LOGO
Program Notes © 2015 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

Annual Chamber Orchestra Concert

Maria Todaro, mezzo-soprano
Stephen Gosling,
piano
Emmanuel Feldman,
cello
Members of the Aurea Ensemble: Katherine Winterstein, Gabriela Diaz,
violins; Consuelo Sherba, viola
Maverick Chamber Players
Alexander Platt,
conductor

Saturday, August 22, 2015, 6 pm

This program is made possible through the generosity of the Thompson Family Foundation

program

Young Apollo, Op. 16 (1938)
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

The Banshee, for solo piano (1925)
Henry Cowell (1897-1965)

El Amor Brujo (Love, the Sorcerer) (1915)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Libretto and lyrics by María Martínez Sierra
1. Introducción y escena (Introduction and Scene) • 2. En la cueva (In the Cave)
3. Canción del amor dolido (Song of Suffering Love) • 4. El aparecido (El espectro) (The Apparition)
5. Danza del terror (Dance of Terror)
6. El círculo mágico (Romance del Pescador) (The Magic Circle: Song of the Fisherman)
7. A media noche: los sortilegios (Midnight: The Enchantments) • 8. Danza ritual del fuego (Ritual Fire Dance)
9. Escena (Scene) • 10. Canción del fuego fatuo (Song of the Will-o-the-wisp)
11. Pantomima (Pantomime) • 12. Danza del juego de amor (Dance of The Game of Love)
13. Conjuro para reconquistar el amor perdido (Spell to Rekindle Lost Love)
14. Danza y cancion de la bruja fingida (Dance and Song of the Cunning Witch)

intermission

Song of Solitude, for solo cello
Robert Starer (1924-2001)

Appalachian Spring Suite (1944)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
1. Very slowly • 2. Fast/Allegro • 3. Moderate • 4. Quite fast • 5. Still faster • 6. Very slowly (as at first)
7. Calm and flowing/Doppio Movimento • 8. Moderate—Coda

tomorrow

Sunday, August 23, 4 pm | Ariel Quartet, with baritone Thomas Storm
Music of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Samuel Barber

next week

Friday, August 28, 7 pm | Actors & Writers
A reading of Paddy Chayevsky’s Middle of the Night

Saturday, August 29, 8 pm | Frederic Chiu and Andrew Russo, piano four hands
Music of Schubert, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920)

Sunday, August 30, 4 pm | Borromeo String Quartet
Music of Haydn, Beethoven, and Gunther Schuller (b. 1925)


 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Born into a family of singers, Maria Todaro has been surrounded by music and arts since her youngest age. She has performed with the Westfield Symphony, Sinfonia New York (a Baroque orchestra), as well as at many international venues: Versailles, le Havre, Lamalou-Les Bains, Sao Paulo, Palermo, and Teatro Municipale di Agrigento (Sicily). She created a one-woman show singing twelve operatic arias ranging from Mozart to Bernstein and performed it during nine months at the Théâtre Traversière in Paris. She has sung solo recitals the festivals of Baalbeck (Lebanon), Vaison-la-Romaine (France), Portival in Antwerp, and the opening recital of the 2002 Wratislavia Cantans Festival (Poland). As a recording artist, she can be heard on the album Echoes From Earth, and is in the process of completing two albums. She is a co-founder of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice (FofV), which was created in 2010.

A native of Sheffield, England, pianist Stephen Gosling relocated to New York in 1989 to begin studies with Oxana Yablonskaya at The Juilliard School. He performed John Corigliano’s Piano Concerto with Leonard Slatkin and the Juilliard Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, and gave the European premiere of Paul Schoenfield’s Four Parables with the Dutch Radio Philharmonic under Lukas Foss. Mr. Gosling received his master’s degree from Juilliard and was awarded the Sony Elevated Standards Fellowship. He received his PhD from Juilliard in 2000.

Mr. Gosling was for three years pianist of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and appeared in several seasons of the Summergarden series at MoMA. He has also performed at the Kennedy Center, the Grant Park Festival in Chicago, the Bang on a Can Marathon, Bargemusic, the 2001 Great Day in New York festival, and the PAN festival in Seoul, Korea. He is a member of both Ensemble Sospeso and the New York New Music Ensemble, and has performed with Orpheus, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Speculum Musicae, DaCapo Chamber Players, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Continuum, the League of Composers/ISCM Chamber Players, and Da Camera of Houston. He has also participated in Off-Broadway productions and collaborated with a number of dance companies, including American Ballet Theater and Parsons Dance Project. Mr. Gosling has been heard on the NPR, WNYC, and WQXR radio networks.

