LOGO
Program Notes © 2016 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

Chamber Orchestra Concert

Continuum: Late Copland, Ginastera, and J.S. Bach

Maverick Chamber Players
Alexander Platt,
conductor
Adam Tendler,
piano
Emmanuel Feldman,
cello
Aurea Ensemble



Saturday, August 20, 2016, 6 pm
PROGRAM

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048 (1721)     J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Allegro • Adagio • Allegro

Copland: Nonet for Strings (1960)     Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Slow and solemn

Puneña No. 2 for Solo Cello, Op. 45 (1976)     Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983)
(Homage to Paul Sacher)
In honor of the centennial of the composer’s birth
Harawi — Wayno Karnavalito

INTERMISSION

Piano Fantasy (1957)     Copland

Keyboard Concerto No. 4 in A Major, BWV 1055 (1738)     Bach
Allegro • Larghetto • Allegro ma non tanto

This concert is made possible through support from the Thompson Family Foundation.



TOMORROW

Sunday, August 21, 4 pm     |     Borromeo String Quartet      |     Featuring a World Premiere
Music of Haydn and Beethoven, and the world premiere of Russell Platt’s Mountain Interval, commissioned by Maverick Concerts for the
centenary with the support of Alan & Sondra Siegel and Stephen McGrath & Janine Shelffo.

NEXT WEEK

Friday, August 26, 8 pm      |     St. Lawrence String Quartet
Music of Haydn, Schumann, and John Adams

Saturday, August 27, 8 pm      |     Lara St. John, violin      |     Matt Herskowitz, piano
Gypsy tunes from the Jewish diaspora, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus,
and the Middle East, reimagined by today’s composers

Sunday, August 28, 4 pm      |     Enso String Quartet
Music of Haydn, Joaquin Turina, Alberto Ginastera, and Henri Dutilleux




The Yamaha Disklavier C7X grand piano in the Maverick Concert Hall is
a generous loan from Yamaha Artists Services.

 

The 2016 Season Honors Retiring Maverick Chairman David F. Segal


 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Maverick’s music director, Alexander Platt, was recently appointed to the post of music director of the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra. He has
garnered consistently high acclaim in the major papers of Chicago and New York. He is music director of the Wisconsin Philharmonic, the Marion Indiana Philharmonic and the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, and he spends his summers here at Maverick. Platt recently concluded twelve seasons as resident conductor and music advisor of Chicago Opera Theater (2001-2012), where he led the Chicago premieres of Britten’s Death In Venice, John Adams’s Nixon In China, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Moscow Paradise, and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Under Platt’s direction, Chicago Opera Theater mounted the world premiere of the Tony Kushner/Maurice Sendak version of Hans Krása’s Brundibar; Schoenberg’s Erwartung; Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle (with Samuel Ramey and Nancy Gustafson); and the world-premiere recording of Robert Kurka’s The Good Soldier Schweik. Platt 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, where he conducted Colin Graham’s production of Madama Butterfly.

For the entirety of his career, Alexander Platt has been devoted to the music of our time, having conducted the US premieres of works by Britten, Shostakovich, Rorem, Colin Matthews, Daron Hagen, Joseph Schwantner, John Corigliano, Harold Meltzer, Libby Larsen, Joan Tower, Judith Weir, William Neil, and Simon Holt, as well as those of his brother Russell Platt (who is also the classical-music editor at The New Yorker magazine). A signal success was the 2007 premiere of Alexander’s new version for chamber orchestra of David Del Tredici’s 1976 masterpiece Final Alice.The production was supported by a major grant from the New York State Music Fund, and The New York Times praised Mr. Platt’s traversal of Del Tredici’s notoriously difficult score. A graduate of Yale College, King’s College Cambridge (where he was a British Marshall Scholar) and conducting fellowships at both Aspen and Tanglewood, Platt has led, as guest conductor, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Illinois Philharmonic, Germany’s Freiburg Philharmonic, Denmark’s Aalborg Symphony, 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, National Public Radio, Southwest German Radio, and the BBC, and his Cedille Records disc with Rachel Barton of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy is frequently heard on radio stations across America.

