ALIAS March 2007

March 7, 2007, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Three Meditations from MASS Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
  1. Lento assai, molto sostenuto
  2. Andante sostenuto
  3. Presto
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Amy Dorfman, piano
Trio for horn, violin, and piano, op. 40 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
  1. Andante
  2. Scherzo: Allegro
  3. Adagio mesto
  4. Finale: Allegro con brio
  • Leslie Norton, horn
  • Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Melissa Rose, piano
– Intermission –
Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout * Double Take * Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972)
  1. Toyos
  2. Tarqueada
  3. Himno de Zampoñas
  4. Chasqui
  5. Canto de Velorio
  6. Coquetos
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Carolyn Huebl, violin
  • Daniel Reinker, viola
  • Matthew Walker, cello

Proceeds from this concert benefited the Martha O’Bryan Center.

Program Notes

Leonard Bernstein: Three Meditations from MASS (1976)
Like many composers of the latter half of the 20th century, Bernstein wrote in a variety of styles, and therefore defied categorization. He was very well versed in jazz and other “popular” idioms, which he used in, for instance, his famous West Side Story. Other examples of his music were more intellectual and avant-garde, such as his ballet Dybbuk, the music for which was built on numeric and scriptural formulas. In 1971, Bernstein was commissioned (at the suggestion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) to write a work for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The result was his MASS, which was a lament of the assassinations of the 1960s and the continuation of the Vietnam War. Although it was not tremendously successful, it did provide material for the Three Meditations, composed in honor of Mstislav Rostropovich, who premiered the piece as part of an all-Bernstein concert in honor of the American Bicentennial.

Johannes Brahms: Trio for horn, violin, and piano in E-flat, op. 40 (1865)
Despite being one of the leading voices in the Romantic period, Brahms is well-known for his adherence to classical formal structures; that is, aside from his diverse rhythms and advanced harmonies, the basic architecture of a typical Brahms phrase or movement is essentially the same as that used by Mozart and Beethoven. His horn trio is no exception, unless it is that he looks further back into the past than the Classical period. The four movement structure of the piece, alternating slow-fast-slow-fast, is reminiscent of a Baroque sonata form. There are many personal elements to this piece: It is an unusual combination of instruments, but all three were instruments that Brahms had studied from childhood. He wrote the work in the year following his mother’s death, and a quote from a German folk song that she used to sing for him can be heard in the third movement. Finally, the story has it that Brahms conceived of the opening horn call theme while ambling through the Black Forest.

Gabriela Lena Frank: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (2001)
Now one of the foremost new American composers, Gabriela Lena Frank is becoming known for blending indigenous South American music with European-American classical styles. Frank, herself of Peruvian-Jewish-Chinese background, has sampled and absorbed numerous examples of folk music around the world, including that of Peru. Leyendas was written in 2001; following are her notes on the quartet:

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout for string quartet mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions. “Toyos” depicts one of the most recognizable instruments of the Andes, the panpipe. “Tarqueada” is a forceful and fast number featuring the tarka, a heavy wooden duct flute that is blown harshly in order to split the tone. “Himno de Zampoñas” features a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing – passing tones between members of the ensemble. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown flatly so that overtones ring out on top. “Chasqui” depicts a legendary figure from the Inca times. The chasqui was a runner who sprinted great distances to deliver messages between towns separated from one another by the Andean peaks. The chasqui needed to travel light. Hence, I take artistic license to imagine his choice of instruments to be the charango, a high-pitched cousin of the guitar, and the lightweight bamboo quena flute, both of which are featured in this movement.  “Canto de Velorio” portrays another well-known Andean personality, a professional crying woman known as velorio. Hired to render funeral rituals even sadder, the velorio is accompanied here by a second velorio and an additional chorus of mourning women (coro de mujeres). The chant Dies Irae is quoted as a reflection of the velorio’s penchant for blending verses from Quechua Indian folklore and western religious rites. “Coqueteos” is a flirtatious love song sung by gallant men known as romanceros. As such, it is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sang in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras (“storm of guitars”).