ALIAS February 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:00 p.m.

Turner Hall, Blair School of Music

The Fox and the Grapes For English horn and soprano, Deborah Kavasch (b. 1949)

  • Deborah Kavasch, soprano
  • Roger Wiesmeyer, English horn

String Quartet in A minor, Op. 35 ,Anton Arensky (1861-1906)

  1. Moderato
  2. Variations on a theme of P. Tchaikowsky
  3. Finale: Andante sostenuto — Allegro Moderato
  • Rebecca Willie, violin
  • Judith Ablon, viola
  • Michael Samis, cello
  • Christopher Stenstrom, cello

~ Intermission ~

Cari Musici for soprano, two violins, and continuo, Bianca Maria Meda (ca. 1655- after 1700)

  • Karen Clarke, violin
  • Zeneba Bowers, violin
  • Matt Walker, cello
  • Terri Richter, soprano
  • Murray Somerville, harpsichord

“Envision“ for baroque string quartet, Belinda Reynolds (b. 1967)

Zeneba Bowers, violin

Karen Clarke, violin

Daniel Reinker, viola

Matt Walker, cello

String Quartet No. 1, “American Dreams” Peter Schickele (b. 1935)

  1. Opening Diptych
  2. Four Studies
  3. Music at Dawn
  4. Dance Music
  5. Closing Diptych
  • Jeremy Williams, violin
  • Chris Farrell, viola
  • Alison Gooding, violin
  • Matt Walker, cello


Deborah Kavasch: The Fox and the Grapes for English horn and soprano (2003)
One of a series of chamber works (based on selected Æsop’s fables for one or more voices and various instruments) in an ongoing collaboration between Kavasch and poet Linda Bunney-Sarhad, this work uses both traditional and extended vocal and instrumental techniques to characterize the fox, who keeps trying—and missing—his goal. The story goes something like this:

In a hot summer field long ago, a very thirsty Fox happened to find a bunch

of grapes hanging from a vine that had grown up a tree branch high over his head. “Just what I need to quench my thirst,” he said. So he backed up and took a running jump at the grapes, but he missed. He tried again, and missed. Again and again he tried. Finally, he limped away, saying, “Those grapes must be sour anyway.” It is tempting to speak ill of what we cannot get.

Anton Arensky String Quartet No. 2 in a minor, Opus 35 (1894)
A fairly well-known and respected musical figure of his time, Arensky nevertheless faded into relative obscurity in the broad history of music. He studied with Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and went on to teach at the Moscow Conservatory, where he taught (among others) Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. His former teacher, Rimsky- Korsakov, commented: “In his youth, Arensky did not escape some influence from me; later the influence came from Tchaikovsky. He will quickly be forgotten.” This proved to be prophetic, at least until recent history, in which the craft and charm of Arensky’s music is again being discovered and appreciated. His second string quartet bore the dedication “To the memory of Tchaikovsky” (who died in 1893), and contains a set of variations based on a theme by Tchaikovsky.

Bianca Maria Meda: Cari Musici for soprano, 2 violins and continuo (1690)
The basic definition of the term motet is simply: a piece of music with words. As music progressed through history, the motet (like most early European art music) became associated primarily with vocal settings of religious texts, with or without instruments. Very little of consequence is known about Bianca Maria Meda, other than she was a nun in the monastery of San Martino del Leano, in Pavia, Italy. “Cari Musici” is from her “Motteti a uno, due, tre, quattro voci” (Motets for one two three four voices), the only known set of works by Meda; it is possible that she wrote the texts in this collection, as well as composing the music.

Belinda Reynolds: Envision for baroque string quartet (2006)
Californian Belinda Reynolds has been a composer-in-residence for public schools, as well as institutions such as the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has taught and guest lectured at Dartmouth College and Yale University. She is also vice president of the composers’ cooperative, Common Sense. Recently, she launched an innovative commissioning series, Custom Made Music, which enables individuals to commission music ‘customized’ for amateur players in everyday occasions. Her music is published by Dover, HeShe Music, Kithara Editions, and PRB Productions. Her recorded music can be found on the Albany, Innova, and Trance recording labels, among others. Following are her notes on her work:

“ ‘Envision’ was commissioned by the Galax Baroque String quartet. The title comes from how I ‘envisioned’ using a musical structure borrowed from Baroque Music, that of the Chaconne. The Chaconne is usually a bass line or harmonic progression that repeats again and again throughout a piece. From the start, one will hear the strings playing the chord progression. However, as the piece progresses, it takes a few ‘side-turns’ as the music explores only segments of the chord progression, or only one of the chords. This is all done through the prism of the opening melodic structure, which, like the harmony, recurs again and again, but in altered forms not traditionally associated with Baroque music.

I wish to especially thank the musicians of the Galax Quartet – for all their work, I am eternally grateful.”

Peter Schickele String Quartet No. 1 “American Dreams” (1983)
One of the most brilliant musical minds of his time, Peter Schickele is probably best known as the “discoverer” of the less-than-brilliant composer, P.D.Q. Bach. He is also an accomplished musician and a prolific composer in his own right; his catalog of so-called “serious” music contains over a hundred works for the concert hall, stage, and film, which have been composed for and performed by some of the top ensembles and artists in the field. His first string quartet neatly encapsulates a truly American sound and style, wherein elements of jazz and folk combine with stylistic turns reminiscent of Aaron Copland and John Adams.

Program notes by Matt Walker, Deborah Kavasch, and Belinda Reynolds