Adam Tendler has been called “an exuberantly expressive pianist” who “vividly displayed his enthusiasm for every phrase” by The Los Angeles Times, an “outstanding... maverick pianist” by The New Yorker, and a “modern-music evangelist” by Time Out New York. The Baltimore Sun has called him an “intrepid pianist” who “has managed to get behind and underneath the notes, living inside the music and making poetic sense of it all…. If they gave medals for musical bravery, dexterity, and perseverance, Adam Tendler would earn them all.”

Tendler was nominated for the 2012 American Pianists Association Classical Fellowship Award, and was a finalist for the 2013 American Prize. He made national headlines with America 88x50, (a completely independent recital tour organized from the front seat of his Hyundai), which brought free concerts of modern American music to underserved communities in all fifty states. He has published a memoir, 88x50, about the year he spent doing this; the book was a 2014 Kirkus Indie Book of the Month and Lambda Literary Award Nominee. Tendler has performed in some of the country’s most distinguished halls, universities, and concert series, directing modern music initiatives across the country and serving as an announcer and new-music liaison for NPR and Pacifica stations nationwide.

Tendler’s memorized performances of John Cage’s complete Sonatas and Interludes include a sold-out concert at The Rubin Museum in New York City, an appearance with the John Cage Trust at Bard College, and a featured solo recital in the “Cage100” festival at Symphony Space on Cage’s one-hundredth birthday, an event listed by New York Magazine as one of the Top 10 Classical Music Events of 2012.

Tendler has spoken and performed at Columbia University, Princeton University, NYU, Kenyon College, Boston Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, Portland State University, University of Nebraska, University of Alaska, and Rice University, among others. An outspoken LGBTQ advocate, he was an election-season keynote speaker for the Human Rights Campaign and has regularly performed for clients at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis center in New York. Tendler maintains the blog The Dissonant States.

Recognized as a leading interpreter of modern American music, Tendler is developing an album of music by Robert Palmer (1915-2010), whose sonatas he has begun editing and preparing for the E.C. Schirmer publishing house. He has recorded the premiere release of Edward T. Cone’s 21 Little Preludes for piano. He lives in New York City and serves on the faculty of the Third Street Music School Settlement.

Hailed by John Williams as “an outstanding cellist and truly dedicated artist,” Emmanuel Feldman has emerged as one of the most innovative and expressive cellists of his generation. He enjoys a multifaceted career as soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and educator.

With a solo concert career that has taken him throughout Europe and North America, Feldman has performed at Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall, The Phillips Collection, Salle Gaveau, Radio France, the Franz Liszt Academy, and countless venues in Germany, France, and Spain. He has appeared as a soloist with the Boston Pops, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, New England String Ensemble, Merrimack Valley Philharmonic, Greensboro Festival Orchestra, and Boston Philharmonic, amongst others. As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with pianists Robert Levin, Gilbert Kalish, Yehudi Wyner, Jorge Bolet, and Joy Cline Phinney. He has performed with the Borromeo String Quartet and members of the Lydian and Jupiter String Quartets. Feldman has appeared frequently on radio and television broadcasts, including WQXR, WCRB and WGBH Boston, Vermont Public Radio, and Radio France.

A champion of new music, he has premiered works by composers Richard Danielpour, Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, Aaron Kernis, David Diamond, Gunther Schuller, Charles Fussell, Jan Swafford, Andrew List, Yakov Yakoulov, John McDonald, and Gilbert Trout, among others. Feldman’s own compositions have been performed by the New England String Ensemble, Duo Cello e Basso, and the Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival.

Feldman is currently on the cello faculty at New England Conservatory and on both the cello and chamber music faculty at Tufts University, Heifetz International Music Institute, and Killington Music Festival, while maintaining an active private studio in the Boston area. He has taught at Yellow Barn, New York Summer Music Festival, Summit Music Festival, and Chappaquiddick Music Festival.

