ALIAS February 2009

February 12, 2009, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Manhattan Serenades *Emerging Voices* Gabriela Lena Frank (1972-)
  1. Uptown
  2. Midtown
  3. Downtown
  • Matthew Walker, cello
  • Melissa Rose, piano
String Quintet in G major, op. 77 Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
  1. Allegro con fuoco
  2. Intermezzo: Nokturno (Molto adagio)
  3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
  4. Poco andante
  5. Finale: Allegro assai
  • Louise Morrison, Keiko Nagayoshi, violins
  • Judith Ablon, viola
  • Michael Samis, cello
  • Kristen Bruya, bass
– Intermission –
D’un Matin de Printemps *Emerging Voices* Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Melissa Rose, piano
String Quartet no. 4 Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
  1. Allegro
  2. Prestissimo, con sordino
  3. Non troppo lento
  4. Allegretto pizzicato
  5. Allegro molto
  • Zeneba Bowers, Jeremy Williams, violins
  • Chris Farrell, viola
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello

Proceeds from this concert benefited Tennessee Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Program Notes

Gabriela Lena Frank: Manhattan Serenades for cello and piano (1995)
In 1995, while enrolled in the Master’s program at Rice University, Gabriela Frank was asked to write a piece that could serve as the first foray into non-classical music for a classically-trained cellist. Previous concertgoers may remember ALIAS’ performance of Ms. Frank’s string quartet, Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout, which placed her Peruvian background on display. In Manhattan Serenades, Frank creates a short three-movement modern jazz set for cello and piano which calls for swing styles and improvisation alongside classical refinement, in an attempt to evoke the feel and culture of life in New York. The piece is, in fact, Ms. Frank’s first and (to date) only foray into composing with jazz-influenced elements.

Antonín Dvořák: String Quintet in G major, op. 77 (1875)
Antonín Dvořák’s String Quintet, opus 77, is likely the most celebrated work for its string quartet plus double bass configuration. It is a wonder why composers have rarely used this instrumentation with its inherently rich, deep sound for which string quartets often strive without the double bass. The lighthearted movements of this work are filled with Dvořák’s typical juxtaposition of lush lyrical melodies, shorter nationalistic-sounding motifs, and bright rhythmic figures jumping out of the thick textures. Here, the Quintet is performed in its original five-movement form that includes the Intermezzo which Dvořák removed after its 1876 premier to shorten the work. This movement was later published independently as a Nocturne for string orchestra.

Lili Boulanger: D’un Matin de Printemps for violin and piano (1917)
Though she died tragically young, Marie-Juliette Olga Lili Boulanger made indispensable 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. Among her works is a cantata, Faust et Hélène, which won the coveted Premier Grand Prix de Rome in 1913. She was 19 at the time, and the first woman ever to receive the prize, a feat never accomplished by her more famous sister, the composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Her D’un Matin de Printemps (A Morning in Spring) was written just a year before her death at the age of 24. 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), but it has a unique contemporary inventiveness all its

Béla Bartók: String Quartet no. 4 (1928)
The six string quartets of Béla Bartók, written between 1908 and 1939, were perhaps the most important written since the the late quartets of Beethoven. Expanding the techniques and sounds of the ensemble, these quartets profoundly influenced the 20th century string quartet and generations of composers.
The Fourth Quartet shows many of the characteristics of Bartók’s later works. One of these is the arch form, a symmetric arrangement of movements around a central piece. The outer two movements are related to each other, as are the 2nd and 4th, surrounding the central slow movement. This is done by reusing and developing thematic material, through direct quotations, and can be heard even in the lengths of the movements: 6, 3, 6, 3, and 6 minutes.

Bartók referred to the central slow movement as “the nucleus of the piece,” and it stands out from the other four as an example of his “Night Music” style. Often melodic, but filled with unusual sounds, effects, and irregular rhythmic patterns, it evokes the nighttime sounds of birds, animals, and insects.
The second and fourth movements use identical thematic material, but presented in completely different manners. The muted Prestissimo scurries along at breakneck speed, while the plucked strings of the fourth movement are almost humorous, with frequent interjections of pizzicato that slap the fingerboard, a technique now universally known as a Bartók pizzicato.

After the first few measures of the first movement, a theme is heard in the cello that serves as a unifying element, with most of the thematic material sharing similarities to this motive. The differing themes and sections of the quartet draw their contrast more from differences in color and character than in the actual material. As if to hammer home this unity, the entire quartet ends with a statement of this original material, an almost exact repetition of the ending of the first movement.