Saturday, October 19th, 2002, 8:00pm
Toronto Chinese Alliance Church
11221 Bayview Avenue, Richmond
Admission: $15 (adults), $10
(students and seniors)
Joyce Lai, violin
Stephen Fox, clarinet/bass clarinet
Ellen Meyer, piano
Hommage à Henri Rousseau
Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978)
was a pillar of the Soviet musical establishment, epitomising that régime’s
ideals of art accessible to all and the integration of national minorities
into the Soviet whole. Though often assumed to represent the nation and
music of Armenia, he was in fact Armenian only by ancestry; he was born
in Georgia and lived in Moscow from his teenage years, and his identification
as an Armenian composer was imposed by the Stalinist government.
Folk music of the Caucasus, the
Ukraine and Uzbekistan provides much of the material for Khachaturian’s
work, lending it its loose, rhapsodic structure, languid melodies, vital
rhythms and colourful tonal effects. One particular inspiration was
provided by the ashugs, wandering Azerbaijani folk musicians whose art
of improvising ballads remains popular today.
The Trio dates from
early in Khachaturian’s career, in 1932, when he was still a student at
the Moscow Conservatory. It caught the attention of Prokofiev, and
was the first of Khachaturian’s works to be played outside the Soviet Union.
The youth of the composer is displayed not in any lack of technique or
assurance of instrumental writing, but rather in an inventive, organically
evolving form and an overall freshness and vitality.
The first movement is a slow, melismatic
meditation, reminiscent of Scheherazade. The second movement
begins as a scherzo but unexpectedly changes into a gentle folksong, leading
into an ecstatic middle section which is the energetic climax of the piece.
The third movement is an extended dance with several moods; its two musical
subjects also appear in the Uzbek Dance Tune from Khachaturian’s
Suite for orchestra. At times this movement displays a startlingly
“pop” or “new age” flavour.
Foley (born 1952) is one of Canada’s most prolific and often performed
composers. A long-time associate of the Canadian Music Centre, he
has composed three symphonies and many other orchestral, chamber and solo
works which have been played and recorded across Canada. In 1999
he was awarded the Jan Vermulst Prize for Composition in the Netherlands.
He holds a Master of Arts (Music) degree from the University of Toronto.
Hommage à Henri Rousseau
(1999) was commissioned by the Riverdale Ensemble. It is one of a
series of chamber works inspired by artists (the others to date being Klee,
Kandinsky, Mondrian and Monet). Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), nicknamed
"Le douanier" because of his job as a toll collector, was the French
pioneer of naïve art whose outwardly primitive technique, incongruous
subject matter and awkward public manner aroused howls of derisive laughter
in the contemporary art establishment. The work incorporates a variety
of styles- Baroque music, an Indian raga, folk tunes, even a touch
of barrelhouse blues- to depict the images conjured up by Rousseau’s imagination.
Joyeux farceurs (Merry Pranksters,
or maybe, in honour of Thanksgiving, Happy Stuffers!), painted in 1906,
is one of Rousseau’s fantastical and often hilarious “jungle paintings”.
It depicts an incongruously sophisticated family of monkeys, equipped with
the latest conveniences of milk bottles and back scratchers, in a lush
tropical setting. Rousseau encouraged the myth that he had explored
the jungles of the New World while stationed in Mexico with the French
Army; in fact he never ventured outside France, and the exotic plants portrayed
in his late paintings were the fruits of his visits to the Jardin des
plantes in Paris.
Le rêve (The Dream),
another jungle painting, was exhibited shortly before Rousseau's death
in 1910. A nude woman reclines on a plush sofa amid a dense jungle
populated by lions, an elephant, serpents and a shadowy figure playing
a woodwind instrument. The mystery and sensuality of the picture
are reflected in the casting of the movement as an alapana, the hypnotic,
rhythmically free introduction to a raga, accentuated by the use of the
Un soir de carnaval (Carnival
Evening) is the painting with which Rousseau made his official debut at
the Salon des Indépendants in 1886. A couple dressed
as harlequins is dwarfed by the leafless trees of an eerie winter landscape
and the moonlit sky that looms above them. The movement is based largely
on an arrangement of La Folia, which was originally a Portuguese carnival
Clémence is based
not on a painting but on a musical theme by Rousseau. Rousseau adored
his first wife, Clémence Boitard, who died of tuberculosis in 1888
at the age of 37. Long after her death he maintained that her spirit
guided his hand while he painted. Along with his art, Rousseau wrote
poetry and plays, taught lessons in elocution, music, painting and singing,
and composed and performed on both the violin and the clarinet. The recitals
he held at his home for his students and friends invariably included this
waltz, Clémence, which he composed in 1885.
