ALIAS July 2003

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Sewanee Summer Music Festival, Guerry Auditorium, 8:00 PM

Quintet in A Major for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581 W.A. Mozart (1756 – 1791)
  1. Allegro
  2. Larghetto
  3. Menuetto – Trio I – Trio II
  4. Allegretto con Variazoni
  • Lee Levine, clarinet
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Christopher Farrell, viola
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello
Chaconne for Solo Cello Matt Walker (b. 1968)
  • Matt Walker, cello
String Quartet #1, “The Garfield House” Sean Watkins (b.1977)
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Christopher Farrell, viola
  • Matt Walker, cello
– Intermission –
New York Counterpoint Steve Reich (b. 1936)
  • Lee Levine, clarinet
Concerto for Violin and Oboe J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750)
  1. Allegro
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegro
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin, Roger Wiesmeyer, oboe
  • Alan Umstead, Alison Gooding, violins, Christopher Farrell, viola
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello, Matt Walker, bass
Program Notes

W.A. Mozart: Quintet in A for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581 (1789)
Mozart’s singular musical stature is well-known and well-documented. Not only a child prodigy on the keyboard and also the violin, he was a prolific composer of unfathomable genius, practically unparalleled in his time, and one of the most important figures in the history of Western music. Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet comes from the last few years before his death. His music of this time, especially his chamber music, reflects a maturing style which seems to have come from within rather than from outside influences such as his mentor Haydn. The Clarinet Quintet combines a well-defined chamber style (in which each instrument is equal in prominence) with a more soloistic concertante style (in which individual instruments are featured in a soloistic capacity). While Mozart always used the clarinet to excellent effect in his works for larger ensembles (symphonies, operas), this quintet and his clarinet concerto both stem from this late period.

Matt Walker: Chaconne for solo cello (1992)
This piece originated as a freeform improvisation over a simple chord progression. While the variations that were eventually written down owe much to Bach’s solo violin writing, the harmonies have something of a Spanish gypsy flavor; in fact, the coda requires that the performer employ a guitar-like pizzicato technique. Musical scholars may note that, while “chaconne” is a term for a Baroque dance form in a triple meter, this composition is squarely in four; the composer continues to be unapologetic about this aberration.

Sean Watkins: String Quartet #1, “The Garfield House” (2003)
Sean Watkins started studying the piano at the age of six. After several years he discovered an affinity for bluegrass music, and he switched his focus to guitar. In 1993, at age 16, he was in the finals of the National Flatpicking Guitar Championship. Along with Chris Thile and his sister Sara, Sean formed the band Nickel Creek in 1990; the band’s success reached its peak this year upon winning a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Sean’s new CD, “26 Miles,” was recently released by Sugar Hill Records. Sean’s first string quartet was composed at his house in California; “Garfield” is the street name. While the melodic forms in the piece are grounded in a traditional fiddle style, the piece is characterized throughout by sometimes jarring harmonies and unexpected rhythmic and melodic aberrations. The quartet is in three movements. The first consists of two main themes which dovetail and overlap throughout the movement, interspersed with a section reminiscent of Baroque counterpoint. The second movement is a fast jig, and illustrates his bluegrass influence while maintaining the feel of a “classical” work. The third movement is a peaceful, reflective study, which transforms itself slowly by bringing back the themes from the first movement.

Steve Reich: “New York Counterpoint” (1985)
Steve Reich studied philosophy at Cornell University before attending Juilliard to receive training as a composer. His style often explored the possibilities of multiples of the same instrument, and often used prerecorded material along with the live performer or performers. Here are his words concerning “New York Counterpoint”:

“In ‘New York Counterpoint’ (1985) the soloist pre-records ten clarinet and bass clarinet parts, and then plays a final eleventh part live against the tape. The compositional procedures include several that occur in my earlier music. The opening pulses ultimately come from the opening of ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ (1976). The use of interlocking repeated melodic patterns played by multiples of the same instrument can be found in my earliest works. In the nature of the patterns, their combination harmonically, and in the faster rate of change, the piece reflects my recent works, particularly ‘Sextet’ (1985). ‘New York Counterpoint’ is in three movements, fast-slow-fast, played one after the other without pause. The change of tempo is abrupt and in the simple relation of 1:2. The piece is in the meter 3/2=6/4=12/8. As is often the case when I write in this meter, there is an ambiguity between whether one hears measures of 3 groups of 4 eighth notes, or 4 groups of 3 eighth notes. In the last movement, the bass clarinets function to accent first one and then the other of these possibilities, while the upper clarinets essentially do not change. The effect, by change of accent, is to vary the perception of that which in fact is not changing.”

J.S. Bach: Concerto for Violin and Oboe
In the musical pantheon, Bach stands perhaps even more prominently than Mozart. He was certainly more influential, as his works established the very rules of musical composition (form, harmony, counterpoint, and on and on) that have been followed by literally centuries of composers. In his day Bach was known primarily as an organist and keyboardist, and he wrote hundreds of works for these instruments. Among these was a concerto for two harpsichords, BWV 1060, this was apparently an arrangement of a previous concerto, which was lost, for oboe and violin. It was later reconstructed from the two-harpsichord version to its present form.