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"Voices from the Earth" graphic by Carol Sebert

Friday, September 12th, 2003, 8:00pm

Studio Theatre
Toronto Centre for the Arts
 5040 Yonge Street, North York

Rêverie                                                                                                                        Claude Debussy

Trio in A Minor Op. 40                                                                                                     Carl Frühling

Voices from the Earth                                                                                                  Jackson Berkey
     Autumn comes to woman
     In a French mountain village


Serenade No. 1 in D Major Op. 11 (reconstruction of the original chamber version)        Johannes Brahms
     Allegro molto 
     Scherzo.  Allegro non troppo 
     Adagio non troppo 
     Menuet I & II 
     Rondo.  Allegro 

Admission:  $20 (adults), $15 (students and seniors)

Tickets available from:

TCA Box Office in person (in advance or on the night of the concert) 
Ticketmaster outlets, in person and by phone at (416) 872-1111 
(note that an additional service charge applies to Ticketmaster purchases) 
Ensemble and Choir members 

The Studio Theatre does not have reserved seating.

Ellen Meyer, piano
Stephen Fox, clarinet
Joyce Lai, violin
Laura Jones, cello


  Linda Morana, flute
Rebecca Sajo, clarinet
Larkin Hinder, bassoon
Damian Rivers-Moore, horn
Ian Clarke, viola
Tim FitzGerald, bass


Cantores Celestes Women's Chamber Choir
Kelly Galbraith, Director

In this concert we launch our 2003-04 season with our most extravagant concert ever, featuring a cast of, well, dozens, in our first performance at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (formerly known as the Ford Centre, before that the North York Performing Arts Centre).

In addition to a large instrumental ensemble, we welcome the collaboration of the Cantores Celestes Women's Chamber Choir under the direction of Kelly Galbraith.

This concert has no stylistic or geograhical theme, other than the celebration of melody, harmony and vitality in music. 


It is no secret that composers and other creative artists frequently dislike and are embarrassed by works which nonetheless end up becoming favourites of performers and the public.  Though Claude Debussy (1862-1918) stands as a towering figure in the history of composition for the piano, his first efforts were modest and conservative (unlike, say, his songs, which were innovative from the start).  One of the earliest of his piano pieces was the familiar Rêverie, which dates from around 1890 but was not published until 1905 (in an effort by the publisher to cash in on Debussy's by then star status following the success of his opera Pelleas and Melisande).  Its release was strenously protested by Debussy, who wrote to the publisher:  "In two words:  it's bad."  We respectfully disagree, and open our concert with a trio arrangement of this delectable bonbon.


Undiscovered or unappreciated gems of music and little known composers are not hard to find when one cares to search for them.  To come across a major musical work of the highest standard by a composer of whom not a word of mention is found in reference books, however, is a rare treat.  Such is the case with the Trio in A Minor Op. 40 of Carl Frühling (1868-1937). 

Born in Lemburg (now L’vov, or L'viv, in the Ukraine), Frühling worked in Vienna as a teacher and as a chamber music pianist; among his partners as a performer was Pablo de Sarasate.  His composing output runs to some 100 works, the majority of which were never published and which are largely lost today.  Among the more fascinating titles are Gesang Buddhas for baritone and wind orchestra, and the melodrama Der Tod des Pharoa, for Sprechstimme, women’s chorus and orchestra.  Never a household name, he died in poverty. 

The Trio dates from 1925, but harkens back to an earlier age.  Written firmly in the Viennese late Romantic idiom, it owes the expected heavy debt to Brahms; but the blending of other influences - operetta, Viennese waltz (of which the second movement is about the most luscious example one could find), Spanish dance rhythms (courtesey of Sarasate?) and a hint of La Folia, a Russian-style chant (stemming from Frühling’s childhood in the Ukraine?), and Rimsky-Korsakov-esqe “oriental” passages - produces an intoxicating cocktail.  More geniality and lyrical warmth in one piece of music would be very difficult to find. 


The achievements of composer, performer and recording producer Jackson Berkey (born 1942) go far beyond his best-known job as keyboardist for the hugely successful light rock band Mannheim Steamroller.  With an educational background including degrees from the Eastman and Julliard Schools of Music, he is the winner of a number of awards for composition.  His published catalogue numbers over 300 works for solo voice, solo instruments, choir, orchestra and chamber ensembles, in a wide range of styles, and written for settings as varied as video documentaries and military bands in addition to the concert hall.

The song cycle Voices from the Earth, a setting of four poems by American poets for treble choir, was composed in 1978.  The accompaniment, originally for piano only, was later revised to include clarinet and cello.  The music calls on the fullest range and expressive powers of all the instruments and of the choir to illustrate the words of the poems:

Evening (Patrick W. Gray)

Redroot and nimble will and the sky huge above them, their prairie.
And here, cold steel of a lighter glints the coal of a cigarette
Points to that pair left sitting apart on a hillock that overlooks the dry oxbow lake.
Because it has no water to shine across, sunset is brief.
Two grackles dispute the direction to the nest.
And the prairie begins its nightly ululation as it remembers;
Buffalo cannot shake the land now.
The sky grows darker or the eyes fail.
Those two loved once or we could not watch them.
Silhouetted against the sky - still apart.
Hate feeds in this blackness.
We hear it ripping its meat,
Then lift its muzzle toward where the moon should be.

