ALIAS February 2006

February 4, 2006, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Half-Diminished Scherzo for string quartet (World premiere) Piotr Szewczyk (b. 1978)
  • Alison Gooding, Jeremy Williams, violins
  • Daniel Reinker, viola, Michael Samis, cello
Chanson perpetuelle for soprano and piano quintet Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
  • Jennifer Coleman, soprano
  • Zeneba Bowers, Alison Gooding, violins
  • Daniel Reinker, viola, Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Melissa Rose, piano
Septet for winds, strings, and piano Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
  • Lee Levine, clarinet, Gil Perel, bassoon
  • Leslie Norton, horn, Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Christopher Farrell, viola, Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, piano
– Intermission –
Threnos for cello solos Sir John Tavener (b. 1944)
  • Michael Samis, cello
Sonata for violin and continuo, op. 3, no. 2 “La Cesta” Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (active 1660-1669)
Ciacona for violin and continuo Antonio Bertali (1605-1669)
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Matt Walker, cello, Joel Reist, bass
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, harpsichord
Audition Swing (World premiere) Matt Walker (b. 1968)
  • Christopher Farrell, viola, Matt Walker, cello
  • Jack Jezzro, bass, David Huntsinger, piano
  • Christopher Norton, percussion

Proceeds from this concert benefited CASA of Nashville.

Program Notes

Piotr Szewczyk: Half-diminished Scherzo for string quartet (2004)
Currently a fellowship violinist of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida, prize-winning composer Szewczyk studied at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, where he earned his Bachelor of Music, Artist Diploma and Master of Music in violin and composition. Following are his notes on the piece at hand:

I set myself a challenge of writing a short piece based only on one type of scale, the half-diminshed also known as octatonic scale where the scale is constructed by alternating whole-steps with half-steps. The entire scale is presented in the opening measures and afterwards, the scale becomes the source for rhythmic development, transformations, shuffling and slicing between the instrumental parts. A contrasting middle slow section with muted strings and slowly moving dissonant sonorities provides a momentary break from the virtuosity and half-diminished scale and leads to the furious coda where the scale is once again reappearing.

Ernest Chausson: Chanson perpetuelle, Op. 37, for soprano, string quartet and piano
Brought up in a socially rarified and privileged environment, French composer Chausson at first set aside his talents and interests in drawing, literature, and music to pursue a career in law. In 1877 he became a barrister in a Paris court; he then promptly quit to pursue music. He studied under Massenet and Franck at the Paris Conservatory, developing a style which incorporated these and many other diverse influences, from old French Baroque masters to Wagner. The current work, composed in 1898, was scored originally for voice with string orchestra.

Igor Stravinsky: Septet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, and piano
During 1952 Stravinsky attended a number of rehearsals of Schoenberg’s Septet-Suite, and his own septet was strongly influenced by Schoenberg and serialism. While the serial movement espoused a complete lack of tonality, for Stravinsky serialism was merely another color on his palette, to be used when and how he saw fit. It was for this sort of attitude that Schoenberg declared him a “mediocre kitschmonger.”

The Septet was completed in 1953, and marks a significant movement toward serialism for the composer. The first movement of the septet is Stravinsky’s last work to use a key signature, and the key of A major make only intermittent appearances. But rather than using twelve-tone rows as a complete method of composition, he uses them to create modes, a sort of vocabulary to regulate the colors and harmonies that would be produced. This lax approach to composition might have infuriated Schoenberg, but it left Stravinsky free to draw on other elements, such as his neoclassical Concerto in E-flat, and more typical techniques such as repetition and brief tonal centers, which help to anchor his more serial wanderings.

John Tavener: Threnos for solo cello (1990) In classical Greece, where the rituals surrounding death were of utmost importance, the Threnos was a lament sung by hired professional mourners. The Threnos would lead off the ritual lament portion of the wake, followed by the mourning family’s improvised lament known as the goos. English composer John Tavener wrote Thrinos for cellist Steven Isserlis to commemorate the death of a close friend late in 1990. Given Tavener’s profound relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church, his ability to create an atmosphere reminiscent of Byzantine chant is evident throughout Thrinos and much of his other music.

Giovanni Pandolfi-Mealli: Sonata Op. 3, No. 2, “La Cesta”
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, while rooted in the Italian Baroque style of the time, exhibits a great deal of creativity and innovation, both in instrumental technique and harmonic language. “La Cesta” is an ever-changing fantasia, never staying in one place (rhythmically or harmonically) for very long.

Antonio Bertali: Ciacona for violin solo
A court musician and composer in Vienna, the Italian-born Bertali wrote a large number of opera and oratorio works, which account for most of his music that has not been lost. There still exist only a small number of his chamber works, including this Ciacona for violin and continuo, a set of continuous variations over a repeated bass line.

Matt Walker: “Audition Swing” for viola, cello, and jazz trio
One of several of the composer’s works for classical instrumental pairings with jazz trio, “Audition Swing” is a jazz set based on two themes from orchestral literature. These two themes, from Beethoven’s Symphony #5 and Mozart’s Symphony #35, are standard excerpts on virtually every cello and viola orchestral audition; they therefore instill dread in players of these instruments. This piece is an attempt (though probably futile) to relieve some of this dread.