Following his solo orchestral debut at the age of fourteen, Feldman went on to study cello at the Curtis Institute of Music. In summers past he was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and has been invited to participate in numerous other festivals, including Meadowmount, Encore School for Strings and Marlboro. He has held principal cello posts with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the New England String Ensemble, as well as cello and substitute positions with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Aurea takes its name from Catena Aurea Homeri, The Golden Chain of Homer, an eighteenth-century collection of esoteric writings on alchemy, which strove for the refinement of the human condition. That alchemy — combining disparate components into a new, divine element — defines every Aurea event.

The mission of Aurea is to investigate and invigorate the relationship between music and the spoken word. The group aspires to unify the humanities and fine arts in dynamic, accessible, and engaging ways through performance and educational outreach. Aurea’s concerts combine poetry with classical, folk, and contemporary music to create performances that sweep from intimate chamber settings to major theatrical venues.

Aurea’s eclectic, humanities-based repertoire features performances by an extraordinary string ensemble, and is built on a strong musical framework of original or previously composed music with eloquent spoken works. Programs include poetry, journals, and prose laced together with soaring harmonica improvisations. Aurea collaborating guest artists have included musicians, actors, puppeteers, dancers, and visual artists.

Aurea approaches cross-cultural themes in their programming, believing the arts inform our understanding of these issues. Serving a broad audience, Aurea’s reach is national and includes, in addition to Maverick, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the NYU Humanities Festival, Providence International Arts Festival, FirstWorks, university concerts, an annual concert series, and educational outreach. Members of Aurea on today’s program are Katherine Winterstein, violin I; Charles Dimmick, violin 2; Consuelo Sherba, viola; and Emmanuel Feldman, cello. Consuelo Sherba is also the Artistic Director of Aurea Ensemble.

The Maverick Chamber Players are 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: Rachel Handman, Jessica Belflower, violins; Elizabeth Handman, Brittany Zellman, violas; David Gee, Kelsey Sheldon, cellos; and Pascale Delache Feldman, double bass.


ABOUT THE MUSIC

During his lifetime, Johann Sebastian Bach was internationally renowned for his improvisation on the harpsichord and organ. His written compositions were less well known, and it is only because his son Carl Philipp Emanuel saved his father’s manuscripts that this music was preserved for the ages. In the nineteenth century, an interest in nationalism came along with an interest in history, folklore, and the arts of the past. The revival of Bach’s music was greatly aided by Felix Mendelssohn, who, in 1829 (at the age of twenty) conducted the first performance of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion since the composer’s death. It took another two decades until, on the centennial of Bach’s death, the Bach-Gesellschaft (Bach Society) was formed to collect, preserve, and catalog the composer’s extant works. The BWV numbers that appear after each title stand for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Catalog of Bach’s Works), the systematic ordering of his compositions undertaken by that group and published in 1950.

Bach’s compositional style is remarkable for its precision, its complexity, and its variety. His music is imbued with a profound respect for music’s power to lift our spirits. It is no wonder that this music appeals so strongly to everyone from musicologists to babies. The year of his death, 1750, is counted as the end of the Baroque era. Although he consolidated and perfected the style, and invented several new genres, by the time he died his music was considered old-fashioned, and he was mostly remembered as a keyboard virtuoso and improviser rather than as a great composer. The next generation of composers — including several of his sons, most notably Carl Philipp Emanuel — made the transition to a new style, which was subsequently given the name “Classical.”

Bach held several major jobs during his lifetime, and composed all of his music according to the needs and desires of his various employers. Despite the large amount of sacred music in Bach’s catalog — cantatas, settings of the Passions, and chorales — he wrote no music for the church while he was employed by Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen (1717-1723). The prince was a Calvinist, and the services of that denomination had limited music. Fortunately, however, Leopold was also a great music lover. During the time of his employment at Cöthen, Bach supplied the prince with a wealth of chamber music, including the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, the Orchestral Suites, the Suites for Solo Cello, and the Brandenburg Concertos.