The paintings (sorry, only copies,
not the originals!) inspiring the first three movements of the suite will
be displayed at the concert.
Peter Sculthorpe (born 1929)
is universally cited as Australia’s best-known composer. Born in
Tasmania, he studied in Melbourne and Oxford, and has spent the bulk of
his life in his native country, apart from teaching stints in Britain and
the U.S.A. His biography reads like a catalogue of awards from academia
and the music industry, attesting both to the quality of his music and
to its compatibility with public tastes.
The aesthetic and much of the material
of Sculthorpe’s music is rooted in the people and geography of Australia,
with the culture and music of Asia- particularly Japan and Indonesia- also
having an influence. Of Dream Tracks (composed in 1992),
“Since 1988 I have written a series
of works inspired by Kakadu National Park, in the north of Australia.
Some of these works have melodic material in common, the contours of each
line usually being transformed in some way, both within pieces and in successive
pieces. I have come to regard these melodies as ‘songlines’ or ‘dreaming
tracks’. These are names used to describe the labyrinth of invisible
pathways that, according to Aboriginal belief, are created by the totemic
ancestors of all species as they sing the world into existence.
“Dream Tracks, then, sets
out to summon up the spirit of a northern Australian landscape. The
work is in four sections: Lontano, Molto sostenuto,
The first section takes as its point of departure the contours of a Torres
Strait island children’s song. This serves as an introduction to
the second section, which is based upon an Arnhem Land chant, ‘Djilile’,
or ‘whistling duck on a billabong’. The third section is an extension
of the first, its melodic contours also appearing in the fourth section.
In this final section, however,
Djilile is ever-present, both in
a much-transformed guise and in its original form.”
If ever a composer deserved to be
called inexplicably neglected, it would have to be Hans Gál (1890-1987).
The composer of a large body of music in many genres (around 120 published
works, plus many unpublished), finely crafted, intellectually satisfying
and completely accessible to traditional ears, he is little known to the
Born into a Hungarian-Jewish family
living in Vienna, Gál studied there under Eusebius Mandyczewski
and became established as a teacher and opera composer, first in Vienna
and later in Mainz. The coming of the Nazis led to his dismissal,
the banning of his music and subsequently his exile. After a period
in England which included a stint in an alien internment camp, he eventually
settled in Edinburgh and lived there for the rest of his life, working
as a lecturer, conductor and composer; he was one of the founders of the
Gál’s music is so firmly
grounded in the classical Germanic tradition that it might seem familiar
even when it is not; however, although affinities with other composers
can be detected in his work, it would not be correct to say that he imitated
anyone. He remained true to a musical language established in the
1920s, while the musical world around him underwent several generations
of upheaval. This anachronistic attitude possibly accounts in part
for the public neglect of his work.
Any information that one might wish
for concerning the life and works of Hans Gál is available on a
maintained by his grandson Simon Fox.
The Trio Op. 97 was
composed in 1950, though not published until 1971. The three movements-
the first in sonata form, the second a caprice with lyrical interludes,
and the third a theme and variations- are firmly classical in architecture,
showing a fine balance between traditional technique and innovation in
detail. Gál’s mastery of complex but transparent polyphonic
textures, melodic inventiveness and accessibility, extended chromatic harmony
and formal structures, accompanied by restrained lyricism, is displayed
to the full.
The Gál, the Foley and the
Khachaturian are all featured on the Riverdale Ensemble’s debut recording,
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Aster's Music
House in presenting this concert.