What a night, what a wonderful night!
We played a house concert tonight at a house with absolutely phenomenal acoustics. It was a lot of fun! And then we checked out the moon. It was a great party! I wrote the program notes and played guitar on the second half. The notes will give you a good idea of the concert:
Rebecca Clarke (1886 – 1979) was an English violist and composer. Her stature as a master early 20th Century composer is only now emerging as her works are becoming more well-known and as scholorship uncovers more of her compositions. In 1939, she was visiting New York when WWII broke out and she was denied a visa to return home to London. She married an American and remained in this country the rest of her life. Between 1939 and 1942 she wrote 10 pieces including her Passacaglia on an Old English Tune – the only one of this group to be published.
Of this composition, Liane Curtis, Ph.D Musicologist of the Rebecca Clarke Society (www.rebeccaclarke.org) writes:
“The title of the original publication reads Passacaglia/on an Old English Tune. The piano part includes the foot-note “attributed to Thomas Tallis.” The Passacaglia can be seen as Clarke’s meditation on things British, her friends and colleagues, and the musical life of London, the city she considered her home. It is based on hymn 153, “Veni Creator,” in the English Hymnal of 1906. This is one of the pieces added to the hymnal by its editor, Ralph Vaughan Williams. The hymnal notes that it is attributed to Thomas Tallis, another connection with Vaughan Williams, since it suggests comparison with his famous orchestral setting of a theme by Tallis. The Passacaglia is a powerful and somber work…”
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Malagueña is the sixth and final movement of the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecouna’s (1895-1963) composition “Suite Andalucía”; and it’s theme is the city of Málaga in Andalusia in southern Spain. It was written in 1928. This composition has proven immensely popular with scores of versions in circulation including versions for marching bands, rock bands, big-bands, jazz bands and many vocal versions throughout the years. It is safe to say that Malagueña is one of the best loved pieces of music in today’s world! Ernesto Lecouna was a pianist of uncommon abilty, so this version for piano four-hands is especially appropriate. Oh, and Málaga is one of the most ancient cities in the world having been continuously occupied for over 3000 years! The internationally acclaimed painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso, Hebrew poet and Jewish philosopher Solomon Ibn Gabirol and actor Antonio Banderas all were born in Málaga!
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) a name synonymous with musical genius; the most influential composer of the classical period – one of the greatest musicians and composers of all times. In his short life, he
“…composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound; Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years“. Wikipedia
The Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, often referred to by the nickname The Turkish, was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1775, premiering during the holiday season that year in Salzburg. From 1773 to 1779 Mozart wrote the majority of his string concertos – it isn’t entirely clear who he wrote them for, or even their order; but it is well-known that he could compose amazingly rapidly. So maybe he wrote them for the sheer fun of it! Anyhow, this is a very fun concerto nicknamed the “Turkish” after the characteristic theme in the last movement.
Max Bruch’s Kol Nidre, an Adagio on Two Hebrew Melodies for Cello and Orchestra Op. 47 was completed in 1880 while Bruch was living in Liverpool, England, and premiered in Berlin the following year. It is a set of variations and opens with a direct statement of the Kol Nidre, a melody chanted in ancient Aramaic in Jewish temples to initiate the Yom Kippur service.
In 1889, Max Bruch wrote of his composition:
“As a young man I had already studied folk-songs of all nations with great enthusiasm, because the folk-song is the source of all true melodies – a wellspring, at which one must repeatedly renew and refresh oneself. I became acquainted with Kol Nidre in Berlin through the Lichtenstein family, who befriended me. Even though I am a Protestant, as an artist I deeply felt the outstanding beauty of these melodies and therefore I gladly spread them through my arrangement.”
The head of the Lichtenstein household, Cantor Abraham Jacob Lichtenstein, was known to have cordial relations with many Christian musicians and supported Bruch’s interest in Jewish folk music. The Kol Nidre chant is a powerfully moving melody – haunting it it’s depth and formality. The second melody used is the equally ancient Hebrew song, “O Weep For Those That Wept on Babel’s Stream”.
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French flautist Eugène Damaré (1840-1919) was born in Bayonne in the extreme south and west of France: Basque country. He was a renowned flutist and virtuoso piccolo player. He wrote prolifically for the flute and piccolo and wrote a number of highly technical piccolo compositions featuring himself. He also wrote a flute method, with a supplement for piccolo. A light and delightful piece of music, Polka des Polichinelles (Puppet’s Polka) Op. 208 simply sparkles with wit and good-humor. Arranged here for strings, piano and guitar, it was originally written in 1895 for piano and flute or piccolo.
This piece is a lot of fun and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
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Pres de toi (Near You) Waltz Op. 193 was written around 1884 by Emil Waldteufel, 1837-1915. It was preceded by his more well-known Waltz, Estudiantina (Band of Students) Op 191 written the year before. Waldteufel’s family were Jewish-Alsatian musicians – originally the family name was Levy, but grandfather Waldteufel was either encouraged or forced to choose a German-sounding name. He had a wicked sense of humor: in German Wald is forest, and Teufel is devil! Emil Forestdevil. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think!
Anyhow, Emil’s talented brother (a violinist) was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, so the entire family packed up and moved from Alsace, the eastern-most region in France on the German-Swiss border, to gay Paris! Emil played piano in his father’s very popular dance orchestra and in no time they were playing for the crowned heads of Europe.
It took Emil awhile to gain fame outside Paris. His break came in 1874 when the Prince of Wales (and future King Edward VII) heard his Manolo Waltz while visiting France. Connections were made, Waldteufel’s dance-band traveled to Buckingham Palace and played for Queen Victoria – thereafter he and his orchestra dominated the music scene in London. His beautiful waltz music became world-famous. Success and fame inspired his best works until he quietly retired in 1901.
His beautiful waltz-music, like the era of kings and queens and royal balls, is largely forgotten nowadays. He’s primarily known for a single work: Les Patineurs (The Skaters Waltz), Op. 185. It’s about the only thing he wrote that’s performed anymore, and it’s a pity that he has been forgotten. He was a master-craftsman. His music is imaginative, colorful, and evocative. It is simply lovely.
Pres de toi is all of that; so use your imagination to travel to Paris 1884 to a royal ball. Emil Waldteufel raises his baton and the band premiers Pres de toi (Near You) Waltz. Dancers glitter under the chandeliers and gas-lights – beautiful women in full-gowns; and handsome men dressed at the height of fashion or wearing formal military uniforms. Champagne flows like water! They pair up and dance to this beautiful waltz, spinning, swirling, dizzy, and the band plays on! A lost era; revived tonight for one last dance…
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Program notes, Gregory Olsen 09-27-2015
And the moon tonight:
A few candid shots of the dress rehearsal.