The six Brandenburg Concertos were presented by Bach in 1721 as a gift to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, probably with the hope that it might procure more commissions, or even steady employment, for the composer. The Margrave did not have the instrumental forces required for performing the pieces, never acknowledged or paid for the music, and did not offer Bach a job. The collection was forgotten for more than a century, and rediscovered in 1849. Since that time these concertos have come to be considered among the finest and most important Baroque works in both chamber and orchestral repertoire.

Bach loved numerology, and considered the number three especially magical, since it was connected with the Holy Trinity. So the instrumentation for the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048, has three movements and three groups of instruments, each with three players—three violins, three violas, and three cellos. To this string ensemble is added, in keeping with the practice of the period, a basso continuo, which would usually be composed of a cello and/or bass, plus a harpsichord to double the bass line and add the proper chords for each note. In the first movement (Allegro), all the instruments play homophonically — that is, in the same meter — in fast runs, for most of the movement. Bach gradually transposes the original G major chord into other far-ranging keys, including a dark B minor, before the triumphant return of the G major.

Bach greatly admired the music of the Italian masters, including Vivaldi, and he adopted their pattern of movements: fast, slow, fast. But in the manuscript, the central Adagio is just two chords: A minor and B major. This respite from the constant forward motion of the first movement is used as a time for a cadenza—an improvised passage by one or more instruments.

This leads into the last movement (Allegro), back in the home key of G major. Bach filled this finale with the imitative entries that were left out of the opening movement. Violins offer a scalar (stepwise) theme, which is then taken up by the middle section of strings (violas) and then in turn by the cellos and basses. For the following passage, the lower instruments begin, with the other strings pursuing.

Aaron Copland made the American contribution to 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. He studied in Paris 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. Perhaps the public’s appreciation for the wholesome American sound of Copland’s music allowed this gay Jewish leftist to emerge unscathed from those right-wing attacks.

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

The Nonet for Strings was commissioned by the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Washington, DC, to honor the 50th wedding anniversary of the library's main patrons, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss. The work is dedicated to Nadia Boulanger.

The Nonet is scored for three violins, three violas, and three cellos, which Copland himself called “bottom-heavy.” It should be noted, however, that this is the identical instrumentation Bach used in the third Brandenburg concerto. Whether a piece of music sounds dark or bright is to the result of the decisions made by the composer. Copland chooses darkness for the opening of his nonet, with more lyrical and conventional harmonies in the middle section. The piece closes with a return of the dense and somber chords.

Alberto Ginastera is considered one of the most important Latin American classical composers of all time. His career was advancing steadily in his native Argentina until pressure from the government of Juan Perón forced him to travel to the US, where he became a close friend of and collaborator with Aaron Copland, and then to Europe, where his music received great acclaim. His early works were nationalistic, employing indigenous dance rhythms and inspired by the tradition of the gaucho (the landless native horseman of the plains and the symbol of Argentina). In later years, he composed and promoted avant-garde and serialist music, taking over the directorship of the newly formed Latin American Centre for Advanced Musical Studies in Buenos Aires. Ástor Piazzolla was one of his notable students. At the end of his life, settled into a happy second marriage, his music took a romantic turn, with settings of love poetry, including verses of Garcia Lorca.

Ginastera’s career was aided by Paul Sacher, a Swiss conductor and patron of the arts who commissioned countless works from major contemporary composers and premiered them with his chamber orchestra. (When he died in 1999, Sacher was said to be the richest man in Europe.) In honor of Sacher’s seventieth birthday in 1976, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich asked twelve of Sacher’s composer friends to write works for solo cello in his honor, based on the notes represented by the letters of his name: Es (E-flat), A natural, C natural, H (B natural), E natural, and Re (D natural). The musical pattern became known as “eSACHERe” or the Sacher hexachord, and the collection included works by such luminaries as Pierre Boulez, Benjamin Britten, and Witold Lutoslawski. Alberto Ginastera’s contribution was his Puneña No. 2, Op. 45.

