October 21st, 2006, 8:00pm
Music Gallery, St. George the Martyr Anglican Church
John St., Toronto
$20 (adults), $15 (students and seniors)
12 and under admitted free
information on purchasing tickets, click here
phone (416) 833-0251
Cabbages and Kings
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Curiouser and curiouser!
The butter's spread too thick
Off with her head!
Fritter my wig!
Ralph Vaughan Williams
on Hebrew Themes
Sergei Prokofiev, arr. Avrahm Galper
This programme serves up a multicoloured,
kaleidoscopic collection of gems from East and West, from sublime to silly,
old favourites to undiscovered treasures.
A prominent British composer of the early
20th century, Josef Holbrooke (1878-1958) has almost entirely disappeared
from view. He found early fame as a composer of lavish orchestral
music, but his star had faded rapidly by the 1920s, possibly because of
his anachronistically Romantic musical style, the awkwardness of some of
his music (though it is firmly traditional, with just a thin veneer of
innovation), the resources needed for his orchestral works which made them
uneconomical to produce, and his tendency to clash with the musical establishment
(for example, his unheard-of demands to be paid for having his music performed
at festivals). He also wrote extensively as a music critic, and as
such his outspoken, often impulsive statements, while perceptive and amusing,
cannot have failed to make enemies.
Though Holbrooke’s critical pronouncements
included damning Scotland as a musical wasteland, he took from his Scottish
mother, who was a singer, a fondness for the songs of her country, and
a strong Celtic element runs through his work. (He was no doubt also
aware of the commercial potential, then as now, of Celtic music!)
The gentle Eilean Shona - the name of an island in the Hebrides
- was originally conceived for baritone voice, but was recast by Holbrooke
for clarinet and string quartet; we are presenting it here in our adaptation
for clarinet, violin and piano trio.
One of the principal figures in the revival
of English music in the early to mid 20th century, Ralph Vaughan Williams
(1872-1958) wove together influences from authentic English folk song (which
he carefully collected and transcribed), Elizabethan music, Church music
and current and former trends in European Classical music, to create a
prodigious body of work in a wide variety of styles and genres.
Vaughan Williams’ “pastoral” side is displayed
to the full in The Lark Ascending, which from its premiere
performances in 1920-21 - first with piano, then with orchestral accompaniment
- has been one of the most loved showpieces for solo violin. In his
youth Vaughan Williams studied the violin, so it was natural for his affinity
to that instrument to be incarnated in a special work, a serene romance
which offers an impressionistic image of the lark's song and the countryside.
He was inspired in its composition not only by folk melodies, but also
by the poem of the same title by the English poet George Meredith (1828-1909).
A portion of Meredith's poem is printed in the music:
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.
Here we perform the piece with accompaniment
arranged by Ellen for clarinet and piano (plus a mystery instrument!).
Clifford Crawley (b. 1929) was born
in England and immigrated to Canada in 1973. Since then he has been
a Professor of composition and music education at Queen's University, has
been active as an examiner and adjudicator and in the planning of music
programmes in Ontario schools, and has worked as a music consultant in
Central America and Asia. His musical style has been described as
"warmly human", "contemporary [but] accessible and eclectic”.
Of Cabbages and Kings: Five
Quotations from Lewis Carroll (1984) is a set of lighthearted,
evocative movements depicting scenes from the writings of the English mathematician
and writer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1894), under his literary pseudonym.
The first four are from the immortal and still-hilarious Alice's Adventures
in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass (and What
Alice Found There). “Will you, won't you, will you,
won't you, will you join the dance?” portrays the lobster quadrille
danced by the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon; “Curioser and curiouser!”
Alice's reaction at (among other things!) finding herself suddenly nine
feet tall, after falling down a rabbit hole; “The butter's spread too
thick” comes from the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter recited
by Tweedledum and Tweedledee (as does the title of the piece); and “Off
with her head!” is the kneejerk command of the psychotic Queen on her
croquet ground. “Fritter my wig!” is from The Hunting of
the Snark, a nonsense poem about a crew of unlikely characters who
set off in search of the fictional creature of that name.
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 Zimro, an ensemble of
Russian Jewish emigré musicians (under the leadership of clarinettist
Simeon Bellison) 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
North America 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 melodies, 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 since.
The present setting for clarinet, violin
and piano was arranged by Avrahm Galper, former principal clarinettist
with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the mentor of several generations
of Canadian clarinet players.
To sum up the music of Alexander Arutiunian
- known to most of us only through his famous Trumpet Concerto; somehow
we missed Cantata of the Fatherland, for example - we turn to his
official website: “The creation of Alexander Arutiunian (b. 1920
in Yerevan), an outstanding Armenian composer of the XX century, is democratic
and folkloric by its nature. The use of folk-inflection material
with tuned rhythmic features truly serves to aesthetic ideals of the author
and is the basis of his compositions. The composer's music, bringing
forth the good and the noble in an individual, is charged with the power
of humanism. A. Arutiunian never pursues exterior effects in his
creation and never uses complicated touches of composer technique without
any strong reason. His music is lyrical and dramatic. It is
dynamical, full of intelligence and emotion. The credo of A. Arutiunian
is to be sincere, to glorify sincerity and emotional strength of expression,
to praise the emotional beauty of an individual. Symphonic range
and chamber subtlety are inherent in the creations of A. Arutiunian.”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
The Suite for clarinet, violin
and piano was composed in 1992, to a commission from the Verdehr Trio at
Michigan State University. Among its folk-inspired elements, the
haunting voice of the duduk, the native Armenian woodwind instrument
- nowadays familiar to us from the soundtracks of numerous movies, most
of which have nothing to do with Armenia! - can clearly be heard in the
We thank the sponsors of
this concert for their generous support: