ALIAS November 2002

November 10, 2002, 7:30PM
Belmont Mansion

Homage to Iran Henry Cowell (1897-1965)
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Christopher Norton, percussion
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, piano
String Quartet no. 1 in D minor Juan Crisostomo Arriaga (1806-1826)
  • The Red Springs Quartet
  • Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Erin Hall, violin
  • Clare Yang, viola
  • Matt Walker, cello
– Intermission –
New York Counterpoint Steve Reich (1936-)
  • Lee Levine, clarinet
String Quartet in F major Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Judith Ablon, viola
  • Michael Samis, cello

Proceeds from this performance benefited¬†Nashville CARES, Tennessee’s leading community-based AIDS service organization.

Program Notes

Henry Cowell – Homage to Iran
Cowell, while less known to audiences than his contemporaries such as Schoenberg, Ives, and Bartok or his pupils, including George Gershwin and John Cage, was nevertheless a tremendously important composer in the mid-20th century. He was an innovator and a scholar whose compositional styles and writings laid the groundwork for much of the music of the post-WWII era.

Cowell was known especially for his knowledge of many world cultures and their musical traditions, giving rise to works like Homage to Iran for violin and piano. The piece, like many of his works, combines folk elements with contemporary compositional techniques and in this case evokes the sound and feel of the Middle East.

Juan Crisostomo Arriaga – String Quartet no. 1 in D minor
Arriaga possessed such profound depth of musical understanding and natural talent for composition at a very early age that his contemporaries referred to him as “the Spanish Mozart.” He had already composed some dozen works including an opera before he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 15. There he studied composition and violin (like Mozart he was a prodigy as a musician as well as a composer), and received many prizes and praises from his instructors.

In 1824 he composed the three string quartets, the only works he ever published. Written in the standard four-movement form of the time, they represent Arriaga’s compositional style at its finest. Before his death he also composed a symphony, a mass, and several cantatas and song collections. Again like Mozart, Arriaga died at a tragically early age, just a week before his 20th birthday.

Steve Reich – “New York Counterpoint”
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.”

Ravel – String Quartet in F major
Ravel was one of the most important composers of the early 20th century, being a pioneer with new musical forms as well as defining the impressionist style. He is perhaps best known for his orchestral works such as the Daphnis and Chloé suites and Scheherezade, as well as the famous Bolero, the success of which he always considered regrettable. He only wrote a handful of chamber music works, however, including his only string quartet, completed in 1903.