Blindengarten (Gail Tremblay)

They dare not wander from the path
For grass is not raised on the map
And offers an uncertain way to those who cannot navigate by stars,
Or moss on trees they may not find.
The grass grows rich and green and thick.
Each blade with networks of its own too delicate for touch or cane.
But still imagined and described by those who know the cobbles well.

Autumn Comes to Woman (Gail Tremblay)

Autumn comes to woman like a song.
The ringing prong of a tuning fork spins a note and nature knows.
The fire in the throat burns age in brows
A searing choir.
A woman turns and hearing, longs to touch her lover’s arms.
As they enclose, the moth breath of her fear, her whisper raw and silken grows.
As loving takes and tears and thaws.
Overripe with cares she dares to sing and slight the song.
She wakes the hunger in her bones and curves to take.
Until once more the seed is sown.

In a French Mountain Village (R. David Wyatt)

Rain, then snow.
In the middle of the stony street leading through the village,
An old horse cart stops, and turns around.
Its driver tucking his head in his coat, yelling at the horse.
November assuming the darkness of winter,
Clears the mountains of any warmth.
It is here, alone I have come to find you.
To find what was lost on the plains of the Midwest.
In California, behind the legend of childhood.
Cold now.
The snow has slipped from the skin of your breasts and covered everything.
The stable, the mayor’s house, 
Those last flowers huddled outside against the walls of my room.
Will I find you here?
No one I’ve talked to has seen you, understood my description of you.
As the day moves on, gets darker, the mountains seem to fatten like sheep.
As if all the snow in the world were falling above me, on this village.
Toward midnight, I finally go to bed without a clue to your whereabouts.
By morning, despite my search, the snow will have ended.


While in his early twenties, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) spent parts of the winters of 1857-60 at the little royal court of Detmold, as choir director, pianist and piano teacher.  There also he got his first addictive taste for the conducting podium, and spent much time studying orchestral and choral music back to Bach and beyond.  The Serenade in D major Op. 11 was composed during this time, over several seasons and in as many as four different guises.

The Serenade apparently started life as a three or four movement work for wind and string octet.  The first full version, with six movements, saw light in 1858, and the scoring was now for nine instruments, one of each Classical orchestral instrument except with a second clarinet instead of an oboe (Brahms evidently opting for cornstarch in preference to chili peppers in such a light recipe).  Inspired by the character of the music and by the urging of Joseph Joachim and Karl Bargheer, Brahms' violinist colleague in Detmold, the following year Brahms expanded the instrumentation to a small orchestra (likely with the same winds but multiple strings); finally in 1860 came the scoring for full orchestra, the form in which the work is usually performed.  Brahms toyed with the idea of transforming it into his first symphony, but desisted - being perhaps a little shellshocked by the rocky reception in 1859 of his first piano concerto - and also with billing it as a “Symphony-Serenade”, but the original title won out. 

Reports vary as to whether Brahms remained fond of the nonet version of the Serenade and the manuscript score and parts simply disappeared, or whether he deliberately destroyed them.  In any case, the chamber version was never published; consequently, it is only accessible in reconstructions, of which various renditions - varying in detail but not in essence - have been made over the past fifteen years or so.  That printed parts are as yet only available on rental has seriously hampered the adoption of the Serenade into the mainstream chamber repertoire.  (The only chamber arrangement currently available for purchase includes an oboe, so is not in Brahms' instrumentation; regrettably this has been passed off in concert programmes as the "original version".)

The godparents of the Serenade are the symphonies of Haydn, the wind serenades of Mozart, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony and Septet, and other works of the Classical era.  Haydn’s symphonies have been dubbed “heroic pastoral”, a description that could have been coined for the Serenade in D.  The spirit is bucolic, jovial and predominantly dancelike, the texture relatively light and uncomplicated (bearing in mind that this is Brahms, after all!).  The mature orchestral voice of Brahms is present on occasion; certain material sounds understandably like Beethoven; and some passages could have been written by Dvorak, Mendelssohn or Schubert.  The piece is of healthy symphonic proportions, but we don’t notice the passage of time, such is the engaging and natural quality of the music.

We thank the sponsors of this concert for their generous support:

Gary Armstrong Woodwinds Ltd.
woodwind instruments, supplies and repairs


Aster's Music House
piano sales and musical instruction

Légère Reeds Ltd.
synthetic woodwind reeds



Hello World Travel

Frog & Firkin

Mary Coughlan, Royal LePage Realty



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