The son of Julliard-trained parents, Emmanuel Feldman enjoys a career as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, champion of new music, and educator. After graduating from the Curtis Institute, he received a Tanglewood Music Center fellowship and a scholarship to study at the Paris Conservatoire Sup&aacyte;rieur. Mr. Feldman has joined forces with such artists as the Mark Morris Dance Group, the Aurea Ensemble, and renowned pop and jazz artist Bobby McFerrin. He has concertized at major venues throughout Europe and North America and has performed as a soloist with the Boston Pops, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, and the Boston Philharmonic, among others. 

An accomplished chamber musician, Mr. Feldman has participated in the Marlboro and Rockport music festivals and collaborated with many prominent musicians. His most recent recording is an all-American program on the Delos label. He is on the cello faculty at the New England Conservatory and Tufts University and has a busy private studio in the Boston area.

What happens when artists meet at the margins of their disciplines and push the boundaries back and forth? What happens is Aurea, a performance ensemble engaged in a joyous pursuit to investigate and invigorate the harmony of music and the spoken word.

Aurea takes its name from Catena Aurea Homeri, or the Golden Chain of Homer, a symbol of eighteenth century esoteric alchemy, which strove for the refinement of the human condition. That alchemy—combining disparate elements into a divine new element—defines every Aurea event.

Central to Aurea’s mission is the pairing of meaningful educational outreach with artistic themes, striving through imaginative concert programming and educational workshops to inspire audiences of varied backgrounds and ages. Through the medium of performance, interfacing music with the spoken word, Aurea seeks to unify the humanities and fine arts in dynamic, accessible, and engaging ways.

The Maverick Chamber Players is a group of professional musicians who live and work in the Hudson Valley. As members of area ensembles—including the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, West Point Concert Band, and Albany Symphony Orchestra—all are accomplished performers of repertoire ranging from orchestral masterpieces to world premieres. Most of the players teach music privately and in local high schools and colleges. In addition, most of these musicians play together in chamber ensembles of varying instrumentation. Members of the Maverick Chamber Players are: Norman Thibodeau, Flute/Piccolo/Alto Flute; Susan Kokernak, Oboe/English Horn; Weixiong Wang, Clarinet/E flat Clarinet; Lori Tiberio, Bassoon/Contrabassoon; Joseph Demko, Horn; Peter Bellino, Trumpet; Bill Owens, Trumpet; Nate Rensink, trombone; Jennifer Hoult, harp; Erica Pickhardt, cello; Pascale Feldman, bass.

Alexander Platt is music director of the Wisconsin Philharmonic, the Marion Indiana Philharmonic, the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, and the Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, and spends his summers in Woodstock as music director of Maverick Concerts. He also recently concluded twelve seasons as resident conductor and music advisor of Chicago Opera Theater. At COT he led the Chicago premieres of Britten’s Death In Venice, John Adams’ Nixon In China, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Moscow Paradise and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the world premiere of the Tony Kushner/Maurice Sendak version of Hans Krasa’s Brundibar; the double-bill of Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle with Samuel Ramey and Nancy Gustafson, and the world-premiere recording of Kurka’s The Good Soldier Schweik—all to consistently high acclaim in the major papers of Chicago and New York. Prior to this he spent twelve years as music director of the Racine Symphony Orchestra, three seasons as principal conductor of the Boca Raton Symphonia, and two years as apprentice conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera, conducting Colin Graham’s production of Madama Butterfly.

A graduate of Yale College, King’s College Cambridge (where he was a British Marshall Scholar) and conducting fellowships at both Aspen and Tanglewood, Mr. Pratt has guest-conducted the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Illinois Philharmonic, the Freiburg Philharmonic in Germany, the Aalborg Symphony in Denmark, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the City of London Sinfonia, Camerata Chicago, the Banff Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, and the Houston, Charlotte, Columbus, and Indianapolis Symphonies. In 2013 he made his debut at the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to high praise in the Chicago Tribune. He has recorded for Minnesota Public Radio, NPR, the South-West German Radio, and the BBC, and his Cedille Records disc with Rachel Barton of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy is still often heard on radio stations across America.


