All posts in Past Performances with Piano

Waterford Concert Series • Waterford, VA • October 23, 2016

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Adagio and Allegro, K 594 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Partita for Wind Quintet – Irving Fine
Introduction and Theme
Variation
Interlude
Gigue
Coda

Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music – Felix Mendelssohn

~intermission~

Knoxville, Summer of 1915 – Samuel Barber

Elizabeth Pacheco Rose, soprano
Daniel Lau, piano

La Nouvelle Orleans – Lalo Schifrin

The Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall • Baltimore, MD • October 22, 2016

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Adagio and Allegro, K 594 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Quintet for Winds – Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952)
Adagio – Moderato
Fetzen
Valse Lente
Cantabile

Partita for Wind Quintet – Irving Fine
Introduction and Theme
Variation
Interlude
Gigue
Coda

~intermission~

Knoxville, Summer of 1915 – Samuel Barber

Elizabeth Pacheco Rose, soprano
Daniel Lau, piano

Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music – Felix Mendelssohn

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Chamber Music Wilmington • Wilmington, NC • February 22, 2015

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Program

Ludwig Beethoven Quintet in E-flat for Piano and Winds, Op. 1

Maurice Ravel Le Tombeau De Couperin for Wind Quintet

Karl Pilss Serenade für Bläserquintett

Endre Szervánszky Fúvósötös

American Music Festival • Morehead City, NC • February 21, 2015

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Program

Ludwig Beethoven Quintet in E-flat for Piano and Winds, Op. 1

Maurice Ravel Le Tombeau De Couperin for Wind Quintet

Karl Pilss Serenade für Bläserquintett

Endre Szervánszky Fúvósötös

Watson Chamber Music Series • Winston-Salem, NC • January 17, 2015

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A celebration of the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’ birth. Featuring Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche with UNCSA faculty Dmitri Shteinberg in an adroit setting for winds and piano, the sesquicentennial presents an opportunity for this world-class ensemble to explore the composer of grandiose orchestral scores and scandalous opera on a more intimate level.

Richard Strauss Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, Op. 7

Maurice Ravel Le Tombeau De Couperin for Wind Quintet

Karl Pilss Serenade für Bläserquintett

Richard Strauss Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 18

Endre Szervánszky Fúvósötös

Richard Strauss Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche

DiMenna Center • New York, NY • January 18, 2014

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Zéphyros Winds, with guests, oboist Keve Wilson and pianist Rieko Aizawa

Benzaquen Hall at the DiMenna Center January 18, 2014

Program:

Ludwig Beethoven Quintet in E-flat for Piano and Winds, Op. 16

Endre Szervánszky Fúvósötös

György Ligeti Six Bagatelles for wind quintet

Anders Hillborg Six Pieces for Wind Quintet

Richard Strauss Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche

Beijing May Festival 2010 • National Centre for the Performing Arts • May 27, 2010

Beijing National Grand Theater, The Egg, Tiananmen, Beijing, China

Zéphyros Winds

May Festival 2010
National Centre for the Performing Arts
Beijing, China

With Xun Pan, piano

May 27, 2010

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Giulio Briccialdi Quintet for Winds, Op. 124

“PAN & SYRINX”
Benjamin Britten Pan for solo oboe
Claude Debussy Syrinx for solo flute

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Quintet in E-Flat Major for Winds and Piano, K. 452

Darius Milhaud La cheminée du Roi René

Traditional Chinese Folk Songs arranged for Wind Quintet

Paquito D’Rivera  Aires Tropicales

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Zéphyros Winds on The Great Wall early one morning in China.

 

Merkin Concert Hall • “Writing Jazz” • May 30, 2009

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Zéphyros Winds
Anthony de Mare, piano
Lark Chamber Artists

“Writing Jazz”
Merkin Concert Hall
Kaufman Center for the Arts
New York City

May 30, 2009

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World Premiere
David Rakowski Stolen Moments for Winds, Strings, and Piano

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James Roe in discussion with Gunther Schuller backstage at Merkin Concert Hall.

