Program Notes

SFS Strata I: Rite This Way | Thursday, November 10, 2022—7:00 pm

 

IAN CLARKE
Born 1964, Broadstairs, England

Hypnosis

Along with maya, Sunstreams and Sunday MorningHypnosis lies in the category of pieces that are re-workings of tracks originally co-written by Ian with David Hicks and Simon Painter, when they worked together both in the studio and as a performing rock group.  Chronologically, they are the oldest in origin, although they were revisited by Ian some years after the group disbanded. Hypnosis was one of the most popular tracks in live performance alongside a more conventional set of rock songs.  It evolved as a structured improvisation over numerous gigs between 1986 and 1988. 

The piece was developed into a piano and flute piece by Ian in 1994. Many of the sixteenth/semi-quaver motifs of the piano were amongst new developments, whilst the original opening bass line can still be heard.  Inevitably, due to the nature of its evolution as a piece, the line of the flute has a naturally expressive, free and organic quality. Hypnosis is dreamy and lyrical in style, with powerful expressive climaxes to the first and second half of the work. Like many of Ian’s pieces, Hypnosis has been used with great success for auditions, music festivals, A-level recitals and degree recitals.

—Program Note by Ian Clarke

EVE BEGLARIAN
Born 1959, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Night Psalm

Night Psalm was inspired by Psalm 77, particularly verse 20:

Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.

The melody of the piece is based on a chant found in a late 16th-century antiphoner [a liturgical book intended for choir use] from Augsberg Cathedral in Germany. The piece is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. A Book of Days is a multimedia commonplace book of text/music/visuals. Currently, there are 147 recordings posted with images and/or video. There will eventually be a piece for each day of the year.  I think of these pieces as “mulling over” pieces, made in the spirit of commonplace books, collections of thought that please me, and of medieval books of days. The pieces generally begin from found text for which I write music, and some of them are illuminated (by video rather than by medieval miniatures).

Night Psalm is dedicated to Paul Kahn on the occasion of his becoming a deacon. You can listen to it here. And you can see an excerpt of me performing the piece on a Launchpad on Youtube.

—Program Note by Eve Beglarian

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Born 1770, Bonn
Died 1827, Vienna

Quintet for Piano and Winds, op.16

In February 1796, Ludwig van Beethoven set out from Vienna on an ambitious and successful  tour that brought him to Prague, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, where he spent a month performing at the court of King Friedrich Wilhelm II. It is probable that in Prague, a group of wind players commissioned him to write the Quintet for Piano and Wind Instruments, which he finished in Vienna just before the premiere on April 6, 1797. 

At the premiere, in the informal and relaxed setting of a hall above a noisy restaurant, Beethoven—famous for his improvisations—could not resist the temptation to show off. In his “Notizen” (Jottings,) pianist and composer Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) tells the story of the performance:

“In the final allegro occur several holds before a resumption of the theme. At one of these Beethoven suddenly began to improvise, took the rondo as a theme and entertained himself and the others for a considerable length of time; but not his associates. They were displeased and Ramm [the oboist] even indignant. It really was comical to see these gentlemen waiting expectantly every moment to go on, continually lifting their instruments to their lips then quietly putting them down again. At last Beethoven was satisfied and dropped again into the rondo.” *

Ironically, a few years later Beethoven severely reprimanded the pianist and composer Carl Czerny (1791-1857) when the latter, in his youthful exuberance, dared to insert some of his own changes while performing the Quintet.

The choice of wind instruments—oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn—probably has its origin in the Harmonie, the wind octets (all the instruments doubled) traditionally hired as entertainment at aristocratic al fresco parties and dinners. The only precedent for the addition of the piano to the four winds is Mozart’s Quintet K. 452 in the same key, which probably served as a model. Beethoven, realizing that the market for such a combination was limited, immediately arranged a version for piano, violin, viola and cello; the two versions were published together in 1801.

It is useful to remember that Beethoven was just beginning his composing career with only a handful of works under his belt: mostly chamber works with piano, a few piano sonatas and two piano concerti. He was more in demand as a piano virtuoso than as a composer. Commissions such as the one for the Quintet represented serious money and prestige; it is therefore no surprise that this is a major work on which the composer obviously spent considerable time and energy. 

The first movement begins with a long, slow introduction—a tip-off that he had used the Mozart Quintet as a source. The Allegro offers an extended exposition and development, including a false recapitulation and a long coda, the whole movement weighing in at nearly 15 minutes.

Despite its heft and the skill with which Beethoven worked with musical structure, the Quintet reveals a certain imbalance of forces, coming off more as a piano work with accompanying winds. Although Beethoven allows the latter to have a turn at the themes, he gives all the bells and whistles to the piano. As for the wind writing, Beethoven generally features solos for each instrument, rather than for the ensemble as a whole. 

Beethoven is most generous with the winds in the Andante cantabile, where the middle section of the movement offers extensive solos. In the Rondo, the piano again dominates—although, for the first time, one of the winds gets to introduce the material for the intervening episodes.

*Quoted in Alexander Thayer’s The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven 

—Program Note by Joseph & Elizabeth Kahn

VALERIE COLEMAN
Born 1970, Louisville

Umoja: Anthem of Unity for Woodwind Quintet

In its original form, Umoja―the Swahili word for unity and the first principle of the African Diaspora holiday Kwanzaa―was composed as a simple song for women’s choir. It embodied a sense of tribal unity through the feel of a drum circle, the sharing of history through traditional “call and response” form and the repetition of a memorable sing-song melody. It was rearranged into woodwind quintet form during the genesis of Coleman’s chamber music ensemble, Imani Winds, with the intent of providing an anthem that celebrated the diverse heritages of the ensemble itself. The Philadelphia Orchestra premiered the orchestral version in 2019―the first classical work by a living African-American woman that the orchestra has performed.

Umoja has seen the seen the creation of many versions that are like siblings to one another―similar in many ways, but each with a unique voice that is informed by Coleman’s ever-evolving creativity and perspective. Now more than ever, Umoja has to ring as a strong and beautiful anthem for the world we live in today.

Program Note by Valerie Coleman

Suite for Woodwind Quintet

Amanda Harberg’s Suite for Wind Quintet was commissioned by the Dorian Wind Quintet in 2017. The piece was the result of a conversation in a bar among Harberg, Dorian’s flutist Gretchen Pusch and Pusch’s husband Richard Bayles, on the occasion of Dorian’s clarinetist Ben Fingland’s 40th birthday party. A year and a half later, the Dorian Wind Quintet gave the world premiere of Harberg’s quintet at Bargemusic, and has incorporated it into their repertoire ever since. 

Suite for Wind Quintet is in four movements: 1. Cantus, 2. Furlana, 3. Fantasia and 4. Cabaletta. The melodic material heard in the very opening of the piece can be heard recurring and transforming throughout the four movements, until it unites triumphantly in the final coda with the theme of the concluding movement. The piece was inspired by the concept of placing Renaissance and Baroque-inspired dance suites into Harberg’s idiom as a 21st-century composer.

Program Note by Amanda Harberg