Chamber Orchestra Concert

Mary Nessinger, mezzo-soprano,
Andrew Garland, baritone
Alan Murchie, piano
Sequitur Chamber Ensemble,
Alexander Platt, conductor

Saturday, September 1, 2012, 6 pm

program

La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61 (1892-4/1898)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

1. Une Sainte en son auréole
2. Puisque l’aube grandit
3. La lune blanche luit dans les bois
4. J’allais par des chemins perfides
5. J’ai presque peur, en vérité
6. Avant que tu ne t’en ailles
7. Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d’été
8. N’est-ce pas?
9. L’hiver a cessé

Variations on a Summer Day (World Premiere)
Harold Meltzer (b. 1966)
The music for Variations on a Summer Day was commissioned for Alexander Platt
and the Maverick Concerts by the
Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University.

I. Say of the gulls that they are flying
II. A music more than a breath
III The rocks of the cliffs are the heads of dogs
IV. Star over Monhegan
V. The leaves of the sea are shaken and shaken
VI. It is cold to be forever young
VII. One sparrow is worth a thousand gulls
VIII. An exercise in viewing the world
IX. This cloudy world
X. To change nature
XI. Now, the timothy at Pemaquid
XII. Everywhere the spruce trees bury soldiers
XIII. Cover the sea with the sand rose
XIV. Words add to the senses
XV. The last island and its inhabitant
XVI. Round and round goes the bell of the water
XVII. Pass through the door and through the walls
XVIII. Low tide, flat water, sultry sun
XIX. One boy swims under a tub
XX. You could almost see the brass on her gleaming

intermission

Mélodies

Chanson Triste
Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
Early in the Morning
Ned Rorem (b. 1923)
Beau Soir
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Voyage à Paris
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

1. Chanson romanesque
2. Chanson épique
3. Chanson à boire

En Sourdine, Debussy
Mandoline, Debussy
Nocturne, César Franck (1822-1890)
Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé (1913)
Ravel

Soupir
Placet futile
Surgi de la croupe et du bond

tomorrow

Sunday, September 2, 3 pm and 4 pm

Jupiter String Quartet with Ilya Yakushev, piano

3 pm   |  Prelude Concert
Ilya Yakushev, piano
Ravel: “Gaspard de la Nuit”

4 pm   |  Jupiter String Quartet
with Ilya Yakushev, piano
Music of Beethoven, Webern, Bizet, and Franck

 

next week

Saturday, September 8, 6:30 pm

Jazz at the Maverick | Fred Hersch, piano
“Autumn in Paris”

Sunday, September 9, 4 pm

Concert for Friends of the Maverick

Tim Fain, violin | Music of Bach, Ysaÿe,
and Philip Glass

Saturday, September 15, 2012, 6:30 pm

Steve Gorn, bansuri flute; Allyn Miner, sitar; and
Ray Spiegel, tabla
An Evening of Indian Classical Music

Sunday, September 16, 4 pm

Final Concert of the 2012 Season
Tokyo String Quartet
Music of Haydn, Schubert, and Webern

 

 

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Mary Nessinger, mezzo-soprano, has been heard in concert and recital throughout the US and Europe. Nessinger has devoted herself to the performance of new music, working with some of today’s brightest and most innovative composers, including John Harbison, Earl Kim, Lee Hyla, George Crumb, Simon Bainbridge, Michael Ruszczynski, and Ezra Sims. She has collaborated with Peter Serkin, Ida Kavafian, David Shiffrin, and many others, and has been a soloist with the orchestras of Baltimore, Grand Rapids, Brooklyn, Saint Paul, and London. She studied at the Eastman School, and now serves on the voice faculty of Princeton University and Vassar College.

Baritone Andrew Garland is known for his engaging performances and his interpretations on the recital stage. Garland sang the title role in Don Giovanni with Opera New Jersey, and major roles with Boston Lyric Opera and Knoxville Opera. He has also sung with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Fort Worth Opera, the Seattle Opera, and the Opera Company of North America. Throughout his professional career Garland has focused on offering lively and inventive recital programs comprised of music by living American composers. This project has taken him to stages across the US. Garland is the winner of the Washington International Music Competition, American Traditions Competition, and the William C. Byrd Competition. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Alan Murchie, piano, has appeared as a solo pianist, organist, conductor, chamber musician, and lecturer. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic Chamber Players and with Silk Road Project violinist Colin Jacobsen. As a solo pianist, Alan has toured Morocco and has performed across Europe. He made his Lincoln Center debut as an organist performing works by Mozart. At the age of ten, he joined the renowned St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. He was graduated summa cum laude from Yale College. After college, Alan returned to St. Thomas as Organ Scholar and member of the faculty. He later served as organist and director of the professional choir at St. James’ Church, Madison Avenue, and music director at Trinity Church in Southport, Connecticut from 2007 up until 2011, when he was ordained as an Episcopal priest.