 

 

 

Chamber Music Tulsa • November 20, 2005

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Zéphyros Winds 

Chamber Music Tulsa
Tulsa, Oklahoma

With J. Y. Song, piano

November 20, 2005

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Claude Debussy Syrinx for Solo Flute

Debussy Rhapsodie for English Horn and Piano [Reconstruction by James Roe]

Johannes Brahms Clarinet Sonata in F Minor op. 120 no. 1

Albéric Magnard Tendre for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano, Op. 8

Jean Françaix Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon

Felix Mendelssohn Concertpiece, No. 1 in F Minor, for Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano, Op. 113

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The Zéphyros Winds with J. Y. Song, piano

Program Notes by James Roe

Our program this afternoon spans the 100 years from the 1830s to the 1930s.  This period saw a great emergence of virtuoso wind chamber music—the greatest since the Baroque era.  A combination of factors contributed to this emergence, but two in particular stand out.  The first were the technological advances made in instrument construction.  From the mid-19th Century through the early 20th, woodwind instruments changed dramatically, often decade by decade.  Keys were added, reed making equipment became more sophisticated, the bores and mechanisms were refined, and the intonation was made more secure.  The instruments we play today have changed little since the 1930s.  The second factor was an increased emphasis on musical coloration.  As color asserted a greater pull on composers’ imagination, the possibilities offered by wind instruments became more an more attractive.  The marriage these two factors resulted in the rich body of chamber music from this period.

We open our concert with two works by the most important French composer of the 20th Century, Claude Debussy (August 22, 1862 – March 5, 1918).

The musical monologue, Syrinx, is written for flute alone.  Based on Ovid’s tale from Book I of Metamorphoses, it was written as incidental music for a play by Gabriel Mouray that premiered in 1913.  The myth tells the story of a beautiful Arcadian nymph named Syrinx.  She was so beautiful, in fact, that she had to constantly flee from satyrs and other minor gods, as she intended to remain a virgin.  She met her match in Pan, a rather ugly looking god of fields, forests, and wild animals, who had legs, ears, horns, and beard of a goat with the torso and head of a man.  He chased her up to a river bank.  Syrinx prayed to her nymph sisters that her form might be changed, and thereby avoid being deflowered upon her now sure capture.  The rest of the story comes from Rolfe Humphries’ translation of Ovid:

“and so, when Pan had caught her
And thought he held a nymph, it was only reeds
That yielded in his arms, and while he sighed,
The soft air stirring in the reeds made also
The echo of a sigh.  Touched by this marvel,
Charmed by the sweetness of the tone, he murmured
This much I have! and took the reeds, and bound them
With wax, a tall and shorter one together,
And called them Syrinx, still.”

The musicologist, James McCalla points out that Debussy’s arresting work is not a retelling of this story, but rather, his subject is Syrinx in her post-metamorphosis state.  Debussy has followed Ovid by turning longing into music.

Debussy’s Rapsodie for English Horn may very well be receiving its Oklahoma premier today.  The work comes to us by a circuitous route.  Elise Hall (1853-1924), the daughter of an important Boston family and wife of a prominent surgeon of New York and Santa Barbara, took up the saxophone as a treatment for either a respiratory ailment or a loss of hearing.  Apparently, the force of blowing on the saxophone would clear her clogged passages.  This unorthodox prescription had the happy result of creating of many new works of music, and eventually led Mrs. Hall to become one of Boston’s most important musical supporters.  She commissioned works for saxophone by many of the leading French composers of her time, including Vincent d’Indy, Florent Schmitt, Andre Caplet, and finally, Debussy.  His initial offering was a four line piece titled, Rhapsodie mauresque, or Moorish Rhapsody, which because of its brevity was not considered satisfactory.  Almost ten years after the commission, a completed work arrived in Boston, and it retained some of the “moorish” character, but most of the interesting material was not in the solo line.  Whether this was because of Mrs.Hall’s respiratory limitations is much speculated on in saxophone circles.  Recent research by English saxophonist, John Harle, has resulted in an edition which puts Debussy’s evocative music back into the solo line.  When the piece was first published, an alternative solo instrument was suggested, the English horn.  Now with the reconstructed solo material, this work now gives the lower member of the oboe family its masterpiece.  Debussy wrote for the English horn beautifully in his orchestral music, and he had planned to write chamber music for the instrument at the end of his life, but died before he could realize these plans.  My performance edition is based on Harle’s and the English horn version published by Durand in 1919.

