PROGRAM NOTES My Lady White The title, My Lady White, is a reference to a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer; an elegy for a woman named Blanche who was his devoted courtly love who he described as “supremely modest, yet easily approachable, refined, temperate, lighthearted and pious without sternness or coldness.” I call the three movements of My Lady White madrigals because they remind me of those brief, intimate, emotional song forms. The words, A Gift of Rings, from the title of the second piece are the title of a poem by the modern English poet Robert Graves. Graves also spent his life searching for the ‘White Goddess’, which is the name of a book that he wrote. For Pretty Alison: Alison is my wife, my best friend, and in many ways my own ‘Lady White’. Program Note by David Maslanka Sonata for Timpani Sonata for Timpani is a three movement work that uses a multitude of extended techniques, such as striking the drum’s bowls, playing with fingers, and more. The first movement is marked “Mysteriously” and develops that atmosphere through rolls on two drums at once, sudden tempo changes, and drums tuned to a fully diminished seventh chord. The second movement is marked “Jazz-Like,” which is a fork in the road regarding style. Some players interpret this movement to be swung; some believe that the written rhythms are “jazz-like” and should be played straight. Notwithstanding, the most engaging aspect of this movement is the passage played with the fingers. The third movement is simply marked “Fast” and drives through frequently changing meters, glissandos, and polyrhythmic material. Program Note by Chandler Skinner C C is a piece about the expansion of material in a motor-like, additive process. Its anchor and beginning are the C-octaves, which spin out of the rest of the material in relentless perpetual motion. Program Note by Hannah Lash
Near the end of his career, John Cage wrote a collection of works he deemed “Number Pieces,” of which he wrote around 40. The written out number represents the number of players, and the superscript arabic numeral catalogues the work. One4 is the fourth piece written in the collection for a single player. It was written in 1990, two years before Cage’s death, “for solo drummer” and contains the following directions (an example of a time bracket from the work is below as well): Six time brackets for the “left hand” and eight for the “right.” Bracket times are in light face when they overlap adjacent brackets. At such points the performer must find a solution that accommodates one bracket with the other. Either hand may help the other. Numerals on staves are cymbals and/or drums chosen by the drummer. The sounds to be made are either long (a tremolo with individual attacks that are not noticeable) or very short (without resonance, completely stopped). Dynamics are free. Only one sound per bracket.
Time brackets are a foreign concept to many musicians in today’s world. The sound must begin between the set of times listed on the left side of the staff, and it must end between the times listed on the right side of the staff. If the above example were a long sound, one possibility could be starting at 1’22” and ending at 1’43”. However, if the sound were short, it must occur between the opening of the ending window and the close of the starting window to properly follow the score, between 1’30” and 1’35” in our example. Every performance of this piece is unlike any other because the performer selects both the times and the sounds. The work was commissioned and dedicated to Fritz Hauser, a Swiss percussionist and drummer, who was the first to perform the work. Program Note by Chandler Skinner
I would like to share my process for preparing this work. I began by playing and evaluating every sound I believed to fit my fairly wide interpretation of “cymbals and/or drums.” After cataloging the sounds I liked, I plugged them into the work, attempting to create an eastern soundscape and some semblance of a form. Most of my choices revolved around the centerpiece, a Tibetan Singing Bowl. Most times were decided using a random number generator. Changes have been made up until a few days before the performance.
Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 Saint-Saëns was a piano virtuoso of the first order, a musician so naturally gifted that after a recital at the age of ten, he is reported to have offered to play any of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas as an encore–from memory. Yet it is true that some of Saint-Saëns’ finest music is for the violin, an instrument he did not play; apparently his feel for that instrument was instinctive. In addition to the Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, his Havanaise and Third Violin Concerto are important parts of the repertory of every concert violinist. Saint-Saëns wrote both the Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso and the concerto for the famous Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate, one of the greatest of the nineteenth-century violin virtuosos. The Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso dates from 1870, when Saint-Saëns was 35. That title is a mouthful, but it describes the music accurately: a brief introduction gives way to a spirited rondo much influenced by Spanish melodies and rhythms (hence, capricious). The accompaniment’s pizzicato chords at the very beginning suggest the sound of the strummed guitar, and over them the soloist enters with a melody that Saint-Saëns marks “melancholy.” This poised beginning gradually rushes ahead, and on a series of trills and arabesques the violin sails directly into the rondo section. The sharply-inflected main theme is one of those perfect violin melodies: powerful, melodic, and full of fire. The entire rondo is built on this theme, though Saint-Saëns provides some nicely-contrasted interludes along the way. One of these, marked con morbidezza (“with softness or gentleness”), is a lilting, dark melody, and Saint-Saëns quickly has the soloist performing it in complicated double-stops. The Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso is a real virtuoso display piece. Except for a few outbursts, the accompaniment is limited to simple chordal accompaniment, and the soloist provides all the themes, the color, and the rhythmic excitement. This is music of enormous difficulty, but it is also written very idiomatically for the violin, and at the end of the rondo a Più allegro coda provides a virtuoso close to a work that will gladden the hearts of audiences (and violinists) for centuries to come. Program Note by Eric Bromberger