Program Notes

 

Edward Elgar gave his wife “Salut d’Amour” Opus 12, as an engagement present in 1888, and it must have worked, for the composer and his wife Caroline Alice (*recognized in the dedication as “Carice”) were happily married for 32 years until her death. (Although much of the credit for this must go to this aristocratic woman who once wrote her diary, “The care of a genius is enough of a life work for any woman”!) This delightful miniature captures much more than an ideal of romantic love, as it conveys the entire aesthetic and even moral climate of the now far-off the late Victorian era. Also known as “Liebesgruss,” this work was the young Elgar’s first published composition and one of the first chamber works ever to be recorded.  ( Program notes by Paul Shore )

Program Notes by Kevin Forfar :

Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992) – Oblivion for Cello and Piano

Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina. In 1925, he and his family moved to the United States. Growing up in New York City, Ástor Piazzolla was exposed to jazz and classical music. He also listened to his father’s records of tango orchestras, exposing him to music from his country of birth. In 1929, Ástor’s father bought him a bandoneon – an accordion-like instrument, beginning his journey as a musician. He returned to Argentina in 1937 and studied classical composition with Alberto Ginastera. In 1954, Piazzolla won a scholarship to study with Nadia Boulanger, who encouraged him to draw inspiration from his Argentinian heritage and compose tangos.

Piazzolla is credited with bringing the musical genre of the tango into the classical concert hall. In the mid-1950s, he experimented with his compositional style, drawing upon all of his earlier influences. By incorporating elements of tango and jazz, and by making use of counterpoint, extended harmonies and dissonances, Piazzolla created a distinct style of music which is now called “nuevo tango”. It is not known exactly how many pieces Piazzolla wrote, but it is estimated that he wrote about 3,000 individual pieces and had around 500 of them recorded.

Oblivion is one of Piazzolla’s most popular works, and is a great example of his nuevo tango style. It was written in Rome in 1984 for the soundtrack to the film version of Luigi Pirandello’s 1922 stage play Enrico IV. Due to its popularity, this work has been arranged numerous times for different instrumental combinations.

The Beatles – Arrangement for String Quartet

When the members of the Beatles first joined together in the late 1950’s, they were only teenagers. Despite their inexperience, they soon rose in popularity. They achieved worldwide success during their decade-long career, earning more number-one hits and making more sales than any other artist in history. Throughout their career, the Beatles developed their musical style through experimentation and by incorporating a number of different musical influences and instruments into their sound.

The Beatles earliest influences included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Carl Perkins. Although heavily rooted in the pop and rock music of their day, the Beatles were known to incorporate elements of classical music within their songs. Their 1965 song, “Yesterday” (which has been performed by more artists than any other song in history) features a string quartet, and it was the first time that outside musicians were brought in to perform for a Beatles song. Since none of the Beatles could read or write traditional notation themselves, it was George Martin, their producer who was trained with a formal music education, who prepared the scores for the string string players. This string quartet instrumentation would be used again in their song “Eleanor Rigby” in the following year. In another interesting connection to classical music, the Beatles’ song “Because” was inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Upon hearing Yoko Ono playing Beethoven’s piece at the piano, John Lennon asked her to play it backwards. Using parts of this backwards rendition, Lennon wrote the song “Because”. Besides these connections to classical music, the Beatles wrote pieces which were surprisingly complex, using various modes, extended harmonies and dissonances, unusual time signatures, as well as using multiple time signatures within a single piece.

Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947) – Café music No. 1, for piano, violin, cello

Paul Schoenfield is an American composer whose compositions have been described as a combination of popular, folk, and classical music. He draws much inspiration from his Jewish heritage by borrowing elements from Jewish melodies and Klezmer music. He has stated that his music “is not the kind of music to relax to, but the kind that makes people sweat; not only performer, but audience”. This is because his music is usually frantically energetic and technically difficult.

Schoenfield is no longer a performing musician, but in his earlier days he was an active concert pianist who toured across the United States, South America, and Europe. He studied piano with Rudolf Serkin and composition with Robert Muczynski. He has worked with artists such as Sergiu Luca, Lev Polyakin, and James Ehnes, and orchestras which include the Prague Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. He has received commissions from the Ohio Arts Commission, the Rockefeller Fund, the Juilliard School, the NEA, and from many other organizations. Schoenfield currently teaches composition at the University of Michigan. Besides his musical talents, he is also well learned in mathematics and Hebrew.

His work, “Café music”, was commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and was premiered in January of 1987 with Schoenfield playing the piano along with members of the SPCO. The composer had the following to say about this particular work:

“The idea to compose Café Music first came to me in 1985 after sitting in one night for the pianist at Murray’s Restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Murray’s employs a house trio which plays entertaining dinner music in a wide variety of styles. My intention was to write a kind of high-class dinner music — music which could be played at a restaurant, but might also (just barely) find its way into a concert hall. The work draws on many of the types of music played by the trio at Murray’s. For example, early 20th century American, Viennese, light classical, gypsy, and Broadway styles are all represented. A paraphrase of a beautiful Chassidic melody is incorporated in the second movement. Café Music was commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) and received its premiere during a SPCO chamber concert in January 1987.” -Paul Schoenfield

Allan Gilliland (b. 1965) – Three Faces of Ebony

Allan Gilliland was born in Darvel, Scotland and moved to Edmonton in 1972. He holds a Ph. D. in composition from the University of Edinburgh, a Master of Music degree in composition and a Bachelor of Music in Performance from the University of Alberta, and a diploma in Jazz Studies for trumpet from Humber College. Gilliland has written music for solo instruments as well as small and large ensembles. His work includes scores for television, theater, and film. He has composed in numerous genres, including chamber music, fanfares, jazz band, piano and organ, musical theater, opera, orchestra, chorals, wind ensemble, and more. Allan Gilliland’s compositional style is just as varied, ranging from modern, to jazz, and even baroque.

His compositions have been performed by a number of orchestras and ensembles, including the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and by many soloists, including Mark Gould, James Campbell, John Pattituci, and Phil Nimmons. Gilliland was the Composer-in-Residence for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra from 1999-2004. He is currently the Head of Composition at the MacEwan University in Edmonton.

Three Faces of Ebony is a work composed for clarinet, string quintet, and piano. It was commissioned by CBC Radio 2 and was completed in 2007. This work was composed with three different solo clarinetists in mind and each movement reflects the usual repertoire of these performers. The first movement reflects the modern style of the music James Campbell frequently plays, the second movement reflects the Canadian Jazz musician Phil Nimmons, and the third movement reflects the Klezmer music which Airat Ichmouratov performs. These soloists each played their respective movements during the premiere of this work.

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