In 1890, Johannes Brahms (May 7 ,1833 – April 3 ,1897) announced his retirement from composition.  Fortunately, this was not to be the case.  His final creative output from 1891-94, includes some of his most profound music.  During this period, he wrote four masterpieces of chamber music that included clarinet: the Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano, Op. 114; the Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115; and the two Clarinet Sonatas of Op. 120.  This outpouring of music was certainly due to Brahms’ friendship with the principal clarinetist of the Meiningen Orchestra, Richard Mühlfeld (1856-1907).  The two men met in 1891, and Brahms was so taken by Mühlfeld’s artistry that he nicknamed him “the nightingale of the orchestra.”  Mühlfeld’s played a clarinet designed by Carl Bärmann (1810-1885), which fell out of use in the early 20th Century.  Brahms loved the instrument’s particular singing quality, especially in Mühlfeld’s hands.  Our clarinetist, Marianne Gythfeldt, owns such an instrument, though not in the appropriate key for this this afternoon’s sonata, and she has made a special study of Brahms’ performance style.  Earlier this season, she performed the Trio, Op. 114 on period instruments at the Helicon Foundation in New York City.  The Clarinet Sonatas were Brahms’ last works of chamber music.  Autumnal in nature, the Sonata in F minor is the larger scaled and more emotional of the pair.  It was premiered on September 19, 1894 in the home of the Duke of Meiningen’s sister.  Brahms, himself, played the piano with his friend, Mühlfeld on the clarinet.

The same year as Brahms wrote his Clarinet Sonatas, French composer Albéric Magnard (June 9, 1865 – September 3, 1914) wrote his very first chamber work, scored for the unusual combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and piano.  Son of the editor of Le Figaro, Magnard sought to support himself solely on music.  In 1896, he began to suffer hearing loss, but continued to compose, publishing works at his own expense.  During World War I, he shot at trespassing German soldiers from his house, which they in turn set on fire.  The composer perished in his home with many of his scores. His unusual and beautiful movement, Tendre, Op. 8, displays touching sentiment and interesting use of instrumental colors.  Magnard is sometimes called “the French Bruckner” for his use of chorales in his compositions.  This work opens with a quiet chorale in the piano.  An extended, ethereal clarinet solo ensues, lasting almost 50 bars.  The piano interrupts with a restless solo recitative, which leads to a restatement of the chorale for the whole ensemble.  The chorale is then spun together with music from the clarinet melody, and after a soaring climax, the work ends in restful quiet.

The delightful Wind Quartet of Jean Françaix (May 23 ,1912 – September 25 ,1997 ) is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon.  Françaix wrote a considerable body of chamber music for winds, all of it infused with a particularly Parisian wit and joie de vivre.  Françaix wrote this piece for the staff of Le Mans Conservatoire when he was 22 years old.  He explained the origin of the work this way:  “As the horn tutor who was there at the time was never quite sure what sound would emerge from his instrument — his fame was as a specialist in the art of playing several notes at the same time — I had decided not to ‘rouse the volcano,’ and wrote a quartet without horn which would be less likely to produce disconcerting surprises.”

In 1832 and 1833, Felix Mendelssohn (February 3, 1809 – November 4, 1847) wrote a pair of “Concertpieces” for the unusual combination of clarinet, basset horn and piano.  Why would he do such a thing and what is a basset horn?  The basset horn was a sort of alto instrument in the clarinet family, used occasionally by Mozart, but even by Mendelssohn’s time it was on the verge of extinction.  However, Mendelssohn knew a father and son team of clarinetists, who also made instruments, Heinrich and Carl Bärmann.  The son, Carl, eventually would design the instrument used by Mühlfeld which so inspired Brahms.  Mendelssohn wrote two trios for the Bärmanns, and on New Year’s Day of 1833, he joined them in premiering the first of them.  The work is in three connected sections, a dramatic opening, a touching, almost operatic duet, and a flashy virtuosic chase.  Lacking a basset horn (a common problem these days), the bassoon fits the bill nicely in modern performances.  Mendelssohn wrote the following dedication in the score:  “The Battle of Prague:  a Great Duet for Noodles and Cream Pastry, composed and humbly dedicated to Bärmann senior and Bärmann junior by their completely devoted Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.  (All’s well that ends well.)”

Chamber Music Tulsa • Salon Concert • November 19, 2005

Tulsa Skyline

Zéphyros Winds

“A French Salon”
Chamber Music Tulsa
Tulsa, Oklahoma

With J. Y. Song, piano

 November 19, 2005

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Gabriel Fauré Fantasy for Flute and Piano, Op. 79

Maurice Ravel Jeux d’eau

Edgard Varèse Density 21.5 for Solo Flute

Heitor Villa-Lobos Chôros No. 2 for Flute & Clarinet

Jean Françaix Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon

Lili Boulanger D’un jardin clair and D’un vieux jardin

Claude Debussy Première rapsodie, for Clarinet and Piano _________________________________________________________

The Zéphyros Winds and J. Y. Song present 

“A French Salon”

Program notes by James Roe

There is a visceral connection between French music and wind instruments.  More than any of their European musical counterparts, French composers were concerned with characterization and color and thus were strongly inspired by the timbral possibilities wind instruments offer.  They also, famously, had the greatest virtuoso woodwind instrumentalists in the world at their disposal.  Around the turn of the 20th Century, there was a great flourishing of wind chamber music in France.  The music from this period is sensuous and evocative, witty and fiendishly difficult.  We have selected a group of French works (including one by a South American interloper with strong Parisian connections) from the early 20th Century, with the hope of creating a sophisticated Parisian musical soirée.  We hope you will enjoy your visit to this “French Salon.”

Gabriel Fauré (May 12 ,1845 – November 4 ,1924), organist, composer, music critic, and teacher, bridges the gap between 19th-century Romanticism and the musical developments of the 20th.  A student of Camille Saint-Saëns, he went on to head the Paris Conservatoire, where his many students included Maurice Ravel, Nadia Boulanger, and George Enescu.  Known as a composer of poetic lyricism with a distinctly French voice, his catalogue includes opera, oratorio, orchestral works, art songs, and a large body of chamber music.  His “Fantasy for Flute and Piano” of 1898, the earliest work on this program, sets the tone perfectly for tonight’s concert.  Its melodically generous opening section leads into virtuosic flourishes and cascading passage work.  Infused with charm and warmth, this felicitous work is one of the most popular for flute and piano.

From teacher to student, we move from Fauré to Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937), and his Jeux d’eau (“play of water”) for solo piano.  Ravel wrote that this work was “inspired by the sound of water and the musical sounds made by fountains, cascades, and streams.”  Apropos of this inspiration, the poet Henri de Régnier added an inscription to the score from his poem, Fête d’eau, “River god laughing from the water which tickles him.”  Written only three years after Fauré’s “Fantasy,” we now enter a completely new musical world, one where aural simulacrum of visual images takes precedence over purer musical considerations.  In a letter of 1906 to music critic, Pierre Lalo, Ravel points out that Jeu d’eau “is based on two themes, like the first movement of a sonata, without however submitting to the classical tonal scheme.”  This beautiful work makes impressive demands on the performer.  To create the lapidary image of moving water, the pianist’s fingers are kept quite busy with cascading arpeggios and melodic arabesques.  There is a charming story about this piece recorded by Ravel’s lifelong friend, the poet, Léon-Paul Fargue.  While visiting Vienna, Ravel went to store to purchase a new wallet.  When he attempted to pay, the shop girl recognized the composer’s name and said that she loved performing Jeu d’eau.  Was he really the composer of this work, she inquired.  When he confirmed that indeed he was, she presented him the wallet for free.

