Imani Winds

Valerie Coleman, flute
Toyin Spellman-Diaz,
Mariam Adam,
Jeff Scott,
French horn
Monica Ellis,

Sunday, July 1, 2012 | 4 pm

“From Paris to New Orleans”


Scherzo (1943)
Eugene Bozza (1905-1991)

Le Tombeau de Couperin (1914-1917)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
arr. Mason Jones (1919-2009)


Bruyères (1912-1913)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
arr. Jakub Kowalewski (b. 1977)

Suite: Portraits of Josephine (2008)
Valerie Coleman (b. 1970)

Ol' St. Louis
Les Milandes
Paris 1925
Thank you Josephine


Homage to Duke (2005)
Jeff Scott (b. 1967)

Quintette (1948)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)

Andante tranquillo — Allegro assai
Tema andante – Variations
Tempo di marcia francese

La Nouvelle Orleans (1987)
Lalo Schifrin (b. 1932)

next week

Saturday, July 7, 11 am | Young People's Concert
Simon Powis, classical guitar

Saturday, July 7, 6:30 pm | Steve Gorn and Friends
An Evening of Indian Classical Music

Sunday, July 8, 4 pm | Shanghai Quartet
with Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Music of Mozart, Schumann, Ravel, and César Franck


Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


More than North America's premier wind quintet, Imani Winds has established itself as one of the most successful chamber music ensembles in the US. Since 1997, the Grammy-nominated quintet has carved out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, culturally poignant programming, genre-blurring collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. With two member-composers and a deep commitment to commissioning new work, the group is enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire while meaningfully bridging European, American, African, and Latin American traditions.

Imani Winds has performed at most of this country's major concert venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Disney Hall, and Kimmel Center. The group is frequently engaged by the premier chamber music series in Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia, and New York, and has also played virtually every major university performing arts series. Festivals include Chamber Music Northwest, Santa Fe, La Jolla, Virginia Arts Festival, Bravo! Colorado, and Ravinia. The current season features several international tours, with debut appearances in France, China, and Brazil.

The group started its Legacy Commissioning Project in 2008, commissioning, premiering, and touring new works for woodwind quintet written by established and emerging composers of diverse musical backgrounds. The Project has included world premieres by Alvin Singleton, Roberto Sierra, Jason Moran, Stefon Harris, Danilo Perez, Simon Shaheen, Wayne Shorter, and Paquito D'Rivera, who performed his piece with Imani in Alice Tully Hall as the culmination of the group's Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center residency. Imani members Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott both regularly contribute compositions and arrangements to the ensemble's expanding repertoire, bringing new sounds and textures to the traditional instrumentation. The ensemble has also worked with luminaries such as bandoneonist Daniel Binelli, the Brubeck brothers, clarinetist David Shifrin, and pianists Gilbert Kalish and Shai Wosner.

Imani Winds has been featured twice on NPR's All Things Considered, and has appeared on APM's Saint Paul Sunday, NPR's Performance Today, News and Notes with Ed Gordon, BBC The World, as well as frequent coverage in major music magazines and newspapers including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Their excellence has been recognized with the 2007 ASCAP Award, 2002 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, as well as the CMA/WQXR Award for their debut and self-released CD Umoja. At the 2001 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Imani Winds was selected as the first-ever Educational Residency Ensemble, in recognition of their musical ability and innovative

The group participates in residencies throughout the US, giving master classes to thousands of students a year. In the summer of 2010 the ensemble launched its annual Chamber Music Festival, set on the Juilliard campus, bringing together young instrumentalists from across North America and beyond for an intense week of music exploration.





This season, Maverick's Music Director Alexander Platt has chosen two thematic threads: the music of Philip Glass (in celebration of his seventieth birthday), and the music of France, including the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Maurice Ravel and the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy. Imani Winds begins our "Tour de France" with a program ideally suited to all Francophiles.

Eugène Bozza was a French composer and conductor, and the director of the Ecole Nationale de Musique in Valenciennes for more than two decades. Bozza wrote operas, concerti, and symphonies, but his best known works are for brass ensemble. Scherzo uses interwoven runs to create a virtuosic, lighthearted, and lyrical piece. It demonstrates Bozza's careful attention to the distinct qualities and capabilities of each instrument.

Maurice Ravel left the Paris Conservatoire in 1895, returning two years later solely to study with Gabriel Fauré, the only teacher who could accept his innovative musical gift. He wrote Le Tombeau de Couperin in homage to François Couperin (1668-1733). Ravel's music emphasizes clarity of expression, as did that of the French Baroque composers. The piece's transcription for wind quintet is especially appropriate given Ravel's fondness for wind instruments.

