ALIAS October 2008

October 9, 2008, 8:00 PM
Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

Four Songs for soprano, cello, and piano André Previn (1929-)
  • Jennifer Coleman, soprano
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello
  • Susan Brown, piano
  1. Mercy
  2. Stones
  3. Shelter
  4. The Lacemaker
Sonata for violin and piano in A major César Franck (1822-1890)
  1. Allegro ben moderato
  2. Allegro
  3. Ben moderato
  4. Allegretto poco mosso
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Melissa Rose, piano
– Intermission –
Sonatina for oboe and piano *Emerging Voices* Vivian Fine (1913-2000)
  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Lento sostenuto
  3. Allegretto
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, oboe
  • Leah Bowes, piano
Crosswinds for string quartet *Emerging Voices* Margaret Brouwer (1940-)
  1. Blue Ridges, Dappled Sunlight, Mountain Waltz
  2. Dusk
  3. Oldtime Fiddles: High, Low, Lower
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Rebecca Willie, violin
  • Keiko Nagayoshi, viola
  • Matt Walker, cello

Proceeds from this concert benefited the Second Harvest Food Bank Kids Cafe.

Program Notes

André Previn: Four Songs (1994)
Sir André Previn is known as a conductor, composer, pianist, and jazz pianist. As a conductor, Previn appears regularly with or has led the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A prolific composer, his works include a piano concerto for Vladimir Ashkenazy, a cello sonata for Yo-Yo Ma, a double concerto for violin and bass, and songcycles for Janet Baker, Kathleen Battle, Barbara Bonney and Anthony Dean Griffey. In 1998, he conducted the premiere of his opera A Streetcar Named Desire with the San Francisco Opera with Renée Fleming as Blanche Dubois. He is currently working on a clarinet sonata for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Thomas Martin, and his second opera.

The texts for his Four Songs are four unrelated poems by American writer Toni Morrison. The first black woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved, Morrison is known for her rich depictions of African-Americans, especially for her keen sense of dialogue.

These four songs were written in 1994 for soprano Sylvia McNair. Previn uses the cello almost as a second voice, using the vocal qualities of the instrument to create a dialogue with the soprano, rather than to harmonize the voice. In “Stones,” particularly, the influence of jazz becomes prominent, with the cello taking over the role of the bass in the trio. The songs are notable as much for a somewhat unsettled and haunted feel as for their overall lyricism.

Cesar Franck: Sonata for violin and piano (1886)
Born in Liege, Belgium, Cesar Franck’s background is familiar to readers of program notes everywhere for the past century: A child prodigy, ambitious (perhaps exploitative) parents who sent to him to school at an early age to study music, a list of impressive performing and/or compositional accomplishments; a series of professional positions as instrumentalist/composer/teacher.

His violin sonata is a fine example of Franck’s success at combining the formal, structural styles of the early 19th century with the wide breadth of harmonic and melodic expression that the Romantic era had brought to the latter half of the century. One of only a handful of chamber works by Franck, who was most known in his day as an organist and choral composer, his lush violin sonata was written at the request of the famous violinist, Eugène Ysaÿe (who was also born in Liege). Premiered in 1886 by Ysaÿe, the piece, along with a few others of his symphonic and chamber pieces, secured his position as perhaps the most prominent of French late-Romantic composers.

Vivian Fine: Sonatina for oboe and piano (1942)
Born in 1913, Fine was a piano prodigy (receiving a scholarship to the Chicago Musical College at age 5) and quickly became interested in composition. She made her first professional debut as a composer at age 16 when her sonata for oboe and piano was performed at Carnegie Hall. Her early compositional style was sharply dissonant; however, in 1934 she began studying with Roger Sessions in New York. He influenced her towards writing more tonally for a decade or so, but she later returned to a freer, again more dissonant style. Fine wrote the Sonatina for oboe and piano at a point in her compositional career when these styles were overlapping, yielding a very distinct musical voice.

Margaret Brouwer: Crosswinds (1995)
From the composer:
“When I was a resident of Virginia, I became interested in the region’s traditional folk music, sometimes called oldtime music, and in using it as the germ material for this string quartet. Without quoting actual folk tunes, the quartet grows from my basic impressions of and fascination with their flavor. Typical string playing techniques, characteristic pentatonic scales, and spontaneous rhythms are transformed into my own personal expression.

“A further inspiration came one day, while admiring the work of American impressionist painter, John H. Twachtman. I was struck by the idea of using a background of short daubs of sound in the first movement, Blue Ridges, Dappled Sunlight, Mountain Waltz, similar to the tiny daubs of color which cover his paintings. Through this background, the “picture” of a melancholy waltz (fashioned in the “oldtime” style) could emerge just as the images emerge from the dots in the painting. The beautiful Shenandoah valley landscape became for me the background—the woods with sunlight streaking through the trees and onto the hundreds of leaves covering the ground, the layered meadows, all surrounded by blue ridges—but overlaid with a melancholy mood. As the waltz ends, the obscuring wash of tiny dots of sound continues, with motives from the waltz still remaining. Through this a gradual transformation occurs. The slow movement, Dusk, portrays my reaction to the beauty of the landscape as evening falls. The last movement, Oldtime Fiddles: High, Low, Lower, attempts to capture the flavor and fun of old time fast music, presenting it in various forms of variation, while once again transforming the ideas into my own style of expression.”