ABOUT THE MUSIC

In an era when Webern, Boulez, and John Cage were changing the definitions of musical structure and style, Benjamin Britten found ways to be innovative while still remaining within the tradition of tonality. His operas, including Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw, are considered the finest English operas since those of Purcell in the seventeenth century. He composed major works in many genres—orchestral, choral, solo vocal, chamber, film music, and music for children, including The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. In his hometown, he founded and directed the Aldeburgh Festival, which continues to be a major international gathering of the finest musicians in the world. In 1938, Britten had moved in with the tenor Peter Pears, referring to Pears in a letter as “the guy I share a flat with.” They decided to venture across the Pond, where their great mentor Frank Bridge had enjoyed considerable success. Britten had become friends with the American composer Aaron Copland. So in April of 1939, Britten and Pears set sail for Canada. Britten was well received there, as he was during his entire stay in North America, by critics and audiences alike. The couple traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then joined Copland and his partner, the photographer Victor Kraft, in Woodstock for the summer. During the trip, Britten and Pears’ relationship became more than friendship, and they remained devoted partners for the rest of their lives.

Britten wrote many letters home to his sister. “Peter and I are now settled for a month up in a place called Woodstock in the Kingston district of the Hudson River (look it up in the map) near the Catskill Mountains. It’s very beautiful and we’ve rented a studio there. Aaron C. is near and we have a great time together….”

Young Apollo, which Britten labeled a “fanfare for piano, string quartet and string orchestra,” was written shortly after they arrived in Quebec. Britten manages to make piano and strings sound like trumpets, with majestic rising glissandos on the keyboard and unison leaping strings. The driving movement continues, then fades into a more deliberate, quiet duet between the piano and the string quartet. Finally, the grand gestures return, with horn-like rising fifths and insistent repetitions of the tonic A-major chord.

Britten played the piano at the work’s premiere in Quebec, to great acclaim. After that performance, however, he withdrew the piece, and it was not played again until the 1979 Aldeburgh Festival. Some have speculated that the Apollo to which the title referred was an old boyfriend, and that it no longer seemed appropriate after Britten became involved with Pears.

Henry Cowell studied Western art music, medieval church modes, and Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Irish, Appalachian, and Tahitian music. Avant-garde composers of his era held him in high regard. Anton Webern conducted Cowell’s Sinfonietta in Vienna, and Arnold Schoenberg invited him to perform for his composition class in Berlin in 1932. Cowell was the first American composer invited to the Soviet Union, in 1929, and in 1923, Béla Bartók asked Cowell’s permission to use tone clusters in his music.

Cowell had serious relationships with both men and women. In 1936, he was arrested on a morals charge, and served four years in San Quentin. Sidney Hawkins Robertson, a prominent folk-music scholar, was instrumental in procuring Cowell’s release from prison. She became his musical partner, and later his wife. Together they compiled world music for Folkways records, and undertook international tours to promote the music of various peoples, as well as Cowell’s own compositions.

Cowell lived in Woodstock for the last part of his life. He achieved international acclaim, and his accomplishments were recognized by the most important musical minds of the time. Cowell taught at the New School, the Peabody Conservatory, and Columbia University. The list of his students includes John Cage, Lou Harrison, and George Gershwin.

Banshee is played directly on the piano strings without using the keyboard. The pianist sweeps and scrapes the strings, as an assistant sits at the keyboard solely for the purpose of pressing the damper pedal (allowing the strings to resonate). Its eeriness evokes ghosts and unseen beings. A banshee is a female spirit found in Irish folklore. Her nocturnal wailing is an omen of death or a message from the underworld.

Manuel de Falla studied piano and composition at the Conservatory in Madrid, where his teacher Felip Pedrell instilled in him a love of the native music of Andalusia, the southeastern region of Spain where flamenco music originated. His education was broadened with a seven-year sojourn in Paris, where he was influenced by Ravel, Debussy, Paul Dukas, and Stravinsky. Forced to return to Madrid at the outbreak of World War I, he was part of a group of artists—including poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, filmmaker Luis Buñuel, painter Salvador Dalí, and author/philosopher Miguel de Unamuno—whose avant-garde movement was dubbed “the silver age.”

Falla composed many of his greatest works in Madrid, including El corregidor y la molinera (The Magistrate and the Miller’s Wife), later revised and produced as El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat). In the summer of 2014, Alexander Platt produced and conducted a concert performance of the original version of that work as part of Maverick’s annual Chamber Orchestra Concert.