Parisian born composer, Edgard Varèse (December 22, 1883 – November 6, 1965), is one of the towering figures of 20th-century music.  Always out of the mainstream, his music speaks with an expressive immediacy not associated with many of the compositional schools of his coevals.  In a 1936 lecture given in Santa Fe, he said that his music “flows as a river flows,” and that his pieces comprise a “melodic totality.”  Varése’s small masterpiece for solo flute, Density 21.5, would seem to distill these ideas to their essence. The piece was written for flutist Georges Barrère, to celebrate his new platinum flute. The work’s title comes from the metal’s density: 21.5.  (Barrére’s flute is now on display in the musical instrument collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.)  This intensely expressive work exploits the complete range of the flute from highest to lowest pitches and volumes.  Varèse even introduces non-pitch sounds created by clicking keys.  Profound and dramatic, this musical monologue is a unique utterance for a solo wind instrument.

Our Brazilian guest, Heitor Villa-Lobos (March 5 ,1887 -November 17 ,1959 ) hardly comes uninvited to this “French Salon.”  At the time he wrote his Chôros No. 2, he was enjoying great success in Paris, where the cultural attitudes of the 1920s offered a favorable port-of-call for this prolific South American composer.  The exotic sounds of his native country made a sensation with the Parisian musical public, who embraced African music, American Jazz, and the sounds of Asia as explored by Debussy and Ravel.   Villa-Lobos’ major musical achievement during the decade of the 20s was to create a fourteen-work series based on Brazilian folk music, titled Chôros.  The chôros itself was improvisational popular music from Rio de Janeiro; a music of the city street, which blended popular dances, Indian modes, and the magnetic urban energy of Brazil’s cultural center.  His evocative Chôros No. 2 for flute and clarinet feels truly improvisatory in its sultry and sensuous dance rhythms and spiky dissonances.

The most recent work our program comes from the fecund musical imagination of Jean Françaix (May 23 ,1912 – September 25 ,1997 ).  A student of Nadia Boulanger (who had been a pupil of Fauré, a teacher to Ravel, and whose sister’s music is next on the program), Françaix’ Divertissement for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon displays a wit, sophistication, and élan that is utterly Parisian.  In fact, few composers come closer to expressing the vagaries of Parisian life than Jean Françaix.  Whereas some composers are reticent to speak about their music, Françaix was not.  The following comments were translated by Celia Skrine.  In 1947, “I composed a ‘Reed Trio’ (a divertissement for oboe, clarinet and bassoon) which was quite an undertaking:  the smaller the ‘Aeolian consort,’ the greater the danger of squeezing all the breath out of ones long-suffering performers by expecting them to play impossibly long musical phrases.  Dear listeners, I know you may begin to doze off if a piece goes on too long, but my wish is that you should follow the example of the wise virgins and keep awake during my Trio.  I hope you will also spare a kind thought or two for the efforts of my humble servants, the performers: their talents are easily underestimated, because their sensitive and intelligent artistry appears so perfectly easy and natural…”  This is our hope.

It is impossible to think of Lili Boulanger (August 21, 1893 – March 15 1918) without acknowledging her immensely influential sister, Nadia (September 16 ,1887 – October 22 ,1979 ).  Both women were child prodigies.  Lili, the younger, was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in composition (1913), and Nadia went on to become one of the most influential music teachers of the 20th Century, as well as a champion of her younger sister’s music.  Lili, who was a student of Gabriel Fauré, had a musical gift that was noticed even at the age of two.  She suffered throughout her life from various physical ailments, including bronchial pneumonia and Crohn’s Disease.  Her life was tragically cut short at the age of 24.  In her few years, she produced an attractive body of work, much of it for solo voice or chorus.  The two works for solo piano presented here show the poetic and lyric side of her creative force.  Often the particular intensity of her musical voice is linked with her experience of sickness and acquaintance with her own mortality.  The gardens depicted in these works by the 21 year old Lili invite us to contemplate these questions, which no one of her age should have to face.

Our “French Salon” concludes with the music of the most important French composer of the 20th Century, Claude Debussy (August 22, 1862 – March 5, 1918).  Commonly associated with Impressionism, Debussy’s musical voice was broad, encompassing influences as disparate as the operas of Richard Wagner and traditional Javanese gamelan music.  He was a supreme musical colorist  and his music is infused with expressive power.  “The primary aim of French music,” he wrote in 1904, “is to give pleasure.”  His Première rapsodie for clarinet and piano has given immense pleasure to musicians and audiences for almost a century.