Alexander Platt has forged a unique career among the younger American conductors, combining a true commitment to regional orchestras and their communities with an ability to lead cutting-edge projects on the international scene. He is the Music Director of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, the Marion, Indiana Philharmonic, and the Wisconsin Philharmonic. He was named Resident Conductor of the Chicago Opera Theater in 2000. In 2007 he made his Canadian debut at the Banff Festival. As a guest conductor, Alexander Platt has led orchestras around Europe and the US. He made his New York debut in 2007 with the Brooklyn Philharmonic before thousands in Central Park, the first of several appearances with the orchestra.

Platt spends his summers as the sixth Music Director of the Maverick Concerts—the oldest summer chamber-music series in America. He conducted the world premiere of his own chamber-orchestra version of David Del Tredic’s Final Alice, to accolades in The New York Times.

Alexander Platt was educated at Yale College, as a conducting fellow at Aspen and Tanglewood, and as a Marshall Scholar at King’s College Cambridge. During this time he also made his conducting debut at Aldeburgh, his London debut at the Wigmore Hall, and reconstructed the lost chamber version of the Mahler Fourth Symphony, which has gone on to become a classic of the repertoire.

Sequitur was created in 1996 by Harold Meltzer, composer, pianist Sara Laimon, and conductor David Amado, as a means to finding a new venue and new audiences for contemporary music in New York. As Meltzer says, “Adventurous people who went to downtown theater and modern dance performances sometimes shied away from new music because it wasn’t adventurous enough.” The group gave its debut concert at Merkin Concert Hall in February 1997. In the following seasons, the group brought dancers and actors onto the concert stage, performing the first fully staged performance of Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music. Starting in 1999, all performances were directed and lighted, and the group started a long association with Miller Theatre. That year was also the first of the group’s cabaret projects, mixing American premieres of songs by Judith Weir, Harrison Birtwistle, and Thomas Adès with cabaret songs of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler. A sold-out run at Joe’s Pub in February 2000 called Money featured commissioned songs by eleven composers including David Del Tredici, Tania León and David Lang. The group made its debut at Lincoln Center in May 2002, and in 2003, its first recordings hit the market. In 2004 they mounted fully staged operas, beginning with the American premiere of Judith Weir’s chamber version of Blond Eckbert.

 

ABOUT THE MUSIC

For Maverick’s annual chamber orchestra concert, Music Director Alexander Platt continues the season-long celebration of French music.

Gabriel Fauré is considered the greatest composer of French mélodies (art songs). Fauré was always a working musician—running the Conservatory, teaching, giving lessons, and playing organ at various churches. He was only able to find time to compose during the summer holidays.

Fauré’s music was considered too modern to be included in regular concerts, but he was accepted in the grand salons, where the avant-garde flourished. He and his music were well received by a princess in Venice, and on that journey he began writing songs, trying out the draft works with soprano Emma Bardac, with whom he fell in love. He dedicated La Bonne Chanson to her, but the affair was short-lived, and she went on to marry Claude Debussy. Fauré said that themes within songs recurred in later songs, making this an example of cyclic form. Originally written for voice and piano, Fauré scored this version for voice, piano, and string quintet five years later in 1898. When his early mentor, Camille Saint-Saens, heard the song cycle La Bonne Chanson, he is reported to have said “Fauré’s gone completely mad!”

Harold Meltzer co-directs the ensemble Sequitur and teaches composition at Vassar College. His compositions have been commissioned by orchestras and foundations across the US, and he has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a residency at the MacDowell Colony. His chamber work Brion, commissioned for the Cygnus Ensemble by the Barlow Endowment at Brigham Young University, was a Finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer.

Today’s performance of Meltzer’s Variations on a Summer Day is a world premiere. The work was commissioned for Alexander Platt and the Maverick Concerts by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University. It is a setting of the poetry of American modernist poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955).

Henri Duparc was a student of César Franck, and a co-founder, along with Saint-Saens, of the Société Nationale de Musique Moderne. He suffered from neurasthenia (a diagnosis that is no longer used), which was characterized by weakness, depression, generalized pain, and hypersensitivity to stimuli. This condition, along with Duparc’s innate perfectionism, and a profound spiritual experience he had at Lourdes in 1906, caused him to destroy most of his music and completely give up composing. We are left with only forty of his works, including seventeen mélodies. Those songs, including Chanson triste, are highly regarded for their emotional intensity and unity between text and music.