Another Falla masterpiece from his Madrid period is El amor brujo (Love, the Sorcerer, 1915). It was commissioned by Pastora Imperio, a famous Roma (gypsy) flamenco dancer and singer. The composer wrote it for a chamber group, and over the years he rescored it variously as a symphonic suite, a ballet, and a suite for piano solo. The text tells the story of Candela, a young gypsy girl from Andalusia who loves Carmelo but is forced to marry another. When her husband dies, she longs to be with her true love, but the spirit of her husband haunts her, and she dances the Dance of Terror with him every night. Candela learns that her dead husband was in fact unfaithful to her, and actually loved Lucia. The women of the village advise her to perform the Ritual Fire Dance to exorcise the ghost, but it does not succeed. Candela persuades Lucia to help her, and again dances with her dead husband. But at the last moment, she moves away, and Lucia and the ghost go off together. Candela and Carmelo share a pure kiss, breaking the spell. In the morning, church bells announce that Candela and Carmelo can finally be together.

After Hitler annexed Austria, Robert Starer and the other Jewish music students were expelled from the Vienna conservatory. Starer went to Jerusalem and continued his studies at the Palestine Conservatory. He served with the British Royal Air Force during the war, and then came to New York to study at Juilliard. He also studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. He became an American citizen and taught at Juilliard, Brooklyn College, and the City University of New York. Starer received two Guggenheim Fellowships and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His stage works include four operas, several ballets created for Martha Graham, and Broadway theater collaborations with Herbert Ross. Orchestras here and abroad perform his symphonic music, under the direction of conductors that have included Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Steinberg, Leinsdorf, and Mehta. The recording of his Violin Concerto with Itzhak Perlman and the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa was nominated for a Grammy in 1986. His book, Continuo: A Life in Music, has been excerpted in the New Yorker, Musical America, and the London Times. The last years of his life were spent in Woodstock.

Song of Solitude for solo cello uses tiny intervals—the semi-tone, the whole tone, the minor third—as important components of its themes. Although it is atonal (that is, it does not have a home key), the work exudes the somber quality of minor keys. At times it becomes a quiet dialogue—talking to oneself, perhaps—while elsewhere it takes off in a flight of adventurous runs. It ends as it began, with the limits of range one experiences in solitude.

Aaron Copland is the American representative on the list of important nationalist composers. As a pianist, conductor, writer on music, and mentor, he brought classical music to the people in a way few others have done. In Paris, he studied with Nadia Boulanger, who taught him to appreciate the breadth and depth of the musical repertoire through the ages, and who advanced his career immensely by arranging a concert of his music to be played by the New York Symphony Orchestra. Copland went on to international fame and recognition, winning a Pulitzer Prize (for Appalachian Spring, 1943), an Academy Award (The Heiress, 1949), and many national and international awards. He is best known for his Fanfare for the Common Man and his ballets, including Rodeo and Billy the Kid. His book What to Listen For in Music had a profound effect on students and the music-appreciating public. In the McCarthy era he was the object of anti-communist blacklisting, but managed to survive and flourish.

Copland was one of the first homosexual composers to live openly with a partner, who in his case was photographer Victor Kraft. He also had relationships with artists and composers that he mentored, including Leonard Bernstein. In the pre-WWII period Copland and Kraft had a cabin in Woodstock, where Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears visited them in the summer of 1939.

Martha Graham, whose influence on modern dance has been compared to that of Picasso on the world of art, commissioned Copland to write a ballet. He had no title for the work in progress, referring to it as “Ballet for Martha.” It was Graham’s idea to give it the title Appalachian Spring, from a line in a poem by Hart Crane. It tells the story of American frontier settlers as they work the land, find love, deal with difficulties, and settle into a happy life. The premiere was at the Library of Congress in 1944, with Martha Graham in the lead role. Copland received the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for the work. The next year, he arranged it as an orchestral suite.

Copland wrote these notes about the sections:

1. Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by
    one, in a suffused light.
2. Fast/Allegro. Sudden burst of unison strings in A-
    major arpeggios starts the action. A sentiment both
    elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.
3. Moderate/Moderato. Duo for the Bride and her
    Intended: A scene of tenderness and passion.
4. Quite fast. The Revivalist and his Flock: Folksy
    feeling—suggestions of square dances and country
    fiddlers.
5. Still faster/Subito Allegro. Solo dance of the Bride:
    presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and
    fear and wonder.
6. Very slowly (as at first). Transition scene to music
    reminiscent of the introduction.
7. Calm and flowing/Doppio Movimento. Scenes of
    Daily Activity for the Bride and her Farmer
    Husband. There are five variations on a Shaker
    theme…called “Simple Gifts.”
8. Moderate. Coda/Moderato — Coda. The Bride Takes
    her Place Among her Neighbors. At the end the
    couple is left “quiet and strong in their new house.”
    Muted strings intone a hushed, prayer-like chorale
    passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening
    music.




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 © 2015 by Miriam Villchur Berg