John Cage’s invention that transformed the grand piano into a pygmy percussion orchestra by placing screws, bolts, rubber erasers, weather stripping, and other bits of hardware between the strings of the instrument. When “prepared” in this manner, the conventional tones of the piano give way to a babel of deep bongs, thonks, thuds and plinks. I made digital samples of these sounds and organized them into loops which, overlapping and interlocking, became mini-rhythm tracks.

Hammer & Chisel: Are my two contractor friends who live in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. They work on my house from time to time. Hammer is an aging Sixties radical, still loyal to the cause. Chisel keeps his politics to himself. I can hear them arguing while they pound, drill, rout, and measure.

Dogjam: A hoe-down in twisted hillbilly chromatics. Over a bumpy pavement of prepared piano, the first violin applies the gas and hits the road, never once using the brakes even at the sharpest turns.

Pavane: She’s So fine: A quiet, graceful song for a budding teenager. She’s in her room, playing her favorite song on the boom box. Back and forth over those special moments, those favorite progressions. She knows all the words. On her bed are books and friendly animals.

Toot Nipple: “Mrs. Nipple…You probably don’t remember her husband, Toot. When he was young he was a big fellow, quick and clever, a terror on the dance floor.” (From Postcards by E. Annie Proulx.) Furious chainsaw triads on the cello, who rides them like a rodeo bull just long enough to hand them over to the viola.

Alligator Escalator: The long, sluggish beast is ascending from the basement level of the local Macy’s all the way to the top of the store and then back down again. Slow slithering scales, played flautando and sul [ponticello], leave invisible tracks on the escalator, splitting the octave in strange reptilian ways. Mothers are terrified, children fascinated.

Rag the Bone: Flying trochees from the string quartet bounce from a bungee cord above the genial four-square clacking of the loop-maker. A swing scat-song for four voices in parallel motion.

Habanera: The quartet strums and limns a serpentine tune. The loops dance the robot habanera while the aging dictator watches from the wings. Too many rafts headed for Miami. Had to give up his beloved cigars. Lament for a season without baseball.

Stubble Crotchet: A sawed-off stump of a piece. Dry bones and hardscrapple attacks (“at the frog” as stringers like to say). An early morning shave with an old razor.

Domenico Gabrielli: Canon in D major for two cellos
Domenico Gabrielli was known both as a composer of vocal music and as a virtuoso cellist. By the end of the 17th century the cello was becoming more prominent as a solo instrument, and Gabrielli’s works reflect this trend as well as his own technical mastery of the instrument.
This work is a strict canon, meaning that each cellist plays the same part but starts at a different time, in this case one measure apart. An elegant compositional feat, this single part contains both melody and accompaniment, traded off between the two players. The richness of tone and the use of register for expressive purposes reflect Gabrieli’s intimate knowledge of the instrument.

Ernö Dohnányi: Sextet in C major, op. 37 (1937)
The first of three composers (along with Bartók and Kodály) who revived the Hungarian musical tradition at the start of the 20th century, Dohnányi became famous in his time as a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer. From 1915 he was a professor and then director of the Budapest Academy of Music, as well as conductor of the Budapest Philharmonic. His career was interrupted by the rise of Nazi influences in Hungary and by World War II. In 1941, he resigned as director of the Academy rather than comply with anti-Jewish legislation affecting his faculty members. He kept Jewish members of the orchestra until the German occupation, when he disbanded the ensemble. In September, 1949, he became pianist and composer-in-residence at Florida State University, and remained in that position until his death in 1960.

Written in 1937, Dohnányi’s Sextet is in a traditional four-movement mold, the first of which is a standard sonata form. The second movement is a beautiful study in three part harmony interrupted by a militaristic cadence; the third is a pastoral song which is in turn interrupted briefly by a mercurial scherzo. The last movement is a mischievous romp which keeps the listener off balance with witty syncopation and unexpected waltz figures. All four movements are tied together by common thematic material, sometimes disguised, sometimes recalled verbatim.