Ned Rorem is one of the most celebrated living American composers. When Rorem was ten years old, his piano teacher introduced him to the music of Debussy and Ravel—an experience which, he said, changed his life forever. He spent many years in Paris, mingling with leading figures of post-war Europe. Although his catalog includes chamber works as well, he is best known for his orchestral works, his art songs, and his diaries. His song Early in the Morning describes breakfast in Paris.

Claude Debussy found inspiration in the music of Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Satie, and the Javanese Gamelan. He joined the conversation on art with Cézanne, Manet, Degas, and Renoir. These artists were rejecting both Realism and Romanticism, wanting instead to portray the feelings aroused by the subjects they painted. Although Debussy rejected the term “impressionism” as a description of his music, he accomplished in his music what many of his painter friends sought to do graphically—capture a mood, a feeling, or a state of mind. His song Beau soir is a setting of a poem by the French novelist, critic, and poet Paul Bourget (1852-1935).

Francis Poulenc was born into a wealthy Parisian family. He studied piano privately, but had only minimal education in composition. Nevertheless, he was on the cutting edge of Parisian musicians, becoming part of Erik Satie’s Nouveau jeunes and then of Jean Cocteau’s Les Six (along with Georges Auric (1899-1983), Louis Durey (1888-1979), Arthur Honegger (1892-1955), Darius Milhaud (1892-1974), and Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)). Many of his works are settings of the avant-garde poets, including Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob. In 1936 he had a religious awakening, and went on to compose a large body of sacred music. His musical style is modern but always tonal and lyrical. Many consider him the first openly gay composer. Voyage à Paris is a setting of a short poem by Apollinaire.

In some ways, Maurice Ravel was more of an iconoclast than Debussy, since he insisted on using musical techniques which were strictly forbidden by the Académie (such as parallel fifths and parallel triads). The professors refused to accept his work year after year, despite the fact that he was already a successful and very popular composer. This situation, called the “Ravel controversy,” led to the changing of the guard at the Académie. Under the new director, Gabriel Fauré, more modern conceptions of music were finally accepted. His Don Quichotte à Dulcinée is a setting of a three-section poem by Paul Morand (1888-1976), written in the voice of Don Quixote..

Like La Bonne Chanson, Debussy’s En Sourdine and Mandoline are settings of verses by Verlaine, a symbolist poet for whom the sound of the words was paramount. We can’t know why Emma Bardac chose Debussy over Fauré. Perhaps she preferred the way he set the poetry of Verlaine.

During his lifetime, César Franck was renowned as a teacher and as an organist. His students at the Paris Conservatory (including Ernest Chausson and Vincent d’Indy) became known as La bande à Franck, or the Franckists, and presented premieres of his works through the Société Nationale de Musique. As an organist, Franck’s improvisations at Sainte Clotilde drew capacity crowds every Sunday. During one performance, Franz Liszt whispered to a friend that he felt as though he were listening to Johann Sebastian Bach play. Franck’s Nocturne is a setting of a poem by Louis de Fourcaud (1851-1914).

In 1913, Maurice Ravel visited Igor Stravinsky on Lake Geneva, where they discussed Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Ravel started composing a song cycle, Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé, with similar scoring of voice and chamber ensemble (piano, string quartet, two flutes, and two clarinets), dedicating the first song (Soupir) to Stravinsky. In return, Stravinsky dedicated one of his Three Japanese Lyrics to Ravel. The premiere of both works was enthusiastically received in Paris, but the following year an English audience sat bewildered at the strangeness of the sounds.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) lived in Paris and eked out a living as a teacher of English. His salons were legendary, with Yeats, Rilke, Verlaine, and other luminaries meeting on Tuesdays and calling themselves Les Mardistes (mardi is French for Tuesday). Mallarmé was a symbolist, and for him the sound of the text was an important component of his expression. His poetry is therefore difficult to translate, but well suited to being set to music.

In Soupir, a subtle, shimmering instrumental background gives the voice the spotlight. Rising melodic lines and fuller textures depict the soul rising like the garden fountain. After a brief string interlude, the mood changes to the barrenness of the October garden, and the final piano gesture changes the shimmer into a shiver.

An instrumental introduction provides the dual affect of passion and whimsy for Placet futile. He is envious of the Greek youth (Hebe) on the cup that touches the lips of his beloved; her laughs are like docile sheep, and he begs to be appointed shepherd of her smiles.

Surgi de la croupe et du bond seems to be a portrait of an empty vase, but references to funeral vases, a rose in the darkness, eternal widowhood, and his mother and her lover all suggest a deeper personal meaning. Here Ravel is at his most dissonant and atonal. The voice ends the piece—and the song cycle—on a dark, low note.

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg. It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy,  publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at miriam@hvc.rr.com Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg