PROGRAM NOTES – SUBSCRIPTION #2 – 2017-2018
National Park Suite – Michael Horwood
The National Park Suite is a five-movement, musical portrait of five national parks from the North American continent, including parks from the United States and Canada. Canadian composer Michael Horwood has composed a musical vignette of each park’s unique character and personality, lending itself to what a visitor may feel upon visiting these great parks. As a result, let your mind let go of traditional musical ideas such as phrase, melody, or anything else you may expect – instead, let your ears help your imagination to envision and picture these parks after reading the composer’s personal descriptions of each park.
- Forillon National Park – Québec (Lento pericoloso)
On the northeastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, rugged terrain abruptly meet the coastline and ocean waves. Roadway, mountain, cliff and ocean seem to merge into one entity. The presence of the lighthouse beacon and the recurring blast of the foghorn serve as a warning to ships of potential danger. Wave-like ostinato figures of varying lengths propel the music toward a central climax of noble, yet forbidding grandeur.
- Bryce Canyon National Park – Utah (Vivo e fragile)
A fast, delicate scherzo depicts this relatively small, but endlessly fascinating place. Towers and spires of rock formations rising from the canyon floor are multi-coloured – strong to the eye, but weak to the touch. The orchestra is reduced to smaller proportions suggesting the thin, frail rock textures. Nature’s beauty humbles the lowly spectator.
- Fathom Five Marine Park – Ontario (Andante tranquillo)
At the confluence of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay is the only national park in North America that is primarily under water. Consequently much of the park is best viewed by skin diving or through glass-bottom boats. Daylight here is often stubborn, but crucial. Calm, still harmonies evolve ever-so-slowly under melodic wisps of different contours. Clacking wooden sounds recall the moorings of ships and boats long since vanished. The passage of time is almost frozen.
- Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming (Allegretto con fuoco e caldo)
A sulphurous, primeval mystery looms within Yellowstone, one of Nature’s rare places where the senses of sound and smell are as important as sight. Here one feels that the earth is timeless, yet still forming – unsafe, yet frail with its geysers, steam pools and fumaroles. All manner of hissing, bubbling and gurgling sounds emerge from the brass and percussion interrupting a march of thunderous proportions. Old Faithful, eternal showman and time-marker of this wondrous place, makes itself heard and felt.
- Jasper National Park – Alberta (Largo e maestoso)
Confronting this stark, compelling stretch of the Rocky Mountains in Western Alberta may well be one of the most scenic views along the entire 3,000-mile range. These jagged sentinels, paralleling the famous Icefield Parkway, are broken only by the cold, wind-swept glacial remnants. A chorale gradually arises from the lower instruments and becomes progressively cumulative and grandiose. There is an aura of intense, yet contained power; beauty, yet reverence.
Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise, Op. 26 – Albert Franz Doppler
Albert Franz Doppler and his brother Karl were both virtuoso Hungarian flautists trained by their oboist father from an early age. They formed a successful flute duo in their youth through which they performed original music as well as technically virtuosic showpieces. Having grown up in the eastern Austro-Hungarian empire in the mid-19th century, they were exposed and influenced by urban, Western, technical training, as well as traditional, folk and Romani/Gypsy music that would later greatly influence composers such as Bela Bartok, Johann Strauss, Zoltan Kodaly, and others. In their original music, they skillfully integrated both improvisatory and rhythmic elements characteristic of both the urban virtuosity and the village musicians they would hear daily into their enormous catalogue of flute compositions, exploiting the vocal, registral, and rhythmic-percussive capabilities of the instrument. Albert Franz Doppler’s best-known work for solo flute, Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise, Op. 26, is a paradigm of a Romani-influenced, classical piece and is universally beloved by flautists.
WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:
The atmospheric modal opening in the minor key, at times evoking a shepherd’s pipe, is ornamented with delicate appoggiaturas and turns. It is very operatic in nature, and allows the soloist to seemingly tell a story with the instrument. The work progresses through several dance-like sequences and ends in a rollicking czardas in the major key, a traditional Hungarian dance characterized by a slow beginning and a fast, wild finish. The cadenzas interspersed throughout the various sections of the piece provide the performer with ample opportunity for ardent outpourings, interspersed between songful melodies and brilliant passagework.