The Prelude has a ceaselessly moving line in a moderately slow rhythm, and a faster melody line. The Fugue uses the precise form of a Baroque fugue, with a somewhat mournful fugue tune. The Menuet is a graceful, courtly dance in 3/4 time in which a solo voice sings a lullaby-like song. In the Renaissance, the Rigaudon was a country dance from Southern France similar to the Bourrée. Ravel gives it a bold, strutting feeling.

Claude Debussy spent time discussing art with Cézanne, Manet, Degas, and Renoir. These artists sought to portray the feelings aroused by the subjects they painted. Although Claude Debussy rejected the term "impressionism" as a description of his style, he accomplished the same thing in music. Bruyères is from Debussy's Second Book of Preludes for solo piano. Bruyères is the French word for heather, and this prelude is evocative of pastoral scenes. Debussy uses a pentatonic (modal) scale and incorporates birdsong and folk music to give a musical description of a serene countryside.

Valerie Coleman had written three symphonies by the age of fourteen. Coleman has won awards from Boston University, the Aspen Music Festival, and Tanglewood. She has been the understudy for Eugenia Zukerman at Lincoln Center, and was featured soloist in the Mannes 2000 Bach Festival. She was recently showcased on WQXR. She is the founder of Imani Winds as well as its resident composer. Her compositions include song cycles, A Kwanzaa Songbook for Children, sonatas for various instruments, and many chamber music pieces. She holds degrees from Boston University and Mannes, and is currently a faculty member of the Juilliard Advancement Program and The Interschool Orchestras of New York.

Portraits of Josephine pays tribute to the American-born singer and actress Josephine Baker. Ol' St. Louis is a bluesy memoir of the city of her birth, the place she knew she had to escape from at the age of eleven after witnessing race riots. Les Milandes describes the palace in France where she raised her "rainbow tribe" of children of different ethnicities and religions. Paris 1925 describes her overnight success when she traveled to France, where her voice, sensuality, and wit were appreciated as much as they were scorned in the US.

During World War II, Baker smuggled messages printed in invisible ink on her sheet music for the French resistance. She received the Légion d'Honneur for her work. After the war, she remained an indefatigable fighter for civil rights, refusing to perform at segregated venues in the US. She gave a triumphant farewell concert in Paris in1975, as energetic as she was fifty years prior, and died a few days later. The finale of Coleman's suite, Thank you Josephine, begins with her theme song, "J'ai deux amours" ("I have two loves," she sings, "my country and Paris") and celebrates the life, art, and activism of this remarkable woman.

Jeff Scott has been in the orchestras of The Lion King, Alvin Ailey, and Dance Theater of Harlem, and has recorded and toured with Barbra Streisand and Luther Vandross. He composes and arranges for winds and jazz ensembles, and teaches horn at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Scott composed Homage to Duke as a study of the musical ideas of Duke Ellington. It makes use of Ellington's lesser known sacred music, in particular the song "Come Sunday." The composer writes: "Like Ellington, I wrote solos that I thought the individuals would like, while envisioning where they would go with them. I also used different genres: fugue (like Bach), plainchant, R & B—there's even a section where there's an R & B rhythm underneath and a plainchant chorale on top."

Jean Françaix was a gifted pianist and a composer of chamber music, operas, ballets, and film scores. He studied at the Paris Conservatory with Nadia Boulanger, who also taught Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Walter Piston. In the Quintette, a slow introduction (Andante tranquillo) features the horn and leads into a restless Allegro assai. The tempo speeds up even more for the Presto, with staccato accents on the offbeat. In the Trio section of this movement, the flute takes center stage, with a more legato but still lighthearted feeling. Tema andante is a set of five variations on a lyrical aria. The finale is a grand and boisterous march (Tempo di marcia francese). Françaix manages to maintain elegant structure and sound throughout without taking himself too seriously.

Lalo Schifrin was born in Argentina, studied with Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire, and moved to New York in 1958, where he became the pianist in Dizzy Gillespie's jazz quintet. He had a successful career as a composer for film and television, combining serialism and electronics with funk, jazz, and disco. His most well-known composition is the theme from the TV series Mission Impossible, which, like Dave Brubeck's Take Five, made the irregular meter of 5/4 understandable and accessible to millions of listeners.

Some of the themes from La Nouvelle Orleans were originally used by Schifrin in his score for the film The Cincinnati Kid, starring Steve McQueen. The music moves through episodes of varying character, depicting the bustling French Quarter, a Dixieland funeral  procession, and the gaiety and mirth of Mardi Gras revelers, and ending with a bluesy jazz riff.

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 Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg