October 16th, 2004, 8:00pm
33 Main St. E.
by the Huntsville Association for the Performing Arts
Fox, clarinet/bass clarinet
to be chosen from:
Introduction et final
Tema con varazioni
à Henri Rousseau
Un soir de carnaval
- Allegretto - Allegro
on Hebrew Themes
arr. Avrahm Galper
Uniting music from widely differing
traditions and parts of the world, this programme serves up a richly coloured
kaleidoscopic blend of melodies, harmonies, rhythms and textures.
Music libraries would be considerably
smaller if Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) had followed
his father into the almond importing business. Born into an old Provençal
Jewish family, he remained rooted in France but also travelled, worked
and picked up musical ideas in other countries, particularly in the New
World. His spontaneous fluency of composition led to a vast output
that defies classification into any one style. In the early 1920s
Milhaud was lumped with five other young French composers (Francis Poulenc,
Arthur Honegger, Germaine Tailleferre, Georges Auric and Louis Durey) into
“Les Six”, with Eric Satie and Jean Cocteau as their aesthetic models;
this grouping was largely a journalistic fabrication, though, and they
shared little musically other than a dislike of the pervasive influence
of “impressionism” and a desire to experiment with new ideas.
The Suite exhibits
a light, melodious style that one might consider the most familiar face
of Milhaud: the samba rhythm of the first movement (acquired during
his stay in Brazil in 1917-20); a poignant song in the second; French country
fiddling in the third; and a tip of the hat to jazz (along with perhaps
Milhaud’s most stereotypical “lick” in the piano part) in the fourth.
The Suite was extracted by Milhaud from his incidental music, composed
in 1935, to the play Le voyageur sans bagages by the French playwright
Jean Anouilh. The play deals with a man who has lost his memory in
the First World War and has spent the following 20 years in a mental institution;
a helpful patron attempts to reunite him with his family and his past,
but several families claim him as their son. Rather than face the
true reality of his youth, in which he was brutal and sadistic, he chooses
a fictitious but more palatable version. While one would never guess
any of this from hearing the music of the Suite, at least the fourth movement
reflects the protagonist’s anguished crisis of identity and, following
his decision, his ironic lightheartedness.
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 listening public.
Born into a Hungarian-Jewish
family living in Vienna, Gál studied there under Eusebius Mandyczewski
and became established as a teacher and opera composer (his best
known opera is entitled Die heilige Ente, "The Holy Duck"), 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 Edinburgh Festival.
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.
that one might wish for concerning the life and works of Hans Gál
is available on a
by his grandson Simon Fox.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
(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 dance.
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.
(sorry, only copies, not the originals!) inspiring the first three movements
of the suite will be displayed at the concert.
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
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 alive today.
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
Dance Suite for orchestra. At
times this movement displays a startlingly “pop” or “new age” flavour.
Cardy (b. 1953) is a native of Toronto, and is based at Carleton
University in Ottawa where he is a Professor of music. His music
is characterized by colourful, evocative sonorities, a strong sense of
dramatic gesture, an elegant lyricism and an accessible directness of expression.
is a lighthearted evocation of the multifaceted spirit of the tango, in
turn playful, passionate, sensuous and seductive.
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.
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), Sculthorpe writes:
“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.
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.”
In 1919, Sergei
Prokofiev (1891-1953) was living in New York, and had established
a reputation as a brilliant pianist and composer of piano music.
His Overture on Hebrew Themes was the result
of a commission by an ensemble of Russian Jewish emigré musicians
who were undertaking a concert tour to raise funds for the founding of
a conservatory of music in Jerusalem. They wanted a composition in
a style that would reflect their mission, and which would combine all the
members of their group (piano, clarinet and string quartet). As source
material they gave Prokofiev a collection of Eastern European Jewish tunes
(what would nowadays be called “klezmer music”, though in the early 20th
century that term was shunned since it connoted lack of sophistication
and formal musical education). Though he initially turned down the
commission, Prokofiev changed his mind when he played the tunes and was
carried away by their nostalgic beauty. The Overture, based on two
of the tunes, was premiered in its original sextet form in New York the
following year, and its enthusiastic reception encouraged Prokofiev to
transcribe it for orchestra. Its melodic appeal and evocative spirit
have kept both versions of the piece firmly in the concert repertoire ever
The present setting
for clarinet, violin and piano was arranged by Avrahm Galper, former principal
clarinettist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the teacher of several
generations of Canadian clarinet players, who passed away last month to
the sorrow of everyone who knew him.
American composer Peter Schickele (b. 1935), the (relatively!)
serious alter ego of P. D. Q. Bach and well known as a populiser of musicology,
has writen music in virtually every conceivable style, from neo-Baroque
for Three was commisioned in 1992 by the Verdehr Trio at Michigan
State University, whom we thank for their part in creating a number of
works for the clarinet/violin/piano trio combination. Its three movements
- Dances, Songs and Variations - exemplify the tuneful
and lighthearted though still complex and subtle quality of much of Schickele's
instrumental music. While not quite as overtly "off the wall" as
the works of the infamous Mr. Bach, the Serenade cannot be accused of being
overly serious. The first movement contains jazz-like rhythms and
blues scales; the second is a gentle song; the last movement combines a
bluegrass violin licks and a piano solo à la Jerry Lee Lewis
with a main theme borrowed from the P. D. Q. Bach opera Oedipus Tex.
The lyrics set to this tune in the opera sum up the spirit of the music:
there, I'm Oedipus Tex
You may have
heard of my brother Rex;
Oedipus Tex, that's what I said,
But my friends
just call me Ed.
the Foley and the Khachaturian are all featured on the Riverdale Ensemble’s