Music from “Guys and Dolls” – Frank Loesser, arr. Calvin Custer
In his book, Broadway, Brooks Atkinson described “Guys and Dolls” as “a masterly achievement in the new tradition of the “book musical” – music, story, characters, acting, and direction pouring out of the same crucible [aiming to achieve the same goal: a well-crafted, integrated piece that aimed to tell a story with serious dramatic goals without superfluous means.] Musical dramas with nobler themes have been less perfectly composed than this breezy legend of an underworld derived from some of Damon Runyan’s stories. Less original writers…could have romanticized the gamblers into Bohemians. But the genius of Guys and Dolls was to portray them without glamour, and the genius of Loesser was to characterize them musically with candor and relish. There was not a commonplace or superfluous song in the score.” The 1950 collaboration between Abe Burrows + Frank Loesser produced some of the most memorable music and characters to ever grace the Broadway stage, and was later remade as a movie with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. Many of the show’s hits have survived as features of Frank Sinatra’s setlist, including “Luck be a Lady.” The other hits featured in this medley are: “Guys and Dolls,” “Luck be a Lady,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Follow the Fold,” “If I Were a Bell,” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”
Five – Kenyon Wilson
This 2016 composition is a Summerville premiere, and a tribute to our veterans and active members of the armed forces this Veteran’s Day weekend. In response to the July 16, 2015 terrorist attack, Chattanooga composer Kenyon Wilson was inspired to create a work to honor the men who sacrificed their lives for our country. Sixty-eight high school, university, community, military, and brass bands from around the world came together to commission this work. Five honors the lives of Carson A. Holmquist, Randall Smith, Thomas J. Sullivan, Squire K. “Skip” Wells, and David A. Wyatt, all who were lost in Chattanooga on that day. After talking with the composer and studying the music, one finds much symbolism built around the number five. Five notes in the timpani begin the piece, the initial melody is built upon five different notes, and the key changes are developed around the circle of fifths. There are many more layers to the number in this piece, including the use of parallel fifths, the structure of the work itself, as well as the melodic contours. As the piece progresses, the melodic line becomes more streamlined, symbolizing that even as we lose loved ones, we must go forward. As he looked for inspiration for the piece, the composer happened to see the Navy’s Blue Angels fly the missing-man formation. He instantly knew that he needed to include this in the piece. So, in order to honor the five service men, the work concludes with a musical representation of the missing-man formation. As the piece progresses, members of a brass quintet will leave the stage one-by-one, thus creating a musical missing-man formation.
WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:
The initial instrument to play in the piece is the tuba, a direct homage to David Wyatt who played the tuba in his high school ensemble. Similarly, the main theme of the first melody we hear is in the clarinets, a direct homage to Skip Wells, who played the instrument in high school as well. Apart from these very personal references, we can hear the number five in most measures of the piece as described above. The timpani always plays five notes, there are instances of parallel fifths in the strings, the piece is in five sections, etc. Most importantly, make sure to listen for the final brass quintet as it plays the theme once more from a distance – heard and not forgotten.
Oklahoma! Selection for Orchestra – Richard Rodgers, arr. Robert Russell Bennett
This staple of musical theater was actually the first collaboration between Rodgers & Hammerstein. Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs, the 1943 Broadway show tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurel Williams, with several subplots throughout. The show is an early example of the so-called “book musical” (just like Guys and Dolls), in which the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals. There are also musical motifs throughout, recurring themes, and even a fifteen-minute “dream ballet” for Laurel to reflect on her feelings for two men, Curly and Jed. Unsurprisingly, due to these reasons, the show is categorized as a “cowboy ballet,” a genre that was becoming more popular with American composers of the time, including Aaron Copland, due to its ardent nationalistic flavor and developing “American sound.”
WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:
Typical elements of these cowboy ballets are dance breaks with music from the ranch/farm (i.e. hoe-downs, ranch house songs, folk tunes, pastoral/lyrical waltzes), use of percussion instruments in unique rhythms and colors often to represent animals or action steps, and bright, high string writing to represent typical fiddle playing. All of these elements are included in this medley – see if you can hear them! Is there anything else that you hear in this piece that you somehow know just sounds “American?” In this medley, we will hear, in order: The prelude, “The Farmer and the Cowman,” “Oklahoma,” “People will say We’re in Love,” “Out of my Dreams,” “Oh, what a beautiful morning,” “Pore Jud is Daid,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “Many a New Day,” “Kansas City,” “Farmer’s Dance,” and “I Can’t Say No.”
Hoe-down! From “Rodeo” – Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland was by all accounts a trailblazer, much like the American spirit his music emulates. Copland wished to break free from European musical traditions and create a uniquely “American” style of music. Initially, his works were influenced by jazz and the neo-classical works of Igor Stravinsky. He then veered somewhat off-course, writing works that were harsh and atonal. “Rodeo”, Copland’s second “cowboy ballet” of 1942, is a prime example of Copland’s ability to develop his goal of an “American” school of classical music with its overtly American subject matter and masterful use of folk tunes. He was interested in the nationalist music movements of several of his contemporaries, most notably Mexican composer Carlos Chávez. “Hoe-Down”, one of the four dance episodes from the ballet, is of course the most recognizable music from the show. It has featured prominently in pop culture today, including the famous “Beef” commercials from the 1980s + 1990s. It contains large sections of two folk songs, “Bonaparte’s Retreat” which is heard from the outset, as well as “McLeod’s Reel.” The traditional Irish tune, “Gilderoy” is also briefly quoted. The Rodeo theme returns toward the end of the movement, slowing down dramatically and finally ending with a major chord featuring a high ethereal string sound—signifying the much- anticipated first kiss between the Cowgirl and the Head Wrangler.