The Puneña (Song for the Argentine Plains) explores the range of the cello from highest to lowest, and uses many extended techniques such as glissando, ponticello (playing near the bridge), and strumming with the left hand while continuing to bow with the right hand. It belongs to the period of his composition that Ginastera himself described as Neo-Expressionism. The composer writes: “Puneña No. 2, Homage à Paul Sacher, is a re-creation of the sonorous world of this mysterious heart of South America that was the Inca Empire, the influence of which one can still feel in the north of my country, as well as in Bolivia and Peru.”

Copland employs serialist techniques in his 1957 Piano Fantasy, but instead of using the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, he designs his serial rows on ten of those notes. Shortly after its premiere, the composer wrote:

“Like my two previous extended works for solo piano, the Piano Variations (1930) and the Piano Sonata (1939-1941), the new work belongs in the category of absolute music. It makes no use whatever of folk or popular musical materials. I stress this point because of a tendency in recent years to typecast me as primarily a purveyor of Americana in music. Commentators have remarked upon my ‘simplicity of style’ and my ‘audience appeal’ in such a way as to suggest that that is the whole story, and the best of the story…. I do not mean to belittle the value of accessibility, nor the value for native music of a certain Americanism in our musical language. But neither do I wish to be limited to that frame of reference. In my own case a rounded picture would have to take into account works like my Piano Quartet and Piano Fantasy…. The musical framework of the entire Piano Fantasy derives from a sequence of ten different tones of the chromatic scale. To these are subsequently joined the unused two tones of the scale, treated throughout as a kind of cadential interval. (In fact, a good case could be made for the view that the over-all tonal orientation is that of E major.) Thus, inherent in the materials are elements able to be associated with the twelve-tone method and with music tonally conceived…. My own Fantasy, for example, is by no means rigorously controlled twelve-tone music, but it does make liberal use of devices associated with that technique…. As a method, it seems nowadays to be pointing in two opposite directions: toward the extreme of ‘total organization’ with its concomitant electronic applications, and toward a gradual absorption into what has become a very freely interpreted tonalism. But these are preoccupations of the musical kitchen; audiences have other things to think of, things that are more fundamental to the expressive content of the piece. Is the Fantasy a large and free utterance, serious and thought-provoking? From my standpoint, that is the more absorbing question.”

In 1723, Bach took the job as the director of music at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, where he remained for the rest of his life. A few years into this job he took on a side project, leading and composing for the Leipzig Collegium Musicum. He performed as a solo harpsichordist, as did his two musically talented sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel. Bach recycled concerti he had written for other instruments, transcribing them for keyboard, a small orchestra, and continuo. Unless further research uncovers other examples, this was wholly Bach’s innovation, and these works are the earliest keyboard concerti in the western music canon.

Concerto No. 4 in A major, BWV 1055 was part of a six-work set of such concerti. In the opening Allegro, the strings introduce the upbeat tempo. In Bach’s day, the balance between harpsichord and strings was difficult, so the strings often play more softly when the keyboard plays with them. The much louder modern piano has no trouble standing out against an orchestra.

The middle movement (Larghetto) is in a slow 6/8 meter known as a Siciliano. Although scholars have not been able to trace it directly to Sicily, it definitely has Italian origins, and the metric rhythm may even be connected to the dactylic hexameter of ancient Roman epic poetry such as Virgil’s Aeneid. The strings play a descending, partially chromatic line as the keyboard decorates the line with embellishments. As is common in a Siciliano, the mode is minor, and here Bach uses F-sharp minor, the relative minor of the home key.

For the finale, Bach returns to the bright key of A major. Another triple meter (here 3/4) gives it a dancing feeling. The keyboard soloist takes turns with the strings, each offering a version of the lively theme.





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 © 2016 by Miriam Villchur Berg